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Darling

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Darling

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Darling

19

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Avatar image for darling
Darling

19

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Avatar image for darling
Darling

19

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GOTY 2019

There were so many good games in 2019 that even approaching this list is daunting. As you might expect, I didn’t have time to play EVERYTHING, so here’s my top ten list of the games I played this year.

Winners

  1. Final Fantasy 14: Shadowbringers

  2. Disco Elysium

  3. AI: The Somnium Files

  4. Pokemon Sword & Shield

  5. Slay the Spire

  6. Fire Emblem: Three Houses

  7. The Outer Worlds

  8. Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy!

  9. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

  10. Untitled Goose Game

Runners Up

Mechwarrior 5

APE OUT

Kind Words

Another Eden

Mario Maker 2

Apex Legends

Dicey Dungeons

Games I Wish I Played

Outer Wilds

Control

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Samurai Showdown

Sayonara Wild Hearts

10: Untitled Goose Game

This thing has been shown around and talked about for years, but they did it. You can finally unleash your inner goose and everything that comes with it. Untitled Goose Game is a strong entry on this list, even at number 10, because it’s just the right length, each section is just small enough to be manageable and focused. Stealing a kid’s toy and having the shopkeep sell it back to him, then locking said shopkeep in their own garage are some of the moments that make this game really satisfying to play from a purely mischievous angle. Get HONK’d, boi!

9: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

You might know Koji Igarashi as the director of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and many of the other Metroidvania Castlevania games (that’s some genre nonsense right there). Well, he and his cowboy hat formed their own studio to produce Bloodstained. If you’ve played any of his previous games, you know exactly what to expect. Most of the mechanics are borrowed from the previous games, including the myriad equipment, spells, and navigation abilities, but still feels fresh enough. Fresh enough for me to finish it, even. The bosses are pretty fun and if you can figure out what their tells are, or what their weaknesses are, it makes dying and trying again feel like not as much of a bummer. It’s a compelling game if you can handle a little grinding here and there.

I ran into a LOT of technical bugs while playing this game, but I’m not factoring that into the writeup, because I believe they have fixed most of that by this point.

8: Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon: Every Buddy!

I am probably the only person who played this game this year, but you know what? Mystery Dungeon is still fun. Chocobo is a cool guy. Put them together, and you’ve got a classic tile-based dungeon crawler replete with Final Fantasy style jobs for Chocobo, unidentified items, kicking things at enemies across the room, and fighting through floors, making the most of each turn. The story is cute and intriguing; they manage to keep the game light-hearted in spite of the rough time the townspeople are being put through. As cute as it may be, this game can get pretty hard. It really makes you think about your job selection, the items you’re bringing in, and the overall strategy of the boss battles.

It’s a fantastic Switch game, and I recommend it if you’re someone who enjoys (or is curious about) the Mystery Dungeon games.

7: The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds is a semi-open world game in the vein of Fallout or Skyrim, set in the distant future. You’re a colonist from Earth, sent to a faraway star system, but your transport gets botched along the way. You get woken up by a mad scientist, then ejected planetside. First thing you notice is that the colonization is NOT going well. It’s a miserable scene. Anyway! You have a gun or a sword. Go kill bandits. That’s the majority of the game, and it’s pretty fun. The story is pretty boring and forgettable, but for some reason, I latched onto the combat and the companion characters.

Parvati is definitely my favorite character; she’s insightful, and leads you to make more empathetic decisions. She also has a great voice acting performance from Ashly Burch. SAM, my janitor robot, was my second favorite character. His penchant for chiming in with a corporate jingle at the most inappropriate times got a laugh out of me pretty much every time. The companion characters really make this game stand out, and that’s why it’s my number 7.

6: Fire Emblem: Three Houses

I’ve never played a Fire Emblem game before (yes… I know…), but I feel like this was a really good one to start with. I like tactical RPGs, and this one feels just right. The normal difficulty (no permadeath) might be a tad too easy, but it still made me focus on putting really solid units together to overcome some of the bosses. Aside from that, you get to be in charge of a class of students, teaching warfare. The students of each house are very unique and have their own quirks; Bernadetta being one of the quirkiest, but really grows throughout the story. I won’t go any further with the plot, because it’s spoiler city.

As I understand it, Fire Emblem has been known for having some really creepy shit in the game, like the “face petting” minigame from the 3DS game. Thankfully, this game doesn’t have much of that. There’s some teatime nonsense, but you don’t have to do it if that’s not your jam.

