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Rich’s Top 10 Games Of 2016

We made it to the end of the year everyone, and what a year it’s been. I’ve made a point to post more regularly in 2016 and will continue that trend in 2017. In the past few months, I’ve even branched out into Youtube. It’s been a big year, and the internet would like you to believe the worst on record. Celebrities are dropping like flies, and the 2016 election has turned more people on each other than I have ever seen. We do, however, have one silver lining. Good old 2016 was a fantastic year for video games, there has never been a better time to be playing games.

I played a whole lot of games this year but if you don’t have the time you want the cream of the crop. So I have posted, for you, in no particular order, my top 10 games of 2016.

Uncharted 4 A Thief’s End2759116-uncharted-4_drake-sam-survived_1434429055

Nathan Drakes latest and likely last adventure was something I had been looking forward to for a long time. Uncharted 4 served as a great endcap to Naughty Dog’s epic series as well as a technical showpiece for the PS4. In addition to telling what I would consider a cinematic level story it’s probably the most beautiful game, I played for the PS4 this year.

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Some of you know Stardew Valley as the Harvest Moon like farming game that released by Chucklefish Games recently for consoles and may very well be falling in love with it as we speak. I threw myself into the Steam release back in February, and I can’t think of much else that absorbed me as much in 2016. I spent countless hours tending to my grandfather’s farm in Stardew Valley, and after seeing the recent updates since console launch, I may go in for many more. Stardew Valley slowly trickles out more and more intricate systems the deeper you get, showing off hints of Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, and even Zelda. That games due a proper review from me, so expect one in early 2017.

I Am Setsunai-am-setsuna-1

In my review, I wrote that Tokyo RPG Factory’s I Am Setsuna was a love letter to PSone era RPGs. I stand by that sentiment 100%. While a bit on the short side, Setsuna hits all the notes of those old school turn-based role-playing games. The developers love for Chrono Trigger is the most obvious. Setsuna resonated with me in a strong way, and it’s an easy recommendation for any old school JRPG fan.

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Play Dead’s second outing released this year to rave reviews, including my own. It’s easy to look at Inside as the apparent evolution of Limbo, but in truth, it is so much more than that. Everything in Inside’s design feels perfectly deliberate from background animations to the way objects blend into the environment and interact with the player character. Inside is one of the most polished games I’ve seen in years and totally worthy of all the praise.

Hitman(2016)hitmanepisode11280-1457593088872

If you had told me back in January that Hitman would make this list I might have laughed. I hadn’t actually enjoyed an outing with Agent 47 since Blood Money, but 2016’s Hitman gets it right. The maps are sprawling and detailed as well as loaded with weird characters and scenarios to explore. The episodic formula did to great things for Hitman, it encouraged multiple plays of each location and kept me and many others talking about Hitman all damn year. The elusive target system still has me going back to Hitman on a regular basis, which reminds me the Food Critic is in town this week.

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I didn’t have a terrible amount of love for the first Titanfall. The gameplay was great, but the multiplayer didn’t have the longevity it needed to make it worth the $60 price point. Titanfall 2, however, ended up being a pretty impressive shooter mostly for the campaign. Titanfall 2 tries some kind of cool parkour stuff that while not new to the FPS genre is pretty well fleshed out here. In addition to that, your Titan companion BT is one of my favorite new characters from 2016.

 

Ratchet and Clank(2016)2897604-4_metro_train

It might just be all of that nostalgia built up for the original PS2 series but the PS4 remake/reimagining of Insomniacs classic was some of the most fun I had this year. Easily the most fun with a mascot platformer in years. Ratchets second chance at life makes more than a few key differences from the original while perfecting its supremely fun gameplay and most importantly isn’t a slave to its god awful movie counterpart.

Final Fantasy XVfinal-fantasy-xv-trailer-blowout-reveals-more-gameplay-story-info-platinum-demo-brotherhood-anime-series

Final Fantasy XV stuck with me in a weird way. I loved that game probably more than it deserved and more than I had any Final Fantasy game in a long time. The story is a muddled mess, but it was less about that for me and more about driving the Regalia on an endless road trip with my bros. I’ll gladly slaughter more monsters across Insomnia with Noctis and company in 2017.

