Hey everybody it's me, Scrooloose and the rest of us here at Twinstiq. How's it going? Good? You want a soda? No? Would you settle for a slap-dash list of games we liked from last year (and some prior) written in no particular order, some ranked and some not, hastily put together and edited in collaboration over the last few days with no real format? Yeah, we thought you'd like that.
This is not a best-of 2018 list, per se (that will be coming shortly). What this is, is simply a recap of a few of the highlights from the past year (in the order in which they came out). In retrospect, 2018 shaped up to be a pretty fantastic year for gaming.
Dragon Ball FighterZ - Dragon Ball Z has been one of my favorite anime series since the turn of the century (that’s fun to say), and until this year I had yet to see a single decent video game adaptation of it. Thank god Bandai Namco finally decided to tap a developer with the fighting chops to actually do the series justice. Not unlike a character from the show, Arc System Works didn’t just knock it out of the park, they knocked it out of the atmosphere, delivering arguably one of the best fighting games of this millennium. The entire game looks like an HD episode of the show and it plays like a top-tier arcade fighter (which it practically is anyway). Never have I been happier to be a fan of Dragon Ball Z (or gaming, for that matter).
Kirby: Star Allies - As a connoisseur of virtually all things Nintendo, Kirby has long occupied a special place in my heart. His uniquely adorable charm is difficult to resist. And even though not every series entry has set the world on fire, I almost always find them at least somewhat fun and heartwarming. Kirby: Star Allies though was one of the best I’ve ever played. Between the different power combos to discover and play with, and the 2-3 friend characters you can recruit (either real or computer controlled), the game is tremendously entertaining. And it’s easily the finest looking Kirby game yet.
Dead Cells - I’ve been a Castlevania fan for nearly all of my video game playing life. I’m pretty sure I own a version of every entry ever to grace a Nintendo portable (and nearly every one to appear on a Nintendo or Sony TV-connected console). I’ve waited patiently for 10 long years for another great 2D entry in the series (ever since 2008’s fantastic Order of Ecclesia), and still there’s only the sound of crickets coming from Konami. Luckily, French indie studio Motion Twin stepped up to fill the massive gaping hole instead. Dead Cells is not only a much-appreciated, very worthy substitute (with a rogue-lite twist), but it was also one of the biggest surprise highlights of the year for me. If you haven’t yet, I would implore you to check it out without delay.
Super Smash Bros Ultimate - When I first heard about Super Smash Bros Ultimate, I incorrectly assumed it was just going to be another lazy Wii U to Switch cash-in port job. I’m glad to say I was wrong about that. Not only did Nintendo one-up their previous effort by including every single character from all the earlier games in the series, they also threw in several new ones to boot (including new personal favorites, Ridley, the Inklings, and Richter Belmont). Add to that, the vast majority of all previous stages, plus several other new tweaks, touches, assets, and modes, and I’d say that Smash Bros Ultimate doesn’t just stand apart from the other Super Smash Bros games, it stands apart from almost everything else that came out this year.
Dr. Strangethumb's Picks:
Tetris Effect. It's good.
God of War. It's really good.
Spider-Man. It's also really good and has DLC thats actually worth it.
Fallout VR. It's Fallout 4, but good.
Prey (2017). It came out last year, but it's still good and you didn't play it.
Honorable mention: Katamari Damacy Reroll. A Remake of the original, which was good. It's still good.
Yono and the Celestial Elephants: From it's clean, sparse, easygoing look, to it's charming little bits of music and neat, under-the-hood philosophy, Yono successfully blends a whole string of little bits together to make for a fine, never-too-difficult puzzle-platformer.
Dream Daddy: Sure. I played it in 2017 for the most part, but the final parts of the game arrived late this year. plus, i have something even older up my sleeve, anyway. From the moment you step into maple bay and create your dad, to closing scenes where you send your daughter off to college and head off into the sunset with your chosen husband, dream daddy does a lot of sweet, understated things that more games should try for: the writing is great, with one minor misstep, the plots are very small-scale with low stakes and the game [mostly] handles sensitive topics in a gentle, kind manner.
Space Quest 5: This is by far the oldest game on my list. I've played it before, but playing it again has made me see the game in a different light. Maybe I'm older now and appreciate it more, but there's a lot of fine world-building that happens in this game [that doesn't really happen again in the series, alas.] - Roger gets a crew, has a definite purpose and is a little more fleshed out as a character by the time all's said and done. There are issues: the game is mostly drab [with minor splotches of colour every now and then] and the tie-in with sprint somewhat mars the execution of the game as a whole, but this is the chapter of space quest where the world comes into it's own, at last.
