I argued back and forth about whether to pick up the re-release of what was probably my most disappointing game of 2006. FF12 let me down in a big way back when I was in college, I tried it again when I had access to the international version a few years back, and both times I was left wondering what all the fuss was about. The Zodiac Age, however, manages to fix most of the gameplay problems found in the original release while also accentuating what was fun in the first place. The job system is versatile and constantly rewards experimentation (and you can't really screw yourself in this game on the base difficulty, thankfully), and speeding up the combat helps to alleviate the boredom that nearly put me to sleep in my dorm room all those years ago. Yeah, the story still goes nowhere and quite a few of the characters are mostly vestigial, but the gameplay is king in FF12 and I'll probably play it through again in the near future.
I was holding out hope that we would see the return of classic horror gaming in 2017, and I was not disappointed in this regard. Resident Evil 7 kicked off the year with a glorious return to form for the venerable series. The first-person perspective is gruesomely immersive, and the story is actually well told and well paced for the most part (though things dip a bit after you finish off Mrs. Baker). The Evil Within 2 was also a real treat after a fairly unremarkable first entry a few years back. The open-world environments and psychological scares culminate in a fantastic finale that has me hoping Tango gets to keep going forward with this franchise. TEW2 not only manages to beat the sophomore slump but it also carves out its own style with an incredibly rewarding horror experience.
Yeah, I'm ashamed to admit that I tapped out on the third dungeon of Persona 5. It's my own fault, however, as I thought it was a good idea to put nearly twenty hours into (finally completed) Persona 3 on my Vita just a few weeks before P5 hit the west. Needless to say, I was burned out and couldn't maintain a strong focus on the task at hand. I made some poor life decisions in this regard, and I need to find time to return to the Phantom Thieves and their hijinks.
No other game stressed me out and kept me as fully enthralled as XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. I bounced off the original XCOM 2 release hard after running into numerous bugs and not finding a whole lot different from the amazing Enemy Unknown. Turns out Firaxis seemed to agree with my assessment, as their first major expansion kicks things into fifth gear with numerous new threats and expanded options to deal with them. There's almost too much to list here, but do yourself a favor and give XCOM 2 another look if you originally passed it up.
Look, there's no easy way to say this; XC2 is a giant disappointment and the only reason I keep playing the damn thing is because I love playing my Nintendo Switch. The story is a giant ball of anime cliches, the character designs are borderline offensive, the UI and map system are so God awful that I can barely keep my sanity while trying to complete the most mundane of tasks, and the stupid Blade system feels like a gacha game leftover and fundamentally makes the game less enjoyable in the long run. The world exploration and combat can be a lot of fun, sure, but it can't redeem what ultimately feels like a giant waste of time. Here's hoping Monolith Soft can get things back on track for the eventual Xenoblade Chronicles X 2.