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Fanbase Press’ Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Video Games

Amidst the chaos of decorating the house, booking flights, or planning Christmas dinner, deciding on gifts for friends and family is liable to be the last thing on your mind this December. Fanbase Press is here to help with the best recommendations for the must-play games from the year as suggested by our staff and contributors. Nothing brings people together quite like the interactivity of games. Whether exploring a new galaxy or hunting robotic dinosaurs, playing a game together can be a great holiday event for the family. – Kristine Chester, Fanbase Press Senior Contributor

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Assassin’s Creed Origins
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Recommended by Michele Brittany

I have two biases – Ancient Egyptian stories and the Assassin’s Creed franchise – so when I came across news of the impending release of Assassin’s Creed Origins (this past October 27), I was thrilled and feeling tickled by Bast’s tail! Developed and published by Ubisoft, this installment takes the player back to the Ptolemaic Kingdom (305 BC – 30 BC), specifically 48 BC, when there was political unrest under Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII, who was married to his older sister, Cleopatra VII. (Yes, the one that Elizabeth Taylor portrayed in the 1963 film, Cleopatra.) Origins refers to the origin of the Brotherhood of Assassins and their fight against The Order of the Ancients (forerunner of the Templar Order).

Admittedly, I am in the early hours of exploring this game. I play Bayek, a Medjay assassin, as well as Bayek’s eagle, Senu, which allows me the alternate “eagle vision” mode. Besides flying in the body of Senu, my mode of transportation includes boat, horse, camel, or the ever-trusty feet. I’m also able to swim in search of treasure. Currently at Siwa, a desert oasis, there are boundaries that limit my roaming, but the game is open world (just not yet). I had not played the Xbox in some time, so my controller skills were a bit rusty, but I haven’t found myself struggling or frustrated, due in large part to the choices available in combat styles and weapons; however, for me, the BIGGEST appeal to this game is seeing ancient Egypt come alive via the (restored) temples, walls of painted and chiseled hieroglyphics, and historical individuals I have studied over the years. Yes, it is an interpretation, but it is still magical.

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Divinity: Original Sin II
Developer: Larian Studios
Platforms: PC Exclusive
Recommended by Kristine Chester

The original Divinity: Original Sin delivered not just a great RPG in the vein of BioWare’s Baldur’s Gate heyday. It was more than its rich turn-based tactical gameplay that made every combat an intense experience. It was also a game with two protagonists, best played cooperatively with a friend. I put 100 hours into that game, and everything about Original Sin II hits all of the same marks and does it bigger and better. Up to four friends can play cooperatively through the main storyline. Players can customize their character’s race from the ranks of dwarves, cannibal elves, lizardman, and even undead – in addition to their background, skills, and abilities. The combat system has been overhauled to make it faster and more streamlined while adding in brand-new skill sets, and the world is just as large, quest-filled, and humorously odd as the original. Both this and the original game (available on PS4 and Xbox One) makes a great gift you can play with your partner, friend, or family member.

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For Honor
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Recommended by Kristine Chester

To war! At its core, For Honor is a fighting game, but its 4 v 4 format, medieval martial arts base, and strategy elements make this game stand out. Players take on the role of medieval warriors from three factions – Knights, Vikings, or Samurai – each with their unique playstyles. A Viking Raider relies on brute strength and taking out enemies with his dane axe before his enemies can take him out, while a heavily armored Knight Conqueror relies on shield and flail to turn opponents’ attacks and protect herself, looking for an opening before striking. For Honor does contain a single-player mode that’s perfect for learning the game’s controls and playing most of the classes, but it’s the multiplayer that really shines, especially when you have three of your friends on your team.

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Middle-earth: Shadows of War
Developer: Monolith Productions
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Recommended by Joshua Desjardins

If you’re a fan of 2015’s Game of the Year, Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor—or even just a fan of The Lord of the Rings – than this year’s sequel, Middle-earth: Shadows of War, is the perfect game for you and your friends! Gameplay in this new video game is similar to that of its predecessor, but with a fresh new storyline involving Shelob and building your own Orc armies, along with additional side quests and vendettas against Orcs that’ve killed you to take part in. Middle-earth: Shadows of War is sure to put a smile on any gamer’s face this holiday season. Not to mention how fun it is to chop off an Orc’s head in slow-motion, this game is also a great way for one who’s dealing with lots of anxiety, particularly in today’s political climate.

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Star Wars Battlefront II
Developer: EA DICE
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Recommended by Joshua Desjardins

The holidays are always a great time of year to celebrate any Star Wars fan around the house. With Star Wars: The Last Jedi hitting theaters on Dec. 15, Star Wars Battlefront II is also hitting some gaming systems this holiday as probably one of the most anticipated video game sequels of the year. Many complained that its predecessor lacked a storyline and was more for those who enjoy online gameplay, but Star Wars Battlefront II promises a completely unique story in the Star Wars universe about a commander from the Empire looking for revenge after the events of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. And with online levels and characters ranging from all three film trilogies, Star Wars Battlefront II should be at the top of every Star Wars fan’s gift list!

Kicka** Games Starring Kicka** Ladies

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Child of Light
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Recommended by Christina Fawcett

While this is a 2014 release, Child of Light is still a beautiful game and well worth its spot on any wish list.

The game, billed as a playable poem, follows Aurora through the land of Lemuria as she meets friends and tries to find Lemuria’s stolen light to find her own way home. The story is simple and appeals to a younger audience, as does the gameplay. Combat emulates an JRPG, and the characters can be leveled up following an inherently balancing skill path. The characters each have their own unique background and skills, with side quests for Aurora to follow should the player wish.

