The Tenth Annual Moosies Holiday Awards Spectacular: X-TREME.

Another year has gone by. And 2018 sure was a year, wasn't? The world continues to feel like it's just falling apart, both figuratively, and literally (cough, Climate Change), but despite it all, and despite their best efforts, Video Games Still Exist.

I didn't write a ton of blogs in 2018, largely because I was so much more focused on my literary writing, which I could shill right now, but I doubt anyone would bother to read because it costs money, so I won't. But it wasn't just that, because, especially in hindsight, 2018 feels like a bit of an off year for games. Not a bad year, just off compared to the last three years, which I think were consistently stellar. We had Bloodborne, MGSV, The Witcher III, and Undertale in one year. DOOM, Overwatch, Uncharted 4, Dark Souls III, and of course Titanfall 2 the year after that. Then Before the Storm, Prey, NieR:Automata, and one of my absolute favorite games of all time, Breath of the Wild in 2017. Those weren't even all the hits from those years, just a selection of some of my favorites.

Looking back at 2018, while I see one game that really rises above all the rest, and I could see at some point even saying was another of my all time favorites (I need to let some time pass before I can make that judgment), the rest are, well, still great games, but they almost all feel like they come with some serious caveats. Which isn't to say previous Moosies Games of the Year/Top Ten Games of all time for me like Breath of the Wild or MGSV don't also have their flaws, they do. But compared to those last few years, 2018 feels like games with as many flaws as good points were the norm, not the exception.

Regardless of all that, this isn't just a regular Moosies.

This is... The Tenth Moosies.

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That's right, this is the tenth time I've decided to write up way more than I probably should about the games I played in a year, and because it's a special occasion, I did something very silly. And when I say very silly, I mean I made an "animated" gif in 4K that was probably way too big in file size to actually work on Giant Bomb. If that's the case, then sorry you missed out on the pristine, ultra crisp 4K logo, which I did as well because my old laptop has a 720P screen. But believe me, I thought it was really funny to be making such an absurdly high resolution for a logo you're going to look at once and never think about again.

Anyway, this preamble, in true fashion, went on too long, so here's the first part:

Last year's predictions, or perhaps more accurately in a lot of cases, corrections!

10th Annual Moosies Game of the Year Prediction: Red Dead Redemption II.

An interesting one, in retrospect. Was it correct? You'll just have to wait and see!

Red Dead Redemption II gets delayed to Fall 2018.

Of all the predictions I made about 2018, this was one of the easiest ones to get right, and it very much was.

Still no F-Zero. Somewhere a literal falcon dies of sadness over this.

While I can confirm that no new F-Zero game was announced, and in all likelihood a falcon did die during the course of the year, I cannot say it was because of this. So, I will classify this as half-true.

From Software's new game is Tenchu in name, but plays more like Dark Souls than anything else.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is definitely ninja/samurai themed, but it doesn't have the name, and what's been shown of it seems more action game focused than Dark Souls, so I think I have to say this one was more wrong than right.

EA learns nothing from this year [2017], and its games only have more microtransactions. Anthem's commercial failure because of them leads to BioWare's closing.

Based on 2018, it does seem like EA learned their lesson. I'd say they seemed committed to not do loot boxes in 2018, but I'm not really sure how many non-sports games they put out in 2018. Was it just Battlefield? Not counting EA Partners style stuff like A Way Out. Either way, they have made it sound like the only microtransactions in Anthem will be cosmetic, though if Overwatch has shown us anything, it's that those can be manipulative and bad too.

Anthem not being released in 2018 was probably something I should have seen coming, but it is what it is. I do still think that if it's a total flop, that's it for BioWare, and we'll be seeing Dragon Age IV developed by some other studio at EA, if it releases at all.

Many governments attempt to regulate loot boxes, but loopholes persist.

This is an interesting one. They were declared illegal in a couple countries in Europe, in The Netherlands and Belgium, from what I read. The UK declared them to be gambling, and even the FTC in the US is "investigating" them, though if any country were to end up being pro-loot box, it'd be modern day America, so I wouldn't expect anything from that.

So, I'd say maybe half right? I wouldn't exactly call two countries 'many.' But, like with EA seemingly learning a lesson from 2017's loot box extravaganza, 2018 felt like, at least in major new releases, a move away from loot boxes, if not because they decided to do something good for consumers, it was because they realized people were getting fed up with it, and that governments were going to be knocking on their doors soon.

I say that knowing plenty of games like Overwatch still, I'm sure, make plenty of money off them. So, who knows.

Yet another Death Stranding trailer, this time with actual game play. It just looks like MGSV, but strange and with chords.

It looks strange, that's for sure. Not so much like MGSV, in ways that are a bit refreshing, as I'm always up for games about traversing big environments that feel very empty (seriously, this will come up later in The Moosies), but also in ways that are perhaps worrying. I'm just saying, going from the best stealth game ever made to stealth in that that amounted to crouching next to some ghostly looking things is...well, I'm sure the game is still a ways off, and there's plenty of time for them to refine that stuff.

Destiny 2 has a big expansion that everyone loves, but it requires you own the bad ones, so I end up missing it out of spite, just like with Destiny 1.

So, they did pull that same stunt with Destiny 2 Forsaken, but I had already bought the expansions beforehand. And, after a while, they changed it so that stuff is included in Forsaken, which was better than how they handled that stuff in Destiny 1, at least. So, no, this prediction was not correct. Though, the make good of, "People who already bought the other expansions got a couple emotes" was, while a little nice, perhaps a little less than I would have preferred. But I guess I shouldn't complain, as I did play with those expansions for months before Forsaken, and I got them on sale.

Nintendo continues to make bizarre blunders, but sells exceptionally well.

Definitely selling very well, and while I suppose "blunder" isn't the right word, I do think Nintendo is getting a bit hubris-y with how they handle things. Things like having NES controller shaped Joy-cons that are only available *to purchase* if you're subscribed to the Switch's paid online service, which itself doesn't sound like it works well enough to be worth the money. Never mind how much they still charge for all controllers, or cardboard (yes I know that came with software too and I'm sure it took a lot of time and effort to produce all that, but still).

Shenmue III still not released.

Very easy to predict.

Vib-Ribbon and Spyro become the next PS1 games to get inexplicable PS4 remasters.

Half right, because of Spyro!

So, it is now time for awards! Same format as the last handful of years, with a top ten list interspersed with awards (or in one case, an "award") for games I couldn't find room for on the top ten list, weren't technically released in 2018 and I couldn't get out of my semantics hole and include them in a Game of the Year 2018 list, or in one case I wanted to reiterate how much I disliked it because it still baffles me that people liked it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself!

AWARDS! GAMES!

Best Game that I Didn't Finish in Time to Properly Judge if It Should Be on The Top Ten or Not: Assassin's Creed Odyssey.

This game has a capacity to look really good, but also I don't know that I figured out how to properly control the screenshot mode?
This game has a capacity to look really good, but also I don't know that I figured out how to properly control the screenshot mode?

I've played a lot of these games. Generally I enjoy them a lot, but after the mixed reception of Odyssey, I did the thing I have done with the last couple of these, and waited for a price drop. But, for one reason or another, I waited until I had written literally all of The Moosies this year to actually start playing the game.

"Surely," I told myself. "If I play even ten or so hours of this game, I won't enjoy it enough that I'll find myself thinking I should add a few paragraphs about the game."

And here I am, adding in some stuff about the game the day before I put The Moosies up.

It's fun. In a lot of ways, it's nonsense, and what I've seen of the story does not seem as compelling as Origins' story, not by a lot, but it's still enjoyable for what it is. And, while I do enjoy Kassandra for the buff sword lesbian that she is, I also don't think she has nearly the depth that Bayek had, if I'm just comparing this to the previous game.

