Gaming of 2018 – The Top 5!

The final five! It’s been such a tough challenge this year to pick games I really liked. Having a surge of games hitting full release that are amazing was another reason why this was so difficult. It’s in stark contrast to last year. . .but 2017 might be stronger then I thought. Stay tuned for that!

Go check out the 10-6 spots!

Gaming of 2018 – My Top 10 Part 1

 

 

  1. Kenshi

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Now we’re in the Top 5, and yes I bring to you another old game to the table. And it’s another indie title that spent long years in Early Access. I bought this game in 2014, and I decided to hold off on it until things became more…developed. With its launch finally hitting 1.0 earlier this month, I feel it’s time.

I am a huge fan of open-ended sandboxes were you can just do what you want, but very few seem to do this right. This was made by a very small development team and I could tell as soon as I bought it that it was a game worth supporting. Even if it didn’t go much further, I could afford to spend 10-15$ on it. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can make a game, particularly in this day and age when there is just so much competition. The indie market is booming and with it a lot of the stigma attached to indie developers is fading as AAA titles continue to frustrate consumers with their practices. It’s the right time to get into it.

Kenshi’s development was slow at first, and originally I did wonder if it was ever going to reach a stage where I would go into it and play it. Then more and more progress was made…and now it’s just impressive just how much is packed in this game.

This game reminds me a lot like Mount and Blade Warband. The graphics look like shit, if you want my honest opinion. It looks and feels bloaty, the engine is a bit buggy, there is no voice acting and the character development is almost non-existent. What’s shocking is virtually none of this matters when it comes to Kenshi. It should be trash, but it’s not. . .surprisingly. Parts of the game make me think it’s still an alpha version, and there’s some serious flaws with it but man. . .I love it. It’s an amazing role-playing sandbox.

You are given a massive open-ended map (And I mean it’s huge. 870 square km), full of varied biomes, different factions, and just given a smack on the bum. Go and enjoy. Make your own story. It gives you almost nothing to work with and the beginning is frustrating. It’s also tough. You will die a lot.

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I lost my entire party 10 minutes later.

However the game’s sheer openness in this case is its biggest strength, with a literal torrent of things to do. It might not be pretty to look at but its mechanics are incredible. I don’t understand how this game manages to fit in so many different genres and playstyles at once like some fucked experiment. Some of them don’t work at times, others are buggy, but for a game to do all this it’s quite impressive.

You can build your own settlements, hire mercenaries, enslave NPCs to do your bidding, form your own company. The learning mechanics are brilliant, with so many ways to train your characters. You have guilds to join, shit to steal, cities to wipe out. It’s not so much a game but as a world to craft your own experience, with a story development on par with Rimworld. It has an awesome body system as well. You get fucked in a fight? You will limp around until you can fix it. I get my leg cut off…just read the description here:

A character with a wounded leg will limp or crawl and slow the party down, wounded arms means you must use your sword one-handed or not at all. Severe injuries will result in amputees needing robotic limb replacements. Blood loss means you can pass out, and the blood will attract predators. A character’s stats are affected by equipment, encumbrance, blood loss, injuries and starvation.

Just how cool is that? This is one of the most impressive open worlds I’ve ever seen in a video game. You can play it as an RPG, a city builder, a fighting game and a stealth game, and do a pretty damn good job in all of them. It has some pretty glaring flaws, and if you’re one of those guys who want good optimisation and things to look pretty then you’re going to have a brain injury if you play this game. Nonetheless, I mean it when I say this is one of those endless experiences that deserves a chance. I can see myself writing a new novel just from my roleplaying experiences in this game. With an extensive modding scene, we might see some really impressive things in the future.

 

  1. Pathfinder Kingmaker

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RPGs have done well again this year for me, and it’s almost a shame this is so low on my list. I know, Number 4 is low! I just think this game launched a bit too early for its own good, and was hurt by a brutal launch.

That’s happened to a lot of games this year.

This is a game that unfortunately became a victim of its own size, the developers adding more to the game then expected and resulting with an almost broken launch, on par with Kingdom Come Deliverance and Bethesda-gubbins. As a result it did get hammered a bit in reviews online, and while they are making good progress in fixing the game, its performance is still a little bit flat, which is unfortunate.

Isometric RPGs have really come back recently, with behemoths like Divinity Original Sin 2, Pillars of Eternity 2 and this one coming into prominence along with some other smaller indie titles. Pathfinder Kingmaker was a game I stumbled into, and it is a lot more hardcore then the others which may put people off. However it’s sheer size and depth have drawn me in, and it’s been a while since I’ve liked a game like this since Divinity Original Sin 2.

