It's easy to forget what happened last week, never mind six or seven months ago, but looking back, 2017 was a bountiful year for PC games. In our Game of the Year awards we celebrated the stand out games that defined the year for us, but there are so many more greats to look back on. Here are the games PC Gamer's editors and writers loved most this year.
"By designing solutions with the save room in mind, Uurnog achieves so much more than the usual insert-puzzle-here malarky. Buttons, lasers and time clones can't compete with a customizable toolkit and near-limitless interdimensional storage. It's totally hands-off but it successfully teaches you to think differently, which is the mark of any good puzzle game."
Verdict: Wholly unique and deceptively punishing, Uurnog Uurnlimited is as clever as it is creative.
Outcast: Second Contact
"Back in 1999, Outcast was arguably as close to the PC's answer to Legend of Zelda as we've ever seen. Effortlessly charismatic. A huge open world that invited free exploration. The absolute latest in graphics technology, at a time when something as simple as ripples in water was a sight to behold and huge sprawling worlds weren't simply majestic, but outright magic. For the five people who could run it, it was an unforgettable, glorious adventure.
Seventeen years later, it's a little clunkier than remembered. The good news is that the magic still lingers."
Verdict: A fine remake of a game that deserves to be played as much as it gets fondly remembered.
"NetherRealm’s deliberate, heavy-feeling combat isn't the best in the genre, but it fits this kind of game perfectly. They sure know how to make an accessible, fun fighting game with lots to do, no matter your skill level."
Verdict: A great port of a brilliant fighter with a staggering amount of content beyond multiplayer brawling.
"Battlerite is an impressive, complete-feeling experience that deftly dodges the problems that trail after its genre and its business model. It’s an indie game wading into territory that has proved perilous to bigger budget endeavours and making a success of it. Most importantly, though, it’s a game that gets to the heart of why it’s fun to team up with your friends and make tiny wizards fight one another."
Verdict: Deep but accessible, Battlerite is packed with smart decisions and reliably creates great competitive moments.
"Gorogoa rewards your persistence with delightful elegant mechanisms. In terms of its space in gaming, I’d put it as a counterpoint to something like Amanita’s upcoming surreal puzzle toybox, Chuchel. In both you’re interacting to progress, letting the worlds unfurl in unexpected and wonderful directions, but where Chuchel is warmly comedic, Gorogoa is austere and elegant."
Verdict: A fantastic feat of interlocking storytelling and design.
"If I’ve got the Latin right, Opus Magnum means “work great”. And by gosh, once you get into this puzzle game about building incredible alchemical machines, you’ll feel the buzz of working great over and over. It’s rare to play a game that provides such intense satisfaction, driven by a perfect balance of clearly defined and self-driven challenge. Flexible, intricate, demanding and deeply fulfilling, this has to be one of the very best puzzle games of the year, if not the decade."
Verdict: A beautiful exercise in freeform solutions, Zachtronics has created one of the most satisfying puzzle games ever made.
"There’s a sense of wonder in even the simplest interactions, whether it’s gentle dabs of ink producing stars to complete constellations, a crescent to accelerate nightfall, or a snaking line traced to a floating bloom to spirit Amaterasu upward. It’s there, too, in its quieter moments, like the idyllic animation that plays out when you feed a wild animal, the camera lazily circling as they chow down while Amaterasu peacefully sits and watches. Like the intro, you can skip it. But why would you want to?"
Verdict: Occasionally languid to the point of lethargy, Okami is a gorgeous and unforgettable adventure all the same.
Seven: The Days Long Gone
"There are rough edges. Some big ones. Yet Seven is still an impressive game, even for a standout year that’s been full of them. And it’s been a bit of a surprise, coming out at the tail end of the 2017 like a dark horse. There’s nothing else quite like it, but it still feels a little familiar, drawing as it does so many classic stealth and RPG romps."
Verdict: A brilliant stealth sandbox and unconventional RPG in one very ambitious but buggy package.
