Thoughts on Games of 2018

GOTY: Astro Bot Rescue Mission- This game strikes me as a significant accomplishment for both for the genre (platformer) and the technology (VR) in that it merges both together with a lot of accessible, fresh, and FUN ideas. This game has all the charm and inventiveness of something like a Media Molecule game with the polish and accessibility of most of Nintendo's best platformers. I believe, in time, it will come to be as highly regarded as something like Mario 64 or the original Sonic the Hedgehog - a truly great platformer that advances the medium. I fear it may have come along too late to be a "system seller" for the PSVR, but if you have the tech or if you are looking for another excuse to buy it, this is a must own game.

God of War - Like the best God of War games before it, this entry offers a highly polished and bleeding-edge/state-of-the-art experience. I was highly skeptical that an open world game with an older Kratos would be an interesting direction for the franchise (it seemed a bit cliche’), but the resulting game was a joy to play from start to finish and offered both meaningful narrative and compelling gameplay with well-thought out systems. I think Astro Bot will prove to be the more important game in the long haul, but there was probably not a more polished and engaging experience to have in 2018 than with this game.

Destiny 2: Forsaken - Forsaken was a welcome addition to what I considered to be an already very good base game in Destiny 2, and I certainly sunk far more hours this year into this title than any other. The story was well told and confined, the level and power level grinds were both well paced, and the regular release of interesting new things to do from week to week in the months that followed the expansion’s release kept drawing me back in even when I thought I’d probably had enough. I know Destiny is a divisive franchise, but if you are someone who has sunk substantial time into the series like I have, you would probably agree that this was the best entry (and best year) for Bungie's MMO yet.

Tetris Effect – This is Tetris + Lumines + Rez…which makes it very much a sensory overload that becomes especially overwhelming when played in VR. There is something transcendent about rave music playing in time to blocks clearing while trippy visuals dance around your periphery, and Tetris Effect delivers this magic in spades. The best puzzle game in years, and certainly the best version of Tetris since the Game Boy.

Forza Horizon 4 - It seems like a Forza Horizon game makes this annual list every time that there’s a new entry, and that’s because it continues to be a blast to play. The series doesn’t dramatically change up its formula with this entry, but driving around the UK and crashing through hedgerows in McLarens, Bugattis, and tricked-out rally cars never gets old. I have typically thought of the open-world series as “Skyrim with cars” and this version continues that fine tradition.

Far Cry 5 - This was another game that was a bit divisive, as seems to be the case for most of Ubisoft’s annual titles anymore. I still don’t think the series has come close to recapturing the brilliance of Far Cry 2, but Far Cry 5at least tries out some new narrative beats, offers a bit more “grit” to its gameplay than the last couple of main entries, and moves the series towards some interesting ideas. More than anything, Far Cry 5 sucked me in for many continuous hours upon its release and made me hopeful for the future of the franchise. That the newly announced spin-off (Far Cry: New Dawn) seems to be picking up where this one left off has me eagerly anticipating the chance to see where the series goes next.

*Honorable Mention: Iconoclasts and Tempest 4000 - I have only spent a couple of hours with both of these, but they are the best retro-oriented experiences I had in 2018. Iconoclasts just oozes charm and is a very well crafted homage to a lot of the 90s games I love. Tempest 4000 is not as intense as the more recent Ploybius, but Jeff Minter’s titles are perennial favorites for me…so it goes on the list!

*Still want to play: Monster Hunter World, Spider-man, Red Dead Redemption 2 (I guess?), Celeste, A Way Out, Donut County, Minit, Return of the Obra Dinn, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, a couple of others...