In recent times, video games have become one of the biggest entertainment industries. As a result, more and more video games are being made on an annual basis, which in turn, means that more and more video games are turning out to be surprising disappointments on an annual basis. However, it is important to note that there are surprising hits to go along with the surprising disappointments, which is something that should come as welcome news to those who are searching for something to spend their time on.
Here were five video games of 2016 that turned out to be surprise hits:
World War One is not the first conflict that comes to mind when searching for the setting for a shooter. After all, most of the Western Front consisted of soldiers huddling in the mud of the trenches for prolonged periods of time, interrupted by the shelling as well as the occasional attack on the other side of the battlefield, which could end in a horrific slaughter if the cannons on their side failed to knock out either the barbed wire, the machine guns, or even their opposing counterparts. However, EA and DICE managed to turn Battlefield 1 into a playable experience that paid respect to the conflict with the anti-war message of its campaign as well as moments that brought home the terror of the trenches, which came as a real but nonetheless welcome surprise because of EA’s reputation.
Doom came as a surprise for a couple of reasons. First, no one expected that it would be released in 2016 for the simple reason that it had been in development since 2007, which tends to be a serious warning sign. Second, this conclusion was supported by what came out about the development, which saw the clash of competing visions, the departure of important members of the staff from the studio, and even a complete restart in 2011. As a result, Doom came as something of a surprise because it turned out that it was fun, fast, and embraced the inherent un-seriousness of the setting, thus sidestepping the criticisms of the earlier trailers as boring and unpretentious. Something that was all the better for having reversed the negative expectations of the fans of the venerable franchise.
Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak
Homeworld is an excellent example of the numerous franchises out there that flourished for a time because of its real potential but fizzled out for one reason or another. This is because Homeworld came out in 1999 while Homeworld 2 came out in 2003, but since that time, there had been nothing but disappointment for the fans of the franchise until 2013, when THQ’s bankruptcy resulted in it being sold to Gearbox Software. Surprisingly, Gearbox Software recognized the interest in the Homeworld franchise, remastered the first two Homeworld games, and then hired Blackbird Interactive, which had been formed by members of the original Homeworld development team, to create another installment in the series.
At the time, Blackbird Interactive was working on a ground-based RTS game called Hardware: Shipbreakers, which soon became Homeworld: Shipbreakers and then Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak. Although the result is almost a different genre from its famous predecessors, it nonetheless managed to win respect for how it combined accessibility with a fair amount of depth, thus creating something that is not just suited for both RTS beginners and experts but also a respectable addition to the series to which it belongs.
Total War: Warhammer
For people who are unfamiliar with the source material, Total War: Warhammer is based on the setting of Warhammer Fantasy Battle, which was a tabletop wargame that made extensive use of fantasy favorites but provided them with its own unique twist. For example, the Empire of Man relies on pike and shot rather than older models of warfare from the Middle Ages, Bretonnia is a mix between Arthurian chivalry and the ancient regime, and their barbaric counterparts to the far north tends to look like the cover of a heavy metal album more often than not. Regardless, Total War: Warhammer’s success was a big surprise for two reasons.
First, the people behind the Total War franchise have never worked with a fantasy setting before, which makes the success of their first attempt all the more surprising considering their less than stellar record with the releases of some of their previous entries in their franchise. Second, Warhammer Fantasy Battle was phased out just before the release of Total War: Warhammer so that it could be replaced with a successor called Age of Sigmar, which alienated a fair-sized chunk of the fandom. Under these circumstances, it is amazing that Total War: Warhammer managed to sell so well, though to be fair, the two franchises made for a natural combination. Never mind how chances are good that Total War: Warhammer will be some of the last content that fans of the Warhammer Fantasy Battles setting can expect to see for a long, long time to come.
The success of video games means that more and more companies are searching for the next big thing, meaning that more and more video games are being made with bigger and bigger budgets. However, there are video games released from time to time that remind us the single most important thing about them isn’t their graphics but their gameplay, with Stardew Valley being an excellent example. In brief, people who are familiar with the Harvest Moon franchise will recognize it as the creator’s take on those games, but with a surprisingly realistic cast of characters set in a similarly quirky setting.
For people who are not so familiar with the Harvest Moon franchise, think of Stardew Valley as a cross between a RPG and a farm simulation, which can sound boring but will nonetheless prove to be one of those “one more turn” games that can take up hours and hours of the player’s free time. What is most surprising about Stardew Valley is that it is the product of a single person’s labor, which goes to show that even lone individuals can do amazing things when they are willing to focus all of their time and effort into something.