This year has been an absolutely amazing year for video games, with Game of the Year award contenders spanning across multiple genres on all platforms. While a large number of this year’s big hits are cross-platform titles, there are some noteworthy games that only PC gamers had the honor of experiencing. We’ve compiled a list of our top five best PC games of 2017 that you can’t play anywhere else, and which are kind of underrrated.
#5 Dead Cells
Developer: Motion Twin
Publisher: Motion Twin
Although Dead Cells is still in Early Access on Steam, this hybrid roguelike and Metroidvania (or “Roguevania”, if you will) style game is one of this year’s most overlooked indie titles. Dead Cells combines procedurally-generated dungeons and levels with the action and exploration of Metroidvania platformers and a difficult, “souls-lite” 2D combat system with permadeath.
Players control cells that have occupied a deceased prisoner as they explore and fight their way out of a series of dungeons. That’s about it when it comes to story – this game is all about the action. Collect weapons, armor, abilities, and money, while reclaiming more cells for your decomposing body that can be used to permanently upgrade your character for later runs. If you die before cashing in your cells, though, they’re gone for good. And, like in most roguelikes, dying is brutal in Dead Cells. Your progression is tied to your skill as a player, making this game a learning experience where players are constantly balancing risk versus reward.
While the game’s description sounds basic and straightforward, Dead Cells is extremely well designed (especially for an Early Access title) and flat-out addicting. It blends together all of the best features from numerous genres into one difficult, fluid, and beautiful experience. This game throws the stigma of Early Access out the window and provides a unique, intense action experience that will have you coming back again and again. Don’t worry – “you’ll get better eventually.”
Developer: Stunlock Studios
Publisher: Stunlock Studios
Over the last decade or so, the MOBA genre has exploded in popularity with games like League of Legends and Dota 2 consistently leading the pack in concurrent players. But have you ever thought about what the MOBA genre even is? The acronym stands for “multiplayer online battle arena” – yet most games in the genre break away from the true meaning of those words.
Enter Battlerite. This game takes the MOBA acronym literally. This team-based arena brawler has no laning mechanics, no in-match experience system, no minion waves, and no towers or core. This is pure, skill-based player versus player fighting. The game plays like a top-down World of Warcraft PvP arena, but without the gear grinding or MMO overhead. Pick a champion and dive right into fast-paced brawls entirely based on skill shots, timing, and teamwork.
It’s all the fun of a League of Legends team fight without the twenty-minute gold farming or 1+ hour long matches. Battlerite‘s art style is more similar to League than its gameplay. This is a perfect game to quickly hop in and out of for an intense best of five match lasting maybe15-20 minutes. The learning curve is moderate but fair. Learning the basics of a champion is simple, but mastering them will take some time. Expect a very competitive environment as well: the community is generally welcoming but also very serious. The game features both ranked and casual game modes, though, with the options of playing 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3.
Battlerite recently left Early Access in November, becoming completely free-to-play. And this game does F2P right. Each champion can be purchased in-game, or all Champions can be bought for $30. There are no pay-to-win upgrades or items, only cosmetic rewards. This game is all about pure skill and pitching players head-to-head on a level playing field. Plus, it is constantly getting updates, including new champions, cosmetic items, and balance patches. Battlerite is an amazingly well-done game for both MOBA veterans and newbies alike.
#3 Total War: Warhammer II
Developer: Creative Assembly
I know what you are probably thinking. A grand strategy and civilization management game paired with the Warhammer fantasy universe just sounds daunting. And I don’t blame you – this type of game is not for everyone. Yes, managing thousands of troops and monsters in a real-time battle sounds complex. But doesn’t it also sound amazingly epic and badass? Total War: Warhammer II has struck the perfect balance between strategy and action, bringing epic fantasy battles into the hands of more casual strategy players.
Like most Total War games, Total War: Warhammer II is divided into two halves. The first is a turn-based open world campaign, where your focus is on building up an army to take over land, research and build new technologies and buildings, and build up your civilization. The second is the huge real-time tactical battles. Think thousands of orcs and rat-men and dragons and hydras and monsters of all varieties. It’s like the Battle of Helm’s Deep on steroids.
