Ok, deal’s the same as last year. I’ll list out a bunch of the stuff I liked this year, with the hope that you might enjoy some of it too, if you missed it.
It’s a list of games, music, movies, tv series, books and other things, so scroll around and see what you like.
It’ll be listed as chronologically as possible inside each category (sidestepping weird edge cases where I started something in March and finished it in August etc.)
(a little notice: I tend to listen to soundtracks of games I also play, which is weird to put either in Music or Games category. The split I’ve made here is I’ve put them together if I experienced them at the same time (in GAMES) but separated if there was a time difference (or if they meant different things)).
Furi Soundtrack – Various Artists [ALBUM]
I listened to this the first time as early as you possibly can in a year: January 1st. I’d maybe listened to a little bit of it before that, but Giant Bomb’s GOTY talks brought this soundtrack up in their music discussion, and then that happened.
And oh, boy, did this end up being a good teaser for what was to come in the rest of the year.
It’s sharp, aggressive cyperpunk synthwave at its best.
Recommended tracks: 6:24 6:24 Danger, Something Memorable by Kn1ght, and EnragedEnraged by Carpenter Brut.
Violent Noise – The XX [SONG]
My personal highlight from The XX’s new album, and a song I found myself sticking into random shuffle playlists or just straight re-listening to more than I’d have thought.
The NieR: Automata Soundtrack – Keiichi Okabe [ALBUM]
Also known as my Thesis Writing Soundtrack. This might’ve been the soundtrack I listened to the most while writing my thesis. A spectacular orchestral soundtrack with otherworldly influences and a fascinating fake language designed specifically for the games. I’m a bit sad I listened to it before playing the game because it did affect my enjoyment of the game, though, even though I can appreciate now afterwards just how well it is integrated within the game as well.
Recommended Tracks: Amusement Park, A Beautiful Song (yeah, it’s literally called that. It actually makes sense when you’ve played the game, too!), and Weight of the World (kinda spoilers, though).
Glitch and The Other Side – LukHash [2 ALBUMS]
Recommended in a Tweet, this aggressive chip-tune wants to wreck something and its great. It’s good powerful production music as well, if you want something with a lot of force behind it.
太鼓 (taiko) – Danger [ALBUM]
If I did Album of the Year, this would probably win it. I discovered Danger on the Furi Soundtrack (hence why it was a great teaser!), and found soon after that he was going to release this album as his first ever in June. And holy god damn crap dog, it’s exactly what I hoped for.
It’s dark, impressive electronica with mixed cyperpunk, Ghost in the
Shell-chants, and synth influences, but with a layer of Japanese
drum-work on top (hence the name taiko, a type of Japanese war drum),
which gives everything a unique, sinister yet rounder sound.
I can lose myself in these songs so easily. It’s almost perfect (barring a slightly weaker second half).
Recommended Tracks: The first four: 1789 Records, 7:17, 11:02, and 11:03 (yes all his tracks are named as numbers). Seriously. Just listen to the start of the album and the way it transitions into the first tracks. If you’re not sold by then, then I can’t help ya.
Re:RED - Kashiwa Daisuke [ALBUM]
Kashiwa Daisuke snuck out an album while I wasn’t looking! What the hell! I was too busy writing my thesis to pay any attention and then suddenly, when I looked, another album was out. Granted, it’s a remix album and not a full new outing from my favourite musician in the world, but still—some neat stuff in there. Generally, a more glitchy album, with some standouts like the orchestral Roar, and Hail storms to show he still got it when it counts. Excited to see he’s still willing to glitch.
The Mirror's Edge Catalyst Soundtrack – Solar Fields [ALBUM]
I was thankful to the first Mirror’s Edge soundtrack that it made me discover Solar Fields, although I was not a huge fan of most of the soundtrack itself (too bass-y), yet I was still excited to hear he would return for the sequel.
I was even more excited when it finally came out (months after the game) to a whopping 4 hour playtime with some absolutely stunning atmospheric, experimental electronica that completely outdoes anything he’s done in my book. Most of the tracks are long, with the standout background tracks all running 10-20 minutes, and they’re all great fluctuations of peaceful running and action-packed beats and it all just fits so well together. This is moodsetting done so, so well, and is one of my favourite soundtracks to put on when working (I also got a lot of thesis writing done with this).