But with the new abilities, and in some respects, the less this game seems dedicated to adhering to anything resembling realism (as the series often has in the past), I think I enjoy playing Odyssey more than Origins. That might change, given some of what I've heard about how grindy the game can feel to keep up with what levels are needed for story missions later on, and even 10 or so hours in, I do feel like a lot of the enemies are damage sponges, especially if they're a level or two above me.

The last two things I'll mention: I like the new bounty/mercenary system, specifically because I refuse to pay off the bounty at all, so it feels like I'm constantly being hounded by mercs. It almost evokes the same feeling as the Nemesis System from Shadow of Mordor, but given that these mercs never say anything outside of a few extremely generic lines like, "there she is," I have to fill in the blanks myself to give them anything resembling personality. Like, "Oh, there's the lady with the pet bear again," which, well, is not as memorable as having an orc yell at me about how I was a wimp for running away.

The other thing is that while I wouldn't call this game an amazing example of queer representation, I do like that I can be a buff sword lesbian. Big budget games are still woefully behind where they should be in terms of this sort of thing, and even smaller games that I tend to play are sorely lacking too. But maybe that's more on me for only playing the "smaller" games that make their way to consoles, which tend to really be closer to "medium" budget games these days, or exceptional for some reason or another. It's one of those things that may seem minor if it doesn't affect you, but it is so rare in bigger budget games that it's really disappointing, and conversely I end up making a bigger deal out of it when it does occur.

So, yes, shout out to the people who decided to do what honestly should be the bare minimum for this sort of game, and let the romance options in the game not be limited by gender (nothing wrong with lots of bi characters). And by including some openly queer characters in the game, even if they're side quest givers, and even if I've heard there's some...not so good stuff later on in the game with a queer character.

Plus, there's a very good bird.

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10. Monarchy Simulator of the Year: Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom.

No, I will not give you any context for this screenshot. I will, however, say that in my head, this guy sounds like DMX Goomba.
No, I will not give you any context for this screenshot. I will, however, say that in my head, this guy sounds like DMX Goomba.

There was a moment the other week when a friend asked me if I would recommend she play Ni no Kuni II, and despite playing forty something hours of the game, and enjoying the majority of my time with it, when asked that sudden, blunt question, I couldn't help but hem, haw, and eventually say something along the lines of, "probably not."

It's a very charming, cute, often fun game filled with lovable characters, but it's saddled with a lot of archaic JRPG quest design, doesn't respect your time at all, is too easy in a way that hurts the otherwise enjoyable combat, and perhaps worst of all to me, the majority of the story is told through text boxes with no voiced lines, which can feel limp and lifeless compared to the spots with voice acting. Because the performances are really good, and they give the story an energy that really would have made the game so much more enjoyable.

And yet, despite its issues, I still enjoyed it. Despite it being a game where I probably spent as much of my time doing filler side quests to get people to join my kingdom as I did with the story, I still enjoyed the game, and came away from it feeling pretty happy about it overall. It's a heartwarming game about a kid who just wants to make the world a better place, a place where everyone, everywhere can live happily ever after. And yes, this kid is a catboy king who is friends with a president from a different universe, but despite the game's weird, probably unintentional theme of, "benevolent monarchy is the path to peace," I do think the intended themes of wanting to make things better for people are good, and it was nice to play something cute and uplifting.

It's also a really strange game that, despite being mostly fantasy, opens with President of the Anime States of America (not a quote from the game) being teleported to another universe after surviving a nuclear missile strike. And, along the journey to unite all the kingdoms of the world under the "Declaration of Interdependence" (the actual name), one of those kingdoms is basically a parable of Silicon Valley tech companies and how crunch is bad??? It's very strange, and there's cute robots, but it's weird and I like it.

The Higgledies are adorable and my friends.
The Higgledies are adorable and my friends.

Maybe that's Ni no Kuni II's actual problem. In trying to do too much, it spreads itself too thin, and it suffers for it. Yes, it has RTS-lite battles between your army (of course customizable, and with a rock-paper-scissors style set of weaknesses amongst troop types), but they're not that great. Sure, there's hundreds of side quests (there's a Trophy for completing 150), but most are as generic as can be. Yes, it has real time combat with combos using light and heavy attacks, and yes, the game (at least targets) 60 FPS to keep that combat feeling responsive...but the enemies never really require any sort of advanced combat skills, and turning the difficulty up to hard really only adjusts how much damage you give and take, so the combat was never as fun as it could've been. And it is a sprawling, epic (in the classical sense) story, but like I said, most of it is told through lifeless text boxes, so were it not for the writing at least having a sufficient amount of charm, I might not have wanted to see the game through to the end.

Don't get me wrong, I think Ni no Kuni II deserves to be on my Top 10, but it's definitely number 10. By the end, I was invested enough in the goings on of the story, and the characters, that I am happy I spent my time with the game. I think at its best, it's really good, charming, cute, and funny, but it has just enough issues that I can just see a better version of this game over the horizon, but that's a better version that we'll never have. And that's okay, because what we got was still pretty good.

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom also wins:

  • Best intro cutscene.

  • Most overbearing music that is still good.

  • Best video game president.

  • Best dirigible.

  • Cutest art style.

  • Best generic line of dialog that plays occasionally over the written text in lieu of being properly voiced: Batu's "SNAKES ALIVE!"

Todd Howard Presents the Fallout Award for Most Disappointing Game of the Year: Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.

Kiryu deserved better.
Kiryu deserved better.

I like the Yakuza games. I think most of the ones I've played are pretty good, and while they all have their flaws (including rampant transphobia and sexism), for most of them, I'm able to acknowledge the flaws for what they are, but still enjoy the best parts of the game. Going on fun adventures with Kiryu and the gang, getting into hijinks, and beating up countless thugs and ne'er-do-wells is something that I've loved in the past, and something I will probably love again in the future, as I still have the remakes of 1 and 2 to play.

But Yakuza 6 is not any of those things. It's bad. It's bad by the standards of the series, and it's bad by any reasonable measure of video game quality. It's bad to play, at least for a large chunk of the game, because the mechanical changes make it a slower, more sluggish, more repetitive (due to the removal of stance changes), and less fun game. A game that is acknowledged to be sluggish and slow, as the most crucial upgrades in the game make Kiryu fight much faster, and it wasn't until I fully upgraded his speed that it felt close to the speed and fun of the previous games. And those upgrades, using the new leveling system are a pain too! There's now FIVE different types of XP, and I swear I spent more XP on things to get XP faster than on actual abilities or skill upgrades in the game.

So, it's a worse game to play, but surely the story-

NOPE!

This is the part that made me angry when I played the game months ago, and it's the part that still makes me angry now. Yakuza 6's story of trying to figure out who the father of Haruka's baby was not great to start (especially after I hated how her arc in 5 ended, her being in a coma almost all of this game was worse), but the greater mystery that leads into isn't interesting, and neither are any of the new characters in the game. And for a game that is supposed to be Kiryu's final chapter, focusing on a bunch of new, boring characters instead of going on one last adventure with old favorites like Majima or Akiyama (who gets more screen time than the others, I guess) is disappointing.

But really, the fact that the game just doubles down on the series' existing sexism, and ends with one of the most infuriating things I've ever seen in a game was just too much. Looking back, and I think this is the angriest a game has ever made me. The thing is that games almost never make me angry. Off the top of my head, the only other thing I can think of (not counting games being aggravating purely because they're too hard) is the ending of Fallout 4. And that was due to problems with that game and its illusion of player choice coming to a head with the factions.

Phew. Sorry about that, but I just needed one last opportunity to vent about how much I was disappointed with that game before 2018 ended, especially when GOTY season has brought out the Yakuza 6 likers and I just don't understand them. Anyway, excited for Judgment, I'm sure that'll be good, and won't be sexist and transphobic in ways that make me upset, but I'll look past because I'm weak willed and like beating up people in video games.

