Quinten Hoffman is the creator and host extraordinaire of the Break in Reality website.
Hello. I am Quinten Hoffman of Break in Reality. I run the Break in Reality podcasts, and website. I often describe myself as someone who is willing to listen when no one else does. I am not one of the IP editors/writers you are going to see during this time of the year. The funny thing is, I made my IP debut doing this very same thing. It is interesting coming back a year later writing up this list, especially after that conversation allowed for me to expand my brand, Break in Reality, even more. It set me down a path which allowed for me to understand how I want to approach my goals. It told me that nothing is impossible, and if you put your mind to something, it will happen. Irrational Passions took a chance on me, and I benefited from it. The other big takeaway from that conversation, is that Alex O’Neill is wrong about Mass Effect 1, and he refuses to believe that it is the best in the series. This was a big moment in my life, and when Logan Wilkinson asked me to do it again. I jumped at the opportunity, excited to talk about why the games of 2017 are special.
Number Ten – Horizon: Zero Dawn
Guerilla knows how to make a video game, and this is prevalent with Horizon. The game is special, and it knows this. From the moment you boot up the game and learn the main character’s background of being an outcast Horizon soars. Aloy being an outcast provides a very unique perspective on the world. A key moment that highlights her world, is being looked down upon at a trial makes her want to get better. The story of this fallen world, and how it presents this is very interesting. Each zone is full of different people with a unique set of beliefs and cultures. This allows for each culture to have a different outlook on the world. I enjoyed every minute of the game, but one thing really bothered me. Aloy would talk down to people, which is interesting because you figure it would be the opposite due to her status. Her manner of speaking is kind of demoralizing. Between this and my PlayStation 4 corrupting all of my save data for every game I owned, meaning I am unable to beat the game. This is why the game is low on my ranking, the inability to finish the game and manner of the protagonist bothers me.
Number 9 – Steamworld Dig 2
The Steamworld universe is one that I adore, it’s full of mystery and intrigue. My first game in this universe was Steamworld Dig. I was curious about trying it out, because digging in games is something I don’t often enjoy. My first impressions upon booting the game up, were of intrigue. It set up this fascinating world with a simple objective. Dig to the bottom. Now this may sound trivial, but this feeds into my curiosity. The objective was so simple, but the gameplay loop of getting materials to trade in to get better gear was fun. Now, when I reached the bottom fulfilling the objective, the game satisfied my curiosity. This is something I adored about Steamworld Dig. The game doesn’t tell you what the endgame is, but keeps you on with the simple objective.
Now, Steamworld Dig 2 is one of the best surprises of 2017. It picks up right after the first game ends moreorless. The story revolves around you looking for Rusty, the main character of the first game. Instead of having a objective of ‘Dig to the Bottom’, the objective is to trace the steps of Rusty. This sets up for a mystery that plays into that same curiosity of the first game. It also introduces new characters and enemies as you explore these new areas. The core mechanic of digging is still very prevalent, and is the primary way of completing objectives. The story of the game is simply fantastic, it has you going to temples to destroy cults, investigating peculiar humanoids, and going into a virtual world. Steamworld Dig 2 is a game built on the curiosity of the first game, and adds this sense of amazement to the environments. It is a game that took me by surprise when it was announced, and it did the same when I was playing through it.
Number 8 – Prey
Arkane Studios has made my favorite game franchise, Dishonored. So when I heard that they were rebooting Prey, I was intrigued. The more I learned about this game, it would pique my interest. The world is set in a universe when Kennedy survived his attempted assassination, and would partner with Khrushchev to build a space station. Everything about this speaks to me, and I was not disappointed. The way that Prey begins, is easily one of my favorite introductions to a game ever. You wake up from a dream, and go through you typical day-to-day. From there, you go to sleep and find everything’s the same. This sets off some alarms, but it’s not until you are doing some tests that something seems off. This set-up of everything is normal, only to have it disrupted is amazing. The reveal that you are in space, is easily one of the coolest feelings, especially after being in a simulation that placed you on Earth. Prey does a lot right, making you feel weak against the Typhoid. And making you backtrack to areas with different enemies, but the game falls flat near the end. The game is full of fantastic moments, but the final act introduces you to a character who seems out of place. This character is what throws off the game. The moment you go from enjoying environments and taking your time only to rush through the environments is not fun. This is the final act of Prey, but the game is good up until this point. It just sucks because the game does so many interesting things.
