There’s no question about it – 2017 was a big year for games. With the launch of new consoles such as the Xbox One X and Nintendo Switch (and respect paid to the PS4 Pro which launched mid-November 2016), developers have been putting their noses to the grind to bring gamers the next step up in high-fidelity, large-scale titles; seeking to take advantage of the increased horsepower under the hood. At the close of our first calendar year in operation, we at Scholarly Gamers found it fitting to take a look over the year’s releases and settle upon our own Game of the Year.
As is becoming the custom within the gaming industry, the spring and fall seasons boast the lion’s share of AAA title releases, but nary a month has gone by without at least one major release that’s drawn heads from all corners of the Scholarly Gamers camp. Since mid-November, we’ve been discussing amongst ourselves which games that released in 2017 are prime candidates for Game of the Year nominations, some of which you can read through HERE if you missed its publication on Friday, December 30th.
The task was simple enough; nominate your Top 3 favourite games released in 2017. We each ranked our entries from 3rd to 1st, assigned points for each tier, and tallied them up to arrive at a winner. This meant that any game counted – there would be no restrictions placed upon any game, be it a small-scale indie endeavour or AAA blockbuster.
Third Place – ASSASSIN’S CREED ORIGINS
Matt Ferguson wrote:
[First Place Nomination] It’s really hard to sum up all of my feelings about Assassin’s Creed Origins in just a few paragraphs, simply because of the sheer breadth of the experience in that game. Ubisoft broke every mold for me with this newest release in the franchise, as someone who has been avidly following the series since its initial inception. What really makes Origins special is that it manages to perfectly tread the line of completely revamping large aspects of their game — both in terms of environment and gameplay mechanics — while retaining everything that draws people to the series; the mystery and majesty of the worlds they have created.
There are so many things that can be praised in Origins: The blending of myth and reality through the gripping narrative, the wholly revamped and visceral gladiatorial-style combat, and of course the beautifully crafted environment. What really hit home for this game for me was the verisimilitude; the absolutely captivating accuracy and realism of the Ptolemaic Egypt that Ubisoft created. I wrote my undergrad in Greek & Roman History, and it was like nothing else seeing large swathes of my research come to life, and then to be able to walk through cities and interact with people I’d read and written about. Long after beating the game, I’m still finding myself wandering through the expanses of desert and combing each tomb to uncover every secret that lies buried for me to discover.
Assassin’s Creed Origins isn’t just an example of an expertly crafted game in terms of narrative, gameplay mechanics, environment, and just sheer entertainment — which it assuredly is all of these things in spades — but the pinnacle of what I think games should be: A way to experience the worlds we can only dream of. For me personally, those worlds in a large part are the histories that I’ve studied and interacted with through my degrees, and nothing thrills me more than being able to come as close as possible to experiencing these time periods first hand. The Assassin’s Creed franchise has always done a superb job at setting their location and historical atmosphere, and Origins has taken that verisimilitude to new levels.
Much like my other two entries this year, Ubisoft is continuing to support Assassin’s Creed Origins through free post-launch content, including the Trials of the Gods which just recently ended, as well as the literal out-of-this-world crossover with Final Fantasy XV which was delightfully fun, and as one Scholarly Gamer member put it “easily the best DLC delivery system to date.”
I could write another full review on the things I loved about Origins, but you can read more on my thoughts on Assassin’s Creed Origins in my extensively detailed review. Suffice it to say it was the most captivating and entertaining game I played this year, and truly showed the amount of work Ubisoft put into their latest iteration of the long running franchise.
Lithic Goose wrote:
[First Place Nomination] Though the two Assassin’s Creed titles released before Origins were faced with some criticism due to bugs and glitches, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little bit apprehensive with respect to picking this up on day one, but I’m glad that I did. This entry received some more polish that did away with many of the (personally) expected issues – the two-year development cycle for this title did it some good.
With respect to the historical location and accuracy, Assassin’s Creed Originsis top-notch; the story is largely a work of fiction, of course, but other aspects like the map’s size, visuals, and density of side-activities is second to none. The addition of new mechanics (such as your hawk scouting companion) is a welcome change, though some other elements (such a button mapping) leave something to be desired until they come to be second nature. Though I’m not completely finished with the story (closer to 75%), what I’ve seen has left me confident enough to name Assassin’s Creed Origins as my pick for Game of the Year.
Sheldon Goodridge wrote:
[Third Place Nomination] Having invested a fair amount of time into the game, I felt that Assassin’s Creed Origins delivered the tried-and-true story-driven approach expected by fans of the franchise. In the same breath, Ubisoft studios have polished out some of the smaller issues that the series has held, and the addition of new elements (such as RPG levelling and skill trees) was a wise move to bring forward in the latest Assassin’s Creed game.
Second Place – Tie between HORIZON ZERO DAWN and NIER: AUTOMATA
[Third Place Nomination] This was a game I saw very little of when it was coming out, but when we finally picked it up (the extra-special edition, art book and Aloy statue included), I realized just how special it really was. The facial animation, while not very dynamic, is so lifelike I was blown away every time I went to talk to someone. The complexity of the gameplay, visuals, and worldbuilding and designs for the machines were all astounding. Now, I haven’t gotten very far in it because other games took over my interest (see below entries) but every moment just exploring in this post-apocalyptic is a joy to behold.