There’s a lot of replayability to Three Houses, as there are four story routes you can go through. I’ve only completed one of them, but I felt satisfied with the ending. I’ll probably return to it at some point if I need a tactical RPG fix!

5: Slay the Spire

“What? That game’s old!” ...Right? It came out this year. January 23, 2019. It’s been sitting on my “someday on the GOTY list” list since early access began in 2017. Whatever, let’s cut to the chase. Slay the Spire is a deckbuilding card battler. Slay monsters, get treasure, get cards, make your way to the top, die, try again. Each run feels different than the last, and sometimes you’ll have a crazy good loadout of both relics and cards that you can smash through everything, only to eventually die to your own hubris. I’ve put 84 hours into this game. Have I beaten it? No. Did I try? Many, many times. Slaying the Spire is HARD, but damn is it fun. If this all sounds good to you, go play it. Slay the Spire rules.

4: Pokemon Sword & Shield

Let me just get this out of the way…

THERE IS A POKEMON GAME ON A HOME CONSOLE

That’s better. This new Pokemon game takes place in the Galar region, which is an analogue for the UK. Near Dragon Quest levels of British accents, sheeps, and plaid, it’s all there. It’s cute as hell, the new Pokemon are cool, and the wild area, where you can roam about and do social activities, is a great time. The wild area is fun to explore, because there are “raid dens” that allow you to group up with three other trainers to take down giant versions of Pokemon. Yes, real people. Over the internet. It’s fun, but one thing is clear: Nintendo has been fucking this up for the last 15 years and still does not understand how the internet works. It works well enough to get by, but come on. Gripe over.

The soundtrack to this game is phenomenal, and I’d like an OST. Sword & Shield’s musical score enhances everything in the game. Each piece is such a perfect fit, and sometimes I’m compelled to go to an area just to listen to the music. Just awesome.

Battling is fun and the balance is pretty tight. There was some controversy about the Pokedex being so limited, but you know what? Good. Lots of tough matchups, and it makes for good battles. I can even run a hail team that works. Good job, Game Freak.

Pokemon Sword & Shield lays the groundwork for home console Pokemon releases to come. It’s a decent foray into networking, for Nintendo, and I enjoyed the online play quite a bit.

3: AI: The Somnium Files

Let me tell you about a game called 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, part of the Zero Escape trilogy. It’s a DS game directed by Kotaro Uchikoshi, the director of this game. Zero Escape is a reality-bending room escape series that is known for its use of quantum theory and metaphysical novel influence to tell a complex mystery story. AI: The Somnium Files is no different. Like a true murder mystery story, it keeps you guessing and doubting what you know. I spent a lot of time not getting to sleep because I was trying to piece together the timeline of the crime.

Kaname Date, the main character, is a member of a police division called ABIS. He’s a “syncer”, someone who uses a “sync machine” to go inside someone’s dream and investigate their memories as they unfold in the dream in order to gather information about the crime. In the dream world, “somnium”, you control your AI eyeball’s projection of herself, Aiba, and go around interacting with things which might behave unlike they do in the real world. It’s very surreal. Date and Aiba are a great pair and play off each other very well. Their interactions can be wholesome, funny, and sometimes it’s just them arguing over the stupidest things. Date is a goober and a perv, but Aiba keeps him in check.

The Somnium levels are fun and have a bunch of easter eggs that hinder your progress, but are worth doing because they’re really funny. Some of the QTE sequences are too ridiculous to feel like they fit with the game, but they do it under the pretense that your AI eyeball can calculate every possible outcome and picks the right actions to perform. It’s like they lost control of the anime factory and it spilled out into those sequences in high concentration. In spite of that, they manage to tell a serious story with the backdrop of dick and boob jokes, like Metal Gear Solid. In fact, there’s an easter egg in the game where Date and Aiba talk about director Hideo Kojima, so there’s certainly some MGS influence going on.

I haven’t been consistently excited about playing a mystery game since Zero Time Dilemma (the last entry in the Zero Escape trilogy). Uchikoshi just continues to dominate the mystery genre, game after game. Go play this strange and beautiful game.

2: Disco Elysium

The dark and crass world of Disco Elysium is something so many games have tried to achieve, but never did. You, a washed up disco loving cop, wake up in your hostel room, which you destroyed in a drunken rampage. Basically, you’re a pile of alcoholic human wreckage. Starting you from the lowest of the low is a key choice; it’s a chance for your character to turn over a new leaf, or not. You can choose to be a total shithead, rambling off bigoted nonsense to fellow shitheads, or you can be a truly good cop, risking your life for the people. They don’t encourage you to carry yourself in a specific way, but you do have to live with your choices.

