The Witcher 3 is the pinnacle of 2010’s game design. A sprawling, jam-packed open world with enough activities to last an eternity. Sounds pretty derivative by 2020 standards…
Looking past the fast-travel markers and points of interest, I found a game written with an attention to detail that could not be faulted. The game was consistent throughout – tonally, visually, and narratively. Characters are rarely one dimensional, with side quests deftly demonstrating the shades of grey that exist within The Witcher’s war-torn landscape.
This game took me by surprise. I expected something stilted, a generic fantasy open world.
What I found was one of the few moments of wonder I’ve experienced in a virtual world.
After leaving town during a howling storm, Roach gallops through the wilderness, trees blowing violently, rain building up in puddles along the dirt road. As the clouds slowly begin to clear, the morning sun rises, illuminating the woods Geralt finds himself standing in. Light shafts pierce the gently rustling treetops, and everything is quiet.
This was a blissful moment for me, and something I’ll never forget.
Forza Horizon 3 – 2016
I’m not REALLY a car person, but I adore a good car game. Forza Horizon 3 scratched the itch of building a collection of beautiful vehicles, and driving them through our very own home – a weird, squished up version of Australia.
Virtual tourism at its finest, featuring an incredible soundtrack (check out the Future Classic Radio playlist on Spotify!)
Titanfall 2 – 2016
FPS games have gone through several major evolutions – DOOM in 1993, Half-Life in 1998, Half-Life 2 in 2004, Bioshock/Crysis/Halo/CoD4 in 2007. Titanfall 2 isn’t a major evolution, rather, an amalgamation of lessons learned.
It combines elements from every major FPS into something that is greater than the sum of its parts – while incorporating an emotional core in the player’s relationship with BT, your Titan.
Look up the “Cause and Effect” level for a stunning example of what this game has to offer.
DOOM – 2016
Here’s my Hot Take: DOOM 2016 is a rhythm game.
This game takes the win for the greatest game soundtrack in the last 20 years (in my opinion), and it uses this soundtrack to motivate and push the player forward by adapting its progression based on player action.
You feel like you’re in control of the music, hence, a rhythm game!
DOOM 2016 functions as a power fantasy, and does so in the most bombastic and intense ways – glory kills and comedic ultraviolence.
As that one dude from Robocop says in that scene where they screw his brain into the robot part of him: “You’re gonna be a bad motherfucker.”
Middle Earth: Shadow of Modor – 2014
Shadow of Mordor is an outlier – the game as a whole didn’t have a particularly compelling narrative, and one of the worst protagonists this generation (outside of Aiden Pearce from the first Watch_Dogs).
What it brought to the table was simply a game mechanic, but unprecedented in nature. The Nemesis system is why I dumped dozens of hours into this game – a hierarchy of unique Orc antagonists who would grow and develop as you did, forming relationships with your player character.
So often, I’d find myself seconds away from completing a difficult mission, only to be accosted by Blorg, the Uruk who killed me two hours ago, narrowly besting me in a one on one contest.
This mechanic was genius, and made playthroughs unpredictable, and allowed me to build my own headcanon around these disgusting orcs and their refusal to die.