Reigns: Her Majesty
"I played Reigns just to enjoy the writing, presentation and simple interactions, treating every king's death as its own story. In Her Majesty I pushed myself to reach the end game for the purposes of offering review judgement, but as with Reigns the enjoyment is in the journey. That's not to say the main arc isn't interesting—it's unexpectedly weird and satisfying—but I recommend you take your time to enjoy being queen. Calling your chief explorer incompetent or pissing off the cardinal on purpose doesn't really get old."
Verdict: At last: royalty I feel emotionally invested in! Reigns: Her Majesty is a smart and surprising extension of the original swipe-'em narrative game.
Football Manager 2018
"Is this Football Manager’s most ambitious instalment yet? It’s certainly the most well-rounded in recent memory. Ask me again in 12 months’ time, once my save file has inevitably racked up hours into the hundreds."
Verdict: The quintessential football management sim is back with its most ambitious undertaking in years.
Hand of Fate 2
"Weak combat would be a killer for most RPGs, but Hand of Fate 2 more than makes up for it in the vastly improved strategic layer, and lovely storytelling. The deck-building strategy remains satisfying and the new variety of challenges adds a roguelike replayability to obtaining the gold rank for each one. If the first Hand of Fate was an interesting but flawed proof of concept, Hand of Fate 2 is a fully realized version of that deck-building dungeon-crawler."
Verdict: Hand of Fate 2 is a satisfying sequel and a meatier dungeon crawler, but still somewhat hampered by limited combat.
"Dujanah isn't a straightforward game. It's a delirious fugue state of mourning; what happens isn't clear or consistent, what's real isn't always obvious. It isn't flawless, either: breaking the fourth wall is an occasional distraction, and Caves of Al Dajjal is badly out of place. Despite this, its unconventional narrative, a string of thematically linked images, succeeds at bringing the player into Dujanah's life as she comes to terms with her powerlessness in the face of loss. Dujanah hurts. Her pain and anger are felt in a way many clearer, less ambiguous games can't match."
Verdict: This journey through a dreamscape of loss and absolution is unique, if a bit uneven at times.
Assassin's Creed Origins
"Naturally, once you've beaten the main quests you can continue exploring the world, and the biggest compliment I can give Origins is that I'd much rather be playing it than writing about it. It's a got a dazzling and beautiful setting, lots of enjoyable systems for mischief and mayhem, and has just the right amount of diversions and distractions to keep you busy without ever feeling like busywork. The extra year Ubisoft took with Origins didn't result in a completely new and novel experience, but it did provide one of the best games in the Assassin's Creed series."
Verdict: A brilliant setting, new systems, and familiar features blend together for a strong prequel to the Assassin's Creed series.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
"I appreciate that you can find singleplayer games like this in 2017, where there's so much attention paid to details like characterisation, sound design and facial animation, on top of how wonderful the guns feel. The New Colossus is fun and funny—a decent successor that's not just more of the same."
Verdict: The New Colossus is a fun and frantic FPS, even if it doesn't feel quite as fresh as The New Order did.
"If you're after an infinite action RPG then Destiny 2 is a few DLC packs and expansions away from that, but if you're after a regular light dose of beautiful sci-fi shooter fun, the perfect post-pub co-op jolly, or the game that will have your fireteam shouting in joy at your monitors when a raid boss goes down, Destiny 2 is a very well-made shooter and one of the best co-op games on PC."
Verdict: Gorgeous guns, a glittering universe, and a great port. Destiny 2 is an endgame away from true excellence.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar
"Balancing issues aside I adored my time with Battle Chasers: Nightwar. The sights and sounds of every encounter, from the death knight dragged down by skeletons to the metallic CLANG when Calibretto punched a baddie, always made me smile. The comic's characters translated wonderfully to a game and the old school '90s JRPG combat is uplifted into something beautiful, complex, tense, and compelling."
Verdict: Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a gorgeous, challenging RPG that’s light on story but big on tactically satisfying battles.
