Hellblade Hearing Voices Dev Diary

Looking back at the video game release calendar, it’s surprising to remember that at the start of this year games like Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Sniper Elite 4, and For Honor launched. It’s safe to say that this year in gaming has been pretty exciting, too.

While we’ve crowned our overall Game of the Year here at n3rdabl3, there were a few games we felt needed some sort of recognition, while they weren’t our overall game of the year, they left an impression on some of our staff, so we wanted to give them the opportunity to shout from the rooftops.

So here is 2017’s n3rdabl3 Staff Picks Games of the Year:

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Gage Edwards – Staff Writer / All-round Video Guy (also looks like Brendan Fraser)

n3rdabl3’s Staff Picks Games of the Year - n3rdabl3

Ninja Theory didn’t only make one of the best video game narratives of 2017, they also made one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve ever witnessed in a game. It’s hard to talk about why I love this game so much without giving away too much. I think the less you know going into the game, the better. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an emotional journey following a girl, Senua, who suffers from severe psychosis. Senua deals with hallucinations and voices in her head. You see and hear everything she sees and hears. The visions play with your perception of the world and the voices tell you what to do, talk to each other and even contradict themselves at times.

The commitment to making you feel like you share Senua’s mental illnesses is impeccable and creates an astonishingly immersive experience.  And all of this is just one part of what makes Hellblade so great. I don’t have enough space to mention the stunning environments of Helheim, the mind-bending puzzles and the absolutely incredible acting that make up this game. If you’re looking for a game with a super strong narrative that pulls you in and makes you part of the world, Hellblade is for you.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Aaron Richardson – Co-founder / Editor-in-Chief (also picks an unreleased game for Game of the Year)

n3rdabl3’s Staff Picks Games of the Year - n3rdabl3

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is an interesting one because despite being an Early Access game throughout most of the year, it’s become one of the more entertaining titles, warts and all. Yes, it’s an Early Access game, but for the most part it’s one of the more polished games of its kind out there – I’m looking at you, DayZ.

While Battle Royale isn’t exactly a unique idea, PUBG has become one of those games that just works. It’s a concept so simple that anyone can jump in and have fun, whether they’re good at the game or not. Sure, there are still a few kinks to iron out, but this is a game that can be enjoyed on a number of levels. As a player, you decide how you’re going to play, it’s almost a sandbox in that respect. Whether you want to play seriously, or have a bit of a fuck around, you can, and you won’t be punished by other players. As a spectator, you can enjoy watching other players succeed, or fail. In some respects, watching the game is just as intense as actually taking part.

While the game itself has its faults, it’s these reasons why PUBG is my pick of Game of the Year for this year.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia

Alex J. Robinson – Staff Writer (also doesn’t shut up about Fire Emblem…)

n3rdabl3’s Staff Picks Games of the Year - n3rdabl3

Fire Emblem is Nintendo’s ultimate comeback kid. 2017 saw the release of a wildly successful mobile installment, as well as a full-blown spinoff with the Switch’s Fire Emblem Warriors. Out of the fire and fanfare, one title rekindled my love for gaming more than any other, and it just so happened to be a remake of a game from 1992.

Yes, this is a total fanboy pick, and I understand that Shadows of Valentia is not this year’s most technically perfect game. It is, however, the most cohesively beautiful game on the 3DS to date. The art by illustrator Hidari is the best we’ve ever seen in the series – it’s my favorite character design from any game, ever. The musical score is rousingly perfect, helping to create what is far and away Fire Emblem’s most atmospheric world yet. The gameplay itself is that perfect comfy-familiar-zone of strategy and army management, with new elements like dungeon exploration that hints at the series’ willingness for future technical experimentation. But above all, the characters are so loveable, so well-realized, that despite their hardships you never want their journey to end. The entire game is fully voice acted, and every performance is so good that anything less from future Fire Emblem games will be a travesty.

