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Our favourite PC games of 2016 so far

A bonus bestest best!

We usually do our enormous GAMES OF THE YEAR posting fest at the end of the year (as would seem logical) but because it seems silly to reserve praise for special occasions we're doing a Games Of The Half Year collection to tell you about everything we've loved playing so far. It can double as a summer holiday recommendations list too!

We've listed ours in alphabetical order to prevent genre-based punch-ups in the staff chatroom. We'd also invite you to list any gems we haven't mentioned or might not have played in the comments below.

Just hit the left and right arrow keys to navigate the Games Of The Half Year or click on the arrows next to the images to get started!

American Truck Simulator [official site]

Graham: I love driving to Rotterdam in Euro Truck Simulator 2, but I feel like a working man when I do so. When I play American Truck Simulator, meanwhile, driving in straight lines, bracketed on both sides by desert, watching the sunset, it's romance that I feel. ATS is ultimately the same (deeply satisfying) game as its predecessor but the new setting is beautifully made and taps into every image of Americana you might have absorbed from decades of film and television.

Alec: Bliss, as far as I’m concerned, but I’m fascinated by how many Americans cropped in comments on my review writing about how, to them, much of what ATS depicts is some forlorn hellscape. To me, as some virtual tourist, hauling around the deserts of Nevada and suburbs of California is ultimate escapism. Perhaps a Nevada resident would feel the same about the M25.

Adam: When American Truck Simulator covers an entire continent rather than a single corner, it might be my favourite vehicular game of all time.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: American Truck Simulator

- Adam's favourite trucker YouTuber

Apollo 11 VR [official site]

Alec: My boundless optimism about VR suffered a heavy kicking when the first slew of Vive titles turned out to be eerily reminiscent of the storm of minigame hell that new Wii owners suffered. Moon landing sim Apollo 11 restored some faith, however. More of a ridealong than a game, it was genuinely a thrilling and memorable way to spend an evening. Long-form VR adventuring and exploration is a real future for the hardware - perhaps more so than trad. games, and if new graphics hardware can push up the visual quality stuff like this will be flat-out mesmerising.

Further reading:

- Apollo 11 and the case for longform VR

Californium [official site]

Alice: Realities collide and crumble in the mind of a failing writer with wonderful surreal results. And in the game.

John: I wish it could have been slightly more, especially slightly more complicated, slightly more experimental with its puzzles. And I wish it could have been slightly less, slightly less repetition, slightly less focused on stumbling on hotspots. But I’m delighted that it is, and its presentation is utterly spellbinding.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Californium

Cookie Clicker (v2) [official site]

Pip: I do like a clicker game from time to time, and this one had the added factor of me trying to be somehow better than Alice at it. I like how weird it starts to get and the animations turn weirdly hypnotic, the more you invest.

Alice: Click smarter, Pip, not harder.

Further reading:

- Cookie Clicker: An Alice and Pip chat

Dark Souls III [official site]

Adam: At worst, I reckon this is the second-best Souls game, which probably puts it in the top three games ever made. Maybe top five. That’s not bad.

Alec: While I’ve only spent ten hours with DS3, it turned out to be my gateway drug to a frightening number of hours with first DS1 and then, most of all, Bloodborne, which has cost me far too much sleep in recent weeks. So I don’t know if I adore or hate DS3. All I know is that 99% of other games now pale into nothingness against what From Software create.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Dark Souls III

- The Underground Fight Clubs Of Dark Souls III

- Dark Souls III Boss Guide

- Dark Souls III Fashion Guide

- A Novice Plays Dark Souls III

- Why Dark Souls III Is A Fitting Finale

Darkest Dungeon [official site]

Alice: It may have been in early access for yonks but hey, it only properly launched in January. We've praised it loads before and yep, the grimdark dungeon crawler is still splendid - though perhaps even more grimdark than before. Recruit squads of warriors, lead them into the forbidden places to fight back the darkness in round-based combat, and try to keep them alive oh god no, now they're going mad, and they're… how did you catch the black plague? Please, please stop shouting at your squadmates, they're trying their best and you're stressing them ou- and great, the healer's dropped dead from a heart attack.

Up until heroes die, it is tense and gripping stuff, a calculated crawl trying to eke out just a little advantage over the horrors all around you. Then they die and plllf, oh well, time to start levelling up someone new. Anti-climatic, that. But it's still mostly ace.

