So we come to the final five. This took me an agonizingly long time to work out. If anything, I think it was harder than last year, which was no slouch in itself.
But, I finally came to my choices, and I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. All five of these games are brilliant in their own way, and I highly recommend them all.
Oh, and I may have broken one of my rules for this endgame. I know. I don’t care though. That game is too good not to be included.
But hey, all of these are amazing. To check out the 10-6 spots, click on the Wildermyth card below.
5. Streets of Rogue
Taking the number five spot, I bring in this amazing little gem. Originally launching in Early Access December 2017, it finally reached 1.0 July of this year. That means it qualifies for my list this year!
The EA version would have done too, let’s be honest. I’m not usually one to play rogue-like titles. I find the indie market is getting a little overly saturated with them, with every second or third entry seemingly one of these things. However, Streets of Rogue is up there with the best of them.
The best way to describe this game is: Enter the Gungeon meets Deus Ex. You’re part of a little rebellion, and you need to retake districts to defeat the corrupt government. It’s all done in a cute art style, and the gameplay is seriously addicting. It’s fast-paced, it’s tough and it’s fun. That’s what matters to me.
The gameplay loop is stunning. You get randomly generated levels to clear, and you’ll get a list of objectives. How you do them is completely up to you. Steal, kill everything, hack, free gorillas, there’s a ton of different choices, helped through a diverse cast of playstyles.
1) Play as a zombie who can infect others into friendly undead, turn people into other zombie followers that do your bidding.
2) Play as a powerful Jock who can smash through most walls and buildings with the click of a button.
3) Play as a hacker to mess around with the level systems in many different ways.
4) Play as a super-intelliegent gorilla who, despite being unable to talk to any characters, is super powerful and can free other gorillas to join you as a Planet of the Apes style assault.
That’s just four of twenty characters you can play. The amount of variation you can play with in this game is quite impressive, and I’ve had a lot of fun playing it. There’s even a level editor/Workshop now in beta, giving a game that already has a lot of content even more so.
Streets of Rogue easily deserves the #5 spot in my eyes. It’s fun, challenging, has great art design, bloody, works well with controller or keypad, fairly well priced for the content and has a brilliant gameplay loop. There’s just so much to do, and it does everything pretty damn well. One of the best indie games of the decade, in my opinion.
Final Score: 9/10
4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Easily my favourite game on the Nintendo Switch this year, Fire Emblem Three Houses captured my heart and mind in droves. I haven’t played a huge amount of Fire Emblem in the past, so Three Houses was my first real foray into the series. So far, It’s doing a great job. I toyed for a long time where to sit this game. It’s good enough to be my GOTY, no questions asked. I think my final choices boiled down to how much I enjoy them, and how much they mean to me. This #4 spot doesn’t take anything away from how much I like this game, just…the top three games just meant a bit more to me on a personal level.
It’s a weird mix of Harry Potter and classic turn-based combat, with a massive campaign to boot. It’s really impressive how it does the dialogue as well. There’s dozens of characters, all fully voice acted (With the exception of you, the master teacher dude who helps take a house to victory), and they all have their different personalities. The game really makes me feel for them, and because death is permamant, losing them hurts.
You have to pick between three Houses and follow them from the beginning to the end: The Black Eagles, The Blue Lions, and the Golden Deer. Each have their own strengths to start. I went with the Black Eagles, partly because I really like their cast of students, and partly because I was most drawn to Edelgard, the head of house who felt the most prepared for the war.
The first big section of the game is training them in a monestary, taking up tasks and getting to know them. This is the Harry Potter element, just with actual good writing. (Sorry, JK Rowling fans!) You get to know your students, train them however you wish and carry out mercenary goals throughout, getting them ready for the ultimate war. Whichever House you pick, you know you have to fight and kill the other two eventually. You can recruit others from different houses, but only if you can convince them. It really becomes a test of how much you can prepare, and I really felt drawn to every character. In Garreg Mach (The monestary), you can dine with students, fish, garden, and shop, among other activities to improve your skills. There’s a lot of dialogue in these sections, and improving relationships between the others unlocks a ton of support cutscenes. There’s so much here and most of it is really well written.
While the combat isn’t as in depth as I’d like, it’s fun and challenging with a lot to consider. Because the characters are so well done, you really feel out of the way to protect them. Losing someone hurts like balls, but there is a reverse time option you can use to repeat a battle or several turns. I like this because it gives you some way to make up for mistakes, and it’s balanced.