Being a fan of action oriented video games made in Japan can be extremely tiring when you're queer. And yet I just keep playing, and praising them.

9. Most Wrenching Game: Iconoclasts.

A robot helicopter, indicative of this game's creativity around its boss fights.
A robot helicopter, indicative of this game's creativity around its boss fights.

Of all the games that made it into my top ten, this one is perhaps the one that most surprises me. Not because of what it is, but because it's a game I had written off for months because the little bit of it that I saw didn't grab me, and when I played it, I feel like a large swathe of the game was kinda, frustrating, honestly. Not the whole game, I think most of it is still good, but enough of it was frustrating enough (mostly in level design around that big tower, and then the dark area after it) that I found myself almost wanting to stop playing.

But, for whatever reason, the story really got its hooks in me, and I'm still thinking about that game, weeks later. And yeah, I know, weeks aren't months, so who knows, maybe a month from now I'll have totally forgotten about the game, but I've certainly had bigger regrets in retrospect about my games of the year in the past, so that'd be nothing new.

It's hard to write about without just spoiling what happens, which I don't want to do. But this game's world, its characters, and the twists the story takes along the way are just fascinating, and it kept surprising me right up to the final boss, which really got me thinking about the nature of that universe in a way that usually only stuff like Dark Souls does.

Iconoclasts is a really cool game, that even with the parts of the game that I didn't care for, I think it's absolutely worth playing, and I went back and forth a lot about where it placed on this list. But, ultimately, even though part of me wanted to put it higher on the list, I felt strongly enough about everything to come that this was as high as it got.

Iconoclasts also wins:

  • Best Castletroid game.

  • Best new "world" (in the figurative sense which includes lore and stuff like that).

  • Best plot.

  • Most original music.

  • Most unique boss fights.

  • Best use of religion/the end of the world/climate change as a result of energy consumption/resource depletion as driving plot points and conflicts between characters and factions.

Anime Game of the Year: Dragon Ball FighterZ.

It's so perfect.
It's so perfect.

It's the year of our lord (Harambe) 2018, and I played a new Dragon Ball Z game. It's 2018 and I played a Dragon Ball Z game that's really good. A game that captures the aesthetic of the series so perfectly, both in the visuals on display, and in the way the action plays out. I can't tell you how many times while playing it, I, or someone I was playing with had some remark along the lines of, "this is extremely DBZ." In good ways, I mean!

The problem is that as fun as the fighting is against the AI at the right level, or against friends I know in real life who are about as good as I am at fighting games (which is to say not especially), that's kinda all it has going for it. The story mode is okay, but perhaps in a way that is too much like DBZ, it's too long, too drawn out, and too full of filler. But unlike DBZ, where the filler was often funny and charming, this is more like the episodes where all that happened was people charging up, and then they fought something weak and boring like a Saibaman, or in this case a Yamcha clone.

While there's a part of me that wanted to try to get good (as in good good) at the game, with it being a 3v3 tag game, and as hyper fast as it is, I just don't think I would have the chops to hold my own online. There's no saiyan that I might not give it another shot at some point in the future, but chances are it'll just be something I pop in for a fun few rounds every once in a while, and that'll be that.

Also Hercule/Mr. Satan isn't in it as anything other than a lobby avatar thingy. I couldn't justify putting it in the official Top 10 after such an obvious oversight. None of the existing DLC characters have interested me enough to spend money, but I would buy Mr. Hercule Satan.

8. (Blood)Thirstiest Game: Vampyr.

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Vampyr is a really interesting game. One part murky old London, one part menace, one part interesting game play mechanics that intertwine with the story and characters in interesting ways, and sadly, one part mediocre action game.

This game has a mood, and that mood is what people like me imagine London was like before the modern age (and by "modern age" I mean the 1980s and onward). Dark, miserable, dirty, and cool to look at because of all the neat old buildings being spooky in the fog and rain. And this game has a really great soundtrack just dripping with menace, and some genuinely good use of camera angling shots during cutscenes to really reinforce that mood throughout the story. You can tell I know what I'm talking about because I said camera angling.

And then, on top of that, this is a game where you can just straight up kill almost any NPC in the game! Sure, they might have an interesting side quest full of worthwhile dialog and story to do, but you could just kill 'em and drink their blood for more XP. Of course, you'd be losing out on XP by not doing the quest, but when you're a fledgling vampire, sometimes you just need to feed (though not really because there's a Trophy for finishing the game without feeding, but that's beside the point).

The way the music changes when you go to feed, it builds to such an ominous pitch, so oozing with evil that I just love it, love it so much. I kinda wish I fed more than I did in the game, as I tried to restrict myself to only people who really deserved it, and in the end that amounted to only three, if I recall.

Beyond the choices of what to do with the NPCs that aren't critical to the overall plot, there's choices to be made in the story that can actually have noticeable effects in the world. For example, I made a choice of how to deal with a rogue nurse that I thought was the smart course of action, only to find out the next day that I'd actually made a poor choice, and that part of London suffered for my blunder through the rest of the game. Not that I let the district fall into chaos, as it is possible to let entire swathes of London succumb to illness, and become truly lost, so I dedicated myself to making sure that didn't happen.

This game doesn't have quite the freedom, or level of choice to have a ton of cool moments like that, but it has just enough to really excite me. There were several moments in the game where I really had to stop and think, think for what felt like a couple minutes before I made a decision, because by that point I'd learned that the choices can have real impact, or at least real enough within their districts that I didn't want to screw up so badly again.

Me, trying to explain to you all that this game is good, actually.
Me, trying to explain to you all that this game is good, actually.

But, as much as I do genuinely, really love parts of this game, I think there's some things that hold it back. Now, you're probably thinking I mean the game play, because that's the thing I've most seen other people harp on, and I did mention that up front. While I do think that stuff is certainly weaker than it should be (I'm including technical issues like some crash and audio bugs along with it), it's actually not the thing keeping it from higher on the list. After all, I'm the person who gave my Game of the Year in 2010 to Deadly Premonition, which was a much worse game to play.

It's actually the game's ending. It didn't make me angry, but it completely falls flat. Vampyr's story is built around the mystery of how the main character became a vampire, who did it to him, and that spins off to another mystery surrounding the illnesses ravaging London, both natural (it takes place during the Spanish Influenza pandemic at the end of World War I) and supernatural. With the main character being a vampire doctor who specializes in blood transfusions, that's an incredible set up for a game, and for the vast majority of it, I think it is really great.

But it flubs up the landing. It relies far too heavily on a "vampire lore dump" right before the final boss, which wouldn't be too bad if said lore being dumped was interesting, but it's really not. Then there's the romantic relationship the game had been trying to impress upon the main character and someone else despite the two of them having zero romantic chemistry (though I feel that way about the majority of hetero relationships in the media, because the cis-hets are inherently boring at romance), which really added nothing of value to the story. Finally there's the reveal of a certain vampiric person of antiquity that perhaps has more impact if you're British, but it didn't for me, not even when that came with another lore dump at the very end of the game.

And perhaps it may seem like overkill to have something's ending lower its overall impact on me that much, but it really did in this case. As it is, I still really liked Vampyr, and given that it felt like a vast improvement over Remember Me in terms of the action game part (even with it still being mediocre at best), I'm excited for whatever this team has in store for us next. If that's Vampyr 2 (which I would play!) or something new, either way, I'm interested in this.

Vampyr also wins:

  • Best use of blood.

  • Game I most want to play again and see how my choices change things around the world because it feels like they actually would.

  • Most ominous music.

  • Best plant that I never found water to give to.

  • Best garbled eating noises.

  • Moodiest game.

Game I Want to Play the Most But Haven't: Ashen.

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Every year there's always games that I wanted to play, but never got around to. In some cases it's because the games didn't live up to expectations, so I waited for a price drop that never got to whatever arbitrary amount I decided it was worth (thanks capitalism). But in a lot of cases, I don't play games simply because I can't. I don't have a Switch, Xbox One, or a PC that can play anything reasonably advanced. And thus, I miss out on games like Ashen. And why did Ashen, a generic seeming from a distance Dark Souls clone get this award?