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I was late to the party on Superhot, so it was a bit of a last-minute addition to this list, but that game is all kinds of good. It’s strangely beautiful and trippy time mechanics make the puzzles feel tight and rewarding, and boy does that story go places. If you need a weird ass puzzle shooter, Superhot is damn near the best at that.

DOOM(2016)doom_1

How do you make Doom in 2016 was probably one of the most difficult questions to answer for the team over at id software. The answer? Make it super tongue and cheek. Doom nails what a modern game in the series should be, the Doom Slayer wakes up on his ancient stone tablet and gets right to kicking demon ass. You want exposition? The Doom Slayer says fuck your exposition. Doom pokes fun at its lineage while being sure its characters take everything super seriously. The game plays like the perfect action movie and is the best FPS campaign I’ve played in years. I can’t wait for Doom 2.

 

 

 

 

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Frog Fractions 2 Is Real, Here’s How You Get It

With 2016 nearing an end the veil has been pulled back and the two-year long mystery is over. Frog Fractions 2 is out in the wild, and I’m going to tell you where to look. For the uninitiated, Frog Fractions 2 is the long-awaited sequel to Jim Crawford’s acid trip of a browser game disguised as a children’s edutainment game about fractions, that was released back in 2012. Crawford launched a Kickstarter for the sequel in 2014 and ever since then people have been on the lookout for Frog Fractions 2, where could it be hiding, whenever a strange game was released we couldn’t help but think “is this is, have I found Frog Fractions 2”.header

Let’s cut to the chase, you just want to know where the game is and it’s simple in a sense. Frog Fractions 2 is hidden in a city builder game about Fairies called Glittermitten Grove, which you can grab on steam for twenty bucks. Once you’re in, the path to Frog Fractions 2 is pretty straight forward. You either build a village with trees tall enough to reach a portal in the sky or shoot enough fireworks down into the ground to find a portal buried deep below the earth.

Be aware this will require you to play some Glittermitten Grove, a surprisingly deep resource management game.

Also a fun fact, Frog Fractions 2 allows you to import Mass Effect 2 save data, welcome back Shepard.original

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Review

Review: For All Of Its Flaws Final Fantasy XV Reminded Me Why I Love The Series

Game: Final Fantasy XV

Developer: Square Enix

Publisher: Square Enix

Platform(s): Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (reviewed)

Release Date: November 29th, 2016

MSRP: $60

 

Ten years is a long time to wait for anything. Nevertheless, it’s been ten long years since a fourteen-year-old me first got a glance at Final Fantasy Versus XIII, the game that would become Final Fantasy XV. Over the course of all that time, FF XV underwent a whole lot of changes. In truth, the game that made it to retail was only worked on in its current form for two years or so. Final Fantasy XV is far from the perfect game, it did, however, grab me in a way an entry in the series hasn’t since Final Fantasy X, and in doing so reminded me how the series shaped me and countless others as gamers.

 

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Great start 

Final Fantasy XV is, as its name suggests the fifteenth mainline installment in the Final Fantasy series. For those unfamiliar with the series, Final Fantasy is a Japanese Role Playing series famous mostly for its vast worlds and typically turn based combat. Turn based combat was turned away from when they tried their hands at the Massive Online Multiplayer or MMO game with Final Fantasy XI. I’ve felt, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that the combat especially hasn’t felt great since FFX, the fast paced real time combat of XV has been more of an enjoyment for me than I could’ve ever expected, more on that later, though.

 

Final Fantasy XV follows the story of what can only be described as a bachelor party gone horribly wrong. You play as Noctis, the prince of Lucis on a road trip with his best friends Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus. With his fantasy entourage assembled in his dad’s convertible, the Regalia, they’re to make way for Altissia where Noctis will marry his betrothed Lady Luna Freya the Oracle.

