This is where I track the games that I'm currently playing. I try to update it once per month if I've been playing something new (to me).
The latest installment in the Far Cry series was perfectly paced with an ideal duration, taking me just over fifty hours to complete the campaign and all side missions. The game designers make slight tweaks to the mechanics of how the map's locations are revealed, allowing access to the entire map at the start while locations are discovered through adventure and talking to NPCs. They also introduced two slots for NPCs to fight alongside you, recruited from a pool of specialists and fighters. The game takes place in Montana, USA and features the incredible detail and high caliber graphics you'd expect from the franchise. The plot is the usual band of hostiles (in this case a cult) that must be defeated and the areas they control liberated. The ending is classic Far Cry in the sense that they strive for a shocker that you won't see coming.
Axiom Verge was another game that I was just waiting to pick up on sale. It has the feel of an old 8 bit Nintendo platformer, built in the style of Metroid, but has features that exploit a modern controller. Think Metroid but with a greater variety of weapons and special abilities. The game's story isn't spectacular. It's a little vague, and fails to draw you in the way that Metroid or Castlevania did - but the game mechanics make up for that. I estimate I'm about 50% done with the game, and I don't know if I'll finish as the map exploration is getting a little tedious. The map and bosses are also designed for good speed-run videos, which is a bit annoying. But all in all, I'd say you get out of Axiom Verge what you put in to it.
I had this game on my Steam wishlist for a while, and it finally went on sale. It turned out to be a great value, providing me with over twenty hours of entertainment before I got tired of it. I think I only made it through maybe half of the game's "campaign." It's more of an amusement park simulator than a coaster-sim, which I appreciated after finding that building custom coasters isn't as fun as just placing pre-built ones in a well-planned park. There are many other rides to put in your park other than coasters, and you can ride all of them first person when you are done. The foot traffic simulation of humans in your park is very well done, but the micromanagement of the park staff is somewhat tedious. Overall, a very well done game and some people will get hundreds of hours out of it.
I grabbed this 2010 title during the Steam holiday sale for just a few bucks, and I'm pretty pleased with it. It looks surprisingly good for a title that's eight years old, and it does right by the Alien and Predator franchises. The game has three distinct campaigns: Colonial Marine, Alien, and Predator. I found the human campaign to be the most fun, followed by the Predator. The Alien mechanics suffered a little from the limitation that you are a creature with no technology or weapons, just lethal biological capabilities. The game re-uses map areas between campaigns, but does so in a unique way that doesn't feel cheap. I did not try any other game modes, and it took me about eight hours of play to finish the three campaigns...just right.
I picked this game up in a Humble Bundle a while back for a buck, and honestly that's all it's really worth to me. I finished the entirety of the game's content in about five hours, and it was somewhat amusing but nothing special. It's a physics puzzle game where you control a floppy doughboy, navigating your way through cleverly designed maps. The problem with this game is you spend more time wrestling with objects and character control than you do thinking about the puzzles. This can be somewhat entertaining at first, but it gets old. I did stick with it through the end, though, so that's something. I will give the game props for level design, and allowing more than one way to solve/navigate some areas.
I broke a rule of mine when I played this expansion for The Talos Experiment: always play a puzzle game's DLC right after you finish the main game. When I lose momentum with a puzzle game and then try to jump back I never enjoy it as much as I think I'm going to. Especially when the puzzles are more advanced than the ones in the base game, which is generally the case here. I found myself disinterested in gathering stars (optional, harder puzzles) in order to unlock an additional level and see alternate endings. That's in stark contrast to the base game, where I strived for 100% completion. Nevertheless, I did finish this DLC and enjoyed it for the most part. Talos remains one of my top puzzle games of all time, right behind Portal and Infinifactory. You can read my mini-review for The Talos Principle here.
The last few years have been great for gaming, and 2017 was no exception. In fact, 2017 may well be my favorite year in gaming ever. As usual, I played mostly games that came out in previous years that have now dropped in price -- but I did play some 2017 titles. The undisputed top title of 2017 was the early access release of Player Unknown's Battlegrounds which sold over twenty million copies and posted a record-breaking two million concurrent players. Full release, including a console port, is planned for later this month. I've logged an absurd 675 hours since May, which is a statement since I usually don't even buy early access games.