The moment I realized that I really need to play this game at some point was hearing Austin Walker talk about how Ashen's world changes over the course of time. How there's a town that starts as literally nothing, but as more people come, it gets bigger. It changes, and importantly, it changes on its own. There are games where you can build up a town (Fallout 4), command the construction and staffing of an offshore PMC base (MGSV), or be a part of an outlaw camp in some sort of cowboy game, but in the end stuff like that ends up giving me the opposite feeling that they're supposed to. In those cases the only actual agent of change in them is the player. A town doesn't feel like a real town if the only person who can actually build something is me. That's just a designated space for me to decorate as I wish, which is totally fine if that's what it's presented as, but most games don't.

So, that's a long winded way of saying stuff like that is really cool to me, and I wish more games had it. On top of that, Ashen just seems like a cool one of those games, and I hope to have the chance to play it someday. Hopefully a PS4 port comes some time soon-ish?

As an aside, I want to say this was actually a really good year for games I super want to play but didn't, as Into the Breach, Return of the Obra Dinn, The MISSING: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate were all games I seriously considered writing about here, and I hope to play them all eventually. Consider them "Runners Up" for this "Prestigious" "Award."

7. Best Splatformer: Celeste.

I died A LOT, but I did eventually get all those strawberries.
I died A LOT, but I did eventually get all those strawberries.

Despite enjoying platform-y, jump around games a lot, I don't really play that many of them. But when I do, I (assuming they're good) tend to like them a lot, and Celeste is one of the best I've ever played. The design of the levels, and the feel of the jumping and navigating through the environments was always a complete treat, even after literally dozens or hundreds of deaths at the hands of the often brutally hard difficulty. Just getting through the levels to the end was, while challenging, not the real challenge of the game, as that was always relegated to collectible strawberries along the way, the hidden secret tapes that unlock devilish versions of the levels, and super hidden, often need to puzzle something out crystal heart dealies that unlock, well... Something.

But Celeste is also kind of a hard game to write about, because the story didn't stick with me over the months, at least not how I thought it would at the time, and...there really isn't much else to say about the game, without just pontificating about how much I like the jumping. That, and the soundtrack, which is good.

I know pixel-art platformers are so ubiquitous that people have been making jokes about them for forever at this point, but it really is one of the best ones that I've played.

Celeste also wins:

  • Best jumping and air dashing.

  • Best color changing hair.

  • Fruitiest Game. Wait, are strawberries fruit? There's probably berries. They do have berry right in the name. Hold on.

  • Berriest Game.

  • Wait, no, Wikipedia says it's a fruit, so yes, Fruitiest Game.

  • Best Music to already have remixes in the game itself.

Best Use of Time Travel: The Gardens Between.

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I played this game on a whim (by which I mean I got a free code), and it's a fun little puzzling game built around time manipulation, specifically in moving time back and forth as two kids move through the levels, and interacting with key things that either don't move along with the normal flow of time, or move in their own separate timeline. It's less complicated than I made it sound, trust me. Fun in ways that when it was over, I felt myself wishing there was more, because even at its trickiest, it still felt like the game was only scratching the surface of what was possible.

As such, it's a neat little game, but a bit too trifling to get onto the list. Still, very cool game.

6. Best First Chapter and/or Demo for a Larger Game (Hopefully) Coming in the Future: DeltaRune Chapter 1 (??).

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With it being three years since the release of Undertale, and from what I knew, not a peep from Toby Fox about what he'd been working on, it was certainly a surprise to one day realize he stealth released a follow up. Okay, he hinted there would be something the day before, but I wasn't expecting a full game (or first chapter??), and not for free! And Undertale itself was such a surprising thing, something I loved so much it came closer than just about anything else that year to toppling MGSV from my Number One spot, which, if you know anything about me, you know my MGS obsession basically made MGSV impossible to dethrone.

But what about DeltaRune? Does it live up to Undertale? Yes and no. In some ways, it feels like a better made game. The art is more detailed, and I think generally better looking than Undertale's. There's more to the combat, and more depth to the combat puzzle solving. The weakest part of Undertale was the combat, because it was boring and not worth engaging in purely to attack enemies (which also leads to the not best ending), and the puzzles of winning fights without killing the enemies were fun the first time...but not really after that, once you knew what to do. This doesn't completely solve those problems, but there's just enough here on top to make it a more compelling combat system.

The story and the new characters are really good too! Just as charming and wonderful as they were in Undertale. Susie, Ralsei, and Lancer were all funny and goofy in the ways that I expect from a Toby Fox production, it was a fun little romp to go on, and I would love to spend more time with these characters, and more time in that world. DeltaRune is just enough to feel like it can stand on its own, but it still left me wanting more, in both a good and bad way.

I guess that's where my "issue" with DeltaRune comes from. It feels like a first chapter in a bigger story. A first chapter that was good enough to get basically to the halfway point of my top ten, but it doesn't have nearly the impact that Undertale had for me. And it was never going to, because again, as Toby Fox said, it's a first chapter. And a first chapter that is, for better or worse, more of the same. Not exactly the same, but the same style, same sorts of jokes, and same sensibilities that on paper work just as well as they did in Undertale. But some things just don't have the same impact the second time around.

But I do really, sincerely want to see what happens next. So, hopefully Toby Fox can do what he needs to (which sounds like hiring some more people, from the letter he put out after the game) to finish the story, because it'd be a shame if we never got any more of it.

DeltaRune also wins:

  • Best goofballs (basically everyone).

  • Funniest game.

  • Game where I most want to hug the main cast because they seem like they need hugs.

Best Car Crashing and Smashing: OnRush.

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I don't play much in the way of games where all you do is drive vehicles, largely because these days most of the noteworthy ones skew too far toward realism. Even the Forza Horizon games, which I know quite a few of my friends this year got into the fourth one, just don't look like they would scratch the particular itch I have for driving cars at high speed.

And part of that itch is that when the cars smash into things, I want to see them get messed up. OnRush doesn't go as far as the all time great, Burnout Paradise, but it's one of the closest I've seen in the years since, and I like it.

Plus it helps that OnRush is a fast, fun game. But there isn't really too much to it besides just driving and smashing, so it didn't grab me nearly enough to get much more than this brief-ish mention here. Worth taking for a spin, though.

INTERMISSION.

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5. Swingingest Game: Marvel's Spider-Man.

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Over my life, I've long had a "list" of dream games that I've always wanted. There was never an actual, written list, but I knew what the games I wanted were. Over time, a lot of them got made, sometimes literally, as Batman Arkham Asylum was the Batman game I always wanted, and sometimes a little less literally, like when Mass Effect filled in for the Star Trek game I always wanted. But one game on the list seemed like it was never going to come, but then it did.

Marvel's Spider-Man is the Spider-Man game of my dreams, and it's rad. The dream of swinging through the city, flipping, spinning, and moving with so much grace and precision as I soar above the packed streets below just feels so, so good, and that alone might've been enough to satisfy me. But not only did Insomniac get the swinging perfect, they also devised a combat system that while certainly not wholly original, still conveys that feeling of being Spider-Man as he flips around, using his agility, and ingenuity to knock out foes across the city.

But what really makes this game truly memorable are the story, and the characters. Sure, you could boil the story down and say it's just another Spider-Man story. But it's a really good one of those. Watching Peter struggle to balance his life as Spider-Man, his day job, and his relationships with his loved ones (mostly Mary Jane), and it's just a really touching, nice game in so many ways. Plus it even has a little origin story for Miles Morales thrown in as a bonus...though after seeing Spider-Verse, I have to say the Miles in this game isn't as good. But hey, it's hard to compete with the best Spider-Thing ever made, huh?

