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Pixelkin’s Game of the Year 2016

Posted by | Feature, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One | No Comments

Rather than settle on one game of the year, here at Pixelkin we feel like every one of our writers brings a unique perspective. Therefore our most prominent contributors have made their game of the year selections. Our hope is that these recommendations give you an idea of the great games of the year in all of our eyes.

Nicole’s Pick

Event[0]

I’ve been playing games my whole life and have been writing about them for more than 10 years. While there are many games that are great at what they do, it’s a rare occasion that I see something completely new. Event[0] is one of those games. Though the story isn’t that different from other AI gone wrong games like Portal, the gameplay is not only intriguing, it’s a lot of fun. Rather than listening to the  AI spout information to you, in Event[0] you have the chance to interact with that AI, whose name is Kaizen.

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You use terminals throughout the environment to converse with the Kaizen. Very little direction is given in regard to what you should ask or say, so the conversations end up being unique to each player. And besides that, they can be very amusing. This is impressive given that even modern RPGs that are focused on choice only have a few canned responses. In Event [0] those responses are nearly limitless.

Kaizen is arguably one of the main characters, if not the main character in the game. Heck, he’s one of the most interesting characters in any game. You can’t proceed without his help and many times you’ll have to be nice to him to get him to help you. Kaizen is a witty and somewhat moody character. Many times I tried multiple approaches to see what he would say and it was endlessly entertaining.

Lots of games that are trying something new with their gameplay end up falling into a hole where the game falters in other aspects in order to accommodate that gameplay. Event[0] keeps an entertaining story and other types of gameplay intact while adding in something new. This game hasn’t received the kind of attention that it deserves. It’s unique, amusing and fun. That’s the reason why it’s my favorite game of the year.

Eric’s Pick

Stardew Valley

My game of the year came as a complete surprise. I knew I’d love Overwatch, XCOM 2, and Civilization VI. I’d never given much thought to sim farm games like Harvest Moon, but I ended up sinking over 70 hours into this charming, pixelated adventure.

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Stardew Valley plays like a love letter to 90s JRPGs, localized entirely within a single town. There’s so much to do in and around Pelican Town it’s often overwhelming, especially since the game takes place in a strict day/night cycle with real seasons. Explore the mines to defeat monsters and find treasure. Socialize with townsfolk to earn rewards, and maybe even a spouse. Fish, explore, trade, and participate in seasonal events. Each day brings a wealth of important tasks and new possibilities.

Stardew Valley is so much more than a farm sim, yet the farming portion is also immensely satisfying. There’s a wonderful balance between scrapping enough money to buy just a few seeds, to eventually turning your land into a well-oiled brewery or animal farm that makes more money than you know what to do with. It’s a great experience with a catchy soundtrack, surprisingly poignant writing, and some of the best pixel art I’ve seen. Stardew Valley deserves all the praise and accolades for being this year’s big indie success, and my favorite game of the year.

Stephen’s Pick

Overwatch

The time has come to bid farewell to one heck of a bad year. 2016 wasn’t very good for much, but we did get some amazing video games. Nicole, our fearless leader, asked me a few weeks ago to think long and hard about what my personal game of the year should be. I had a lot of options, because I played a lot of very cool video games. But, at the end of it all there is only one game that stands out as “the best” and that is Overwatch.

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Overwatch is a brilliantly designed game that is possessed of a level of polish that is rarely seen in games today. Every minute detail in that glorious game is treated with care. You can feel the energy that went into development just like you can feel the excitement in a match rise naturally as it reaches its crescendo.

It isn’t just the details that make the difference though. Overwatch has managed to prove that an online multiplayer shooter with no single player campaign to speak of can be successful. And it achieved this goal by having an amazing set of characters that are well balanced against each other and all but forcing players to learn to play all of them in order to excel at the game. In most multiplayer games players are expected to select a “main.” This is the character you focus all of your effort into learning. With Overwatch the game forces you to learn all of them the same way you would learn the nuances of different weapons in other shooters. This would be bothersome if it weren’t for the fact that all of the characters in this game just so freaking COOL!

Speaking of characters – The world is a scary place and there are a lot of people who are more scared by people who are different from them. Overwatch doesn’t do that. It celebrates a cast of characters that celebrate diversity more than just about any game to have come before. If you have doubts, then look at the character select screen and take a look at all the different nationalities, body types, and genders represented. Its impressive, but what makes it better is that nothing feels forced. All of the characters are complete and well rounded. No one is the “token” anything. This is a great feeling when it feels like the celebration of diversity is being squelched elsewhere.

These are just a few of the reasons that Overwatch is a must play game. No excuses people. Go grab it and enjoy!

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Final Fantasy XV Review

Posted by | PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
We played on Xbox One

Final Fantasy XV is a game about a long road trip taken with friends. It all starts in the most idyllic way possible. It sputters. It comes to a full stop at points. There are arguments. There are plenty of outright fights. But, it all concludes in an almost surreal way. The funny thing about it is that I can’t imagine a better analogy for my experience playing the game.

I’ve started, stopped, and restarted this review a dozen times over in the last few days because I was (and still am) having difficulty putting my feelings into words. I have been anxiously waiting for this game almost as long as I have had children. My love for the Final Fantasy franchise is well documented so this is a tough one. But, I am a professional (sort of) so here it goes.

Final Fantasy XV is by no means perfect. There is no way that a game in development for as long as it was could be. But, it is a remarkable game that stands alongside its peers. Very few people will mark this as the high point of the series, but that’s ok. XV was never meant to be the best. It was meant to be a reminder to fans (lapsed and otherwise) what Final Fantasy is all about: transformation.

