Laura’s favourite game of 2017 so far is… Breath of the Wild

I really don’t enjoy open world adventures. I like them in theory, I love the concept of a world with no arbitrary boundaries in place where I can go on some grand adventure, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a real desire to do anything but sprint through the main quest in one before playing Breath of the Wild.

Breath of the Wild showed me why people love open world games, and had me hooked. I’ve played 250 hours so far and still have two DLC packs I intend to play later in the year.

Maybe it’s the focus on experimentation, survival and exploration, maybe it’s the sidequests filled with heart and passion, maybe it’s just being able to purchase a house on the outskirts of town to hang my cool swords in and stable my horse at. Maybe it’s the use of photographs of the world as plot markers that required me to really understand areas I previously sprinted past in a new light. There’s just something about Breath of the Wild that had me hooked.

Honestly, the thing about Breath of the Wild that probably sticks with me most months after is release is the consistency of its ruleset and how it bucks expected video game conventions by use of an unchanging physics toolset. A flaming sword will keep you warm in the snow because it’s on fire and it makes sense it would be warm. Motion controlled “ball through the maze” puzzles can be flipped upside down to make use of a flat surface rather than a maze. Standing on a rock and setting off a bomb below it can fire you long distances. There are countless ways to circumvent expected puzzle solutions by thinking about the realities of the game world, and that was such a breath of fresh air that I can’t stop thinking about this game months later.

Honourable Mention: Horizon Zero Dawn

Joe’s favourite game of 2017 so far is…  Sniper Elite 4

Thanks to other commitments, I’ve sadly missed a lot of the bigger releases of this year. I haven’t touched Horizon: Zero Dawn or Resident Evil 7, for starters, and then of course there are the Mass Effect: Andromedas, Nier: Automatas, Breath of the Wilds and Persona 5s of the world all demanding intimidating amounts of time.

Because of that, the best game I’ve played so far this year has to be Sniper Elite 4. It took a series I love, identified what the best bits of it were, and really focused in on perfecting them. The maps are bigger, the kills are bloodier, the story almost makes sense, and the multiplayer is phenomenal.

Instead of reinventing the wheel as Sniper Elite V2 and 3 did, 4 is a much more incremental improvement. It takes the massive scale of 3 and makes it even larger, and then stuffs in the detailed world designs of V2 for good measure. The Italian towns and landscapes look gorgeous, even under Nazi occupation, and watching fascist entrails decorate the piazzas and villas will never get old.

Sniper Elite 4 is a fantastic, meaty shooter and a gripping stealth game rolled into one tight campaign. It’s taken the series a while to go from guilty pleasure to brilliant achievement, but Rebellion finally got there with this newest entry.

Honourable Mention: Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Vikki’s favourite game of 2017 so far is… Little Nightmares

The similarities to Inside (and, by association, Limbo) are plentiful thanks to Little Nightmare’s highly-stylised animations, dark story-telling, and the wait-what-the-fuck-just-happened-ness conclusions. But if you’re thinking this is merely the next same-old in a long line of quirky but predictable indie-esque horrors, think again: there’s something special about Little Nightmares.

It’s hard to keep spoiler-free when you write about games for a living, but somehow, I managed to step into Little Nightmares with its story and secrets unblemished. And from the moment the game begins – the camera panning out, my character nothing but a yellow splash in an otherwise bleak landscape of shadows – I was smitten.

It’s rare I’m taken aback by character design (I am, after all, the Queen of Silent Hill, the home of the Abstract Daddy and Silent Hill 4’s Twin victims). I streamed this with the LPVG community, and as we moved further into the story, working together as we wandered further into that bizarre world, I couldn’t help but admire the set-pieces, and the soft, subtle environmental clues. But while the sets are stunning, it’s the creature design of Little Nightmares that truly takes my breath away. There’s more than a faint whiff of Pan’s Labyrinth about the souls we encounter, coupled with a childlike, Disney-esque exaggeration. But there’s also a pathos, too; you’ll get the lingering sense that their lives aren’t a whole lot better than ours, to be honest.

It’s not perfect (as my upcoming review will attest), but in terms of storytelling, atmosphere, and a gentle swell of fear that stops you in your tracks even when you know what’s going to happen, Little Nightmares stands head and shoulders above its peers. As horror games go, Resident Evil 7 came close (my God, the opening third of that game is triumphant), but it terms of true innovation, beautiful, atmospheric design, and a truly terrible tale, Little Nightmares gets my vote.

Honourable Mention: Resident Evil 7

So that’s the votes from the LPVG team. What’s been your favourite game of 2017 so far?

Short. Sweary. Sarky. Streamer. Spartan. Story-driven games make me happiest. Spectacularly bad at shooters, but loves them. Screams a lot playing horror games, but loves those, too.