Best PC games of 2017

21 of 26

Opus Magnum

Brendan: Ah, the sweet ego-boosting hit of the Zachlike. There are plenty of puzzlers that make you feel clever for solving a fiddly problem. But this free-form alchemy engine is something special. You shift elemental marbles around with mechanical grabbers, bonding molecules together to create potions or hair gel or invisible thread. At one point, you are asked to create viagra (secret: it’s mostly salt).

Zachtronics games have a reputation for being difficult – the pastime of programmers and engineers. In many cases, that’s justly deserved. But here the machining is mostly straightforward. Later levels can take a lot of thought but there’s always a way to muddle through with trial and error, to hack together some brute of a contraption with more moving parts than should be necessary. In the end, you stand back from your wobbly, imperfect solution and think two things. First: This is very smart. Second: This could be smarter.

Matt: The best thing about Opus Magnum is that every solution is yours. Nobody else has combined pistons, tracks and calcifiers to make a stain-remover that’s gloriously wonky in the exact same way as mine. Other puzzle games might have multiple solutions that trick you into feeling like you’re being creative, but at the end of the day you’re still following in the footsteps of a designer that’s laid those paths out for you. Opus Magnum gives you some tools, tells you what it wants you to make and leaves you to it. There’s no better way to feel like a genius, and unlike other Zachtronics that I’ve bounced off, this one’s accessible enough that I can get in on that too.

Graham: I’ve never got into any previous Zachlike, finding them fiddly or simply unappealing. I was convinced to try Opus Magnum because, after each solved puzzle, it has a menu button that lets you output a GIF of your solution. This is the most clever thing about the game. Its puzzles have aesthetic qualities beyond their success or failure as solutions, and the game recognises this by making them easily shareable. So when lots of my friends started playing the game, I started seeing lots of satisfying loops showing swinging arms and pumping tubes constructing unusual shapes. They were hypnotising. I had no idea what these clockwork contraptions were doing, but I didn’t care: I wanted in.

To the game’s credit, getting into it is as easy as those GIFs are pretty. The tutorial breaks down the concepts swiftly and the puzzles are framed by a story that’s simple and sweeps you along. Even the game’s options screen has some story dialogue to click through. I am not good at the game, but I could still muddle through most of its puzzles with inefficient designs, and when I decided to get better I did so by picking one of the earliest puzzles and playing it over and over again to improve my rating. I spent around six hours re-playing a single puzzle, entirely content.

37 Comments

  1. dangermouse76 says:

    Merry Christmas all or none or some. Sipping Bunnahabhain ( responsibly ) bouncing my 3 week old girl Erin on my knee and about to start the lamb shoulder braised in white wine and garlic.

    It’s been a good year. Here’s to many more.

    Also CD projekt if you want to make an open world RPG of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, I wont complain about that.

    Much love
    Dangermouse.

    • ottovius says:

      Oh, the very notion of this makes me light-headed. Please, please, please…

  2. TΛPETRVE says:

    Prey made my GOTY, too. It’s a flawed game, nowhere particularly outstanding on its own, and yet it scratched an itch that had been bugging me for almost 20 years: It was a true successor to System Shock, a heritage that the BioShock series never lived up to (and Prey even had the great bolshy yarblockos to subtly call Irrational’s franchise out on some of its more glaring issues).

  3. digital_sneeze says:

    I really wish I liked Prey as much as some. Such great level design, visuals and decent narrative, along with some interesting mechanics let down by some of the least fun and most frustrating combat I’ve ever played.

    Still though, Nier, Divinity Sin 2, OneShot and Night In The Woods are on here and that’s what’s important. Still need to finish up Numenera too but I wish it didn’t get lost up its own backside so much. Maybe I just need to accept it’s not going to get close to P:T.

    • digital_sneeze says:

      Also, a special call out to the Ringed City DLC from Dark Souls, for the Slave Knight Gael boss fight for ending the series on the most fun battle in the franchise.

    • gtdp says:

      Totally agree with you about Prey, wonderful exploration and world-building totally let down by frustrating combat against endlessly-respawning enemies. Every time I’ve tried to go back to it, I have a really fun twenty minutes or so before finding that I need to waste more precious (non-respawning) resources on killing yet another mimic that’s popped up in the same place for the tenth time. It completely kills my desire to explore this fantastically built world and it’s a real shame.

