Game of the Year 2018 Users Choice

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BattleTech - My 2018 Game of the Year
BattleTech - My 2018 Game of the Year

BattleTech OST - For All Mankind (Opening Cinematic)

(My suggestion: Listen to this song on loop while going over the list for dramatic effect)

Introduction

It feels like every once in a awhile, a turn-based tactical game rubs me in just the right way and comes along at just the right time. Then again, I see an ebb and flow to it where, once I've fully invested myself in one of these experiences, my thirst is quenched for some time and even similar looking experiences are of no interest to me for whatever reason.

The team used for the Davion IV
The team used for the Davion IV "Target Acquisition" Flashpoint

Final Fantasy Tactics, which I probably played for the first time back in the early 2000s, was the game that introduced me to this Chess-like experience and left a lasting mark. While it had a seemingly vertical difficulty curve, once you push yourself far enough, you become much more in tune with the mechanics and everything feels so adaptable to my style and thus rewarding. I built these units from the ground up, tailored their abilities and gear to work together in some haphazard symbiotic relationship, and maybe even perceived/projected some personality traits (like Drekker being made of glass) that makes it uniquely satisfying for me to reap the fruits of my mental labor.

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Wasteland 2 (PC) (#4 on my 2014 GOTY list) is another recent example of a tactical RPG that caught me by surprise and was that much more fun because of it. I wrote about Front Mission 3 (PS1) back in my 2015 GOTY list, though I did not insert it into the Top 10 itself due to my own arbitrary rule of it being old, a rule I think I have since disregarded. Not everything is a guaranteed success either; I finally got around to playing and writing about Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP) in my 2017 GOTY list; yet it didn't really resonate with me even though it is spoken so highly of and so similar to Final Fantasy Tactics. The X-COM games haven't been a surefire answer either. Not to mention all the other titles in the genre that I decided to let pass me by.

Needs more missiles
Needs more missiles

Back in the fall of 2015, I stumbled upon a Kickstarter campaign for a turn-based, tactical MechWarrior game: BattleTech. I had a passing or, perhaps more dormant than anything, interest in the MechWarrior series. I also owned a copy of MechCommander Gold and dabbled in it in my younger days. Sure, I'll throw my money down on this, I thought. Sounds cool. I then left them to their business and pretty much ignored the regular Kickstarter update emails I'd get over the next couple years. Previous experiences have shown that the more I know about a game prior to playing it, the less exciting, new, and surprising it is when I finally do get my hands on it. BattleTech was no exception.

Windows XP Retro Machine

Putting together this Windows XP machine out of old parts I had laying around was a neat little project. I had actually gathered most of the parts some time ago but since I didn't have an empty case to spare, I assembled them on this hideous workbench/case thing I had chopped up and built out of an old junk case. I thought it was cool at the time but hell no. When I reorganized my room earlier this year, there happened to be this perfect PC tower sized empty space next to my entertainment center. I decided to order a cheap, plain, simple case and toss the parts in. Success!

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  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 2.2 Ghz [Dual Core]
  • Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe Motherboard
  • Corsair XMS2 DDR2 800 Mhz 2GB Ram
  • nVidia/BFG GeForce 4 7950GT 256 MB
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi Titanium [SB0880]
  • 250 GB Seagate SATA HDD
  • Corsair CX450M 450W Power Supply

Physically assembling a PC is probably my favorite part. Getting all the software and drivers setup is a whole different story. I tried to install as many of the games from the late '90s to early-mid 2000s that I still had and, if I could, allow them to run without CDs. I'm lazy as hell so removing the step where I have to drag out the case of PC games from under my bed would theoretically lower the barrier to entry. Like all things in life, it ended up being a massive pain in the butt. So many shady websites looking for update patches, No CD exe patches, and they'd have to match whatever version of the game you had installed. It really makes you appreciate how Steam streamlines all that crap. The fact that Steam itself did not want to work on WinXP, not allowing me to just install and run some old games through their interface was pretty frustrating.

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I think I was able to get it all done in the end though. I had a bit of fun playing a little bit of most of the games and reliving those memories. FlatOut aged surprisingly well. Live for Speed, which I hadn't played in probably 10 years, had a simple but very sharp look to it. It was playable with a controller for the most part aside from not being able to adjust the dead zone on the stick axis, which seemed very weird. I don't play much (or any) of the Battlefield games these days, so I was a little surprised when I had a go with Battlefield 1942 & Battlefield 2 and just messed around against the bots in single player. Even though the AI was pretty bad, I had a good time running around and effortlessly mowing them down. The fact that I didn't just die instantly as my boots hit the ground like when I try the newer entries in the series against real people was probably what made it so enjoyable. One or two rounds of Terrorist Hunt in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield was great. 1NSANE is a classic, obscure, Wal-Mart shelf tier racing game that has great music and still a lot of fun. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault was one game that hadn't aged so well. I had so many strong memories of storming the beach and it being so cinematic and impressive back then. Saving Private Ryan is one of my favorite movies. Now though? Yeesh.. First-Person Shooters have come a long way. Company of Heroes, Rise of Nations, Command & Conquer: Generals, GTR: FIA GT Racing Game.. all of them still great.

I haven't used it much since initially building it, but I'm happy knowing its there and (hopefully) ready to go. Maybe I'll look at finding a some games appropriate for its era that I haven't actually played yet.