(Okay I know this is about games, but Spider-Verse wins Movie of the Year, go see it!!)

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That story also helps keep the momentum moving, and keeps the game interesting, because as much as the swinging kept me from ever wanting to use the fast travel beyond the requisite number needed to get the Platinum (which I got), and as fun as the combat is...the game is pretty repetitive. Lots of games are, it's hard, if not nigh impossible to make a game of this scale and not have there be some amount of repetition. But even in the story missions, most of them boil down to some variant on either beating up a bunch of dudes, or sneaking around as Mary Jane or Miles. And those stealth missions were, aside from one or two exceptions, not great.

But on the whole, this game was great. And, as much as I love it, and as much as I wanted to put it as high as I could on this list, the way things worked it, Number Five was all it got. Sorry Spidey, hopefully in the sequel you can have a little more variety and get higher up!

Marvel's Spider-Man also wins:

  • Best collectibles - Peter's lifetime supply of free backpacks.

  • Best traversal.

  • Best sunsets.

  • Most realistic traffic I've seen in a game.

  • Best interacting with random pedestrians.

  • Most cosmetic suits that I barely ever used because I was the one person that liked the look of the suit made for this game more than the others, aside from the cel-shaded one, but that stuck out too much from the aesthetic of the rest of the game.

  • Most Pride flags in a AAA game, which is really more of an indictment on the lack of LGBT+ representation in games (cause this game sure is hetero in the actual characters).

  • Best representation of what it's like to be an adult in this modern age (a complete mess who has no control over their life).

  • Most unintentionally pro-surveillance state via evil corporation game.

Best Remaster/Remake: Shadow of the Colossus.

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Shadow of the Colossus is one of my favorite games of all time, and I think now, one of the best games ever made. That last part was always a bit dubious to me, because, frankly, the original PS2 version of the game was a mess. I try not to harp on frame rates, but when a game regularly drops down to 15 frames per second, and during the moments when the action is at its peak, it's kind of an issue.

Regardless, I still adored the game despite that back on the PS2, and I also loved the cleaned up remaster on PS3. It was that same game again, just cleaner, sharper, a much smoother/playable frame rate, and with some subtle changes here and there to give it a more cohesive, consistent look.

But it still looked like an up-rezzed PS2 game, which is fine, but it wasn't the visual showpiece that the PS4 version is. And sure, I know this version has its detractors. Maybe 15 years from now we'll be waiting for a PS6 remake because this one looks dated too. If that's the case, then I'll eat my words if the PS3 version still has its visual appeal (which don't get me wrong, I still like the look of that version too).

I'm sure I'll be just as wowed then as I am now, because this is my favorite version of the game, I think it has a haunting beauty that the game has always had, just rendered in a new way.

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Visuals aside, it's the same game. Because of that, as much as it holds a place in my heart that it'll never leave, I couldn't really put it on my top ten. Even if I did, I wouldn't know where to put it. It's an all time classic, so do I put it at number one? But it's a game I've probably finished five times at this point, I know it more or less like the back of my hand, and as much as I love it, it maybe doesn't hold up to so many repeat plays because most of the Colossi are trivial to beat when you know what to do, so does that get it lower down?

And so, it gets this Award instead, and its chance to be honored by these "Prestigious" Awards. An all time classic, all shined up for the modern age. If only I had a Pro so I could play it at 60 FPS, aka, four times what it would drop down to originally.

4. Besting Hunting Game: Monster Hunter World.

I could sit here making jokes about being taken aback by how much I loved a Monster Hunter game, but that seems rude to a bunch of older games that I've never played, so instead I'll focus on this one, and how fun it is.

A lot of bigger budget, AAA games don't really have great boss fights these days. Part of that comes down to many of those sorts of games not really being suited to scenarios that lend themselves to boss fights. Or at most what passes for a "boss" is a helicopter, or a big tank. I'm not saying those can't be fun or engaging encounters, but they're just not the same. Not unless it's like a robot helicopter, or something a bit more original like that.

Monster Hunter World is a game all about boss fights. The game doesn't call them that, but each hunt is basically a boss fight. Long ones too, almost always in multiple stages, even if I'm kind of counting the first part of tracking down the monsters to be the first stage. But these monsters are so incredibly realized, animated, so full of life, and most importantly, so fun to fight that this game never stopped being thrilling, even after I'd spent 150+ hours with it. Even that deep into the game, I was still encountering new surprises, new ways for monsters to interact with the world to mess with me, and vice versa. And new ways for monsters to screw with myself and the monster I'm actually hunting.

Bazelgeuse. That theme music as it swoops in, dropping explosive scales from the sky before it lands, and starts shooting fire at me. If you've gotten that far in the game, I don't blame you if I've given you flashbacks to hunts gone horribly, horribly wrong. But for me, I love Bazelgeuse, because it's an incredible wild card that can show up almost anywhere, and at almost any time. A needed (fiery) breath late in the game, because even if I was still finding new stuff very late into the game, that doesn't mean a lot of it hadn't been repeating for quite a while.

Friend...
Friend...

And it's an incredible game to play with friends, at least once you've navigated the byzantine methods of teaming up. For a game that gets so much right with how it's played, the fact that getting into games with friends is such a hassle is a bummer. But, conversely it is a testament to how good the game is that it was worth putting up with as much as I did, even if ultimately I spent most of the game on my own.

It's been a while since I played it regularly, but the game is still getting updated, and with news of a big expansion coming in the fall of 2019, I'm excited! I want more monsters to hunt, and I can't wait to hunt them. Let's go out to this new world, and bend it to our will as we reap the land of all its resources, and slaughter all the animals, and... Oh, well, I guess when you put it that way it sounds kinda bad, huh?

At least it's still fun.

Monster Hunter World also wins:

  • Coolest environmental interactions.

  • Cutest anthropomorphic cat friends.

  • Best pig.

  • Best repeatable cutscene: Sending Palicos on missions.

  • Best cooking scenes/food.

  • Most weapon variety.

  • Best hunting music.

  • Game to best make me okay with the slaughter of animals that while certainly capable of being deadly because they are large predators, are also wild animals that were just minding their own business.

  • Least good understanding of what dragons and wyverns actually are because this game classifies an electric unicorn as a dragon.

  • Best monsters: Anjanath, Rathalos/Rathian, Odogaron, Bazelgeuse, Nergigante.

Expansion that Most Improved a Game: Destiny 2 Forsaken.

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I like Destiny 2. I liked it last year when it was new, because it was a fun game that didn't completely burn me out within two months like the first one did, and it had a coherent, if forgettable story. But, it still had a long way to go, and a lot of room for improvement. Thankfully, Forsaken was what I was waiting and hoping for.

It's honestly everything you could ask for in a good expansion. Multiple new areas to roam about, both of which look really cool and are just good areas by any measure. The new story stuff is not only good, it's better than what was in the base game, and also surprising because it's really a two part story. The first being an old fashioned revenge tale (including the best (only good) Cayde has ever been), and the second...high space fantasy?? It's a weird twist, but it fits with the lore, and it's cool! On top of all that, there's a whole new mode that mixes team based PvE with PvP, and the endless loot grind is fun, aside from a couple bizarrely slow spots, it moves at a pace that feels just about right.

I'm not sure that I'm necessarily as excited for the future of this particular game over 2019 as I am with Monster Hunter World, because I feel like they've intimated that all we're getting over that time is not so story focused stuff. Which, I'm sure I'll still buy the Expansion Pass at some point, but I won't be excited about it like I was for Forsaken.

3. Best Reminder of the Astounding Amount of Labor and Work that Goes into the Production of Video Games and also How that Labor is Exploited but ALSO the Game Had Gorgeous Vistas and I Liked the Characters, Aside from that One Jerk Micah Who I Swear I Hate Even More than Huey From MGSV, Which if You've Played MGSV but Not RDR II You Probably Don't Believe Me, But Believe Me, He's Worse: Red Dead Redemption II.