      • digital_sneeze says:

        Yeah exactly, there was a major pacing issue for me as a result, I just wanted to get through it. Ah well.

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        I normally agree about respawning enemies, but in Prey once I realized that it’s triggered entirely by progress in the main story (except for Nightmares, which have a predictable timer, and except for a certain end-game thing that everyone hates), it no longer put a damper on my exploration and actually encouraged me to make changes to the environment to prepare for new spawns that I knew were coming. Setting traps, posting turrets, blocking off paths, gooing ladders to sniper positions and clearing mimickable debris took up a lot of my time in Prey, usually with satisfying results.

        Combat also got more fun with the Combat Focus skill. Bullet time is always woth using.

  4. LionsPhil says:

    Merritudinous Chrimulations, gamefolk.

  5. Pulstar says:

    Wolfen 2 was quite forgettable, nowhere near a worthy sequel to the first.

  6. Addie says:

    Just because I’m a number-puzzles type: 80 points total, less 8 on uncounted games, leaves 72 points on 24 games – exactly 3 each. For Edith and DC to be the only ones to tie in first place, they must have scored at least 5 (many ties on 2,3,4) and at most 16 (every other game tied on 2). So whoever really loved Edith enough to give it a majority will have had to give it between 3 and 9 points. In any case, all of the games from 3rd place onwards will have had to have been really close, and mostly draws. Which seems fair, because it’s been a great year for games and it’ll be all difficult decisions to decide what’s best.

    Merry xmas and happy new year everyone. Don’t drink anything I wouldn’t.

    • Addie says:

      Actually, two games can draw on two, and the rest but Edith and DC could have 3, so Edith and DC could win with 4 if it was a really close race.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    (For those confused at the above post and this one: RPS has added an explanation of their methodology to slide 26 . It took me a little while to figure this out.)

    Thanks for the explanation! That certainly explains some of the oddball picks (I am going to go ahead and guess that Katherine put a decent number of points on The Nonary Games), and also explains how you kept Assassin’s Creed: Origins out of the calendar, which in any other year would have featured on account of being a good-enough game that was played by multiple staff, as opposed to a truly great game played by one person. So I’m gonna say this is a pretty great system :)

    I’d also like to say that I’d have been sole victor of the competition had Edith Finch been selected instead of Dead Cells, but I’m happy to share the victory (and I get to continue to enjoy being the only person to ever correctly guess RPS’ GOTY (Rocket League in 2015) which just goes to show how unpredictable you folk are.

    So under this system: what happens if, say, 40 games got 2 points each? Was your method for tiebreaking/kicking games off just in-group discussion? Or did people self-adjust by reassigning points to prevent such shenanigans?

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      “So under this system: what happens if, say, 40 games got 2 points each? Was your method for tiebreaking/kicking games off just in-group discussion? Or did people self-adjust by reassigning points to prevent such shenanigans?”

      We’d have dealt with this should it have come up, but re-assigning points did lead to a certain amount of useful self-adjustment, And from previous years, yes, we’ve broken ties just by talking over it. It’s helpful that we’re not making an ordered list, aside from the one winner!

  8. cpt_freakout says:

    I enjoyed the reveals and the final list quite a lot, particularly because of the surprises. I have a lot to catch up to in the coming year!

  9. Premium User Badge

    Frog says:

    Merry Christmas all :)
    I picked up and had fun finishing The Norwood Suite, oddly fun bit there.
    West of Loathing, Nuamera and Edith Finch are taking up my time now. All good stuff, thanks RPS.

  10. DeepSleeper says:

    Hey RPS folk: For some reason the “Supporter” tag is showing under my name on the sidebar and I seem to have access to supporter articles.
    I didn’t give you anything and don’t deserve this. Just a heads-up.

    • Premium User Badge

      calcifer says:

      Some (but not all) of the supporter articles become public after a little while. Those are the ones you can see.

  11. unraveler says:

    No Okami? :(

  12. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    Hidden Folks didn’t even get one point! :(

  13. icarussc says:

    Yay, WotC! It was cool! But somewhere along the line, I got so sucked into the numbers that I stopped loving my soldiers. That was sad. We’ll give it another go and see if we can do better. The only other thing on this list that I’ve played was Numenera, which was very interesting and different. But I find I don’t remember much of it.

