Guest List: Charlene Putney's Top Games of 2017
Charlene Putney is a Dublin, Ireland-based writer who works on Larian Studios's Divinity series. According to her Twitter bio, she's hanging around at Fort Joy (as it happens, some of us on the editorial staff are still kicking around there too, and we're surprised we haven't run into her yet). Feel free to give her a follow on Twitter at @alphachar.
2017 has been an odd year for me—a year in which I played a lot less games than I usually do. Why? Because a very, very large portion of my time was spent working on getting Divinity: Original Sin 2 ready for launch in September. We did it! And damn does it feel good to see so many people playing and enjoying it now. But though I spent lots of time making games, I spent less hours playing games this year than probably any other of my life.
So, what did I fill my few precious gaming hours with?
IN THE HAND
In the absolute depths of crunch in the summer months, I couldn’t even read a book on my commute to work. My brain was humming with Divinity story from the (early) moment I woke to the (late) moment I went to sleep. So, I needed a small relaxation for my long bus ride. Into that space peeked Dots & Co—a fairly addictive puzzle game with soothing colours and cute effects. I made it to level 126 before I’d had enough of it, and would highly recommend it to anxious, stressed people who need a game that’s a bit of a break from their own brains.
Just a few weeks ago, the sequel to the wonderful Reigns came out—Reigns: Her Majesty. Written by Leigh Alexander, it’s even better than the first game. It’s a marvellous and sly game of power-balancing, filled with humour, heart, and grit. With the lifetimes of your reigning queens lasting barely a few minutes apiece, there is a space and time for this game in anyone’s life, no matter how busy!
ON THE SCREEN
I enjoyed the rich writing and intriguing world of the PC RPG Torment: Tides of Numenera earlier in the year. This was the only RPG I played this year, and I’m really missing dialogue-heavy gameplay now that so many months have passed, so I hope 2018 brings us a rich crop of RPGs to devour—all my 2018 excitement is currently geared towards No Truce with the Furies by Studio Zaum and Copper Dreams by the incredible husband-and-wife team of Whalenought Studios.
Spooky Doorway Studio—my friends and fellow members of the Irish game development community—made a wonderful point-and-click PC adventure called Darkside Detective that really captures the feeling of playing point-and-click back in the early '90s. Also, with each episode only lasting ~30 minutes, it’s perfect for people like me: i.e. people who love games, but are in their 30s and busy as fuck.
Another friend—Theresa Duringer—made a great iPad port of one of my favourite card games: Race for the Galaxy. After spending almost an entire 10-hour flight playing it…I ended up tap-tap-tapping away at it again while waiting for my baggage, so I think it’s safe to say I liked it a whole hell of a lot.
At home, I enjoyed some manic sessions of Overcooked, the frantic local multiplayer game that has everyone screaming at each other (a mark of extreme success in my book).
A few games that didn’t come out this year, but that I played more than plenty of hours of are: Stardew Valley on PC (don’t ask me how many hours I’ve spent by now), Ascension on iPad (really really don’t ask me how many hours aieeeeeee!) and the Ice Cream Headaches expansion for Guild of Dungeoneering (designed by my very own husband Owen Harris).
ON THE TABLE
Spending all day at a screen meant that often in the evenings I would be much more interested in the social moments that only party, board, and card games can give. The one I recommend the most—that I played with both Larian friends and my family—is Monikers, the perfect party game. Every time I play it, I’m reminded how amazing humans are at pattern recognition and creating personal languages and in-jokes. If there’s anyone you still need to buy a present for this holiday season—Monikers is my top pick!
I enjoyed Deep Sea Adventure with friends at home and travelling in Thailand—the box is the size of a pack of cigarettes, so you can bring it anywhere you want. The Arkham Horror Card Game is tons of fun for a recovering Netrunner addict. I’ve only started playing Pandemic Legacy Season Two, but I’m loving it already—the first season was 100% the best board-game experience of my life.
But the pinnacle of my gaming year had to be playing The Quiet Year with candles, red wine, fine food, and good friends. Creating a world together, filling it with people and telling the stories of their lives together was a magical and special experience, completely unique. Find the right people to play it with and create memories that will last forever.
IN THE WILD
Another moment of feeling the power of games to build connection was out in the fields of Dublin with my Game Design students, leading them through a 40-person LARP called Amnesia. Watching them scream at each other, stalk around suspiciously and build in-game factions was extremely rewarding as an educator, and fascinating as a game connoisseur!
IN THE NEAR FUTURE
Over the upcoming Christmas holidays, you might think I would try to rectify my pitiful spread of gaming from this year, but there’s only one other 2017 game I intend to play: Gorogoa. After that, I want to finish the DLC for Dark Souls 3 (my favourite “big game” of the past few years) and finish our game of Pandemic Legacy Season Two without dying of anxiety. We’ll see how that goes!