Shelter Live – Porter Robinson & Madeon [LIVE TOUR]
When Porter Robinson released Shelter, the song he made in collaboration with Madeon, I wasn’t terribly excited. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for out of Porter, it missed the grit and the expansive side from Worlds, so I kind of brushed it aside.
And they announced the Shelter tour.
And then it leaked. And I listened to it.
And it was everything I wanted it to be.
If you haven’t seen Worlds Live yet, go do that first. Then watch Shelter Live.
While I still am not as fond of Madeon’s music as Porter’s in general I can only admit that they work really, really well in concert.
Wednesday Campanella [PERSON]
Wednesday Campanella is a… Japanese female… rapper? Singer? Song-person? Uhh…
Wednesday Campanella creates electronic music over which she raps and sings and does whatever she wants to do. She, really, in general, seems like a person who does whatever exactly she wants to.
I discovered her on a random recommendation and suddenly fell into a deep hole of listening to almost all her albums and watching stuff on youtube.
It’s a bit hard to explain. It just gotta get experienced.
Recommended tracks: I heard Shakushain first. But other good entryways would probably be Inca or one of my favourites, Audrey.
A Moment Apart – ODESZA [ALBUM]
I already wrote about this over here so I’m going to leave my words for that. I haven’t listened to this as much as I did those first weeks, yet I still really enjoy this album’s high points.Recommended Tracks: The two first, Intro and A Moment Apart (must be listened to in order!), La Ciudad which is the best, or, if you’re into that kinda thing, the uh, Grammy nominated track Line of Sight—'s alright.
Something in Context, Different Goals Towards Common Goals, and And Better Things will Flourish – Neo Geo [3 ALBUMS]
Neo Geo is probably my favourite discovery this year.
This is a (Danish apparently!) electronic musician on a quest to release one album each fall for seven years. He’s now done 3. I discovered his music before the third was out and fell in love with his unique blend of atmospheric, downtempo piano and lightly glitch-inspired drums, and light touches of electronica.
Seeing his transformation just over the first three albums is already fascinating, as they’ve definitely taken a turn into both a more produced, sometimes a little more loud, sometimes almost Flume-esque synths, yet often keeping his amazing background sense of breath and space.
It’s amazing work music and joyous to listen to. This is perhaps the music I’ve come back to most this year since finding it.
Recommended Tracks: I got into him by hearing Main and that’s a good starting point. If you want something more up-tempo, Flower is astounding, and its direct follow-up Somewhere Between Loudness and Relevance is a wonderful journey. But honestly, just put his whole album series on, they flow wonderfully together.
Journeyman – Amon Tobin [SONG]
I’ve been casually aware of Amon Tobin a while, and known that I’d probably get into his music if I listened to it intently, but it’s often been a little hard for me to devote time to. It’s experimental and glitchy to a fault and often I can’t quite grasp those kinds of tracks if there isn’t at least something there to latch on to.This year, though I found two of his tracks: Lighthouse from the Splinter Cell Chaos Theory soundtrack, and this one, which has gotten a fair share of replays because of its immaculate beat that I often found myself humming in my head.
(This was a great year for games in general and a bit of a wonky one for me, as I spent a lot of time playing older games and some playing a few new games a whole lot.)
XCOM 2 – Firaxis [PC]
I have now started and stopped playing XCOM 3 times—first when I bought it back in fall 2016, but bounced off it quick—got into it in the wrong way and suddenly found it way too difficult. Then I decided to restart back in Winter this year and reshuffled some of my equipment and research and had a much, much better time with it, as I began understanding how to play it better.
Then, I took another break when other stuff started to come out (see below) but eventually, finally, finished it around when the expansion came out and everyone was talking about XCOM again (still haven’t played the expansion, and I’m little exhausted of XCOMming, so I don’t know if I’ll come back to it).
But all in all, I see this as an improvement on the first one in almost every way.
Uncharted 4 – Naughty Dog [PS4]
I got a Playstation 4 this year! That seems relevant! And so I borrowed this to have something to play on it (while waiting for Persona 5, see below).
And this is by far the best Uncharted, no question. What they used to sell in spectacle and adventure, they actually owned up to this time and told a great character-story about adventurers and thieves and obsession. Naughty Dog are also graphical wizards who make literal magic with hardware.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege – Ubisoft [PC]
This game came out in 2015. But looking at the sales numbers, and the amount of talk there’s been about it, you’d think it came out this year.