A Mortician's Tale
"A Mortician’s Tale is a curious project—it takes the death positivity movement, especially the work of people like Caitlin Doughty and The Order Of The Good Death, as its inspiration and marries it to the simple inputs you’ll find in those free browser games where you heal horribly mangled Disney princesses or deliver babies. What you end up with is a thoughtful tool for presenting ideas around death."
Verdict: An approachable and thought-provoking meditation on life's only certainty.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
"The story is the only real weak link, with the pace occasionally grinding to a halt, satire that, surprisingly, lacks bite, and a general feeling of predictability—bar a few moments that are South Park at its crass, anarchic best. You may also find everything outside of the combat a little too familiar if you played The Stick of Truth. Otherwise this is a streamlined, imaginative, and enormously entertaining game."
Verdict: A slick RPG with superb tactical combat, a detailed world to explore, and a gleefully crude sense of humour.
The Evil Within 2
"With Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami deferring directorship to Tango Gameworks colleague John Johanas, The Evil Within 2 angles itself between PS2-era throwback and inventive sequel. Almost everything has been improved, here, yet it still feels like a classic survival horror game, one infused with enough psychological horror to keep it feeling fresh."
Verdict: An intense and thrilling psychological survival horror sequel that improves on its forerunner in almost every way.
A Hat in Time
"At its worst A Hat in Time is merely good—a fun, workmanlike 3D platformer with a few technical wrinkles—and it’s only seldom at its worst. When it’s firing on all cylinders, a feat it pulls off with increasing regularity as you progress through the worlds, it’s a rival to some of Nintendo and Double-Fine’s greatest bits of design, even if it does feel a bit like a really good cover band’s imitation. The level design is constantly inventive, the characters are charming and memorable (if very silly), and the basic act of running, jumping, climbing, and collecting colorful baubles never gets old."
Verdict: Some scuff-marks aside, A Hat in Time is a creative, playful, and polished tribute to a genre that doesn’t get nearly enough love on PC.
"Ostensibly FIFA and PES are trying to simulate the same sport. In reality they both approach football in a radically different way—it’s the difference between watching Brazil and Germany. They’re both good, but they’re playing a fundamentally different game."
Verdict: An improvement in every area, including The Journey mode.
Forza Motorsport 7
"Prize Crates are an irritating blemish on the bodywork of an otherwise elegant series, but Forza is still formidable, even with this grabby monkey on its back. An uneven drip of credits don't make driving a '70 Chevelle in first person on a rainy track as the sun cracks through the clouds any less stunning. It's the songbird of cars, the sublime ocean cliffside filling the car poet with wonder and respect. Not much respect for time or skill, but respect for cars at least."
Verdict: Light performance problems and a poor loot box system can't quite distract from Forza Motorsport 7's accommodating difficulty, stunning beauty, and lavish racing options.
Tooth and Tail
"Novel sums up Tooth and Tail, on the whole, rather effectively. It’s unlikely to draw many away from their chosen traditional RTS, but it doesn’t need to. With its rapid battles, low barrier for entry and couch or online co-op, it’s the sort of thing that’s great to pick up and play on a whim."
Verdict: Tooth and Tail is an elegantly simple RTS that’s perfect for newcomers or anyone wanting to play on the couch.
"There’s not a whiff of cynicism about Cuphead: from its aesthetic to its systems, it’s wilfully off-trend, and utterly its own thing. As tough as it gets, ultimately that’s what’s really worth shouting about."
Verdict: Not just for the masochists, Cuphead is a demanding but supremely rewarding modern 2D shooter that looks and sounds fantastic.
"Ruiner is gorgeous, a sensory feast inspired by the works of cyberpunk's 1980s heyday, in which a silent, masked protagonist travels through the nightscapes and industrial jungles of a grit-tech 2091. Underneath, a thumping top-down action game delivers sword-sharp combat, the familiarity of its design offset by the constant urge to simply stand still and drink everything in."
Verdict: Dazzling, dangerous, and dripping in style, Ruiner is a superb, if short, whirlwind of cyber-violence and sightseeing.
