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Welcome to The Escapist Awards 2016

The Escapist Staff | 31 Dec 2016 12:00
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Today, another year draws to a close. 2016 has been many things to many people, but most anyone would tell you that it's been a great year for games. Every year at this time, we set aside a little time to recognize those games that we feel were a cut above the rest in the preceding 12 months. Of course, there can be only one Game of the Year, so we offer up a few categories to let the best games of each be recognized.

These are our choices for The Escapist's 2016 Video Game Awards. Check out our picks, then hop in the forums and tell us what your picks are!

To see which games our editors each loved, check out our Five Favorites from last week for Josh, Ron, Liz, and Steven.

Table of Contents

  • Page 1
    • Best RPG
    • Best Indie
    • Best Shooter, Single Player
  • Page 2
    • Best Shooter, Multiplayer
    • Best Strategy
    • Best Action/Adventure
  • Page 3
    • Best Expansion/DLC
    • Best VR Game
    • Best VR Experience
  • Page 4
    • Best Surprise
    • Worst Surprise


Best RPG Winner

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix. Released on August 23, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Ron says: Announced to great fanfare in August of last year, the newest installment in the Deus Ex series is Mankind Divided. It was advertised with the tagline "mechanical apartheid," which raised some eyebrows, but ended up being a fitting description of the human / aug segregation in the game. Ever since the so-called "Aug incident," those people who are augmented have been both shunned and feared.

Adam Jensen is back, only instead of working as a corporate security guard, he's now part of an Interpol anti-terrorist team. Oh, and he's also working on the side for an anti-Illuminati group, if you can believe that.) He's still a walking sack of augments, and you even discover that you have more installed than you thought, allowing you the pleasure of upgrading yourself all over again in this game.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided offers much of the same things that Human Revolution did. You can choose how you want to advance, be it violently, diplomatically, or stealthily. In fact, the entire game excels at choice. You'll find that characters will see you differently based on what quests you've completed, and how you chose to complete them. You'll also see the effects of your choices echoing through the game. Don't be surprised when you decide to try out a second playthrough, just to see how you can have things turn out differently.

If you're looking for a game that takes on mature themes, while emphasizing the choices you make, you really cannot go wrong with Mankind Divided. It's a must-play for fans of shooters, RPGs, stealth games, and games with great stories. Just go play it already.

Best RPG Runner-Up

Dark Souls 3

Developed by From Software and published by Bandai Namco Entertainment. Released on March 24, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Liz says: Dark Souls III is the most linear Souls title, a fact that left many franchise purists disappointed. But that fact pales in comparison to what the game actually does right - which is nearly everything else. In fact, there are a few ways in which Dark Souls III surpasses the original - not the least of which being more a versatile and extensive range of weapons, spells, character builds, and more. And, despite how linear the game is when compared to its predecessors, each area is teeming with labyrinths of interconnected paths that allow for exploration and discovery.

The game also feels more cohesive that earlier installments while still feeling familiar, with an epic scale, aggressively brutal difficulty, and a generous development of the franchise's existing lore. It's fierce, dignified, grand, and meaningful, with both physical and character progression feeling satisfying and justifiably earned. Exploration is exciting, choices are meaningful, consequences are permanent, and death is frequent - making the taste of completion all the sweeter.


Best Indie Winner

Darkest Dungeon

Developed and Published by Red Hook Studios. Released on January 19, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, and PS Vita.

Ron says: You might be a bit surprised to see Darkest Dungeon here, since it's been on Early Access since February of 2015, but it didn't get its full Steam Release until January of 2016 (the PS4/Vita version followed in September). If you've played or followed the game at all, you know how it works. You've inherited your ancestral estate, beneath which your most recent ancestor has delved so deeply that he's opened a portal to a much darker world. How dark? Well, the fact that this world is narrated by H.P. Lovecraft veteran Wayne June should be enough to give you an idea what to expect.

You're tasked with rooting these creatures out and cleansing the lands of the evil that was awoken. To accomplish this, you'll need to recruit brave heroes to adventure into the dark places where dangers unimaginable await. As they brave the dark dungeons, they'll have to survive monsters, traps, and a number of other hazards. That's bad enough, but they'll also have to deal with the stress that facing such dark things will inevitably cause. You'll need to manage their sanity, and enemy critical hits and special attacks will also add to the unease. If a hero's stress is high enough, their resolve will be tested, and they'll wind up succumbing and receiving a negative trait, or triumphing over the stress with a positive trait. Many times, the outcome of these trials can have a serious effect on the success of the mission.

