Brief Thoughts On - The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Ep 1-2

I am someone is who is getting Walking Dead fatigue. I have watched the show since the very beginning, and I have never believed it to be anything above a mediocre show. I proceeded to read the comics because everyone online was touting how much better the comics are (which is very very true) Telltale's previous game, Jurassic Park, had been a major disappointment, and Back to the Future was so-so. So when it was announced that they were making a Walking Dead game, I couldn't care less. If Telltale couldn't make fantastic games based around 2 of my favorite movie franchises of all time, how could they take a mediocre show and a "pretty good" comic and make anything worth playing?

 Thankfully, I was very wrong.

Around the time episode 2 of season 1 came out, my friends wouldn't shut up about how great this game way, so I decided I could put down $10 for the first two episodes and give them a try. Long story short, Season 1 of Walking Dead is one of the best stories in video game history. I loved the characters, the deaths were more impactful than any in the show or comic, and its the only Telltale game I revisit frequently. Season 2 was okay, had too many new characters that I did not care for, and in turn, the character deaths didn't do anything for me. Walking Dead: Michonne just didn't offer anything of substance. No real good characters, and the fact that you play as one of the more popular characters from the comic/show, felt like I needed to say and act as Michonne does, and now how I wanted to. With all of these post-season 1 "meh" Telltale Walking Dead experiences, and the main writer having moved on from Telltale (to write Firewatch, check it out!) I was not confident that Telltale had any more worthwhile stories to tell.

I am glad to say that (so far) I am wrong again. I absolutely loved episodes 1 and 2 of this season. Even though we are introduces to a ton of new characters, I love almost all of them and genuinely want them to make it through alive. The time-jumps and flashbacks give great opportunities for character development and help add to the mystery of what is going on with these characters and the New Frontier.  Walking Dead has always been great about characters being shades of grey, rather than black/white. Episodes 1 and 2 continue this trend, many of the protagonists have to do bad things to survive, and some of the villains show restrain and kindness amongst their caution and need to survive. Both episodes ended with a bang, to where I wanted to play the next episode immediately. Unfortunately, episode 3 is not out yet, but if their latest game (Batman) is any indication, these episodes will come out relatively quickly, and I cannot wait! Check them out if you like, you do not need to have played earlier seasons, though I highly recommend it, especially Season 1.

Ryan's #1 Game of 2016

#1 Doom

I know its not entirely original of me to have Doom as my 2016 Game of the Year, but my love for this game when I originally played through it, and the feeling I get when I reflect back on it, cemented it as my choice for Game of the Year this year. This may sound sacrilege to some, but I never was really into Doom. I was mostly a console gamer until a few years ago, and I never had a real opportunity to play the console versions. I have memories playing it on a computer in Sears while my mom was shopping when I was young, but that was about it. As an adult, I was aware of Doom, especially after the release of Doom 3 and the Doom movie in the early 2000's. But until this game, I had never REALLY played a Doom game. I remember seeing a campaign trailer and thinking "that was pretty neat", but when it came out, reviews were polar and since I had no ties to earlier Doom games, I decided to wait on getting it. A month or two down the line, it was on sale for $30, so I decided to pick it up. Am I glad I did! Doom is one of the best shooter campaigns I have every played, period. Considering it's story is pretty much non-existent and I still feel that way, should say a lot. I was just having FUN every single second of this game. I even went out of my way to find every single collectible on every map, which is quite rare for me these days. The arcade style of the mechanics and the stellar soundtrack go together hand in hand to really make you feel like an unstoppable force of nature. Do yourself a favor and give Doom a shot, even if you are not particularly fond of shooters.

Ryan's #2 Game of 2016

#2 Titanfall 2

I was one of those people who REALLY loved the original Titanfall, while everyone else was giving it crap for having a silly "campaign" and an overall lack of content, I was wall-running and calling in my Atlas with glee. I put over 100 hours into Titanfall, which is rare for me to stick with a game that long.  My hopes were very high for Titanfall 2 and even then it exceeded all of my expectations. The campaign was the best shooter campaign I have played in years. The multiplayer is more fun and even smoother that the original. Also, and I don't know what it is, but I pretty dang good at Titanfall 2. I haven't been really good in an FPS since the Halo 2-3 days. It is one reason I do not get hardcore into the multiplayer of most shooters nowadays, I generally suck at them now. But, for some reason, the design of Titanfall 2's gameplay matches my playstyle to where I have a hell of a time playing it. I just wish more people played on PC. That's okay though, I bought a 2nd copy on Xbox for when there aren't enough players online on PC. :P