After some early missions, it’s quickly discovered that the Nifelheim Empire who was set to sign a treaty with Lucis has betrayed and murdered Noctis’ father and all but destroyed the Crown City. With all this information in hand, it will be up to Noctis and crew to gather the power to take down the empire and reclaim his throne.

If all of that seems confusing, it’s because it is. Final Fantasy is famous for it’s deep lore and hard to grasp stories, but the plot of FFXV is one of its greatest sins. You’ll spend a lot of time waiting for exposition that never comes. Who are these characters? What’s their connection to Noctis and Friends? Why am I even here, and what’s up with that damn crystal? For ten years of work, you’d think a cohesive story isn’t too much to ask for. The part that really rubs me the wrong way is how the CG prequel film Kings Glaive tends to be the answer to a whole lot of plot holes. I actually watched the film and as someone invested in the plot of FFXV enjoyed it more than I expected, it’s the way that the folks at Square Enix have essentially made what should’ve been an extra bit of media for those who really enjoyed the world they’ve built required reading. It’s worth noting that the developer has promised to patch in cut scenes adding a bit more exposition in the future and with the recent addition of New game + it might be worth a second go about.

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Lemme take a selfie

 

The part of all this that really rubs me the wrong way is how the CG prequel film Kings Glaive tends to be the answer to a whole lot of plot holes. I actually watched the film and as someone invested in the plot of FFXV enjoyed it more than I expected, it’s the way that the folks at Square Enix have essentially made what should’ve been an extra bit of media for those who really enjoyed the world they’ve built required reading. It’s worth noting that the developer has promised to patch in cut scenes adding a bit more exposition in the future and with the recent addition of New game + it might be worth a second go about.

The gameplay of Final Fantasy XV is what really pulled me in. A large open world with hours and hours of side content, which essentially equates to JRPG Skyrim and if that doesn’t sound awesome to you then I guess I’m a far bigger loser than yourself. I found myself getting completely lost in side content during my first twenty or so hours with the game. For the completionist in all of us don’t worry, you’ll have full access to return to the open world even after the credits roll. I’m far from done with this world.final-fantasy-xv-trailer-blowout-reveals-more-gameplay-story-info-platinum-demo-brotherhood-anime-series

Combat revolves around Noctis’ ability to summon weapons, a kingly ability he also lends to his companions. Noctis can equip up to four weapons of his choosing from swords and lances to classic Final Fantasy spells that he crafts like thundara. On your journey, you’ll also acquire royal arms from the tombs of the past kings of Lucis. These Weapons are incredibly powerful but drain Noctis’ HP(Health Points) so keep potions on hand. The trademark combat move of FFXV is Noctis’ warp strike ability. He can use it by throwing his weapon to warp and attack far off enemies or travel to safe locations to recover MP(Magic Points) during combat.

In addition to his primary attacks Noctis has a round meter surrounding his weapon display know as the Armiger meter that fills as you fight. Once filled he can surround himself with all the royal arms he’s acquired, and attack in a powerful fast-paced flurry of blows. At times the combat system can be frantic and confusing, I’ve found it’s at its best when facing one large enemy in a more open environment. Significant amounts of enemies and tighter spaces tend to result in difficulty with dodging and a whole lot of getting knocked down.

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These guys are jerks

 

For all of its issues, FFXV’s main cast holds it together. The banter is goofy but often fun, and the party plays off each other well. Each character is equipped with his own unique ability that levels up as you progress. Experience as a whole is tallied and banked when you make camp for the night in and Elder Scrolls like fashion. At this point, Ignis will prepare a meal from ingredients in your inventory which provide stat boosts the following day. You’ll also see each characters unique ability level. Noctis is the party’s fisherman, this talent is leveled through actively fishing at piers. Prompto’s skill is photography, at camp, he’ll lay out all the pictures he’s taken that day, and you’ll be able to keep up to 150 in an album (Prompto take about 10 photos a day). Ignis is the party’s cook, and through preparing meals and discovering new recipes, he’ll level up the talent. Last but not least, Gladiolus possesses the survival talent which allows him to find items on the ground and in combat, simply walking around will boost this skill.ffxv-gamescom-2016-screens

As much as Noctis and his pals your car the Regalia is as much of a character. You’ll be able to purchase upgrades for speed and fuel consumption at rest stops and have them installed by Cindy at the Hammerhead station where the game begins. One of my favorite features of the Regalia is acquiring new soundtracks to listen to at rest stops. Check everywhere you’ll be able to hear any Final Fantasy soundtrack you choose.