Adam: I agree with Alice almost entirely. Darkest Dungeon nails its chosen aesthetic, feeling both genuinely horrid and like a satirical take on itself, and the combat is often a blissful barrage of tactical tension. But the building of parties and of the estate itself makes me feel like I’m pushing a boulder uphill, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Everytime I find myself at the bottom looking up, I’m slightly less inclined to try again.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Darkest Dungeon

- How Darkest Dungeon Drove Me To Despair

Day Of The Tentacle Remastered [official site]

John: My hopes were not high at all. The Monkey Island remakes LucasArts created were strong, but DOTT was my first love, my all-time favourite game. A decreasingly respected Double Fine changing it… I was unsure if it could be worthwhile. Gosh, I was wrong. While there are some scenes that feel sparse by the depixelification process, many look wonderful, and the extraordinary improvements to the original voice recording made me feel genuinely joyful. Laverne without the hiss - what a treat! A chance to replay the best game ever, on modern machines, with either graphics, and incredibly smartly implemented new cursor options (if you want them). Marvellous.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Day Of The Tentacle Remastered

- Have You Played... Day Of The Tentacle?

- Day Of The Tentacle Screenshot Extravaganza

Devil Daggers [official site]

Alice: Ye gods, what a noise! I dream of a day when I have the peace of mind and suppleness of finger to really make a proper crack at Devil Daggers. At times I've felt myself getting there, I've stopped thinking and found I instinctively knew where all the skulls and satans are in this hellish arena, and my survival times would start to climb up second by second. Then something intervenes and I'm gone, busted out the zone to start almost from scratch a few weeks later. I adore this game yet have barely played it.

I don't know what mistakes I've made in my life that mean I'm unable to focus on Devil Daggers, but I regret them.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Devil Daggers

- Have You Played... Devil Daggers?

- One Of The Spectacular Devil Daggers World Record Runs

Digital Bird Playground

Pip: Digital Bird Playground gives players just enough in the way of tools and playspaces that they can easily start playing their own games, building house rules and dipping in and out of play as they flow around the map as birds who can ride little bikes. When I played, frog basketball flowed into bike football which flowed into just seeing how far we could go into the water. It's a small game in terms of the space, but has that lovely imaginative freedom I associate with being a kid in a playground.

Alice: I like Digital Bird Playground so much, I put it in a show. I then spent hours watching tired, hungover people beam and giggle as their digital birds chased each other on bicycles, flung worms over a jungle gym, and explored the pond together. It is all joy and playfulness, capped off with the friendliest bike bell.

Further reading:

- Make Fun With Friends At The Digital Bird Playground

DOOM [official site]

Adam: A bunch of very clever people made an extremely good Doom game in 2016. It’s like the fan-fiction version of PC gaming has become reality. Except Half Life 3 is still never going to happen and your computer is probably overheating RIGHT NOW.

Alec: I… can’t name a more satisfying single-player first-person shooter since… since I don’t even know when. I’m so confused by DOOM. It shouldn’t be this great. So many stars had aligned against it. AND YET. So good, so DOOM.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: DOOM (singleplayer)

- Wot I Think: DOOM (multiplayer)

- DOOM Tips And Tricks For A Smoother Experience

- DOOM's Best SnapMaps

- The RPS Verdict: DOOM

Duskers [official site]

Alec: Oh man, I really must get around to writing about this separately. So many clever things. All the clever things. The use of a keyboard as a keyboard, a critical, precise, fixed means of interaction, of how the sound of fevered clicking is the sound of desperation and of masterful hacker-movie programming. The stark restriction of the senses: hearing nothing, seeing only outlines and the anxious content of the imagination. The unspoken pressure to take a risk, to open a door to a room whose contents you do not know, and realising after doom has fallen that there would have been another way. The investment, the loss, the brooding horror without ever actually doing capital-H Horror.

