Game of the Year 2016 Day 3 of 3

2016 was a hell of a year for games. Long awaited games like The Last Guardian and Final Fantasy XV finally made their debuts. First person shooters received a massive jolt in the arm with the fantastic Doom and invigorating Overwatch. Even long running franchises showed that their respective fourth iterations can be amazing. It was a good year, indeed.

Best Old Game of 2016

Winner: Picross 3D

I had finagle a way to acknowledge the majesty that is Picross 3D. Picross is fine but blow it out into 3D dimensions was a mind expanding moment for me. I wanted to buy Picross 3D Round 2 but seeing how it was $40+ CAD and I didn’t even play the original, I went on and bought a cart. It’s charming, weird and addictive to boot. The difficulty curve is a bit erratic at times but I feel it’s been fair. I’m playing for the perfect run so I restart any time I make a mistake and chip off the wrong piece.

While I’m technically not done with this game, I feel it’s easily one of the best games I’ve played this year.


Best Game of 2016

Winner: Overwatch

It’s my most played game the year but that alone doesn’t warrant the number one spot. It’s also incredibly well designed from top to bottom with its unbelievable ability to entice me into trying new things. Blizzard managed to get me to play a ranked Competitive mode and even convinced me to use online voice chat with strangers on the internet which in itself is a small miracle. 

With a timeless aesthetic and strong free support including seasonal events, costumes, characters and maps, I see myself coming back to Overwatch over and over again.


2. Doom – It invokes the Doom games of the past but doesn’t use it as a crutch. The campaign was so tightly designed with systems feeding off other systems, music, story and gorgeous fluid visuals designed for the sole purpose of making me feel like a total badass. 

3. TitanFall 2 – Likely the most complete package of 2016 with both a surprisingly great campaign that invokes Super Mario Galaxy and a multiplayer mode that I thought was a write off after the less than stellar Tech Test. Respawn Entertainment will be supporting the game with free content as well which is a trend that I would love to see continue.

4. The Last Guardian – I love Trico. I wish I could have one as a pet. I don’t own a pet but my patience with Trico is highlighting the fact that I do have the mentality to be a decent owner. All I need is to pet them regularly right?

5. Uncharted 4 – The perfect ending to the adventures of Nathan Drake. If there was a single game that made me feel old and reflect on what I was doing with my life, it was this.

6. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past – Some of the most depressing stories ever told in an JRPG were found in this epic. You can say it was needlessly long at times and they could have trimmed the fat but the long winding journey was essential to create attachment to characters.

7. Inside – It may not have been as impactful as Limbo but Playdead still knows how to unsettle people with the simple gestures and actions.

8. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided– Iffy performance in the hub world didn’t prevent me from rummaging through other people’s personal belongings, read their e-mails and hack their wall safes. It’s more of Human Revolution than I expected but more of a good thing isn’t bad. 

9. The Division – End game issues stopped my brother and I from returning to The Division but for a very brief couple of months, The Division’s loot driven brand of third person shooting kept my brother and I coming back everyday to do our “dailies”.

10. Gears of War 4 – It’s been years since Gears of War 3 – both in-game and out of it. Creating a likeable cast of new comers isn’t easy but The Coalition managed to package them and the classic Gears of War formula into a game that still plays in 2016. I look forward to the “dark middle” chapter and hope they’ve learned to run around like normal people by then.

The Last Guardian Review

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I never owned a dog or a cat but I’ve spent enough time with them to recognize that The Last Guardian asks for the same mentality that pet ownership requires. I gave into the idea of Trico, the giant bird-cat-dog creature, being a living breathing artificial intelligence that required repetition and patience to command. To expect an obedient animal to follow my every whim with both speed and accuracy would be a mistake. Trico can be frustratingly unresponsive or annoyingly imprecise with his actions. The fact that the game required environmental puzzle solving coupled with Trico’s finicky behaviour could have lead to situations where I was either doubting myself, Trico’s abilities or the game’s design. Thankfully, my gut instincts and years of recognizing video game design cues helped me maintain a steady pace throughout.  
But first, let me address the game’s technical issues on standard PlayStation 4 consoles; I wouldn’t have played The Last Guardian if I didn’t own a PlayStation 4 Pro. It’s incredibly silly that PlayStation 4 Pro is required to play the game at 1080p and 30 FPS but if you want to avoid dips down to the 20 FPS or lower, you have no choice.  
Not having to fight technological shortcomings was a godsend but the controls left me with the perpetual feeling of teetering on the edge. My actions landed more often than not and there were safeguards preventing me from simply running off a cliff but I wasn’t sure if all of it was intentional. Having the player flop about and react to different momentum shifts in a realistic manner was very obviously intentional but could the same be said about having controls be slightly imprecise? I never died because of the controls but I was never entirely comfortable with them either.  
Outside of early voiceovers laying out the capabilities and interactions between the boy and Trico, there was little in the way of highlighting what to do next. Trico would eventually position himself and hint towards the right direction and often that was enough to get the gears in my mind moving. Unfortunately, it took a bit of time to reach those points and thus, whenever I was stuck, I was wandering aimlessly for 5-10 minutes trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do next.
Once I did figure out correct path to take, Trico’s stubbornness (or slow reaction to my commands, if you’re cynical) required me to repeat commands a handful of times to get him moving accordingly. Thankfully there was usually a single correct path to go down and I wasn’t accidentally sending Trico toward our doom. I’ve had a couple of situations where I sent Trico harmlessly backwards though.
The game’s frequent checkpoints and fast loading minimized the impact of unfortunate deaths. I’ve misjudged jumps but I’ve also met my demise due to Trico inadvertently knocking me off a platform. I found the latter humorous and was glad it was possible. I was happy to know that I had to account for the giant creature’s presence to ensure my own safety.  
I grew to care for Trico. I spent time pulling out spears and wiping off the blood from his feathers. I don’t believe there was built-in incentive to do either but I just wanted my giant cat-bird-dog thing looking its best. I needed to pet him in order to calm him down after battles but I wanted to groom and tend to his wounds. There were several occasions where I needed to find barrels of food to feed him but I wanted to find extras so his horns would be restored to glory. Eventually, I picked up on many of Trico’s nuances and tendencies. Through story beats, I learned he was afraid of giant eyes. While over time, I organically learned he actually slumped into a distracted state when left alone which required cajoling to get him moving again.  
Everyone feared a sad ending for The Last Guardian when they first laid eyes on Trico with many predicting the giant beast’s death in the end. Little did we know that the most trying ordeal we would be facing was the possibility of the game being cancelled and not seeing the light of day. The Last Guardian has and it asks a lot from the player including buying hardware to get an acceptable level of performance to patiently repeating orders to an A.I. But if you enjoyed Ico and The Shadow of the Colossus and approach this game with a high degree of patience, I think you will love Fumito Ueda’s third instalment. I enjoyed my time with it and loved every triumphant moment the beast and I overcame. 

