Game of the Year 2018 Users Choice
(My suggestion: Listen to this song on loop while going over the list for dramatic effect)
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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!
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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!
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
God of War (Game of the Year #4) - Video of my Niflheim Valkyrie clear
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?
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.
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.
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.
- Monster Hunter: World - Private Suite Theme
- BattleTech OST - For All Mankind (Opening Cinematic)
- BattleTech OST - Restoration (Start Menu Theme)
- Tetris Effect - Celebration
- Forza Horizon 4 OST - ODESZA - A Moment Apart
- Forza Horizon 4 OST - Makoto - Wading Through Crowds
- MXGP Pro - Menu Songs (There are two or three. Done by Bustafunk. Can't find online except to buy.)