Adam: This is probably the best game of the year so far that we haven’t written about properly. TO THE WORDMACHINES.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Duskers

Dying Light: The Following [official site]

Adam: A lot of people passed Dying Light by at release, people who would have found its surpisingly slow-paced and thoughtful approach to open world zombie-smashing much more appealing than the grim and rather banal story trailers suggested it might be. It’s a smart game that just so happens to be based around the age-old tradition of hitting dead things in the brain with blunt objects. The Following expansion adds a zippy little buggy and a big semi-rural expanse to pootle about in. Sometimes a monster chases your buggy and then punches it until it falls over.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Dying Light - The Following

- Wot I Think: Dying Light

Enter The Gungeon [official site]

John: I love the internal conflict I experience of loathing overly-difficult games with boss fight difficulty spikes that prevent progress, and my love for near-impossible rogue-lites in which I incessantly die. Not going to explain it, but rather reassure myself that I’m definitely right on both counts, and express my joy at Enter The Gungeon’s madcap frenzy of permadeath glory. It’s daft, ludicrously hard, and infinitely replayable. Goodness knows what later levels look like, but I have a splendid time in the few I’m able to reach.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Enter The Gungeon

- The Wonderful Weapons Of Enter The Gungeon

Everybody's Gone to the Rapture [official site]

Pip: I found myself frustrated with the pace of the game but thinking of it as an interactive radio play – a science fiction from the seventies – really helped me get into the necessary mindset. I also think it's so valuable to see an environment so British being rendered in a game when so many prefer America, or at least American-infused settings.

Adam: I expected to find Rapture frustrating, mostly because of the pace, which Pip has already mentioned. Walking simulators are fine when you’re only expected to dig through a single house but if there’s an entire village and its surroundings to explore? Jogging simulator, plz. Perhaps it’s that I’m precisely the sort of sentimental faith-addled mark that Rapture’s rainclouds are directed toward, but my patience wasn’t tested at all. I loved every minute.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Everybody's Gone To The Rapture

- Adam's Personal Reflections On Everybody's Gone To The Rapture

Fantastic Contraption [official site]

Graham: This is the best thing going in VR right now. That might be faint praise - it's one of the few VR experiences that feels like a complete game - but it's joyful even when you move beyond the initial 'wow' of virtual reality. Based on an old Flash game of the same name, the aim is to build a machine that can carry a ball from its starting position, across obstacles, and into a goal.

A simple, familiar idea, but it's the presentation that makes it a delight. The parts you build with are colourful balloons that can be stretched, dragged, and popped with a pin when you decide you don't want them. These balloons grow on the back of a cat who follows you between levels and purrs when you stroke his face. And the Vive's motion controls make building an intuitive, relaxing process. It's not a 'killer app', as it's a game experience that you can get outside of VR from multiple games already, but it's undoubtedly improved by being in VR.

Adam: I loved this when I played it at GDC. It’s simultaneously mind-blowing, soothing, difficult-as-all-hell and trippy.

Further reading:

- The Seated Version of Fantastic Contraption

- I Am Not Smart Enough For Fantastic Contraption (non VR version)

Firewatch [official site]

John: I cannot see how anything else could be my game of 2016. Dishonored 2, maybe? Not sure. This beautiful, melancholic tale of a man in his 40s, marriage in trouble, hiding in the Wyoming wilderness for a Summer, is like nothing else. Part walking simulator, part adventure, part muse, part romantic comedy, part vista viewer, it is a huge evolutionary step forward from Telltale’s stagnant format, and a moving tale unlike anything else you’ve been told by a video game.

Alec: It stays with me to this day, and I suspect for a long time to come, though that’s more a matter of mood - both aesthetic and, God help me for using this word, spiritual - than it is of story. Catharsis and guilt, freedom and incarceration all at once. It is a beautiful, haunting thing.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Firewatch

- Beautiful Firewatch Screenshots From The Community

- Am I A Good Man? Thoughts On Firewatch

- The Great Outdoors: Firewatch

The Flame In The Flood [official site]

Pip: I didn't like this at first but it gradually became this really lovely manageable space where I would pootle along the river, trying and failing to deal with bears and growing more and more proud of my spruced-up raft. The soundtrack for the rafting sections is particularly lovely.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: The Flame In The Flood

- The Great Outdoors: The Flame In The Flood

Grim Dawn [official site]

Adam: I haven’t played as much of this as I wish I had, but my relatively early impressions are of a game that is going to absorb months of my life. I love ARPGs for their surface simplicty. I can click-click-click away while my mind is occupied with other things. The best of the genre occasionally demand full attention though, whether during character-building or particularly tricky encounters. Grim Dawn seizes full control of my attention often enough but it’s the down-time that I’m enjoying. It’s a solid and grimly attractive companion.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Grim Dawn

Hitman [official site]

Adam: I think I disliked the initial Paris level more strongly than just about anyone in the world - I didn’t hate it, but I found it dull as a piece of architectural and social design. Sapienza is a contender for game of the year all on its own though. I really do think it’s the equal of just about anything in Blood Money. Haven’t even played Marrakesh yet and there are two more to come. If any of them are even close to Sapienza, Hitman done good.

