contributor ::: Russo Schelling
2016 was a pretty serious year for games. VR showed us a hopeful future, some of the best game studios flexed some publicity muscles and showed us why they’re the best, but then burned us by unfinished video games (I’m looking at you Final Fantasy FFXV, you beautiful mess… oh, and No Man’s Sky.)
Now, I’m a sucker for a story. I can forgive mediocre gameplay for intriguing characters, interesting writing, and great performances. The problem with games right now is that everyone is following the same injected plastic mold: open world, light RPG elements, some form of crafting, and – if you’re lucky – a loot system. I’m not saying these are bad mechanics, but when they show up in every single AAA video game, fatigue definitely sets in fast. The first quarter of 2017 looks to be more of the same, but hopefully new IP’s will bring a fresh take on a tired trick.
Here at altFound we are going to do “listicles” a bit differently. We’re going to give you our top five AAA picks but give you our top five alternative picks, as well. Our alternatives found are not only some of our indie favorites, but picks that will hit you just as hard, without knocking your wallet loose.
We at altFound know that gamers come from all walks of life
…and should be able to enjoy games no matter what situation you’re in, so we’re here to help and perhaps… enlighten. Here are our top five favorite AAA video games, and incredible alternatives to them.
Coming from the greatest studio making video games isn’t even close to an exaggeration. The level of detail, finesse, and polish is unmatched. How they squeeze the power of out of every Sony console this gen and last is remarkable. Not only is it the best looking game on consoles it’s the best looking game period. Nathan’s final outing is his best and most personal. If you haven’t played yet drop everything now, order a pizza, and don’t move for fifteen hours.
Gameplay wise Uncharted and Firewatch have nothing in common but deftly creating a story with devastating hooks and unforgettable characters is where you’ll find the correlation. Trade the cliffside firefights in Uncharted for somber walks in the park talking with your new friend Delilah, squawking on your radio, asking you big questions and it’s your choice to answer. Thing is, her voice has this sweetness that makes you want to tell her the truth. Question is …can you trust her?
Finally, the champion has returned to rip and tear — rrrrRRIP AND TEAR! — errr… sorry — I’ve just never felt more badass in a video game. The break neck speed at which you can break necks, and the frenetic pacing of the large scale arenas are not only callbacks, but some of the best we’ve seen. Top it off with a killer soundtrack this game fucking moves.
Fast paced combat, check. demons and hell things? Check. Shooting said hell things in the face? Check. Take Doom, strip it down to an arcade game, and you’re have Devil Daggers. This game is fucking hard. but the risk/reward is so satisfying that hitting continue is just as tempting as it is quick to load. You’ll find yourself losing hours trying to beat your friends’, and your own, score. This is a Rip and tear at an 8bit level.
I love it when a plan comes together especially when so few video games make their levels feel like a playground. It feels great to be back in Agent 47’s squeaky clean dress shoes with an arsenal, gadgets, disguises, and multiple ways to take out your target. The term sandbox comes to mind but it feels really weird when you use it with another term (well act) murder. The new Hitman reboot embraces what made the franchise so fantastic: it’s lunacy. This game is a spectacular kind of stupid. I’m sure you’ve all seen the gifs going around of whipping fire extinguishers at peoples head and just recently becoming Krampus in a holiday update. Not enough games go this far but it’s willingness to explore those boundaries comes with a suspension of disbelief like no other.
Just like our pick for DOOM we have a similar stripped down version for Hitman. Originally developed for mobile and of the same name Hitman Go manages to be everything a hitman game is just as a beautifully rendered game board. I know you’re probably thinking that it doesn’t translate or shouldn’t — you’d be wrong. Not only is this a fine representation of Hitman it’s available on every platform you can possibly think of especially that thing in your pocket buzzing. Pick that up. It’s your mother. She misses you. After you hang up, download Hitman Go. Your train commute or next DMV visit will be a breeze.
Video games take a long time to make. Especially when you have vision like director Fumito Ueda (Shadow of the Colossus, ICO), a two year development cycle doesn’t fit with your canvas, we waited ten years and we got the game we deserved. Though it isn’t without fault it’s incredibly special. This game will give you vibes of The Iron Giant and Studio Ghibli movies with it’s rendition of the relationship between beast and child. No it’s not an action packed adventure but one that will stick with you well after the credits roll.
One of the greatest looking 2D games ever made (the entire game was digitally hand painted), snappy platforming and tightly designed levels. It’s seriously like playing an old animated classic Disney film and can get just as sad. The mystery and companionship of our heroes will draw you in just like The Last Guardian but you may just end up preferring Ori to Trico.
It feels bad to call The Witcher 3 a triple A title. Sure it looks and plays the part but there’s a labor of love to this self funded masterpiece. Yes, The Witcher 3 came out last year and yes, this is just DLC but calling it that is insulting. Even calling it an expansion is a disservice. This is a separate game and CD Projekt Red continues to be a driving force in storytelling, making real in-game choices, writing, and world building. Blood and Wine continues to the trend masterfully. The modern parallels in this fantasy world are glaring offering commentary on LGBTQ rights and hitting racism head on. In every story in the adventures of Geralt of Rivia we learn that the creatures aren’t always the monsters. Sometimes to see the thing you hate, you have to look in the mirror.
Now, I know an isometric RPG and a “walking simulator” (I take offense to that term) don’t belong together, but bear with me. It’s the one-two punch of both. In Divinity, you have your deep RPG turn based combat with almost never ending lore, and the choices to forge your own path. Virginia is a personal story of choosing who you want to be and what you’re will to sacrifice to be that person. Doesn’t always mean you choose the right thing, and since we don’t live in a perfect world, those choices often take you down a difficult path. Here’s the rarest thing Virginia does; It’s unflinching in it’s humanity. Which I’m sure Geralt of Rivia would agree, he’s seen way too often.