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Monster Hunter World (Game of the Year #2)
Monster Hunter World (Game of the Year #2)

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Honorable Mentions & Stuff

Project Cars 2 (PC) - I've said it before but this game is amazing in VR. It's one of the things that kinda kills GT Sport for me. The visuals are great, the sound is amazing, and the force feedback feels so good. The dynamic time of day and weather. I started dipping my toes into the fine tuning, a ton of time experimenting with the Porsche 935, and even read a bunch of online information about vehicle setup on real cars. At the time of this writing, Steam is showing 120 hours on the clock and I imagine it'll get a bit higher at some point. I was in the mood for racing games way back in early 2018 so it's hard for me to drum up some more passionate thoughts a year later. I would've had plenty to say about it back then.

I spent a bunch of time clearing more of the career progress. I did a little endurance race online with a couple people (it was a disappointing turnout.) I also made a small effort to land some top 10 leaderboard lap times for certain car classes. It was a lot of fun and I just wish I had other people to play it with. The ease of access and quality of online racing in GT Sport is where Project Cars 2 can't compete. Every time you check the lobbies for PC2, it's 95% people running GT3 class races. Anything else and it's either one or two people, or everyone just bails on the room before a race can even start. If you want to spend the time searching online and socializing on forums, you can probably find a decent online racing league for PC2 and that might solve all these problems.

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Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PS4) - Completed the story earlier today and overall I'd say Shadow of the Tomb Raider was underwhelming. A very good looking game at more than a handful of spots, and Paititi was definitely a very different city/hub type environment compared to what you see in most games these days, so that was a nice refreshing change.

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The rest of it was lacking. In particular, I found Lara's voice work to be.. flat? Almost felt like the actress didn't want to be there. Most noticeable to me was when you'd examine various artifacts or notes found throughout your journey, to which there would be an accompanying vocal reading by Lara which, in every case I can remember, was entirely monotone and dead. There is also the neat feature of having localized voice overs: NPCs and characters speaking in their native tongue, except it feels weird and incomplete because they don't have Lara attempting to communicate with the same language. So you have Lara standing there talking in everyday English to some native, who then responds in Peruvian or whatever and has subtitles, and then Lara responds in English again. Not even attempting to simplify her sentences or words and no physical hand gestures to go along with it, as a person might do when trying to express something to someone when you don't speak their language. So while the option for "Immersive Language" seemed like a neat idea at first, I turned it off almost immediately. Too jarring.

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Not much to be said about the rest of the game. Story felt somewhat irrelevant to me, but not as dumb as Rise of the Tomb Raider. I haven't played many of the Tomb Raider games, but Lara's backstory and all this Trinity stuff is entirely unnecessary to my enjoyment of this series. Just let me explore cool areas. Remove all the dumb gun fights and stuff. The climbing and level progression continues to feel very linear and a direct copy of Uncharted. Whole skill system felt pointless. I would just open it, stick some points in stuff I didn't care about, and then continue playing. None of the gear felt necessary to craft or purchase. You don't use the weapons very often. Again, all of that stuff is just excess baggage that the series doesn't need. All the animations seemed like they were under cooked, looking disjointed and janky at times. I always hated how you constantly make these huge leaps of faith and then you hit the button and her trajectory changes as she magnetizes to the appropriate ledge to grab. I did like having the options to make combat easy while making all the exploration and puzzles as difficult as possible, which is exactly what I did.

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If *I* were to make a Tomb Raider game, there would be some brief intro narrative that gives a reason for Lara being dumped and stranded in the wilderness, and then you spend the rest of the game freely exploring a vast jungle, or mountain range, or desert, an island etc and trying to survive against the elements while simultaneously exploring the ruins, caves, caverns and tombs you come across. Maybe sprinkle in some educational information about the indigenous fauna and cultures of the area. She doesn't even have to be stranded, she is just out exploring and you operate out of some remote village in the middle of nowhere, gathering artifacts and information.

After seeing credits, I had zero interest in getting back into the game to find more tombs or unlock more stuff. Meh. Just glad it was over.

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Forza Horizon 4 (PC) - Another year, another Forza game. And it is just that for me: Another one. I played it a bit. It looks fairly good I guess in 4K on the big screen. Eh. The weather/season stuff was just as meaningless as I expected it would be, for me at least. As someone who hates the winter and cold, I loathe the fact that I boot it up and its stuck in Winter and that just makes me not want to play it!

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Overall, same game as the others. Same cars. Same 3D Models. Different map. Is it enjoyable? I guess. I also never really had any interest in multiplayer and so the new "always online" feature isn't of any interest to me either. They're just ghost cars that you see and they drive around like typical humans do.

I played it a bit. Got bored not long after.

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Two Point Hospital (Game of the Year #9)
Two Point Hospital (Game of the Year #9)

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Below (PC) - That game that was announced at that Xbox conference so long ago that I can barely remember anything about it. Having put about 8 hours into it so far, I can't say I know why the development took so long.

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I have conflicting thoughts on Below. On one hand, I love the look of it, the sound of it, the feel of it, and the mystery behind it. On the other, the survival mechanics.. Having to eat and drink fairly frequently is such a hindrance to the rest of the game. I want to explore and unravel whatever is going on in this game and, dammit, maybe I could if wasn't dying just as I start making some real progress. I've reached floor 26 I think and I'm so frustrated trying to deal with this stupid darkness mechanic. I die, lose my lamp, and then keep dying trying to get back to the lamp. At one point I thought I might as well just go back to earlier areas and do more exploring only to realize that the lamp was in an area that I had no idea how to get out of. I'm assuming you just need to keep going farther in to find an additional shortcut. Ugh, I don't know.

Below feels like a mix of Dark Souls, the original Zelda, and the color palette of Diablo 2. And then you starve to death.

