Saturday Summaries 2018-12-22: The Predicities Edition

Welcome, all, to the penultimate episode of Saturday Summaries for 2018. Next week's might prove to be a little light on content given that I'm taking the week off for family holiday stuff (like a wuss), but we should still have a few points of order. Next week I want to cover all I have in mind for 2019 - new blog features and upcoming game releases alike - but I'm dedicating this one last week to what 2018 delivered to us, besides pain and misery and anxiety and despair (so, really what 2018 delivered to us in terms of games, not political happenings).

To that effect, I've created what I'm calling The Predicties. Here I give out fictional awards to games I've yet to play, based on their reputation and what will inspire me to one day seek them out. There's no reason to take these "awards" too seriously, given I haven't played a single game that they've been awarded to, but I figured this would be the best way to venerate the year's top games that, for either parsimonious or over-encumbered reasons, I have yet to visit myself.

Best Game to Defy the Giant Bomb Wiki's Genre System: Return of the Obra Dinn

I mean, it's an adventure game, but one that relies on a lot of deductive puzzles and information-gathering. It feels like the kind of game that would necessitate a lot of hastily-scribbled logic squares to properly suss out, edging it more towards the puzzle side of the equation, but it's also couched in that "walking simulator" framework that we've since defaulted to being adventure games. Maybe it would help my efforts to define it if I actually played it some time next year...

Best Eleventh Game in a Series: Dragon Quest XI

Well, I wasn't going to award it to Final Fantasy (MMOs, yuck) or Tales (Tales of Hearts, which currently is only available for Vita owners). Dragon Quest, and really any game series that makes it entry eleven that aren't rehashed sports franchises, are institutions worthy of respect, but there's a special few that don't intend to coast along on brand recognition alone: from all accounts, DQ11 is one of the most carefully balanced and humorously localized games in the entire series.

Best Aquanaut's Holiday Successor: Subnautica

In 2016 it was Abzu, in 2017 it was... nothing really, but in 2018 the game that best hearkened back to that very specific type of sub-aquatic exploration and adventure, once ruled by the likes of Endless Ocean and Everblue, appears to be Subnautica. More one of those open-world crafting survival dealies just underwater, I'm hoping Subnautica nonetheless taps into the peril- and beauty-filled power of the ocean and its secrets (and specifically the secrets of an alien ocean world) like they did.

Best 2018 Game to Probably Qualify as a 2019 Game When All is Said and Done: Life is Strange 2

I'm not touching this thing until all the episodes are out and I don't have to wait three months to resolve the cliffhanger of some beloved ancillary character falling afoul of some unfortunate circumstances. Life is Strange had some really nail-biting episode finales and I'm not the patient type. I do commend people nominating LiS2 for various 2018 GOTY lists and adventure game categories, despite having only being 1/5th done so far (with the new ep hitting sometime in January).

Best Top-Down Throwback CRPG That Wasn't the One I Already Played This Year: Pathfinder: Kingmaker

So yeah, I played Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire this year and loved it, though Kingmaker was always there at the back of my mind offering a second opinion on who the prime Infinity Engine-style RPG may have been in 2018. Fortunately for those who develop these games, I can't get enough of that specific type of tactical CRPG, so I'll be checking out this and any more that pop up during 2019. Of course, Obsidian's currently more invested in their big 3D open-world Borderlands/Fallout thing, The Outer Worlds, but I can be down with that too. Looks neat.

Best "Wishlist Cocoon": CrossCode

I feel like I've had this game on my Steam wishlist for at least a year, but it suddenly burst onto the scene a few months ago with its finished "1.0" version to universal acclaim. What's irritating is that I'm pretty sure it's been on sale a few times to keep the lights on in the studio as the developers moved it ever closer towards its final version, and now that it's a beloved hit it won't be dropping in price again any time soon. Well, I can be happy for their success at least: so many promising early access games never get to survive long enough to have that shot.

Best Game With Komaki Tiger Drops, the Best Martial Art Move: Yakuza 6

Komaki Tiger Drops all day, son. Anyway, I'll play Yakuza 6 once I've tried out Yakuza 0. After that? Well, it looks like that studio won't be running out of new ideas for that format, if the recent Judgment and Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise are any indication.

(More Predicties to come later!)

