The MoeGamer Awards are a series of made-up prizes that give me an excuse to celebrate games, concepts and communities I’ve particularly appreciated over the course of 2017. Find out more here, but you’re out of time to leave me suggestions, I’m afraid!
Well, here we are on the last day of 2017, and I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling something of a sense of anti-climax after what has been an extremely chaotic and interesting year in many ways. Still, what better way to see out the old year than with a completely arbitrary declaration of what the “best” game of 2017 was?
This was an extremely tough decision, particularly as I’ve always said these awards were based on what I played in 2017, not necessarily what was released in 2017. But, as it happened, the two front-runners happened to both come out in 2017, so that all works out pretty nicely, doesn’t it? So which one did I pick? I’m sure you’re on the edge of your seats.
And the winner is…
Gravity Rush 2
Oh boy. I went back and forth over whether to give this to Gravity Rush 2 or Nier: Automata, because without a doubt both are utterly fantastic games that represent the very best of what modern gaming has to offer without any tiresome bullshit like microtransaction-based premium currency or lootboxes.
Ultimately I decided to err on the side of Gravity Rush 2 primarily because Nier: Automata has been widely acknowledged by a number of other publications as being the work of brilliance that it is, while Gravity Rush 2, regrettably, has been toiling in obscurity to such a degree that Sony is shutting down its online aspects early next year, barely a year after its release. Gravity Rush 2 is in dire need of some love and attention, in other words, while everyone already knows how wonderful Nier: Automata is.
Gravity Rush 2 is everything a sequel on a more powerful platform should be. It’s bigger, better and way more ambitious, yet features enough callbacks and links to its predecessor to make it feel like a solid successor. In fact, it’s actually relatively unusual these days to find a sequel that is a direct follow-up in narrative terms to a previous game, but Gravity Rush 2 runs with this idea and handles it very well, providing an experience that is accessible to series newcomers but particularly satisfying to those who have followed protagonist Kat’s adventures since the beginning.
One of the most interesting additions to the formula set by the original Gravity Rush is the fact that, over the course of the game, Kat unlocks the ability to use several different “gravity styles”, including the low-gravity Lunar mode and the high-gravity Jupiter mode. Each have their own benefits and drawbacks; Lunar mode, for example, allows Kat to make huge leaps when she’s unable to use her trademark floating ability but is quite difficult to stay in control of; Jupiter mode, meanwhile, allows Kat to “fall” through the air at high speed and cause massive impacts when she hits something, but causes her to be extremely sluggish on the ground.
Of particular note to the experience as a whole is how its open-world nature is handled. Rather than taking the Ubisoft “theme park” approach of littering the map with hundreds of activities to participate in, Gravity Rush 2 shows an admirable amount of restraint, yet still features an astonishingly well-realised and believable fantasy world floating above the clouds.
The game features main missions that progress the story, side missions that open up according to your progress in the main scenario, narrative-free challenge missions that can be tackled whenever you stumble across them, and more freeform “collection” sidequests that you can take part in whenever you feel like, tasking you with tracking down a series of otherwise unimportant NPCs and landmarks around the game world. There’s also an undeniable amount of joy in simply swooping around the game’s impressively detailed locales and seeing how much love, care and attention has been poured into every corner of them — even the bits you probably wouldn’t see under normal circumstances, such as the underside of floating buildings and suchlike.
One of the most delightful aspects of the game is the fact Kat receives a camera early on, and while this is integrated into a few missions, you’re also completely free to use it as and when you wish, either from a first-person perspective or mounted on a virtual “tripod” (even in mid-air!) to take photos in which Kat herself appears. And to make using it even more enjoyable, you gradually unlock a series of physics-based items, costumes and emotes for Kat to use, allowing you to take some highly creative and personality-packed photos that are a far cry from the technically impressive but often rather dry images that other games’ photo modes produce.
The story itself is excellent, too, positioning Kat as the sort of superhero who isn’t quite comfortable with stepping up and taking a leadership role, but who is more than willing to do her best to support everyone if she feels it’s the right thing to do. The story concerns multiple layers of oppression, and explores the fact that what can often seem to be a simple case of one group lording it over another is rarely as straightforward as it initially appears. Perhaps most notably for those who have followed the series since the first installment, however, is the fact that the game’s final chapter explores Kat’s origins and her place in the world — a narrative aspect that was conspicuously absent from the original.
Gravity Rush 2 is a magnificent game, featuring one of the most lovable protagonists in recent memory, spectacular visuals, a wonderful soundtrack, a compelling story and fantastic gameplay. It was truly a highlight of 2017 for me, making me extremely glad I gave its predecessor a second chance.
It’s also looking like being one of the most underappreciated and overlooked games of 2017, too, so if you’re yet to experience its myriad charms for yourself, go pick yourself up a copy right now. You won’t regret it.
More about Gravity Rush 2
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