Alec: I admit, I’m not as electrified by Hitman as I was by the far more playful Blood Money, but it’s doing many of the same things writ at so much wider a scale. I really thought it was curtains for this series as we knew it as the drive for action seemed to have taken over, but if anything they’ve doubled down on what historically makes Hitman so very Hitmanny.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Hitman Episode 1 - Paris

- Wot I Think: Hitman Episode 2 - Sapienza

- Wot I Think: Hitman Episode 3 - Marrakesh

- Hitman Elusive Targets Are The Game At Its Best

- Hitman: The Joy Of Cocking Up

- RPS Hitman Beta Chat

It's Spring Again [official site]

Alice: If you've ever wondered where spring comes from, been surprised and terrified by the passing of the seasons, this delightful diorama will help you understand. Do splash out the extra 80p for the Collector's Edition including a recording of a puppet show - it's more than worth it for the winter moment when they put mittens on the Earth's hands.

Further reading:

- Alice Has 100%-ed It's Spring Again

Kathy Rain [official site]

Adam: While I thought it lost its way a little toward the end, Kathy Rain is as good as almost anything Wadjet Eye have released, which is the modern equivalent of putting a point and click game up there with the best of Lucasarts. Kathy herself is an interesting lead character and she’s surrounded by people who often seem like caricatures when first introduced, but reveal complexities that toyed with my sympathies and judgements.

John: I entirely agree with Adam. When reviewing it I was faced with the very tricky situation of not being able to discuss any detail of why I thought it didn’t hold itself together at the end because just touching on it would spoil what I loved so much about it until that point. A surprisingly human game, and perhaps importantly, a point-and-click adventure that understands the genre.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Kathy Rain

The Lab (VR) [official site]

Pip: This is more of a set of minigames or proof-of-concepts but it has that Valve humour and polish and it does a really good job of showcasing some of the fledgeling strengths of VR. I do love the Secret Shop demo because of how it plays with scale and there's also a real richness of colour there. I'm also fond of the box exploding session and the solar system model. But more than that I enjoyed tinkering with the bits and pieces in the lab itself, throwing coffee cups for the dog to fetch, adding new doodles to the whiteboard and just generally faffing about.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: The Lab

- A Matrix Moment With The Vive

- Adam versus The Lab

North [official site]

Alice: Alienation requires a degree of familiarity. North gives you a home in a city and… then what? Navigating work, religion, culture, and bureaucracy are a nightmare. Edges and corners, pictures and movies, feel familiar from our world, but what do they mean in this grim city? How does this society work? What does it value - or what does it expect me to value? Wonderful and unnerving first-person puzzle-o-exploring.

Further reading:

- Alice Tries To Avoid Explaining North

- Free Loaders: It's Grim Up North

Offworld Trading Company [official site]

Adam: Stellaris, Hearts of Iron IV, Civ VI and Total War: Warhammer have all been or will be released this year. Offworld Trading Company is probably going to end up being my favourite strategy game of 2016 though. It’s frighteningly clever.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Offworld Trading Company

- Emerging Markets: The Brilliant Complexity Of Offworld Trading Company

- Interview: Offworld Trading Company

Ori & The Blind Forest: Definitive Edition [Steam page]

Pip:This is on my list to return to. I played the original release but it was long enough ago that my memory is now eliding the time spent on the verge of a tantrum as I tried to complete a particular challenge and is just remembering the way the story tugged on my heartstrings and the way the movement and combat felt so smooth and tight when it was going well. I want to see what's been added!

