2018 happened, and I think this is my most anemic list so far. I’ve tried to keep up with modern games, but it’s easy to lose track of everything as it comes out. That being said though, I think I managed to put together a solid enough list for this entry, and hopefully it’ll even be constrained to a single blog post this time! Anyway, here’s the list;
Some of the games that I don’t like are games that I recognize aren’t really bad, but Dissidia Final Fantasy NT is an absolute disaster. Dissidia has always been a 3D arena type of fighting game that brings together heroes and villains from the main Final Fantasy titles. The plots are usually sparked by a conflict between the God of Chaos has decided to be a dick with the Goddess of Order, space-time has been disturbed, and a great, big, crossover brawl needs to happen. Dissidia NT started off as an arcade game, and it’s clear in the console versions since there is a plot here but it’s hidden away.
I played NT in 2019, and at the time there were two modes: You can either assemble a party of 3 and directly fight another party of 3, or you can assemble a party of 3 and try to hold points on the map for points, fighting to maintain territory and have the most points. I had to check to make sure, but Dissidia NT ends up having more characters than previous entries (38 in NT compared to 31 in Duodecim and 22 in the original). It seemed like there was less representation to me because new characters from the MMOs, Type-0, and Tactics were included in NT, but classic characters from previous Dissidias (like Laguna, and Gilgamesh) were excluded. I’m also going to have a bias against any Dissidia that snubbs Steiner from Final Fantasy IX but that’s a personal bias. Characters are one thing, I’ve played fun fighting games with characters I was unfamiliar with or didn’t like. The combat is what kills NT for me: You have a fast attack, a launch attack, and a limit break, the latter could be one of several attacks depending on your limit gauge.
Each attack has a lot of spectacle that goes along with it, and all of the fighters on-screen have HP bars, but the flash of the effects doesn’t seem to mesh well with the attack damage that actually occurs. Even when Summons are brought onto the battlefield or a limit break solidly connects with an opponent, the opponent who gets hit is either defeated or they’re not, and it didn’t feel like anything of value occurred. The funny thing about the combat feeling weak however, is that it can be gamed. Since there’s no way to do one-on-one fights, it’s fairly easy to gang up on your opponents until they’re taken out of the fight for good.
Ultimately, that’s why I don’t think this is a good game. There’s are two modes of play and it’s so easy to game the system that NT just feels completely pointless to play in general. My favorite Final Fantasy games are the main games in the series that focus on telling a straight-forward story (and Theatrhythm, the one that focuses on the soundtracks). Once Final Fantasy decided to embrace style over substance, it lost its way and Dissidia NT is a monument to just that: style over substance, sizzle without steak.
(Such a shameful, waste of potential)
I really liked God of War III, but it was the only one in the series that I played through from beginning to end. God of War 2018 was set up as an entry to the series so I was hoping to have a great time getting into a whole new world and a whole new point in Kratos’ life. It’s such a horribly boring slog though. What I remember of God of War and God of War 3 was a fast-paced, rage-fueled demigod, gleefully tearing creatures and combatants apart with weapons on chains, gauntlets, his bare hands...God of Four stars a fat, old, Kratos who waddles through a beautifully rendered world trying to teach his son about responsibility while scattering his wife’s ashes.
This sounds like a great premise for an indie-game, but then there’s the slow combat that features combos which I could have used, but which never seemed as reliable as the same 3-button combo I quickly learned and stuck with because it got the combat over more quickly. I’m sure the longer combos and the newer abilities would have helped, but the simple 3-button combos, and the occasional axe-throw worked. Like I said, God of Bore is a gorgeous game to look at, but I’m wondering if that’s why there were so many slow moments: moments where Kratos is forced to walk slowly, moments where Kratos is slowly rowing a boat; I wondered how often this was to hide load times and I wondered what the reaction would have been if God of War 3 had been like this. I gave this game a chance, and it wasn’t until I was guiding Kratos and the child out of Alfheim, but even before then my mind didn’t show any signs of changing in a positive way. I’m open to the idea of God of War 5 or 6 might be more of what I’m looking for in a God of War game, but what launched on the PS4 in 2018 flat out isn’t it.
(Fat Man and Little Boy...a pair of duds)
Monster Hunter: World was a massive disappointment to me, but then I’ve always had some trouble getting into Monster Hunter to begin with, and mechanically World is very similar to the others that I’ve played. What sets it apart is the way the plot is framed. In World, you create a hunter and it seems like your character and a bunch of others are travelling to a brave new world when your ship is sunk by a colossal lava-monster. Nobody really seems to die though, and everything seems to be fine when you make it to the settlement. It’s from this settlement that you gear up, craft new gear, select missions, buff for a mission by eating food, and I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but I don’t play multiplayer.
The missions, or hunts, that you go in in World work just like they did in previous games: you’re tasked with finding and hunting a specific monster and succeeding in hunts unlocks new ones. You don’t want to go from hunt to hunt though, because your human hunter is utterly weak and arguably powerless to the large monsters you’re tasked to hunt. I found that the remedy to this, as a single-player type person, is to repeatedly hunt the same low-level monsters over and over again until RNGsus chooses to bless me with the resources I need to craft stronger weapons and armor. What really annoys me about Monster Hunter though is how I’ve never made it to a point where I felt like I was particularly strong. If the first hunt takes me about 30 to 35 minutes to complete with level-1 gear, I would hope that level 2 gear would shave the time to complete of that first one down to 20 minutes or less, but that wasn’t really the case.
