2018 has been a series of ups and downs for me. Most of the positives were from the new releases that came out this year and some were not so much. Last year was a stellar year for video games, this year, was better. I feel like video games can only go up from here. I won’t be surprised if 2019 tops this year. But we can wait until next year to really see how 2019 is for video games, for now let’s talk about some of the amazing games that came out this year.
This year’s list is going to be a little different. I’m going to add more games to the list, but they won’t be ranked. There were so many games that I consider putting on my that just won’t fit and ranking them doesn’t really make sense, especially games from this year. I want to celebrate video games in 2018, not create competition, ill leave that to the pros.
God of War
I know that I didn’t want to put a ranking on the games but, God of War is my #1 game of the year. Not only was I excited about God of War when they first showed it at E3 2016, with the amazing live orchestra coinciding with the first game play reveal, I loved it from beginning to end even with the huge expectation I had for it. There were many questions about how it will play and how the story would unfold with a new mythology. But the core gameplay though different has the same feel. Hacking and slashing through the enemies feel just as satisfying as the “Blades of Chaos”. The Axe (Leviathan) was such a fun change from the blades, just throwing it into an empty void or throwing it to stick a monster on to a rock to then recall it is just the best feeling to have right after a tough combat sequence.
It was good to see that combat was on par if not better then what the series was, because this series is known from there fun stylist action, but the thing that has always failed in the series is Kratos as a character. He has always been the face of anger, pain, and violence in video games, so much so that it got dull and lifeless. To see Kratos in a new environment with a wife, with a kid, with responsibility was refreshing, but also heartening. Through out the new God of War you see Kratos character progress from a hard-nosed dad that wants his past hidden from his son for his son’s benefit into a dad that not only cares of his son but understands what Atreus is going through with his new-found knowledge of the gods. Going through this father, son adventure is so different in tone than the past entries, though different, it made the series move in a more emotional direction.
Into the Breach
This game was so big I heard it in 2017. From the makers of FTL: Faster Than Light, Into the Breach is a turned-based rouge-lite that is place on a grid. I know, those are a lot of genres to associate with Into the Breach, but Subset Games use these genres to great effect. The goal of the game is to kill these kaiju before they can destroy the city. There are four island that must be protected, and once you complete a mission on an island you get the ability to choose which island to tackle on your next run. There are 9 available mech squads in which has a different style of protecting the city. One squad is about pulling the enemies out of position, another is about freezing them into place. Once you’ve unlocked a second squad your able to customize your own squad out of the available mechs, or if you want a small challenge you can randomize them all.
Now, the combat is the meat of the game. As I said before, the objective is to protect the city at all cost. This being a grid based-game I expected percentage accuracy, but one of the best parts of the game is that they don’t have percentages, every hit is 100% intentional. Attacking is intentional and so is everything else you see on the board. One of the biggest reasons this is at the top of everyone’s list is because of all the information that is laid out at the beginning of every turn, which is why it feels so satisfying. It makes you feel like the smartest person alive, but you never feel angry about a failed turn because I knew if I looked and thought hard enough, I could get through it.
The rouge-lite side of the game is the thing that makes you doubt your decisions. At the start of each combat sequence you get a 2-3 side objectives that will provide energy, which are essentially the cites or tokens which is a currency that is used to gain new abilities on your current mech. These objectives have put me in so much difficult situations, having me juggle disasters. Do I take a hit to protect this building? Or should I take out this big bad for an objective to get a better advantage for the next encounter? These are the difficult choices you must make it Into the Breach which is why it is at the top of my list.
If you told me sometime in 2017 that Dragonball would be the biggest fighting game out right now, I would’ve laugh, tell you how it wouldn’t happen, and you know, giggle about the possibility. But holy hell this game is incredible in almost every way. I would be the last person to have a fighting game on the list because, though I appreciate fighting games and the community around it, I can get myself to get into one deeply. Dragonball FighterZ was the first one that I wanted to dig my teeth into and I did try, but damn is there’s a lot to learn. I tried out Teen Gohan and was trying my hardest to practice, but I just couldn’t. But that didn’t stop me from mashing buttons against CPU or a friend beside me.
As a competitive fighting game, it’s as deep as ever, but as a casual fighter it’s just as assessable. The auto-combo system gives the satisfaction that you want in a fighting game, while also looking incredible with all the flashy lights and crumbling mountains. Like all Dragonball games this has fan service like none before. When selecting characters, if you choose characters that has history in the shows a small cutscene referencing that moment in the show, same goes for the finishing moves. For example, when defeating Cell with Gohan’s special there will be a scene right from the Cell-saga. It is a cool nod to fans of the anime series.
Oh yeah, the story mode…. Its ok. Its an original story that is just fun if not serviceable.
Yes, finally a “amazing” Spiderman with great swinging, stylized combat, and an engaging story to boot. One thing I’ve heard and full heartedly agree on is how Marvel’s Spiderman feels like a highly-produced Spiderman movie. The music when you first load in was triumphant like we’ve done something great even before I started the game. But once I started, it was a blasted.
Swinging around New York made me feel like a superhero, running on buildings, zipping on a ledge to jump to then having extra momentum for a higher swing. That feeling doesn’t really end, expect for when you’re playing stealth sequences as Mary-Jane. Though those sequences were delivered in an interesting setting, playing them were just not fun.