John: The great news is, all those bits that made me want to throw my PC out of the window and into the eye of a passing dog seem to have been wonderfully tweaked, bosses that previously took me 729 goes now passed in one or two skillful attempts. (Of course, that’s on ‘Normal’ - mad people can still make it infuriatingly difficult with the new difficulty levels.) It’s wonderful that they took a second pass at this completely stunning game, it’s all the more marvellous for it.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Ori And The Blind Forest

- Wot I Think: Ori And The Blind Forest - Definitive Edition

- A Chat About Whether The Emotional Side Of Ori Works

Overland [official site]

Alec: Early days and so few people are able to get hold of a copy as yet, but Finji’s XCOM vs roguelite is already a canny blend of strategy and survival. It puts me in mind of Double Fine’s Massive Chalice, only not boring. You’ll definitely want to go get yourself killed in this once it gets a mass release.

Further reading:

- Overland Is XCOM As Post-Disaster Roadtrip

Overwatch [official site]

Pip: It's such a great, tight, well-designed game. It's really easy to pick up and start playing, although you'll need to work harder to unpick more nuanced or higher level ways of using characters. I really love the sound design too – Blizzard put a lot of work into making it so you can tell characters apart through sounds – even their footfall – and I'm rarely ever confused about who's attacking me and where from. Mei can get in the Arctic ocean, though.

Graham: Blizzard have put in the work, but so far I have not. Despite pumping hours into the game I couldn't tell you the difference between the sound of McCree's cowboy boots and Reinhardt's full plate armour. Importantly though, it doesn't matter. Pressing 'quick play' in Overwatch gives me 20 minutes in a colourful shooter with lots of inventive, interesting classes, without the need for me to devote my entire life to getting good at it. I am comfortable in my incompetence and it feels great.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Overwatch

- RPS Verdict: Overwatch

- Overwatch Character Guide: Abilities And Strategy Tips For Every Hero

- How To Counter Every Hero In Overwatch

- How To Draw And Cosplay Overwatch's Characters

- Overwatch: An Interview with Game Dev Geoff Goodman

- Overwatch's Michael Chu On Lore And Storytelling

- Overwatch: Why We Need 2-Person Play Of The Games

Oxenfree [official site]

Pip: Another sci-fi radio play type game, but with a cute teens-going-drinking-on-an-island theme. It felt like kind of game I'd never played before and had a really good understanding of its own scale so it never sprawled. There's also now a New Game Plus mode which adds some extra dialogue, new endings and remembers your previous choices so if you already played there's reason to go back.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Oxenfree

Pony Island [official site]

John: The less you know the better. Just trust me that this is the game you were wrong to ignore, and play it. You’ll thank me.

Adam: If you’re going to play Pony Island, you’ll need to know precisely what it is, how it develops and why it’s interesting right up until the final moments. The answer is ‘ponies’. Unless it isn’t. In those rare cases, it’s ‘island’ or ‘smaller horse’.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Pony Island

Samorost 3 [official site]

John: I think at this point we can just start assuming that Amanita games are going to be splendid. They’ve yet to miss over an incredible few years of their unique, stripped-down-yet-wonderfully-intricate adventures. Machinarium saw them get deserved big-time attention, Botanicula was completely way to follow it, so it was oddly brave to go for a third part of a series that existed when almost no one knew who they were. And it was well worth it - a large, peculiar and altogether lovely game that exudes beauty.

Adam: I started playing this recently and it looks and sounds delightful. Perhaps my brain isn’t tuned into Amanita’s abstractions though because I’m stuck. I can make many things sing but I don’t know why I am supposed to be clicking them or what I should click next. I really enjoyed an early card game though and would like to see more of that.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Samorost 3

Sorcery! Part 3 [official site]

John: I blitzed through the Sorcery games in the last couple of months, having previously misunderstood what they were offering when I played the first on my phone. And while that first was a superb interpretation of the classic Steve Jackson CYOA, each subsequent game has become bolder and more original. Part 3 deviates entirely from the linear nature of such books, but applies all the same rules to an open playing field of exploration, across two time periods, with hefty consequences applied based on chosen actions (in this and the previous games, if you run your save game through.) It’s so much more than you’re expecting.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Sorcery! Part 3

Stardew Valley [official site]

