Best Win­dows PC games of 2017 (so far)

HAY­DEN DINGMAN re­veals our favourite games

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

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

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