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You can acquire the Regalia Type-F post game

 

Final Fantasy XV is at its heart a fun exciting game about four best friends on a fantasy road trip. With hours of things to do in both the main story and side activities in the vast open world. Although far from perfect XV is the perfect blueprint for what a Final Fantasy game looks like in 2016. I can’t wait to indulge in every expansion and look forward to what the all but certain Final Fantasy XVI looks like.

Score: 9 out of 10

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Review: Super Mario Run

Game: Super Mario Run

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Platform: ios, Android

Release Date: December 15th, 2016 (ios) 2017 (Android)

Price: $9.99

I’m a bad person, so I’ve forced myself to review this Mario phone game. One might say I was slightly hopeful for this game a month or so before launch. After all, I like Mario, and runners are a fun little time waster and some of the bigger scale ones like Bit Trip Runner are solid all around. A tried and true genre, Super Mario Run, however, isn’t a great runner and doesn’t emulate any of the things I like about Mario or platforming.mario-3jpeg-5ebc94_765w

Nintendo’s first full on mobile game has a pretty simple premise. Bowser has kidnapped Peach yet again, so everyone’s favorite mustachioed plumber has to traverse six worlds in order to stop King Koopa and get the girl. The first three levels are free to play, falling in line with Nintendo’s “Free to Start” formula they’ve tried with multiple titles on the Nintendo 3DS. The buy in beyond this point is a flat ten dollars, which to be honest just feels like too much. With only six worlds to play in the base tour mode Super Mario Run would’ve been better designed around a free to play with microtransactions model. Nintendo seems to be missing the boat on what makes mobile gaming work, which isn’t terribly surprising.

Gameplay is straightforward and streamlined. Mario runs to the right, and you tap on the screen to make the little guy jump, the longer you hold your finger on the screen the higher he jumps. The biggest issue facing Mario’s running adventure is how fundamentally un-Mario it seems. Jumping on enemies will net you extra coins but directly running into them though will result in Mario simply vaulting over them instead of taking damage. It’s a small gripe, I know, but it just bothers me. Also, the game seems more focused on getting coins( the thing I probably concern myself with least in a typical Mario game) than level completion.super-mario-run-2

The bulk of Super Mario Run and what seems to be a reliability factor is contained in the Toad Rally mode. In this mode you’ll compete against ghost of other players on levels you’ve unlocked to win Toads to help rebuild your own personal Mushroom Kingdom, your rescued Princess needs subjects after all. This mode is probably the most fun I’ve had with Super Mario Run, and I could see myself returning to it for a bit if it weren’t so damn grindy. To break down how you win in this mode, you’ll compete against another players ghost to see who can collect the most coins in the allotted time. Everything yields coins in this mode, from hitting blocks to eating mushrooms. Taking damage causes Mario to lose coins like he’s Sonic the freaking Hedgehog.  An enemy kill counter that can be found across modes will result in those enemies yielding more coins from kills once completed.

Mario isn’t the only character you can run to the right as in this adventure. Beating world’s one through six allows you to play as Peach. Luigi, Yoshi, and Toadette are all purchasable once you’ve leveled your Kingdom enough( have fun with that ) and linking a Nintendo account will allow you to play as Toad. Building out my kingdom and getting all of these unlocks would be enticing if it didn’t require all that retreading of old levels.super-mario-run-screenshot_1242-0

Super Mario Run seems like a game that was designed as a ploy for people who don’t regularly play games but remember Mario from years past. Anyone who enjoys video games can find far better Mario titles out there as well as better ways to spend ten dollars. Although the strange price point and lack of microtransactions show how little Nintendo understands the mobile market, I hope it does well for them, after all, I really want a mobile Fire Emblem game.

