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Our get more difficult to pick every year. With approximately 38% of all Steam games released this year alone, playing them all is impossible, but we do our best to review a cross-section of releases we think will both appeal to our audience and represent the majority of quickly multiplying corners throughout all genres in PC gaming. Last year, we cut off the list at scores above 80%, but because there were so many games that made the cut, we’ve upped our standards to 84%. These games were reviewed by many different people with varying perspectives, but all according to our . As such, try not to sweat it when scores don’t correlate across the board. And if a favorite game is missing, swing by our to find it or let us know in the comments.
Despite some technical troubles—which are steadily being patched out—Dishonored 2 is one of our favorite games of the year. It's no secret that we're big fans of systems-driven games at PC Gamer, and we've celebrated Metal Gear Solid 5 and the new Hitman thoroughly for that reason. Dishonored 2 is another for the list, even better than its predecessor and one of the best stealth/action games we've played.
Release date: Nov 3, 2016 ▪ Developer: Sports Interactive ▪ If you’ve ever played Football Manager, then you already know what to expect in the latest version. It’s a refinement that makes important information easier to access so you spend more time living the stories of your teams instead of processing dense screens of statistics, but it doesn’t entirely upend the formula. Why would it? Football Manager 2017 is the best entry in a well established series, so far unparalleled. If you want to manage some football, Football Manager 2017 is the way to go.
We were all a little surprised when we found out the new Hitman would be episodic, but as Phil says in his review of the full first season, pulling back on Absolution's story focus was a boon. While there's still a story, what's at the heart of new Hitman is "a standalone series of sandbox murder playgrounds," as Phil put it. Blood Money fans should be pleased.
With the addition of a single-player campaign and no season pass to divide the community, Titanfall 2 sheds two common complaints about the original—and also does what it does fantastically. "If this were a game from the late nineties or early noughties, we'd likely look back at the mission 'Effect and Cause' as one of the greats of the genre," wrote Chris in his review. The multiplayer is better than before as well, but there's one worry—Titanfall 2's population could suffer from its proximity to Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Let's hope it doesn't.
The leap back in time to WWI had good results, as Battlefield 1's focus on infantry combat pairs well with , and its finicky guns slow things down a little, giving us more time to move and more pride in our good shots. The campaign is enjoyable too, which hasn't quite been the case in a Battlefield game for some time.
There's of course , but Civilization 6 is nevertheless the "ultimate digital board game," as we put it in our review. It's the most transformative version of Civ so far, changing the rules of city-management and tweaking just about everything else. And Civ 6 will only get better with expansions and user-made additions—even though the mod tools aren't out yet, the .
Release date: Oct 11, 2016 ▪ Developer: Failbetter Games ▪ In any Lovecraftian narrative, the descent always gives way to more unspeakable madness and horror, which is exactly what Zubmariner accomplishes. As an expansion to the oceanic exploration text adventuring of Sunless Sea, it sends the player beneath the waves and on the path to unraveling the mysteries of the flooded world. As scary as it is, there’s nothing spooky about more of an already excellent thing.
One of the best racing games on PC, with a huge open world Australian playground (that's also full of irritating personalities) and over 350 gorgeous cars. As it's published by Microsoft Studios, Forza Horizon 3 is only available on the Windows Store—but at least Chris managed a smooth 60 fps, and didn't have many technical issues despite the Universal Windows Platform's rocky start.
Legion had a lot of work to do after the disappointing Warlords of Draenor, but even before all its pieces are in place, it succeeds. The quest writing, new order halls, and improved class identity are all high points. "For the first time, I don't just feel like I'm playing a druid—I am a druid," wrote Steven in his review.
A refined action platformer with tricky, floaty jumps, 1,125 levels and a level editor—so there's no risk of being left wanting. Shaun has played over 300 hours of the original PS4 version, and put another 20 into this new PC release. "In some ways N++ feels like the end of the action platformer, like an exhaustive final document, a catalogue of its emotional highs and lows," he wrote in his review. It's safe to say he liked it a bit.
