What a year. 2016 was a wild time to be alive with revolts, revolution and fear running rampant across the world. It was also a less destructively wild time to be a gamer. This year had the tough job of being a follow-up to the euphoric highs of 2015 and the cynical lows of 2014. It was a year of change for gaming, with old formulas being tossed out and the reclamation of ideas long thought dead. We have had flops, surprises and more than a couple of indie gems. So, without further I am proud to announce the refraction awards 2016!(AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!)
released or have released major expansions in 2016
Me or my graphic designer must have played them
It is hard to call HITMAN an action game. It’s definitely a stealth game but the title action game has changed so much since its conception and has extended to encompass anything that involves some sort of “Action”. And that kids is how an incredibly cerebral stealth is holding a spot normally stolen by big budget shooters. HITMAN is a stealth game for those looking for something far more than stealth kills and simple puzzles. It is a perfect answer to the simple and dumbed down stealth mechanics seen in dishonored 2 and watchdogs 2. Its cerebral, engaging and rewarding But most importantly it is a great Hitman game.
Oxenfree is similar in concept to Firewatch. It’s an intensely personal game about human relationships and a very specific time in someone’s life with incredibly mysterious and paranoid undertones and spot on voice acting. Oxenfree is slick and beautiful doing exactly what is should with efficient art and simple but deep characters. Oxenfree is a joy to play.
Stardew is a pure form of escapism for city dwellers. It’s a low stress game about starting a farm in a small town. The characters are relatively simple and the mechanics aren’t the most complex, but goddamn. Before you know it your prepping for festivals and slowly falling in love with the tiny towns inhabitants. It’s a humble game with hundreds of hours of content. There are no dragons to slay or soldiers to kill here. It’s just the sun, moon, soil, pelican town and you.
The exact opposite of Stardew valley Battle Brothers is a heart attack of a game. This mount and blade inspired turn based game will bring you to your knees. Be prepared to feel anger and grief as you stumble towards victory and inevitable doom as your band of mercenaries either rises to the top of its industry or succumbs to the dangers of the engaging dark fantasy setting Battle Brothers takes place in.
(Photo cred: CMDR Jonuss of the radio sidewinder crew. Featured: CMDR Choopsha and CMDR Spycrab Surprise)
Elite Dangerous’ recently released Horizons season pass is a massive expansion on the ideas of the main game and adds just enough content to keep me trucking around the massive galaxy that is the milky way. The player base has definitely become really tight and very helpful to new players. This space game continues to provide a deep, focused experience which excels at everything it attempts. The universe feels alive, the player base is interesting and the world is engrossing. Oh and we just made out first contact with aliens so do yourself a favor and go get lost in space.
Firewatch is an incredible game. It could be described as playable indie film. The voice acting is spectacular, Rich Sommer and his co-star Cissy Jones are outstanding. Their voices bring the characters of Henry and Delilah to life, every inflection and nuance of these characters makes them unforgettable in every sense of the word. The story itself is gripping and interesting. The paranoid atmosphere and total isolation contrast nicely with the serene beauty of the surrounding forest give a feeling of mystery to every word Delilah speaks and everything you see. The gameplay is light and can be made much more interesting by turning off the YOU ARE HERE marker on your map.
The art in Firewatch is fantastic and serves the game well, driving home the otherworldly feeling of the woods. The Wyoming wilderness is keenly detailed making your walk from story point to story point interesting, dialogue heavy, and gorgeous.
Every revelation is gripping, every piece of dialogue well acted, and every tree beautiful and well crafted. That is why Firewatch is the refraction GOTY.
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