The combat is cool, and fun... for the first 10 hours, but then it started to feel like I’m pressing the same button for 10-15 mins especially for the bigger, more tanky enemies. One thing I will say for the combat is how cinematic it looks, the takedowns are cool in the way Spiderman animates with the jumps, webs, and swinging. It’s something I can see in one of the actual Marvel movies.
I saying it looks like a movie, and it does, but I feel like the story was written for a marvel film. The relationships/ enemies he forges over his 7-year career as Spiderman shows how mature and focus Peter is compared to the films. I loved the relationship between Peter and Mary-Jane, its been told to death with all the iteration of Spiderman’s medium. It isn’t the hero coming to safe the heroine, but it’s about the friction between Peter wanting to protect Mary-Jane at all cost, but Mary-Jane not wanting the protection because she knows she’s strong, independent, and fearless. The story is one of the best, considering I had no hope of having a great story to go along with a great playing Spiderman game.
I’m not going to talk to much about Hitman 2, because this is pretty much the same game as 2016’s Hitman which was one of my favorite games in 2016, but now I can play it again with all the new shine things. It’s insane that the 2016’s Hitman was integrated into Hitman 2, which is already a great value, but also having new maps and a continuation of the story makes this a steal.
Most of the changes are small but do so much for the overall gameplay. Hiding in foliage or crowds gives us assassins more leeway to run, hide, blend in, and depose of bodies. Another quality of life change is when someone finds a dead or knocked out body its now shows you a picture-in-picture image of who was found.
All they change are cool, but the real stars in Hitman 2, like in the first Hitman are the maps. IO interactive doesn’t disappoint when it comes to depth in maps. Hitman 2 comes with 6 new maps along with the older fantastic maps. These maps from IO always gets me excited to play it, just because all the silly, dumb stuff the goes around in these maps.
Super Smash Bros: Ultimate
I haven’t owned a Smash Bros game since the Gamecube and I had a blast playing it with friends. With Smash Ultimate I’m having the exact same feeling, expect this time I’m pretty good at it. I’ve always admired the people that loves smash, but I’ve never thought that I would enjoy it as a fighting game, I’ve always liked it as a game where you can have the craziest of match-ups. Characters like DK vs. Link, or Mario vs. Sonic, these are the dumb things I’ve enjoyed in the years prior. But something about Smash Ultimate brought out this competitive fighting side of me, something I’m loving as of recent memory.
One of the criticisms of the game early was how many characters that must be unlocked before having the full roster. You start off with 8 characters (original N64) and must unlock the rest of 64 characters throughout the series. This might seem a lot, it did for me, but after I had all the characters, I missed having the new challengers on screen every few matches. It broke up the serious nature of a tough match into a cool little reward for everyone playing.
There are multiple ways to unlock characters, one way is to play with friends, or the next best way is to dive into the story mode. I didn’t like this mode, because you start off only using Kirby, and as you move around this over world you unlock buffs or characters. It gets dull fast, your using Kirby for a first few levels and the characters are random, so it might be awhile before you have your preferred character. As I went farther, I had no incentive to keep playing once I had all 72 characters.
As for the overall fighting, it feels amazing and balanced. Each character feels unique, they have their own style in the way some animates and the different abilities they possess make every match new and exciting.
No game has ever made me feel a rollercoaster of emotion then Tetris Effect did. Mizuguchi created an out of this world experience that I could reach. The music, sound, and art design work so well with Tetris, the way the blocks chime with the music when your rotating or dropping them is unbelievably smooth. When playing in VR the art is so bright and apparent you can’t ignore it, which can be a bad thing for a Tetris game but its works well in VR.
I’ve been telling friends that Tetris Effect is a rave and you’re the DJ playing with Tetris blocks. It is so accurate, in my opinion, seeing the art is like seeing the audience at a rave, the music is on a rotating playlist like a DJ would do, and playing on a controller is like spinning a turn table when the blocks are moving.
I still can’t believe we live in a world where Tetris, a game that has been in the video game circles for decades now has a new and refreshing take on its original or even small incremental iterations like Tetris Vs. and PuyoPuyo Tetris.
If there is one way to first experience Tetris Effect try VR if you can, it made me feel like no Tetris has ever done.
A great simple action platformer starting a mouse. Uses great depth of the world, peeking around corners and trees for collectibles is a cool novel idea that I hope is used more in VR.
· Monster Hunter: Worlds
I’ve only experience Monster Hunter: Generations on the 3DS in 2016, and I really enjoyed it, but Worlds is just a better overall experience. I loved the monster designs and how deep the hunts can be. Preparing is a whole process making food to boost your stats just a bit, so you can have an advantage can mean life or death in curtain situations. The weapons feel great to use and didn’t miss a beat from their handheld heritage.
· Destiny 2: ForsakenBungie did it again, they sold us another expansion that over hauled the core experience but in the same vein as Taken King in the first Destiny. The grind was fun and filled with objectives to clear and a new story involving the death of Cayde-6. Though I loved the grind I also hated how long I had to play to get to max or appropriate Light level to do the high end-content. But like the first Destiny I know I’ll jump right back in when I see something new and shiny.