Andy wasn't super impressed by the story, but Mankind Divided's detailed vision of a future Prague, new augmentations, and level design earned it high marks. "Everywhere you look there are sentry turrets, security bots, criss-crossed laser tripwires, and patrolling guards," Andy wrote. "Getting inside, stealing the particular item you’re looking for, and escaping unseen was hugely satisfying."
After last year's disappointment F1 2016 deserved some skepticism, but Codemasters came through—F1 2016 is "the most well-featured, authentic recreation of Formula One ever created, and it’s a genuinely good PC port," wrote reviewer Sam White. Better physics, better AI, and new details hoist it above the series' previous missteps.
Release date: Aug 3, 2016 ▪ Developer: Ghost Town Games ▪ If you need to test your friendships, Overcooked is the game for you. A top down co-op cooking game, Overcooked places up to four players in crazy kitchens and throws an endless series of dishes their way. Getting a high score requires close, coordinated teamwork, but the moment communication breaks down, things can get messy. Tom calls it, “the perfect balance of chaos that can be conquered with skill,” and “hands down one of the best couch party games ever made.” Overcooked is a guaranteed recipe for fun. And disaster. And absolute despair. If you have the company, don’t miss it.
Release date: Aug 2, 2016 ▪ Developer: Giant Squid ▪ James calls Abzu “an expertly directed psychedelic marine tour without a single UI or text prompt telling you where to go or what to do, purely driven by curiosity.” You control a diver and explore big, colorful underwater scenes, interacting with a wide assortment of sea life while unraveling a quiet story with an environmental message. Accompanied by an inspiring score from Austin Wintory, Abzu is an easy emotional journey to recommend.
Release date: Jul 22, 2016 ▪ Developer: Chucklefish ▪ According to Chris, Starbound is the charming and deep space exploration sandbox we were promised during its prolonged Early Access phase. It’s not perfect, lacking in combat systems and it’s still pretty cryptic, but “Starbound is otherwise a great pleasure, full of verve and laden with seemingly endless diversions and self-directed projects that you can lose yourself in for hours or days at a time.”
The follow-up to the great , Lovely Planet Arcade strips the Y-axis from its precision, small-level shooting, meaning you can't look up and down. It's very different from its predecessor, but the essence of what makes it fun is still there: "the thrill of executing prescriptive shooting challenges with nearly zero room for error," as James put it in his review.
Furi has "a ludicrous premise, strenuous combat, loud neon synth jams, and saturated color palette"—but also restraint, says James. A series of bullet-hell hack n' slash boss fights train you in simple combat techniques: slash, parry, shoot, and dash. Some bugs and difficulty spikes held it back a little, but Furi is still one of our favorite surprise hits of the year.
You’ll find some cracks in the simulation, but how could there not be a few holes in such a sweeping, complicated scenario? Hearts of Iron 4 is “a beautiful, thrilling wargame” that presents the entire globe as it was at the outbreak of World War 2—and everything that happens from there is up to you and the AI.
“The AI may not always be sensible, and maybe combat doesn't always seem quite historically accurate,” wrote Rob in our review, “but then, you might be playing a version of World War 2 where Italy broke away from Germany to create a new Roman Empire with Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union was plunged into civil war and Stalin was deposed by 1942.”
A great team shooter that emphasizes positioning, teamwork and tactics over agility and marksmanship, but still leaves room for players to grow in the latter department. There are still character tweaks to be made to ensure they’re continuously viable and fun and all create interesting dynamics, but it’s the sort of game you could tweak forever. Overwatch can't replace Team Fortress 2 for us, but it’s certainly recaptured the experience of getting a bunch of friends together for night-long sessions of the current top shooter. now, and we’re keen to earn some golden guns.
