Stardew Valley (PC)
Stardew Valley is a game that wasn’t even on my gaming radar headed into 2016, but once it was released I quickly found out about it. I was skeptical about how fun it would be, but since it was a game about resource management I decided to take the dive. In Stardew Valley you inherit a plot of land from your grandfather and you start out with next to nothing in Stardew Valley. It is your goal to find a way to make a living through various means like farming, fishing, mining, and/or foraging. There is also a community in town that you can interact with and form relationships, buy goods, upgrades, etc… The game operates under a calendar of four seasons; Spring, Summer, Fall & Winter, with each season having different characteristics and crops to grows, and each season lasting 28 days.
The appeal of the game is the customization of how you want to spend your time and build your wealth, as you have a certain amount of energy and can’t possibly do every activity in the game in a single day because the clock moves and not having enough energy. In order to be efficient you have to plan out your day, but there are various means within the game to help you do that. For example, since there are random weather patterns in the game, on days that rain you obviously don’t have to water your crops, so you can spend that day doing another activity. Luckily, you have a TV in your room get weather reports for the next day, as well as learn recipes from the cooking channel.
Like some games have a “One more game” type of addiction, Stardew Valley has a “One more day” addiction that will make you lose track of time in real life. There is no ‘right way’ to play Stardew Valley, as one player can spend their entire time fishing or mining, while another player can ignore it and still have a good time. For myself, I have not invested much time in the relationship aspect of Stardew Valley because I’m too invested in the resource element of the game and building up my farm. How do you want to spend your time? Want to raise animals? You can do that. Grow crops? You can do that. Just be a miner? Go right ahead. The choice is yours.
Other Favorite Games of 2016:
Pony Island (PC)
Developer: Daniel Mullins Games
Publisher: Daniel Mullins Games
Pony Island isn’t just a game, it’s an experience. This is another game that wasn’t even on my radar, partially because I saw the game name on release date calendars and thought that it was some kid nonsense. If there is ever an example of how not to judge a game by its game name, Pony Island is it. You are trapped inside an arcade game created by the devil and you have to save yourself by trying to escape. Pony Island has so many crazy elements to it that it is comparable to Undertale in minor ways. During the course of the game you will be doing activities like interacting with other souls trapped inside with you, puzzles that are relatively easy, but still enjoyable, and most of the game involves you controlling a pony. Pony Island does have some replay value, but not a whole lot. Pony Island is an unforgettable trippy experience that you never experienced before in gaming.
Grim Dawn (PC)
Developer: Crate Entertainment
Publisher: Crate Entertainment
I had been following the development of Grim Dawn for a bit of time on Steam Early Access because it’s an ARPG and also created by members of Iron Lore Entertainment, who were behind Titan Quest. ARPG games are one of my favorite genres so I will always jump at the chance to play another one. Don’t sleep on Grim Dawn, as it is another fantastic ARPG experience. The major standout of Grim Dawn to me is the gorgeous level design. I have played many ARPGs and I’m comfortable saying that Grim Dawn has the best level and environment design over any of them. The story and lore isn’t even that bad either. Players who previously played Titan Quest will notice the character skill tree design is similar, as you can pick one class to start and combine it with another when you reach a certain threshold. The character customization is through the roof, and there is a reputation system similar to what you would normally see in MMORPGs rather than ARPGs. Unfortunately, I can’t comment on the multiplayer because I haven’t tried it yet, but the single player experience is amazing. Any fan of ARPGs should play this, and yes, this crushes Diablo 3 like a grape so play it!
Out of the Park Baseball 17 (PC)
Developer: Out of the Park Developments
Publisher: Out of the Park Developments
I’ve always been cautiously curious about the whole sports simulation genre. Ever since I stopped playing EA sports games, primarily because they are no longer created for PC, it was hard for me to get my sports management fix in. I started to pay attention to the sports simulation franchises, and finding a good baseball simulation game was always in the back of my mind. Out of the Park Baseball 17 is part of a long lasting baseball simulation franchise, but I was always put off by the lack of licensing in previous titles, as I never found it quite as enjoyable to play with the few fake names in EA Sports games. For the first time in the franchise, Out of the Park Baseball 17 is licensed by both MLB.com and the MLBPA.
As a big fantasy baseball fan, Out of the Park Baseball 17 is great or even better than fantasy baseball because you have the ability to manage everything. I was blown away that every historical major league and minor league roster since 1871 is included in this game for simulation. If you want to simulate a World Series match up, that can easily be done from an easy dropdown menu. I started out enjoying the Manager Mode, where you can manage an actual game as the simulation is going, but I quickly became attached to the General Manager mode. This is where you have to manage salaries, transactions, call ups, etc.. from the MLB, all the way down to the lowest minor league level of a given franchise. Before diving into baseball simulation I had no idea how fun it would actually be, as it greatly exceeded my expectations. Managing trades are no longer as simple as player for player value, but managing the salary part of the trade as well, so that the players you are sending over fit into the other team’s budget.
With so many setup scenarios you can try with so many historical rosters, the amount of hours you can spend with this game is endless. If you are a baseball stat nut, Out of the Park Baseball 17 is the game for you!
There were other games that just missed out on my Favorite Games of 2016 list because I either didn’t finish them or didn’t have enough hours in them to feel comfortable including them.