With 2017’s death knell steadily approaching, it’s safe to assume I have the rest of my year planned out (as far as video games go).
I have a few things I’d like to finish up, namely The Evil Within 2, South Park: The Fractured But Whole, and Steamworld Dig 2, along with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Resident Evil Revelations 1+2’s Switch release coming soon, but there were a few games out there that I just can’t or couldn’t make time for.
1: Persona 5
Persona 5 is an absolutely massive JRPG with a runtime exceeding 100 hours. It’s an endearing story of high school students forming an unlikely bond while entering a mysterious alternate universe to “steal the hearts” of evildoers in hopes of changing their dreadful attitude (or encouraging them to confess their crimes) out in the real world. I absolutely love the Persona series for a number of reasons — mainly the character and friendship growths, world designs, aesthetic, and jazz-infused soundtracks — but even as one of my most anticipated releases in 2017, I couldn’t find the time to finish it up.
I’m currently sitting around 50 hours played, which is enough to beat the average game multiple times over. But knowing that I have another 50 sitting in front of me is, to say the least, incredibly fucking daunting. I love Persona 5, and I want to beat Persona 5, but a narrative-heavy 100+ hour JRPG requires a tremendous amount of mental stamina that I just didn’t have this year. I will definitely finish it up, I know I will, but it’ll probably be in 2018 during a dry spell. I’m sure it’ll still end up in my top 10 games list, though.
2: Yakuza 0
Yakuza is a long-running PlayStation series that’s a tough one to describe. This year’s prequel, Yakuza 0, is kind of open-world, but kind of isn’t. It’s a bit of a brawler, but, again, kind of isn’t. What it presents, however, is a heavy dose of Japanese melodrama surrounding two prominent former Yakuza members and how their paths eventually cross. Think of it as a more modernized Shenmue, perhaps.
Between the cutscene-heavy narrative bits you’re free to do as you please, be it visiting the batting cages, playing retro SEGA games at the arcade, singing at karaoke bars, or jerking off to porn. There are different fighting styles to unlock, in-depth mini-games focusing on running a host club and becoming a real estate agent, and avoiding a behemoth of a man named Mr. Shakedown who aims to beat your ass and steal all of your hard-earned Yen.
There’s… a lot going on, but it’s all relatively solid and I fell in love with the characters and their respective tales. However, I wasn’t prepared for how long the game was and ended up trying to squeeze it in before the fall semester started. Clearly, I was unsuccessful. It’s a 50+ hour game and I managed to squeeze in 20 before life got a little too hectic, and I just never found the time to go back between all of this year’s other interesting releases.
Prey was perhaps the most “Brad” game released in 2017, so I’m surprised I never got into it. It’s dark and atmospheric, futuristic and fucked up, and very choice-driven with its varied gameplay styles and approach to accomplishing mission goals. You can sneak and hack, repair machinery and move heavy objects that block your path, and you can even utilize bizarre alien powers while making your way around the currently mimic-occupied Talos I. It’s SOMA-meets-BioShock with aliens, basically.
So why didn’t I play it? Well, I did. Or, at least, I tried to. I rented the game during its console launch on PS4, but it ran so poorly that it was borderline unplayable. The framerate chugged, making combat an agonizing chore, and the moment anything substantial occurred on-screen (like an explosion, or a surprise attack) it became a stuttering mess. Disappointed, I returned the game to GameFly and never looked back. It’s since been patched and moved to the top of my must-play list, but I haven’t found a break in 2017’s relentless release schedule.
Observer (because I hate typing stylized names more than once) is another first-person narrative adventure with stealth elements, similar to SOMA (one of my favorite games of all time). It’s cyberpunk as hell, taking place in a setting that feels ripped right out of Blade Runner, and if that wasn’t enough of a comparison, Rutger Hauer even voices the game’s protagonist, Daniel Lazarski.
Using a device called the Dream Eater, Lazarski can hack into people’s memories and play detective with a pair of helpful vision augmentations. I wish I had more to go on here, but I’ve purposely avoided spoilers in hopes of playing the game myself. I loved Bloober Team’s narrative horror game Layers of Fear, so I have high hopes for this one.
Nioh is an action RPG set in 1600s Japan that, based on the demo I played, feels very similar to something like Dark Souls or Bloodborne. Unlike those games, Nioh is mission-based rather than open-world and features a quality-based loot system similar to that found in Destiny or Diablo III. As the Irish Samurai William, you can allocate skill points to improve weapon efficiency, equip a wide array of weapons, and hunt down hidden Kodama while hacking and slashing your way through humanoid enemies and demons known as yokai. It’s similar to a Souls game in that it features a steep learning curve, requires quite a bit of patience within its combat, and punishes death by depleting the player’s amassed EXP (while giving them a chance to pick it all back up on the next go, should they reach the location of their death without dying a second time).
There’s far more to Nioh that I could briefly explain here, but for the purpose of this article, I’ll just say that I avoided picking it up at launch because I was already busy with other games. I really enjoyed the demo and had every intention of playing it, but things happen. I eventually bought the game for my birthday in August, but shortly after it was announced that a Complete Edition would release later in December with all of the DLC bundled in. Fuck.
Knowing that I’d rather have the full package, I sold it without even installing the game and now I patiently wait to grab the Complete Edition on PS4 next year at a more opportune time. Nioh is another massive game, averaging between 40-90 hours, and as someone who typically fails at these skill-based action RPGs, I’m guessing my experience will be closer to the latter.
There are a handful of other games I never got around to, like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Horizon: Zero Dawn’s Frozen Wilds DLC, RiME, and Golf Story, but these are the 5 I wish I had gotten to the most. I still have Mass Effect: Andromeda collecting dust on my shelf too, waiting for a rainy day.
What about you, folks? Pretending money isn’t an issue, what games passed you by this year that you wish you had time for?