With Geralt's journey into the sun-drenched vintner lands of Toussaint, CD Projekt RED capstones an RPG masterpiece, defining a standard for interactive storytelling. The Witcher 3's Blood and Wine expansion follows in adding new gear and combat abilities as well as stitching together small yet eventful scenarios into a greater web of intrigue. The wonderfully paced narrative of an ostensibly routine whodunit set in Toussaint's fairytale countryside reflects what makes The Witcher games so great: a politically divided world, superb dialogue, and distinctly memorable characters.
The Total War series and the Warhammer franchise share a love for massive armies crashing into each other on an epic battlefield, but the latter also includes wizards with fire for hair and smelly sentient fungus. That results in more distinctly characterized armies in Total War: Warhammer emphasized by the Warhammer universe’s magic spells and flying units—all added strategy layered on the Total War pedigree of positional and tactical superiority.
Piloting drones through abstract maps of derelict spaceships might not sound tense, but Duskers can be nightmarish. “Frantically typing commands into the console when things suddenly go sideways makes me feel like I’m really huddled in a darkened dropship, alone, desperately trying to save my drones and by extension myself,” said Chris Livingston in his review. Watch out for aliens.
Release date: May 12, 2016 ▪ Developer: Square Enix ▪ In the last few years, Square Enix started plugging the gaps missing in the Final Fantasy series availability on PC, with varying degrees of commitment. Not every port has been stellar, but X and X-2 HD both function pretty well, albeit not particularly well with a mouse and keyboard. They’re among the more divisive entries in the series and haven’t aged perfectly, but looking back, Sam still thinks, “Spira is a wonderful world that’s well worth exploring, and X and X-2’s different approaches to combat systems are both deep and exciting.”
Doom's reverence of a primordial aspect of FPS design—killing—borders on comical exaggeration with its fountains of demon blood and a main character who communicates by punching things. That fittingly fuels fast and fun combat indulging the nostalgia of id's run-and-gun lineage without smothering its metal brutality. Doom's since launch adds a Photo mode for screenshots and ups the classic feel with an optional center-aligned weapon model.
Release date: Apr 28, 2016 ▪ Developer: Mohawk Games ▪ Imagine an intro to marketing class, streamlined and condensed into a sweet, chewy bubblegum format—and set on Mars. That’s Offworld Trading Company, a strategy and management sim where you take control of a business dedicated to supplying new human colonies. Matt praises the unknowable depth and feedback in his review, stating ‘There’s a simple, tactile joy of seeing every a nudge of the finger explode into a flourish of numbers, but a deep and lasting satisfaction from knowing every profit was carefully engineered.”
Hearthstone blazed a path by making digital card games popular on PC, and many competitors have followed in the years since. But none of them have broken so far away from the pack as Duelyst. It’s a tactics game and a CCG mixed into one, wrapped up with some of the best pixel art animations and character design of any game all year. It’s easy to pick up, but the addition of movement to largely traditional card game mechanics give it an amazing amount of depth that has kept it as one of our favorite card games all year.
We loved the original, and the sequel is even better. The Banner Saga 2 is a weighty tale of survival, and a brutal strategy challenge. Some interface issues carry over from the first game, but as our reviewer put it: “Yes, there’s still room for improvement, but this is a smart, worthy sequel: denser, richer, more complex and yet more intimate. Even if you’ll feel in dire need of a stiff drink once this second act draws to its devastating close.”
James calls Dark Souls 3 “the most focused, potent game in the series” in his review. It has diverse and numerous enemies, masterful combat and world design, and a dense, mysterious story to every inch of stone. Most importantly, it’s .
Release date: Mar 28, 2016 ▪ Developer: Gunfire Games ▪ VR is still lacking a deep, directed experience that begs to be played in the steadily growing medium, but Chronos might be the closest we’ll get for a while. It’s a full blown action adventure, taking cues from The Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls with punishing 3rd person sword-and-board combat and winding monolithic level design. It also makes clever use of VR in ways that can’t be replicated on a monitor, but they’re best experienced firsthand. Wes is dying for more, saying, “It’s a rare thing for me to be halfway through a game and already excited to play a sequel.” Let’s hope Oculus moves enough headsets to make it happen.