Adam: Not for me, this one, but my sister has been playing it nonstop and would shout at me if I didn’t make sure it got a spot on the list. For a certain kind of person, the kind who don’t see the repetition of farming as a sort of grind (or don’t mind that it is), Stardew Valley is an astonishingly appealing game. It’s also one of the strongest examples of an indie developer, a solo developer in this case, creating a near-perfect version of a much-loved game that isn’t available on PC. It has enough character of its own, as well as fresh mechanics, to be more than a Harvest Moon rip-off, but it is absolutely the finest Harvest Moon game we could ever have expected to see on PC.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Stardew Valley

- Stardew Valley: Mods Add New Areas

Stellaris [official site]

Adam: While perhaps not the reinvention of either 4X or space grand strategy that I’d hoped for, Stellaris is a bloody good game. And it’s also a mighty foundation for the kind of expansions and patches that Paradox have become accustomed to delivering. It might not be my game of the year for 2016 but don’t bet against it being my game of the year in 2018.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Stellaris

- Twilight Of The Space Gods: Three Tales From Stellaris

- Stellaris: A Great Strategy Game With An Infuriating UI

- Stellaris Mod Adds Kerbal

Stephen's Sausage Roll [official site]

Pip: I'm still relatively early on with Sausage Roll and I haven't been back to it in a while but I love the feeling of making slow progress as the game opens up to me gradually. It's absolutely delightful as well as being hard as nails.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Stephen's Sausage Roll

Stikbold! A Dodgeball Adventure [official site]

Adam: Stikbold’s story mode is a brief but beautiful thing. It’s a dodgeball game with bees, devils, whales and a few other twists, and it controls wonderfully well, smooth and efficient with just the right degree of slapstick.

Subnautica [official site]

Pip: My beloved undersea refuge! I know that the conceit is that you're trying to survive after crashlanding on an ocean planet but this is the happiest and most relaxed I've felt in a game in a very long time. I've just spent hours collecting all of the plants you can harvest to set up a glorious garden near my volcano base and now I'm turning my attention to some of the deeper cave systems, figuring out what they might hold. The game is still in early access and technically not from this year but I think it's utterly beautiful as it is and I don't want it to fall between the cracks when it comes to release dates and GOTY features!

Further reading:

- Subnautica: Views From Under The Sea

- Survival Games Versus Pottering About

SUPERHOT [official site]

Graham: The FPS deconstructed: not run and gun, but run then gun. SUPERHOT is a shooter "where time moves when you do", which gives it the rhythm almost of a turn-based game. It also makes your every action, no matter how minor, into a deliberate and considered act and allows for almost cool sequences of combat that are almost balletic. Hop on the table; hop directly at an enemy and kill them by landing on them; catch their pistol in mid-air as it spills from their hand; turn and fire a bullet at a second enemy; then turn away before it reaches its destination, because cool slowmo people don't need to look to see if they hit anything. And onwards. That it also looks impeccable and that its tiny vignettes are each wrapped in a compelling narrative framework makes SUPERHOT into the best FPS of 2016.

Adam: I adore SUPERHOT but the best FPS of 2016 is DOOM, Graham. Also, can we make a rule that all FPS games have to be written as if you’re shouting them out loud. WOLFENSTEIN. STRAFE. SHADOW WARRIOR. SERIOUS SAM. LOVELY PLANET.

Graham: Tbh DEVIL DAGGERS is probably the best FPS of 2016.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: SUPERHOT

- SUPERHOT Is The FPS Made Cool Again

ARMAGAD (also Tetrageddon Games) [official site]

Alice: It might look like your computer - same crumbs , cat hair wedged between keyboard keys - but no, it has become a Tetrageddon arcade. Launching its own desktop environmet, Tetrageddon fills your eyes and ears and nose and glands you didn't even realise you had with noise and colour and surprise and delight and laffs. I still haven't found a fraction of the secrets hidden in its glitched-out desktop, I don't think. Also, video games. And frogs. Frogs in video games. And frogs with strong opinions on video games.

[Tetrageddon was available free of charge before this but it got a paid release this year with more content - bigger, weirder, and utterly delightful]

Further reading:

- Tetrageddon's Official Paid Release

Tilt Brush [official site]

Alec: Google’s 3D painting/sculpture toy is VR’s finest hour to date. Not quite the Vive’s Wii Sports, as there’s something of a glass ceiling - if you’re not an artist or designer there’s arguably a limit on how much you can do with Tilt Brush. But it is a glorious, revelatory thing: the act of creation from thin air. The closest thing to actual magic I think I’ve ever seen. Whenever my faith in VR flags - as it does often now - I fire this up to remind myself how much promise remains.