Launching as a multiplayer, hardcore shooter with little fanfare, this game seemed destined for failure. And yet, Ubisoft, to their credit, stuck with it, and updated it from a buggy, glitchy thing (allegedly, I didn’t play back then) full of hackers to where it is today: A largely stable, super successful competitive game. And today they’ve hit 25 million players and it’s everywhere being talked about as a huge success story in how launch day doesn’t matter anymore.
And I right now, after playing it since March, this is my favourite shooter of all time. I’m still thinking about it. I’m still playing it regularly. I’m still learning new things when I play it and the better I get at it, the more I begin to enjoy its nuances.
I love how it’s a game more about figuring out where your opponents are and tricking them into looking the other way, than it is a game about being the best shot. I love how you play it as much with sound as with visuals. I love how technical and mind-game-y it becomes as soon as everyone involved know just the basics.
I don’t know what else to say. I’ve waited for this game for 7 years.
And then one fateful day, I began playing it (and played it the entire
day, took a break from thesis writing) and with only a single break
finished its 100 hour playtime about a month later.
This game was the only game I played for a month (well, almost, except—…whatever).
I fell in love with Persona because of the Persona 4 Endurance Run on Giant Bomb, and while I had played some Persona 4 Golden on that there Vita, the idea of a brand new Persona experience of which I knew nothing? That sounded damn exciting.
And it is. About everything in the game is improved and better and cooler, and while I do get some of the complaints about the characters in general being less interesting than 4’s, I still highly enjoyed it, and the story hit me pretty darn well.
And then there’s the soundtrack, which, already linked, is a damn masterpiece of a Persona soundtrack, and so goddamn smooth (srsly that guy’s reactions to it is hilarious), and the game is just filled with quality jams of all kinds.
Recommended Tracks: Life Will Change (obviously, the banger), Life Goes On (possibly, the smoothest of them all), and Rivers in the Desert (which I don’t think has the same impact without having played the game tbh… it just fits so well where it is used.)
PLAYERUNKNOWN'S BATTLEGROUNDS – The PUBG Corporation / Bluehole [PC]
I don’t think I have a lot to add to the conversation about this game. A damn phenomenon this has turned into. Already a titan within two months, and it kept growing and kept growing.
Such, elegant, simple rules leading to an always changing, always dynamic set of gameplay situations that make you feel like you’re always in danger at all times.
Horizon: Zero Dawn – Guerrilla Games [PS4]
Who’d have imagined that Guerrilla made a game like this four years ago?
I had a monstrously slow start with this game, and I struggled to get into it over the summer, but I am nevertheless impressed by its core storytelling, and its ability to land a cohesive, well-told sci-fi story with a great main character, even if some of its other points fall a little flat.
It’s a striking game that I ended up liking a lot. And I also wrote a bit about my favourite moment here.
Also, watch the Noclip doc on this one: It’s fascinating.
Divinity Original Sin 2 + Soundtrack – Larian Studios [PC]
The success of the first Original Sin took me by surprise, as Larian’s games had always only struck a chord with a fairly niche audience and never managed to create something that worked so well together.
Coming from that Original Sin 2 seems like the complete opposite: A masterclass of an RPG coming from people who are so comfortable in the genre they play with it in just the right ways and have constructed a truly fascinating set of systems and narratives.
Playing this with friends throughout the latter part of 2017 has been a blast, and we’re probably going to continue long into 2018.
I was sold on the soundtrack for this game the moment I realized you
pick an instrument at the character creation screen and that influences
the instrumentation during the game. I was sold even earlier when I
opened up the game and waited in the main menu for my friends, and heard
the main theme. Then I listened to the whole thing after we’d played
and was continually amazed at the quality of the fantasy music here.
Recommended tracks: Main theme, Ifan’s Theme, Dancing with the SourceDancing with the Source (pick your version, but I’m partial to the Tambura)
NieR: Automata – Platinum Games and Yoko Taro [PC]
Talking about niche hitting mainstream I don’t think you’ll hit the mark more than NieR Automata. I never played the first NieR but heard plenty about its storytelling chops, yet I couldn’t get over the gameplay, which seemed boring and drawn out.
Enter: Platinum. A company practically known for their combat and along with Yoko Taro’s fascinating way of telling stories you got a powerful mix.