The greatest work so far from Czech indie studio Amanita Design. It’s a point-and-click adventure, but puzzles aren’t as important here as imagery, metaphor, and surreal weirdness. “They're also so surreal that when I did something right, it was sometimes impossible to tell exactly what I did, or why it was right,” said Andy Chalk in our review. “I crept up behind a glowing, golden gazelle, leapt upon its back, and went for a wild ride along the side of a mountain.”
Release date: Mar 22, 2016 ▪ Developer: Out of the Park Developments ▪ There’s no baseball management sim that comes close to the batting average of Out of the Park Baseball, and while it may not feel like a complete reinvention of the series, it’s still the best in the business. In , Ben says, “A wealth of up-to-date licences and attribute ratings make OOTP 17 an essential purchase for the devoted player, while newcomers will swiftly grasp, and love, its relentless brilliance.”
Day of the Tentacle is great. Day of the Tentacle Remastered is that great game, remastered, and is also great. It holds up over 20 years later, and the modernization gives us an appealing opportunity to take another trip through time. “You can still play your old copy in DOSBox or ScummVM, of course,” noted Andy in our review, “but if you want a more streamlined, modern experience, with some fascinating insight into how the game was made, the remaster is worth investing in.”
Time moves when you move in Superhot, a shooter distilling its mechanics into a polygonal portrayal of bullet-time. It doesn't take long to complete, but clearing a level without dying in a single hit is a challenging demand of mental forethought echoing the of FPS professionals. A of Superhot for the Oculus Rift is in the works, so you can make those Matrix moves in your living room without looking too ridiculous (or maybe not).
As a visual novel, Danganronpa's length is matched only by the ridiculousness of its premise. That 15 of Japan's most gifted students could get trapped into playing a murderous game of "Guess Who?" by a mechanical bear is certainly a very anime concept. But through that goofy setup, Danganronpa takes a dark turn and displays a real gift for taking absurd characters and making them endearing—which makes it all the more gut-wrenching when they inevitably die. There's a reason that in our review, Andy said, "the story is so compelling that I barely noticed that all I was doing was clicking through lines of dialogue."
Great dialogue, excellent voice performances, a minimal soundtrack, and some beautiful visuals brought real life to this first-person adventure game. Set in Wyoming, you play the glum and haunted Henry who is spending a secluded summer as a firewatchman. While the conclusion of the story doesn’t live up to the compelling setup, the believable relationship between Henry and Delilah, another park ranger, more than make up for it.
Sid Meier once described a game as a "series of interesting decisions." And in our review, Tom said that "XCOM 2 is the purest expression of that ethos that Firaxis has yet produced." From the moment you first take up arms against your alien oppressors, XCOM 2 hits you with a relentless barrage of choices so jaw-clenchingly difficult you're going to need a cigarette after each one. The lives you sacrifice for the greater good will be etched in your mind, and the temptation to reload an old save will be overwhelming. If you can resist and embrace consequence, XCOM 2 will transform you into a grizzled commander through the fires of conflict.
The Witness is brilliant in its simplicity. It speaks in a language without words, but uses shape and form to impart philosophical ideas that will change the way you see its world. Repetition is a stern yet fair teacher, and engaging with that silent discourse as a student begins to unravel the relationship entirely. But The Witness can also feel frustratingly vague. As Edwin said in our review, "what it ultimately seeks to offer is a vantage point, a perspective on life's mysteries, rather than answers." But even if you don't like the answer, The Witness proves questions are worth asking.
To take Homeworld and put it on the ground seems “almost sacrilegious,” wrote Rob Zacny in our review. But it works. “It's not only a terrific RTS that sets itself apart from the rest of the genre's recent games,” he said, “but it's also an excellent Homeworld game that reinvents the series while also recapturing its magic.” Deserts of Kharak is both approachable—less about production, more about tactics—and another example of all the life still flowing through the RTS genre.