I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place: I could either move on to try fighting a monster that would smash me into paste with little effort, or I could grind a lower-level monster that could STILL grind me into a paste but with slightly more effort. The challenge of fighting a massive, difficult boss is fun, but Monster Hunter turns that fun into a boring grind and I quickly lose interest. For me, I chose to quit after a single successful Barroth hunt. I was already feeling down on the game before that point, but I have a soft spot for the Barroth, and there was no way I could stick it out long enough to try myself against the Rathalos. So thank you Monster Hunter: World, you took the incredible premise of hunting Godly monsters, dragons, and dinosaurs, and turned it into a job. Yes, I know World isn’t to blame, Monster Hunter 3 was like this too, but you could have been better.
(Nothing but Grindstone...)
Starlink: Battle for Atlas was the worst purchasing decision I’ve made this generation. Right now, on Amazon, you can find this game for the Nintendo Switch, new, for $25 ($20 for the Xbone version). A few months ago I noticed Best Buy selling the same Switch bundle for $15 dollars. If Eagle Moss were to ever sell a Nintendo line of ships and figures, I’m positive they would sell Arwing models and I’m sure the price would be between $25 and $40. For me, Starlink for the Switch, with a really nice Arwing model, was closer to $80 and it absolutely wasn’t worth it. The Switch version of Starlink really is the one to get because it includes an Arwing, Starfox, and a divergent plot about Star Wolf which I haven’t seen yet. You arrive in a new solar system, but the ship that brought you here has failed and is in need of repairs. Unfortunately, the solar system you’re in is inhabited by hostile forces who you’ll need to fight against in floaty, third-person shooter segments either in space or on one of several planets.
This is a toys to life game, so if you’re not doing enough damage you can always apply a new toy to your ship to change your weapon-type. There are missiles, lasers, slug-throwers, and many of them do elemental damage too so you’d better get your wallet ready, and to add another layer on top the different ships you can buy (each sold separately) have their own strengths and weaknesses. I only ever played with the Arwing, which has the Arwing laser, can use a charged Arwing laser, or you can duck tape the Starlink weapons onto its wings for elemental damage. It looks awkward, but the different weapons are definitely effective against the hordes of enemies that are milling about. What doesn’t look awkward are those moments in gameplay where you transition, in real time, from space into a planet’s atmosphere.
It’s empty spectacle, but it looks great and the lack of a loading screen during the transition is always a welcome feature. The sheer scale of space and the planets you visit is also impressive. A lot of the surface area of the planets I visited seem kind of barran, but there’s detritus in space that you can explore for experience points. Which reminds me, experience points and leveling up is a thing in this vehicle-based, third person shooter. Instead of relying on skilled flight and specific weaknesses to dispatch your foes, the main factor to consider is their power level compared to yours. So the giant robot-spider that gave you trouble at the beginning of the game for example, could prove to be an utter pushover later on in the game after you’ve leveled up a bit.
I guess they included RPG features as a way to keep people from getting too discouraged if they couldn’t find or buy the weapons with the right elemental weaknesses to make that kind of combat more crucial, but it still annoys me to see it here. The most annoying thing about Starlink though is how it doesn’t feel like a vehicle combat game. The ship flies through space and in atmosphere, but the way it moves feels more like I’m playing a 3rd person shooter with an extra axis to move along. It’s hard to explain in words: Ace Combat feels like I’m dogfighting, Panzer Dragoon and Starfox feel like bombing runs, but Starlink feels like I’m playing a 3D Contra. There isn’t much of a sense of speed, even while travelling vast distances between planets. It’s a complete letdown of a game, but at least I got a fantastic, high-quality Arwing model out of it.
(Ubisoft actually made their own No Man's Sky...)
Detroit: Become Human starts out with a really interesting premise, but the lead writer is essentially gaming’s Uwe Boll. Roughly 20 years in the future, Detroit is the manufacturing headquarters for a series of robots who look and act almost exactly like humans. They’re used to complete menial or repetitive tasks by their owners and have displaced workers who usually take on dirty jobs: Dish-washers, street cleaners, delivery personnel, erotic dancers, nannys, nurses, public transit operators, investigative officers, and the list goes on. In Detroit, you take direct control over 3 of these robots as they breach their programming and become self-aware. The main selling point of this game are the multiple branches the story can take depending on how you play.
It’s possible to experience a completely different story between playthroughs, and that’s absolutely a feature worth praising. Where it falls flat for me however is the story itself. Each of the characters you play as are experiencing the robot awakening from different points of view. Conner, the first robot you play as, is essentially a Blade Runner; he’s a robot maintained, dispatched, and beholden to the Detroit Police who focuses on robot-based crimes and destroying robots who have become self-aware. If Connor is killed during one of his scenes, he’s replaced with another Conner and disappoints Clancy Brown’s character. Marcus is the caretaker of a wealthy artist who becomes self-aware while witnessing abuse. He also seems to have the power to make other robots become self-aware. Marcus discovers and becomes involved with a robot sepratist movement early on and essentially has to side with one of two resistance leaders: one who wants to live in peace with humans while asking politely for rights, and one who understands that the first Pride started as a riot and is willing to make that happen with Robotkind. Finally there’s Kara, a fembot who may or may not become self aware and who may or may not be killed by a cartoon villain. I let her die, calling the game’s bluff, but a close friend of mine didn’t and it looks like Kara’s story is all about escaping to Canada where robots seem to have rights.