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Much like my thoughts on the game itself, Red Dead Redemption II feels conflicted. At once, it wants to be a sprawling open world western epic. It has this astoundingly large, gorgeously rendered world, full of people that feel real enough, wildlife that behaves like how you'd expect it to, and it's just such a breathtaking world to explore. I took literally hundreds of screenshots during the course of the game. Over 400, I think. I was just so wowed, and loved moseying through the world so much.

But, the game also wants to tell this story, a story about the end of the west, one man's journey as it ends, his story of redemption as he decides what's most important to him, and changes his life accordingly. And this story, at its best, is incredibly touching, and spoke to me in some bizarrely specific ways, which I detailed in my VERY SPOILER HEAVY BLOG.

The problem is that the story they want to tell, and the game they made around it don't mesh. They don't mesh in ways that they never could, and they don't mesh in ways that players could screw up if they don't feel like playing along with that redemption arc that was so key to Arthur's journey for me, and instead they just do a lot of nonsense, or go around on murder sprees between each mission.

And so I'm left conflicted. There's an incredible, amazing game in here, but it's a much shorter, more focused story than Rockstar was ever going to be willing to tell. There's a great, 20 hour game hidden amongst dozens and dozens of hours of needless side missions, and large swathes of the story that should have been cut entirely.

I know that doesn't sound like it should be my Number 3 game of the year, and yet, the game spoke to me. Not literally, I didn't hallucinate. Arthur's journey worked so incredibly well for me that I needed to put it on this list, and pretty high up too. As much as this game feels like the ultimate example of 2018, where there's ample amounts of bad to go along with anything good, the good parts are still some of the best of the year. A game with mountainous highs, and lows that feel like you're trudging through a swamp. But not literally, because the swamps in the game are really moody, especially at night. Genuinely spooky.

I just wish the whole game had been as good. It could've been an all time favorite of mine, and instead we're left with a bloated mess that doesn't know what it wants to be, and a lot of what it wants to be suffers from sluggish shooting, and overly linear mission design.

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And that's not even getting into all the labor hubbub around the game, which I don't have anything new to say on, but I also don't feel right saying anything positive about the game without adding it on. I'll just say that the games industry has a long way to go in terms of crunch, compensation for people other than the execs, etc.

If all this reads like it shouldn't have been as high as Number 3, know that it was originally Number 2, but the more I thought about it, I realized I had to bump it down one. But, even if I didn't do a perfect job conveying just how much I enjoyed the story, I feel confident I found the right place for it, for me.

Red Dead Redemption II also wins:

  • Best dog petting.

  • Best horse petting.

  • Best dogs and horses.

  • True Successor of Deadly Premonition Award for Best Facial Hair that Grows Over Time.

  • Best fishing.

  • Best vistas.

  • Best game to mosey and wander around.

  • Best map included with a physical version of a game.

  • Best in game secret that got me to call a friend over voice chat and then use that PS4 feature I forgot existed where I sent video of what I was playing to him directly to get hints about how to solve a puzzle (okay it was the only one but this was a neat thing I'd thought I would mention).

Best Rogue-Like-Lite Experience: Prey Mooncrash.

Stuck on the moon. Shapeshifting aliens all around, could be anywhere, could be anything.

Need to get off the Moon, and back to Earth.

Head to Moonworks. Maybe there's an escape pod there...

No dice.

Not only that, but everything's broken, water flooding some areas, exposed wiring making that a hazard, and no Gloo Gun to get around it easily... But some Gloo grenades. So, I get past that, and come across someone else, who didn't make it, but had a ludicrous plan scribbled on a note... Load a cargo container with some food, water, and radiation medicine for the voyage, then get shot out of the Mass Driver back to Earth.

A long shot, but better than dealing with the Typhon.

So, I set about exploring, and finding what supplies I can. I know there's plenty of food and water in the crew quarters, but that's a long way away, so I explore around where I can. Dealing with enemies however I can, and using my jest booster just...a bit...too...much...

Fuel runs out, and I plummet...

CRACK.

Leg broken. Every step I take, an unsettling, moist CRUNCH runs up my legs, and my spine. I can't run, can barely jump.

But I don't give up, even as time runs low, and the enemies only get stronger.

I keep searching, and eventually get all the supplies I need.

But still that leg.

Then, wait, a bone repair kit! My leg, fixed!

So, I head up to the top of the tower, to activate the Mass Driver... there's enemies all around. But by now, I've found plenty of ammo, so even if the fight leaves me close to death, I still end up on top, and turn on the Driver...which only leaves me about a minute to escape.

Good thing I fixed the leg.

I dash down, this time making sure not to break anything, and escape the Moon with just seconds left.

And that, was a dramatic retelling of my first time escaping the Moon via the Mass Driver. I may have embellished a few things, and left out some details, but that's just one cool story about what happened in my time with Mooncrash, an expansion so good that it would have easily gotten onto my top ten had it been released as a standalone game. It's a remarkable piece of content that, even if it got too easy by the end, was a tense, amazing thing, and definitely one of my favorite things that I played all year.

2. Multiplayer Game of the Year/Game that Did Not Have Ten Games Better Than It Release This Year: A Way Out.

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Back in 2010 Deadly Premonition, a game that in many respects was very bad, was my Game of the Year. This was due in large part to the game's story having such a big impact on me, but a fair amount of it was everything that happened around that game. Watching two separate and complete playthroughs of it on Giant Bomb, and more importantly, playing through the whole thing with a close friend of mine... Even if at some point I couldn't wait any more, finished it without him, and then had to just watch as he finished it a few months later. Look, I wanted to see how it ended!

I think, with that being the second ever Moosies, and the first Moosies on Giant Bomb (we do not speak of where The Moosies was before then), it set a precedent for what I really value in games. Not just the stories they tell, the characters they have, or things like that. But my life experiences around the game, whether those are simple, or more complicated.

And in the case of A Way Out, a co-op only game, it was built right into the core design. Because, as it would turn out, I played through this game with that very same person I played Deadly Premonition with. Back then, we were both still in college, and were in close enough proximity that we could hang out pretty much whenever we wanted. Not that we did super often, because we were both busy with our own college stuff, and this friend in particular is the sort of person to always have a hundred different things going at once, and I have no idea how he managed it all.

But now, he's moved out of state, and we're pretty much limited to the occasional chat online. So, when A Way Out was released, I knew I had to play it with someone, because it looked like the sort of cheesy, yet full of heart game that I had to play. It's had a very mixed reaction, but it seemed like something I would enjoy. And, as I looked amongst my friends for someone like minded enough to play it with, one person came to mind...never mind that he was the first one to say yes.

We had an absolute blast. I'm under no illusion that A Way Out is an incredible game, nor do I blame or necessarily disagree with anyone who disliked it. But if you're playing it with the right person, it's a really fun romp filled with sequences that are tense and make really great use of the co-operative nature of the game. It's also chock full of nonsense like a part where you can play off brand Connect Four in the lobby of a hospital where you're supposed to be visiting the wife of one of the two protagonists after she's given birth. But hey, the baby can wait, there's a game to play, wheelchairs to balance yourselves in, a moon landing to watch... Speaking of, Larry, if you're reading this (and you should be), we need to load the game back up, I've read there's an Easter Egg relating to that moon landing...

I'd be remiss if I didn't say anything directly about the story between Vincent and Leo, as they learn to work together, go on increasingly ludicrous adventures, and well, I won't spoil how it ends, but it took me completely by surprise, and I'm pretty sure it did my friend to some extent too. And like I said, I know it's cheesy, and you really have to be into/willing to look past non-American actors doing their best to sound American, but not really nailing it to enjoy some parts of this game. But if you can, it's a really fun game, and its heavy reliance on co-op, and creative uses of it make it pretty unlike just about anything else I've played. And, without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite games of the year.