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Revisiting No Man's Sky in 2018

The people of Hello Games have done an incredible job rejuvenating No Man's Sky over the last year or two. I thought the original release was decent, if a little bare. Many other people considered it to be barely a game.

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When one of the major patch updates landed during the summer, I thought it might finally be time to check in. I started a new character and it was almost immediately apparent that this was practically a whole other game. So many new features, mechanics, and tweaks since I played it at launch. I got my own Freighter, I started working on building my own base, and even the game performance had improved while simultaneously improving the visuals! There were new vehicles to use, I could hire NPCs for my base with their own series of missions, and another new large storyline arc to progress from the start of the game. I was able to buy bigger and better ships to apply neat upgrades and modifications too, in turn allowing me to reach more varied stars providing unique, and sometimes weird environments.

If all that weren't impressive enough, I believe Hello Games has since released two more large updates to the game since I last played it. Not everything is sunshine and rainbows though as there is still plenty of "Quality of Life" improvements they could make. Maybe most importantly to me is the personal storage system. Having those nine individual storage units, each with their own very limited capacity makes for a frustrating experience. Why would they think this was an acceptable setup? I'll definitely have to dip back into No Man's Sky again at some point to see what sort of new features and hopefully other QoL improvements they've made.

Reminds me of Mako Reactors
Reminds me of Mako Reactors
White Top Terminal (My No Man's Sky Base)
White Top Terminal (My No Man's Sky Base)

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Spider-Man (Game of the Year #5)
Spider-Man (Game of the Year #5)

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The Games I Didn't Play Enough Of

Shadow of the Colossus (PS4) - Classic game. Fired it up, looks and sounds amazing, killed two or three of the Colossi and then didn't pick it back up. No particular reason.

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Dragon Ball FighterZ (PS4) - Outstanding looking game, but I continue to not really enjoy fighting games? Or at least the traditional format of them. I'm not good at them and I'm not into the competitive stuff.

Give me these visuals and matches but set against an RPG. This is probably how the Budokai Tenkaichi games came about. Speaking of the older games, I did toss in Burst Limit (PS3) for a little bit after playing this and it was very interesting seeing the differences and, in many ways, how I prefer the structure of something like Burst Limit in the realm of Dragon Ball because it wasn't purely about the fighting.

FighterZ probably wasn't $60 well spent necessarily, considering I probably only played an hour or two of it, but I don't really regret it either.

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Farming Simulator 19 (PC) - Meh. Probably regret purchasing this. Farming Simulator 15 was one of my best surprises that year as I had never tried one of the titles for myself up until that point. It was strangely addicting. Unfortunately, it seems '19 suffers from the same issue that many of these niche simulation games do: Every release is barely any different from the previous one. They make minor tweaks and additions, but really, it's just the same thing. I figured enough years had passed that I'd see some significant improvements since I last played one but.. Nah. They added John Deere. That's cool I guess? As someone who isn't religiously into farming or whatever, the brands are just color schemes to me. The whole game needs to be burned down and made from scratch for better visuals, physics, and mechanics. Tossing a new wagon or map layout isn't enough for me. It's fine if your first game is a little rough and budget, but it seemed like they had some runaway success back then so I'd think they'd want to start over with some proper funds and make a solid foundation for additional content. I guess they have different ideas.

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Wreckfest (PC) - Previously known as "Next Car Game" during its time in early access, Wreckfest finally officially released in 2018. I messed around with it just prior to the release day but it was pretty much done I think. Simply the best damage model in a racing game hands down. Everything crushes and bends to such a satisfying level of realism. I made some progress in the career mode but I should get back into it. Feels like its been a long time since I played it and so my memories and opinions aren't fresh enough for it to make the list or into the Honorable Mentions. It'll happen eventually.

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Monster Hunter World - Having a go at Bezelgeus w/ Rin. *I am not a pro at this game*

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Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (PS4) - So I've heard for a long time that Dragon Quest was or is the most popular RPG series in Japan. And yet I had never played one (assuming you don't count Dragon Quest Builders.) Not until very recently at least. Sometime earlier in the year I went through another phase of digging out my original PlayStation, messing around with the old Toshiba CRT, and adding a couple more titles to my collection. Dragon Quest VII wasn't too expensive, certainly compared to other PS1 RPGs. I figured.. why not? With DQXI coming out, I might as well try to sample and educate myself a bit going in. I played it for a handful of hours but good lord was it old school. I'm not sure how anyone could make any progress without a guide in hand. Impenetrable. Perhaps if I had played it back then, when that was more the norm, but these days it just wasn't amusing.

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My limited time with Dragon Quest XI was a bit different. I did play it for maybe a dozen or so hours but it never quite got it's hooks in me. It was pretty to look at. I think maybe because I don't have any nostalgia for the series and its signature creatures, music, and style? Can't say I'm a fan of the music here. The characters and story was just kinda.. blah? Not bad but not particularly engaging. Can't remember why I stopped playing it but I think something else had released that week (was it Spider-Man?) so I'm not against continuing my journey at a later date.

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Gran Turismo Sport (PS4) - In terms of providing on-going updates and additional content, there aren't many games out there doing it better than GT Sport. Not only is it getting regular content updates with new cars and tracks.. They're free! That's right: No purchase necessary.

Unfortunately, about the only time I did play GT Sport this year was when those updates would release, I'd fire the game up, buy whatever new cars interested me, do a couple laps in each with a controller, and then turn it off til next time. I'm going to chalk that up to just not being in the mood for a racing game this year. Right around the end of last year and beginning of 2018, I played a fair amount of Sport and a bunch of Project Cars 2. I think that was enough for me at the time and, when the cycle of my interests comes around for another lap, I'm sure I'll jump back in again.

