Well, we’ve made another year. There have definitely been lulls in terms of #content this year. However, that doesn’t mean we haven’t been loving ourselves some games. Much like last years list, this is not a list of the best games released this year but the best games we played this year. Get ready for some surprises, we definitely had some while writing this darn thing.
Video Game: Monster Hunter: World
When it comes to Game of the Year business, I often find that I play very few games from the current calendar. However, regardless of games that were released this year, last year or any other year, the most fun I’ve had with a game all year has got to be – Monster Hunter: World.
This is for a few reasons. Not only was this first Monster Hunter game on modern consoles with some of the most beautiful environments and fully realised creatures, but it is also the first Monster Hunter game I’ve been able to really lose myself in. I’ve dabbled in the past and did fall head over heels with 4 Ultimate, but due to the limited controls and handheld nature of these games, I never gave them the same time as World.
Monster Hunter: World is full of these amazing moments and each hunt feels massive. Every monster is a unique threat and the fun of grinding for gear is made even better by each fantastic fight. If you’ve listened to our Monster Hunter: World mini-podcast series, Tales from the Hunt, then you will know how much fun I’ve had with this game. From trying to learn new weapons to grabbing the latest event gear or just messing about with a friend, Monster Hunter: World is fast becoming my most played PS4 game (still a ways to go until beats out The Witcher 3, though).
I was going to cap this off with an anecdote from one of the many brilliant fights, but you can likely find those everywhere. Instead, let’s talk about the little creatures. Those delightful beasties you can put in your home and catch with a net. Some are as simple as pointing and shooting, but others require a little more. If you want to catch yourself a wiggler, you need to be plan yourself a micro-hunt. Once you’ve found your prey, you need to sneak through the brush careful not to spook this flighty creature. Then you need to slowly raise your capture net without any sudden movements before firing the webbing and capturing a wiggler for yourself.
Monster Hunter: World is about more than massive fights against powerful enemies, it’s about exploring in this strange world and watching it come alive around you.
Honourable Mentions: Orwell: Ignorance is Strength, Transistor, Gorogoa, NieR Automata
Board Game: Star Wars: Imperial Assault
After finishing a full campaign of Imperial Assault I didn’t think I’d want to dive back into what I felt was an unbalanced, quite lonely experience. However, the more I think about Imperial Assault the more I want to play another campaign. With that in mind, I picked up Twin Shadows expansion and I couldn’t be more excited to get it to the table again. I spent some time painting, albeit poorly, the miniatures and just absorbing the number of cogs turning on every turn of this brilliant dungeon crawler. Every turn was tense, but I needed to relax. Every dead body felt like an affront to my very being, but I needed to enjoy myself more. Imperial Assault is a very silly game of space boys and girls shooting and punching their way through endless waves of baddies, and all it took for me to fall back in love with this game was to remember this.
I’m ready this time, I know all the tricks. I’m a better imperial player than I was last time, I know that those wily Rebels are tougher than they have any right to be, this time I’m going to win.
Honourable Mentions: Movable Type, Hannibal & Hamilcar, Dice Fishing, London
Some of the things on my Honourable Mentions list haven’t featured on the site yet, but something about each is coming soon.
Video Game: Red Dead Redemption 2
I think that a lot of what can be said about the sad cowboy game has been said already. Unfortunately, I struggled to justify a less popular choice, and so since Nevi already picked Monster Hunter anyway, I went with it. RDR2 is a peculiar game in a few ways, not all of them unequivocally positive, but manages to stand out mechanically and aesthetically among an enormous sea of latter-day open-world games. Its world is a huge, sprawling, lavishly detailed recreation of the West with a seeming infinity of moving parts, and manages to give that rare sensation of the world moving along without you, life ticking on one way or another. RDR2 often seems to care more about having you take part in the world in an observational capacity than anything else, with cowboy-themed sandbox antics often taking a backseat in favour of making Arthur feel more like an integral part of the world. When it works, the solidity this applies to the game as an immersive experience is really something else, not to mention the absurd attention to detail in every facet of its presentation. This comes at the cost of feeling, as you often do in post-GTA4 Rockstar titles, a bit more like you’re giving a set of instructions to Arthur rather than being in fine control.
RDR2 stands out to me as being perhaps the best prequel piece to an existing work I’ve ever seen, with a remarkably symbiotic relationship with the original Red Dead Redemption – both games come out stronger from being directly intertwined. A strange, convincingly morally dubious and immensely sincere tale about the outlaw Van der Linde gang in the dying days of the Wild West, both the new and revisited characters are well-written and performed, with the game going to lengths to involve you both inside and outside of the cutscenes in the day-to-day life of the gang. Some parts of the story are stronger than others, but across the massive span of the game, the characters remain engaging through the game’s thunderous crescendos with heated moments of tension feeling like a studio at the peak of their craft. There’s a lot of stuff I like about this game, despite the awkward controls and fiddliness (why can’t the game remember what guns I want off my horse?), and most importantly the fishing is good.