For me there are a few things that I found to be great this year in terms of PC Gaming. Certainly some great titles have come out. Many more deserve mention than I can reasonably fit here, but here's a few that I find worth talking about anyway.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider got a lot of flak for not being action-y enough. But I really enjoyed it. The voice actors did a spectacular job as always bringing the cast of characters to life. I thought the story was enough of a balance of things that could happen in life and the supernatural. And Lara has run her character arc so I do think that this third title was a good place to stop the current reboot. I wasn't a fan of the ending trying to take a cue from Geralt, in The Witcher 3 with Lara's fourth wall break and grin into the camera. Nor was I fan of overlooking Lara's dual pistols again. But I really loved the game play, not to mention how nice the visuals are especially for the level of optimization present. I started that game with detail levels nearly all the way up on 1080p with my old 390X GPU and was still averaging 70+ FPS and with my new Vega 64 I'm seeing around 105 FPS at 1440p. Shadow of the Tomb Raider feels, to me, like a pretty good achievement and a good place to end the story for now. It'll be interesting to see if the new ray tracing tech is ever actually enabled as well.
The release of Subnautica for free on the EPIC Games Store is what finally got me to play it. I remember seeing it back on Steam's Early Access and thinking it was interesting but that it was probably going to be stuck there forever and I couldn't see myself ever buying into it because early access is almost never a good idea. But in this case it was fantastic and I really loved everything about it. Subnautica has a beautiful and at times treacherous world to explore and despite it being a survival game, you as the player, have the option to play lesser level of the survival aspect. Which is great for me because while I don't mind gathering items for crafting etc, I do have an issue with the hunger and thirst bits. Making a game a job is not a fun way to play as far as I'm concerned and that lost it's charm way back with Don't Starve. The level of immersion Subnautica brings to the table is largely unmatched and it plays on a lot of human insecurities and natural fears. Being alone in a foreign environment where you're not on the top of the food chain makes you feel like (pardon the pun) a fish out of water. I really enjoyed playing through and I may just do it again sooner than later.
Then there was God of War on console. What an awesome reboot while not just erasing or resetting the history of it's predecessors. Kratos left the Mediterranean and moved north. Far north. Where he resides with his wife and son, trying to make a new life for himself and leave the past behind him. Of course the Norse gods catch wind of a possible interloper and decide to intervene, leading Kratos, and his young son, Atreus, on an epic journey filled with some hard lessons and amazing vistas. It's a really good telling of an awesome new story in the God of War lineup and the dev team really kept the scale of everything feeling huge and dramatic. I loved that there were little bits of downtime where Kratos and Mimir's head would regail Atreus (and us by proxy) with stories of adventures and myths. Never a dull moment was to be had and the combat was refined and felt like more than just button mashing. As far as I can see, God of War deserved it's game of the year award and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an epic adventure game to play.
4. Red Dead Redemption 2: It’s been eight years since Rockstar Games released Red Dead Redemption and the whole gaming community was waiting on bated breath to return to the Wild West. The thing that pulled me into the first game so much was the concept that was found in the title itself. It was about redemption. Playing as John Marston trying to make up for his past mistakes in order to get his happily ever after for his family gripped me so much that I played through the first game at least three times. I was never a fan of Grand Theft Auto and the wanton destruction of those games. No one was ever the Lawful Good in those games (maybe that’s why I loved L.A. Noire so much). So when Red Dead Redemption came out I played John Marston as Lawful Good, Neutral Good. After all it was a story of redemption right? I had enough fun just playing it that way. So why all this back story? Well it has to do with why Red Dead Redemption 2 is only in my four spot.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is, first off, much slower. It is slower to getting to the redemption arc, it is slow to get through the story, it is just… slow. In the original it always felt as if there was something to do, a side story that melded well with the main story. RDR2 has many, many, many side quests (heck you even hunt down a vampire). But many of these quests are superficial. Case in point, there is a mission where a foreman on the railroad knows someone is stealing from him, he wants you to find out who and deal with it. Does it give you a moral choice to kill or not kill? Not really. Morality is also superficial in the game, while you get perks for being good or evil (good you get a discount in shops, evil will net you more money and infamy) and you get different endings. But this becomes moot as swapping morality is as simple as waving to people in town. Rockstar’s storytelling comes across as being over confident, where RDR1 felt like a writer that wanted you to experience their world and like it, but now the writer has become over-confident. This game comes across as if you already like it. I feel as if this overconfidence is a downfall of the game. I got bored with the pacing more than I was on the edge of my seat.
It’s not that I didn’t love the game. It has so much going for it. It is beyond beautiful, it is massive and has tons to do. But my connection to Arthur Morgan is almost non-existent, even at the end I found myself apathetic to the character. However, I still had fun, I played it a lot and will keep doing so.
Oh, I hope you love hunting as much as yoda0vgs…
3. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: It should be no surprise to anyone that the once-in-a-console-generation game would top my games of the year. With its locked 60fps gameplay it is a sight to behold. And the tagline of “everyone is here!” holds true, all the fighters that has ever graced the game are back with a slew of new contenders. Masahiro Sakurai really outdid himself with this one. Story mode is challenging, thought provoking, and fun. If this is to be his last Smash title it is by far the best to go out with. Jammed packed with countless collectibles and game modes. Controls are as tight as ever and the game rewards those that know their favorite fighter’s inside and out.
