Game of the Year 2018

When we started the year off, I was actually relieved to see that there wasn't the same glut of quality releases heading our way as in 2017. Say what you will about other happenings therein, where it concerned digital interactive entertainment it was a hard act to follow. I was looking forward to the comparatively calm and relaxed pace that 2018 promised.

So naturally I spent the last month rushing to put more time into the things I'd ignored and put off in favor of replaying old favorites and dicking around in character creators for hours on end. Same as every year, really- time management is an essential life skill that I do not practice often enough.

It's cost me a bit this time around- had I played more of Vampyre, among others, I'm sure it would have earned itself a spot on this list. Instead I blew a bunch of hours trying and failing to get a Rathalos Ruby. Next year, handsome vampire doctor.

Also, the top 5 can be shuffled in pretty much any order and still come out with a list I'd approve of.

List items

  • 10!

    So, there's a conflict here, in that I had to spend money to unlock Kanji which feels like some of the hottest bullshit imaginable. On the other hand, I still got to play as Kanji and that's rad.

    Of course, they took away his delayed command grab, which made him *infinitely* less fun to play as- but then a lot of dumb crossover bullshit played out in an entertaining fashion, and I do get a kick out of that kind of nonsense. Also, Labrys came back and the girls from RWBY (Which I will never see) are a blast to play as if only to infuriate others. But the game is kind of messy and I hate the controls on a few levels. You can't even walk! It's a mixed bag.

    I'm not sure how it all shakes out when I weigh the pros against the cons, but when I think of it I remember having a lot of fun, and that's generally what matters.

  • 9!

    A good story is probably the simplest pleasure in life I can think of- "good" in this case meaning that I enjoyed it, because I've enjoyed a lot of trash in my time. I particularly enjoy short stories, my position being that the longer something is the more opportunity there is for it to go wrong. It's awfully cynical, and when I *am* enjoying something I rarely wish for it to end, but there's an appreciation there for something that doesn't overstay its welcome.

    It's why I both love and am disappointed with this game- because I love the idea, the travel and telling tales and trading stories around campfires. I love the way that you'll get stories fired back at you by strangers across the country who've elaborated and stretched the details to the breaking point, made something new of them. I love everything about Dire Wolf, especially the name. How weird is it that he's voiced by Sting, also? Super weird.

    It's just a bummer that it's all tied around the tedious central mechanic of walking slowly, or hitchhiking inaccurately, or dangerously train-hopping to get to where the things I actually want to do are. If this game had stripped out the hiking and gone full visual novel, I'd be ecstatic. If they just had me pick destinations and then a poorly animated skeleton man hopped along a dotted line to the next city or building, that'd be fine!

    I enjoy the game a lot, still, but it's despite the thing I spent most of my time doing.

  • 8!

    I'm specifically talking about the Definitive Edition release on the Switch, which for whatever reason doesn't have its own page here on Giant Bomb. I'm also using this award to highlight some other ports to the Switch that people should really play- namely the Bayonetta series, because there is never a time when people should not be buying and playing those games.

    The Definitive Edition of Hyrule Warriors is mostly important for finally putting the content and characters from both the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game into a single package, along with the DLC content- something that's been long overdue.

    You'll probably want a pro controller for any of these games, but if that's no obstacle then there's really no better place to play (or replay) any of them.

  • 7!

    I'd kind of given up on Soul Calibur. IV was bad, V was a disaster (no matter how cool I think Pyrrha Omega is) and the story (which I care about because I am dumb) had gotten so bad that I didn't even want to know what came next. Neither did the writers, apparently, because in a move reminiscent of MK9 they decided the only direction to go was backwards- ditching the new cast members and bringing back the classics; reviving the series by returning to its roots.

    And it works!

    I've never gotten too deep into Soul Calibur's mechanics, because most of my matches were against family and really all you need for that is aggressive mashing and shit-talking, so I'm not one to do an in depth exploration- SCVI feels good, though, and the new Reversal Edge mechanic is flashy and dramatic while being pretty easy to both use and counter once you know how it works. It manages to make even my amateur hour matches look pretty cool.

    I have some complaints as far as Tira being relegated to DLC status, but honestly, there's enough in the base game that I didn't mind shelling out for the season pass. There's a whole adventure mode that I've still barely touched.

    I don't know if it's going to do well enough financially to save the series, but if not, I'm glad that this is the note they'll go out on.

  • 6!

    I don't actually like puzzle platformers all that much- or, I guess I don't like the ones that pride themselves on being particularly difficult and punishing. Gris appealed to me from the start due to the drop dead gorgeous look it has going on. It's something that immediately grabbed hold of me when I saw the trailer, and I'm glad that I had a chance to play it before the year was out. The only thing I was worried about was the potential for it to devolve into a meat-boy style masochistic mess, and I was reassured when I found out that it was designed to be more easygoing.

    It's a smartly designed and paced game with some of the best visuals I've seen in years, and beautiful sound work to boot. It's short and not very difficult, though there were moments that had me stop and think about what abilities I had available and how best to put them to use. I suppose the real draw is the look and the story- which is as you'd expect fairly vague. It resonated well with me, due to my particular interpretation of the characters and what they represented, but I can't guarantee everyone will have the same experience with it as I did.