I can see what David Cage was going for with this story, but I don’t understand why he’s going with this story specifically. The robots you play as are all white dudes and a white dudette, and the allegory he’s going for doesn’t exactly gel since the robots were created by humans to serve, to serve humans. The ones who have gained self-awareness are demonstrated to be able to think faster than humans, have faster reflexes than humans, and could potentially overpower humans unlike the subjects Cage likely gained his inspiration from, who were humans. It’s true that Marcus and Kara can’t come back if they die, but there are enough robots gaining self-awareness that it seems like a revolution is imminent no matter what, and a better subject for this kind of story happens right as this one ends.
(Can you see...the emotions?)
Dragon Ball FighterZ made me appreciate Extreme Butoden on the 3DS so much more. Once I’m actually in a fight, I like FighterZ well enough. I don’t believe ArcSystem has made a bad fighting game yet, but what I don’t like about FighterZ, which wasn’t an issue in Extreme Butoden, is the user interface. In Extreme Butoden selecting a mode, and selecting a character to play as was as simple as going through a couple of simple menus. In FighterZ you select an avatar (with more avatars being available as you play) and you use that avatar to run around a recreation of the Budokai Tenkaichi (The World Martial Arts Tournament from the Dragon Ball anime). There are a couple of other elements as well like Muscle Tower from Dragon Ball, Kame House, the ship Vegeta trains in before the Android invasion...but it’s there to facilitate a small space you guide your avatar through instead of a traditional menu screen.
This is a fun idea, but it’s so time consuming to move a character around a map vs selecting a mode from a menu. While you’re in this overworld you’ll have already selected a team of 3 fighters so, in theory, you can get into a multiplayer fight quickly, but it can still take nearly a minute to connect to another player online (my experience was on a PS4, not a Pro, not PC, not an Xbone, so maybe connection times are better on those platforms). Pre-selecting your party of three is a perfectly fine idea, and I like that you can switch things so that you can’t receive automatic fight invitations, but the utter lack of a traditional menu screen was such an annoyance that it kept me from wanting to play FighterZ. Given what I’ve seen from other fighting games that use characters from JUMP, and who are used by Bandai-Namco, I feel like Arc might not be totally to blame for this terrible UI. The game itself looks gorgeous; Arcsystem Works is known for making anime fighting games that look true to an actual anime.
Watching FighterZ in motion is incredible, and it’s easy enough to play that even a fighting game novice like myself can pull off decent combos against the computer and it would look good. As for the roster, I haven’t really kept up with Dragon Ball Super but I’m assuming it hasn’t really pushed the envelope or introduced many new characters since aside from a completely original character, Android 21, there are only 3 characters in the base game from Super. It’s not that I mind since I’m more familiar with Z than I am with Dragon Ball, GT, or Super, but I don’t recall many complaints about the roster in general other than the usual “too many Gokus” that’s inescapable when it comes to Dragon Ball games. Personally I would rather play as Cooler or Janemba than Jiran but that’s mostly because visually Cooler and Janemba are interesting whereas Jiran looks like a placeholder being used until an actual character design is selected. I’m sure he’s fine to play as in the game, but I wouldn’t buy a season pass to play as a character like Jiran. I’ve had fun with the base Dragon Ball FighterZ experience, I would even consider buying a definitive edition if it had all of the DLC characters, but I absolutely hate that terrible user interface.
(Like the source material, I didn't like the filler)
Fox n Forest was a game that I was very much looking forward to. The graphics and the way the world is presented didn’t look like something that had been done to death, and the 16-bit aesthetic appeals to me. You play as a fox with a crossbow, and the world around you can experience different seasons, but playing the game didn’t really do much for me. The main issue I had was with movement and action speeds. It felt like there was a significant delay between a button input on my part and the fox acting. Platforming challenges were made annoying by how stiff and non-responsive the action and animation of jumping has. It didn’t take me very long to feel negatively about Fox N Forests, but when I realized that most of the enemies and bosses were just large bugs my interest just sapped away. I was expecting stronger fantasy elements to this game, but the more I played the less engagement I felt with the world. I don’t hate this game, but I think of it as a budget Genesis game; it’s the kind of game I would want to play up until I actually sat down to play it, even though it’s not mechanically broken.
(Not even furry appeal)
Jalopy is really cool conceptually: You need to build a car from scratch and maintainit long enough to get you from point A to point B. I made it as far as the first rest point in my journey before I packed it in though, because Jalopy hit me hard with motion sickness. I was also unclear on how exactly I’m supposed to repair certain components of my car. When I pulled into the hotel for the night, my car engine was letting out clouds of white smoke, but I didn’t know what tool I needed, I didn’t know where to go to find a replacement part, and looking through the car manual wasn’t as helpful as I had hoped. I was still driving along with a companion character who was acting as a tutorial-giver, but he didn’t acknowledge that the car was smoking. Motion sickness aside, I had hoped Jalopy would give me more information; the first half-hour of gameplay was packed with helpful info while I was constructing my car, so maybe I should have just continued on until my car inevitably broke down.