Another 2017 release that I'm pretty excited about is Quake Champions. It's been way too long since we had a Quake game, and I jumped at the opportunity to join the closed beta. When it progressed to early access I bought it on Steam, even though my beta participation entitled me to continue playing for free via Bethesda's distribution platform. I bought it because I want it in my Steam collection, as I know I'm going to be playing many, many more hours of it for a long time to come. I'm looking forward to the addition of more champions and maps when the game goes to full release, date not yet determined.
Even though it was released in December of 2016, I'm handing the title of "Most Underrated Game of 2017" to Steep. Ubisoft's winter sports masterpiece lets you group with up to three friends as you explore the slopes across a vast expanse of terrain in the Alps and Alaska. There is no shortage of races, challenges, and events to participate in, but it's incredibly satisfying and relaxing to just explore the wilderness and find new areas and new runs to take. It's a shame that so much of the game market is being driven by loudmouthed streamers and their stim-junkie fans, and great games like Steep go largely unappreciated. But if you want to just chill on the slopes listening only to the wind, and the crunch of snow beneath your board, give this game a try.
There were multiple 2016 releases that I played in 2017 which became instant favorites for me. I.D.'s DOOM, which I started playing in late 2016, has a nearly perfect campaign. I've played it through on each difficulty setting, and plan on playing it several more times. I don't think I've enjoyed a single player campaign as much since Far Cry 3. Ubisoft's title, Tom Clancy's: The Division, hit it out of the park with a polished and immersive cooperative online campaign. Finishable in about four hours, Inside joined its predecessor, Limbo, in my Top 100 list. Lastly, the 2016 one-man-created title Stardew Valley earns my highest praise as the best indie game ever. I put 120 hours into it over the course of about five weeks, and I look forward to another play through some day. Doom and Stardew both earned provisional spots in my Top 20 list.
Infinifactory, a block-world sandbox puzzle game, was a 2015 release that flew under my radar until September of this year when I happened to see it on sale. Publisher Zachtronics, well known for other difficult puzzle games, released it via early access in 2015 and steadily added more content to it. I'm glad I played it now, as a finished game, as it's not the type of game you want to step away from for a while and then try to play again. I also gave Infinifactory a Top 20 position, the third game that I played this year to make the list. I'll see how I feel about that as time passes, but right now I feel like 2017 closes out as my top year for video gaming.
I still have a backlog of games I bought last year that I need to play, notably Atrain 9, Human Fall Flat, and an expansion for The Talos Principle. The good news is, I'm not seeing much that will drive more purchases for me when the Steam Christmas sale comes. I do have my eye on one indie title, Axiom Verge, which I'll buy if it drops to ten bucks or less. One announced 2018 title that I am definitely going to buy is Far Cry 5, which is slated to be out in March. If it lives up to what Ubisoft is promising in terms of online co-op, it should be pretty awesome.
Other than that, 2018 probably holds a lot more PUBG in store for me alongside Quake Champions, Steep, and (still) GTA5. Hopefully I'll have time to do another play through of DOOM as well. I keep meaning to revisit Space Engineers as I know they've added a lot of content since I bought it. In all I think 2018 will be yet another great year of gaming, but it will be hard to top 2017.
I picked this game up in the Steam summer sale and I have mixed feelings about it so far, thinking that I paid too much for it even on sale. I have not played any of its predecessors in the series, but this one is very much like a Far Cry with some of the absurdity of a Saints Row thrown in. The game has a lot of great physics-based destruction, but it gets somewhat repetitive. The most entertaining aspect is getting around the map using a grappling hook (with seemingly infinite energy source), a parachute that can instantly repack itself, and a wingsuit. As fun as the movement mechanics and destruction are, they can't overcome the pretty dull plot and main story missions. There's just so many open-world action adventure games on the market that you really have to knock it out of the park to hold my attention.
