If someone had told me a year ago today that my two favourite games of 2016 would be a From Software title and a multiplayer-only FPS then I would have slapped them there and then – right in the face.
I’d attempted the original Dark Souls having missed the boat completely on Demons’ Souls a few years before, reaching and defeating the spider-like boss Quelaag before prematurely ending my adventure through….boredom. The semi-basic graphics, the slightly static movement of the characters and the lack of apparent story didn’t appeal to my younger self at all. I’d been pushed into playing Dark Souls through family and friends who obsessed over the series and convinced me that it was totally for me. It wasn’t.
Fast forward to March 2016 and the same reasons are popping up for me to begin an adventure with Bloodborne. The challenge, the gameplay, the weapons, the bosses. This time however there was the inclusion of the Lovecraftian atmosphere and the PS4-powered graphical capabilities so my interest was piquedslightly further. However I entered the World of Yharnam without much expectation other than to shut my brother up.
The aesthetics were much enhanced, the setting a lot darker and atmospheric while the weapons coupled with the more aggressive style of play was much more to my liking. However there was a turning point for me that transformed my opinion of the franchise from ‘meh’ to a-meh-zing (I’m so sorry). This moment came in the form of a vicar resembling an enormous demonic collie.
Vicar Amelia almost broke me, despite my very first attempt almost ending in victory. Dark Souls and Bloodborne bosses are supposed to be hard, but nothing I attempted seemed to work against that poor, possessed woman. Her screams still haunt me, and the incredible orchestral music still resides within me. Eventually I would learn to halt her self-healing and overcome her huge health pool after days of dying, during which I’d contemplated giving up for good multiple times. This was my ‘moment’ that so many FromSoft players speak of. After wiping out Father Gascoigne with relative ease previously, and going on to over-level in preparation for Amelia I was well-equipped to conquer the rest of Bloodborne, as well as its excellent DLC. I now believe Bloodborne to be the best game available solely on PS4.
My mind had changed, my horizons broadened and suddenly I wanted to indulge myself in all things Dark Souls. While everyone was ploughing into Dark Souls III, I was searching for a copy of Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin before delving into the final entry. My appetite was sated despite the downgrade in overall quality, the lack of Miyazaki polish and the seeming obsession with boss fights, but Dark Souls II is still a worthwhile option of spending your free time in a relentlessly difficult world.
Next up however was Dark Souls III. My game of the year in 2016. Despite not matching the glorious heights of Bloodborne, the graphical enhancements, expansive combat and original areas added up to an awesome and fantastical experience. Personally I felt this year of gaming was lacking compared to the years previous but the brightest light for me has come from From.
Not long after I had finished Dark Souls III, a new first-person shooter from Blizzard Entertainment was on the horizon. Overwatch was in the beta stage, so I thought I’d give it a go.
It was ok.
Quite a typical shooter with so many different characters that I couldn’t be bothered to learn the abilities for. I had a couple of games and never returned, knowing that multiplayer FPS games are far from my genre of choice.
Months passed, the game released fully and almost everyone I knew was enjoying it with each other. Branded as Game of the Year as early as August, the recommendations were flooding in again. Without a glorious gaming PC to experience it with all my friends I felt that their efforts weren’t worthwhile. However a free weekend presented itself on Playstation 4, a console owned both by myself and my big brother, and the idea of finally shutting everyone up by actually playing the game again presented itself. With friends to play with and a finely-tuned cast of characters the game was immediately purchased upon the ceasing of the free weekend.
Win, lose or occasionally draw, you are guaranteed to have fun playing Overwatch. You may get annoyed at other team-mates’ decisions at times, or even with your own ineptitude but one thing you will always feel when you eventually turn off the console or PC is that you’ve genuinely enjoyed yourself. From the whimsical maps, multitude of weaponry and myriad of eccentric characters to the vast amount of strategies and team compositions there is certainly something for everyone from Blizzard’s latest powerhouse.
At first the thought of every character equipped with their own abilities and weapons massively put me off. I much prefer a level playing field when playing online. However after actually playing the game properly you come to realise that it is down to you and your team’s choices as to whether the balance of power tips in your favour. Some teams have already won with their choice of characters and therefore composition, it’s just a matter of time. A team without a tank or support, or in some obscene cases neither is destined to lose no matter what. Unfortunately many people still play by themselves and believe themselves to be Rambo, which never works out – but herein lies the importance of friendship. Overwatch is certainly my multiplayer game of choice, which says even more considering a Gears of War title released this year too.
The morale of the story is as the title suggests: broaden your horizons. Whether it’s within the games you play or life in general, just listen to those around you and open your eyes to other people’s beliefs and interests. Whether you take heed or not is up to you but at least you’ll lead a more cheerful life.