The Good Stuff that Happened in 2016: Bear’s List

Look, no one is going to argue that 2016 didn’t suck. But some great stuff happened this year, too!  In the last few days of 2016, The Debate Team is going to do their darnedest to remind you that 2016 wasn’t a complete loss.

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World of Warcraft: Legion

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It’s not really a secret to anyone who knows me that I am a huge fan of World of Warcraft. Trey got me hooked on it in 2004 and I’ve played it ever since. It has been a constant in my life for twelve years and has changed as much as I have, yet it is still the game that I love. The newest expansion, Legion, released on August 30th and it has me just as hooked as ever.Legion made a lot of welcome changes to WoW’s endgame, namely in the form of Mythic+ dungeons and World Quests. As someone who played through the content drought that was Warlords of Draenor, these are features that I wish had been in the game years ago. It’s nice to log in at any random time and feel like I have things to do that help with character progression. Trey and I have spent a few evenings getting our faces kicked in by Mythic+ dungeons, and it’s wonderful to have small-group content that we don’t just breeze through.

Take these changes and the announcements that they’re doing fewer expansions with more large-scale patches, as well as keeping the player’s aware of the release timeline, and I can honestly say that I’ve never been more excited for the game.

David S. Pumpkins

“What’s my name?”

Only the lovable Tom Hanks could pull off such a bizarre sketch that shouldn’t have been that funny otherwise. Sure, the suit was eye-catching and the music was an earworm, but Hanks brought something to the character that was immediately likable. Just like the couple in the elevator, we wanted to know exactly who he was and how he was going to scare the hell out of them.

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Warcraft

Yeah, big surprise that the guy who loves World of Warcraft really liked a film that was generally hated by American audiences. As a fan of Warcraft, seeing some of my favorite locations and events on film was a dream-come-true. For a brief moment, the wonder I felt the first time I laid eyes on Stormwind and the dwarven city of Ironforge was rekindled. The Orcs were also wonderfully recreated with some of the most impressive CGI ever.

Thankfully, the film did gangbusters in China, so there may be a second film in the future. For a summer action flick it hit all the right buttons, but Warcraft had pacing issues, and likely didn’t explain enough to those who were unfamiliar with the source material. The general audiences were also fairly confused with Paula Patton’s character, as her performance and mostly un-Orcish appearance seemed out of place. Still, it was one of my favorite films of the year.

Star Wars EVERYTHING

I’m not necessarily saying that I love everything Star Wars, but it’s been a good year if you’re a fan. We came into 2016 riding high on the success of The Force Awakens, and Disney has attempted to keep that momentum all year long. The Rebels series has been amazing, as has the current numerous comic series from Marvel. A slew of upcoming Star Wars games were teased at E3, and Battlefront jumped on the VR bandwagon with some sweet space battle missions.

Oh, and a Star Wars park was announced for Disney World.

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Oh, and Donald Glover was cast as young Lando Calrissian for the upcoming Han Solo standalone film.

We’re topping all of this off with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a film that is already being hailed as one of the best Star Wars films ever made by the lucky few who have already watched it. Rogue One is going to test the IP’s blockbuster potential outside of the traditional episodic films and, if successful, lead to an even greater expanded Star Wars universe.

Pokemon Sun and Moon

I’ve been playing the Pokemon series since the first generation, and while changes and additions have come and gone over the years, few entries have shaken up the formula like Sun and Moon. Using Hawaii for the inspiration of the Alola region, players no longer battle their way through 8 gyms in order to have a chance at the championship, instead, players undergo Trials, which range from simply battling to hunting down Pokemon or taking pictures. Coupled with the best storyline ever featured in a Pokemon game, rideable Pokemon, Z-moves, and new battle variants, Sun and Moon are easily Pokemon at its finest.

Overwatch
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Born from the ashes of Blizzard Entertainment’s canceled Titan, Overwatch took the gaming world by storm. Actually, it also took Tumblr by storm and developed an incredibly weird following. It also had a bunch of adult videos made with the game’s assets which Blizzard wasn’t very happy about.

You could easily mistake Overwatch for a newer, shinier Team Fortress 2, but the game is far more than that. It is a reasonable balanced, fast-paced arena shooter with an incredibly diverse and interesting cast. No two characters play exactly alike, and their personalities and aesthetics are just as different. Overwatch became an eSports staple before it even officially released, and Blizzard wants to create a professional eSports league centered around the game.

Overwatch’s potential is seemingly limitless, as its vast appeal makes it a prime candidate for everything from action figures to television and film. Seriously, expect to see Overwatch keep getting bigger.

Stardew Valley

One.

One man created this game. Eric Barone created it because he wanted to teach himself how to program. After a few years of work, he released the game to the public. What the world got was a game that harkened back to the glory days of Harvest Moon, a franchise that has frankly lost sight of what made it so endearing to begin with. Yet Stardew Valley is more than Harvest Moon–Barone took everything that was great about Harvest Moon and carefully added to it.

As if that weren’t enough, Barone continued to work on the game after release, taking criticism and suggestions and turning his game into something special. If you haven’t played it yet, you absolutely need to. It’s a small enough game that even my old Surface Pro 1 can run it without any problems. Stardew Valley is proof that you don’t need to be a AAA studio–or even more than just one person with the right idea–to make something great.

No Man’s Sky flounders and (hopefully) teaches the game industry and consumers a lesson

I’m prefacing this with saying that No Man’s Sky’s failures are not inherently positive. I wanted the game to be everything Hello Games told us it would be.However, Hello Games showed the world exactly what not to do with a new game when they released No Man’s Sky.

After a couple of years of constant hype from both Sony and Hello Games’ Sean Murray, No Man’s Sky released as a shell of the game they had promised players. We’ve actually discussed this at length in the podcast, so I won’t go into detail here. Long story-short: The game was missing a lot of features at launch and the PC version was riddled with bugs. Tons of players utilized Steam’s new-ish refund program to send a message to Hello Games.

While the game’s shortcomings were a major disappointment, the united front against the developer and their pusher/pimp, Sony, showed that gamers were pretty tired of being lied to. It’s still too soon to tell if it will have a lasting effect, but it feels like–at least to me–developers have become a little more upfront with gamers in its wake.

Here’s hoping it will last.

**Also, it should be noted that Hello Games is attempting to make No Man’s Sky a better game by releasing free content updates that add actual value to the game. I really do hope they manage to eventually deliver the game they promised.

Hideo Kojima finally out from under Konami’s lecherous thumb

I won’t spend a lot of time on this one, mostly because explaining this entire, ludacris saga is an entire series of in-depth, long-form blog posts that I don’t have time to write. The short version is that Konami decided to throw their prize-winning pony in a closet and attempted to scrub his name from the projects he worked on. They even had the gall to keep him from accepting an award for the video game he created.

Kojima finally broke free, though, and immediately went to work on a new game, Death Stranding. He also finally got his award, because F*** Konami.

The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine expansion

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Oh, how I could sing the praises of The Witcher 3, but it came out last year. However, the Blood and Wine expansion did come out in 2016, so I can talk about that briefly.

The Witcher 3 was already a huge game with top quality content, but CD Projekt Red’s second W3 expansion added a lot of content. The expansion with literally the size of the second Witcher game and had well over 20 hours of primary content. It also introduced a new area of the world that was incredibly beautiful and different from the previous areas. Best of all, it has that trademark CD Projekt Red polish on it that makes everything they do so memorable.

Seriously, play this game. They’ve released a complete edition that has all the expansions and DLC. Do it. Don’t let this year be a total bomb.

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