The PC gaming highs of the year

At the end of every week, we post our highs and lows in PC gaming. As we've come to the last week of 2016, we've gathered our favorite events of the whole year. Tomorrow we'll cover the lows, but for now, let's celebrate the good our hobby brought us this year.

Samuel Roberts: PC gaming's banner year

Along with Tyler, I commission half of the reviews that end up on pcgamer.com and in the magazine, so both of us have to keep a really close eye on what's coming up on a weekly basis. This year, doing that has been constantly challenging, simply because the year's been so damn good. I've never seen a release schedule like PC gaming in 2016, particularly in the first half of the year where we had Dark Souls III, Total War: Warhammer, Overwatch, Doom and XCOM 2 in fairly quick succession. We've never had it so good when it comes to big PC releases—and 2017 will have to do a lot to catch up. I'm not even sure it will.

Who could predict a phenomenon like Overwatch, or even something like Stardew Valley, which was quietly bubbling away in the background then took off like a rocket? When it came to deciding our game of the year for 2016, with the ultimate winner being Dishonored 2, it was a much harder call to make than it was in the last two years, when Alien Isolation and MGSV won out with relatively little deliberation. There were a bunch of competitors for the crown, and rightly so.

So, I guess my high of 2016 is the year in games itself. We couldn't have asked for more.

Chris Livingston: The reboot of a classic

It can't be an easy task, re-imagining and rebooting one of the most important and influential games ever made. Finding that line where you're both satisfying fans of the original and yet not closing off new players who have never experienced a Doom game before is a tough balancing act, and to build a new and different experience while standing in the impossibly large shadow of the first game, to which it will always be compared, is a remarkable challenge. After years of waiting, and a major course correction from "Call of Doom", we finally got to play id's reborn FPS this year.

And, hey! The new Doom is great. Fast and furious, wonderfully gory, with kickass music and a streamlined plot that lets you get right to the demon-slaying, Doom provides just the right amount of nostalgia while still forging a completely new path for itself. It's not a complete success, of course: multiplayer is surprisingly sterile, and considering the original Doom is still a wonderful playground for modders over twenty years later, it's unfortunate that tools are limited to SnapMap in the new version.

But Doom’s campaign is excellent and it’s one of the best games of the year, which definitely give us high hopes for the return of Quake.

Tyler Wilde: A grand year for strategy

The grand strategy, management, and squad tactics genres were on fire this year. Civilization 6 is part of that, but also: Darkest Dungeon, Endless Space, Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, XCOM 2, Hearts of Iron 4, Planet Coaster, Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, Total War: Warhammer, and Banner Saga 2. It came in all varieties, from Stellaris’ empire building to Tyranny’s pausable realtime tactics to more great baseball simming in OOTP 17.

If you’re patient and on a budget, my advice is to give Civ 6 time to mature with mods—though I am enjoying it as it is—and look for discounts on the others during sales. Darkest Dungeon has gone as low as $10 and XCOM 2 as low as $30 in the past.

Evan Lahti: Microsoft does some good

Microsoft's contributions to PC gaming this year were mixed. Tom isn't a fan of the Xbox Windows 10 app, and Dead Rising 4 could be better. The Gears of War remake had serious technical issues at launch. And we remain concerned about what UWP could mean for the future of the platform.

But alongside that angst, we should take a moment to acknowledge the wins that Microsoft earned on PC. After a few initial, technical speedbumps were corrected, we basically got a bigger, more exotic Burnout Paradise in Forza Horizon 3, one of the best racing games in years. Gears of War 4 was pretty good, but it was beautifully optimized, an important victory for DirectX 12, and some encouragement of what we'll expect when Halo Wars 2 drops in February. On the OS features front, the arrival of Xbox Play Anywhere represented one of the most 'pro-consumer' things any publisher or platform holder did in 2016: buy it once, play it on two different platforms, retain your progress, no fees, no catch. More of that, please.

There are more highs of the year on the next page!