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One of the last major things I remember doing was creating two Turner Motorsport skins for the pair of BMW cars. I think I did it just prior to the real Daytona 24hr event? First time I made replica skins with GT Sports livery editor and I was very happy with how they turned out. Was also a good exercise in learning how to download company logos, tweak them with Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and finally import the customized decals into the game. Took me about a full days work for each livery.

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Dead Cells (PC/PS4) - After all the talk about this game, I thought I'd give a shot. The little that I did play, I liked what I saw except for the whole run-based structure. This genre just does not seem to jive with me. Yes, you sort of retain some degree of progress when you die, but it still feels no where near enough to me. I'm not really interested in playing through the same level (aesthetically in this case) over and over again to improve myself. I'd rather it was just a traditional Metroidvania style game and I had an interesting world to explore. Granted, I did only play it for maybe an hour or so. Died a couple times and just felt sad.

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MXGP Pro (Game of the Year #8)
MXGP Pro (Game of the Year #8)

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Spyro Reignited Trilogy (PS4) - Scooped up this remaster collection. I've played a small amount of the original PS1 Spyro games (I have a couple of them) but I'm always down for really gorgeous, colorful games on the newer systems. I've cleared the first two islands or areas of the first game but have since been busy with other things. It was enjoyable enough, if not very simple. Very low bar for entry so I have no reason to not continue playing them. I'd at least like to beat the first game.

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Tetris Effect (PS4) - Bit of a weird one here. I wouldn't really call myself a Tetris fan. I've probably only played it a handful of times in my life. I guess the flashy visuals, the great trailer music, and Mark Mcdonald being tied to it sort of enticed me to give a go. I cleared the Journey mode on Easy and tried a few of the other modes. I really like the "Celebration" level and music. Other than that, I guess it didn't strike a chord with me. Tetris is fun I guess and Tetris Effect seems like a good one of those. Disappointed in the sound output support I suppose. I think it has an option for "Home Theater" but for the most part the whole thing sounds like mostly stereo. Can't imagine I'll play more of it unless I'm in some weird mood for Tetris. It was cool though.

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Most Disappointing Game(s) of 2018

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom (PS4)

Lovely background music but its almost never at the front of my mind. These aren't the type of songs that I'll always remember or find catchy.

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The RTS bit is weak and not very fun. Feels like you just throw yourself at an enemy and hope for the best. You also have to level them up or something? Which I also weirdly felt I never lined up with. It seemed like there were battles 10-15 levels higher then me at all times, and I had to go wander the world map to find battles of an appropriate level. Worst part of the game at this point.

In general, I just find myself feeling very unenthusiastic about Ni No Kuni 2; yet somehow, even when I thought I was bored of it 5 hours in, I continue to drag my feet along. 30 hours and character levels around 40 at time of notes. The whole game is.. okay? I dunno. Story is very straight forward and plain, which hasn't bothered me as much as the over simplified gameplay.

I think one of the reasons I managed to continue with NNK2 is it became a background experience. I can play it with the volume low and watch or listen to something else. Prior to this, when I focused solely on the game, it'd put me to sleep. From the simplicity or the relaxed nature of the experience or.. something.

Finished game at 50 hour mark. 15 of those was probably grinding levels, boring side quests, and idling to get money for Kingdom. Almost quit right at the end having to deal with the last few major fights. Annoyed by the items and combat.

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God of War (Game of the Year #4) - Video of my Niflheim Valkyrie clear

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Destiny 2 (PS4)

So unremarkable, it's hard to remember if I even played it. Only reason I did was due to it being free for PS+ members. I reckon someone could finish the original main story in half a day if they wanted to and I can only imagine that lead to some very disappointed launch day purchases. For $60 no less..

One of the most uninspired, generic sci-fi shooters I have ever seen. While I can certainly appreciate the game on a technical level-- the gun-play feels solid and the graphics are impressive-- the overall aesthetic of Destiny's universe falls so flat for me. It's a shame such a clearly talented team, with the budget of a small country no doubt, is being wasted on this IP. There is something so sad about such detailed environments amounting to a moment you just sprint through looking for your next target.

Why is every character just another variation of the humanoid form? This one has two legs, two arms, a head but it's a robot. This other one has two legs, two arms, a head but it's skin is purple.. Throw in a couple alien species with the same framework.. let's make one skinny and the other one thick. How intriguing.

Excessive, needless corny jokes. Why?

Ugggh.. whole thing just felt like such a drag. I feel completely detached from the experience. There is no reason for anyone to play this game. Imagine if the people, man-hours, and budget had been spent on something different? Or multiple smaller projects based on original IPs?

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Monster Energy Supercross (Game of the Year #6 )
Monster Energy Supercross (Game of the Year #6 )

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Far Cry 5 (PC)

Decent looking game, which is to say it wasn't as good as I expected after watching all the Digital Foundry and discussion about it. Reminded me of theHunter: Call of the Wild and then I remembered that I think these are built on the Crytek engine? Call of the Wild looked better maybe.. somehow.

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Story was nothing amazing. I didn't quite skip cutscenes but if none of it was there, I wouldn't be enjoying the game any less. "Enjoying" feels like too strong a word. I was just sort of.. playing it. Wandering around shooting at things. I skipped over Far Cry 4 so maybe I was due for some Far Cry-ing, but it didn't feel that way.

Flight and vehicle controls are complete garbage.