The blogs this week were... well, more limited than I originally intended. I always end up with more busywork than I expect during December, which means that my usual Mento Awards blog with all the comic doodles might take a little longer to transpire this year. All the same, we have a few new items worth your patronage:

  • There was no Indie Game of the Week this week! We have retired that franchise at the big round number of #100 until 2019 begins in earnest. Instead, what we have for you is the SNES Classic Mk. II Finale which not only rounds up the twenty-five finalists from this year-long deep dive into the "also-rans" of the SNES library that didn't make it onto the first (and only, so far) SNES Classic, but also includes a bunch of honorable mentions I was sad that I couldn't include in the festivities. Due to the nature of the feature, in which I only gave myself a couple of days to catch up with long-forgotten SNES gems to determine their suitability for a new rerelease, I had to leave a lot of promising but overlong JRPGs by the wayside. Ditto, too, a large number of old favorites of mine that were excluded for one reason or another. Check out what made it to the hypothetical second SNES Mini Classic unit and what didn't, and consider what your own choices might've been.
  • Even though we're approaching the holiday season that's no reason to drop A Jazztronomical Score, which for Part Seven continues as it always has done by popping into random GMod maps and absconding with anything of value. I made a lot of progress this time, completing three of the outstanding fetch quests that my cat accomplices set me, and getting that much closer to the game's "true ending" as a result. The Jazztronomical Score series should be winding down to a close after next week, come what may, but believe me when I say that I'll be continuing this game on and off on the down low for many more weeks to come. There's just something so cathartic (or cat-hartic?) about witnessing the hard work of an industrious Gmod map creator and robbing their creations blind. Bonus points if they have something I could actually use.
  • Finally, while I've yet to publish my awards blog, there's the static GOTY 2018 list that should give you a sense of where I was at with this year's new releases. I've barely scratched the surface of everything this year had to offer, but I'm at least fortunate enough to have wrangled together ten games with enough substance to qualify for inclusion on a Game of the Year list, even if a number of those games will eventually drop out of my own mutating top ten (and top twenty, even) given enough time. Be sure to peruse the list for possible backlog ideas in the years to come, and likewise let me know what I missed out on by publishing your own GOTY rankings. I'll be sure to read them. Probably.

Addenda

Movie: TBD!

TBD! I'll watch somethin' real soon. Family's round for the holidays, so sitting around a TV with a movie is sort of expected.

Game: Valkyria Chronicles 4

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I know I said I was done, but this week's been so busy that all I've really been doing with my off-time (that is, when I'm not playing Jazztronauts) is to get a little further with some post-game trophies.

Tuns out Valkyria Chronicles 4 has a rich post-game infrastructure, generating nine new maps that start where the game's story leaves off in terms of difficulty. I've not yet approached them, however; instead, I've been completing various Squad Stories and the babytown frolics that are the early Skirmishes. I've given myself this daily pattern where I boot the game up, finish a single Skirmish, complete any Squad Stories that might result or buy any upgrades I can afford, and then switch the game off so I can focus on holiday-related errands or watching more Parks and Recreation (I've really become addicted to that show after last week).

I don't intend to start anything new until Christmas has passed and I've received some new games in my stocking to carry me through to New Year's and beyond. It turns out that, once you've completed the story and know how the war ends for Claude, Riley, Kai, Raz, and the rest of Squad E, it still works pretty well as the type of game you can hop into for an hour and a single map before ghosting and moving onto the rest of your day. I've picked up a lot of games in 2018 with a similar function: Endless Legend and the "one more turn" approach it shares with Civ; Jazztronauts and its handful of map heists per session; or the way Infinifactory mentally drains you so much after solving one of its later puzzles that you're set for a whole week.

After last week's rundown of VC4's new features I don't have a whole lot more to say about it specifically, but it's definitely the type of game that - like a figurative drill sergeant - forces you to march to its own beat by having you approach its gameplay in a certain analytical way and throwing new combinations of opponents and obstacles at you to see how you resolve them. I'm inclined to keep playing until it gets way too difficult or I've swept up the rest of the game's trophies, whichever happens first, because there's a certain deep satisfaction in playing the game with the exploits and tips that I've learned, dismantling every scenario and skirmish as they come with my knowledge of tanks, scouts, shocktroopers, grenadiers, lancers, snipers, and engineers. Some games I'm done with as soon as the story is over and the end credits are rolling, but there are others where I've grown so attached to the mechanics and intricacies of same that I'm loath to put it down until there are no more worlds to conquer, so to speak.

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