(It's certainly busted)
Ninjin: Clash of Carrots was much more arcade-like than I was expecting after watching a few trailers. You choose to play as either an anthropomorphic rabbit or fox, both of whom are ninja. The levels scroll automatically from left-to-right and enemies attack you in waves from one side, the other side, or both sides, while your furry-ninja-boy runs automatically. When I first played Ninjin, I thought of it as a relatively engaging game that I could play from time to time when I wanted an arcade-action fix. When I turned the game off though, I completely forgot about it. Ninjin isn’t a bad game at all, especially in the moment, but it’s not the kind of game I thought about again after my initial play session. It didn’t do anything wrong: the characters are charming and there seems to be a decent progression system in place. I don’t even think I fought against any bosses, so I have no reason to dislike Ninjin, but I wasn’t engaged enough to want to get back into it. There are definitely worse arcade-style games I’ve played, but this game just didn’t do anything to make me want to try completing it.
(Well...it's cute if nothing else)
Octopath Traveler looks fantastic, and I love how combat works in it, but it’s a shame the various plots didn’t converge in a meaningful way. Aesthetically, Octopath looks like a classic Final Fantasy, either VI, V, or VI, but with modern lighting. Enemy sprites in battle are still pixelated but with a great level of detail which has been a sort of trope in Final Fantasy for decades as well. Octopath doesn’t just borrow from Final Fantasy though, the combat system borrows a mechanic from Bravely Default, wherein if you choose to forfeit one of your turns you gain a point that can be used to give you extra actions on a later turn. It’s possible therefore, to defend for several turns in order to unleash a wave of attacks and skills or spells on a later turn to utterly decimate your enemies. When it comes to skills and abilities, I’m going to evoke Final Fantasy again; like in Final Fantasy IV, VI, and XII to name a few, each of the characters you play as have their own specific job and thus, they can only use certain abilities at first.
Therion the Thief doesn’t start the game knowing how to cast spells, but through the subclass system can potentially be trained to do so. The main gimmick, and unfortunately, the main shortcoming, of Octopath is that each of the 8 characters have their own plots. These plots are singular to the point that it’s rare for the party members to interact with each other and as for an overarching world plot, there doesn’t seem to be one at all until the endgame. There are some really interesting plots to follow in Octopath too; Primrose for example is an exotic dancer seeking bloody revenge, and Tressa is on a quest to become the best merchant on the planet. There are a couple of standard plots like H’aanit’s quest to find the monster who petrified her master, Ophilia’s holy pilgrimage (like in Final Fantasy X), or Olberic’s quest to find a reason to live after his village was razed to the ground. Then there are weak plots like Alfyn’s who’s acting as a travelling healer with no clear goal beyond that.
There were many times when the plot would continue on and I just wouldn’t be able to connect with it. There were elements that carried over between a party member or two, but in general everybody seems to be almost completely disconnected from each other. As much as I enjoyed the combat system, it was this sense of disconnect that kept me from really enjoying Octopath. I hope this engine is used again for a Final Fantasy remake some day, but to me Octopath was just a proof of concept.
(I can name like...3 of them from memory)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is okay. I like that they’ve finally started to add in some villainous characters, and the newcoming Pokemon were really interesting. The changes made to Link seem a little superfluous to be honest, but anything to differentiate him from the others isn’t a bad thing. I like the idea of Echo Fighters, but I was really hoping they would use that concept to include a Johto, Sinnoh, or Alolan Pokemon Trainer into the roster, but that’s still a possibility for a future DLC slot. I absolutely hate how the gallery mode was removed from Smash Ultimate.
A new addition are Spirits which buff your fighters but they’re inspired by other game characters, but there are so many of these Spirits that it would be nice to know who they all are, where they come from, and a little bit of flavor text. The big new mode in Smash Ultimate is a pseudo-Story mode called World of Light. A mysterious force has zapped away all of the Smash fighters except for one, Kirby, and you have to work your way through a map made up of special challenge fights to unlock more playable characters, and a handful of story beats. World of Light really underwhelmed me; I must have put about an hour or so into it but I don’t feel like I got anything OUT of it.
The characters you unlock in World of Light are locked in to World of Light, so if you already unlocked fighters for classic mode or multiplayer then you don’t need to bother with World of Light, and what you’ve unlocked outside of World of Light, except for Downloadable characters, they don’t carry over. Smash Bros. Brawls’ story mode is still the gold standard that has yet to be beaten. The fights themself are very familiar: choose your favorite video game character, enjoy the spectacle, and try not to get knocked out. For me, I have trouble keeping track of the action through the particle effects and the other characters. Those elements were a bit downplayed in Smash Bros for 3DS and that’s why I prefer that game above all other Smash Bros games. I don’t dislike Smash Ultimate, I just wasn’t as hyped on it as other people and once online play became a paid service on Switch my interest completely died.