    My best games of 2017 were Witcher 3 and its DLCs, plus MGSV and *its* DLCs. I quite enjoyed the latter (though, goodness, Quiet was the Most Gratuitous Person of 2017), but I was honestly blown away by Witcher 3. It’s the first (and only) CPDR game I’ve played, and it was so incredible. Ironically, unlike MGSV, I felt like the fanservice elements were totally avoidable. But I digress.

  14. Renato84 says:

    No AC Origins, really? It’s the game I’m playing now, been a bliss since the very beginning. It’s definitely up there with other excellent ones I’ve played like Prey, NiER Automata and Edith Finch. It can’t not be in your “25 best of 2017”!

  15. andycheese says:

    No love for Warhammer2 Total War? My strategy GOTY for certain… I’d have thought it might at least warrant an early spot on the calendar, especially given the largely positive coverage you guys have given it across the year.

  16. RaymondQSmuckles says:

    Good Lord, I have almost 600 games in my Steam library, over 100 on GOG, plus assorted Origin and Uplay. And somehow I’ve only bought and played Bayonetta on this list.

  17. aoanla says:

    As usual, these lists mostly make me sad that I don’t have the time/energy to have played more than one of the games on this list this year (it was XCOM2:WotC, btw, and I haven’t even finished one campaign of it yet – the only other game I actually played for any significant amount of time this year was Heat Signature…).

    I guess I should buy Opus Magnum now, then…

  18. upupup says:

    Not my type of list. Games such as Tacoma, Getting Over It and Numenera are by no means bad, but they pale in comparison to the stellar achievements that are Rain World, Darkwood and Hollow Knight. Then there’s ports of a classic like Okami and the excellent Nioh, the adventuring goodness of Thimbleweed Park and Cuphead’s ample style.

    This was such a strong year so a number of okay-but-not-great titles sneaking in is weird, though I agree that Rakuen is quite good. That game had a lot of heart.

    • poliovaccine says:

      Totally agree, including your specifics. Darkwood is fucking unforgettable, Rain World is a work of art, Hollow Knight is just all the fun. Like you say, the picks werent at all bad, but I, too, feel like there were worthier games out there. I’ve played Getting Over It, and I do think Darkwood could have taken its place…

    • Turkey says:

      I’m listening to the Giant Bomb deliberations and it’s heartbreaking how often Hollow Knight is brought up only to get dismissed.

  19. alms says:

    For anybody looking for more reasons to get upset :P I’ve collected all of RPS’s picks since 2007 in this post:

    link to forum.rockpapershotgun.com

    • poliovaccine says:

      Ohhh if I wanna get upset I dont need all that..! All I need is to go back and revisit the RPS review of Fallout New Vegas! That one damn near cost this whole site credibility in my eyes! They have John Walker and Brendan Caldwell to thank for my loyalty!

      Exclamation!

      • Premium User Badge

        Aerothorn says:

        In defense of Quinns’ review – while Obsidian does the absolute best they can with New Vegas, making an interesting world, great characters, very difficult narrative decisions – they’re still doing it atop an incredibly ropey Bethesda engine and systems design that is flawed at best and broken at worst. Insofar as New Vegas has problems it really isn’t their fault (they couldn’t change engines, rebuild the combat engine from scratch, or any of that) and I throughly enjoyed the game, but if someone didn’t like it because it shared all the mechanical problems of Fallout 3, I really couldn’t blame them.

        • left1000 says:

          not only that but bethseda was actually in charge of hiring and supervising beta testers during the final quality assurance push for new vegas. So not only was obsidian hampered by the engine, but bethseda was responsible for making sure new vegas was as buggy or less buggy than fallout3, and bethseda dropped the ball on this issue. As a result of these bugs obsidian lost their bonus, which would’ve accounted for almost 100% of the profit they made on the deal. In my mind, this colored bethseda’s supervision of a rushed quality assurance phase before going gold.

  20. left1000 says:

    I do not like having to click 25 times to read a short list. Sites that force you to do this are usually much more scummy than RPS. In the past the final page of these on RPS was a table of contents list. I love those summary pages. I read the summary, then I see some interesting games on it. Then I go back and read page’s 3 8 and 15, skipping the extra 20 clicks I don’t want to invest.

  21. Renato84 says:

    AC Origins is my GOTY so far (still haven’t finished, I’m in Alexandria, at level 12). Prey, NiER, Edith Finch, F1 2017 may all have been masterpieces, but AC Origins was the one that jaw dropped me the most.