iDigitalTimes Year In Gaming: ND's Top 7 Picks For 2016

The Flame in the Flood style
The Flame in the Flood is at its best when its excellent art direction, the sheer urgency of your fight to survive and your need to move forward all combine to create moments of eerie peace in the silence of a drowned world. (c) The Molasses Flood

In this cesspool of a year, there were at least seven shining lights in the gaming world. Check out my personal list of the top 7 titles I most enjoyed in 2016 below. (The list is in no particular order except for the first entry, which is my personal Game of the Year.)

 

The Flame in the Flood

 

The Flame in the Flood is my favorite game to come out this year. It’s the first game out of The Molasses Flood, a new development studio headed by former Bioshock art director Scott Sinclair. I love this game for its incredible atmosphere, boosted by its heavily evocative, Americana-style soundtrack by artist Chuck Ragan.

Gameplay is simple: you are a young girl named Scout, and you are making your way through the drowned, post-apocalyptic South down a seemingly-endless river, accompanied only by a scrappy dog. The art style is as evocative as the music, conveying Scout’s pain as she accumulates injuries and the menace of wildlife like hogs and bears. Like most roguelike survivals, you must manage your inventory, scrounge for supplies and craft items to survive, but The Flame in the Flood ’s vision and feeling takes it to another level.

The Flame in the Flood is available on Steam for PC, Mac, and Xbox One for $19.99. You can read our complete review here.

 

Civilization VI

 

Following up on Civilization IV and V, either of which is usually considered the best game in the Civilization franchise, is not a small feat. But somehow, lead designer Ed Beach and the team at Firaxis Games made it happen. Civilization VI is a testament to the addictive #OneMoreTurn mentality that has made Civilization such an enduring series, improving on the faults of its predecessor while taking the many things that worked and tweaking them to be even better.

A fun new system of Wonders, an engaging new art style and more transparent screens for leaders, the ability to combine like units to form corps and armies, and the revamped District-centered city-building are all features that differentiate Civ VI from what came before.

Civilization VI is available on Steam for PC for $59.99. You can read our complete review here.

 

Tyranny

 

Tyranny is a story about how evil has already won, and the face of evil is your own. In Tyranny, you’re a high-ranking minion of an evil overlord who’s conquered every corner of the world except the one you’ve been dispatched to. The lore is rich and deep, with hovertips that help you feel like you understand the complicated world you’ve been thrown into. Your companions are an interesting pack of characters and best of all, the magic system is really fun. With many branching options, a reputation meter that tracks fear and wrath in a multitude of different factions and tactical realtime combat, Tyranny is a worthy and original sequel to Obsidian and Paradox’s much-loved earlier RPG Pillars of Eternity.

Tyranny is available on Steam for PC for $44.99. You can read our complete review here.

 

Seasons After Fall

 

Indie games don’t always get the shine they deserve, especially when they’re competing with triple-A studios for a slice of spotlight. But Seasons After Fall’s delicate and endearing hand-illustrated art, beautiful original music done entirely by a violin quartet, and wistful, touching story girded by top-tier voice acting won this game a special place in my heart. The game is simple enough for a child to play, with platforming challenges and puzzles based on the player character’s power to control the seasons.

Seasons After Fall is available on Steam for PC for $14.99. You can read our complete review here.

 

Overwatch

 

Overwatch burst onto the gaming scene and transformed it, injecting life and color into the gritty, desaturated world of online shooters. The game’s appealing blend of diverse characters, mixed-media storytelling and addictive gameplay made it a magnet for many players disenchanted by League of Legends or tired of Team Fortress 2.

Overwatch has made such an impact it feels like it’s been out a lot longer than May of 2016. Blizzard’s ongoing release of comics and characters, and their continuing adjustments to the game’s balance, indicate they have a long life planned for Overwatch.

Overwatch is available on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC for $59.99. You can read our complete review here.

 

Fire Emblem Fates

 

Fire Emblem Fates takes the iconic art style and improved mechanics of Awakening and pairs it with an unforgettable story that goes down two very different paths. Exploring the dynamics of two different families who both make a claim of love upon you makes the events of Fates even more interesting, with different companions, levels and points of view enhancing the story. The aesthetic difference between Nohr and Hoshido extends even to the names of foods and types of classes. The new base-building element is as satisfying as the ever-delightful support conversations and romances.

Fire Emblem Fates is available for Nintendo 3DS for $39.99, with the other path available as an add-on purchase for $19.99. You can read our complete review here.

 

Final Fantasy XV

 

Final Fantasy XV is a miracle of a game that feels like it was wrestled into existence through director Hajime Tabata’s pure force of will. Main character Noctis Lucis Caelum is a protagonist who can just as easily hang out with Zidane and Tidus as Squall and Cloud, an authentic Final Fantasy series hero. Party members Ignis, Gladio and Prompto feel as authentic and compelling as any of the great Final Fantasy supporting characters. The world of Final Fantasy XV is beautiful and crammed with addictive sidequests and carefully-crafted dungeons.

While the narrative is top-tier Final Fantasy nonsense, the whole experience is grounded in four powerful personalities and made with great love and attention to detail. Final Fantasy XV is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC for $59.99. You can read our complete review here.

What are your top games of 2016? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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