Total War: Warhammer 2
"It's typical for each Total War game to be followed by a smaller sibling, a high quality standalone expansion as Attila was to Rome 2 or Fall of the Samurai was to Shogun 2. Warhammer has gone in the opposite direction. We had one large-scale strategy game of turn-based campaigning and real-time battles in the fantasy setting of the Old World, and now a year later we get another, bigger one—with promise of a third still to come."
Verdict: A maximalist sequel that improves on almost every aspect of the first game.
"Heat Signature inspires creativity through emergent complexity like any great immersive sim. I can't stop regaling friends with my stories of heists gone bad or boasting about my flashes of brilliance in the heat of the moment. Heat Signature is brilliant at teasing these anecdotal threads out of a procedural universe."
Verdict: By making excellent use of its procedurally generated world and wacky gadgets, Heat Signature is a mission worth taking.
Disclosure: Heat Signature creator Tom Francis used to work at PC Gamer, but we don't hold that against him.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
"There isn’t another RPG that lets you do so much. Larian promised a lot, and it has absolutely followed through, crafting a singular game that juggles a bounty of complex, immersive systems, and never drops them."
Verdict: Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a sprawling, inventive adventure and one of the best RPGs ever made.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
"A theme running throughout Death of the Outsider is of return and reevaluation. My favourite thing wasn't a mission or an individual section but the chance to see the world react to the events of Dishonored 2, and from a new perspective. It frequently shines new light on characters from throughout the series."
Verdict: Not as consistently intricate or surprising as Dishonored 2, but still a worthy epilogue that adds depth and atmosphere to the series' world.
Project Cars 2
"When was the last time you were truly immersed and engaged in an activity? Mindfulness types call it ‘flow’, and positive psychologists say this state of total involvement is what we really mean when we talk about happiness. Project Cars 2, the most demanding sim racer I’ve ever played, is a positive psychologist’s dream."
Verdict: Serious racing for serious racers. Extraordinarily convincing at each of the disciplines on offer.
"Sonic Mania feeds off nostalgia, but crucially, it isn’t owned by it. The developers have taken the best bits of the vintage Sonic games and created something that’s more than just a cynical throwback. It’s a game that fizzes with colour, passion, and personality, and it’s clear it was made by people who really love the series. You couldn’t make a game like this without having a fundamental understanding of what makes Sonic great, and I’m glad Sega took this gamble. The rumours are true: Sonic is good again."
Verdict: A breakneck platformer that uses classic Sonic as a foundation for something fresh and exciting.
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
"The campaign drags at times, but the quality of the new resistance super-soldiers and obnoxiously chatty blue supervillains makes it a must-buy for avid XCOM 2 fans, and the increase in missions gives you more opportunities to play with the new gear. If the rhythms of XCOM 2 feel stale now, the expansion does enough to shake things up, just expect a slightly slower pace as you systematically pull apart those new alien champions."
Verdict: The new classes and super villains are excellent, even if the expansion bloats the campaign a little.
"Given the original is still readily available and hasn’t got any less wonderful over the last three years, you could argue that Nidhogg 2 is an unnecessary sequel. Then again, if you loved Nidhogg, it’s a borderline mandatory purchase."
Verdict: It's like, how much more Nidhogg could this be? And the answer is none. None more Nidhogg.
"If you want to be reductive, Rez is a simple shooter with just a handful of levels. But if you want to be reductive, Rez probably isn't for you. Accept its big ideas and singular purpose, and it's like nothing else you've played. What Rez does still feels remarkable, but only if you're prepared to meet it half way."
Verdict: Like having a drunken conversation with a friend who really loves music, but it's a videogame and good.
"In this mini-renaissance the genre is in the midst of, LawBreakers asserts itself as a complex, physical, and deep competitive shooter. It's an uncompromising game that doesn't make apologies for its high skill ceiling, but isn't so exclusionary that only those with pristine reflexes can enjoy it. There's a quiet gracefulness to managing the Battle Medic's hoverpack, knowing when to toggle the hover on and off to conserve fuel. It's a treat to play an FPS where some of the roles demand more left-hand coordination than they do mouse aim."
