First-person shooters, survival-horror games, RPGs, adventure games, and real-time tactical strategy games; these are all genres that PC has used throughout its existence to solidify itself as one of gaming’s most popular platforms. If you love to play on PC, this was a good year, as 2017 offered mastercraft executions of every genre mentioned above. Each yielded an ambitious spirit, pushing forward its respective genre with fresh ideas and mechanics, while also expanding upon what has come before. In no particular order, here are our picks for the best PC games of 2017.
Total War: Warhammer II
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Total War: Warhammer II is one of the most well-crafted strategy games in PC gaming history. With the second installment, developer The Creative Assembly has expanded the mechanics of the first, while still retaining its sandbox structure. At the same time, the game better utilizes its narrative, tapping into the decades of lore that the Warhammer franchise now consists of.
This sequel adds a sense of dynamism and urgency to a series where many players feel safe slowly creeping across the campaign map, knowing that even if their front line falls, their home cities are stoic and safe. In addition, the scale and enormity of its combat is unparalleled, especially in the Mortal Empires campaign, which combines everything from the first game with everything you see in Total War: Warhammer II. Battles are not long, arduous, drawn-out affairs, nor do they end too quickly for you to appreciate the size and force of what you’re seeing.
The addition of the Vortex campaign and a wider variety of quests far exceed the experience of the original. The game also expands the formula with numerous spells and new marching monsters and units, and the resulting concoction is a strategy game that both Warhammer and Total War fans are guaranteed to love.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
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Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice leverages the strengths of video games as a medium and delivers an experience that is unlike anything else released this year. It’s a bold game that explores mental health–specifically psychosis–through the lens of a character-action game wrapped in Norse mythology. The game tackles an important and often misunderstood illness, and allows you to better understand it through visual and aural presentation.
Developer Ninja Theory has a long history of developing action games that are fast and fluid in movement while also being mechanically deep and complex, but for Hellblade, the developer scaled this back somewhat. Playing Hellblade can feel rough and sluggish, but this feeds into the mind-state of its main character, Senua. Returning from self-imposed exile, the young Pict warrior grapples with her inner-demons as she attempts to save the soul of her lover, Dillon.
The act of fighting against demonic apparitions feels like a struggle, as Senua summons every ounce of energy in her body just to keep moving forward, one step at a time. And all the while voices in her head pull her in different directions, some guiding her, while others undermine and belittle her. The result is an experience that feels raw, unsettling, as well as frustrating and disempowering. It can be difficult to play but, ultimately, it’s also a unique and enlightening experience.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
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Resident Evil 7 marks a return to form for Capcom, which reconnected with its survival-horror roots to deliver a Resident Evil that is both modern and faithful to the series’ legacy.
The game casts aside the third-person perspective for first-person, and in doing so, ratchets up the nerve-wracking tension throughout the campaign. Crucially, however, it leans on the genre pillars that it both established and popularised; bullets and healing items are in short supply, and enemies require strategy and a steady hand to take down.
From the early moments of breathlessly running around the Baker home, hoping and praying not to cross paths with Jack, the psychotic patriarch of the family, to the nail-biting cat-and-mouse game in Marguerite’s bug-infested cabin, and the intense fight for survival at the end, Resident Evil 7 is edge-of-your-seat gaming at its finest.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus never lets you forget who you’re fighting, and why. Nazi brutality is on full display, from the blown-out, irradiated remains of Manhattan to each of the characters, who all carry mental scars if not physical ones. The far-future technology of the Nazi regime is exhilarating to partake in–high-powered laser weapons are exciting to use, after all–but it’s also a grotesque display of their ruthless subjugation of all corners of the world.
That said, a tongue-in-cheek tone reminiscent of Inglourious Basterds strikes the right balance with the game’s incredibly heavy subject matter. The New Colossus has a completely bonkers storyline, and it’s elevated by satisfying Nazi-killing action and a self-awareness of its own dark humor. It also manages to make combat exciting without becoming a power fantasy–it’s straight-up difficult, and its mechanical, heavily armored enemies can seem impossible to take down at times. But regardless of whether you take a stealthy or guns-blazing approach, you’ll be rewarded with a thrilling fight once you do emerge victorious.
The most memorable thing about The New Colossus, though, is its direction. Carefully choreographed cutscenes give more gravity to an already great cast of characters, and the timing of specific moments (all spoilers) makes them all the more impactful. Wolfenstein’s tense gameplay elevates this further by giving you the power to truly resist–and come out of each battle ready for another fight.
Divinity: Original Sin II
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Divinity: Original Sin II snuck up on a lot of people, with buzz before it’s release just simmering under the surface of the gaming community. It wasn’t long after the game released that this wonderful RPG was on everyone’s lips. Fascinating stories of how parties and individuals alike were solving problems and conquering dungeons, secrets and tidbits and little “did you knows” were passed between wannabe adventurers like excited children in class.
The game’s story is compelling and involved, but it always encourages you to make it your own with a multitude of opportunities to experiment and choose your own path. Quests can be completed without blindly following objectives, murders can be solved by eating flesh, traps can be thwarted by talking with dogs, and quest givers can be spoken to by communicating with their ghosts. It’s the stuff CRPG lovers adore, dialed up to 11.
By far the biggest attraction of Divinity: Original Sin II is the incredible amount of freedom you get, but it helps that the game is built upon a foundation of expertly designed mechanics. Being able to build up your character’s abilities and equip them with numerous weapons continually fuels the desire to experiment and customize your party.
Divinity: Original Sin II is a massive accomplishment. It embodies everything that fans have come to adore about CRPGs, accommodating any and all inclinations you have to craft your own adventure. If there’s any game you should play on PC this year (or in the years to come) it’s Divinity: Original Sin II.
GameSpot will be unveiling its picks for the best games of the year throughout all of December. Check out our Best of 2017 hub for even more.