With eight playable Lords, four distinct and iconic Warhammer races, and four expansive continents, the gameplay variety is boundless. Not to mention the ability to play both single and multiplayer campaigns in addition to custom game modes. Total War: Warhammer II is one of those games that will keep you up late at night telling yourself “just one more turn!”
The game does a tremendous job teaching you how to play, and you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that this game really isn’t just for strategy masterminds. Not to say that it’s super easy, but don’t expect Europa Universalis level of complexity. Even if you are new to the genre, this game is hands-down one of the best strategy games of 2017 and is most definitely worth those late night game sessions.
#2 Hollow Knight
Developer: Team Cherry
Publisher: Team Cherry
It’s not every day that a game as artistically beautiful as Hollow Knight comes around. Especially a new indie title coming from an extremely small, brand new studio. Hell, Team Cherry is made up of only two developers, making this feat all the more impressive. This dark, 2D adventure game features some of my favorite art from any game in 2017. Hollow Knight ‘s splendid use of animation, dynamic lighting, and shadows truly bring its simple but elegant hand-drawn characters to life.
There is definitely more to this game than its wonderful graphics and animations though. Hollow Knight is all about exploration, platforming, and combat. It’s a good ol’ tough Metroidvania style game, with a large interconnected world gated by abilities or items. Saving is limited to certain spots, and dying requires recovering your corpse if you want to keep your earned soul credits. The combat is satisfyingly challenging and pairs well with its fluid platforming and unique enemies.
Perhaps the most exciting part of Hollow Knight, though, is how enjoyable (and important) exploration is. This is one of those games where you will somehow stumble onto some new, hidden area that will just blow your mind. Even though the game gives you a map, I found myself scribbling down my own notes of places to revisit as I play. The amount of secrets to uncover and undisclosed side quests to complete gives this game way more depth than I ever anticipated. While many overlooked this small indie game, Hollow Knight truly sets the bar for all other platformers.
#1 Divinity: Original Sin II
Developer: Larian Studios
Publisher: Larian Studios
My trusty pirate dwarf warrior, aptly named Beast, had been tasked with finding out who stole from the camp’s kitchen. Camp boss Griff is missing supplies – and Beast just figured out who it is. We need proof for Griff, though. Do we kill the thief and take the supplies back off his corpse? Or do we sweet talk the thief into handing over the supplies without a fight? Apparently, Beast has quite the persuading tongue. Beast carries the supplies back to Griff but now faces a dilemma.
Do we tell Griff who the thief is, or do we keep his identity anonymous? It’s either tell the truth or fight Griff and about five of his cronies. We take the easy route, and Beast tells Griff the thief’s identity. Griff immediately sends someone to kill the thief. He didn’t count on Beast and party being there though. We quickly rush back to the thief’s hang-out spot just in time to kill his assassin. It turns into a win-win situation – I know have gained the trust of both Griff and the thief, when really we are just doing whatever it takes to save our own hide.
This is typical Divinity: Original Sin II. This classic-style RPG gives players so much freedom of choice in nearly every single one of their actions – both in and out of combat. How to do you want to approach conversations: aggressive and coldhearted or passive and sympathetic? Like a smart-ass know it all or a clueless idiot? Do you want to help that NPC find his lost son or kill him and loot his house? Do you want to sneak up behind an enemy and pickpocket what you need, or send her whole camp up in flames? Do you want your party composed of fire mages who can talk to animals, or dual wielding warriors who can turn enemies to stone? Why not both?
Divinity: Original Sin II raises the bar when it comes to role-playing games. Few games allow the player to become so much a part of the story being told. The sheer number of role-playing options is impressive, and matching it with the game’s complex but flexible tactical combat system is a match made in heaven. Everything about this game is stunning, from the art to the writing to the voice acting to the music to the gameplay. Divinity: Original Sin II is not only one of the best games of 2017 on any platform, but should be considered one of the best games of all time.