Shadows of Valentia has done more for the Fire Emblem fandom than most devs could dream of. With projects like the now complete Fire Emblem Compendium, we have definitive proof that no other series holds a candle to Fire Emblem’s ability to earn players affection. The bar is set incredibly high for my favorite game series, and after Nintendo’s consistent habit of outdoing themselves this year, I’ve never been more excited for what’s to come. That promise for more is what makes Shadows of Valentia my game of the year.

Prey

Kevin Rua – Staff Writer (is also Irish)

n3rdabl3’s Staff Picks Games of the Year - n3rdabl3

Prey is the immersive sim/ horror game I never knew I wanted. I’m a huge fan of Arkane’s games but I didn’t pay attention to Prey and forgot it existed until the demo came out. I thought I’d try it and 10 minutes in, I knew I was going to buy it.

Prey immerses you in a gripping story about science gone mad with some aliens thrown in for good measure but really it’s the gameplay and worldbuilding that did it for me. I can’t remember the last time a video game world was so well realised and fleshed out. Everything on Talos I has a reason for being there. All the NPCs have a backstory, every room is there for a purpose. It doesn’t feel like it was designed for a game but it works so well. What’s especially brilliant is how it lets you play your own way. There’s almost always 2 or 3 ways to get something done. Room’s locked? Smash a window, climb in through the vent, use your powers to turn into a cup and get in through a gap in the wall, blast your way in with a grenade or hack your way past the lock. You just never feel limited because of the game’s rules. It’s all so intuitive.

And that’s what makes Prey my game of the year. Big world to explore, excellent worldbuilding and story telling and so much player freedom and choice you can play it over and over and not get bored.

Dirt 4

Alan Copping – Staff Writer (also doesn’t review anything but racing games)

n3rdabl3’s Staff Picks Games of the Year - n3rdabl3

As a big fan of stage rally and Rallycross, I loved Codemaster’s release of Dirt Rally, and Dirt 4 really brought that package to another level. With the elements of creating your own racing team, a throwback to the Grid franchise I loved when I was younger, as well as the addition of truck and buggy racing to really cement you in the world of off-road racing.

Dirt 4 might not quite be on the same physics level as Dirt Rally, but as an experience, I find it much more immersive. The setting really throws you into the experience, forming and managing your own team, from your crew and managers, to your cars and liveries, Dirt 4 give you the control as you work your way through the ranks in Rally, Rallycross and Trucks. All 3 areas give you a wide variety of racing and experiences, to the point where even moving up a car class within the same discipline becomes a new challenge. The system of creating Rally stages with an element of randomisation leaves you always facing something new, and keeps you on your toes. You’ll recognise a section of road and then get thrown the other way. It’s a system that really has you relying on your co-driver, just as rally should.

Dirt 4 has been released into a year filled with fantastic racing titles. There have been releases that arguably look better, that arguably offer the player more. What Dirt 4 does offer however, is nothing short of fantastic. When it comes to fun, challenging gameplay, no other racing title this year comes close.

Yooka-Laylee

Oliver Bottomley – Staff Writer (also likes to troll the team a lot)

n3rdabl3’s Staff Picks Games of the Year - n3rdabl3

Yooka-Laylee doesn’t break new ground so much as it re-treads the old paths and does it with a practised hand. The Playtonic Games team don’t just know what they’re doing, they perfected it and it shows. Banjo-Kazooie’s spiritual successor is full of bright colours, cheery music and sarcastic humour blended together into a masterful concoction. It may not be original in many senses and some may see it as a bit old school and retro, but that’s kinda the point. After all one of their characters is called Rextro and there’s a whole bunch of gags relating to it!

Yooka-Laylee brings an old style of adventure game into the 21st century and does it brilliantly. The market has been bringing back the classics via remasters or re-releases for the past couple of years. Yooka-Laylee isn’t a remaster or a re-release but a revitalisation of one of the most family friendly game styles ever devised.

It’s light, it’s cheery and it appeals to players of all ages. Old hands will love it as it reminds them of their youth and newer younger audiences will love it for its art direction and gameplay. Playtonic Games are gunna go far, just you watch.

~

And that’s some of our top-picks for personal games of the year for 2017. Will 2018 top what was on offer this year? Depends whether Nintendo launches another Zelda game…

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