Gaming of 2018 – My Top 10 Part 1

This has been an interesting year for gaming, and I’ve managed to play quite a lot this year as well! This should be a fun series for the end of 2018 that gives a bit of insight into what I’ve been doing when I should be writing my books.

This is about video gaming, and the immense juggernaut which shows no signs of slowing down. Problems in gaming still remain of course, but I’ve rather enjoyed the new games this year. Being able to buy games I’ve wanted is also a huge boon, and now I finally have a current console (if only the Switch), I’ve been able to catch up somewhat.

This year my annual gaming awards in December will come in several parts. My top 10 games of the year split into two articles, then another article talking about my Honorable and. . .less honorable games that pissed me off. Trust me, there’s a few of them this year. In a change from previous years, I am now adding these new rules.

1. The games have had to have been released in 2018. For the first time, this rule also applies to Early Access titles that have had a 1.0, fully playable release. The catch? I have to have played the vast majority of the game this year, or bought and played this year. The reason I am doing this is because there have been a swathe of incredible games that have hit version 1.0 in 2018 that really deserve a spot in my list, and it’s finally time to talk about them.

2. No Remasters or Remakes of any kind in the Top 10, although I can add them to Honorable Mentions. Sorry Crash Bandicoot. You were fun, but didn’t quite make my list this year. Sadly, no Spyro, God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2. Still don’t have a PS4 or Xbox One. If I don’t have the game, I cannot review it nor can I judge it. Only idiots write about games they have never played.

3. No Ports either. Sorry Diablo III. I’ve never played you until this year on the Switch and you would have scored highly, but I had to make this rule to give others a chance. You will get a review at some point, because I love the game.

 

10. Octopath Traveler

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The only Switch game on the list (or indeed, non-PC) besides some really pimping ports (Points and coughs to Diablo III <3) Octopath Traveller is a beautiful JRPG which I found a lot of love playing, something which got to me. I don’t really play JRPGs, and I just cannot bring myself to enjoy grinds like Final Fantasy. It has a slow start but it has eight distinct character stories, helped with a combat system that got better the longer I played it.

Initially I put this game down plenty of times, turned off by the combat. It felt slow, sluggish and I tried to get back into it. Over time, it got with me and it really started to pick up pace, with a lot of depth that justified me playing on the Switch for long periods: the only game this year besides Diablo III that pulled that off.

While this was an enjoyable game, it did have problems. I found myself virtually restarting the game each time a new character turned up, which reset the games momentum completely. It’s. . .slow. Usually I don’t mind that, but some of the characters were a bit of a slog to get through, and this was draining on me. And while the combat became decent, it never got really enough for me to become addicted. Despite this, the world and setting are excellent and it’s a game I look forward to getting back to when my backlog is down. A worthy 10th place on my list, and once i’m no longer addicted to Diablo III and Hollow Knight on the Switch, I’ll be back to this.

 

9. BATTLETECH

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First of all, let me discuss BATTLETECH. I wish this game was higher in my Top 10 this year. I really do.

It took me a while to a) get the game and b) get into the game. I’ll say this now, Battletech is a pretty damn nice combat simulator, one of the best I have played in years. There was also a time in the year when I genuinely thought this was going to be a challenge for the best game of 2018. However…that did not happen, hence why this is sitting on Number 10. This is for a combination of factors. The first thing is recency bias, and a slew of better games got released between April and now. The second reason being that it has a lot of really severe flaws that bring it down. (This is repeated with many games I’ve enjoyed this year, to be honest. Doesn’t stop me loving most of them though!)

Now don’t get me wrong, I do like this game a lot which is a reason why it’s on my Top 10 list. There’s a ton of customisation and ways to spiff up your mechs, and the basic game-play is a treat, with difficult fights and good tactics to think about in battle. We don’t get enough new strategy games these days, so this is nice to see. Playing as a freelance mercenary company can be a lot of fun as long as the game lets you.

Now, let’s talk about the games downsides. One serious issue I had was performance. Let’s be frank: its not the prettiest thing ever. It should by no rights be as demanding as it is, but Unity is a performance hog and it makes things really groan, with a bad saving system and terrible optimisation. When something so simple as clicking on a fucking menu can take 10-15 seconds per go, we have a major problem on our hands. I don’t understand how something as basic can have so many problems.

The devs have made things easier with patches, but it’s still nowhere close to what it should be, especially for a game with as simple a visual design as Battletech. Then there’s all the wasting time issues with slow animations and the terrible repeating loop transitions during space (which you cannot skip or speed up, I might add), crashes and bugs and other nasty little things. This all slows the games pace down to a crawl, although the little events between add some depth and choice. I really hate the travel, even though I understand why this is.

When this is backed up by a really unfair balance at times, limited map size and the AI throwing insane odds at you (you only can bring 4 mechs, against as many as a dozen with supporting tanks), the game really began to grind my gears. The campaign’s story is cliched and you’re spent having to grind random missions to keep your money afloat, although the campaign maps are a lot nicer and shows they have some care. Once you’ve finished the campaign, the game opens into an open-ended run, but by then all endgame content is done. This isn’t helped by a IMO overpriced Season Pass (I hate the idea of paying for content in advance with no information of later DLC, risking wasting money), and its first DLC Flashpoint doing a couple of cool things but struggles to meet its pricetag in my eyes. I’ll hold judgement for its later content.

