Due to control scheme alone, PC Games will always have some separation from their console counterparts, graphics and power aside. The diverse mouse and keyboard can be used a multitude of ways, and our nominations here show that off perfectly. With more and more games making it to seemingly every console, it's harder to find games made only for PC, but there are definitely still many worth highlighting.
Here's the list of nominees (and here's a list of all nominees for all categories):
- Civilization VI (Game Page)
- Stellaris (Game Page)
- Total War: Warhammer (Game Page)
- Tyranny (Game Page)
- VA-11 HALL-A (Game Page)
Reader's Choice - VA-11 HALL-A (Our Review)While VA-11 HALL-A may not be a game that exemplifies everything great PC gamers like about gaming on the PC, it's still one that seems difficult to see coming out on anything else. The retro graphics feel very PC and the UI matches it perfectly. The mechanics, story, characters, and more are all great in VA-11 HALL-A, and there's no real surprise to see it as our reader's choice.
Third Place - Stellaris (Our Review)
By Scott MalcomsonIn an era where high-end video games are being launched for multiple platforms more routinely than ever, it has become easier to spot standouts from the crowd when it comes to PC exclusives. Not that there aren't loads of PC exclusive video games being produced each month, but we're talking about the rarefied heights of the stratosphere here. Just because you can build a fine glider, ultralight, or even a passenger jetliner, that doesn't mean you've got the stuff to soar with the steely-eyed missileers at the very top.
Those who have the wherewithal to soar that high often have the wherewithal and preference to go multi-platform. But in doing so, they also often have to make their games just a bit more generic, to satisfy all those platforms' requirements. Games which are specialized, for their particular platform instead of many, always seem to shine just a little brighter.
This year, Stellaris made the cut for nominations by becoming that brighter star, producing not just the best 4X grand-strategy space-empire game of 2016, but one of the best in the history of the genre. Having played virtually all of them, I can attest to this fact myself (my bona fides include the fact that I was super-hyped, and then super-depressed, by the rather lackluster Masters of Orion reboot).
Stellaris didn't just incorporate gorgeous visual design, something which is now a baseline for even making a mark in the field. Its gameplay is both easily mastered and flexible, where even the type of drive your race's ships use can provide a dramatically different game. There is original content and story out there in the galaxy to discover and employ, but it's just another of Stellaris' aspects, something you only have to take as seriously as you want to.
Combined with easy, built-in moddability, Stellaris was a deserving rival to this year's category winner. And if Steam user reviews are any indication, the folks at Firaxis should probably keep an eye on Paradox for 2017 to see what they're doing right!
Second Place - VA-11 HALL-A (Our Review)
By Shaun JoySadly, I believe that our writers made a mistake in not making VA-11 HALL-A the best PC Exclusive of this year. I've gone on record in saying that it's my personal game of the year, and yes, I know it's a visual novel with minimal gameplay elements. With that said, VA-11 HALL-A has some of the best writing in video games that I've played .... ever. Yes. Ever. Not just this year. EVER.
Sure, you play a bartender who serves drinks in a dystopian cyberpunk bar of the future. But don't think you won't be able to relate to the characters in the game, despite the fact that they range from an android sex worker who looks underage, to a beautiful female hacker who's being pressured to get married. These characters have issues that you will relate to, and issues that it intelligently discusses without taking sides. Health Care, the downfalls of fame, and pressures from the family: you will sit there wanting to see what these characters are going to do next, all while trying to get more stories out them by serving them the right drinks.
It's got a collection of everything you'd want in a story. For example, it's got hilarious situations involving rum and getting naked yelling about global warming. It's got some real drama with Jill, the main character, and her relationships, and what she has to go through. It's got smart discussions of corporations versus personal freedom. And it's got a rad shiba. How can you not love a game with a shiba with sunglasses that wears a Hawaiian shirt. That's the thing: you can't.
Don't let it's old PC-98 visual novel aesthetic fool you, because VA-11 HALL-A is fantastic, and would you look at that ... it's part of the humble bundle right now. There's no excuse not to get it.
Winner - Civilization VI
By Robert GrossoThere really is not much you can say about the Civilization series. The Sid Meier classic is world-renowned by strategy fans, and after twenty-five years the title has yet to lose its luster. It is also unique as being one of the few exclusive AAA PC titles out on the market today, in a time where PC exclusivity is slowly disappearing.
2K games and Firaxis also really perfected the title this time around. The hex-based grids from Civilization V return, along with a cadre of historic leaders and cultures we would come to expect from the franchise. Other improvements are somewhat incidental, from graphical upgrades to terrain affects and bonuses. A major new change is the “city-unstacking” mode, which allows cities to grow more organically in adjacent spaces, instead of stacking upgrades one hex at a time.
While the major changes and enhancements to Civilization VI are rampant, at the core of the series is the 4X strategy (explore, expand, exploit, exterminate) that has made Civilization VI iconic. The various degrees of strategy players can use, from political negotiating needed and military superiority, are still staggering, ensuring that no two games are ever the same. Civilization VI is without a doubt the best PC game to come out this year.
What did we miss? What did we get wrong? What did we get right?