I have yet to complete Three Houses, but I’m greatly enjoying it so far. In my eyes, it deserves it’s current spot. The only reason it’s not higher is the top three games this year just felt a bit closer to home than all others. The bar is raised so high that there was no other place for it.
Final score: 9.1/10
And for the interlude, here is a photo of a fluffy duck, courtesy of Lost Ember (Awesome game)
And now, we come to the big three for 2019. The gap between all these games is incredibly tight, but these three could almost be a tie in how good they are. However, I did manage to number them, so here we go.
Then again, what is reality anyway?
3. Enderal: Forgotten Stories
Welcome to the game that broke my rules. You know, originally I had this in Honorable Mentions. As a mod and a game that originally came out in 2016, I initally decided that it couldn’t belong in my Top 10. But you know what? Fuck it.
Calling it just a mod of Skyrim isn’t only not doing Enderal justice, it’s downright fucking insulting. It’s a seperate, vibrant and stunning RPG in it’s own right, and one of the best games not just of the year, but of the decade. Enderal completed its full big 1.0 release on Valentines Day this year. For that reason, I decided to bring it into my Top 10 under the: Early Access that launched fully this year rule. I think it fits, because Forgotten Stories is the finished article, and the quinessential experience. It’s that good.
It’s awesome. Seriously. I’m happy to break my own rules to put it in the Top 5 spot. It really should be GOTY, but well, you’ll just have to read on.
For the full review, click the link down below:
Enderal Forgotten Stories is a massive total conversion mod for Skyrim, made by the great SureAI team, and it is better than ever. Even better, you can download and play it right off Steam for free, without the need for its own launcher or anything silly like that. All you need to own is a copy of the original Skyrim. This is a huge improvement on the old launcher and Steam makes it nice and easy to plug and play. It just runs like an ordinary game.
Yes. I know it’s a mod. I don’t care. SureAI has been making this total conversion for a long time, ever since Skyrim released back in November 2011. They have been responsible for making other total conversions such as Nehrim for Oblivion, and the lesser known Arktwend for Morrowind, which I am currently playing at the moment! Nehrim was another excellent experience, although it currently lacks English voice acting. It’s appeared on Steam though, so I expect it to get similar treatment to Enderal, hopefully. I really want to give Nehrim another go.
And Enderal is just brilliant. The writing is great, the voice acting across the board is superb, and everything just feels tight.
Enderal: Forgotten Stories has added a fair few new quests including a new secret third ending to its lengthy main questline (which is really cool) and two pretty chunky side questlines: The Golden Sickle and the Ralatha. Both are pretty cool with some open-ended ways to complete them, but I seriously recommend the Ralatha. It’s one of the best questlines I’ve seen in a video game, let alone a mod.
Some of the best visual, storytelling and character moments take place in this questline and I highly recommend you make a beeline for it when you get the chance. There’s a serious case of “Holy-hellism” with this part of the game and the main character Tharaêl is beautifully well written from start to finish. It’s fairly short, being just six quests, but the quality is right there.
I can’t say too much more. It’s free if you own Vanilla Skyrim on Steam. Download it on there and play it. It’s stunning. The only reason it’s not higher is because I wanted to give the final two games on my list a bit more credit. Otherwise, Enderal would easily win this year. No doubt about it. Go check it out, read my full review. I go into the game with a bit more detail.
Final score: 9.3/10
The final two. I can’t describe in words how difficult it was to list these. I spent days thinking about it, swapping them back and forth on my list. However, I finally came to a decision, so here goes. Number two of the year belongs to:
2. Disco Elysium
I don’t even know where to begin with a game like this. It feels like it’s some kind of twisted, fucked drug experiment where a team is locked in a house for six months, dripfed all kinds of nacrotics and are told to come up with a video game. And this is it, Disco Elysium.
I’m kinda stunned how good it felt, playing a game like this. I view it almost as a spiritual successor to Planescape Torment in terms of writing. There is zero combat in the game at all, with all actions done through dialogue and skill checks. You play as a drunkard, slightly fucked in the head cop who has to solve a murder case, but there’s just oodles of shit to discover. I died the first time trying to grab my tie from the ceiling fan.