Number 7 – Destiny 2
Destiny 1 is a game that I didn’t think I would be very involved in. Little did I know, that I would proceed to spend hundreds of hours in the game. It would become my podcast game, because I cared so little about the score and objectives, I just enjoyed playing the game. When I booted up Destiny 2, I would fall back in love with this world. Also, unbeknownst to me the story and score of the game would actually interest me. Destiny 2 is full of redemption and is a comeback story. The loss of everything that held your world together is scary, and the scattering of your friends who made you who you are, makes you fearful. This is where Destiny 2 stands out, the story has a plot unlike the first game. The mechanics are largely the same, and the game feels similar to the first. Like Steamworld Dig 2, this game builds and expands on it’s foundation instead of doing more of the same. Thus the shift allows for the game to excel where the first game didn’t. A lot of people riff on the story of Destiny 2, but if you were to think that this would be the follow-up game to Destiny 1, you wouldn’t picture this. Destiny 2 is the game that Destiny 1 tried to be, but it expanded on a grand idea and we were given this. Destiny 2 is easily one of the best games of this year.
Number 6 – Super Mario Odyssey
Now, you may be surprised to see this game so low on this list, but Mario has never really done it for me. Which is something that gets lost on people, but Odyssey is a great game. The premise for this game is relatively similar to most Mario games, Peach gets captured by Bowser and you have to save her etc… The introduction of the Capture mechanic via Cappy is kind of interesting but it changes your interactions in the world. My good friend Logan put it best, “Super Mario Odyssey is the conservative option.” This game has fascinating ideas, but it is overshadowed by the sheer amount of collectibles in the game. One of the things that killed 3D platformers was the oversaturation of collectibles, and Odyssey does this sadly. There are so many moons to collect, 880 without buying any of the rest. That number is very excessive, and this is my biggest qualm with this game. Each kingdom has something unique about it, and this is one of the strengths to the game. However each kingdom requires you to possess certain enemies to achieve some goals which allows for you to think differently about the objective at hand. Having to relearn the mechanics of a certain enemy in an area can gets tedious .That being said, Odyssey is a fantastic game. But it falls on its face every once in awhile.
Number 5 – Thimbleweed Park
I adore The X-Files, something about that formula and characters I love. Now, Thimbleweed Park is a game that doesn’t seem up my alley, never having played a point-and-click adventure game before. However, the premise of Thimbleweed Park just stood out to me. Two FBI agents come to a town to investigate a recent murder, and everyone in the town just seems off. A plot that seems ripped right out of an X-Files episode. I adore that show. Now, never having played a point-and-click adventure game before, I was in for something different. Every mechanic required to me to think about the actions being done, and this allowed for me to slow down and think about the game more. The town of Thimbleweed Park has some basic level of mystery, and the characters are suspicious of what is actually going on. Whether it be that the Sheriff, Coroner, and Hotel Manager all act and sound the same is something that tips you off. Whereas the underlying mystery of what actually happened in the factory fire kept me playing. Now, every moment that I would hit a wall of what to do, I would call a tip-line. Yes, the game has a tip-line for people like me who get stuck occasionally. This would prove extremely helpful, because it would require me to use an in-game mechanic to reveal something instead of checking a guide. The only thing that left a bad taste in my mouth was the character Ransom, he is distasteful and it really bothered me playing him. Each character is unique and has their own story to tell until they connect together and it does so elegantly.