A Way Out also wins:

  • Best cooperating with a real person.

  • Best minigames.

  • Best legitimately cool feature: Only one person needs to actually own the game to play it online in co-op.

  • Ship of the year: Leo + Vincent (not that I do it myself because they each are in existing relationships, but also if you do I don't blame you because sometimes these things happen to people, but I think both of them love their wives enough to not cheat on them).

  • Top Ten Anime Betrayals.

The Moosies 2018 "Retro" Game of the Year: Hollow Knight.

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Hype can do a lot of things to your expectations. Sometimes it can make them go sky high, but sometimes when I see so many people saying so many surely hyperbolic things about something, it actually has an opposite effect on me. I end up thinking there's no way it can be as good as they say. Some noteworthy examples from the last few years include Mad Max Fury Road, Breath of the Wild, Into the Spider-Verse, and Hollow Knight here.

But here's the thing, given these examples, maybe I should rethink how that happens to me, because every time it actually has been as good at it was cracked up to be.

Hollow Knight is, and I do not use this word lightly, but it's approaching masterpiece levels of how good it is. It's not just an incredible Metroidvania game, it's my favorite Metroidvania. It's not just a game that cribs from Dark Souls, this is the best game to take inspiration from the From Software games that I've played yet, and by a lot too. It's a game that not only has an incredible mood, tone, and sense of place backed up by a beautiful, yet ominous art style, it has a great world to back it up. And again, I'm using "world" in the lore sense of the word. I've yet to actually go and watch any lore videos, because I kept telling myself I would beat the secret "actual final boss" first, but I never got around to that.

It's a tough game too, and I do have some nitpicks here and there. Stuff like the Dark Souls style needing to recollect your money after dying, or the pin system feeling like I spent the majority of the game with pins equipped for mundane yet critical feeling things to me like a faster run speed. And given some of those pins can create fun and cool ways to play the game that sound substantially different from the norm, I think it's disappointing that I felt the need to play with what I feel like should have just been how the game played to begin with. Faster run speed, less time between dodges, just basic "feel" things like that.

And there's my obligatory "complaint" paragraph out of the way. Perhaps the highest praise I could give this game is that it reminds me of Bloodborne. There's a lot of surface level comparisons to be made, in the same way as Dark Souls, but I mean on a deeper level. These are both games that, on a world/lore department, are operating on multiple levels in ways that I just cannot express in words how much I love. As much as I want to just start rambling about the lore, or at least what of it I was able to piece together in my time with the game, I also know there's still people reading this who haven't played the game. I don't want to be the one to spoil anything for you.

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I could keep going on, and fall into a hole of just describing how much I love every little area of the game... Just like the time I fell into a hole and wound up in The Deepnest, which is such a fantastic area. I know some people don't like it, but they don't like it because it's creepy as hell, and hard, which is why I love it. It's this labyrinthine series of tunnels clogged with spiderwebs, full of dead ends, spikes, creatures that won't hesitate to kill you, and might not be as dead as you think after you defeat them...

Perhaps it's too early to be saying things like this, since I only played the game a couple months ago, but Hollow Knight is a game that I think will, at some point, be regarded as an all time classic. I'm not sure I'm ready to call it a "top ten of all time for me," especially given at this point I probably already have twenty or thirty games in that top "ten," but believe me when I say Hollow Knight is worth your time. Had this game been released this year, it would have been the only game to give me serious, actual pause about what my Number 1 game of the year is.

But, before I get to that, I need to briefly mention a few other older games I played this year. Hyper Light Drifter was a great game, and one I thought was a shoe-in for this for months, and it would've won otherwise, or been on my top ten the year it released had I played it then. Specter Knight (which counts since it was released as a standalone game) was also great, and for more story focused games, Tacoma and 2064: Read Only Memories were both memorable and worthwhile times.

And now, time for...

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1. 2018 Moosies Game of the Year, AKA The Tenth Annual Moosies Game of the Year Awards Celebration Game of the Year, AKA The Moosies X-TREME Video Game of the Year: God of War.

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And yet here we are, and I still remember how I felt when Kratos and Atreus finally made it to the mountain at the end of God of War. Their incredible journey, finally at an end, and so was mine with them. I'd grown so attached to the duo, both to Kratos, who learned to open his heart again, and to Atreus, who grew a lot, learned so much about the world, and so much about how to be a good person. Which, Kratos certainly learned along the way too. And I know it sounds super corny when I lay it out like that, but it works. It works, and it works better than in just about any game I've ever played.

That feeling I felt at the end of the game was a mix of things. Part of it was sadness. Sad that it was over, or soon to be. Sad I was soon to run out of things to do with these characters I'd grown so close to. Sad I would have to see them go, and wait years before even getting a hint of seeing them again.

But I also felt as happy as I did sad. Kratos and Atreus start the game both, in their own ways, just so naïve, and emotionally fragile, or even broken over the loss of Faye. Both in different ways, but they're both as affected by it, even if they don't admit it, or realize it. And seeing them both grow and change over the journey just hit me like few games ever have, and even all these months later, like I said, I can still feel exactly how I did in that moment.

Even if God of War was just that, it still probably would have been an easy pick for my game of the year. One issue aside with the handling of a certain character near the end of the game, and the game's overall lack of women characters (not counting the optional Valkyrie boss fights, there's only one), the story was more than enough to have this game stick with me for months and months later.

Not only does God of War have infinitely more emotional resonance than I thought the series ever could, and way more than most games do, it's also a fantastic action game (the best the series ever has been), with just enough openness and a world just big enough to feel big, and allow for it to feel like a sprawling adventure. But it's not an open world game in the sense of what they've come to be known as, and it doesn't fall into the same pitfalls that those so often do.

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And this world changes over time, as the central lake lowers. Or, at least, it has a big change midway into the game, revealing all new areas, and showing just how well laid out everything is that it makes the lake feel full of fresh new areas to explore, and yet all the old areas are not only still there, but interconnected with the new ones! The game only does this once, but it's an incredible trick, and it's something I'd love to see more games try to do in the future.

I could go on and on. I could write paragraphs just about how The Leviathan Axe is one of the best weapons ever put in a video game, and how recalling it was just as fun at the end of the game as it was at the start. I could detail how that motif of those first three notes throughout the soundtrack just works so well at conveying Kratos, and I don't know how to write about music, but it's great. I could go on about how it's not just the most visually detailed game I've ever played, but it has a great art style, and beautiful vision for what this version of Norse Fantasy is. At least in the visuals, because it's appropriately dark for the source material, but without swaying into the grimedgy-ness of the series' past.

I love this game. It's incredible, and over the course of the year, there was never any doubt that it was my game of the year.

God of War also wins:

  • "BOY!" of the year: Atreus.

  • Big Bo Presents Year of the Bow Bow of the Year: Atreus' magic bow.

  • Best musical motif.

  • Best weapon: Leviathan Axe.

  • Best snake.

  • Best storytelling dismembered head.

  • Most needless amount of loot/upgrading that was my only real complaint with the game part of the game.

  • Best boat.

Thank you for taking the time to read all this, or if you just skimmed through to the end, well, consider giving the whole thing a read if you have the time. 2018 was an interesting year for games, with many that were great in a lot of ways, but also deeply flawed in others. And here's hoping that 2019 is another great year for games, because it'll certainly be another disaster of a tire fire for world events, as the world spirals into Climate Change doom.

But on a less dire note, here's some predictions for 2019 in Video Games!

Predictions!

11th Annual Moosies 2019 Game of the Year: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Given my affinity for From Software's games over the years since Dark Souls, it's not hard to predict that I'll enjoy this game (assuming it's good). But will it be Game of the Year? Only time will tell!

Sony, attaining new levels of hubris, announces the PlayStation 5, featuring the Perfect Cell Processor. With that, it has full backwards compatibility with PS3 games, but not PS4 games. Costs far too much money.