Yep. It’s one of those games. There’s a ton of reading, so if you don’t like that, back the fuck away. The writing is…weird. You have all sorts of skills and personalities battling it out inside your booze and drug addled mind, arguing throughout for supremancy. The game writing and dialogue is bonkers, and your character comes up with all sorts of weird shit, but otherwise, how can I fault it? Disco Elysium is rather cleverly written with a mountain of lore. In fact, what pissed me off most about this game was that there’s no in-game glossary that keeps track of the dialogue. It made me want to write down notes like a true detective, though I would’ve liked an in-game glossary.
The characters are all really well done, weird and slightly fucked in the head (see where I’m going?) in an odd, victorian style open world. It’s point and click, with so many things to see and discover. The mood is dark, grubby and unsettling, but that’s what draws me to it. (The #1 game is even worse for this. Wicked laugh)
The RPG elements work in that you can level up different aspects of yourself like logic, reaction time, composure and endurance, and as those skills come up in conversation, you are having not only dialogue with the npcs but also yourself on how to proceed. It’s a bizzare way in how to make an RPG, but a stunning one. I’ve never seen anything like this in a long time, and it might be the best written RPG since Planescape Torment and Bloodlines. It is odd, however, and I found myself sometimes taken out of touch by the wacky choices.
I don’t know what else to say. Were it not for another similarly nilhistic and cruel setting, Disco Elysium would have been my GOTY. However, there’s one more nail in the coffin to go. Give it a go. I dare you.
Final score: 9.4/10
And we come to it, at last. I spent far too much time and drank too much coffee making up my mind this year. Coming in at number one is…
1. Pathologic 2
This photo sums up Pathologic 2 in a nutshell. It really asks the question. Do games have to be enjoyable to be good?
Most of the time, yes. Pathologic 2 is brutal and punishing, and half the time I didn’t enjoy playing it. It takes your comfort zone and sticks a rusted knife up it’s arse, making you scream in frustration. I have died so many times in this game, to the point I had to restart the game from the beginning. It’s cruel, and it relentlessly punishes you if you fuck up. And you will fuck up.
Oh, it’s not perfect. It’s deeply frustrating, and the graphics, while good at times, are dated. It’s badly optimized up the arse, and every time I’ve opened a door, there’s a long loading screen when the FPS plummets to single digits. It’s not even complete, with two other playable characters yet to be released (and possibly never will. Boo.)
But christ, did this game speak out to me. The writing is stunning and speaks volumes for humanity. It’s an immersive sim, with some absolutely brutal survival mechanics. Your hunger meter, sleep, health and exhaustion are all vital to be managed, and stopping yourself from starving is a nightmare. Prioritize food at all costs, because food prices skyrocket from Day 2 onwards. The in-game economy is split between barter and coin, and every item has use to some people.
Oh, the game ends after 12 days. There’s an unstoppable plague preparing to fuck up this town, and you can’t save everyone. You can’t follow every thread. Pick your fights carefully. Time does not wait for you. It advances no matter what you do. It’s another reason why I love this game so much.
Oh, and combat is a mess. You don’t play this game to fight. Good luck taking them. This game is out for you from beginning to end, but I was so drawn into this game. It’s one of the few games that I felt compelled to keep playing, no matter how badly I was doing. Steal, beg, trade and kill to survive. And yes, nobody is safe in this game. Starving, my character was forced into killing a house full of innocent people just to live for another few hours.
Fuck. This game is amazing. It’s weird, you know. Pathologic 2 has so many mechanics in it that should make it a horrible experience:
- You move slow as a snail
- Timed missions, and you can’t complete everything.
- Permanent penalty for death/failure
- Survival partially dependant on RNG while looting or trading
- The UI is a bit of a mess
- Absolutely brutal survival mechanics
But none of this matters. The game’s atmosphere and story is brilliant, and the way the world slowly degrades into hell drew me in from the start. I mean, just look at this!
Pathologic 2 spoke out to me beyond any other game this year (except Enderal) and while it was a difficult challenge trying to work out where to put this game, I eventually gave this my GOTY spot. To those who want a challenging yet carthatic RPG, Pathologic 2 is as brutal and compelling as they come. I’m as surprised as you are that this game won, but I don’t regret it for a minute.
Final score: 9.5/10
2019 gave me by far the hardest challenge this time. Too many games. We’re not done yet, though! Join me soon, for my Top 10 games of the decade.
What the fuck have I done to myself…