Score: 5 out of 10

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Review: Batman The Telltale Series Episode 5 City of Light

Game: Batman The Telltale Series: Episode 5 City of Light

Developer: Telltale

Publisher: Telltale

Platform(s): Windows, Ps4(reviewed), Xbox One

Release Date: December 13th, 2016

MSRP: $4.99

The final chapter is here. After a few months and being a little less than impressed with the installments following episode one of Batman the Telltale Series I’ve played episode 5 and completed what is sure to only be the first of many seasons. Despite my fears that the episodes weren’t improving on their own merits, I have to say City of Light puts a nice bow on season one as a whole.

Episode 4 ended in a unique place leaving players in a different start depending on what foe they chose to tackle in episode 4’s climax. I picked Harvey Dent’s assault on Wayne Manor as the priority in Guardian of Gotham, so I had only the Penguin, and Lady Arkham left to deal with. This path leads to some strong bonds being built with Gordon through my apprehension of Cobblepot, but the real big bad here is Lady Arkham, and that is where things get interesting.batman-the-telltale-series-episode-5-review-3

I’ve refrained from revealing the identity of Lady Arkham in any of these reviews as I believe the way Batman’s Telltale universe puts old Batman characters in new interesting roles is one of it’s strongest features. From Harvey Dent’s relationship with Selina Kyle and how over five episodes that affect his relationship with Bruce and eventual transformation into Two-Face, to Bruce’s past with Oswald Cobblepot.

City of Light plays out rather quickly, in it’s about an hour and a half of gameplay it manages to bleed some sympathy into the plight of Lady Arkham, and pull your heartstrings with Bruce’s love for his butler and guardian Alfred Pennyworth.Most importantly, however, to me as a long time Batman fan flip the mythos on its head by painting Thomas Wayne as a monster.batman-the-telltale-series-city-of-light-3-600x338

Episode 5 did, however, give me a bit of a headache on the technical end. Choppy frame drops persisted throughout the first act, sometimes dropping below 20 FPS and the game briefly crashed during the final act. It was easy enough to load back in, but a patch is needed. I can’t imagine this game is all that taxing on my PS4 Pro’s processor.

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One of these things is not like the others

 

On its own Episode 5 is no stand out piece. It does do a great job of tieing up the loose ends in a Batman story I’ve been invested in for months and alludes to the Clown Prince of Crime as Season 2’s big bad. If the issues on the technical end could be worked out( though that seems like an issue for the series as a whole), I’d have no real gripes with City of Light. If you’ve come this far certainly, see it through to the end.

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Review: Batman The Telltale Series Episode 4 Guardian of Gotham

Game: Batman The Telltale Series: Episode 4 Guardian of Gotham

Developer: Telltale

Publisher: Telltale

Platform(s): Windows, Ps4(reviewed), Xbox One

Release Date: November 22nd, 2016

MSRP: $4.99

Where Batman the Telltale series episode three left off we had a whole lot shake-ups setting episode four’s start in a weird place. For one, we now know the identity of our Lady Arkham( as we hit this episode it gets hard to avoid spoilers, you’ve been warned). Oswald Cobblepot is in control of Wayne Enterprises, and Bruce Wayne is in Arkham Asylum. Though episode four does little to stand out from the rest of this series it sets up for what’s sure to be a grand finale and crams some fan service down our throats.batman_telltale_episode_4

The episode begins with Bruce waking up in a cell in Arkham and surprises surprise the other residents aren’t exactly thrilled to have the son of Thomas Wayne in their midst. So, naturally, they try and put the beat down on old Bruce when he’s saved at the last minute by none other than the Joker. While he’s only referred to as John Doe in this universe and it’s made apparent that Bruce or Batman have never dealt with him before. Now I like the Joker as much as the next guy, but I couldn’t help but feel that his presence here is beyond unnecessary. I can’t see him coming back in the final chapter, and almost any character could have assisted Bruce in getting out of the Asylum.