Darkest Dungeon is cruel, probably too cruel. It's a dungeon crawler that doesn't deal in stats and loot alone but also trades on the mental well-being of the heroes you send into its festering crypts. But these heroes don't return stronger for their troubles; they come back battered and broken, a liability you're much better off dismissing. Beneath all that doom and gloom is an innovative take on turn-based RPGs that weaves the positioning of party members with an unconventional class system, that inspires experimentation despite the constant dread of what will happen if you fail.
Our reviewer loved how Aquatic Adventure “fast-forwards through the Metroidvania template, stripping it down to its most essential parts: exploration, atmosphere, and player growth”. It’s an underwater take on the classic genre, where you putter around gorgeous pixel-art environments, collecting upgrades, taking out challenging bosses, and try to decipher how earth’s oceanic apocalypse came about. You also get to swim out of a giant sea worm’s ass, a necessary experience.
Pony Island is so dependent on its little self-referential gimmicks that it’s hard to explain without giving it all away. In a sense, and because there’s a pun to be made, that makes it a one-trick pony, but it does a great trick. One of its pranks near the end of the game is so devious we won’t likely forget it soon. If you like Undertale or The Stanley Parable, you’ll probably enjoy Pony Island.
Saladin and Gandhi declared war on me, and I thwarted their invasion and made peace. Now, for some asinine reason, most of the world is calling me a warmonger. My friends in Rome, meanwhile, have used our open borders agreement to pointlessly surround my capital with swordsmen, forcing me to break our friendship agreement and declare war just so I can move my own troops around again. I guess I am a warmonger, at least when I can no longer play the game without going to war.
The foreign policy of Civilization 6’s AI leaders is absurd, but as irritating as those stories are, there’s a lot of good in the grand strategy series update. The new district system is one of my favorite additions to any Civilization. Cities are no longer a single tile with a few farms and a mine nearby, and can be properly sprawling and unique. It’s much more fun to play with just a few metropolises, carefully managing land usage and bonuses, nestling a campus in a valley beneath a mountain range and linking a harbor with a commerce district.
While they could use work, I’m glad systems like caravans and religion have been carried over from the Civilization 5 expansions. I don’t play Civilization for the discombobulating foreign affairs, but for the design and management of a network of cities—which is what Civ 6 has excelled at improving.
There’s every reason to be hopeful that Civ 6 will get better, too. When Civ 5 came out, there was a contingent (which I was a part of) which said that, sure, it looks nicer and it’s more accessible, but Civilization 4 is obviously superior. History is repeating itself with Civ 6, and while there are reasons to hold off for now (the inevitable price drop one of them), I’m optimistic that within a few years it will obtain the status Civ 5 eventually did after that initial shunning.
My only big disappointment is the time it’s taking to release mod tools, which Firaxis still hasn’t announced progress on. Not that the lack of tools has stopped modders from tinkering with Civ 6’s files: So far I’ve installed mods to increase the yield of ocean tiles, add useful information to the UI, and simplify my trade route decisions. When proper tools do come, through, it should be a boon for Civ's community of creative historians.
I’m certain we’ll see an official expansion next year, as well, but what I’d like more from Firaxis are free updates to aspects that won’t necessarily be touched by an expansion. Adding new civs and systems is nice and all, but first, the AI should really be more fun to play against—and it looks like that's happening. An claims to have “improved AI deal negotiations and analysis.” I haven’t had a chance to test that claim just yet, but at least Firaxis is on the case.
For the most part, Civ 6 is a collection of great ideas that could each use tweaking and improving. I like the new policies system, for instance, which adds a welcome layer of governance, though the abstractions can be odd—why does class struggle eliminate war weariness? I mostly ignore religion because I find dispersing missionaries tedious, but trade remains a priority for me, and I love seeing roads develop along routes (if any bit of micromanagement deserved to be cut from Civ 5, building roads was it).