I finished Infinifactory in 81 hours, building huge manufacturing facilities composed of conveyor belts, sensors, pushers, rotators, lifters, lasers, grinders and endless conduits. Infinifactory is a sandbox-puzzle game from Zachtronics, the creators of SpaceChem, set in a block-based minecraftish world with no mining, just crafting. Although there is a cobbled-together "plot" for the game, it's mostly just "here's your target object, now build ten of them given these inputs." You have a growing collection of factory blocks at your disposal that do small jobs and your task is to interconnect them to transform the input blocks into a completed object. The game was a bit longer than I would have liked, but it is definitely one of my favorite puzzle games of all time and a contender for my Top 20 list.
Motherload is my favorite web-based Flash game of all time, so I was really looking forward to Super Motherload which I picked up in the Steam Summer Sale. I wasn't disappointed, but there is really only about five hours of quality game play available. I have not tried the multiplayer, and I want to -- I could see that being fun, but it's only a local (shared screen) multiplayer which makes it unlikely that I'll get to play it. Super Motherload keeps with the theme and mechanics of the original, but takes out some of the more irritating aspects of it, while sporting high-res, fullscreen graphics. You pilot a small mining vessel below the surface of Mars seeking your fortune, and are confronted with mysteries and danger. You gather valuable minerals from below the surface and sell them, using your profits to better equip your ship for even deeper and more profitable excursions.
This War Of Mine is a survival game that puts the player in the role of a civilian caught in the middle of a war zone. You control a group of civilians trying to survive in a besieged city, and can task them with different actions depending on their skills and health. I was really looking forward to playing this game, and it received great reviews, but it wasn't for me. It was too tedious and slow paced, and I found the crafting and trading pretty boring. I quit after 55 minutes of play.
I rapidly hit 120 hours of play in Stardew Valley, perhaps the fastest I've ever logged that much time in a game. I'm tempted to give it a provisional slot in my top 20 games of all time, we'll see. Stardew is a farming/ranching game, where you also cultivate relationships with the townsfolk, inspired by Nintendo's Harvest Moon. There's no shortage of things to do, and the game's pace is as relaxing as you want it to be. You can also play it as a resource/time management game and try to maximize your efficiency. With its old-school, low resolution pixel art Stardew proves that content still trumps flash. The entirety of the game, from the code to the artwork and music, was created by one man.
Inside is a side scrolling puzzle/platformer game by the same developer as Limbo, and is basically a successor to that game. It has the same monochrome look and feel, mechanics, and a similar plot. Your character must solve environmental puzzles and avoid death as he progresses through a bizarre dystopia, attempting to make sense of the scenes he is witnessing. The game took me about four hours to finish, roughly the same as Limbo, and was very satisfying. I've read that there are multiple endings and secrets that I missed, so I may go back and play again. I wouldn't say it has huge replay value, however.
I ended up buying a total of six games/expansions in this year's Steam Summer Sale. Stardew Valley, Just Cause 3, and A-Train are all games that I've had my eye on for a while, and I was just waiting for a good price to pick them up. I was a big fan of the Flash game "Motherload" so when I saw its successor go on sale I grabbed it. I picked up This War of Mine simply based on its ratings, and The Talos Principle was a great game so I grabbed some DLC for it. I will write about all of these games as I play them.
I've been playing a lot of the Quake Champions closed beta for the past six weeks, but until recently it's been under a pretty strict NDA with streaming, images, and even discussion of the game being banned outside of Bethesda's dedicated forum for the game. That's all been lifted, so this is probably a good time to mention it here. I'm a huge fan of the Quake franchise, with Quake II contending strongly for my favorite game of all time, so I'm pretty excited about this new installment arriving twenty years after the release of Quake II.
Champions remains true to the fast paced heritage of the series while modernizing it a bit with selectable champs, each having different traits and special abilities. The Champions vary in their starting and max armor and health, speed, and passive abilities. Each also has a special ability on an extended cooldown. No, it's not Overwatch. An Overwatch playstyle won't cut it here -- it's still Quake. You have to know the map, master speed and position, have precise aim, and manage your health and armor stack. Think of it as Quake, just with a little spice thrown in. The beta servers are now up full time, so I'll probably be playing a lot more Champions in the coming months.
Factorio is a resource management game of factory building and task automation. There are some realtime strategy elements in addition, as there is some fighting and defense of your equipment required. The player starts with only basic tools from his "crashed spaceship" and must build an industrial infrastructure to eventually escape back in to space. The game is low resolution and optimized for insanely large factory layouts, although you don't really get a taste of that in the demo. Ultimately I decided that this is not a $20 title, based on the multitude of quality games in that price range. I'll revisit if the price drops.