This game uses more narrative tricks and tells stories in more ways than I have ever seen anything do. The narrative structure of this game is absolutely mind-bogglingly fascinating. It’s the kind of story that the more you lean into trying to understand it, the more it gives back, and I have kept thinking about it for a long time after playing it. I feel like I missed a lot and I really want to go back and go through all the parts I didn't see.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst – DICE [PC]
I should have played this way, way earlier. I knew I would like it. I loved the first Mirror’s Edge despite most everyone else not really digging it, and I knew that even though this second one didn’t seem do cause huge fanfare that I’d really like it too.
This is some of the best first-person movement in any game I’ve ever played. The act of running in this game is just fun. The act of sliding into a wall-run into a sideways jump into a roll into a leap over a fence into another wall-run is so fun.
It’s a shame these games never fully managed to focus on and never were given a budget the size of a Battlefield because I would love to see what they could do with it then.
Doki Doki Literature Club – Dan Salvato [PC]
Ok. Ok. Let’s see how we deal with this.
Uhm, so, here’s a screenshot of this game:
Ok. So. This game is hard to talk about. It’s… uh, to say it mildly, not what it seems like.
It is presented as a overly cutesy anime visual novel and, uh, well, I won’t say that it… isn’t that.
But uhh, the Steam page’s most voted tag is “Psychological Horror.”
The game itself warns you multiple times when you start it that “This game is not suitable for children or those easily disturbed.”
Those warnings are not to be taken lightly.
Those warnings are not a joke.
This is the scariest game I have played in a long, long time. I mean that. (and no, those warnings are not there because of sex stuff. Please.)
And hey, it’s free. Takes about 4 hours. So what you got to lose? It’s… ooof, this game deals with some stuufff. Just, you know, don’t play it if you’re not ready for it? Ok?
Also, this happened. So maybe that’ll convince you it’s worth a look?
MOVIES AND TV
I was a bit disappointed when I saw Christopher Nolan was working on a World War 2 movie, but I had to watch it still, pretty much because it’s a Nolan movie. I love his style of editing and pacing, and he typically makes stuff worth watching, if nothing else than for the craft of it.
Dunkirk is a fantastically well-made movie that I absolutely appreciated watching and that is intense and astounding and about the horrors of war in a way that feels very deadly. I’m not sure I’ll watch it again, though.
Abstract: Art of Design [NETFLIX DOCUMENTARY SERIES]
Give me any opportunity to just sit and listen to masters of their craft talk about what they do and how they feel about it, and I’ll be there and listen. That’s what this show is. They found a series of designers, each in their own field from Graphic Design to shoes to architecture, and just talk to them as they describe their process, their way of thinking and acting about their work. It’s splendid.
Blade Runner 2049 [MOVIE]
I had never watched the original Blade Runner from start to finish until two days before I watched this one. Yet I did, and liked it, and then watched this one and liked it a whole lot as well.
It’s a powerful movie, with a lot of force and a lot of well done elements, and a good core. I want to see it more times to nail an opinion on it but I left the cinema very impressed.
Mindhunter [NETFLIX SERIES]
Tell me that David Fincher is making a series about serial killers and I’m already interested. Tell me David Fincher is making a series about the 70’s FBI interviewing serial killers, and I’m very interested.
This show nails what it’s going for too, and is really good.
It has these extended interviews with serial killers that are among some of the most intense, fascinating scenes of TV all year, which it’s worth watching for just by themselves.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi [YEAH WHAT DO YOU THINK]
I love how this movie subverted almost every single thing we expected it’d do. Rey, Kylo, Snoke, Leia, etc. all ended up in a different position than I at least expected at the end of this movie, and it sells its message super damn well. It was for sure a different movie than I expected going in but I couldn’t be more pleased with the result.
So, I was pretty surprised to see the polarizing reaction. I think it’s amazing. I’m not gonna enter arguments here but let’s just say that most people’s arguments for disliking it are generally all reasons why I consider it to be good. So let’s just move along, shall we?
Mr Robot Season 3 – Sam Esmail [TV SERIES]
This is the best season of Mr Robot by a landslide. I am so, so impressed with the directions they went with in this season.
This show continues to surprise with its ability to take insane twists and just roll with them in the future episodes. This show goes places I’d never have expected and just owns every single turn like a master.
The cinematography, the soundtrack, the acting, the everything is just so fantastic. And this in this season, pretty much every part of this show is firing on all cylinders.