Many times, your heroes may not return from their adventures. You can recruit new adventurers to take their place, but you'll need to re-equip and re-train them, which is often a costly process. You'll find yourself managing the provisions each party uses, the trailing they receive, and the upgrades to your town, all while trying to keep yourself financially solvent. To make matters worse, Darkest Dungeon auto-saves almost constantly, meaning that pretty much every decision you make and every death you face permanent. You can't re-load and try again - you just have to live with the consequences. That means that deciding how much food an expedition will pack isn't trivial - it, just like every choice, really matters.

Darkest Dungeon excels at giving choices real weight, and making the right ones can be the difference between progressing or foundering. You, and only you,will decide which heroes to take, what provisions and trinkets they will get, and ultimately whether they press on in the face of certain doom. As you make these choices, you'll find that the hardest thing to do is to stop playing.

Best Indie Runner-Up


Developed and published by Superhot Team. Released on February 25, 2016. Available on PC, Xbox One.

Liz says: Superhot is the product of a 7-Day FPS game jam that was so successful, the team turned to Kickstarter in order to raise the funds needed to expand it into a full gaming experience. The entire game was built around a single clever idea - time-manipulation. When you move, everything else moves as a regular-speed bullet hell of moving parts. When you stop, time slows to a crawl, effectively adding a strategic element to the title.

The clever time manipulation is complimented by an environment that is uniform in color, appearing as sterilized as a horror-movie hospital, faceless, glowing red enemies shatter when dead, and the knowledge that the game is one shot to kill or be killed, all weapons have limited ammo, and picking something up to throw it could either guarantee you a win or give your foe the opportunity to move three feet towards you.

The time mechanic also allows for some badass action movie-style moments. You can smack the gun out of one enemy's hand, dodge bullets from three more, freeze as a bullet comes toward you, line your crosshair up with the bullet, and fire a shot to block their bullet with your own. Bad. Ass.


Best Shooter, Single Player Winner


Developed by id Software and published by Bethesda. Released on May 13, 2016. Available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Steven says: When Bethesda said that early review copies of Doom weren't going to be sent out, my expectations for it dropped dramatically. Doom was already remake no-one wanted, especially after the dark, gritty, monster-closet simulator that was Doom 3. When you couple this with the game's lackluster multiplayer beta, interest was at an all time low.

Then, I actually played the game, and wanted to slap the crap out of the Bethesda PR dude who thought it was a good idea to withhold review copies. Doom was everything a Doom fan wanted. You collect a shitload of guns, mow down a shitload of demons, and run through levels as fast as you can without giving a fuck about anything. Bethesda finally got it right, returning us to the ultra-fast paced, power-metal, slaughter-fests that embodied 90s shooters.

Doom isn't perfect. Its multiplayer, to be frank, sucks ass, and the collectibles system feels tacked on, and serves only to slow down gameplay. But that's ok, because Doom does so much right I can forgive the few things it does wrong. If all Doom does is manage inspire the next wave of shooters to copy its style, then I'm perfectly OK with that. I can't wait to see what Bethesda will do with Quake.

Best Shooter, Single Player Runner-Up

Gears of War 4

Developed by The Coalition and published by Microsoft Studios. Released on October 11, 2016. Available on PC and Xbox One.

Steven says: I wasn't expecting much from Gears of War 4. I assumed I was going to chainsaw-gun people in half, hide behind lots of chest-high walls, and listen to the "witty banter" of big burly soldier men. While this is a pretty accurate description of GoW 4, what surprised me was how much fun I had doing it all. Yeah, it's basically the same as every other Gears game before it, but there is just something so immensely satisfying about the Gears of War formula. I actually found myself engrossed in the game's story by the end of it, and being a little disappointed that it was all over.

What also surprised me about Gears of War 4 is how much it sold me on Microsoft's "Play Anywhere" initiative - which allows gamers to purchase a game on either Xbox One or Windows 10 and be able to play it on either platform seamlessly. Gears of War 4 ran so silky smooth on my PC, you would have been mistaken in thinking the Xbox One version was the port. Especially after having a bunch of trouble with other games on my rig (*cough* Dishonored 2 *cough*) it was a very pleasant surprise to not have any issues with Gears of War 4 throughout my entire playthrough.

If every Play Anywhere title is going to have the level of polish that Gears of War 4 had, then it almost justifies having to use Window's shitty UWP app system...

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