Another aspect I found hilariously lacking, and which sort of reminded me of the Bethesda games, was the variety of NPC models. I mean, there must seriously be like 10 different looking people in this entire game. And every single of one of them wears a trucker hat. Wtf were they thinking? In general though there is a sort of detachment from reality on the whole Northwest, rural theme. Every.. Single.. Person.. is a sort of generic redneck.

Some of the music is very nice.

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Most of my time playing it was spent thinking about how I would alter this game to be something more along the lines of my play style and I guess more unique or niche in the market. I want it to be a more simulation of sorts. All the realistic gadgets and guns. Setting up my own "Prepper Stash" as I go out into the world and collect guns and supplies while lying low. Mix of Minecraft and more grounded shooters. Blah blah blah I could go on and on.

I did pick the "Resist" ending and I'll say that kinda caught me by surprise. After thinking about it and reading LazyImperial's explanation on the forum, I'm inclined to like it. So a decent ending but everything story wise leading up to it was kinda pointless.

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Red Dead Redemption 2 (Game of the Year #3)
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Game of the Year #3)

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Some of My Favorite Game Music in 2018

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List items

  • I'm actually writing this at the end of the year, many months after playing and completing the campaign mode. Steam is currently showing 170 hours of play time. "Flashpoint", their first bit of DLC, was released a few days ago and gave me a good incentive to revisit and refresh my memory on BattleTech.

    Even from the intro sequence, I was sold. This beautifully painted, wonderfully scored montage of events helps introduce newcomers, albeit somewhat vaguely, to the BattleTech universe. People who play video games might not realize that the MechWarrior series, of which there have been many games through the 90s and 2000s, is actually based within this old and very detailed tabletop miniature game known as BattleTech. I myself knew of its existence but never had any interest (besides the miniatures looking cool) and had no idea BattleTech had this super dense story and lore used to support the events and technology in the game. It left me intrigued and curious about BattleTech beyond just the video game.

    To try and briefly sum up the little I remember, and the intro tries to show the sequence of these major events: First, faster-than-light (FTL) travel is discovered, humans begin space exploration and colonization, followed by some unrest and war between groups. A person leads one of these groups and eventually unifies the space colonies to create the Star League; an age of enlightenment and prosperity begins. Huge advances in technology and science. Eventually, that leadership is undermined and killed, leaving an open seat at the head of the known universe essentially. This of course creates turmoil and a power vacuum amongst the colonies on who should take the role and war begins. Massive levels destruction and death. This ushers in a dark age. All the understanding of this new technology is gone; The instructions and ideas are locked and hidden away or destroyed, while all the people could even understand it, the scientists and brilliant minds, leave for deep space believing that (most?) humans cannot be trusted with this newfound tech and will destroy everyone and everything. And this is the post-Star League era where I guess most of the games take place. Super advanced technology from the height of the Star League exists but is rare, irreparable, irreplicable, and seems almost alien. Star League manufacturing facilities and structures exist like ancient tombs, in which factions search for and fight over like buried treasure. There is so much more detail to all of this (and I believe many books written in the BattleTech universe) that I can only begin to understand.

    Let's talk about the game itself though. As I already mentioned, an amazing soundtrack, and fantastic painted pieces of artwork tell the story in still slides. The campaign (and the newly added Career mode) have you managing your group of hired mercenaries, traveling the star system, and fulfilling contracts to earn enough money to pay the bills, keep the lights on, support your crew, and build out your arsenal of Mechs for ever more difficult encounters. As with other tactical games, there was a steep difficulty curve when I first started, but in retrospect, I'm wondering how much of that was learning how to equip and use my Mechs more effectively and if I would have an easier time knowing what I know now. Initially, it felt very unforgiving; when you're regularly outclassed against a "Lance" (team of four) of medium Mechs with only your set of rinky dink lights. Always taking severe damage to your Mechs and pilot injuries; both of which felt very costly in the early game in terms of finances and time. This may have been re-balanced in patches since the games launch earlier this year.

    Once you select a contract (a mission), which are randomly generated (except for story related contracts), you choose four of your Mechs and the pilots for each, and then are dropped onto the map. Mission types range from escort, base defense or capture, assassination, attacks on convoys, and your standard straight up fight to the death. If you succeed, you're rewarded with salvage from the battlefield depending on what type of enemy units you destroyed and how you destroyed them, along with some money. The rewards also vary depending on how you chose to divvy it up at the start: You can opt to receive more salvage and less money, vice versa, or even less of either and instead receive a reputation boost for the faction that is offering this mission.

    The way the salvage at the end is semi randomly generated but also dependent on how you went about disabling your targets is half the fun and challenge. For example, if you see an enemy Mech chassis that you want, your best option is to surgically attack and disable that Mech by destroying the head to kill the pilot while the head is very hard to hit or the other option is to unbalance and knock the Mech over and cause injuries to the pilot itself while doing as little damage as possible to the Mech chassis itself. Slightly less optimal is destroying both legs on the Mech as to render it immobile, and finally, the way that destroys the Mech the fastest but wrecks it entirely in the process (and only gives you one piece of the three required salvage), is to destroy the center torso i.e. "Core-Out". This creates a wonderful bit of risk vs reward as taking your time to carefully disable the enemy Mechs to increase your salvage at the end will in turn expose yourself to a prolonged battle that increases the damage your Mechs take, the repair costs afterwards, and pilot injuries.