And Episode 5! Episode 5! Episode 5 is shot entirely in what appears to be a single shot and it is incredibly well executed. One of the most captivating episodes of any TV show I have ever watched.
(I read less books this year :/ want to up that in 2018)
After Atlas - Emma Newman
Apparently the sequel (ish) to Planetfall (which I wrote about last year) came out and I had to read that after the first one. A departure from the first since it’s about what happened on Earth after the people from Planetfall left and is about an entirely different thing—but maintains the damn interesting tone and gripping sense of disturbing reality, this time feeling far closer to home.
The Lady of the Lake – Andzrej Sapkowski
One of the first things I did this year was to finish up Lady of the Lake, and by that concluding all the Witcher books. It took a while to get to it just because I didn’t want it to end, but reading it after playing Blood and Wine, since a large chunk of it happens in the same region, was a lot of fun.
Am sad there is no more Witcher now.
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The HBO series came out and instead I read the book. Made sense to me, at least. It’s very good.
The House of Silk – Anthony Horowitz
I was a little reluctant to read a new Sherlock Holmes story not written by the original author, but I must admit Anthony Horowitz did a great job with this one. Reads like a spectacular crime novel with a good bit of Sherlock mixed in between.
4321 – Paul Auster
And this was also one of the reasons I didn’t get as much reading done this year. This motherwhopping piece of book is basically 4 books in one, spanning a 1000 pages and telling the story of a boy in 4 different ways all at once. Not my usual genre fair, but the writing is stellar and while a bit slow at times there are some moments I’ll take with me for a long while.
Day9 Learns Dota – Day9 and Purge [YOUTUBE SHOW]
Day9 is a really special person. Pretty much whatever he does he is always a joy to watch just based on his exuberant happiness and absolute ability to see the better part of anything.
And Dota 2 is a game that I’ve admired from a distance for a while now but never really been able to get into, partly because I don’t know a ton of people who play it (which is sort of required).
So when Day9 began learning Dota 2 (from Dota master Purge, no less), I was immediately intrigued. I watched most of this series without ever really playing Dota and enjoyed a lot of it. I don’t know why, really. I just love watching Day9 learn things, I think.
Twelve Titans and World Cup – League of Rockets [TOURNAMENTS]
The League of Rockets, who’d previously made a lone 2 Rocket League tutorials and nothing else, came out with a surprise debut Rocket League tournament in January 2017 and then announced a World Cup soon after.
And immediately surprised the world with its stellar production quality and enigmatic personality. And then the World Cup followed in the Summer and it was a cool, different tournament.
Granted, these are not the highest stakes esports tournaments in the world, but there’s something cool about their mysterious personality (we still don’t really know anything about the people/person behind them), and their stellar production and matches.
It was a fun few days in Summer with friends learning that Denmark is really good at Car Football.
Cloth Map – Drew Scanlon [YOUTUBE SHOW]
In the third (Hmm dunno how to count that exactly) departure from Giant Bomb/CBS to start their own thing, Drew Scanlon was perhaps the most surprising.
Following some of Danny O’Dwyer’s footsteps he stepped into his own with Cloth Map, a travelshow with a tint of video games and game culture, and I was intrigued from the moment of its announcement (although I was sad to see him go from Giant Bomb).
It took a while to get going, but as soon as I saw his Exclusion Zone video I was sold. His Brazil coverage which has just recently come out has been excellent, and I have no doubt we’ll see even greater stuff from him in the next year.
You may also know him as the Blinking White Guy. (Yup!)
Beast in the East – Giant Bomb East [YOUTUBE SHOW NOT ON YOUTUBE]
I fell in love with the Yakuza series 2 years ago when I played Yakuza 5. It’s been a difficult series to get into, and it’s got its share of rough edges, but there’s something truly magical in its mix of cool-action-dude yakuza stories and wacky-silly goofs that just works so much better than the sum of its parts.
So, seeing Giant Bomb do the same with the arguably far easier entry Yakuza 0 was awesome. Seeing their slow realization that this game is actually amazing to beginning to enjoy it a lot and see all of its silly sidestories and get its wonderfully convoluted plot.
And, finally, some of the things I did!
I wrote a Master thesis!
I held a Graduation Speech!
I wrote about how video games are hard to talk about!
I saw someone do a Guild Wars 2 Concert.
I wrote about Football, and I shared a game I should have shared ages ago.
I’m also writing a post-mortem for the Ludum Dare 40 game I made, so expect that soon!