There’s also a system of adopting a political leaning. I wish I could speak more to that system, because I told each and every one of the political factions to get bent. I’m not here to be a commie. I’m here because there’s a murder case. To each their own!

One of the most interesting facets of the game is the skill system. “Wow, skills. RPGs have those, alright”. But no. Your skills are voices in your head. They give you suggestions of what to say and what to do, but they aren’t always helpful suggestions. In fact, they can be downright wrong and put you in a world of shit, to which they say “yeah, that was a stupid idea, sorry”. That’s what makes this game so special. You really need to go with your gut and know when their suggestions are good ones. Not only that, but the lack of combat really benefits this game, because it puts the spotlight on your character’s inner insanity, which is the most interesting part of the game.

There are some really funny moments as well. In my playthrough, I became a Hobocop, went searching for invisible bugs with a self-proclaimed “cryptofascist”, and failed to convince an old man to let me have some of his sandwich. My partner, Ken Kitsuragi, and I ran a buddy cop routine that really grew on me. He’s a nerd, but he can also be a stone cold motherfucker.

A Disco Elysium playthrough is pretty short. I clocked in at 31 hours for my playthrough, and I probably haven’t even seen 60% of the game. Don’t even try to do it all in one playthrough, it’s just not going to happen. There’s your replay value. Disco Elysium rules, and I’m definitely going to play it again.

1: Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers

Shadowbringers is the third expansion to Final Fantasy 14, an MMORPG. With each expansion, there has been stunning amount of growth in writing, design, and direction. Every expansion, I always have the thought that we’re living in the golden days of FFXIV, and I still have that feeling with this expansion. Director Yoshi-P and writer Natsuko Ishikawa deliver a deeply impactful story that’s presented with finesse.

Shadowbringers takes place on The First, one of thirteen reflections of the source world. There, a cataclysm is occurring: an ocean of light-aspected aether (basically, it sucks the life energy out of everything) has all but consumed the world, save for a small portion, about the size of Nevada. Even worse, it’s given birth to what are called “Sin Eaters”, who are former people/animals that have been turned into aether-hungry monsters by other Sin Eaters. The world is on its way to total destruction, and everyone has lost hope, living out their final days in debauchery or squalor. You, the Warrior of Light, and your companions try to rekindle hope in the people to rise against the threat: something that cannot be achieved with just eight people.

From start to finish, it’s an emotional rollercoaster. Despite everything that’s happening, there are some really funny scenes. The faeries’ mischief and disregard for responsibility made me laugh quite a bit, and forget that if I piss them off, they’ll turn me into a shrubbery or leave me to wander endlessly through the forest until I starve to death. The first time that you see a Sin Eater transformation really leaves a scar, and makes you want to put each and every one to the sword. It’s really shocking and sad. I won’t spoil the end, but my entire party and I were trying to hold in tears on Discord while we were doing the last battle of the main story.

As for the dungeons and raids, there are fewer of them than other expansions, but each one is a sight to behold. I wish there were a mode to just go explore the area without monsters to take in the environment. Actually, there is, but I’ll get to that. The Trials, basically a fight against a very powerful boss, are very creative. The first time I saw one of the bosses teleport the entire arena outside of the building, it blew my mind. The raids, though! The first one, Eden’s Gate, is designed around Final Fantasy 8, even bringing new renditions of the themes from FF8. Ever played NieR: Automata? There is a NieR: Automata raid now, and it’s being designed by director Yoko Taro, the director of Drakengard, NieR, and NieR: Automata. It is surprisingly faithful to the source material, and weaves in the Final Fantasy themes very elegantly. This is the raid where you can actually go and explore without monsters! Not only that, there are data logs and tidbits of lore hidden about that you can collect (or some that you just observe, if you know how to make the connection). Beating this raid live on the Gamespot Extra Life Stream with Michael Higham was my highlight of this year. Such an amazing experience that I was so lucky to be a part of!

The music in this expansion is perfect, music from the raids being no exception. It’s the only expansion so far not to have composer Nobuo Uematsu, as he was in poor health during development. Masayoshi Soken takes the stage in his biggest composing role yet, and knocks it out of the park. He’s composed for Final Fantasy 14 before, but has not been the sole composer. If you don’t plan on playing Shadowbringers, go pick up the soundtrack.

I love this game. So much. It’s the best that an MMORPG has ever been. Not only is it a good MMO, it’s one of the best, if not THE best Final Fantasy game. What a time to be playing video games.

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Darling

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