Ground Punch’s Best of 2016 – Game Awards

In a year of some truly amazing RPGs, I was so surprised that I couldn’t get a DLC release out of my head. The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine is one of the best RPG experiences there is, hands down. The fact that a DLC was even in consideration for best RPG goes to show you just how amazing Blood and Wine truly is. It took an already amazing formula featured in The Witcher 3, added some tiny tweaks, and added an amazing story to provide one hell of a package. Most DLC today are some three-to-five-hour hour experiences, but Blood and Wine felt like it was a standalone game with how massive it was. The story kept me on the edge of my seat and the combat provided some fun challenging gameplay in between some well written and truly immersive cutscenes.

Written by John Murray

There’s a certain magic FromSoftware has captured with its SoulsBorne games; from the dark tones, the complex combat, the danger around every corner’ game design, and of course, a host of enemies contrived to make the player as miserable as possible. Dark Souls 3 is another great example of this FromSoftware magic, once again delivering a game like no other. It is possible that with Dark Souls 3 could have been one game too many, a derivative of what came before. However, Dark Souls 3 brings enough new ideas to keep the franchise fresh, with one of the biggest changes being the reworked magic system, and the inclusion of Weapon Art, both of which drain a character’s FH. This added a new level of consideration when constructing a build, allowing for new tactics and techniques, and added an extra dimension to every weapon in the game. Ensuring every boss also had multiple phases added a (somewhat) new dimension to the game. I could go on to talk about the masterful level design that is on offer, the outstanding art design, phenomenal soundtrack, so on, so on. However, at this point, SoulsBorne games are a known quantity, Dark Souls 3 is not a deviation from that trajectory, and as such those who love what FromSoftware can celebrate another vast world for them to explore, conquer, and marvel at, while those who have always been critics will remain so. For me, Dark Souls 3 is a gift that just keeps on giving, a game I’ll play well into 2017 and maybe even beyond, a game that I won’t soon forget, and a crowning achievement for the action-RPG genre.

Written by John Bennett

Tom Clancy’s The Division takes place in a somewhat apocalyptic Manhattan, after New York City was hit by a disease known as the ‘Black Friday Virus’. One of the game’s strongest elements is the haunting atmosphere Ubisoft creates, with their evocative depiction of a New York falling apart and yet desperately trying to hold itself together. There are garbage bags piled on every street corner, cars are abandoned on the road, and doors are boarded up, yet there are still signs of normalcy, with several NPC’s just trying to go about their day – there is a sense of hope that is not the end. It’s this sense of hope that is so crucial to the game, encouraging the player with a sense that they can save the day. But to save the day players will have to liberate New York City from a host of villainous factions, from your standard street gangs, to the cleaners (a faction that believes the only way to save the city is to burn any signs of the virus), and even a paramilitary organisation. The various activities players can complete around the city are for the most part engaging, if a little by the numbers for a Ubisoft title, and there’s a decent amount of choices with regards to the way you play. Admittedly these choices are limited within the confines of the game’s semi-realistic world, but players can customise their loadouts – choosing from a variety of weapon types, passive and cooldown abilities which fall into three types of play, a focus on healing, a focus on defence, or a focus on offense, and even some light visual customisation. Post-launch the developers added gear sets, which each have their own unique abilities, allowing players to further specialise towards certain talents and play styles. Tom Clancy’s The Division was one of 2016’s best offerings, and with future DLC releases and patches planned, it looks set to get even better in 2017.

Written by John Bennett

Runners-Up: Final Fantasy XV, Mafia 3, Stardew Valley, World of Final Fantasy.

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