One hundred people parachute out of an airplane over an island at locations of their choosing, carrying nothing. They must find weapons, armor, and health items by looting abandoned structures. Land and sea vehicles can help cross large distances, but running is your primary mode of transportation. Every so often, the valid play area shrinks in radius. Those outside the play area will die if they don't move. The last man standing wins.
PUBG is a fairly expensive early access game, setting you back $30, but it's well worth it. The playerbase is large and you can find full solo, duo, or four man squad games at any time of day. I quickly hit the 100 hour mark in this game, and anticipate playing much, much more. It does have some of the problems that come with early access, and the game reeks of its Arma heritage, with a cumbersome interface and poor performance even on good hardware. On a 1070 at 2K/medium settings you can expect frame dips below 60 regularly. That said, the game still makes my Top 100 without a second thought. That's something no game in the Arma franchise can say.
Steep is a winter sports game that allows the player to freely switch between a snowboard, skis, a wingsuit, a paraglider, a sled, a rocket wing, or just a parachute for BASE jumping. It's an open-world game with challenges and courses placed throughout the map, but simply helicoptering to a point on the mountain, choosing a line down, and exploring the vast back country is incredibly fun. You can play by yourself or in a group of four, and there is usually no shortage of people to group with online. The implementation of the skiing and snowboarding is outstanding, and really gives the sensation of being a downhill expert. I have four videos gameplay with my friend Matt on my YouTube channel.
I've racked up a ton of hours in a short amount of time in this game. Steep is probably the most underrated game of 2016/2017. Within half an hour of installing it I knew that it was going to make my Top 100. That's coming from a guy who doesn't really care for sports games. I'm not hesitant to call it the best winter sports game since 1080 Snowboarding for the N64. Being an online-only game with no campaign, it was probably priced too high by Ubisoft. I didn't buy it until it reduced to $40. But having played it alone and with friends, knowing what I know now, I'd have bought it at release time. With access to massive areas in the Alps and Alaska, there is almost endless terrain to explore and I look forward to many more hours of adventure in Steep.
Toxikk is an arena shooter with mechanics in the style of Unreal Tournament. The game's motto, "frag like it's 1999," sums up the gameplay nicely. It's free to play, but I bought a 4 pack of the full version to try to get some friends into the action. Toxikk has well designed levels and runs smoothly. It has a server browser and a skill system. The game does suffer from an incredibly small playerbase, a problem common to arena shooters these days. It has a decent system of bots of various skill levels that will play against you until a server populates. I've logged about 15 hours in Toxikk, and it's my go-to shooter until I get a Quake Champions beta key.
Alien Isolation is the story of Amanda Ripley, daughter of the movie series heroine Ellen Ripley. It takes place after the events of the original Alien movie and follows Amanda trying to determine the fate of her mother. It's a survival horror game featuring a single, incredibly lethal alien loose in the environment. The game is genuinely terrifying, and will have you jumping in your chair. It's got a good story, good graphics, and the first few hours of play are quite enjoyable. About five hours in I still hadn't had any satisfying combat and I realized that it was a stealth-only game, even though I had several interesting weapons and throwables that I had crafted. I kept at it, though, and pushed on through about eight hours of gameplay. Then the alien started killing me every few minutes, even when I was well hidden. Load, die, repeat. Then I quit playing. This game has been out for a while, and I'm glad I got it for only ten bucks.
I've been playing The Division since November of last year, and I've racked up about 70 hours of play. This ended up being a pretty solid game that is much more stable and interesting than what we got in the beta. It had a satisfying campaign that was just the right length, and ended when it started to seem repetitive. The post-game and Dark Zone (pvp) play was also very rewarding and entertaining. Although you can play by yourself, team play (2-4 players) is much more fun. The game takes place in near-future, post-apocalyptic Manhattan and pits you and your friends (agents of The Division) against elusive and mysterious, militarized eco-terrorists who have unleashed a designer smallpox on the city. It's a cover-based, third-person shooter with role-playing elements. It has good weapons progression, crafting, feature unlocking and inventory mechanics. It will definitely make my Top 100.