If I were to have any gripes it would be online battles are locked behind Nintendo’s paid service (much cheaper than Playstation or Xbox) but it is still annoying that you have to pay more to play a game you paid full price for. Also, to get all the collectibles, not only do you have to fight for the spirit (now replacing the classic Smash Trophies) but you also have to play a mini-game to get the spirit. This is in the form of shooting a laser through a small opening in a fast spinning circle. If you miss, you can pay gold once to try again, use power-ups to help… If you mess up, oh well, this makes a nightmare for completionists.
However, the game is still one of the best fighters this year. And well worth the price. A must have for Switch owners.
2. God of War: What can I honestly say about this game to give it justice. I have always recognized the importance of the God of War games. However, as classic hack and slash games I have always clinged to Devil May Cry, the rage and bloodlust of Kratos never really appealed to me. Not to mention a few other aspects. However, when trailers dropped of a God of War game that looked like a cross between The Road and God of War, that showed a more level-headed Kratos now a father, I knew this was a game I had to get. You see, I have just become a father to a Non-Verbal Autistic thirteen year old, my Fiance’s son. Each day I struggle with the notion if I am being a good father, on top of, how to speak with someone that doesn’t always understand or is unable to speak back. This struggle I see with Kratos when it comes with his son. One of the most compelling stories this year, it is a good jumping in point for new fans as well, as it acts as a good stand alone story with only the occasional call back to the classic games. The combat is less about button mashing and more about understanding enemy weaknesses and how to build combos. Not just that but giving directions to Kratos’s son Atreus takes on a cool new playstyle for combat.
With an amazing story, voice work, and art direction, this is a must have for Playstation Owners.
1. Spider-Man: My game of the year. Now this was a hard choice between God of War and Spider-Man. It came down to the game I got most enjoyment out of. First off, let me start by saying that while I may be a bigger DC Comics fan, my love for Marvel should not be questioned. Spider-Man, Captain America, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, I adore Marvel. Insomniac Games knocked it out of the park with this game. It is rare that a licensed game turn out so good but this game was something special. So much so that I dished out the money to get the limited edition PS4 Pro that was tied to the game.
Nothing feels quite as good as swinging around the city or fighting as ol’ webhead. The story is superb, so much so that Marvel is now crossing over this universe to their main comic universe. The voice acting is top notch. And what twists in the story felt natural, never forced just because. The (near) 4k resolution is beautiful, and even at a locked 30fps the game flows amazingly. There are enough collectibles to keep you playing without it ever feeling like a chore. And if you dish out the funds for the season pass, The City That Never Sleeps, you will be treated to a series of stories that set up a sequel but also stand as a good story expansion.
I could spend hours talking but this game but I will end it by saying that this game was enough to get me to spend money on upgrading a system I already had, so if you love Spider-Man or comic heroes it is worth the price of a PS4.
Monster Hunter World
I honestly did not expect to enjoy this game as much as I do. It has a dynamic and rich world with a core gameplay loop that feels entirely unique to itself. Of course I’ve never played a Monster Hunter game before so maybe I’ve just been missing out. But standing out as much as this does in what I consider to be a stale and tired genre, this open world game definitely carved out a really original place on my heart.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Speaking of stale open world games, RDR2 was looking to be my favorite title from 2018. The pacing in the first half of the game was perfect, and the story and gameplay kept escalating and elevating itself well beyond my already high expectations. But at a certain point it plateaued. Granted it was still far above most games in this genre, including many of Rockstar’s own, but unfortunately even staying on the highest plateau will become boring if you stay there too long. Which RDR2 eventually does. But I could never not commend a game for reaching the heights it does, even if it overstays it's welcome.
Shadow of The Tomb Raider
This is how you wrap up a series. While I doubt Square will call this the end of Lara’s story, they really should. I think it would be hard to top this in any meaningful way. Coming off the heels of the sorely disappointing Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of the Tomb Raider not only finally acknowledges that her character has grown, but that the growth is not without flaws. And it’s these flaws that parallel the nature of her family’s legacy and what it stands for that Lara needs to atone. Not just for her actions, but her father’s as well. On top of that we finally get a game that’s a puzzle adventure game first, and a stealthy shooter second. Not the other way around. Overall I was highly pleased with the ending and narrative of this game and I'd recommend anyone who enjoyed the first game to check this one out.
Many games this year gripped me on a narrative level, but nothing came close to Omensight. Taking a slight cue from Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and using game mechanics to tell it’s story, Omensight presents itself as a fantasy murder mystery. Where the murder is all of existence. And you need to stop it by revisiting key moments in time before everything gets wiped away. It’s this system of bridging the story arcs like puzzle pieces and how they interact with each other that I could not get enough of.
The only odd thing in my eyes is that this system is accompanied by a (very good mind you) action combat system that you will be spending most of your time with. And as fun as that is it feels just slightly disconnected from the bridging detective mechanic that makes this game so unique. Still, this is not a game worth missing and if you’re like me you’ll be playing it for years to come.