Ryan's #3 Game of 2016

#3 Shadow of the Colossus

If you saw Ico a little lower on this list, then I am sure you knew this was coming. Shadow of the Colossus, what a masterpiece. After Ico, my expectations were high, as most Team Ico fans rave about this one a bit more than Ico. You can now count me as one of them. This game makes things very simple, this is a game about boss battles. When a dev team can mostly focus on 16 boss battles, with little to nothing else of a game, it truly makes every battle epic. I seriously enjoyed every moment I had with this game. Every boss was, itself, a puzzle that you had to overcome. How exactly are you supposed to take down a 20-story-tall beast? The game's design deserves a shout out for how intuitively  left you hints on how to beat the Colossi without making it too easy or hard (Except when the game almost straight up tells you what to do it you are taking too long). Boss fights were often the highlight for me in Zelda games, and the Colossi boss fights eclipse nearly all of them. One thing is for sure, I am now way more excited for The Last Guardian than I was before. I am still going to wait until I get a PS4 Pro (since I hear it doesn't run well at all on a regular PS4). But look forward to my thoughts on it when I get around to it next year! One last thing though, Shadow of the Colossus has one of the very best soundtracks I have ever heard in gaming, you need to add it to your video game soundtrack collection asap. D

Ryan's #4 Game of 2016

#4 Tom Clancy's: The Division 

This game definitely wasn't perfect, but it is still one of the best games I have splayed this year. I have put almost 200 hours into it and still haven't played some of the newer content in the latest expansion. Being a fan of Mass Effect and Gears of War, I liked the 3rd person shooter gunplay and the scenarios the game presented. The Dark zone is a great idea despite it is no longer fully being used for its potential. A lot of people have given The Division crap for its grindy nature and lack of end-game content, I still throughly enjoyed what was offered mainly because I liked the shooting/skill mechanics.  I stopped playing during the summer but I recently began to pick it up again. I wouldn't recommend it if you didn't have anyone to play with. But it you want a fun game to pick up with friends and have an MMO-Lite shooter experience. It's worth it in my book. 

Ryan's #5 Game of 2016

#5 Bloodbourne

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As much as it pains for me to say it now, but up until this year, I had no interest in any of the "Souls" games. They were infamous for their difficulty, the GIFs of cheap deaths were all over reddit, and the fact that "git gud" became a saying really turned me off to playing them. Its not that I ever thought I couldn't beat them, just the idea of a game that seemingly only masochists could enjoy never appealed to me. Around the end of last year, Bloodbourne was in almost everyone's GOTY list. It being the holidays around this time, I saw that it was on sale for $15. I may have audibly sighed as I added to my cart. I'm sure you're seeing a pattern at this point, but again, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. One of my first games of 2016 and I don't think I could have started the year off better. I, like many, were frustrated at the beginning due to the sharp learning curve. Especially since this was the 4th "souls" game and I had never played one. I soon learned how the game worked and how to patiently move ever onward through the game. I certainly made the correct choice in adding it to my cart that day. It ended up being one of those rare games that anytime I wasn't playing, I would wish I were. Sitting at work, hanging out with friends, or whatever, I just wanted to be back on my couch playing this amazing game. Even though I thouroughly enjoy many games, that feeling is a rare one for me. The biggest thing that stuck out to me the world of Bloodbourne. The story didn't make any sense to me, but the design of the world was nothing short of breathtaking. The bosses were horrific creatures and beating them gives a feeling of accomplishment that few games have ever made me feel. I found myself jumping for joy and flipping off the TV when a boss fell by my hand. The impending doom of the final areas as players of much higher skill have the ability to invade my game and gank me if I do not silence the bell ringer is one of the most dreadful moments of my gaming career, and I freaking love it! I now truly understand what drives people to love these games. I am slowly moving through the rest of the souls games, right now only completing Bloodbourne and Demon Souls. I can't wait to see what 2017 has to offer for me in the Dark Souls trilogy. For anyone out there unsure if you can love a game that inspires fear, frustration, and dread, please give this game a try. I was a doubter too, but this game is truly a masterpiece.