Verdict: Nimble, graceful, and original, LawBreakers' movement sets it apart from other FPSes despite a few aesthetic weaknesses.
West of Loathing
"West of Loathing is a wonderfully written RPG adventure, both fun and funny from its opening credits to whenever it is you decide you've probably read every last word in the game and realize, regretfully, that you've finished."
Verdict: The turn-based combat isn't the best, but it's a delightfully written RPG absolutely packed with humor.
The Long Dark
"There are only a handful of really great survival games on PC, and this is one of them. The story mode has its moments, and does a decent job of telling you how the game works, but it’s when you’re creating your own stories in the sandbox that The Long Dark is at its most absorbing. Beautiful art direction and rich, nuanced sound design bring the deep forests, frozen lakes, and ragged mountains of the Canadian wilderness to life. And your endless struggle to keep the Grim Reaper at arm’s length is enormously rewarding, providing you have the patience to appreciate its slow, measured pace."
Verdict: Deep, brutal, and hauntingly atmospheric, The Long Dark is a survival game done right.
"There’s a lot going on in Tacoma, much of it subtle, hidden away, waiting to be uncovered. And in that sense, as a game about piecing together a story, it’s immensely rewarding. I won’t forget my time aboard that station any time soon, or the people whose lives I got hopelessly tangled up in while I was there."
Verdict: A smart and thoughtful science fiction mystery featuring a cast of believable, nuanced characters.
"What the hell just happened? Your first go of Nex Machina will leave you feeling pleasantly dazed, as this exhilarating and ferociously tough twin-stick shooter sucks you in and spits you back out. It’s the kind of game to make you shuffle forward a little in your seat, as you take a deep breath and prepare to dive in for another attempt."
Verdict: Slight in form, but deep and consistently satisfying. Nex Machina is a gem of a shooter.
"The bosses are my least favourite part of Caveblazers, largely because of the repetition. As a challenge, they're fine—there are bosses I can kill without taking a hit, but who'll still punish a lapse in concentration. But, unlike in regular play, these encounters mostly remain the same, no matter the build. A better bow may make things quicker, but that only affects the length of the fight, not how I approach it. Despite this misstep, though, Caveblazers is an excellent procedural platformer. It's slightly looser and less intricate than Spelunky, but it scratches the same itch—offering plenty of variety, and a difficult challenge that's fun to unravel."
Verdict: A varied, challenging platformer that's adept at forcing improvisation and punishing mistakes.
Final Fantasy 14: Stormblood
"If you don’t like Final Fantasy 14 for any reason, I’m not sure Stormblood is going to make you change your mind. But as someone who is heavily invested in its world and characters, it is a triumph."
Verdict: Stormblood’s rousing tale of rebellion and exceptional boss fights aren’t just exquisite by MMO standards, but rival even the most beloved Final Fantasy games.
Rising Storm 2: Vietnam
The same 64-player, tactics-heavy shooting of the Red Orchestra and Rising Storm series, shifted from WWII to Vietnam. With automatic weapons in every hand, RS2 makes positioning, smoke grenades, and battlefield intel even more important. The new Supremacy mode disappoints somewhat, but the linear point-by-point Territories matches remain great.
Verdict: A fiery test of awareness, speed and accuracy which upholds the series' devotion to teamwork and authenticity, but doesn't nail the asymmetry of modern era combat.
The 2010 console game finally made its way to PC, bringing us another shot of Platinum's brand of third-person combat. "It was a product of its time, in that it felt like a response to—maybe even a subversion of—the wave of cover based shooters that emerged in the wake of Gears of War," wrote Phil in his review. "It's got the third person view and the waist high walls, but also lets you rocket slide across the map, slow-mo decapitating robots as you go. It's a dumb, brash shooter, but clever with it."
Verdict: A great port of an entertainingly subversive cover shooter. It's short, but the core loop never gets old.
