Saturday Summaries 2019-01-19: Dirty Video Game Hipster Edition

If you're unaware, Giant Bomb (well, Rorie) recently posted the community's top 500 games of 2018. If nothing else it ably demonstrates that God of War was by far and away the most popular game of last year, doubly surprising for a system exclusive, but it also highlights what a diverse year of releases it was. According to Rorie, the poll they put forth to the community saw over 1100 unique game submissions: not all of those qualified as 2018 games, but it's still an immense number. To prove just how busy last year was and how easy it would be to create two different 2018 GOTY lists with no items in common, I put my own top-ten up against the community's and found out just how far afield I was compared to the zeitgeist.

Here's a quick recap of my top eleven, and where they appear on the site's community rankings (the weighted version):

My #GameCommunity Rank
1Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire30th
2Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom26th
3Yoku's Island Express25th
4Jazztronauts420th*
5Valkyria Chronicles 436th
6Iconoclasts53rd
7Minit55th
8The Messenger34th
9Celeste7th
10Deltarune38th
11The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit123rd

*these were all technically unweighted votes for Garry's Mod since Jazztronauts is a mod (a mod of a mod, even) and doesn't qualify for its own wiki page, but given Garry's Mod was released back in 2004 so I want to think these votes were for Jazztronauts specifically. Also, 420th is a perfect spot for Cellist.

Also, because it would be of more interest to everyone, here's Giant Bomb's own list compared to the community's, just to see how in-sync they are with their fanbase:

GB's #GameCommunity Rank
1Tetris Effect10th
2Dead Cells5th
3God of War1st
4Red Dead Redemption 22nd
5Into the Breach8th
6Return of the Obra Dinn11th
7Marvel's Spider-Man3rd
8Hitman 24th
9Monster Hunter: World6th
10Dragon Ball FighterZ13th

(Which turns out to be just a reshuffle of the community's top ten, with the 7th (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate) and 9th (Celeste) substituted.)

Looking at the whole community GOTY list, it makes me very excited that much of the best of last year is yet to come. I'm not going to like everything that the community placed above my choices, but that I've only played one of the top twenty games of 2018 as defined by the Giant Bomb community suggests I have a lot left to look forward to.

Tacoma

The Indie Game of the Week was actually a last-minute substitution: I found out that Superhot is very much the sort of game that needs a lag-free environment to be appreciated, and my meager laptop wasn't going to provide that any time this century. I'm thankful though, because it meant I finally got to dig into Tacoma, Fullbright's next project after Gone Home. Similar structure, as you're exploring an empty location trying to piece together a mystery from audio logs and found items, though now you're in a space station and the logs were derived from the surreptitious taping of the crew by the station's AI. What I did find surprising is that the game didn't try for a horror bait-and-switch like it did with Gone Home; would've been easy to double-down on the game's Alien vibe, given the small tight-knit crew and the Dead Space-style intro. Fullbright probably didn't think they could pull off the same trick twice.

Link here: Indie Game of the Week 103: Tacoma

Valkyria Chronicles 4

I just can't seem to let this game go. Despite the fact that I finished the story at the end of last year, and then completed all the side-content a few weeks ago, I'm still thinking about it and devising hypothetical scenarios in my head to overcome. I think Austin Walker and Rob Zacny are onto something with their relentless strategy game coverage over on Waypoint: there's something about a game that really engages your brain, in a format that allows for multiple correct answers (as opposed to most puzzle games with their single solutions), that becomes addictive. It's almost like an exercise regimen: your body's so used to the routine work-out at this point that it feels as uncomfortable to let go as it was to take it up in the first place.

This is all pre-amble to introduce a new three-part feature for the last and next couple of Tuesdays. After this guide to the best and brightest of Squad E, which takes every recruitable player character in the game and gives them a frank evaluation of their personality and battle prowess, I think I should've worked the last of it out of my system. Part One covers the game's thirteen scout units (including protagonist Claude Wallace, who defaults to a scout in maps where his tank is unavailable) and five engineers: the more utility-focused members of your unit. Next week should be shocktroopers and snipers, the most reliable killers in your company.

Link here: Valk-Tier-ia Chronicles IV: Part 1: Scouts & Engineers

Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Just a little post-script for this RPG, which was featured in last week's Indie Game of the Week. Due to its formidable length, it was the only other game I played since last Saturday; it meant Mass Effect Andromeda took a little holiday in the interim. I don't imagine that'll be a difficult game to back into, even with a week away.

Nightwar's still fantastic, though I was still plagued with crashes and other glitches on the PS4 version I played. I also let it take up too much of my time, as I took on dungeons multiple times for various trophy-related reasons - the one that has you fill out a bestiary actually requires taking on the final dungeon with all characters across multiple runs, as the "bosses" are the Dark Link-esque shadowy doppelgangers of whoever's in your current party - but that's largely my fault and the fault of the achievement design. It works as a modern turn-based JRPG, one suitably balanced so that every opponent of an equivalent level presents a significant threat and much emphasis is placed on correctly timing powerful combinations of special attacks and buffs, and it still animates and looks fantastic. The modular dungeon design, which does the Diablo and Rogue Legacy thing of having a pool of pre-generated areas that are randomly stitched together as separate "rooms", is a fairly smart way to handle an approach to game progression that might occasionally necessitate taking on the same dungeon twice or more. Well-crafted from top to bottom, if a little repetitive and long.

Movie: National Treasure (2004)

Felt like something light this week - though really none of the movies I watched last year could be considered all that heavy - so I figured it was finally time to see what the National Treasure movies were all about. It also gave me an excuse to catch up on one of last year's Film & 40s podcasts, which made an OK movie way better. I feel bad for anyone thinking they were safe to let their kids listen to that episode of the podcast because it was covering a PG movie for the first time: some very un-PG things were said by a certain drunk producer, let's just say.

National Treasure kind of treads the same swashbuckling waters as those The Mummy movies with Brendan Fraser, in that they're aping better adventure movies (Indiana Jones, mostly) but in a way that's wholesome enough and trucks along at a decent pace that you don't really mind too much. Can't say I'm in any rush to see the lesser sequel, but it was an enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours I probably would've spent grinding in some RPG (which I would've enjoyed just as much, because I'm weird like that).

All that being said, when we are we getting that much-hinted-towards Keanu Reeves season of Film & 40s? I have a hankering to see Bogus Journey and Johnny Mnemonic again. Maybe when May rolls around and everyone's getting excited about John Wick 3?

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