    The stars of the show are of course the Mechs themselves. For me, it became a bit of a Pokemon-esque gotta-catch'em-all thing. Having as many toys as possible to choose from in the proverbial toy chest. Seeing all the different cool designs, learning how the Mechs framework and loadout options made each one relatively unique. I even bought a BattleTech book off Amazon, intended for use with the tabletop game I assume, that has a bunch of Mech designs, an illustration for each, typical weapon loadouts, and some BattleTech lore and backstory on how, when, why, and by whom the Mech was built. In game, it's like playing with Legos. You can mix and match all sorts of different weapons and equipment. I love how all of the different weapon types are visually, accurately and uniquely represented on the specific chassis you're equipping. So putting a fat AC20 cannon on a shoulder looks different than having a huge box rack of 20 long range missiles. You can give the Mechs cool (dumb) names like I did and pick a paint scheme. The whole Mech aspect of the game was the best part probably and it really makes me want to buy or build some sort of Mech statue of a particular favorite to paint and display on my shelf in a case.

    Campaign story wise, it was interesting enough. A few very difficult encounters. Some good moments. The characters are alright I guess. Hard for me to write much in detail about this now as it has been many months since I played through it. Traversing the star map is somewhat engaging with the randomly generated events, of which you have to make a choice that can have good, bad, or no repercussions on your crew or situation.

    I also want to mention that massive missile salvos feel and look sooooo good in this. Putting together a "Missile boat" and having them unleash Hell, blotting out the Sun so to speak, and relentlessly battering a Mech into the ground is orgasmic. The 8 seconds of whooshing and pops of a hundred missiles flying head on. Death by a thousand cuts.

    Of course, nothing is perfect. I wish the game had a bigger budget so it could look even better, so there could be even more visual fluff. I'd enjoy extra background flavor like being able to see people working in the Mech Bay, salvage being collected after a mission, or what the storage room looks like with piles of components and decommissioned Mechs. The game is a little hitchy when it seems to do computing of some kind, like traveling and the little cutscenes that accompany it, or loading menus or the store. Not sure how much of that is related to my computer or not.

    Still, I had an incredibly engaging time with BattleTech and played it for many many hours each day for a couple weeks. I love it and look forward to seeing what the team does in terms of additional content and mechanics.

  • Writing these thoughts after a fair bit of time has passed since I last played it.

    This could also probably pass as Game of the Year for me. Spent somewhere close to 250 hours on it I think? Got to HR79 ish? I played Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii just prior to World's release and it was the first Monster Hunter title I ever really played and eventually beat. I was a little concerned I had burnt myself out on the formula and wouldn't be in the mood for World but luckily that wasn't the case.

    Excellent looking game. Wonderful world. Great zones. Fun in multiplayer. Love the music in the Private Suite room I think its called. Every weapon feels very different. Easy to get in and smack stuff around but incredibly hard to master.

    Story was a little weak? The transition from LR to HR was a tad odd but fine once you get through it. The gear grind can get pretty boring and ultimately that is why I stopped playing it, as there wasn't anything else I wanted to do in it. The online co-op experience wasn't flawless but it didn't seem to bother me nearly as much as other people.

    I really want to just see a bunch more monsters and specifically ones that are completely different and don't just feel like a reskin or palette swap. More areas to go with that of course. Would love to see the Flooded Forest from Tri for example.

    Addendum 12/9/18 - I revisited MH:World while finalizing this page and.. man this game is good. So good, that I bumped it up the list. The music, the feel, the look, the crazy amount of depth. I was surprised by how natural it felt getting back into it. I.. think I might start playing this again. They've added a few new monsters since I played at launch so there is certainly new things for me to see.

  • A *near* masterpiece of a video game. I enjoyed almost every aspect of Red Dead Redemption 2, from what is probably the best, most detailed open world that's ever been created; the wonderful sound design of all the characters, fauna, and ambiance that fills it, the multitude of activities to partake in from poker, blackjack, hunting and fishing, to getting self-portraits, watching theater performances, and bounty hunting. So why, after all that, the kitchen sink, and my must-be nearly 100 hours of game time, do I not feel head over heels for RDR2 after seeing the credits roll?

    I'm not quite sure of that myself yet. The few complaints I do have are that the overall story feels a little flat. From Chapter 2 on, I just kept thinking to myself that Dutch is essentially a junkie addicted to this far fetched, clearly outdated idea of being a successful, wealthy criminal with no law enforcement around to care. And yet all of these people in his posse follow him pretty much blindly on this path for far too long. Dutch's whole narrative is "One more time man! We got this! I can feel it!" Any reasonable person would've fucking bailed on his ass after the second colossal failure. Murphy's Law is the only one that Dutch abides. Perhaps if I, the player, had been a part of this group when things were going well, I'd feel more inclined to stand by Dutch per say, like the rest of the crew, but everything I saw from the opening scene on was a dumpster fire.

    My only gameplay related complaint is, as far as I can tell, the lack of functionality in the wagons. I was way into the hunting and fishing but having to constantly travel long distances to reach a Trapper or my base camp so I could turn in a large pelt became an annoyance fairly quick. Let me get a covered wagon, head way up into the mountains (within reason, being able to only take a horse up into the peaks and narrow cliff paths would be a cool and realistic limitation) to camp out and store a bunch of food and materials sounds like fun emergent gameplay to me. And I guess having to brush off my horse so often was a little annoying as well.

    Arthur was pretty great, Sadie was fun although I would've liked her to have a little bit more range than just the tough, angry woman. Charles was nice and charming. I would be interested in playing a game as Charles, maybe experiencing this countryside from his perspective or another Native American.

    Red Dead Redemption 2 is just as remarkable as the original. An unbelievable level of detail and atmosphere. The benchmark for open world games.

