17. Tales of Berseria
Tales of Berseria came out during a time where nothing was really going right in my life. I was self-isolating, holed up in my room most days without eating and just genuinely having a pretty lame time. I’d originally bought Berseria a few weeks after its release, so it took me a while to get round to playing it. But when I did… It felt like a light bulb had just got switched on.
I’m a huge fan of RPGs, an even bigger one of JRPGs but I’d fallen out of love with them after Final Fantasy XIII. Tales of Berseria woke up something inside of me. This cast of characters, namely Velvet Crowe, an anti-heroine who has her innocence ripped away by someone she thought she could trust, appealed to me in a way I hadn’t felt for a very long time. But not only that, the game lets you feel her anguish through a narrative that is both compelling and numbingly sad. It’s a personal journey, one of grief and yet of love that blossoms between the group as the game continues.
It also is my very first Tales game, which of course left me scrambling for more Tales goodness to drown myself in. But even now I come back to Berseria, what with its loveable cast, the important issues behind the ideology of reason versus emotions (as well as a look in at PTSD) and phenomenal lore, it’s hard to say bad things about it – though I’m sure critics would say differently.
Tales of Berseria isn’t game changing, but it changed gaming for me. I was happy to get lost in a world where being emotional, resentful, angry or bitter wasn’t seen as being evil – it was just what made you human. Tales of Berseria’s take on mental health didn’t make me feel as horrible, it made me feel normal. More importantly – it made me feel happy!
So, if you’re looking for a game that has a compelling (not to mention, downright hilarious at times) cast, as well as a game that doesn’t demonize mental illness with a great narrative to boot…
Tales of Berseria is for you!
– Aimee Heart
The cyberpunk genre has been on the rise in the past couple of years. You can see it in films like Blade Runner 2049 or Ghost in the Shell and in dozens of games from Hard Reset to Shadowrun Returns. But all too often we see movies and videogames that only engage with the aesthetics of cyberpunk – the flashy neon, the cool guns, etc. They don’t want to actually look at the thematic elements of the genre; namely, the idea that everything is pointless in a world that only cares about profits and the capitalistic bottom line.
RUINER is miraculous because it does both. It tells a story of dehumanization in a way that doesn’t just rob the characters of agency, but also draws parallels between their actions and the actions of the player. It laughs at the idea that anything you do in a videogame could matter and throws out an endless series of two-word objectives (“KILL BOSS”, “WAKE UP”) just to see if you’ll keep pushing buttons to execute each task.
But RUINER also provides all the “cool factor” aesthetic of its competition and then some. The screen shakes and glitches as you fight, the music pounds in your ears and you can practically feel the impact of every shotgun blast and every swung pipe. The central city of Rengkok South is populated by scantily-dressed nuns who stand on street corners and try to convince you to kill yourself. And the player character himself gets a jaw-dropping moment of badass-itude that’s sure to stick in the mind of anyone who sees it. In short, RUINER is beautiful, brutal, and brilliantly-written, making you feel like a dog and a god in the same breathless second.
– I. Coleman
15. Assassin’s Creed Origins
Sometimes it’s good to take some time of to rediscover your roots, and Assassin’s Creed: Origins shows Ubisoft were right to take an extra year off before releasing this chapter of their epic series.
Rather than a parry-and-smoke-bomb-to-win combat system which has pervaded Assassin’s Creed games for so long, Origins has a more sophisticated combat system with more focus on skill. With Origins, fighting has been completely overhauled – very much for the better. Now dodging and managing your distance from opponents is much more important. When using dual blades your attacks are much more rapid, but also shorter range, exposing you to greater risk and requiring better timed dodges.
Not only is this world vast, it is diverse. There’s Alexandria with its Grecian marble statues standing proudly over the streets. There’s Giza with its towering gold-capped Pyramids (the greatest ever in-game rendering of the OG of world wonders). There’s the Great Lighthouse towering above the glittering blue oceans. There’s algae-covered swamps, sun-blasted deserts, heiroglyph-laden temples and tombs that positively beckon you to explore them. I couldn’t resist visiting every new question mark that appeared on the HUD.
Scouting enemy encampments and planning your assassinations is much easier and more fun with the addition of your trusty hawk Senu, who can mark targets from up high. Stealth feels much more intuitive now, relying much less on the gadgets and gimmickry that have started to bloat more recent Creed titles, and much more on good old fashioned sneaking and stabbing.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a vast and beautiful world, dwarfing San Andreas in size and the diversity of scenery. There’s Alexandria with its Grecian marble statues standing proudly over the streets. There’s Giza with its towering gold-capped Pyramids (the greatest ever in-game rendering of the OG of world wonders). There’s the Great Lighthouse towering above the glittering blue oceans. There’s algae-covered swamps, sun-blasted deserts, heiroglyph-laden temples and tombs that positively beckon you to explore them.