I've been playing i.d. software's reboot of the Doom franchise, known widely as Doom 2016, for several months now and having an absolute blast. The online multiplayer is a dud, but the campaign is incredible. I've played the game all the way through on each difficulty setting, each time trying for what I consider 100% completion. Finding all secrets, collectibles, rune trials, etc. I've racked up 55 hours of play doing this, and that includes some time in multiplayer and the snapmap editor - a level editor included with the game. So, the game can be played through in a very reasonable amount of time, which adds to its appeal.
The idtech 6 engine can render the game using either DirectX or Vulkan, and both deliver an amazing level of smoothness that can only be described as silky. I get a consistent 100+ FPS on high settings at 2K. Combined with the fluidity of motion that the developers captured in your character's movements, it makes for a remarkable visual experience as you guide the space marine through the levels of Doom. From the incident-plagued halls of the Union Aerospace compound on Mars, to the gates of Hell itself and beyond, Doom 2016 is a first-rate demon slaying experience.
Endless Legend, released in 2014, is a turn based 4X strategy game on a hex-map, similar to the Civilization games. There's roughly a dozen races or factions to choose from, and myriad strategies to employ in building your empire. My ten hours of gameplay in Endless Legend consists entirely of one game which lasted 300 turns, after which I barely won. I found the combat mechanics tiresome, and the game as a whole was overly detailed for my taste. I picked this up on sale, and probably won't play it again, but it will hold me over until Civ 6 drops in price.
Witcher III: The Wild Hunt is an open-world, third-person role playing game with plenty of action and violent monster-hunting. You play the hero, Geralt of Rivia, on a quest to find his apprentice/ward Ciri who is being chased by The Wild Hunt, sort of a gang of ghosts. That's the shortest possible description of the game's expansive story, which is rich and multi-faceted to a fault. This game has long cut scenes and plenty of them, and that's ultimately the reason I quit playing before finishing the game. The story is just to tedious. But the gameplay is amazing, the world is large and beautiful, the graphics are top notch, and I still racked up 45 hours of enjoyable play. Killing people from horseback with your sword is one of the most satisfying game mechanics of all time.
As a general rule I don't care for sports games, and I really detest soccer. I would have never bought this game if I didn't have so many friends that play it. I finally got it on sale, and it has been a rewarding purchase. Rocket League is "vehicular soccer" where you control a rocket car and try to hit a giant ball into the opposing team's goal. It's a very well crafted e-sports game in that it takes a few minutes to learn the basics, and hundreds of hours to master the advanced techniques needed to compete with decent players. I've enjoyed playing this game with my friends, and with my 13 year old nephew who is a significantly better player than I am.
Cities: Skylines is probably the best city builder since Sim City 3000 which came out almost twenty years ago. It's everything that EA's 2013 reboot of Sim City should have been. It has the familiar zone types, an intuitive interface, and all the familiar elements of classic city builders. It also adds advanced road construction mechanics along with a traffic simulator that really adds to the entertainment value of the game. There are still some annoying micromanagement elements, and some pace-of-growth issues, but overall it's a solid title and will be added to my favorites list. The game also has myriad mods available for it, and can be turned into a pure sandbox with infinite money and building unlocks making for even more hours of fun.
Space Run is a tower defense and ship-building game with the goal of delivering cargo. The player must construct a ship with various shields and weapons capable of repelling the hazards and threats encountered during a "run." The player must build on the fly and manage the ship's assets in realtime during the mission. Credits earned from delivering cargo can be used to unlock new items and modules for the ship. Space Run is reminiscent of the board game "Galaxy Trucker" and so it had some automatic appeal for me. I got a solid 9 hours of play out of the game, but did not finish it. It's a pretty good take on the well-worn genre of tower defense.
Every entry in the Tropico franchise has failed to hold any interest for me, and so I don't know why I thought 4 would be any different. I picked it up in a Humble Bundle for next to nothing, so I can't say I feel cheated, but I played well under one hour before hanging it up. It tries to be a resource management city builder with a cold war caricature of a plot, but it just doesn't do it well. The game has decent reviews, and there is a big base of fans of the franchise, so don't take my word for it. But it's just lacking something.