    Which reminds me of one last thought; This game is just about everything that Zelda: Breath of the Wild wasn't. Breath of the Wild being my most disappointing game of 2017. Imagine a Zelda game with this level of detail, quality, and visual fidelity? Now that is a Zelda game I want to see.

  • Finished story on 4/24. Very good game overall. Top notch quality. Story was decent, though not because of the son really? Love how well realized this world is and the interpretation of the Norse mythology.

    I'm assuming at this point it'll become a trilogy, hopefully limited to the Norse mythos, and go from there. Because of that though, it is expected they saved events and major characters for sequels, but I wish they at least made quick story introductions toward the end of the story.

    Combat has a learning curve, reminding me of something along the lines of a Souls game more than any previous God of War title or other character action game. On the surface it can seem flawed but once you really start to grasp the systems, get a feel for the rhythm, unlock more moves then you start to see the beauty and fluidity of it all. You just have to be very good, something I only get to see small glimpses of lol Sometimes, in the moment, I nail it and set up a combo that makes sense, works great, and looks smooth.

    I'm trying to play the game post-story and it is actually making me feel more bitter or something. I want to explore, find hidden things I missed, and smash my way through swathes of enemies now that I should be theoretically overpowered except that they almost max the level out of any enemies you encounter in the world. It kinda takes all the fun out of it when I can be slaughtered by some basic enemies while exploring. I tried Niflheim and I hate having a time limit on anything I do, but it's made even worse by very difficult enemies.

    Also gave Muspelheim a shot, which is just series of unique challenges. One of the first involved a time limit so it soured me almost immediately, but the few after that did not involve a time limit and instead had involved unique, interesting rules for defeating the wave of enemies. It was actually pretty fun.. Until a challenge that involved some Dark Elves and a Lord, an enemy type that feels incredibly annoying to begin with and yet this challenge makes it so the Lord has a shield unless the lesser foes are killed. It was super annoying and I gave up after multiple tries and getting almost no where.

    Perhaps I should try turning the difficulty down to easy but yea.. I feel like continuing to play this is hurting my opinion of it more than it should.

    Still, I am eagerly anticipating the next entry of God of War.

    Update: Turned difficulty down to easy and started having a lot of fun again, enjoying the combat. Cleared the all the Niflheim quests and chests. Onto Muspelheim next.

    Final Update 4/26: Platinum trophy done. Only ever had three platinums for years and now I got two within a month. Weird.

  • I always say it upfront but, I'm not into comic books or invested in any super hero stuff, I just watch the movies which are mostly okay.

    Marvel's Spider-Man (PS4) is an *amazing* experience. I never played the, seemingly cult classic now, Spider-Man 2 with its debut of web swinging, but it is one of the best movement mechanics I have ever used in a game. I think it says a lot when a game has a fast travel system and you pretty much never use it because it feels so good to get around the "slow" way.

    Stunning visuals. Haven't seen such an incredible rendering of NYC since Grand Theft Auto 4, and that game was just a vague interpretation. I think you could actually use Spider-Man's city to get a grasp on where all the famous locations generally are in the city. All the sound is fantastic, maybe barring the music as it's kind of the same sort of swelling orchestral background tunes you hear in the movies. Top notch voice acting from the entire cast I'd say.

    Combat is incredibly tight. Timing windows on dodges can be seemingly unforgiving at times, particularly when paired up against large groups of enemies like the Sable mercenaries. It's somewhat refreshing to see enemies attack you aggressively, instead of waiting in line per-say, as most games do to make it more manageable for the player. In this case, that technical difficulty makes for a rewarding experience once you get into a groove and start racking up 150x hit combos without getting touched. I never felt it become too samey or repetitive, but I could see how others might feel so. I typically found myself having to consciously remember to use all the gadgets I had been unlocking and upgrading. The small bits of slow-mo during finishers provides a nice time window to make a gadget selection.

    Story wise, it was hit and miss. Certain parts felt a little more impactful or surprising, and others are kinda unremarkable that I can't even remember them. This is another case where I think having seen the big E3 trailers kind of ruins a bit of the adventure and surprise. I think MJ's character could've been done better (also her character model looked a little more fake compared to the rest of the cast? It might've been the weird, bright but flat red brick hair color.)

    Overall, a super high-level of polish and very fun. Curious to see how this game affects the industry from here. A Marvel Universe of games? Is that a good or bad idea? Should Insomniac be the only ones to handle these games, or did their unique history with traversal mechanics make Spider-Man a particular fit for them? Would a different dev be more suited to a Iron Man or Hulk game per-say, and who would that be and why?

  • Tried MESX and MX vs ATV All Out alongside each other to figure out which I wanted to really play.

    Maybe its something in Milestone's water so to speak, but I was immediately absorbed into MESX. Something about it felt much more comfortable and enjoyable to play? The riding just performs in a way that feels right to me, even if it isn't necessarily the most realistic thing.

    Oh my god the visuals on this. Lighting in games has come so far and companies are *really* starting to nail down exactly what real lighting looks like. Did have to turn the Motion Blur off immediately, and I do not understand why they even put it in games. It just makes everything look worse.

    The "whip" or "scrub" system is a bit wonky and can get in the way sometimes. Executed when you either move both sticks toward or away from each other as you go off a jump, its intended use it for getting *less* airtime and getting you back on the ground faster i.e. "scrubbing" off speed. It has a very mechanical look and feel to it which is kind of counter to how it should look; usually very fluid, smooth, and graceful. On top of that, you frequently end up moving the sticks toward or against each other just in normal corning situations, accidentally triggering the scrub effect which causes you to crash.