I love it

Ratings Guide

Checkpoint: Table Tennis Edition

We’ve haven’t had winter make its presence known quite like this in quite some time. Snow, a tiny bit of freezing rain and bitter cold temperatures are usually seen in January. I don’t mind it but it does make it a little bit more difficult to “get my steps in”. I could just walk around my house like a mad man but instead I’ve leveraged the treadmill and table tennis table over at my folks’ place. 

Table tennis is the pleasant surprise. I never played it before this past November but it’s quickly become one of my favorite activities. It’s actually become a family activity with 1 v 1 and 2 v 2 matches. We started with basic paddles and balls before upgrading to higher quality ones and to my surprise, we were able to discern the difference. It really helped that my brother and I established a baseline first. 

We picked up the basics through the internet (for rules on how to serve etc) and our parents who played it when they were young. Slowly we learned how to slice and top spin through trial and error. We’re still lowly newbies but we’re improving. 

Early winter weather also enabled more games to be completed. I just finished The Last Guardian and I think I’ve made significant progress towards the end of Dragon Quest VII. 

Checkpoint: Router Life Expectancy

There was a time in the early to mid-2000’s where I expected wireless routers to just die after a year or so. It happened to my Linksys and D-Link routers. However, after purchasing ASUS routers, a new expectation was set; routers are supposed to last half a decade or more. I owned two RT-N16 and an RT-N66U and two of the three are still alive with only the RT-N16 finally biting the dust last year. 

I replaced my gateway router with a NETGEAR R7000 Nighthawk router in August 2015 and while it impressed me initially with its feature set and wireless range, its sudden collapse Friday did not impress me at all. I was already planning to demote it from gateway router to access point because of a UPNP issue this weekend but my plans were accelerated when the router inexplicably stopped accepting connections.

Trying to access the admin console was met with slow response and repeated disconnections. I tried clearing the NVRAM but it was a fruitless effort. It took a complete reinstall of the firmware to restore functionality but I’m not confident in the router’s stability whatsoever.

NETGEAR R7000 Nighthawk’s UPNP issue with TitanFall 2 & multiple consoles

My brother and I were unable to play TitanFall 2 together without one of us failing to connect to the match. We never had issues with other titles such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 or Overwatch so I didn’t put much stock into it being a router issue. 

I found suggestions to reduce the “NAT Filtering” from “Secured” to “Open” and sure enough that allowed the two consoles to join games without a fuss. This revelation points to the possibility of the router not opening ports properly through UPNP. I conducted a Google search to include the words “titanfall 2 upnp 2 consoles nighthawk” which produced a couple of threads from the official forums including “Matchmaking with another player on the same Local Area Network” where people narrowed it down to a Nighthawk issue. Ten there is this other thread where a forum member detailed the fact that TitanFall 2’s multiplayer works by “registering external IP addresses as opposed to just using port mappings“. Isn’t that just grand? It doesn’t even bother trying to work via UPNP.

Welcome Back ASUS

Despite TitanFall 2’s shortcomings, I need a router that’s flexible enough to deal with said shortcomings. I also need a router that works reliably which is why I’m happy to welcome the ASUS RT-N66U as top dog in my network.

I’m loving my time with The Last Guardian. Trico is a delight to interact with and I’m continually amazed by how lifelike he reacts.

Along with the usual, I returned to Overwatch to do my placement matches for season 3. Going solo is such a fruitless and empty experience. I don’t even get upset over losses due to questionable hero picks; it’s just part of the crapshoot. I placed 2911.

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