A roguelike platformer that's more forgiving than Spelunky, made great by its grappling hook. "The hook has a limited range, but it doesn’t bend or bow and there’s no cooldown," wrote Shaun. "Basically, if you’re not moving around each room with the erraticness of a beheaded chicken, shooting and dodging bullets with your hook all the way, then you’re not playing the game properly."
Verdict: A satisfying, moreish take on the roguelike formula, and one that's most likely to appeal to genre naysayers.
An immersive sim in the style of the classics. The combat is disappointing, but the horrible mimics, who might be a chair or a coffee mug waiting to pounce, the gorgeous, open space station, and the freeform creative problem solving make Prey (not to be confused with the 2006 game it shares little in common with) a great success. It also has one of the best intros we've played in a good while.
Verdict: It's let down by lacklustre combat and some annoying enemy design, but Prey is still a compelling, beautiful immersive sim.
What Remains of Edith Finch
A series of stories about a strange, deceased family, each told with different first-person formats. The interactivity is sparse—it's often a guided experience—but the stories themselves are fantastic. "What Remains of Edith Finch is a masterful piece of storytelling: gorgeous, skillfully told, uplifting in places, and devastating in others," wrote Andy Chalk. "Avoid seeing too many spoilers— seriously, I can't think of a game more in need of being unspoiled than this one—and play it."
Verdict: Touching, sad, and brilliant; a story worth forgiving the limited interactivity to experience.
| | Buy it: GOG, ,
Inhabit a cow and tumble end-over-end, or become a microbe, or a galaxy. Everything lives up to its name—though it obviously doesn't include literally everything, it lets players become the tiniest molecules or entire islands, planets, and beyond. Mixed in with this surreal playspace are audio recordings of philosopher Alan Watts. It's a slow burn, but worth the silly, life-examining trip.
Verdict: Funny, philosophical, and deeply, deeply weird, there’s nothing else quite like Everything on PC.
| | Buy it: GOG, ,
You're exploring a cave, but you can't see in the dark—except with LIDAR, which paints every surface with colorful dots. It's a unique premise that conveys space (the sound design helps, too) and natural beauty without rendering a single rock texture.
Verdict: A beautiful but short-lived expedition that left me wanting more of its best ideas.
| | Buy it: GOG, ,
First-person horror at its most disgusting, Outlast 2 suffers from some confusing stealth segments, but makes up for it with pure horror. "Long after the final minutes of Outlast 2, I felt queasy, uncertain that what I saw had actually happened," wrote James. "It’s one of the most bizarre ending sequences I’ve witnessed, tapping into a fear I’ve known since my first week at Sunday school."
Verdict: Stealth and pursuit haven’t changed much in Outlast 2, but it excels as a beautiful, brutal journey through extreme spiritual anxieties.
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games
A double feature which includes two puzzling visual novels, 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward, The Nonary Games is "like submerging your brain in a jacuzzi," wrote Andy. For fans of branching paths (and horrible deaths, as Andy put it), point-and-click puzzles, and philosophy lectures.
Verdict: Smart without being overbearing, Zero Escape: The Nonary Games continues to set the bar for its genre.
The Sexy Brutale
| | Buy it: GOG, ,
A curious adventure game in which the player returns to the start of the same costume ball again and again on a quest to prevent a series of murders that take place during the evening. The beauty and cleverness of it make up for the built-in repetitiveness.
Verdict: A stylish and creative adventure with a clever time-rewinding hook.
Good things come to those who wait: the PC now has the best version of one of the best hack-n-slash games ever made. Bayonetta's fluid fighting style—combos, dodges, hair-based attacks—and absurd story deserved 4K and 60 fps support, and we're happy it's finally joined us.
"Bayonetta is about flow," says Phil. "In part, this is thanks to an advanced combat trick that brings everything full circle. If you dodge in the middle of a combo while holding down either punch or kick, you can resume the combo out of the dodge. This offset speaks to the fluidity of Bayonetta's fighting style—as does the way she so smoothly transitions from dodge into attack, or from melee to guns."
Verdict: A great port of what is still one of the best action games around. Bayonetta is the essential hack-'n-slash.