    Other areas where Milestone could improve the game: The AI and I guess the way the exist in the world, for lack of a better way to put it, rides like its on rails. You can spin them out and they will also crash on their own, but most of the time they are unyielding. You can steer against them and it'll do nothing. Not that you'd really do that, but an example of where it becomes a problem is the starts which behaves more like the "Running of the Bulls"; if you are anywhere in front of this stampede of riders, your bike will get tossed around like a rodeo clown while they cruise around the bend. Contrast to an actual racing start, the best way in this game is to come out of the gate slow, wait for all the AI to bulldoze into the corner and kill each other while you come in skillfully up under them and get around it all as fast as possible. Rewarding in its own way when you pull it off.

    Track creator is alright I guess. Some people might enjoy. I only used it to get the trophies. Most of the courses made by people are crappy and the game makes it all look so artificial. Giant empty generic stadium of flat dirt and you just plop your course down somewhere on it. What this needs is something much less rigid so the more talented, patient, and creative types can go in and really fill out the details. Props for one, but also manual adjusting the curve and size of the jumps rather than a preset selection. And why can't we build courses in the real stadiums?

  • 4/15/18 - I stumbled upon a sale for Redux for $6 and thought, eh why not, people seem to say good things about them. It's now a couple weeks later and I just completed Metro 2033 a moment ago, with Steam showing 10 hours of game time.

    Very interesting. Again, going into a game with almost no expectations or experience of what these games are helped to get things off on the right foot. After playing the intro, I decided I might be more comfortable or more inclined to play the game if I ran out on my lovely TV, take advantage of the 7.1 surround, used a controller and set the difficulty to Easy. I know people say to play it with less forgiving settings as I guess the series is supposed to be survival horror? I was just here for a more cinematic experience.

    The game was much better look than I expected. I wasn't quite able to run it at 4K 60 so I dropped it down to 1440p. Ran great, looked great, and sounded good.

    I feel like I don't play many FPS games these days. Everything is competitive this and E-Sports that. I'm find something more cinematic, atmospheric, and with some narrative to be more intriguing. Playing 2033 reminded me of games like Half Life and I guess as I write this, Gears of War is probably a more recent example of something I've played, besides being third person over-the-shoulder.

    Anyway, overall it was an enjoyable experience. I'm a fan of stealth shooting. Picking dudes off from a distance or throat stabs from behind, cautiously making my approach.

    I think I'll start on Last Light and I have some anticipation of an overall even higher quality game? Looks like it game out three years later, and this is the Redux version, so who knows. I'd be alright if it was the same visuals though as they were good enough. $6 for both of these games was a fantastic deal.

    God of War is coming in less than a week though so I'm not sure if Last Light will get done.

  • Another Platinum trophy in the books. Not sure what to say about MXGP Pro that I didn't already say with Monster Energy Supercross. The games are almost identical, MXGP Pro just changes to outdoor based Motocross tracks vs Supercross's indoor, stadium events.

    There are some subtle changes to bike and rider handling, but nothing super remarkable. Milestone, the developers, were attempting to lean more into the realism with this title but I didn't find it that noticeable.

    Decent music. Visuals still look decent but it continues to suffer, like all other Unreal engine based games, from delayed texture pop-in and rendering. I can't say I saw it much during actual racing but it is fairly severe in the menus.

    I enjoyed it enough to get the Platinum which always says something. I think I had to play through the career mode two or three times for the various classes to get it. Something about these Milestone dirt bike games I just find hypnotic and chill. Makes it easy to do that many races.

  • The spiritual successor to Theme Hospital. Fun game. Great sense of humor and artful interpretations of various diseases and abnormalities.

    The level progression of the campaign mode was a bit of a double edged sword I think? It was nice having specific goals for each area and usually introduced a new mechanic or item to coincide with it, but as you get deeper and realize that they make you start from scratch for every area, the "early game" of building all the standard doctors offices and such can grow a little tiring. A copy & paste function would've been nice, and I believe the devs said they were looking into it (might've already been added at the time of this writing.)

    Not sure what more they could've done with Two Point Hospital. Do I want it to be a "deeper", more difficult experience? What does that look like and do I even want it? Although a tad shallow, I still got enough enjoyment just laying out my hospitals while trying to find some balance of efficiency and aesthetics.

  • It seems pretty good. Most notable thing is the framerate of course which is real nice compared to some other PS1 racing games I've been playing. Music is decent, one particular song (DJ Sasha - Xpander) I immediately recognized and have had in my MP3 collection forever now, yet had no idea when or where it was from.

    I was happy and surprised to see you could disable weapons and checkpoints in the options, turning it into a pure racing experience. Some of the finer menu details, like the vehicle stats, are impossible to read even with my decent CRT TV. Widescreen support if you wanted to try that.

    Also slightly taken back by the lack of general.. stuff to do? Which is a theme I'm seeing across most racing games from the era. I guess as a kid very little can go a long way, but these days I'm so accustomed to progression systems, that on the surface it can look somewhat thin. I'm guessing there is more to do here than it appears at first glance. Only four vehicles with 5-6 tracks as far as I can tell. Ramping the difficulty up mostly involves me constantly slamming into the walls on tight corners due to increased speeds and I don't know how anyone is supposed to take those turns. The shoulder buttons function more as drift controls, making it feel even looser, and less as actual air brakes to help with cornering.

    Overall, pretty cool and I'm glad I picked it up. I've got a thing for collecting racing games and this series certainly deserves to be in it. I haven't looked it up but I'm curious if they made one for PS2.