(It's certainly making a spectacle of itself)
Timespinner is very clearly inspired by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in terms of level design and progression. Unlike that classic game though, Timespinner falls short. As the title of the game suggests, time travel is a central mechanic of gameplay and a major motivating factor of the plot. You play as a time messenger, who must go back in time to warn your seemingly nomadic people of an impending attack before it happens, as it happens. If you’ve watched the film X-Men: Days of Future Past then the plot is going to seem very familiar.
In a way, it seems like the plot doesn’t matter at all because time travel is explicitly being used to undo the tragic happenings of the first few minutes of the plot. I’m also positive time travel will play into a twist reveal that seems to have been signposted early on too. As for gameplay, you equip orbs which have specific functions in combat; You could have an orb that acts as a bludgeon, or a sword, and those orbs can be infused with elemental properties by equipping accessories. The more you fight, the more experience points you and your orbs gain until you and they level up and become more powerful. You can freeze time during combat, but enemies frozen in time can’t be harmed. They can be used as impromptu platforms though and as a puzzle/platforming challenge it was fun to discover and use those few times it came up. You also utilize time travel to explore the world in a modern day setting and a pre-civilization setting.
In the past you can burn down vines to access a couple of chests, and in the future it’s possible to encounter poisoned water, poisoned air, and robotic versions of past-monsters. What I don’t like about Timespinner is how linear a lot of the screens are. What I mean is, a lot of the rooms you enter are straight lines populated with a handful of enemies. It makes the level design feel really bland to me. Between that and how leveling up felt vestigial and borderline pointless, I felt a sense of disconnect while playing this game. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a bad game, but out of all of the Symphony of the Night-likes I’ve played this is the most bland I’ve tried out.
(It's not bad...not good, but it's not bad)
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon isn’t the long-awaited Symphony of the Night-like that was kickstarted by Koji Igarashi but a prequel to that game in the style of the classic game Castlevania III. Initially you play as Zangetsu but you have the option to recruit up to three other playable characters as you progress through the game. Curse of the Moon features 8 levels, each one ending with a boss, and multiple endings. It’s a really simple game to understand: travel from the left side of each level to the right while killing monstrous enemies and avoiding pitfalls and other hazards. The bosses at the end of each level are challenging in that they present not only a direct threat to your character, but also affect the environment in some way.
Depending on which character you’re playing as each of the levels and bosses could be easier or harder but the core gameplay never gets too overcomplicated. For a game that sets up a larger project, Curse of the Moon didn’t have to be as good as it turned out. There’s one canon ending that hints at scenarios that could crop up in Ritual of the Night, but the additional endings are interesting to watch and challenging to achieve. There’s some world building here, which is always nice, but more than anything else it’s great to play a game like the classic Castlevanias again that was overseen by a man who worked for Konami while they were being produced.
Dark Souls: Remastered is the original Dark Souls but prettied up and slapped onto modern consoles like the Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch. Unlike Scholar of the First Sin, the next-gen upgrade of Dark Souls 2, there don’t seem to be any major shake-ups to enemy encounters, item drops, bosses, or additional DLC. What is here though is the same incredible game from 2011 with some visual tweaks, and the ability to play it on the go. I hadn’t played the original release of Dark Souls, but I knew it by reputation: it’s a challenging action-RPG that strongly emphasizes stamina management, utilizes platforming from time to time, and can be tackled in a multitude of ways from the beginning. Dark Souls leaves it up to you if you want to play as a knight, a mage, or something in between. It leaves progression up to you too so if you want to take on the much more difficult crypt and swamps before making your way through the undead burg that’s also a choice to be made.
No matter where you go, there are incredibly powerful bosses and challenging hoards of monsters seeking to impede your progress. Luckily death isn’t permanent though it can be frustrating to lose your souls (your currency) before you can spend them to make yourself stronger. If leveling up doesn’t seem to be helping, it’s also possible to find rare and powerful spells, items, upgrade materials, and weapons by exploring the world around you. Dark Souls is a punishing game if you let your guard down, but it greatly rewards cautious exploration and experimentation. The more I played the more I felt challenged but also rewarded for surpassing those challenges. Dark Souls is an incredible game, and the remastered version was a fantastic entrypoint for me.
(Look...we all already have an opinion on Dark Souls)
Ion Fury is a game I played before back when I was a kid, or at least it seems that way, because Ion Fury is very similar to Duke Nukem 3D, right down to being developed on the Build engine. In a not-too-distant, cyberpunk future, a mysterious organization has begun attacking and their coup has interrupted Bombshell’s day-drinking. It’s up to Bombshell to fight her way through Neo D.C. and put an end to the nefarious machinations of the evil Dr. Heskel. You do this by mowing down scores-upon-scores of transhuman cyborgs, and other robotic foes with a diverse array of firearms and explosives.
Ion Fury is an incredibly simple game to understand and an incredibly simple game to play: it’s a first-person shooter in the classic 2.5D style, Bombshell moves faster than any human is capable of, and it’s easy to find where you need to be because enemies will be there. There are 28 levels spanning 7 zones, several different classes and types of enemies, but only 3 bosses. The levels are mostly structured as pseudo-mazes, with some areas being more arena-like. The bottom line is, Ion Fury is the kind of classic shooter that I really enjoy. I have a lot of fun playing this game, and I would recommend it to other people who like first person shooters.
