2018 has been a pretty rough year all over. Even within gaming, there have been huge ups and down, but the breadth and quality of the games has continued to be raised over and over. Every year it has been remarkable to see the absolute variety of released games.
After a long development cycle of 12 years and a team of only half of dozen people, the scale and scope of this game is tremendous. The landmass is the largest in a game since Daggerfall. It looks like a Infinity Engine RPG with some RTS elements with survival and crafting mechanics. Your “party size” can be well over dozens of people, and the do anything, be anyone structure of the game makes it more ambitious than any other game on my top ten. However, progress is slow with lots of resource collecting, micro-managing, money saving, and after several hours, Kenshi starts to feel like work. There is a lot to build and even experience, but the world feels empty and it takes quite a while to get anything started.
This was one of the games in Capcom’s Beat’em Up Bundle, and while an older game, it was first released in the US through this collection. It is a remarkable 4 person classic co-op with a bunch of special moves, a leveling system, and outlandish characters. Within Battle Circuit, you can see the roadmap to those excellent Capcom Dungeons and Dragons games.
Now on to the list:
GOTY in alphabetical order
While this came out previously on the PS4, Yakuza 0 made its surprising but much needed appearance on the PC this year. It is the same game with the added benefits of PC graphical fidelity and faster load times. Yakuza with its multitude of minigames and absurd storylines can feel disjointed, but this is gaming at its most pure and non sequitur.
Like Yakuza, this pick is a little bit of a cheat, but I bought this game a second time on the Switch. Stardew Valley is still a fantastic game and the best version of a Harvest Moon-style farming game. In fact, I’d venture to say that this exceeds the franchise it was inspired by. Also, playing it on a Nintendo Switch is a great reminder of the functionality of the platform.
Slay the Spire
Roguelikes are a dime a dozen now days, but Slay the Spire combines it with deck-building to create a fantastic and addictive experience. The game doesn’t always feel fair since cards and luck can put you into a losing position. However, it somehow feels mostly fair and every turn is tense, and when it plays out right, Slay the Spire is a wonderful thing.
This game kind of came out of nowhere and stole my attention for a couple of months. I wrote about Vermintide 2 earlier in the year. In short, it is a great 4 person co-op experience and a sequel that improves on every aspect of the original in tremendous ways.
Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon is by now my favorite racing franchise. It embraces enough of the technicality a wannabe gearhead would want and pairs that with a sprinkle of arcade gameplay to produce a game that is fun, fast, beautiful, and as challenging as you want it to be.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Hard to say anything more about the most talked about game of 2018. I will say this though: the world of Red Dead is one of the best ever created for a videogame and Arthur Morgan is one of the best characters created for this medium. Red Dead Redemption 2 is so good that the common Rockstar tropes of mission design, pacing, clunky controls, cynicism sticks out like a sore thumb at times, and it is starting to be tiring. However, the sequel to my favorite game of last generation was well worth the wait.
Elder Scrolls Online
Yeah I have no idea either. I wrote about how this obsession with Elder Scrolls Online has blindsided me. The best I can say is that ESO is a substitute for a numbered Elder Scrolls game, the easiest MMO to start, and you can play however and with whomever you want.
With the best game controls in years, some of the best pixel art, and weapon build combinations that all seem viable, Dead Cells feels like the most balanced game I’ve played in a long time. Somehow it manages to be alternate between easy and difficult with a grace that feels otherworldly. Dead Cells has become the standard all games in this genre will be measured against for the foreseeable future.
Monster Hunter World
I mentioned it in my write-up a few months ago, but Monster Hunter World produced some of my favorite moments in all of my gaming life. There is nothing more exhilarating in gaming than slaying a tempered monster by the skin of your teeth with 3 of your best friends. It is one of the few games that make trying out new and different weapons both exciting and fun. Monster Hunter World is a true masterpiece.
Pillars of Eternity 2
While Pillars wasn’t the prettiest, smoothest, or even best playing game of 2018, it was my favorite. A wonderful and unique setting to a classic fantasy RPG romp is my drug of choice. With awesome characters and classic Obsidian “there-are-no-right-choices” storylines, Pillars of Eternity 2 grabbed me for 80 hours of CRPG bliss.