A look at what worked and what didn’t
As we do every year, last January we asked the Destructoid staff to share with everyone their most anticipated games of the year. 2019 had some absolute bangers in it, from the remake Resident Evil 2 to Fire Emblem: Three Houses to some little game about an asshole goose. Of course, for every good game that makes it to store shelves and digital marketplaces, there are plenty of bad ones too. Most people can see garbage coming from a mile away, but sometimes, just sometimes, one of those crap games slips through the crack to become something we get hyped about.
So, did any bad games make our most anticipated list last year? I asked the Destructoid staff to revisit their picks from last year and let us know what they thought of the final product.
You know what I love? A good game that becomes a great game through updates and free DLC. If there is one title from 2019 that has done that, it’s Daemon X Machina. When it hit back in September, I found it an absolute joy to play and tinkering with my mech brought out the engineer in me. The only thing holding it back was its underwhelming story. Since that review went live, the game has only gotten better.
Marvelous laid out a roadmap for the game back in the Fall and, to its credit, has delivered on it. PvP modes were added back in October and last month saw new co-op missions, as well as a new boss fight. For the giant robots lovers out there — and by giant robot lovers I mean Torch — it’s more than cemented its place as the premier mech-action game on the market.
I took a long break from the game after my review went up. But getting back into it over the past three weeks, everything about it feels dramatically improved. It’s nearly the game I thought it would be when I first picked it as my most anticipated title 12 months ago.
Pixie The Fairy
“It’s all been leading up to this.” Whether that applies to a TV series, a space opera spanning over 40 years, or a trilogy of games, this idea, this attempt to hype something bigger than it is, usually falls flat. Maintaining a story that hundreds of hands have touched over the years and satisfying the audience is a herculean task.
Few pieces of entertainment carry it as well as Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers.
Many things you have been doing since A Realm Reborn have been leading to this expansion and it is unafraid to recontextualize your previous adventures much in the way that The Empire Strikes Back, The Last Jedi (if you’re brave enough to admit it), and Metal Gear Solid 3 have famously done.
That’s no small feat and much to the credit of lead scenario writer Natsuko Ishikawa, who has also penned the questlines for the Dark Knight and Rogue as well as the Alchemist crafting profession. She’s the real secret sauce here. She wanted to give FFXIV a JRPG adventure on par with those enjoyed on the SNES or the original PlayStation and she delivered.
The Scions of the Seventh Dawn and their conflict with the Ascians brings both sides of the world of Norvrandt, one of your world’s thirteen parallel shards. Imagine a world was shattered and each piece took on a life of its own and followed a different history from the point it shattered. The Ascians have long labored to put the pieces back together to restore their dark god to life and you’ve been fighting them because all these disparate worlds that have billions upon billions of people on them don’t deserve to die for the restoration of that god.
But even then, there’s more to the story. And since this isn’t going to be the last FFXIV expansion, the rate at which the questions regarding the Ascians are being answered is actually kind of alarming. It’s not like Rise of the Skywalker where it wastes screentime to answer stupid lore questions, they’re genuinely looking to put this part of the story to bed for good.
And they’re doing it with an antagonist on par with Kefka and Sephiroth. I’d actually talk about that here, but I had that day in the favorite character post.
But I will say our heroes are equal to the task and got to shine in a way the game really hadn’t before. The Scions have usually been to the side or background so you, the Warrior of Light, get their moment in the spotlight. Here, they are a genuine JRPG party you can team up with in dungeons and each character is finally vital to the main quest. Everyone gets their due, not just the marketable catgirl they put in Dissidia NT, though Y’shtola is still great, too.
And that’s just the story. The raids have been fun, the adjustments to most of the jobs have satisfying, and the new Dancer and Gunbreaker jobs have proven to be very popular additions. The reboot of Machinist is a change worthy of a king of Figaro, too.
My most-wanted game for 2019 was Subnautica: Below Zero, a title I chose knowing full well I’d wait to start until after it left early access with version 1.0. That day hasn’t happened yet — in fact, Unknown Worlds is now in the unenviable position of carefully rewriting the game’s story — but I’m super hopeful.
From what (intentionally) little I’ve gleaned from the early-access updates, there are some horrible new underwater beasts to dread and a bunch of cool new biomes to discover. It’s encouraging to know that even after everything in the original Subnautica, the team still has plenty of neat ideas left to explore.
It’s gotten to the point where I’ve begun replaying Endless Ocean: Blue World purely to satisfy my scuba-adventure fix. It’s a great game in its own right, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve played it enough.
Wow, I picked Anthem as my most anticipated game last year, huh? Oof.
If you follow news on this or other gaming outlets, you likely know how BioWare’s big, new original project has been doing. If not (you blessed summer child), the short version is: Not well at all, at the moment.
Technical troubles, absurd loading times, bugs, balance issues, flawed design priorities, and a general lack of compelling content turned Anthem‘s big splash into something of a belly flop in the public eye. Stories later emerged of the level of development hell the game went through on its way to market, leading many to speculate that Anthem would be the albatross around the venerated studio’s neck, finally sinking it into ignominy after years of less-than-ideal output.
Ten months later, the game is now free for those who still subscribe to EA’s Access program, with rumors abound that BioWare is working on a complete overhaul.
I did spend some time in the game’s ten-hour trial period, and what I did play seemed fun at a basic level. Plus, Anthem‘s still a going concern despite everything, which is certainly more than can be said about other service games that face a similar situation (say, that PlanetSide spin-off). All the same time, though, to get a foot in the door in an age when most of my daily playtime is taken up by various gacha games, Destiny 2, and Final Fantasy XIV, a game really has to knock it out of the park for me to even consider making space in my life for it. Anthem doesn’t look like it’s there yet, and at the moment I’m not sure if it ever will be.
I’d love to be proven wrong, though.
Well, I think my track record here has been pretty great!
It helps that I choose From Software games more often than not, but Sekiro made a huge impact on the gaming industry as a whole in 2019. It adorned countless Game of the Year lists, was in the collective conversation for months and even won “Game of the Year” at The Game Awards.
It also provided one of the most stressful and rewarding review periods in my decade-plus career (Guardian Ape nearly gave me a heart attack). Besting Sekiro completely devoid of any guides or help pre-launch, as well as being one of the first people to uncover the secret Dancing Dragon Mask, was a thrill.
Because I’m special, I have to reach back all the way to 2018 to properly contribute to this post. That was the year I named Shovel Knight: King of Cards as my most anticipated title of 2018, before going on to list it as one of my most anticipated games of 2019 as well. It finally came out last year, and thankfully, it was worth the wait, packing two complete games worth of content into one SKU (not to mention the Showdown fighting game mode that released the same day) and landing a well-deserved 10/10 from this very publication. So I guess I was right for looking forward to it.
I was arguably less-right for anticipating some sort of Spider-Verse game announcement in 2019, though we did at least get confirmation that a sequel to the original film is in the works. I think it’s fair to bet that we’ll be getting a PS5 game alongside it someday, but we probably won’t know for sure until 2021 at the soonest.
So last year, my most anticipated game was Animal Crossing for the Switch.
Yeah, I’m not sure what else is there to say about this. I was looking forward to other games, but most of my hype was devoted to New Horizons. I spent February and March playing through most of the Devil May Cry series in preparation for Devil May Cry 5, and Resident Evil 2 turned out to be the best impulse buy I made for the year.
So last year was good, but the game I was waiting for got delayed into 2020, so my choice for the most anticipated game for 2020 is the same as my choice for the most anticipated game of 2019.
Surely nothing bad will happen in 2020, right?