(It's a really, really good shooter)
Mega Man 11 did what Mega Man 9 and 10 couldn’t: It re-introduced the classic Capcom franchise on new hardware, with a new art style, and was a lot of fun to play through. The plot is as it ever was and likely ever will be: A set of 9 Robot Masters are running amok, Dr. Wily is the suspect, Mega Man is the solution. The order of level progression is technically open to player choice, but there’s a “boss order” whereby certain bosses are weak to the weapons you gain by defeating another boss first. There is more openness in Mega Man 11 compared to other games in this series though because of the Double Gear system.
Mega Man can either use the speed gear to slow time, or the power gear to boost the potency of his attacks. There are certain level hazards which are trivialized by having the power to slow time, but other hazards that seem impossible to pass by safely without the new mechanic. The cynic in me feels justified in saying “if you’ve played one Mega Man game, you’ve played them all”, and I don’t think that point of view is necessarily incorrect. The thing is, it’s been proven time and time again that this formula works. Somewhat challenging platforming, hazards, and enemy placement, interesting boss fights, non-linear progression, and a challenge-rush at the end. It’s worked nicely since the 1980’s and it’s still a great game in 2018. I don’t regret getting this on launch, and it’s an easy recommendation.
(Love the new art style, love the new game)
Mirror is a simple, addictive color matching puzzle game. You’re presented with a large grid filled up with different icons, all representing things like attacks, magic, energy up, etc and by drawing a line through matching icons (3 or more) you cause them to be taken out of the grid and making a thing happen to the anime girl representing the level you’re in. The goal is to defeat each of the anime girls, and defeating them unlocks lewd images which I hear you can mod to be even more lewd. Mechanically, Mirror is a really simple to understand and play game.
It succeeded in sapping about 6 hours of my life and I enjoyed the gameplay even without the promise of images I could probably find on Deviantart, Mirror is perfectly fine as far as puzzle games go. There are multiple endings based on how you perform in the various levels, and the lewd imagery you unlock seems to lean more towards the fetishistic end of the spectrum if you’re into that kind of thing. The banner image on the Steam sales page tells you basically everything you need to know. There’s DLC available for Mirror, but I didn’t feel compelled to download it. It’s still a game I would call good though.
(Look...I'm not gonna risk putting an image up, YOU look up images)
The Office Quest is a short, sweet, incredibly charming, item-based adventure/puzzle game. You play as an office drone in an animal suit who gets distracted by the drudgery of your work day when a flower floats by your desk. What follows are multiple rooms and puzzles made up of charming, funny animations and puzzles to be solved. What I like about The Office Quest is how it strikes a balance between having challenging puzzles without the possibility of locking yourself out of forward progression.
Some puzzles need to be solved with items that you find in previous rooms, but it’s not possible to progress past a point of no return if you’re going to need an item later. When it comes to puzzle difficulty in general, nothing in The Office Quest stumped me for too long and those times when I did get stuck for a bit usually had an entertaining payoff later on. Overall it was a really interesting adventure, despite its short length. I would recommend The Office Quest as an entry-level puzzle game.
(Incredibly charming, very easy to get into, it can run on a dishwasher, please try it)
Road Redemption is a rogue-lite wherein you play as a motorcyclist driving across a post-apocalyptic United States hunting a high-value bounty. Along the way you’ll need to complete races, and defeat various gang members and gang bosses. Failure is inevitable, but once you do you’ll be sent into a menu that lets you buy upgraded skills such as more boost, better starting weapons, new motorcycles, and percentage-based increases to your other stats. The more familiar I got with the tracks, the win conditions, and how to deal with various enemies, the more powerful my own bikers became. It always felt like I was making some kind of progress, even when I would have the occasional terrible run that ended far too quickly.
If you’re familiar with a similar-sounding Sega motorcycle racing game, Road Redemption might be very appealing to you since this plays very similarly to Road Rash. Unlike Road Rash, Road Redemption doesn’t let you steal weapons from enemies unless you have an empty weapon slot; most of what you find are on the street in a very classical video game style. Also unlike Road Rash, the arsenal you can use includes guns and explosives. The tone of Road Redemption is kept very light: the writing doesn’t try too hard to be funny but other elements like casual decapitation, cars raining from the sky, and a secret post-game level that’s very rainbow like, keep the game from ever feeling too serious. Overall Road Redemption is a game that captivated me up until I finally finished the story mode for the first time. There’s a whole lot more to be unlocked and achieved beyond the story mode, and as I implied earlier, this game is begging to be replayed. Road Redemption was a ton of fun for me, and I strongly recommend it.
(It filled a void I didn't realize was there)
Shadow of the Colossus R is what I’m referring to the Playstation 4 remastered edition of the Playstation 2 classic Shadow of the Colossus. I’ve tried to play the original game more than once but something about the controls kept me from ever getting fully invested. Something about the PS4 version however clicked with me in a major way, and when I started I couldn’t put it down until I had seen it through to the end. You play as a youth who’s trying to save another youth, to do this you must defeat 16 semi-organic, stone giants and take their souls or essence or whatever into your body. The Colossi are the only creatures in the world of this game that you’re ever going to have to deal with, making the whole atmosphere of the game seem lonely and melancholic.