All signs seem to be pointing to 2020 as the year for new consoles, which I think realistically means also the year for announcing new consoles, especially considering Sony won't be at E3. But on the off chance they do announce the PS5 in 2019, I want to be prepared with this entirely plausible prediction.

So far as the rest, well, I only hope that Sony has learned from the PS3, and that even if they are at peak hubris (which they are), they don't mess up too badly. I've bought all my games (aside from Nintendo exclusives) on PS4 this generation, and if they don't get backwards compatibility right with PS5, that would be very disappointing!

Despite the fact that everyone else seems to think The Last of Us Part II is coming in 2019, it doesn't.

I really don't know where this assumption came from. Have they said they're targeting 2019? Even if they are, this game screams of "delayed to spring 2020" in that case. I still think this is more likely to be a PS5 launch game, or perhaps a cross gen release timed with the PS5 launch.

Nintendo puts out the New Nintendo Switch XL, which is a bigger, more expensive Switch. Does not drop the price on the existing model. Everyone else buys one (including those who already had a switch), but I still hold out because they're expensive.

I still do, sincerely want a Switch, but they're just too dang expensive for what's going to end up being a thing I play five Nintendo published games on over its lifespan, and never use its primary gimmick (portability). And given that it continues to be wildly successful in sales, I don't really see Nintendo doing anything to court people like me who want to save some money. At least not in 2019.

EA, those bastards, announce the Mass Effect Trilogy for Switch, but still don't remaster those games for PS4.

Under the category of, "things that could get me to give in and buy a Switch."

Microsoft, in their continuing attempts to get people to care about the Xbox brand, starts giving Xbox Ones out literally for free.

And even then it doesn't work.

Tired of waiting for another game, Captain Falcon decides to leave this galaxy, and find peace amongst the stars. Meanwhile, Nintendo officially announces that rumored Star Fox racing game, and Falcon has a brief twinge of pain as he looks back in the direction of the Solar System, before he continues onward on his journey.

Sony not being at E3 turns out to be a ruse when Phil Spencer tears his Xbox shirt off on stage to reveal a PlayStation shirt underneath. Then Jack Tretton and some cronies storm the stage to announce his return.

Self explanatory, I think.

Metroid Prime 4 shown off, has some bizarre control scheme that is needlessly gimmicky, makes the game worse, and is not accessible to people with disabilities. There's no option to change it.

I actually think this one is real.

EA cancels that Respawn developed Star Wars game that they haven't even shown a logo for yet.

Same.

Half-Life 3 announced as a card pack for Artifact.

Thank you for reading, and while I can't commit to regularly writing blogs in 2019, I do hope you enjoy whatever it is that I manage to get out there, and I hope you all have as good a 2019 as is physically possible.

10 Comments

10 Comments

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Humanity

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Humanity • 

Nice to see another human being that played Vampyr. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't finish it but at some point the story and gameplay loop was really starting to lose me and other games came along. When checking steam I have nearly 30 hours dumped into so it's crazy to think that I still wasn't finished. Unfortunately while really clever the dialog mechanics turned into a to-do list rather than an organic unveiling of clues. You talk to everyone, collect all the little clues, then you go around and talk to everyone again to see what changes, then you check all the houses and trash cans to get some more clues, and once again talk to people. The inability to skip singular lines of dialog really slowed this down as well. I got right near the end but it really started to drag it's feet. While I'm a huge Remember Me apologist because I think the art design in that game is absolutely phenomenal and the combat while awkward has enough variation to have kept me going forward, I don't know if I could really recommend Vampyr to a lot of folk. It's an oddity for sure.

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AjayRaz

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AjayRaz • 

Gosh, this was exhaustive but thank you for another year of Moosies, Moosey. I didn't even know that Iconoclasts was a thing, and now I really want to Vampyr.

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Edited By MooseyMcMan • 

@ajayraz: Iconoclasts (on PS+ right now if you've got that (I can never remember if you do or not, maybe not?)) is really worth playing. It's not super long either, about ten-ish hours? And yeah, if you can look past the combat, Vampyr is worth playing (give the Quick Look a look if you want to take a gander at it, but even that, I feel like sells the game short a little).

Thank you for reading! Or at least skimming, I don't blame you if you skimmed a little.

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CJduke

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Edited By CJduke • 

Another great year of the Moosies.

- I didn't know anything about Iconoclasts before this. I'd say I should play it but I literally never finish Metroidvania games and if I do try to play one...

-It clearly should be Hollow Knight. I've been meaning to play it for over a year and your write up makes me want to play it even more.

-Vampyr is an amazing game in theory and while I love the idea of what it attempts to do it doesn't really work out like you would hope. I'm probably only halfway through the game but I do love the ideas behind the story and having decide whether to kill people to get more powerful or see peoples stories through but remain weaker. Unfortunately having a mechanic like that in a single player none rogue-like game means the balance needs to be incredible, the combat needs to be fun, and dying needs to have meaning...Vampyr doesn't really do any of that. Perhaps if the game had a Vampire nemesis system it would be incredible.

-Really glad you loved A Way Out so much and I appreciate the Brothers reference.

-Red Dead is definitely the most conflicted I've ever felt over a game. It is at the same time one of the greatest games I've ever played and one of the most infuriating. I'm still excited to see the rest of the story, I just wish the gameplay was better.

-God of War is an incredible game. Perhaps the best part is how low-key they kept it as well. Very few characters, with no appearances (sort of) by gods you would expect, and a more calm, emotional ending. It makes me see this first game as just the beginning in a game series that will be bigger and better with the next game. There is so much they can do now I can't wait to see what they have in store for the sequel.

-Your PS5 prediction is the same as mine. I am fully prepared for Sony to now be the moronic "we can do whatever we want" company again and for Microsoft to take the lead role in the next generation. The tough part about that is Microsoft still has barely any exclusives I care about whereas Sony has consistently maintained exclusive games I love and want to play ever since the PS2.

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hassun

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hassun • 

Rogue-Like-Lite or Rogue-Lite-Like?

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MooseyMcMan

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MooseyMcMan • 

@cjduke: The only thing I'll say about Iconoclasts and Hollow Knight is that Iconoclasts took me ten hours to finish, and Hollow Knight was over 40.

And yeah, this generation especially, I can really only think of one Xbox One exclusive that I wanted to play at the time, and that was Sunset Overdrive. Which, you may recall, got ported to PC last year. And even that was like, a mild want, as opposed to say, Bloodborne, or God of War. I mean, look at this year alone! Sony had God of War (amazing), Detroit (bad but at least entertainingly bad based on Drew Scanlon's playthrough that he streamed), Shadow of the Colossus remastered (all time fave!), and Spider-Man (literal dream game). And Xbox? I guess Forza sounded cool, and Sea of Thieves was a game some people enjoyed.

So, yeah, even if the PS5 is a horrible, consumer unfriendly mess, I'm sure that between that and an Xbox Two (because PCs are still too expensive, never mind that they aren't as dirt simple to use as consoles (not that I couldn't figure it out, but you know what I mean)), I'll get the PS5.

And thank you for saying it was great! The Moosies, I mean.

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Otacon

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Otacon • 

Very entertaining read as ever Moose!

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Justin258

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Justin258 • 

@mooseymcman: Did you play Timespinner? Judging by how much you appreciate LGBTQ characters and 2D actiony games, Timespinner should be right up your alley.

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lokihellfire2008

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MooseyMcMan

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MooseyMcMan • 

@justin258: I did not! Was that the Metroidvania that looked like a borderline litigious rip-off of Symphony of the Night (I'm joking). It looked neat in the Quick Look, but like a lot of games last year (including Guacamelee 2 and Dead Cells, along with the games I mentioned in the post), I never got around to it. Your recommendation is noted, though, thank you!