Honourable Mentions: God of War, Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age, Monster Hunter: World
Fighting Game: Dragon Ball FighterZ
The other guys are doing board games, but unfortunately, I have never even seen a board game before in my life, and so I’m doing fighting games instead. I spent most of my time in 2018 playing Tekken 7, and for my money, it’s still the best fighting game on the go, but it came out in 2017, so I have to pick one of these new-fangled ones instead.
Made by the mad geniuses at Arc System Works, the team behind a million anime fighters and most recently the gorgeous Guilty Gear Xrd, Dragon Ball FighterZ is (obviously) a licensed tag-team 2D fighting game based on the eternally popular Dragon Ball series’ many incarnations (except, uh, Dragon Ball GT, best left to the mists of time). It burst onto the scene at the start of this year, leveraging the huge popularity of the property and its fabulous, witchcraft-based 3D-anime stylings to become one of the most popular games in the fighting game scene. It also helped that, following the somewhat unceremonious death of the Marvel vs Capcom series in 2017 with the ill-fated Infinite, fans of the tag genre had been looking for a new game to devote their time and energies to – and DBFZ is certainly packed with mechanics fans of MvC3 would find familiar.
Essentially, you pick your three-man team from a roster of familiar and colourful Dragon Ball characters and leverage their abilities as an up-front character as well as their assists when not currently in use to batter the other three-man team. DBFZ is extremely beginner friendly (despite how hard it can be for the untrained eye to discern what’s actually going on) and with a little practice makes performing the game’s signature lengthy combos and extremely flashy and well-animated super moves easy. The game really is a ton of fun on a casual and competitive level, and even those with no attachment to the Dragon Ball series can probably find something to enjoy. My main complaint is that the game’s defensive options are extremely weak – it lacks a number of the options that are standard in other ASW-developed anime fighters like Guilty Gear (which has an enormous, sometimes overwhelming array of options, like Burst, Faultless Defense, Blitz Shield and so on). Offence can feel stifling in DBFZ, with repelling an experienced opponent being extremely risky and susceptible to punishment. Barring a few balance concerns with the current meta, however, DBFZ is an accessible, hugely enjoyable way for either old hands to have a large amount of flashy fun or new players interested in the genre to get familiar. With some very reasonable prices going for the game by now, there’s no reason not to give it a shot.
Honourable Mentions: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Soulcalibur VI
Video Game: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
I began 2018 with a single resolution. To finish The Witcher 2. I was longing to play The Witcher 3 but could not allow myself to play it without finishing The Witcher 2, a game I installed about 7 years ago only for my progress to flounder in the swamps of Flotsam. I was successful in my resolution and The Witcher 3 proved to be every bit as good as the years of reading its praises made out. I was the best game I have played this year. Finishing the game I felt the same pain I felt when I was young and I had just finished a great story. A feeling that bore a remarkable resemblance to the sadness that came when it was time to go home after staying with a friend. It was a wonderful surprise then to find the joy I had found in the depth of emotion and character that The Witcher 3 offers in a series I had all but written off. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was exactly what I needed in my post-Witcher malaise. Just as the world is a beautiful imagining of ancient Greece, the story takes plenty of inspiration from the tragedies and myths of its setting. I usually try to take the most moral, save everyone, be the hero path I can through games but Kassandra’s performance and emotions compelled me to go down a more tragic road. Her pride and her anger feel earned, natural responses to the events that propel her across Greece.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a rip-roaring adventure that offers the perfect blend of myth and historical inspiration. While the level gating can dampen the experience a little, the core gameplay is great thanks by a very fluid skill tree that is all about fun and empowerment rather than the need for careful min/maxing.
Honourable Mentions: Dead Cells, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Witcher 3, Gorogoa, Rainbow 6: Seige
Board Game: Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
Twilight Imperium is a game you invest in, and oh wow does it payback dividends. The game is expensive and you should really set aside a day to play it (7-9hrs playtime) but no other board game I’ve played offers an experience quite as rich. I’ve played maybe 7 games of TI this year and the moment the date for each game was set, the excitement set in. There is so much to try out and experiment within TI that doing your homework for this game pays off. There are 17 factions to play yet I’ve only played a handful as most games end and everyone breaks into an excited conversation. How plans could have worked better, different strategies, the moment they came within licking distance of victory but made the wrong decision. I finish games of TI and I want to play the faction again to just try things a little differently next time. TI should be to an extent treated as a collaborative experience to an extent, build the map cooperatively for a start. You’re setting aside a day to play so, it’s worth making sure everyone is set up to have as good an experience as possible. It’s one of the richest experiences I’ve had playing board games and I am so excited to continue playing through next year and the years to come.
Honourable Mentions: X-Wing 2nd Edition, Holmes & Watson, Whitechapel Mystery, Dead Last
A big thank you from the entire Bits & Pieces team for reading, listening and watching to our things this year. We look forward to seeing you all in 2019.