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It does have its glaring issues, mainly ongoing bugs, some balance issues and some problems with the kingdom management, but it’s going to be a game for the long haul, and it’s something I cannot rush. A bit like some others on this list, it’s not as high as I’d like it to be due to me picking up the game only recently, with little chance to play it. I’m really waiting on more patches before I continue. However with what I’ve played already, I’m loving the combat and the roleplaying elements. It’s not as good as DOS2 in my eyes, at least not yet, but it might get there in time. A game for me to watch in the future, and already it’s high on my Top 10. I can see myself playing this game for a long time. 20 hours in and I’m already hooked.

 

 

  1. HITMAN 2

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I really enjoyed the first Hitman. The 2016 release. . .numbering games are weird. I think it’s great, but I feel the episodic release let it down a bit. Instead of enjoying the entire pizza, we got a slice a month…which I think let the game down. However I did like really getting into each of the massive mission maps in turn, really taking their time with them. Giant stealth sandboxes that don’t penalise you for acting like a psychopath? Priceless.

Then Hitman 2 launched early in November, and it’s really more of the same…just better. Good old open ended sandbox gameplay. It’s as fun as ever exploring the expansive maps and picking out your targets. There are boatloads of options how to complete your assassinations, and it’s just in general really good fun.

Fun. That is in essence what a video game should be, should it not? We have different reasons for playing games I’d imagine, but fun should be right up at the top. Hitman 2 is one of those games which just keeps giving you the fun in the end, from start to finish. You could literally spend dozens of hours per map working out ways to kill your target, with countless custom missions available as well. Or even better, just do things your own way. It is Sandbox in as pure and clean a way as possible without really penalising you. Sure, you lose points if you do it loud and messy, but you’ll never fail a mission for doing that.

Does it have issues? I have a couple. You get a bit too many pointers in the game, I’d prefer more options to just ignore the constant advice, and the cutscenes are a bit drab. This is probably a consequence of IO Interactive’s cutoff and buyout with Square Enix, but they did a good job with Hitman 2. Even better, if you have the first one, you get to play all the new maps in Hitman 2 for free with the new mechanics. You don’t even need to buy Hitman 2 for that joy either!

Hitman 2 is going to be a gift that keeps on giving, and it deserves a Top 3 spot on my list. I haven’t played a huge amount of it yet, but I imagine myself doing so. All these endless games…so little time. It’s a shame it hasn’t seemed to have sold particularly well, but it’s a great game. Give it a go.

 

  1. Kingdom Come Deliverance

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I really wanted this to take the Number 1 spot, and to be honest it is. However…I just cannot ignore the true winner on this list, a game that snared me hook line and sinker. Even so, this is one hell of a game, and one of the biggest risks of 2018. I think overall, it did very well, rising from the ashes of a broken launch.

I gave this game a full review, which you will see by clicking the link here: https://thousandscarsblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/01/kingdom-come-deliverance-review/ However, here is a brief overview of how I find it.

It’s hard to find games these days that take risks. Gaming, particularly in the AAA market seem to come of the same mould, with similar styles and always open world, shopping list of activities and not a huge amount of sustenance. As much as I appreciate games getting a much longer shelf-life then in the past, it has been soured by games getting nasty microtransactions, DLC that should have been in the base game at launch, features cut only to be added, broken launches and so on. I look to smaller developers and the indie scene to really get into the gaming experiences these days.

Warhorse Studios took these risks, but unfortunately the launch of KCD was a bit of a horror show. Now I’m going to go on a bit of a rant here and this isn’t directed at Warhorse Studios, but gaming as a whole. It’s had quite the flak from people for its semi-broken launch and some more serious bugs, and that should be so. Frankly I’m sick of games being released in such a buggy state, and for a game that was Kickstarted, asking people to pay 50-60$ then to have it launch with such a disaster? Not good.

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This is fucking hilarious though.

I’m being as nice as possible here, because I have big respect for both the game and Warhorse Studios for having the balls to make something like this in an over-saturated market of open world exhaustion-fests. Only indie studios take risks these days which is a crying shame, but I will not treat them differently. Do not release your beloved game in such a terrible state and expect people to jump up and down and love you when you fix it. This isn’t just for KCD, but for every fucking game that comes out lately. How about making sure it’s stable at launch? That would be great. And even better, can we have people who won’t crucify developers for broken launches yet lick the boots of Bethesda every time they release a broken, buggy mess of a video game? That would be wonderful as well. Thankfully people aren’t giving them any slack for Fallout 76.

