Last year proved to be another high point for gaming, with some stellar releases plus new hardware for console and PC gamers alike. Indeed there were so many great titles — often offering dozens of hours of gameplay — that it’s difficult keep track of them, let alone play them all.
It’s inevitable that gamers will focus on the big name, AAA releases, the games that get the marketing dollars, or those titles that garner the best review scores. But there are many more games that get ignored, either by dint of bad timing, poor reviews or negative gamer feedback. So here are seven (now cheap) PC games from 2017 that you should give a second chance, while waiting for 2018’s big-name releases…
Nex Machina: Death Machine
Finnish developer Housemarque made a career in creating fast, slick, arcade-style games, including the likes of Super Stardust, Alienation and Resogun. Nex Machina continued this trend, providing the spiritual successor to twin-stick classics, Robotron and Smash TV.
But despite the involvement of Eugene Jarvis — the father of the genre — and receiving excellent reviews across the board, Nex Machina failed to sell in serious numbers and quickly faded from view. Sadly, Housemarque has since decided to abandon arcade action in favour of populist multiplayer gaming, so this is a great opportunity to pick up the last of a dying breed.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
The first self-published release by Ninja Theory follows the travails of a female Pict warrior, as she travels to the Nordic version of hell to rescue the soul of her dead lover. Part fantasy action adventure, part psychological horror, the game is notable for its representation of the lead character’s psychosis, which both helps and hinders her progress.
However, reviews focused largely on the game’s combat and puzzle elements, which were cited as being repetitive, as well as the game’s relatively short length. But you shouldn’t let these minor irritations prevent you from sampling this beautiful, haunting and thoroughly thought-provoking fantasy.
On its release, Prey fell foul of the gaming press, which rightly focused on its negative aspects and was scored accordingly. This was largely down to review copies only being sent out 24 hours before it went on sale, so many reviewers were forced to rush through it and didn’t really experience the game as it should be played: slowly, cautiously, thoughtfully.
The enforced review schedule made people play Prey like a bad FPS, when it’s actually a brilliant RPG — a shame for a game that took four years to develop. The title has since undergone a much-needed reappraisal, so if you thought you already knew about Prey… you don’t. Go grab a copy and find out for yourself. As far as cheap PC games go, this one is currently less than £20 online.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
You might think it odd to include one of Ubisoft’s major releases here, a game that stole the show at CES 2015 when it was unveiled. But on release, this tactical multiplayer shooter received mixed reviews, with the press commenting on the game’s repetitive missions and familiarity to other games in the Ubisoft canon. The early beta also received negative feedback from players, who slammed the game’s political stance, clichéd writing, endless collectibles and unrealistic vehicle controls.
However, these issues don’t really detract from the fact that Wildlands’ vast open world is stunning to behold and enormous fun to play around in. It’s no doubt best enjoyed with like-minded gamers, but the single player — accompanied by three commandable AI ‘ghosts’ — can still have a hell of a time down Bolivia way.
Styx: Shards of Darkness
The curse of the ‘mixed review’ strikes again. In a world where only nines and tens will do, earning sixes and sevens often dooms you to gaming mediocrity. So it was with Styx: Shards of Darkness, a hardcore stealth/infiltration game from French developer Cyanide. While clearly not a bad game, its lack of a conspicuously high score saw it sink amidst the wave of AAA games released last spring. With gorgeous, vertiginous scenery, craftable tools and suitably sneaky level design, anyone pining for the days of Thief or a decent Splinter Cell could do worse than give this a try.
Taking its design cues from Dark Souls, The Surge drops you into the role of Warren, a mechanically-enhanced worker at CREO Corporation, who finds himself battling an army of rogue robots and malfunctioning cyborgs. The tactical melee combat lets you target specific parts of an enemy, and any useful components, such as armour and weapons, can be used to customise your own character’s exo-suit.
While it can (and was) dismissed as just another Dark Souls wannabe, some innovative gameplay elements and a stylish dystopian setting help to elevate The Surge above its action RPG brethren. Like some of the other cheap PC games here, you can pick a copy up for less than £20.
This combination of martial arts beat ’em up and open world RPG melds the two genres into something new. Your character wanders the small, maze-like world of Adal in search of opponents to compete with in hand-to-hand combat. As you battle the different enemies you learn new moves, which can be slotted into your Combat Deck, advancing your fighting style for use against other adversaries. The game features the ability to compete or collaborate with other real players, providing an endless source of combatants and quests.
The odd amalgam of game styles here – plus its austere design – might put gamers off , but those who engaged with Absolver have found it to be utterly addictive.
These are just seven of our favourite PC games from 2017 that now look a bargain in 2018. There are undoubtedly more. Which overlooked gems would you recommend?