"If you want to build a giant Dyson sphere around a sun to steal all of its energy and make any planets that depended on it freeze to death, you can do that," wrote TJ in our review. And who doesn't? Stellaris' Utopia expansion overhauls politics, adds factions to your population, and introduces Tradition trees—which are how you might blot out the sun. The add-on gives Stellaris a big push in the right direction, filling out the previously light mid-game.
Verdict: Paradox’s biggest expansion yet brings Stellaris closer to its original promise with a stellar rework of internal politics and new endgame goals.
The Signal From Tölva
Big Robot, which is headed by former PC Gamer contributor Jim Rossignol, brings us a sci-fi shooter mystery that's two parts exploration—hopping and stomping around—and one part "crisp, satisfying combat," as our review states. It's slow-paced, but smart, lean, and a step above the developer's previous game, Sir, You Are Being Hunted.
Verdict: A fascinating setting and fizzing gunplay make for a lean, thoughtful exploration-led shooter.
Like XCOM with lower stakes and axes instead of guns, Battle Brothers is pure fun. Manage a band of mercenaries, earn money to expand your operation and reach more distant contracts on the wide-open map, and fret over decisions in turn-based battles. "I kept humming with the victory and despair I usually reserve for XCOM campaigns," wrote Ian in our review. "The archer who makes a wondrous 19% headshot; the swordsman who blocks and dodges his way out of certain death; the veteran soldier suddenly gutted, lost forever behind the veil of permadeath." (It's also surprisingly gory given its cute little big-headed character sprites.)
Verdict: Don’t let some clunky inventories scare you off from this excellent strategy RPG.
A throwback to '90s adventure games, but not a nostalgia-driven rehash—Thimbleweed Park builds on the genre and is great on its own merits. It's funny, and full of smart puzzles that "rarely require the absurd leaps of logic that would have you dialling the LucasArts hint line in the '90s," as Andy put it in his review.
Verdict: A quality adventure game with challenging puzzles, oddball characters, and an intriguing, mystery-laden plot.
If you aren't turned off by the obtuse introduction and constant, crushing challenge, Rain World rewards with unforgettable gloom. "The early hours are taxing, and in all honesty, it continues to be taxing," wrote Shaun in our review. "It’s not relaxing. It’s not a game to wash away your daily worries with. But the variety of the world’s barren landscapes will keep the determined pushing on, and the seemingly insurmountable challenges are, well, surmountable, but not thanks to 'tricks' per se. You just have to be smart about it. You have to learn—and then very vaguely know—how to survive."
But at least slugcat is cute!
Verdict: Few will see the more remote corners of Rain World’s relentlessly dire stretch, but those who do are unlikely to forget the experience.
An office favorite, Nier: Automata is bizarre open-world RPG with PlatinumGames' signature speed-comboing combat—but that can seamlessly transition into twin-stick shooting whenever it wants. The combination works, as does the mournful, weird story and all its quirks. "Automata is a remarkable game with an incredible amount of style, personality, and flair," said Andy in his review.
Verdict: A beautiful, melancholy action RPG that’s effortlessly stylish and utterly unpredictable.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
Andromeda is a contentious game, even—or maybe especially—among PC Gamer's staff and writers: some despise it, some enjoy it. It was burdened by high expectations, and didn't succeed at everything we hoped. But BioWare games are nearly always unmatched in certain aspects, and Andromeda is an accomplishment in scope, with some great missions and moments buried within its hours of dialogue and exploration.
Verdict: Marred by inconsistency and in need of a polish pass, this vast new sci-fi frontier nonetheless rewards dedicated exploration.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends
Tim couldn't help but to compare Legends to Hearthstone in his review—how could he not, given the obvious parallels—and found that its deeper, less RNG-heavy systems provide a good alternative to Blizzards' hit CCG. It lacks the same charm and vast playerbase, but delivers on the strategy.
Verdict: A deep, and potentially rewarding alternative to Hearthstone that suffers from underwhelming art design and desperately needs an injection of players to grow the scene.
