It is that time of year again. It’s going to be difficult for me this year. With only a laptop and no sixth generation console (sobs at having no Nintendo Switch or Ps4), it won’t be easy for me to make the list. However, you know the drill. Here are a bunch of games I have played this year which are….decent, but some have serious problems which mar its legacy. Some are excellent games, but flawed. And some are just gutter slime. Here we go!
Let us begin, shall we?
The “If only?” Award: Middle Earth: Shadow of War
Might be a bit controversial opinion here. I was not too keen on Shadow of Mordor. I love the Nemesis system for sure, and it was a decent hack and slash, but I found the game a bit… dull. It was okay? I enjoyed it, but there were a lot better games out.
Now, I was looking forward to Shadow of War. Really looking forward to it. It looked amazing and was destined to great things. And then they shoved in microtransactions and loot boxes. . .
There was no need for this at all. What really annoys me is when publishers try and shove as much seedy, controversial crap into a game to try and shill as much cash from idiots as possible. As you can tell, this really angered me.
However, I am going to be fair on Shadow of War. It is a good game. The Nemesis system is a formidable piece of tech, and should be incorporated into many other games. They added in a lot of things which made Shadow of Mordor a bit of a burnout, which was nice. And the loot boxes? You can mostly ignore them. That does not stop it having a grindy end game to get the true ending, however.
The orcs really sold the game. They are the life and soul of Shadow of War and have such vibrant personalities they were better than the main story. The game looks good, plays well with good fluid movement controls and combat, and the new army system was impressive. Even though the end game war-fest is grindy without resorting to the loot crates (A massive problem, I will add!) I genuinely enjoyed the sieges, and I did not mind spending a lot of time with them. I liked polishing my orcs into a deadly war machine. It isn’t for everyone, however.
Unskippable orc introductions though? A problem in gaming that needs to be neutered with a rusty knife. Get rid of them, please!
Overall, Shadow of War doesn’t deserve all of the hate it gets. It’s a pretty decent game. Just in future, try to get rid of the microtransactions, yeah?
The Love-Hate Award: ELEX
Love-hate doesn’t even come close. I said in my Top 5 that this game nearly became Number 2 on my list, for so many reasons. ELEX is a love child to RPGs. You know, the really immersive ones. It reminds me like a 2013 version of Morrowind. Now, that has good and bad in it.
I really enjoy Elex. I especially like the open world and jet pack that allows many areas of exploration, and it continues to impress you even after 30-40 hours of exploration. Once you find everything, in one of these open world games, they are not as much fun. Very few games pull off this level of immersion. Remember my Big three of RPG:
Again, ELEX doesn’t nail all three, but not even Witcher 3 managed it. But man oh man, this game hits the immersion. Piranha Bytes are becoming an increasingly rare sort of developer. Despite a small team size, and regardless of what else is happening in the world of video game trends, these guys have been steadily putting out unique, challenging, ambitious and somewhat unpolished RPGs that don’t really seem to be getting made anywhere else. Now, ELEX has a lot of frustrating problems. The opening 20 hours are punishingly difficult (but this is a subjective thing), the game is really rough around the edges with some shoddy controls and visuals, the pacing like I said earlier is pretty slow, and it takes a long time for anything to really happen. The graphics look alright in the world visuals, but the character models and voice acting really are painful. Again though, a small developer on a small budget, so this I can forgive.
Some of the characters are quite good, but your main NPC (the player) is about as interesting as watching grass grow. Ugh. There is so much to love about ELEX, but much to hate too. Still, it’s one to look out for.
The “I underestimated this” Award: Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon
I will be very honest here. I was a bit skeptical of Ultra Sun and Moon. Why did Nintendo go and release this a year after Sun and Moon? It just screamed, “LOL, you’re going to pay another 45$ for a slightly improved game, with features that should have been in the original!”
I hate it when developers do this.
I wasn’t very keen on Pokemon X and Y, and I found the third generation remakes very disappointing. I voted Sun and Moon quite highly last year (Number 4, actually). I played the Moon demo before it’s main release and found it very enjoyable. It looks fresh, the evil gang this time around look like gangster rappers (which was both amusing and fresh for Pokemon), the graphics are nice and the region is also fresh. Team Skull also has one of the most badass intro themes of any Pokemon game, and it’s something I loved listening to.
In hindsight, however, I probably should have ranked the original lower. It was good, but the post-game content was seriously lacking, and even worse, those fucking unskippable cutscenes.
Ultra Sun and Moon, however…I am liking it. The hand holding and cutscene syndrome are still there, and the game is mostly the same, just refreshed with a lot more options to build your team. Mantine Surf is a great minigame to build BP to get new moves for your team, and I’m really enjoying the game so far. A lot more then the original, I’d say. Nearly 30 hours in now, and I’m not bored. It also has a decent amount of post-game content it seems, so hopefully I will enjoy that too. It would not have made Top 5, but Top 10? Probably.
The “Stop flogging a dead horse” Award: Skyrim and Creation Club.
Fuck off, Bethesda. You could be making Elder Scrolls VI, instead of constantly rebooting Skyrim? Yes, it’s good fun. Switch, VR, Special Edition, when does it end? Sigh.
That is not my gripe with Skyrim this time, however. My problem is their rather foolish attempt to create Paid Mods again. Remember the controversy of their attempt on Steam? This was another version, which they kept claiming not to be. Sorry Todd Howard, but it is paid mods. Paying third-party developers to make content is all well and good, I do like seeing modders paid for their work. But the Creation Club was a disaster.
Let’s start with Fallout 4. The game was already on murky thin ice with its terrible Season Pass and wonky mechanics, a poor man’s New Vegas. Fallout 4 isn’t a bad game, but it was disappointing in my eyes. Then they brought out Creation Club. Oh my God, what a mess. Forcing through patches on both games that breaks better mod content, selling sub-standard mini-DLC that is frankly inferior to free versions, and above all, all the content is overpriced.
And while we’re at it, you can’t buy these directly with money, you have to purchase Credits in awkward bundles that mean you’d always end up having to buy way more credits than an item costs. This is a huge problem and it better get rectified soon!
I love Skyrim. I really do, but Bethesda has really soured my feelings towards them this year for their appalling methods to cash in on mods. Now, it does nothing to stop free mods elsewhere…yet. My fear is that they will take this into a micro-transaction system for later Elder Scrolls and Fallout games. If they do so, I will vote with my wallet and refuse to support them.
And speaking of micro-transactions. . .
You will have to wait! Join me in the third part soon, where I will talk about the things and games this year that really annoyed me.