I’m always reluctant to throw around high praise and label games as the best the genre has to offer. Games tend to be overhyped on release and then the love dies down over a few months and you end up looking a little stupid. Here’s the thing though, Resident Evil 2 really is that good. It actually is genre-defining. It is one of the best triple-A experiences I’ve had in years and it will be in contention for my game of the year. You can believe the hype this time. Resident Evil 2 is phenomenal.
While True Learn doesn’t quite live up to its fascinating premise and could have done with more time in Early Access. However, developer Luden.io has already proven responsive to customer feedback and, in six months to a year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see While True Learn living up to its cool concept.
Combat is challenging and enjoyable enough that I briefly started a second playthrough on hard. I wanted to master the combat challenge and solve the puzzles properly instead of brute forcing my way through them. I got through a few encounters and then it hit me just how similar the experience would be the second time around. There weren't any cool new mutations to play with or better weapons to acquire. So I stopped playing. My first playthrough lasted fifteen hours and it was decent. I'll keep an eye out for a sequel or an expansion, but at the moment, Mutant Year Zero doesn't have enough worldbuilding or interesting variety in its upgrades for my tastes. I doubt I'll ever finish that second playthrough.
Timespinner has a great art style and the music is excellent, but a five-hour crawl through relatively bland maps isn't enough in a year with incredible games such as Guacamelee 2, Dead Cells, and Celeste. I spent another hour with Timespinner after finishing the story but didn't quite get 100% and felt no desire to finish it off. Timespinner is decent, but when compared to other titles that came out this year it comes up lacking. It needed more abilities and more interesting ways to use them in puzzles. Doubling the length would have also helped because it felt over way too soon.
GRIS is relaxing and visually stunning. It's like a watercolor painting come to life. Much like any piece of art, what you make of it is going to be intensely personal, however if you enjoyed the experience of games like Flower and Journey, you should probably play GRIS. My three hours with the game flew by and I felt reinvigorated at the end, as if I'd just awoken from a good night's sleep (or so I imagine).
Guacamelee 2 is a game I didn’t know I wanted until a year ago when I saw the reveal trailer and it’s a game I didn’t know I needed until I played it. Guacamelee 2 doubles down on everything that made the first game great and improves on a few of the weaker areas as well. I don’t know where Drinkbox Studios can go with a potential Guacamelee 3 but I thought much the same thing after the first game and here we are five years later with a sequel that is a huge leap forward for the excellent original. There’s a lot of competition in the 2D platformer space this year, but you absolutely must find the time for Guacamelee 2.
Hitman 2 is my favorite $60 title of 2018. I had an absolutely fantastic time and will certainly dip back in every time there’s a new elusive target available. If you haven’t already played Hitman then I highly encourage you to pick up the two-game package because the two combined are easily worth five stars.
The Messenger has a unique spin that sets it apart from other games and yet, ironically, it lacks an identity of its own. As a modern Ninja Gaiden game it’s excellent, but it only maintains that for half the game. The other half is a faint-hearted attempted at a Metroidvania that never quite works. I thoroughly enjoyed eight to nine hours of my twelve-hour playthrough. The other three or four were a little more tedious than I would have liked but that shouldn’t entirely negate a brilliant platformer with plenty to offer even in a year that’s been chock full of throwback retro platformers.
Battlefield V‘s war stories have tedious mission design and are a step back from those of Battlefield 1. The multiplayer is only a slight iteration on its predecessor and, while the online experience is stronger overall, the lack of content on release means it feels like DLC for Battlefield 1 instead of the new game I waited two years for. I will consider increasing the score when Battlefield V is complete in March, however as of November 2018, I don’t recommend you buy in at full price. Wait for a sale, by which time Battlefield V might actually be finished.
GRIP has moments of brilliance, but not enough for me to recommend a purchase unless you’re a fan of Rollcage and are interested in what is essentially an incredibly late Rollcage 3. The addition of either some more courses or a level editor would be a huge improvement although I don’t know if that is in the works. GRIP isn’t everything I hoped it would be, however there is a solid base and plenty to suggest that Rollcage‘s formula still has something to offer in 2018.