Also Voted for Horizon Zero Dawn: NightLightKnight, SleeperWolf, MrJ0TD
[Second Place Nomination] I’ll admit that I’m new to the franchise; I haven’t had the chance to play through the original NieR or the Drakenguard series, and I didn’t have much interest when NieR: Automata was first announced. I did, however, end up a little bit curious and decided to check out the lore surrounding the games, and fell in love with the dark and grim stories featuring heroes you’re unsure about rooting for. When I finally got my hands on NieR: Automata, I was pleased to find a story that drove me forward, characters I was truly invested in, and a wonderful soundtrack (composed by Keiichi Okabe) that left me standing in place, lost in the music.
Without getting into story elements (it’s best explored on your own), the gameplay is something that could be talked about at length. Platinum has done a fantastic job with the gameplay by blending in facets from multiple genres into one fleshed-out package. You see some ‘shmup’, action-packed hack-and-slash, and even some side-scrolling platforming sections.
Also Voted for NieR: Automata: SleeperWolf, MrJ0TD
SG Game of the Year – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came in first place by a landslide of votes; a position well-deserved by the level of effort seen in the world design, gameplay mechanics, artistic design, and overall level of polish expected from first-party Nintendo titles in one of their flagship series.
Matt Ferguson wrote:
[Second Place Nomination] I feel like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was a Top 3 pick for me partially for different reasons than a lot of other people. First off, it is another example of a game which has evolved from pseudo open-world map styles — varying in execution from game to game — into what may be considered one of the most free-roaming games of all time. I’m not only referring to the size and environmental detail of the world or your ability to tackle the entire game as you please — both which are exceptionally welcome features, albeit not completely new in the Zelda franchise — but the movement/climbing system that Nintendo utilized which turned the entire world into your personal jungle gym. If there is one lesson I hope that developers take from BoTW‘s success, it’s how to craft an engaging and accessible world.
While I could go on for pages about the combination of nostalgia, excitement, and wonder I felt playing BoTW, one of the largest contributing factors to my enjoyment of the game was that I played the entirety of it with my wife, passing the controller back and forth. We’ve always enjoyed Zelda together, and tackling Hyrule as awakened Link was an experience we’ll never forget; it was like going on vacation with your best friend to somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. I delighted in being able to guide her through the Lost Woods, gleefully whistling along remembering my very first treks into the woods in the 1986 original, and then again in Ocarina of Time. My wife on the other hand was enthralled with the joyful colour and engaging nature of the game, losing herself for hours just wandering the Gerudo desert or climbing mountains to get every Shrine and Korok seed.
At the end of the day, it was the combination of everything that we had grown up loving about Zelda juxtaposed against everything we had always wanted from a Zelda game, which gave this game the impact that it had on us. Even after sinking well over 150 hours into the game between my wife and I there is still much more that we can do in Hyrule, and there are not many games out there of this format that can offer the same enticement that’s found within BotW. With the addition of Hero Mode and the Trials, Nintendo has also shown that they are willing to support the game through a variety of content to keep players engaged. You can read more on my thoughts on the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in my official review.
[Second Place Nomination] I wasn’t directly on top of the Nintendo Switch when it was announced and released, but I was beyond excited when I got my hands on one and procured a copy of Breath of the Wild along with it. Let me be frank when I say that I was never impressed any Legend of Zelda game and could never get into the somewhat linear gameplay or long and arduous temples. However, this game blew all of that aside and instantly presented an open world where long-term objectives were merely a suggestion. The moment that I saw the size of the map I went all around the world uncovering it as much of it as I could. I loved the differences in scenery as I traveled, how every upgrade was unlocked from the start, and how every obstacle felt possible at any stage at the game, but if you died, it was your fault and you knew it. Such a great deviation from the norm, and a game I will be coming back to many times.
Sheldon Goodridge wrote:
[First Place Nomination] Sitting in the #1 position for me, there’s nothing I can say about this game that hasn’t been said elsewhere before. I felt like this was an excellent entry to the Nintendo Switch, having its release timed nicely with the console’s. It’s nice to see Nintendo continuing to deliver quality games such as this one; it’s smooth, visuals are on-point, and the perfect level of discovery within the world they’ve created is something that surely everyone’s been looking for.
Also Voted for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Josh Crete, NightLightKnight, NerdHouse, Atreyeu, Dork In The Road
On a more personal note, we want to sincerely thank everyone who has embarked on this journey with us in 2017. We have an extremely talented and dedicated team of Contributors who put a lot of work into producing well-researched content, and a community of Streamers who are some of the most engaging and entertaining people we’ve had the pleasure of surrounding ourselves with.
In addition to this, every single one of you who has taken the time to follow up on our daily articles or dropped by weekly to show your support, have helped to make this experience the amazing journey it’s been so far. Our content on its own is nothing without a fantastic community of people to engage with it, and you’ve all provided us with that in 2017. So from the bottom of all of our hearts here at Scholarly Gamers, we just wanted to thank you for helping us make our dreams a reality, and we look forward to new horizons in 2018!