Total War: Warhammer [official site]

Adam: Has many of the familiar Total War flaws but does the big battles exceptionally well and the variety in the factions makes starting one more campaign much more exciting. I’m still hammering away with my dwarves at the minute and having a splendid time.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: Total War: Warhammer

- There Is Only War: Playing Total Warhammer As The Chaos Warriors

Virtual Desktop [official site]

Graham: Using Vritual Desktop feels like the future: it lets you use your normal Windows desktop via a virtual reality headset, and enables things like hopping from browsing the internet among the stars to watching a video file in your private home cinema. I used it for a full working day once, excited by its novelty and its potential. Then I spent all evening feeling sick and never went back. It's not there yet - screen resolution is still too low for a lot of text to be comfortably readable - but I'm convinced it will be one day.

Alec: I’m working on an absurd plan to set up my Vive in the garden and use Virtual Desktop so I can work outdoors without being blighted by screenglare. Trouble being I would be blighted by illegibility and discomfort instead. Hmm. Still worth it?

Further reading:

- The First Must-Have VR App: Virtual Desktop

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine [official site]

Adam: I’m cheating here because I haven’t even visited the new areas introduced in Blood and Wine. I haven’t even touched Hearts of Stone yet. Doesn’t matter - The Witcher 3 is wine, not blood. It’s ageing well, is what I mean, rather than scabbing over. One of the best games I’ve ever played.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: The Witcher 3: Blood And Wine

The Witness [official site]

Pip: Another great puzzler where exploration is moderated by your understanding of the puzzles. I really loved how the puzzles themselves drip-fed information, teaching you how to understand them, but I was also really taken with the world itself with its punches of colour and its proliferation of biomes as well as the sheer amount of work which went into understanding how those environmental pieces should work or age or crumble.

John: The island is so beautiful, and when I’m working through a string of puzzles I’ve fathomed it feels like everything I want from a puzzle game. And then I hit another wall of obscurity, another obfuscated instruction, another dead end, and I feel far too much frustration to want to persist. I wish I were better, or it were, or something.

Graham: I played The Witness on my TV via the Steam Link, and the TV feels like the place it belongs. Its beautiful world looks better on a bigger surface, and its puzzles feel more manageable to me when I can lean back on my couch and take my time in such a pleasant place.

Alec: I was convinced I’d be unable to play this, and a couple of early puzzles initially seemed to be total roadblocks, but it turns out The Witness is really a series of doors of revelation, snowballing understanding, gently training my brain to think the way it does. I don’t see the puzzles as obstacles, but as exercise for the neglected logic centres of my mind. The Witness is beautiful too, which effectively offsets the aloofness.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: The Witness

- The Witness And The Joy Of Note-Taking

- The Witness And Its Colour Palettes

- How Does The Witness Teach Without Words?

- The Great Outdoors: The Witness

XCOM 2 [official site]

Adam: I thought this might be my game of the year and was slightly miffed that it had come out so early in the year. I still think it’s great but 2016 will not stop producing the goods. What a fantastic sequel though, building on the best bits of the reboot and adding whole new layers. I love it.

Alice: I had a wonderful time with XCOM 2, gorgeous glitches and all, and hugely look forward to revisiting when it's faded from my memory a little. Or when big exciting new things arrive in expansions, which I suppose means that I should actually look into mods more.

Alec: I was obsessed for weeks, and then… nothing. Which is unexpected, given how many times the original XCOM pulled me back. I think it’s that the metagame stuff, while trying hard to avoid the rigid horror of the first game’s satellite rush, is a strange, bitty grind that feels like an interruption to the game I want to be playing. I love the complexity and flexibility of the combat, though.

Further reading:

- Wot I Think: XCOM 2

- Alec's XCOM 2 Diary (Starring RPS)

- What Even Is XCOM 2 - An Alice And Pip Chat

- The Best XCOM 2 Mods

- XCOM 2's Pretty Final Mission Glitch-o-Rama

- XCOM 2 Soldier Class Tips

- Firaxis' Jake Solomon On What Went Right And Wrong With XCOM 2

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