    For what it's worth, it was some of the most rewarding time I spent playing a game this year.

  • 5!

    It's hard to pin down the tone of A Way Out most of the time. It can be lighthearted during tense scenes, almost jovial during high-stakes shootouts. Then the characters have to deal with the strain they're putting on their families by living the lives that they do, and it's more heartfelt than you'd expect given that it sometimes feels one step removed from a Grand Theft Auto style farce. There's also a seemingly endless array of comically inappropriate challenges that encourage the players to compete at everything from horseshoes to connect four, no matter the urgency of the story.

    And it works both because of the forced co-op nature of the game and the relationship between the main characters. It's hard not to stop and try to get one over on your Player Two whenever the opportunity arises, especially if you're trying to avenge an earlier loss at one of the other minigames. It's neat, and in the playthroughs I've seen as well as my own, I've noticed it building a sense of camaraderie between the player and their chosen character. Nothing brings people together like being on the receiving end of some good old fashioned trash talk. That connection you build with the characters is a big part of what makes this game special, and the ending in particular is probably my favorite moment in a video game this year.

    I'm not sure I can think of a better game to play with a good friend.

  • 4!

    World of Light is no Subspace Emissary, but I'll take it. That out of the way, what can I say? It's Smash Brothers with some smart changes to dodging, Castlevania getting some representatives, Dark Samus and Ridley added to the mix, a frankly absurd amount of fanservice added via the Spirits system and on the story mode map itself- I don't know a way that this game doesn't make the list. There are things I want that aren't there, of course, but I also can't find fault with what is.

    Still one of the best ways to kill time when I have other things I should be doing instead.

  • 3!

    This game isn't perfect, but it is a hell of a lot of fun, and easily the best Assassin's Creed game they've made since Brotherhood. It's certainly the only one since Brotherhood that I've cared about enough to put in more than a few hours- and by more than a few, I mean a little over 100. And I //still// haven't even been to every island, or done all the side quests in the base game. I hit max level a while before I was done with any of the main quests, and then the limit got bumped up- and now there's DLC on top of that which I've yet to even look at.

    There is an insane amount of content in this game, and the vast majority of it is good. A big part of that, I think, is that the main character- whether you picked Kassandra or Alexios- is the best that they've had in one of these games. Period. No qualifier needed.

    I went with Kassandra, and the adventures of a hardened mercenary tearing up the Greek world for cash and revenge were more compelling than any of the ridiculous ideological battles the Templars and Assassins have for countless games now. Really, stripping out a lot of the typical Assassins Creed trappings is one of the biggest reasons I was able to enjoy my time with the game as much as I did. Were it not for the very occasional jaunts to modern day, I could have ignored it entirely- and I think that may have been for the better.

    If the series became just a shell, a delivery device for cool action RPGs in historical settings- well, I can definitely think of worse directions to go.

  • 2!

    I like adventure games but am bad at them. Urban fantasy as a genre is kind of my jam. I knew I was going to end up playing this, but I figured it'd take me a long time to get into it, and I was right- I ended up putting it off until this month, and in retrospect that was a terrible decision because this game is one of my favorites. I wasted half a year not knowing how good this was!

    It'd hard to overstate how much I like pretty much every aspect of this game. It looks great, the music is great, the story is great- and it's got probably my favorite ensemble cast since Pyre. I was constantly fretting over who to bring on each mission not because of the puzzles I'd likely encounter but due to the lines and interactions I'd miss.

    Speaking of those puzzles, they're very much what you'd expect from an Adventure Game of this sort. I think they're more interesting than usual largely because of the cast of characters at your disposal, because the skills and knowledge each of them brings to a situation mean there's a lot of variation to how you solve your problems. There's also a button you can hold to highlight all the points of interest in your environment, which was invaluable to someone as utterly lacking in adventure game skill as I am.

    I could sit here and gush about this for hours, honestly. At a certain point I'm just repeating myself, though- It's one of my favorite stories ever and gave me a character I've added to my personal 'best of all time' list.

  • 1!

    I like Monster Hunter, though it endlessly frustrates me with terrible drop rates on the items I actually want and fills my storage box with other useless rarities.

    World is something I never thought I'd see, which is a pretty restrained and still meaningful update to the core mechanics of the franchise. A lot of the tedium and busywork has been stripped out- potion crafting simplified and even made automatic, mining and bug catching no longer requiring specialized consumable tools, a skill system for armor that doesn't require a spreadsheet to use effectively. I think I ended up liking every change they made.

    I also spent an absurd amount of time playing this, both solo and with friends, and even some random people online when the special event hunts rolled around. I like the Monster Hunter series, and even a lot of the knock offs made over the years, but I can't recall a time that I enjoyed the inevitable grind as much as I did in world. It practically ate the entire first half of 2018.

    It's rare that a game is so improved over its predecessors that I don't think I can go back to them, but Monster Hunter World is such a game. The only complaint I have is that there isn't even more of it to sink my teeth into.

    Well, that and arch tempered monsters. Those things can fuck right off.