A belated Merry Christmas to you, dear reader, and welcome to the first annual Big Steaming Pile Awards, the Pilies!
Yes, as we close in on the new year here at the Pile, we’d like to take this time to both thank you, the reader, for making this your new favorite corner of the internet for video gaming esoterica, and hand out some awards to the games we’ve been looking over this past year…er…seven months or so. So, without further ado, let’s start handing out some trophies!
Best Game of the Year
Yes, we played a lot of quality titles this year, but hands down, our favorite was Victoria II, the meticulously detailed 19th-20th Century historical strategy game. Even for someone who was raised on the Civilization series, Victoria II blew us out of the water with the level of control featured, awe-inspiring commitment to realism, and its incredible ability to merge real-life historical events with the capacity to rewrite history as the player sees fit. Yes, the game engine is very elaborate and does take some time to get used to, but once you do, the possibilities here make even the latest Civ title seem like casual fare by comparison. Endless potential, impossible to master, and our choice for Game of the Year.
Worst Game of the Year
A real case of “A for concept, F- for execution” here, as Autobahn Police Simulator takes our anti-coveted Worst Game of the Year award. While most people would be put off by the premise of a game where you hand out tickets and make accident reports on the Autobahn, even those who would be interested will quickly find themselves in a muddled mess of shoddy performance graphically and woefully bad driving controls, which tend to be pretty important in a game that’s primarily about driving. Aside from that, other frustrations crop up early and often, like questionable translation, the unpleasant layout of the roads (no gaps in the median means having to take very long trips just to turn around), and wildly unrealistic moments, like suspects never needing to be handcuffed ever. With all that working against it, it’s no surprise Autobahn Police Simulator is our worst of the Pile this year.
This was a real toss-up for us, especially since the whole point of this column is to highlight games with bizarre concepts, but in the end, I Am Bread manages to edge out No Luca No for the title of Weirdest Concept. After all, anyone who owns a cat in real life has probably played a close approximation of No Luca No at breakfast time anyway. As for our winner, equal parts physics puzzle and fever dream, I Am Bread dares the player to flip, nudge, spin, and fling our starchy friend across a number of edibility-threatening locales in bread’s eternal quest to become toast. Coupled with game modes like bagel rolling and playing as a baguette in a china shop, and the game’s oddly straight-laced presentation, I Am Bread is a strangely addictive, highly creative, and completely insane title that encompasses the spirit of this award and the Big Steaming Pile in general.
Most Pleasant Surprise
Another close toss-up here between Jalopy and Sunless Sea, but in the end, the Laika beats out the boats. Yes, when we first sat down to play Jalopy, we expected a quality resource management/survival experience, but the charm it exuded, both through the surprisingly emotional story and organic moments of triumph, pushed the story of the Little Two-Stroke Engine That Could over the top here. It’s not every day where a video game can really make you feel attached to a character, especially when that character is an inanimate object, but the developers here deserve a ton of praise for doing exactly that, from the delightfully bland graphics to the relaxing putt-putt of the Laika’s crummy engine to the simple joy of washing the mud off the Laika at a gas station, Jalopy definitely puts the journey ahead of the destination.
Reinventing the Wheel Award
The first-person shooter market is, to be kind, oversaturated. From Call of Duty to Counter-Strike, from Battlefield to Overwatch, you cannot turn around without bumping into a game handing you a gun and pointing you towards a lobby of caffeinated dudebros. To stand out from the pack, you gotta really change up your approach from the genre, and Verdun absolutely thought outside the box. Featuring team-oriented, slower-paced, attack-and-counterattack gameplay, arming players with lovingly detailed, period-accurate weaponry, and separating players into squads with complementary roles, rewarding them for forming long-term partnerships, Verdun is a wild departure from the frantic spray-and-pray style that’s become so prevalent throughout the genre. Add to that the fact that the community of players here isn’t toxic and actually welcoming, Verdun stands apart as the thinking man’s FPS, which makes it deserving of our Reinventing the Wheel award.
The “Wait, How Long Have I Been Playing?” Award
Our final award of the year goes to the game that is the best at sneakily eating up four hours of your day without you realizing it, and no game we covered this year meets that criteria quite like American Truck Simulator. As we stated in our review, there’s something oddly meditative about driving your rig around the American Southwest, hauling everything from ice cream to TVs to various and exotic locales like San Diego and Reno. The scale of the game is so perfectly balanced to make driving across the length of California feel like a long haul without being a drag, and the developers did a masterful job of capturing the local flavor, from clustered interstate exchanges in Phoenix and Albuquerque to the vast, peaceful deserts of central Nevada. While American Truck Simulator only features four states for now, you never really feel limited, and if you get into this one, you’ll definitely experience that sense of “just one more mile” that carried American Truck Simulator to this award.
Well, that’s it for our 2017 Pilie Awards! Again, we thank you for visiting the Geekery and the Big Steaming Pile in particular, and we hope you’re as excited for what lies ahead in 2018 as we are!