Even though Assassin’s Creed: Origins is lovingly detailed in its depiction of its Ancient Egyptian setting, you don’t need to be a student of the classics to recognise this game is a classic.
– Jonathan Trussler
14. Night in the Woods
Someone, somewhere, is bound to get mad anytime a game is praised for its storytelling first and foremost. And that’s fine. Video games are games first, after all, and so there’s an argument to be made for story being somehow naturally nonessential. If there was an argument in the opposite direction, though, it would be the utterly human story told through animals and ghost stories in Night in the Woods.
Writing young people is a very hard thing for people to do, especially in video game contexts. Like or hate Life is Strange, probably the easiest example, but that game undeniably stumbles in its attempts to capture what conflicted, college-age kids sound like. Night in the Woods aces this to a degree greater than just about any other game I’ve played. Protagonist Mae Borowski’s story through Night in the Woods is one of questioned self-identity, and it hits notes that my own life and other lives around me have hit. It’s humanness at its most traceable. You can find Mae and her friends in anyone you know between the ages of 18 and 25. It’s a wild time when wildness seems to be the only certain thing the future has in store.
On top of that, the town of Possum Springs and its surroundings are a joy to explore, and reveal more, too. Choosing which of Mae’s estranged friends to attempt reconnection with on a given day is a charged choice. It’s like if the social links in Persona were charged with years of prologue, or like you entered into one halfway through the game. And the town and its people breathe so much story, too, between themes of nostalgia and themes of gentrification. And again, it all rings true. It all rings human. Anxious cat-lady protagonist and all. Mae stares at herself in the mirror and says things we’ve all said to ourselves. The only difference is, she has whiskers.
– Jay Petrequin
13. Horizon: Zero Dawn
I had a feeling that Horizon Zero Dawn would be special from the moment I laid eyes on a Thunderjaw stomping graceslessly into frame at E3 2015. As the protagonist (Aloy, as we’d come to know her) slid below the beast to deliver arrow after arrow into its vulnerable mechanical innards, I thought “this can’t possibly be as fun as it looks.” And I was right; Horizon Zero Dawn is almost impossibly more fun than it lets on.
There are at least a dozen ways to take down the infamous Thunderjaw. Whether you prefer to play slow and stealthy or quick and dirty, Horizon Zero Dawn offers you the opportunity to tailor your weapons to the task. Cautious hunters can lay down explosive wires with the Tripcaster before alerting the beast. More rambunctious hunters can initiate the battle by lobbing ice bombs from the Sling to freeze it. But no matter how you approach the Thunderjaw, watching it crumple into a pile of scrap is its own reward.
What most people–myself included–failed to anticipate from Horizon Zero Dawn was deep, intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging science-fiction. Beyond the robot dinosaurs and tribal warriors lies a compelling narrative that asks harsh questions about our relationship with nature and technology. Yet it also carries hope and promises that humanity will find a way to carry on.
– Jeremy Johnson
12. Friday the 13th: The Game
Friday the 13th fans have been waiting since, well, forever, for a good video game to represent the franchise. Let’s face it, the 1989 NES game didn’t provide the glorious kills and jump scares that Jason Voorhees is known for. The closest fans got to hacking and slashing as their favorite masked killer was in Mortal Kombat X. That was cool and all, but Jason deserves to be the star and not just some other character in a stable of dozens. Well, all of that was about to change.
On Friday, October 13th, 2015, Gun Media, Illfonic, and several iconic members of the Friday the 13th film franchise, launched a Kickstarter that promised an online multiplayer game that would pit seven camp counselors up against Jason Voorhees. Best of all, players would get to be Jason!
After a few delays, Friday the 13th: The Video Game finally launched on May 26th, 2017, and we here at Hey Poor Player were blown away! The main goal of the game is to either escape Camp Crystal Lake by working together with the other camp counselors, or play as Jason and slaughter all of the counselors before they can get away. The gameplay was surprisingly full of depth, with each of the camp counselors having several statistics that revolved around what type of character they are. For instance, the jock is powerful and quick on his feet, and the nerd is good at fixing broken telephones and replacing broken circuits. Of course playing as Jason is the main draw here, and it is as gory and fun as it should be!
To keep things fresh, the developers have been releasing a steady stream of updates within the last year. A new Jason, additional maps, and even new camp counselors that were actual characters in the film franchise have been added. If your a fan of Friday the 13th films, you’re missing out if you haven’t picked up Friday the 13th: The Game yet.
– Mike Vito