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Already, it’s becoming clear that 2017 is shaping up to be the best year ever in gaming. The past few weeks have seen release of some of the highest-rated titles ever, including “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”
With so many stellar releases, it’s easy to overlook some great games. So in a year chock-full of excellent efforts, here are titles to keep on your radar:
“Nioh” — Team Ninja’s latest is a departure from its history of frenetic action titles. This adventure game follows the exploits of William, who travels to Japan to fight demons he’s been chasing.
The game borrows a lot from the “Dark Souls” series when it comes to mechanics and style. “Nioh” is a title that rewards patience and perseverance, as William ventures deep into Japan, exterminating monsters and other bizarre specters. Players will experience a lot of defeats, but those who face the challenges will find the game deeply rewarding.
The big difference between “Nioh” and “Dark Souls” is that the former has a more complex combat system. Players have three different stances when using weapons that influence attack power, defense and speed. There’s also a living weapon that acts as a super meter of sorts, enabling William to call on a guardian spirit to help with a fight.
All of this makes “Nioh” a little more accessible to fans who may have been intimidated by the “Dark Souls” series.
“For Honor” — Ubisoft’s vision of a weapon-based combat game is both grand and unconventional. It pits three factions against each other — the vikings, the samurai and the knights. How do these civilizations, separated by hundreds of years, battle each other? It’s complicated, but it involves a fantasy world where a cataclysm brings the groups together.
Although the story may be a mess, the gameplay is on point. It’s essentially a fighting game in the vein of the cult classic “Bushido Blade.” Players choose one warrior and battle against other players online. There are different rule sets, but the core of the combat focuses on blocking, dodging, attacking and counterattacking.
The learning curve is high, but it can be rewarding. If players are outnumbered, they can run away and get to a better position. Beating rivals demands reading their moves and anticipating what they’ll do next. On top of that, Ubisoft layered in a dynamic meta game where every match online matters, and it helps reshape the maps on which the players compete. That’s a novel idea, and one that gets better the more fans play.
“Halo Wars 2” — Microsoft’s effort to recast the “Halo” franchise as a real-time strategy game was successful enough to warrant a sequel. This time around, Creative Assembly continues the story of the Spirit of Fire and its crew. They awake to find another Forerunner installation called the Ark, and they have to battle a Covenant offshoot called the Banished.
The original was notable for trying to bring the RTS to the console. It’s a notoriously complex genre, and adapting it to the simple controls of a gamepad is difficult. The first game did it well. The sequel refines this concept and further streamlines the gameplay, making it easier to operate on consoles. Hero units play more of a role, while leaders are more distinct, having a specialized set of abilities and powers.
A lot of the new content comes in new modes such as Blitz and Strongholds. These include updated rule sets aimed at spicing up online competition. Blitz relies on a card mechanic to make match play interesting. Players collect energy to activate collectible cards the players assemble. Meanwhile, Strongholds does away with base building entirely and lets players go at it with full armies.