Ryan's #6 Game of 2016

#6 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Surprise surprise, someone on the Internet thinks The Witcher 3 is great. I do have a bit of a story to tell with this one. I shared a bit of it on the podcast already. When hype for Witcher 3 was rising a year or two ago, like Ico to Last Guardian, I decided to play the first two Witcher games to see what all the fuss was about. The opposite of Ico happened. I only made it about half way through Witcher 1 before realizing I was hating it and didn't want to play anymore. A few months later, after being persuaded to give the 2nd one a chance, I tried the 2nd one. Almost the same number of hours into the 2nd one, I realized that I hated it as well. So at that point,I had decided that The Witcher series was not for me, and did not get Witcher 3 last year. However, the Internet's love of this game was too strong, I couldn't resist seeing once again what all the fuss was about. And boy was I glad I decided to give this series another chance. Witcher 3 is possibly the best open world game I have played. A fantastic story, great combat,  and a world that truly felt alive. One thing I loved that many games do not do well are the side quests. Many of the side quests were better executed and had more interesting stories than the main quest. Which, to me, is pretty amazing. I found myself seeking side quests not for the experience, gear, or just to complete everything, I wanted to find them to experience what they had to offer, because nearly all of them were phenomenal. I can go on, but I am sure you have heard enough about this game at this point. If you have any doubts, take it from someone who probably doubted this game the most: play this game. 

Ryan's #7 Game of 2016

#7 Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

The marketing surrounding the "Augment Your Preorder" campaign turned me off of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided immediately. Thankfully, regardless of SquareEnix's terrible marketing, tampering with the game, and adding micro transactions, the developers still managed to deliver a solid experience. Very few games let me customize my character's skills and abilities to my playstyle more than Deus Ex. The devs struck a perfect balance of making your character feel badass, while still maintaining a good challenge. Great combat, good story, dialoge choices, and multiple endings based on the choices you made. I always describe Deus Ex as "stealth noir Mass Effect". Those you who know me for my love of Mass Effect can easily see Deus Ex fits my gaming tastes so well. But as much as I love Mass Effect, the trilogy's level of choice is nothing compared to this game. Check it out if you haven't already! 

Ryan's #8 Game of 2016

#8 Ico

With all of the hype surrounding the fact that The Last Guardian was finally being released, I thought I would see what all of the fuss was about by exploring Team Ico's previous games. I was floored with what I found. Ico had so much heart and soul through every minute of the horned boy's quest to save Yorda. Team Ico brought these characters to life, even though they hardly spoke. Having Ico guide Yorda through the castle by holding hands is an genius mechanic. I love how the bond between these characters grow as you progress through the game. You can begin to see Yorda trust Ico more and more as you get closer to escaping. Even though the combat was a bit clunky, I loved how you couldn't be killed, only knocked down, potentially allowing the shadows to escape with Yorda. I am someone who usually has trouble going back and playing older games for the first time, and even though this game is a bit clunky when it comes to combat and controls, this game is truly a masterpiece. Anyone who enjoys gaming as an art form should play this game.

Ryan's #9 Game of 2016

#9 Superhot

Superhot is the most innovative shooter I've played in years! Most of you will already be aware of it, but for those of you who are not, it is a first person shooter where time only moves when you do. This gives you time to plan out a strategy for how you are going to take out all of the enemies in each level. Its one-shot kills all, so you have to plan carefully. I love how it plays back the level in real time after you complete the level. It really makes you feel like a James Bond or Jason Bourne-type character. I felt the story and the meta game was a little heavy-handed, but I overall had a ton of fun with this game.

Ryan's Top 10 Games of 2016

I am going to be doing my Top 10 Games of 2016 a little differently than most. I am mostly a budget gamer, meaning it is rarer for me to buy a game on launch day. That being said, some of the games I played for the first time in 2016 are games that are a year old or older. Rather than go through my top 10 games that came out in 2016, I am going to go through my personal top 10 games that I played for the first time in 2016. Some of them are so old that you will be very surprised that I had waited so long to play them (One of them came out in 2001!). I will be doing one a day from here until the end of the year!

Lets start with #10!

10 - Rise of the Tomb Raider

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I was probably in the minority in that I thought the original reboot of Tomb Raider was only okay, but Rise of the Tomb Raider exceeded everything its predecessor did and more. I think it was released at a time where I saw it as a breath of fresh air. 2015 was stocked full of open world games. Games like Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Metal Gear Solid V, GTA5 (PC), Arkham Knight and more that I cannot think of right now. But a well-made, scripted experience like Rise of the Tomb Raider was exactly what I needed when it made its debut on PC this year. I like to think of this game as the perfect mix of Uncharted and Arkham Asylum. It kept me engaged the entire time, combat was fun and intense, the story was more interesting that the original, and I was constantly wow'd by the fantastic set pieces the designers kept throwing at me. Now that this game is available on all platforms, if you haven't played it yet, I highly recommend that you pick it up!