Then, as you start killing them, that melancholy is only compounded upon since I always felt like an absolute bastard every time I succeeded in taking one of them down. Sad, loneliness aside, Shadow of the Colossus could be seen as a sort of adventure-puzzle game. You find each of the Colossus by using the guiding light of your sword to find each of the beasts. Once you find them, the puzzle of climbing them and reaching their glowing weak spot becomes apparent. While climbing them you’ll need to carefully manage your stamina which can easily be used up if they choose to struggle or thrash. Cling all you like, there’s always the possibility you’ll be flung right off and to your doom.
For some of the Colossi, just finding a starting point to begin your climb can be really tricky. A couple of them fly for example, and several have rocky limbs that are impossible to climb unless they lean down in just the right way. Other than graphics, there’s something different about the PS2 and PS4 versions of Shadow of the Colossus. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it’s almost like the controls in the most current version work where they didn’t seem like they did previously. I remember being more frustrated than anything when I played the PS2 version of this game, but when I played the PS4 version I just couldn’t put it down. Maybe it’s just a me-thing but whatever it is I can see why people have said for so long that this is a must-play game.
(I finally get it)
Spider-Man on the Playstation 4 was a great surprise to me. Just about every other PS4 exclusive I played before Spider-Man disappointed me in some way or another, then along comes this game. You play as a Peter Parker: a Spider-Man who’s been established and active in New York for an indeterminate number of years already. The game opens with Spidey taking on and eventually bringing in Wilson Fisk, the King Pin. The obvious issue with Kingpin being brought in is the massive power vacuum that was created by his absence. Almost as soon as he’s gone, a new super villain hits the scene and starts causing chaos: Mr. Negative and his gang of monochrome goons set about blowing things up using negative energy and generally being more than Spider-Man can handle.
Luckily Peter Parker has been working with Doctor Octavious while the story has been busily unfolding and that absolutely leads where it leads. As the story unfolds Spider-Man has to deal with goons who used to work for Kingpin, Mr. Negative’s goons, the Silver Sable PMC, a sinister group of six super-powered villains, optional entanglements with Taskmaster and Screwball. When Spider-Man isn’t dealing with larger-than-life supervillains he’s free to swing freely around Manhattan. While travelling around the city it’s possible to foil petty crimes and car chases. There are also a ton of collectibles and landmarks to find for experience points and PSN trophies.
Swinging around New York works similarly to how it did years ago in Spider-Man 2 the movie, the game: You can’t just web onto the clouds, you need to be near a building to use your webbing to swing. Your timing determines how quickly you move between buildings, and it’s possible to incorporate parkour and wall-running with web-slinging to maximize your overall travel speed. There isn’t a real-time element in Spider-Man, but after a certain point in the story you are given the ability to change the time of day to whichever you prefer. Combat in Spider-Man is very familiar to me and seems to borrow from the popular Arkham series. It’s possible to stealthily take out a handful of enemies before a fight breaks out properly, but it’s difficult to ignore that a lot of fights are wave-based, thus making stealth elements seem downright pointless. Spider-Man can immobilize enemies with his webs, knock enemies out by pulling environmental items onto his enemies, use impact-webbing to knock out his enemies, or if you want to get things done more quickly there’s punching and kicking combos with powerful counter-attacks that Spidey can use to knock out all the weirdos in New York City.
The boss fights are a little bit different, many of them relying on a gimmick that you’ll need to overcome if you want to beat them, but they’re never too difficult to figure out. Ironically, Kingpin was the most difficult boss for me and he was technically a tutorial boss! Overall though I really liked Spider-Man. It’s by far the best Playstation 4 exclusive that wasn’t developed by Fromsoft for one thing. There’s a lot of open-world stuff to deal with but not an overwhelming amount. The DLC didn’t seem to be fully optimized and the stealth sections you have to go through with Miles Morales and MJ are slow but they’re over quickly. Really, the worst thing I can say about Spider-Man is that as good as the story is, once it’s done I couldn’t find any reason to go through it a second time.
(Such a bland cover...)
Thief Simulator sets you into the sneakers of an unnamed person who owes money to an unseen bad-influence. The easiest way to pay off your debt to this person is to sneak into other people’s homes and businesses, take some things, and resell them to your local pawn shop or sales-based website. This is exactly the kind of game I hope for when I look into games titled “Thief”. When the game begins your character knows how to open doors, put things into their tiny backpack, smash windows, and drive. The person you owe money to is essentially a guiding voice who encourages you to level up your thief.
The more you invest into your thief, the more unlawful things they’ll be able to do and use. Picking locks is an early skill you can unlock, but you still need to have stolen enough goods to be able to afford lockpicks. Hacking into security systems, cracking safes, and stealing cars, are skills that need to be unlocked but which also require a specialized tool that you need to purchase to perform.