I spent thirty hours with Thronebreaker and, while a couple of hours were me moving through the motions of easy gwent matches, the vast majority saw me hooked to the screen either listening to the narrator and cast of characters bringing scenes to life or trying to figure out how to stop spies making it from one end of the gwent table to the other. If you want a great story set in the Witcher world, then I recommend Thronebreaker.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey ends up being a textbook example of how you can have too much of a good thing. I enjoyed clearing out forts in Origins, and for about fifteen hours I enjoyed doing it in Odyssey as well. But nothing changes. You keep doing the same thing again and again, and the gameplay, while fun, is nowhere near compelling enough to justify you spending over seventy hours on it. Thank God there’s not going to be an Assassin’s Creed game in 2019. I need a rest.
Other than the Myst games, I can’t think of any obvious points of comparison to help you decide whether or not to give Return of the Obra Dinn a chance. The lack of guidance and completely open nature of the puzzles separate it from the likes of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter which had you solving smaller puzzles one at a time. This originality is the exact reason you should try it for yourself. I can’t guarantee you’ll love it as much as I did, but I’m certain it will keep nagging away at you in the back of your mind, encouraging you to boot it up one more time to see what else you can discover.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider‘s sense of familiarity is so strong that it might have been better as an expansion along the lines of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. That game also took place largely in one environment and felt exactly the same as the game that preceded it. At least The Lost Legacy came with a lower price tag and online multiplayer and its shorter length made it feel less dragged out. Ultimately, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a by-the-numbers sequel to Rise of the Tomb Raider, capitalizing on the great puzzle tombs but failing to take any other worthwhile steps forward.
At $13, some people will no doubt find Donut County a little too expensive for such a short experience. A quick story playthrough is around 90 minutes to two hours, although if you go for all the achievements (which is definitely worth doing) then you’re looking at nearer three hours. Donut County is also one of those special games that don’t require any gaming experience to enjoy, so don’t be surprised if non-gamer friends and family get sucked in too. The hole experience (couldn’t resist!) is so relaxing you might even find yourself revisiting it: I went back to capture some footage and ended up playing for another half an hour. Give Donut County a try if you can. We could all benefit from something a little more peaceful once in a while.
Quarantine Circular is engaging for most of its run-time, with punchy dialogue and a slowly-unraveling story, however it didn’t land the ending and left me feeling a little flat. Regardless, I love how Bithell Games keeps experimenting and I’m looking forward to whatever it springs on us next.
It’s inevitable that Not Tonight‘s strong political views will put some people off, although it’s hard to imagine who would be offended at such obvious satire unless their own views are a little too closely represented for comfort. Not Tonight made me laugh and feel awkward on a regular basis, often both in close proximity. It has moments of tedium but it’s worth sticking with for the laughs that follow those periods of downtime.
And so ends a terrible season pass. As with Lost on Mars, the only redeeming quality with Dead Living Zombies is the silly humor. However, this isn’t enough to get through the low-quality zombie hoards or motivate you to pump bullets into mutation stations. At least it’s all over now. I can delete Far Cry 5 from my hard drive and forget about it just like Ubisoft did judging by the effort put into this DLC.
Dead Cells might not be the Metroidvania it half-heartedly professes to be, but it is a phenomenal rogue-lite and probably the best game I’ve played this year. The constant feeling of progression should be enough to tempt even those who don’t usually enjoy the genre while still being intense enough for those who lap this stuff up.
Tacoma shows that with great writing and voice acting, you can become attached to characters you only know through colored body outlines and a couple of pictures. I even wanted to know more about the crew’s family back on Earth and I was desperate to dig further into the corporate structure of Venturis and the overall state of the global economy. Tacoma is enjoyable enough that it left me wanting more, even if the experience didn’t hit quite as hard as Fullbright’s groundbreaking debut.