The Prestigious Endgame Viable Awards 2016

It occurred to me that the end of the year is approaching, and it’s time to do one of those year-end posts that bloggers love to do. Unfortunately I kind of hate doing them. It’s a lot of work. You have to actually look things up and think and count and multiply and divide and things like that. That goes against my normal principal of blogging by “just typing words into a text editor.”

Here are the 2015 awards. This year I’m going to award Biggest Disappointment of the Year, MMORPG of the Year, MMORPG Expansion of the Year, Game of the Year. In another post I’ll also be revealing my Most-Played MMORPG, and Most-Played Game.

2016 Contenders

As I defined it last year, my selections are based on the best game that I bought and played in 2016 which was also released in 2016. I also consider Early Access releases, to punish developers for releasing their game too early. You can have money, or you can have an award, but not both. :) Anyway since I only buy a handful of new games every year, the pool from which I can pick is often very small. Based on my extensive research of Steam emails, these are the 2016 released games that I’ve bought and played:

Battlefield 1
Black Desert Online
Blade and Soul
Civilization VI
DarkMaus
Dark Souls III + Ashes of Ariandel
Devil Daggers*
DOOM
Far Cry Primal
Riders of Icarus

* I can’t find out if there was an Early Access version available before 2016. Steam does an admirable job of “hiding” that games were released in Early Access before they were actually released.

Note: I could conceivably add The Division, but I only played an hour of open beta, so I’m discounting it. Same for Overwatch. Neither would have won anything anyway.

And these are the MMORPG expansions I’ve played this year:

Rift, Starfall Prophecy
World of Warcraft, Legion

These are some games I bought and played in 2016 but were disqualified from contention:

Bastion (Released Aug 16, 2011)
Black Mesa (Early Access Release May 5, 2015)
Immune (Early Access Release March 25, 2015)
Miasmata (Released Nov 28, 2012)
NEO Scavenger (Early Access Release Dec 15, 2014)
Novus Inceptio (Early Access Release Oct 5, 2015)
Salt (Early Access Release Aug 22, 2014)
SOMA (Released Sep 22, 2015)

On to the awards!

Game of the Year: Dark Souls III

I mean, come on. Not even a contest. Other games on the above list are play-once-and-forget-about-it games (yes, even Civ 6, in which I have not even completed a full game, and kind of wish I’d waited for a sale), whereas I could replay Dark Souls III an infinite number of times and not get tired of it. I’ve played it through at least six times already.

MMORPG of the Year: Black Desert Online

Riders of Icarus barely rates a mention. It was between Blade and Soul and Black Desert, and to me the easy winner is Black Desert Online. I had a lot more fun with BDO. I’m not sure I even made it out of the tutorial area with Blade and Soul.

MMORPG Expansion of the Year: Legion

This was a tough one because I played both Legion and Starfall Prophecy for roughly the same amount of time: Less than a month. Both expansions are basically more of the same in their respective MMORPGs. It’s a toss-up, but I gave the edge to Legion. Legion had less bugs and an impressive array of cut scenes, while Rift had more friction with some frustratingly difficult gameplay.

Biggest Disappointment Of The Year: Far Cry Primal

I was really hoping that Far Cry Primal would have more survival elements. I was hoping it would be the first AAA survival game that wasn’t just a rushed-out-the-door indie train wreck. But it wasn’t a survival game. It was a Far Cry game, set in prehistoric times. It was fun, and they have a good formula, but it was essentially “more of the same.” (I have the same expectations for Conan Exiles now: That it will be the first AAA survival game.)

Doom’s Problems

I haven’t played very much lately. Over the last few weeks I’ve been putting time into reading up on World War I (research for what I hope will be a historical fiction story for NaNoWriMo), reading Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, listening to Stephen King’s 11.22.63 audiobook, and even playing with composing some music in Renoise. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say the frenzy over the 2016 election has turned into a really entertaining Jerry Springer episode.

doom
A carefully un-cropped screenshot of a video player.

Gaming-wise, over the long rainy weekend, I thought I would make a push to finish recording my Doom Ultra-Violence blind playthrough. I didn’t think it would take that long, but boy was I wrong. That game just goes on and on and on and on forever. I feel like I saw everything there was to see in the game by about the halfway point, and beyond that it’s just an exhausting slog through room-to-room fighting.

You know exactly what’s going to happen every time: You get to a certain fairly obvious trigger point, then the quasi-metal music plays, a bunch of demons spawn, and you have to kill them all before you can go to the next room. At first the formula is fun, then it gets a bit tiresome, especially when you’re trying to finish it quickly.

Other than that, I have two main problems with Doom. One is the amount of exposition and narrative, which are 100% pointless in this kind of game. I really don’t need a detailed explanation for why my character is running around shooting Hell minions on Mars. I don’t need to know where they came from, who released them, or why. Even if I did, this story is not the slightest bit surprising or entertaining. Every single chapter is like, “You need to go to X, but first you’ll need to get Y and Z.”

The second problem I have with the game is the excessive size and complexity of the levels. This is a shooter. I shouldn’t have to spend half an hour trying to puzzle out how to get to the next level. Sure, I don’t mind hiding the secrets behind mazes of jumping puzzles and whatnot, but not the exit! Also these levels are enormous compared to the old Doom and Quake levels. Instead of 13 massive levels, I would have preferred to see 50 small levels.

Otherwise it’s a fun game. I wouldn’t recommend playing it on Ultra-Violence though. It’s too much work for too little payoff. I can’t even imagine playing it on Nightmare or whatever the one above that is.

Doom Impressions

I bought Doom when it was half off on Steam a while back and have been playing it here and there. I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

On the positive side, it’s a beautiful game, and it runs beautifully on my new gaming PC. It’s suitably fast and violent and hard on Ultra Violence. The chainsaw had me giggling like a kid when I found it. (Remember how the world thought the original Doom was over-the-top gruesome? Pretty funny to think about now.)

On the bad side, Doom has annoyingly long load times. This is a trend that I don’t like in newer generation games. I want to double-click the icon on the desktop and be playing in less than 30 seconds. Doom takes minutes to load up (on my new PC!), which makes me not want to click on that icon. Not to mention how long it takes between dying and respawning, a process that is supposed to be instantaneous in these kinds of games.

A game called Doom from id carries with it a certain expectation, and that expectation is running and gunning. But I feel like it strays too far from those roots. There will be 10 minutes of exciting shooter gameplay when you enter a new area, but it’s often followed by 10 or 20 minutes of trying to puzzle out where to go next or fiddling with weapon mods or worst of all, listening to 5 minutes of exposition from some unknown persona on an intercom. That’s not a component of shooters that I find enjoyable. It’s the, you know, shooting that’s the enjoyable part.

I’ve only played a few hours so maybe I’m missing something. (I wouldn’t expect a Doom-style game to be super hard to figure out though.)

Regardless, I’m still having an overall positive experience and plan to finish it.