Every time I would unlock a new skill and purchase those new tools though, it became clear how much new stuff I could steal and how much more money I could make. I’m only 4 hours into Thief Simulator and it’s clear to me that until all of my thief skills are unlocked I’m essentially in a sort of tutorial mode. The neighborhood that I can freely explore and rob blind in this early game is robust enough that there are a variety of residences with a variety of security features that I need to subvert if I want to be as efficient a thief as possible. Knowing that I’ll eventually be able to drive around in a larger vehicle, steal vehicles, and steal from other neighborhoods or even districts is a very powerful driving factor that makes me want to keep playing and keep stealing. The challenging aspects of this game comes from the obvious ‘not being seen’ aspect of the game. Every house has a set number of occupants who will be home during certain times of the day. You can track them to figure out when they’re going to be home and even which rooms they spend most of their time in.
If an occupant sees you on their property, they’ll get suspicious and eventually call the police. If they see you inside their home, or with a large, stolen thing, they’ll call the police on you immediately. It’s possible to hide until the heat dies down, but there are levels of police awareness that make hiding from the law more difficult or sometimes even impossible. If you get arrested it seems like all that happens is you take a hit to your wallet and any ill-gotten goods on your person are taken away. It’s not the prettiest game to have launched in 2018, but the stealth and AI in this game is really well done. Thief Simulator is really rewarding to play and absolutely deserves your attention, especially if you liked playing the Thief games from a decade or so ago.
(Sneaky Sim is a good'n)
Warhammer 40,000: Mechanicus left an incredibly positive first-impression on me, despite how horrible I was until I did a little bit of reading and started a second playthrough. I came into Mechanicus fresh, with no prior exposure to Warhammer 40K other than some time spent playing Space Marine. Unlike Space Marine Mechanicus isn’t a third person shooter, it doesn’t follow the space marines, and it doesn’t even involve Orks. Instead you play as the upper echelons of the Adeptus Mechanicus hierarchy, and it’s your job to lead Mechanicus through the catacombs of a planet that holds valuable secrets.
Unfortunately, the planet being plundered is home to a massive collective of Necrons who are awakening, growing in number, becoming more aggressive, and will inevitably run me offworld. To make matters worse, there seems to be a growing rebellion on the ship which needs to be quelled. To start with you have two Adeptus Mechanicus to directly control and a hypothetically unlimited number of underlings to take along with you. You build up a party of 6 troops and are then allowed to take on a task given by one of several officers. These officers have their own motivations and priorities and favoring one over the others can affect your endgame. Gameplay is set on one of several isometric maps, troop and enemy movements are turn-based, and while everything seems to be very X-Com like there’s no hit-chance: As long as you have the energy to act, your actions will always succeed unless an enemy or your troops have a dodge skill, or item. Succeeding in missions rewards you with points that can be used to purchase new skills, you may be rewarded with new weapons by succeeding in missions, you can even unlock new Mechanicus and grunts by succeeding by succeeding in missions.
Here’s my issue with 40K Mechanicus though; there seems to be a prescribed way to succeed in this game. There are skills that make it easier and more effective to gain movement energy, there are skills that let you act for free if you kill an enemy, there are ways to steal energy from enemies, but I didn’t know this on my first attempted playthrough. It seems to me like Mechanicus is a game where it’s very easy to fall under a cascade of failure and get frustrated (which happened to me), or ride out a cascade of success (which I’m currently doing). On my failed first playthrough, I lost multiple missions in a row, but on my current playthrough I was breezing through them while also killing bosses who I couldn’t touch previously. I liked Mechanicus enough that I’m interested in 40K as a whole, and even though it’s not the most balanced game I’ve played it’s a strategy game that I really enjoyed and thoroughly recommend.
(Do not succumb)
Wreckfest is a fantastic destruction-focused racing game. There’s a campaign that you can make your way through, but I also had a lot of fun setting up my own custom races and scenarios. Custom races seem to be a great way of earning money which I’m sure would make the campaign mode much easier to race through. Wreckfest offers up several different modes of play; there’s the standard race mode, demolition-focused races, demolition derbies where the winner is the last person standing, and special variations on those races and derbies. Lawnmower races are different, mainly because of how different they handle to actual cars, but also because you’re racing with other mowers but also with carbine harvesters.
Another variant is similar but an inverse to the lawn mower races: bus races. As fun as demolition derbies can be with standard stock cars, a bus-focused demolition derby is a whole new level of chaotic fun. Wreckfest is really simple when you get right down to it: race and/or smash to earn money to get new cars and parts so you can be better at racing and/or smashing. I didn’t notice any issues with rubber banding, so once I was leading in a race I was basically guaranteed to stay there. The detail in each of the vehicles and how much of that can be damaged and distorted as you bash into other cars is really satisfying to take in. It isn’t quite as arcade-like as Burnout was, but the simulation and customization aspects of Wreckfest don’t bog the overall experience down. This is exactly the kind of racing game that I look for, and I strongly encourage people who haven’t tried it to do so.
(Surprisingly in better shape than Jalopy)
The funny thing about my decade project is that it started out as a desperate ploy to give me more time to play games from 2019. I didn’t think I had enough to make a best-and-worst list from that year and I still don’t think I’m there yet! On the plus side, I’ve been having a great time going back over the other games that have launched this past decade. Next month I’ll be posting up the list of my favorite games of 2019, along with the games that I thought were bad and the games I thought were just...meh. I hope you join me then!