Fortunately, a lot of the issues have been fixed, and at the seat of it we have a deeply immersive, well-crafted RPG which I’ve had such a passionate love for. I haven’t played such an immersive, enjoyable 1st person game in a long time. The world-building is good but not overly saturated, it’s well researched, the systems in the game are excellent, and I adore Henry as a player character. He’s a burly, blacksmith’s son who likes drinking and fighting, is terrible at first with a sword, and the voice acting I really dug. There is some amazing voice acting in the game, sprinkled with some. . .lesser voice acting, but nothing too bad. This isn’t Two Worlds, trust me. *shudders and rocks in the room corner*

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This does not look creepy at all. No “Miller”, I will not go behind the fucking mill with you.

I love most of the systems, like the pickpocketing, rich combat system and the alchemy, but I do feel there’s…something missing. I want more, but although there are a lot of random events said, I’ve come across so few that the world, beautiful as it may be, can seem a bit barren at times. I love travelling in the world regardless, and although the game feels like it still suffers from Open World RPG syndrome, at this point in the game this isn’t a problem. It’s not a chore, and I enjoy that.

The game doesn’t hold your hand and combat can be rough but I haven’t played an RPG like this in quite some time. It’s quite taken my breath away at times, the story and characters on the whole are pretty good and it’s just an overall fun experience. Even better, Warhorse is continuing to support it with future content and I can’t wait for all the Workshop mods in the future. I believe if a game isn’t multiplayer where modded content can be abused, every game should be able to be modded in some form. The DLCs…have been mixed, but I recommend them nonetheless, advising you play them as you play the game rather then romping through it as an overpowered Scrooge McDuck, a problem which plagued From the Ashes. Please play through them at a natural rate. You’ll enjoy it a lot more that way.

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The menus are freaking gorgeous.

I will err on the side of caution and say this isn’t for everyone. Do not come into this expecting something like Skyrim or Witcher 3. It has its jank and has its quirks, but it’s one of the best experiences you can ask for – if you’re forgiving of some bugs. A stunning game through and through, and it’s had an impression on me. I underestimated how good this game was, in spite of its flaws.

 

  1. Rimworld

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Yep.

It has been a much tougher challenge this year, although if I played more of a few 2017 titles back then, Divinity Original Sin 2 might have had some challenge. (Hollow Knight, Streets of Rogue and ELEX would have been big contenders) This time, any of the Top 5 could have been the best game. Six, if you include Subnauctica, an experience like no other for me. It was very difficult.

Kingdom Come Deliverance was the best game released fully in 2018 for me, but it really was because of Rimworld that I changed some of my rules. With excellent performances in the Early Access titles pushing out of the stigma into the wild and proving it can still work, from games like Kenshi, Subnauctica, CrossCode and Parkitect (which only missed this list because I have barely played it), it’s been a good year. I’ll have people whining “BUT MUH TRIPLE A GAMES!”, well, fuck it. I make the rules on my list. In fairness, I’ve only picked up and played the Early Access titles this year so I think my system is reasonable, and it would be unfair for me to ignore them completely.

Rimworld is simple by looks and deeply complex by nature, a storyteller like no other and one of the best games I have ever played. I cannot really say anything else but that, but for the sake of reviewing, I’m going to give it a fucking good try. It’s fucking bonkers, but it just works.

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This game makes no sense, and at the same time so much sense.

It’s a colony simulator, where you must control the lives of tribes who need to scour resources, build a home and try to survive. It’s difficult, brutal and has a learning curve, but with almost limitless options and replay ability. Everything is different, every play does something else, and the number of interactions is just insane. Sure its graphics are simple, almost identical to Prison Architect, and it’s not quite Dwarf Fortress. But it’s incredibly accessible, moddable to your lifes dreams and it has sheer enjoyment from start to finish. Even dying is fun in this game, as every death tells a new story and provides you more knowledge for the future.

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This is probably why I wouldn’t make a good world ruler.

It is a delicious, addictive piece of art that has almost endless gameplay, and possibly a Game of the Decade. It’s as important to me as the likes of The Witcher 3, God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 have been to gaming, the indie genre’s warrior in the gaming world. Don’t take my word for it though, give it a try.

 

Going forward

So that’s my Top 10 this year. There are more articles coming on gaming however! Stay tuned for more.

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