The game looks like a watercolor painting and plays like a nursery rhyme, and as a result tells a story of a young girl’s maturation and discovery of her identity in a way that can be enjoyed by all ages. While the game mechanics may appeal to gamer girls and boys ages 12 and up, the game is absolutely family friendly. The cartoony monsters are pretty muted; even an arachnophobe like myself could handle the cartoony spiders that appear throughout the game. Aurora is a lovely character and a hero worth having around in game-friendly families. As it’s available across so many systems, no matter what you play on, you can enjoy this poetic painting and sweet story.

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Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Developer: Ninja Theory
Platforms: PC, PS4
Recommended by Christina Fawcett

A critical favorite for a reason, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a stunningly beautiful and tragic game. I can’t call this game fun, as I found myself pausing play to take a break from the sometimes oppressive experiences of the gameplay. That said, the game is an incredible, powerful, and worthwhile experience. The gameplay was difficult, because Senua matters; it is hard not to invest in someone as vulnerable, stubborn, and strong as she is. The player controls Senua, but doesn’t have the standard avatar-relationship; we don’t play as Senua, but as a voice/influence in her mind. This relationship complicates the way we play and what we’re putting her through, as often our choices put Senua through pain and suffering in pursuit of her goal. Senua’s strength, not simply as a fighter, but as a human being struggling with her “darkness,” is incredibly inspiring and powerful.

An amazing and adult game, this is particularly for the book or film nerd in your life; this is a game that demands critical reading. The game centers on layering stories and the gradual release of information, as the player works through the dissonance and noise in Senua’s mind to help her find Dillion’s soul. The many voices, the different forms of ludic drive, and the haunting visuals make this a game to give to someone who enjoys depth and emotion in their media. It brings the challenges of mental health into a playable form, making anxiety, psychosis, and depression something that one can experience and overcome. For anyone with mental health challenges, or who knows someone with those challenges, this really is a must play. It’s a powerful thing to share and a great way to start conversations about a topic that is often taboo or impossible to put into words. The immersion and catharsis are a beautiful thing and well worth sharing with someone you love.

And, if you don’t want to take my word for it, Ninja Theory released an Accolades trailer – watch this and try not to cry.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn
Developer: Guerilla Games
Platform: PS4 Exclusive
Recommended by Christina Fawcett

Robotic. Dinosaurs.

Do I even need to say more?

The latest work of Guerilla Games stars Aloy, a feisty red-head who must fight various sizes of robotic animals with her bow and arrow to save the world. The gameplay and combat are smooth, the story is complex and interesting, the characters are multifaceted, and YOU GET TO FIGHT A ROBOT T-REX WITH A BOW AND ARROW!

The game is a post-apocalyptic world, with locations across Colorado and Utah, including fun discoverables of the world before the collapse that project current landmarks and connect the game’s past to our present. These ground the game in Colorado, with dips into Utah, and gives the player a sense of place. While there are problematic elements of the game that demand some critical thought and interpretation, the gameplay and story is overall a delight. There is also DLC for the game, called “Frozen Wilds,” which expands Aloy’s travels into Yellowstone Caldera region.

The combat is challenging, the story is engaging, and at the end of the day, you play as a strong, opinionated, compassionate, and driven young woman. Any D&D fan who ever played a Ranger will immediately fall in love with Aloy, and any cosplayer would be mad not to rock one of Aloy’s many forms of intricate and interesting armor.

While it’s unfortunately a PlayStation exclusive, it will be a sure-hit for any PS4 owners to unwrap this holiday season.

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Mass Effect: Andromeda
Developer: BioWare
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Recommended by Christina Fawcett

The often-critiqued latest release from BioWare has its faults: facial animations are a bit inconsistent; the narrative is derivative of the earlier Mass Effect series; and the entire storyline centers around colonial settling of an occupied space.

Despite these issues, the game carries on the tradition of the original trilogy of a multi-species crew facing a strange and unknowable evil that one must prepare to face by traveling around and completing a series of seemingly unrelated fetch-quests while engaging in clean, accessible, gun-based combat. The game is a familiar space, despite their attempts to focus on novelty and discovery in their design, and the appeal of the well-designed and game-balanced franchise remains. The central female characters, including Ryder (should the player choose her), Vetra, Peebee, Cora, and the many females in the non-combat narratives mean the universe is populated by many strong women. BioWare has been making progress in diverse representation, and the game continues to build on many of the strengths of earlier Mass Effects.

So, while the game has its bumps and hitches, it is still inherently fun. And with the massive open world(s) to explore, you’ll be getting someone many, many hours of fun and adventure. And isn’t that what a good gift is all about?

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NieR: Automata
Developer: Platinum Games
Platform: PC, PS4
Recommended by Christina Fawcett

It’s an android-eats-android world in an Earth overrun by homicidal robots, and the player gets to push back with the anime-tastic 2B. The world of NieR: Automata is fascinatingly stylized, moving from 3D gameplay to 2D platformer to top-down visuals, changing your gameplay and asking you to think about and look at the world differently. The occasional moves between the visual framing goes from modern, complex visuals to nostalgic simplicity and disorienting top-down design, all while asking you to move in the world as if it remains 3D.

The post-apocalyptic game-space is, of course, appealing, but the real draw is the stylish and powerful androids 2B and 9S. 2B’s fashion and incredible mobility despite her heels is enviable, as is her commanding presence in battle. The combat is smooth, quick, and challenges the player to stay on top of the many pieces of information at once.

This game is for lovers of apocalyptic spaces, anime, Bayonetta, Yoko Toro’s work, or games about robots. The science fiction space provides a broad and branching story that is a great deal of fun to follow all its many paths.


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