Number 4 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WIld
The Legend of Zelda is a franchise full of wonder and amazement, each game is distinct and stands out. The beauty of each game is how it introduces something new and unique mechanically. Breath of the Wild is exactly that, it is something that is radically different from earlier games. The elevator pitch for this game is Zelda meets Skyrim, meaning you can go anywhere without any limitations. This is where this game stands out, making decisions to go anywhere. The beauty of the game is that you are not rewarded for reaching high peaks and low valleys. You simply take in your surroundings instead of finding a collectible like in other games. The sheer minimalism says something about the world, it feels vacant. This plays into the story with Link waking up a century after his defeat against Ganon. The emptiness is something that makes this game stand out, especially when most open world games have you hunting down collectibles for hours. Breath of the Wild makes you take in you surroundings, and this is what makes the game special.
Number 3 – Wolfenstein 2
2017 has left a bad taste in my mouth politically. Wolfenstein 2 is here to tell me that there is a way to rebel against people who have hatred towards others. There is nothing that makes me more riled up than people discriminating against people because they look different or hold different values than you. I said earlier during the year that this game would be my GOTY because of how I felt after the tragic events of Charlottesville, but the game doesn’t do what I thought it would. It tells a fantastic story of revolution, but really doesn’t execute some of the themes presented. It brings up Women’s Rights, particular women of color, anti-semitism, and racial discrimination. The problem with Wolfenstein 2 is that the game doesn’t really execute these topics. It is brought up, but there is no real progression with any of these themes. This hinders the game, and the other thing that hurts the game is how difficult it is early on. The game is simply unbearable, you are given a max of fifty health but are allowed 200 armor. This makes the experience unsavory at times. I had to lower the difficulty because of this. As much as I enjoyed the game, this left a bad taste in my mouth. Games should be challenging, they shouldn’t be unplayable.
Number 2 – What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch is easily one the best experiences and narratives in games. For a lot of people, Gone Home broke down the door by introducing a unique narrative about queer characters. It also brought the “Walking Simulator” to popularity, and games like Firewatch were modeled after this same gameplay. Walking around in an environment to unlock bits and pieces of the story as it unfolds around you. That being said, What Remains of Edith Finch is easily one the most unique ways to tell a story, and it does so by filling you with the wonderful imagination of your elders. The game tells the core of the story in these vignettes, which revolve around you experiencing something that happened to your family members. There is an underlying theme of fear, and at the same time a theme of amazement. These two stark contrasts paint a vivid picture that the Finches live in. Each family member has this vivid imagination, but are also concerned with the “family curse.” These go hand-in-hand with the internal conflicts of the Finches. The game has this beautiful crescendo with one the levels, and one of most notable story beats in a game ever. What Remains of Edith Finch is a masterclass in storytelling, and it has you on edge with each family member that you play as. Each vignette is distinct and memorable, and explores the facets of what a family actually is.
Game of the Year- Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
When Dishonored 2 rolled its credits, part of me was full of sorrow. “This is the end of my favorite gaming franchise.” Dishonored has taken me to places which I call home, and made me care about everyone who exists in this world. The moment when Death of the Outsider was announced, I was full of joy. Another addition to my favorite gaming franchise, and the same thought ran in my mind when I beat the game. The impact that this franchise has had on me is so significant that when the credits rolled, I was really distraught. The way in which the story is approached is very special, you go after the person who has brought this world so much suffering. The Outsider. You play as Billie Lurk, the second in command to Daud, and you gain the most unique powers of any Dishonored game. The game is about redemption, and how cult of personalities are formed. The story of Billie Lurk is about someone who did terrible things, but wants to redeem herself. She has had a recent change of heart, and this makes her more relatable than Corvo and Emily. The cult of personality around the Outsider is a very scary one, in which it makes people violent. However, these people who are acting in this manner are attempting to merge the Void with Karnacca. There is also something to be said about the level design in this game, it does something very unique. You play a level first, only to revisit it after you complete it the first time and everything is swapped. Certain places are closed, and guard patterns are all changed. This twists how you approach the level you just completed. There is something to be said about how this messes with your expectations. The ending of the game made me feel closure, something I haven’t really felt before in a game. I have never seen a story end in the way the Death of The Outsider does. It ends the Dishonored franchise on such a beautiful note, that makes me sad but happy at the same time. Death of the Outsider is an experience that I will never forget. It is one that I will cherish, and is one that means so much to me.