I initially recoiled from Civ 6’s more colorful, cartoony graphics—I was all set to call it an unworthy successor to Civ 5—but now I love zooming in on my little mines and markets and harbors to see them work. I’m glad my fascination with miniatures is satisfied digitally, or I’d be buried in tiny plastic trees and farms and cathedrals. Civ 6 saves me space while I waste my time, and for that I am grateful.
If you're yet to play Civilization 6, here's what strategy guru T.J. Hafer wished he knew prior to conquering the world. If you have played, you'll know Firaxis and 2K's latest slant on the esteemed world domination sim comes packing a pretty impressive roster of world leaders. It's now added Jadwiga of Poland to that list via its first portion of premium DLC.
For £3.99/$4.99, you now have the opportunity to lead Poland into war—a force which can gain control of rival civ's tiles after they've fortified their borders. Furthermore, leader Jadwiga leverages her power to increase the value of Relics and likewise make Holy Sites more effective.
The DLC also includes a new scenario: "Stand at the crossroads of Europe protecting the fertile Polish homelands from those who would seize it to empower themselves," reads its Steam page description. "Can you stand as a bulwark against this threat?"
A new Vikings Scenario Pack lets players rule Europe for 100 turns as a Viking Lord. Playing as either Harald Hardrada of Norway, King Canute of Denmark or Olof Skotkonung of Sweden, you'll get to grips with six new City-States as well as three new Natural Wonders—both as part of the DLC and within the base game. This also costs £3.99/$4.99.
Both DLCs launch alongside a free and expansive 'Winter Update' which introduces a new Earth map, an 'Alert' action for units, new scenario menu options, and a new replay option to Wonder completion movies, among a host of other balance changes and AI and bug fixes.
Merry Civmas, everyone! Sidta Claus has arrived with bulging Sid Meier’s Sack full of Sid Meier’s Presents for Sid Meier’s Civilization 6 [official site], giving all of Sid Meier’s Players a big update with Sid Meier’s Fixes and Sid Meier’s Tweaks, while Sid Meier’s Flush Sid Meier’s Players can Sid Meier’s Buy new Sid Meier’s DLC. The most exciting of the two new DLC packs adds Poland as a playable civilization, ruled by Jadwiga, while the other adds viking-y scenarios. But first, the foundations: let’s rap about AI improvements. … [visit site to read more]
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s THE mosssssssst wonderful tiiiiiiiiiiiime ahaahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah I wish I had a machinegun ho ho ho ahahaha, get stuffed 2016. … [visit site to read more]
Alec is away this week, following the Vengaboys around on tour. Or, if they’re not currently touring, just visiting places they’ve been, taking photos and placing them inside his scrapbook alongside some brief reflections. That means it falls to me to tell you which ten games were the best selling on Steam in the past week, and there are some pleasant games inside.
So this is interesting. Proving that yes, we can all just get along, AMD and Intel have teamed up to offer gamers a pretty sweet deal on a hardware and games bundle.
"Radeon has joined forces with Intel to serve up a compelling, limited time holiday bundle through Newegg that delivers the excellent power efficiency of Intel’s 6th Generation Core-i5 6600K CPU with the powerful, future-ready performance of the MSI Radeon RX 480 Armor 8GB OC (overclocked) video card," AMD's Jason Evangelho announced on the company's Radeon Technologies Group blog.
AMD is hoping to restore parity in the processor space when it releases its next-generation Zen architecture next year. If Zen had already launched, it would be tough to imagine AMD promoting a bundle with rival Intel, but it hasn't launched yet and so here we are.
The bundle sells for $450 and includes the CPU and graphics card mentioned above, along with two free games, Civilization 6 and Doom. If purchased separately, the tally would come to a few pennies shy of $620. The savings add up to about $170, plus there's a $15 mail-in-rebate available (courtesy of MSI), bring the total saved to $185.
Even without factoring in the games, the bundle saves buyers $50 upfront over buying the CPU and graphics card separately, plus another $15 when the mail-in-rebate arrives. So, it's a pretty good deal no matter how you slice it.
The deal runs until December 31. You can grab the bundle here.