Story

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Final Fantasy XV follows the adventure of Prince Noctis and his three best friends as they travel, via a sick ride called the Regalia, to his arranged marriage to the Oracle Lunafreya. This is as straightforward of a premise as you can imagine, but things don’t stay so simple very long.

(This isn’t much of a spoiler because it happens very quickly.) Noctis’s home kingdom of Lucis comes under attack very quickly and succumbs to the might of their neighbor Nifflehiem. Everything from that point forward funnels our heroes toward an epic conflict.

I won’t lie to you. The story takes some wacky turns, but I found myself legitimately interested in what was going on and what was going to happen next with every twist.

It is impossible to talk about the story without addressing the main characters. Noctis is joined on his journey by his three best friends (Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto). Their friendship is a focal point of everything that happens. You see how it impacts each of them and you see the stress that it puts on their friendships. The real key is that this is a group of men who truly care about each other. There is none of the obnoxious testosterone-fueled bravado that we find in other games. The fact that I was able to see men on screen that were genuine and honest with each other and their feelings was refreshing.

Gameplay

The biggest difference from previous games in the series that people will notice, aside from aesthetics, is that XV is an action RPG. They have stripped away the turned based combat from previous games and replaced it with a fast-paced battle system that requires you to warp around the battlefield and switch between a variety of weapons to help build combos on your enemies. The description I gave may make it sound chaotic, but it doesn’t take much time at all before you are racing around the battlefield like a crazy person

One theme that XV manages to reinforce through gameplay mechanics is how small and personal this journey is for Noctis and company in spite of how epic their quest is. The biggest expression of this theme comes in the idea that the game is broken down into days. You are all but forced to rest at campsites throughout the world each night. While resting you are able to bank the exp that you earned during the day and you can even have Ignis combine ingredients you found in the field to make stat buffing food items. The fact is that these adventurers on a world spanning quest to save all mankind

The Rating

Final Fantasy XV is rated T for teen. The bulk of that T rating comes from the combat. Realistic characters are participating in action-packed combat against all manner of robots and fantastic beasts. The rest of the T rating comes from some mild language.

At the end of the day, FFXV is not a game for children. It earns its T rating and parents should be confident in that.

The Take Away

Final Fantasy XV won’t go down in history as one of the best games in the series. But, it is an excellent game that is worth playing. Final Fantasy fans, especially lapsed ones, should absolutely play this game. Everyone else? This should be on your radar if you like stylish action RPGs.

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BATMAN: The Telltale Series – Episode 5: City of Light Review

Posted by | PC, PlayStation 4, Reviews, Xbox One | No Comments

Available On: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, mobile
We Played On: PC

The Final Episode of BATMAN: The Telltale Series had a lot riding on it. It needed to tie up loose ends, provide a satisfying conclusion to the series arc, and still be an exciting chapter all on its own. Luckily, City of Light did all of this and more.

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Overwatch Presents Holiday-Themed Webcomic with a Big Reveal

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Tracer is queer!

Now that I have your attention, Blizzard Entertainment has, rather sweetly, confirmed that Overwatch’s most popular character and face of the game is queer through a new webcomic.

The comic, titled “Reflections,” tells the story of Tracer racing home during the holidays using her chronal powers. Through good deeds and a bit of luck she ends up with a gift for her special someone, who happens to be a woman named Emily, and the two share a tender kiss.

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Naturally the internet is losing its mind.

Blizzard’s hero shooter Overwatch is one of the most popular games of the year. The fandom has exploded thanks to Blizzard’s colorful and diverse cast of international heroes and villains. The stories and setting surrounding the multiplayer shooter have been teased through short videos and webcomics.

“Reflections” is written by Michael Chu and drawn by Miki Montillo. It’s the tenth webcomic they’ve done, which typically focus on expanding one hero’s backstory.

A bonus treat is the penultimate panel, which shows a montage of scenes of other Overwatch characters celebrating the holidays in their own ways.

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It’s worth nothing that Tracer’s sexuality has zero bearing on the game itself. This isn’t a BioWare RPG love-fest, it’s a multiplayer shooter. The revelation is being treated just as you expect in an increasingly divisive world: disgust, annoyance, support, and love.

No, a video game character’s sexuality shouldn’t warrant its own headline. But reading through comments (which I don’t recommend) you’ll quickly realize why this is a big deal. Gaming in particular often comes under fire for under-representing anything that isn’t the default straight white male. Overwatch has one of the most compelling character designs in years, with a wide range of body types and ethnicities. It’s natural that they would include a range of genders and sexualities.

Blizzard’s Michael Chu has previously confirmed that “they are definitely LGBT heroes” in Overwatch. That’s heroes, meaning multiple. “It’s very important for us to have diversity and inclusiveness of all types, and that includes LGBT characters.”

Here’s an official statement that Blizzard sent Kotaku:

As in real life, having variety in our characters and their identities and backgrounds helps create a richer and deeper overall fictional universe. From the beginning, we’ve wanted the universe of Overwatch to feel welcoming and inclusive, and to reflect the diversity of our players around the world. As with any aspect of our characters’ backgrounds, their sexuality is just one part of what makes our heroes who they are. From the very beginning of our work on Tracer’s story, it just felt right to make this an aspect of her character.

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Recent Studies Say Violent Video Games Are Actually Beneficial

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Video games, especially violent shooters are often disparaged by everyone from politicians to parents. But in recent years the pendulum of public opinion has begun to swing the other way thanks to numerous scientific studies. Not only do violent games not create burgeoning serial killers, they can be healthy tools that improve motor and social skills. Read More