Styx: Shards of Darkness
A pure stealth game that stars a cynical, sweary goblin, the second Styx game is another lowkey release with a lot of good in it: "A generous game with a huge amount of stuff to do, some wonderfully realised levels, all of it augmented with an admirably flexible skill system that encourages and rewards creative thinking," said Jon in our review.
Verdict: A mean-spirited character leads a big-hearted game; you’re unlikely to dwell on its lore but its features combine well to create a satisfying stealth experience.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided — A Criminal Past
A maximum security prison provides the stealth-action playground in this Mankind Divided DLC, and while the story isn't brilliant, the level itself is fun to puzzle out for six to seven hours. "While previous DLC System Rift felt like a retread of Mankind Divided, this mission is much more distinct," said Andy. "The prison setting is radically different from anything else in Eidos Montreal’s rebooted Deus Ex, and the restrictions it places on you forces you to really dig into the game’s systems."
Verdict: A well-designed level that forces you out of your comfort zone and fills in some of Adam Jensen’s backstory.
You're playing a text adventure, but not on your PC—on a virtual computer on a virtual desk. And as you explore, strange things start happening in your virtual room. Stories Untold is "a wonderfully creepy idea," wrote Andy, which is told in four episodes that form a "fascinating, subversive experiment in storytelling that delights in messing with your head."
Verdict: An atmospheric collection of clever, surprising interactive short stories with a gorgeous retro aesthetic.
Night in the Woods
Light platforming and incongruous Guitar Hero-style bass playing complement a funny, sad story about a young cat—well, a person who looks like a cat—returning home to her family and friends after dropping out of college. "Night in the Woods is a pretty special game," wrote Andy. "It’s a celebration of why life is awesome, but never shrinks away from the fact that it can also be really shitty as well. And it wrestles with difficult issues in a way that made me think about my own life and relationships."
Verdict: A beautiful, heartfelt coming of age story that says something about life, and cracks a few jokes in the process.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Planescape: Torment probably wasn't going to be outdone by any successor, but Tides of Numenera succeeds at delivering the same style of text-heavy, philosophical roleplaying in a strange new setting. "A little bit more humour would help disarm some of the game's more self-serious moments, but I found the quality of the writing and the genuine philosophical complexity of Tides of Numenera's questions compelling in a way that games rarely achieve," Chris wrote in his review. "To say this is an RPG written of shades of grey is an understatement: in fact, given the multi-hued Tides of the title, you could say that it's written in shades of everything."
Verdict: A slow start gives way to a thought-provoking adventure in a remarkable setting. A fitting follow-up to a beloved RPG.
Sniper Elite 4
The story can be safely ignored, but Sniper Elite 4's big sandboxes for stealth and sniping are the series' best. Nearly every complaint we had about the game that came before it has been addressed in some way, and Italy makes for a beautiful setting—at least until you watch a slow-mo x-ray shot of someone's kidney exploding.
Verdict: A hearty improvement on Sniper Elite 3 that embraces freeform play, gets better in co-op, and most importantly lets us shoot things from very far away.
Resident Evil 7
A reset for the Resident Evil series, RE7 moves away from the action movie stylings of the last few games for a creepier, first-person horror adventure. " It takes an industrial pressure washer to the series, blasting off years of accumulated filth and grime," wrote Andy. "And you’re left with a lean, polished survival horror that borrows from its legacy, but isn’t afraid to look to modern horror games for inspiration too."
Verdict: Not the dramatic reinvention we expected, but this is tense and refined survival horror with a brilliantly bleak, grimy atmosphere.
What makes Hollow Knight stand out, above all else, is how expansive and lush its subterranean kingdom of Hallownest is. It's a Metroidvania you could easy spend 30 hours playing and still have more to discover. Its bug-themed world is a wonderful mix of dark and depressing tones with adorable characters and hand drawn art. Hollow Knight is a surprise hit of 2017, and truly one you don't want to miss.
Verdict: Hollow Knight is a new classic, with a dense and detailed world full of secrets to discover.
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