Best Windows PC games of 2017 (so far)
HAYDEN DINGMAN reveals our favourite games
Usually these lists of the best PC games with “Can you believe it’s already September?” But I think I speak for everyone when I say, “wow, we’re only halfway through 2017? Seriously?” This has been one of the busiest release windows I’ve ever seen, with dozens of major PC games already released this year.
Yes, a few we were looking forward to turned out to be high-profile flops (cough Mass Effect: Andromeda cough), but there have also been some
instant classics – Nier: Automata, Prey, Thimbleweed Park, and more. Look for those and more inside, as we round up the best PC games of 2017 – so far, at least. This autumn is looking even more packed.
Prey Price: £24.95 from tinyurl.com/yanx24kk
It’s not the story you tell, it’s how you tell it. You could easily look at Prey and dismiss it as same old, same old. Immersive sim on a space ship? Oh, so it’s System Shock 3. And indeed that’s the target Arkane aimed at when it started this whole project.
What it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in style, though. Dishonored’s take on the genre is always slow, plodding, and methodical. Creative, to a point – but restrained by the tools at your disposal.
Prey has no such restraints. The fact that speed runners have beaten the game in seven minutes is testament to the freedom Prey gives you, as is the fact that your first ‘gun’ is good mostly for building platforms and accessing those hard-to-reach areas.
Is Prey a revolution? A reinvention of old ideas? Not in the slightest. But it takes much of what made System Shock 2 great, repackages it in a modern game with modern design and modern tech, and runs with it. It’s one hell of a space station and one hell of a game.
Nier: Automata Price: £39.99 from tinyurl.com/k7xrcef
I didn’t really understand Nier: Automata until the credits ran for the fifth time. It’s an RPG that breaks all genre conventions from the get-go, with lengthy bullet-
hell sequences interspersed between the fast-paced and fluid combat Platinum’s games are known for. And it’s a game that features singing robots, villains named Adam and Eve, and all sorts of other oddities.
But it only gets wilder the longer you play. There’s a lull in the middle as you go for the second ending – that section’s probably the weakest part. It’s worth it to push through though, as endings C and D bring the story to some wild places. As for ending EI can’t say anything at all, except that it’s worth the journey.
The PC port has some issues, and I might have abstained from putting Nier: Automata on this list if it were a lesser game. But the problems are at least easily fixed with a well-maintained fan patch. Grab it and you’re set.
Night in the Woods Price: £14.99 from tinyurl.com/yc7mey9u
Night in the Woods looks maybe a bit too cutesy for its own good. I still don’t know why everyone’s an animal, except they just are. It doesn’t really matter though, because Night in the Woods features extraordinary character writing, with some of the best momentto-moment dialogue I’ve seen in a game. Not in the ‘You’re the hero and you’re fighting evil’ way, but the much-harder-to-pull-off ‘You’re a normal person and this is a sketch of your life’ way. Chats with your parents. Chats with your friends. Chats with neighbours. It’s identifiable on a personal level that few games achieve.
And that’s great, but when I think back on Night in the Woods, it’s the town I remember. Underneath the
twee story of a college-aged kid looking for somewhere to belong, there’s a deeper story about rural America – specifically, about an economically depressed mining town, the toll taken on the people who call it home, and the slow decay after the boom years are over.
It’s good. And timely.
Thimbleweed Park Price: £14.99 from tinyurl.com/yakvw846
The Kickstarter campaign promised a “long lost LucasArts adventure” and that’s exactly what Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick, and co, delivered with Thimbleweed Park. It’s a point-and-click the way pointand-clicks were made in their heyday, complete with the SCUMM-style graphics and the block of verbs in
the bottom left corner. But it’s also 2017’s take on the 1990s adventure game. The Twin Peaks-esque story of a murder in a strange town filled with strange people is quickly usurped by meta-humour, in-jokes, and just allaround bizarre occurrences – some explained, some left to the imagination. Thimbleweed Park’s both a brilliant homage and a brilliant game in its own right.
Torment: Tides of Numenera Price: £18.95 from tinyurl.com/yapdhhef
Torment: Tides of Numenera might not reach the same heights as its spiritual predecessor Planescape: Torment, nor will it perhaps last as long in people’s hearts. But that’s a bit of an “Aim for the moon, land among the stars” deal, because Torment: Tides of Numenera is still an excellent throwback CRPG.
Why? Because it’s all so weird. Whether it’s a city contained within a dimension-spanning slug, an orphan from another time and place, a garden where only the person you’re talking with can hear you and vice versa – the game is just full of wondrous events and areas that make it a joy to explore. There are issues. Combat is superfluous, which doesn’t annoy me but may annoy some. The story wraps up too quickly and ties together a bit too neatly. There are definitely aspects I would’ve wanted to see fleshed out. But what’s here is still an excellent journey despite its flaws.
Everything Price: £6.59 from tinyurl.com/ma3v6nx
Everything is a philosophical treatise. A game, sure, but also a way of looking at the universe, of understanding
the world around us. One that will be innately familiar to lovers of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, for instance – a world interconnected, a simulation of everything. And one where everything is related to every other, where we’re defined by our similarities more than our differences.
What this means for you, the player? You’re put in control of an object – a cow, a bear, a pencil, a street light, a cigarette end, a grain of pollen – and can, at will, scale up into a larger one or down into a smaller one. Maybe you’ll spend a few minutes as a cloud, or an island, or a single electron. There are over a thousand objects in Everything, and you can control each of them in some manner. Oh, and periodically you’ll stumble upon excerpts of talks by philosopher Alan Watts and listen to him discussing how all beings are related, and actually part of one huge organism.
It’s a game that demands a particular mindset and a willingness to approach it on its own terms, but Everything is stunningly ambitious. There’s certainly nothing else quite like it.
Snake Pass Price: £15.99 from tinyurl.com/Lsetqav
Snake Pass is a game built around a single idea: You’re a snake. Really. That’s it. It may look like a mid-’90s platformer, with its cartoon characters and that bright, colourful palette. You’re a snake, though, and thus have no legs with which to platform.
Instead you’re reduced to snaking around a level – coiling yourself around poles, wriggling across ledges, and clambering your way up cliffs like a sentient vine. Which is basically what you are. It’s excellent, almost
more of a puzzle game than a platformer, and despite being overshadowed by the release of Yooka-Laylee in the same window I think Snake Pass is probably the stronger throwback game.
Stories Untold Price: £6.99 from tinyurl.com/yac3xy5x
Stories Untold is really good until it kind-of sort-of isn’t. Which is to say: the last chapter is a letdown. It’s mainly a letdown though because it tries to wrap a fat, ugly bow around what is, up until that moment, a fantastic and somewhat spooky anthology series like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. Stories Untold is a love-letter to analog technology, a fact that doesn’t surprise me a bit after learning that some of the Alien: Isolation crew worked on it. More specifically, it’s a game where you