Perhaps it’s no more than a backdoor set up for season two, I honestly pray that Joker doesn’t make an appearance in episode 5, let Two-Face and Lady Arkham have their day.

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Beyond a casual appearance from the Clown Prince of Crime, Episode 4 doesn’t really stand out. It resolves the conflict with Dent and depending on your choices sees his full-on transformation into Two-Face. It also, with the exception of Gordon paints the corrupt GCPD as the enemy. Dent’s heavy militarized Police prove to be Bruce Waynes largest threat throughout the episode.

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The return of my favorite gameplay element, crime scene analysis makes its return with a pretty brutal double homicide. I won’t spoil the victim’s identity’s, but Lady Arkham is pretty brutal you guys.

The episode comes to a head with a choice to stop Cobblepot or Dent, I chose the latter in either scenario you’re left with only two messes to resolve in the final chapter. Despite the fact that it has a slow pacing, it serves as the setup for what is hopefully an over the top finale. On its own merits, alone Guardian of Gotham is far from exceptional.

Score: 7 out of 10

 

 

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Top 5

Top 5: Bromances In Video Games

As I draw towards the end of Final Fantasy XV and get myself into review mode, something came to mind. The thing that makes this game amazing is the story of four bros out to conquer the world. Sure, our villain’s motivations may be unclear, and I’m not really sure what Reevus is doing here at all, but Noctis, Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus are what make the game work. So I’ve taken it upon myself to compile my list of the top five bromances in video games.

5. Marcus and Dom (Gears of War Series)4765591-vecnwd4olhhcpln7hikl

Although Marcus may not have his best pal Dom around any more int Gears of War 4, the original trilogy starts with Dom getting his bro out of an old prison cell. Sure, it may be to go fight the Locust Horde, but it’s still a nice gesture. Over the course of three games the Gears series paints a picture of a powerful friendship between Marcus and Dom and even beyond their bond, Gears is a game about bros in general. I’m sure you’ve all got fond memories of chainsawing Locust grubs as Marcus, Dom, Cole, and Baird with your pals, for that Marcus and Dom get number 5.

4.Drake and Sully (Uncharted Series)maxresdefault1

At the start of Uncharted the relationship between everyone’s favorite loveable douchebag Nate Drake and cigar-chomping pilot Victor Sullivan may seem like more of a mentor-mentee scenario, and in many ways it is. However, over the course of 4 games, I think it becomes evident through the many quips and dangerous scenarios Drake pulls Sully back into over the years, that deep down they’re just two bros having a great time exploring ancient ruins, as bros due. Drake and Sully are number 4.

3. Ratchet and Clankratchetclank

Ratchet was just a Lombax dreaming of being a real hero when a tiny little robot defect crashed into his life and became his best bro. With Clank by his side, Ratchet fulfilled his dream of becoming a galactic ranger defeated the evil Dr. Nefarious time and time again and even discovered more of his kind. Not to mention that excellent reboot and not so great film. Ratchet and his metallic bro Clank are number 3.

2. Jak and Daxter2274211-jakdaxter04_35706_screen

Before Naughty Dog created Drake and Sully the Dev’s created an even more memorable gaming bromance with Jak and Daxter. Daxter is the goofy loudmouth sidekick of our mute hero Jak and even being turned into an ocelot couldn’t stop him from helping Jak learn about the precursors and eventually make his way to the bleak future of Jak II. While Jak can’t exactly quip back in the first game until he gets over that whole mute thing. Daxter does a good enough job of talking for the both of them all while having his bros back. Naughty Dog’s original bromance is number 2.

 

1.Noctis, Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolusffxv-pax-shot-1

Number one won’t come as much of a surprise, you knew where this was going. It was Final Fantasy XV that got me thinking of gaming Bromance in the first place. Noctis and his pals through their journey across Insomnia go through more than just the fun road trip aspects of a brocation. They tell a story that ends up being more about the friendship they all share, maybe that’s because the games main story is a confusing mess, but just the same, Noctis, Ignis, Prompto, and Gladiolus are my number 1 bromance in video games.

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