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  1. Contents: The Best Written Games of 2016 - that's this post! Just scroll down a little. The Best Game Soundtracks of 2016 The Best Game Visuals of 2016 Game of the Year 2016 - Nos. 20-11 Game of the Year 2016 - Top 10 (plus overall results) Preamble: In time-honoured tradition, we begin with awards of somewhat reduced interest: The Best Written Games of 2016 or 'The Category only Wiper and a handful of other nerds really care about' This will be setting a pattern you'll see repeated with the other 'minor' awards: I give commentary on the top 10 games, the remainder get listed for your perusal and judgement: Exactly 35 games received entries to this category, sharing 30 positions; indicative of the general level of interest that writing quality holds for voters. A level of interest, indeed, somewhat reflected in the nature of the 10th placed entry and, if I may be so bold, the 1st placed: 10. DOOM I… just let me check the scorecard here. No, apparently this isn’t an error. The frantic, brilliant, pure shooter that is DOOM, a game whose story and dialogue managed to be so unmemorable I literally couldn’t tell you a thing about it, appears to have gotten in at number 10. Well, I suppose it can’t be argued that DOOM lets its writing get in the way of things - compared to, say, a game like Mirror’s Edge, whose lackluster plot actively trips up the player’s enjoyment, DOOM knows well enough to put its story in the background, keep dialogue to a minimum, and let the hellish environment set the mood. There’s something to be said for that approach. 9. Oxenfree Completely deserved. Oxenfree makes the case for minimal interface, minimal fuss branching dialogue. No breaks from the gameplay, no removal of the ability to move and interact with the environment as usual, you simply get the chance to take part in conversations (or not) using the face buttons while wandering around, the timing of your button presses determining if and when you interject. And it works perfectly, giving you particularly naturalistic conversations with real flow. As an added bonus, this dialogue is in service of a solid sci-fi light-horror story populated with believable, (mostly) likeable characters of surprising depth. Your choices have appreciable effects on the way the story progresses and ends, and repeat plays are encouraged not only by the usual desire to see what different approaches will bring, but by the framing of the story itself. A definite highpoint for games writing this year. 8. Dark Souls III I’ve not played this, so can’t really comment, and nobody else left a comment to say why they’d voted for it here, so I’ll just have to assume that, like previous Dark Souls games, this game’s strength is in its ability to tell a story through level design and esoteric, arcane babblings. 7. Virginia Not the highest-ranked game in this list to feature no dialogue, but certainly the shortest! A vignette-based ‘walking simulator’, this first-person detective story is told entirely through suggestion, and does a great job of it. Subtle, charming, and short enough that it’s easy to recommend to anyone with a passing interest in the genre. 6. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided I’m actually a little surprised to see this place so high. I very much enjoyed Mankind Divided, and a large part of that was the pleasure of uncovering and investigating its many little side stories; from dealing with underground newspapers to solving murder mysteries, there’s a wide variety of branching mini-stories to enjoy, and they were never less than a pleasure to play through. But the writing never really stands out as being particularly strong - dialogue is frequently stilted, the overarching themes of ‘mechanical apartheid’ are as clumsily handled as that label would suggest, and the overall story is pretty weak, and woodenly delivered. Still, it is a big budget, story-heavy game which gives the player regular choices, and I guess that counts for something. Plus, you know, gotta love a cyberpunk setting. 5. Inside No, this isn’t the top-ranking dialogue-free game either. It’s close, though! Inside… really didn’t grab me. Its wordless storytelling is deftly handled, its story-by-actions approach harking back to the classic Another World. But as with Limbo, the setting and the ‘feel’ of the game just didn’t quite work for me - a little too relentless in its gloom, a little too grotesque in its presentation. Still, if you do like your adventures to be miserable and arduous, Inside conveys its story with aplomb. 4. The Witcher 3 - Blood & Wine Opening with a jolly little parody of fairy tales and high fantasy, Blood & Wine soon settles back into the more restrained dark comedy and drama familiar to fans of The Witcher 3. And in a way that’s a bit of a shame, as the opening half hour of derring-do makes for a pleasant deviation from the norm - a bit of Dunk and Egg to The Witcher 3’s Game of Thrones, if you will; just a super cool fantasy reference there to show that I’m down with the kids - but there’s no denying the quality of The Witcher 3’s storytelling, and Blood & Wine is no different. It is a little hard to get as excited about this thanks to its nature as an expansion to The Witcher 3 - particularly as it is set before the end of that game, so feels very much an addendum rather than a follow-up - but it’s a brilliant, generous slice of wry fantasy to enjoy, more than worthy of a top five position. The logo looks properly shit in this post, though. What idiot thought allowing expansions was a good idea? 3. Firewatch The last of the pure story games in this list, Firewatch is a walking simulator par excellence. Likeable characters who react believably to an increasingly stressful set of circumstances, the game deals with some interesting issues, issues I’ve never seen explored in a game before. I did find the main, dramatic driving story element to be a little weak, particularly in its conclusion, but the character backstories and their gentle unveiling (or lack thereof), the side stories and minor events that dot the game, and the general quality of the dialogue all more than make up for it. Top 3 material? Not quite for me, but I’m not upset to see this here. 2. The Last Guardian Ah, now I’ve not played this, so I can’t really comment. This is the top-ranked game to feature no dialogue, and getting to number 2 without words is no mean feat. That said, I’m not surprised to see this ranking so highly, considering how brilliant Ico and Shadow of the Colossus were at telling their stories through non-verbal communication. Indeed, anyone who’s played either of those games will be entirely unsurprised by what Benny had to say about the game: I may not have yet played The Last Guardian, but I’ll be very surprised if I’m unhappy with its ranking once I do. Which leaves us with only the number one game to announce! What could it be? Well, two of my personal top three haven’t yet appeared in the list, so I’m hopeful that one of those will have made its way to this position. Maybe it’ll be Tyranny; the fantastic, unusually themed sort-of-fantasy RPG from Obsidian, which places you as a person of influence within the court of a tyrannical, godlike emperor; you may not be able to save the world, but you can certainly sway it… and your own chances of survival. It’s a fascinating setting, well used, and would be very worthy of entry here. But then, it was released at the very end of the year, and is a bit of a niche release, so maybe that’ll have harmed its changes. So maybe instead it’s The Banner Saga 2 - a game which massively improves on the already impressive Banner Saga 1, not only taking into account the drastic consequences of your choices from the first game to a degree that should shame Bioware, but fleshing out its characters and successfully telling two very different tales to the story of desperate escape that fueled the first. Though I’ll be sad at either of these games missing the top 10 entirely, at least one of them getting to number one will be something of a consolation. Let’s see which it is! 1. Uncharted 4 *turn to camera while footage of dialogue plays on the screen behind* Oh well. Here’s what fans of the game’s writing had to say about its inclusion here! Oh, it turns out nobody left any comments. Um. So, that’s Uncharted 4. Best written game of 2016. *shrug, exit stage left* Full list of Best Writing results:

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