It sounds like I’m ragging on this game a lot, and I am. But I really like this game. More support is coming, and hopefully more content. While there’s no official mod support, the game is very moddable with a ton of options, including the extremely popular roguelite total conversion Roguetech, and with sandbox maps available, this game has a lot going for it. This game got a 7/10 for me overall, and I did really enjoy what I played. Back in July it was battling Kingdom Come Deliverance for my Game of the Year. There is a good reason that it still makes the Top 10 list in spite of all its issues.

I’ll probably get back to this at some point in 2019, but I’m happy to wait. I have plenty of games in my backlog, new and old.

 

 

8. CrossCode

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Boy oh boy, this was the second latest game I started this year that made it into the Top 10. I got the recommendation from a friend of mine online about this game, and I figured I’d pick it up, not expecting too much. Launching fully this year from a while in Early Access, it has made waves online and for good reason, but I went in not expecting to like this. I thought “Let’s give this a go. Even if I don’t like it, it’s only £15.”

How wrong I was. For a 2D game this really packs a punch with excellent visuals and a fascinating setting. Set in an MMO-style world known as CrossWorlds, you play an NPC who has lost her memory, and is brought back in simulation to recover it.

There is no slow pace in this, and the controls back up the speed of battle. It’s so fluid I found myself having a blast just playing through the basic game. I’m admittedly not that far into the game with only 12 hours, but it’s some insanely fun combat and shooting mechanics with some really cool puzzles thrown in.

Like an MMO, there is a fair bit of grinding I’m finding, but so far early on there isn’t too much to drag me away. It’s really quite endearing in how it functions, and from what I can see there is a ton of content for its small price tag. I’m fascinated to see how this will go on, and it’s possibly the relative lateness in me playing it into why it’s low on my list. Overall though, it’s cool, it’s fun, it has few weaknesses and I like it. That deserves a spot on my list. For a genre I hardly play these days, I think it’s safe to say it’s done well on me this year.

Oh, and the music in the game is stunning. That too! Seriously, give this game a go. Like me, you might be surprised how decent it is.

 

7. Two Point Hospital

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Now this is how you revive an old game.

I loved Theme Hospital back in the day. A wacky, bonkers but lovable management game with a ton of weird diseases and shit to sort out. In a day and age where health is more important then ever, I was delighted to hear that Two Point Hospital was coming out this year.

A good example of a game of this genre is options and replay-ability (I will go into this more in my most disappointing game of 2018…sigh), and I have a lot of good things to say about Two Point Hospital.

It isn’t a massive game and the hospital size is a bit limited, but it oozes charm from every orifice. It’s not even a remake, but an idolized painting of times long gone. It admirably brings Theme Hospital back into the current era and it does such a good job at it. It’s just familiar enough to bring back nostalgic fans and it’s new and modernised enough to bring in the new fans.

At launch it had a few niggling issues like bugs and no sandbox mode, but now these have been fixed, it’s one hell of a management game and has a lot of fun to it. Reminds me a lot of Planet Coaster when it just feels happy to play, and Planet Coaster won my 2016 GOTY if you recall! That’s a game which sacrificed management for incredible customization, and it still holds up well to this day. It’s a bit too easy at times and could benefit from a map/scenario editor, but that’s okay. Already I’m having a blast with this game and it’s an admirable addition to the management genre ❤ I did wonder if it deserved to hit the Top 5, but well…you will see when I show you the other games on this list. It didn’t quite make it, but it’s been a good piece of gaming for me. Overall, pretty damn good.

I’m looking forward to playing more of this game in the future.

 

6. Subnautica

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Wow. Just wow.

Holy shit this game is immersive and terrifying at the same time. Having spent a long time in Early Access, Subnautica came out in January this year for proper, and I only managed to pick it up in mid-November. I’d heard a lot about the game, but I never got round to it until the latter parts of 2018.

This game has blown me away on many levels. This game is seriously impressive and had I more time to play it, this could have been even higher on my list. It really feels like I’m an alien exploring a living ecosystem. I can’t even say there are enemies to speak of in this game. There are massive sea monsters that can and will fuck you up for certain, but they never felt like game bosses. It feels like I’m an outsider, looking into their world and intruding. No wonder they want to eat me.

This is technically a survival exploration game, but in practice it’s a horror game as well. The shock of playing this at 2am with the lights off, in my sub and a giant fuck off monster leaps out of the gloom is one way for me to jump the fuck out of my chair. This is one of the only games ever to make me do that. At times it is truly scary.

You start off crashlanding into the ocean and have to scrabble for resources to survive. The survival system is there but not too intrusive, though if you run out of oxygen you’re dead. The story is engrossing especially for a survival crafting game, which is something a lot of this over-saturated desert of a genre lacks. It’s truly a beautiful game and there are loads of ways to get down to business. Want to be an immortal god exploring the environment? You can. Want to play normally but not worry about eat or drink, you can. Want to be balls deep in the beyond and play with one life? You can.

No doubt, this stands above the other quaff in its genre, and it’s an incredible experience for me. One of the best worlds I’ve ever seen and I feel like an out-of-space explorer, observing an alien world with believable lifeforms. One of the best examples of Early Access, one true success story. The only reason it is not higher is me not playing it as much as others on this list. I feel if I got this back in January and spent more time with it, it could have easily cracked the Top 5.

 

 

2018 has been more difficult choosing a concrete Top 10 list then ever before. 2017 felt a bit like picking other games on the list behind DOS2, but I plan on releasing a revised version now I’ve had time to play more games. This year has been a lot harder to pick my GOTY. Who will win? You will have to wait.

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