THE BLOG

24
Dec

Player Research Games of the Year 2018

What a wonderful year 2018 has been for video games! There’s been some outstanding blockbuster titles, console exclusives, and incredible indie games that have kept us busy this year, and as we approach the end of 2018 it’s time to look back and reflect on the best of the lot, as well as looking forward to the future.

As always, Player Research’s annual list of gaming highlights is an individual summary of our staff members favourite games this year, with a Game of the Year and up to two runners-up, alongside a most anticipated title of 2019. The only rule is that the game had to be released in 2018 (DLCs, expansions and remasters included); let’s get down to it!

 

Aaron

Game of the Year: Pokemon: Let’s Go!

I wasn’t expecting to like this game. It features Kanto, again, making it the sixth time this region has been visited. Many “standard” features are absent: There are no held items, no Pokemon abilities and no Pokemon beyond the original 151 (meaning many Pokemon can’t reach their final stage of evolution!). I knew I’d buy it and play it, but I expected to feel something between ambivalence and disappointment.   

I was completely wrong. What was “missing” from the game wasn’t needed and what was new made the whole experience feel as fresh and exciting as the first time I played Pokemon Red 20 years ago – After all this time I think it was just the shake-up that the series needed.

Pokemon Let’s Go! subverted my expectations in all the best ways possible and just goes to show that people don’t always want what they think they want.

2nd Place: Moonlighter

A cross between a 2D Zelda game and Stardew valley (which sounds like the best thing ever), the game has a simple premise – by day you sell goods in shop, and by night you hunt for more goods in randomised Zelda-like dungeons. It sounds simple (and it is), but this simple flow is addictive in the same way that Stardew’s farming was – and you just have to keep playing for “one more day”. The story is light, but it gets the job done, the music is charming and the retro style visuals are wonderfully evocative.

3rd Place: Dark Souls Remastered

Is it cheating to include a remaster? Maybe – Particularly if the remaster changes almost nothing. But what needed to be changed? Dark Souls is one of the most finely crafted gaming experiences there is and it’s no less grossly incandescent this time around.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Pokemon 2019

 

Amy

Game of the Year: Heaven Will Be Mine

Visual novels are a genre that I would really liked to see explored in more weird and wonderful ways. Pillow Fight Games have taken up that mantle with Heaven Will Be Mine, where you take on the role of one of three female space-faring war machine pilots, who find themselves in a locked in battle of ideals about what the future of the human race should look like. Characters share their origins in a abandoned space program and compulsively seek each other out through the depths of space for companionship, answers, and glorious giant robot battles. (There are also romance options in the game, so add some lovin’ to the list too).

Exposition is very light, and the world building is very intricate, leading to a strange experience where you are dropped in an unfamiliar world and have to piece together some semblance of understanding through the interactions between a small cast of characters. If you’re on board for an out of the ordinary visual novel experience, Heaven Will Be Mine might pleasantly surprise you.

2nd Place: Subnautica

Genuinely surprising moments and startling developments have been few and far between in the games I’ve played this year, but watching the events unfold in Subnautica as I explored the depth and breadth of the watery planet had me on the edge of my seat at points. A game that was ostensibly about simply surviving in a harsh alien environment had me caring more about it’s world and it’s story than I would ever have rightly expected. Anyway 7.8/10, too much water.

3nd Place: Deltarune

On the second anniversary of Undertale, Toby Fox released Deltarune – a spinoff to Undertale that contains many similar ingredients: a combat system where killing is optional, bullet hell-esque showdowns with enemies, and the reappearance of familiar faces. However, Deltarune expands upwards and outwards from Undertale’s formula, with multiple party members and a wider variety in ways to resolve combat. Deltarune presents the player with a fascinating problem – what happens if you’re invested in resolving fights non-violently, but another party member is equally invested in violence for violence’s sake?

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Devil May Cry 5/Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe

 

Ben

Game of the Year: God of War

I know, I know, not the most original pick ever. But God of War is the franchise that got me into gaming when I was a teenager – I was, for some reason, reeeally into Greek mythology – and it would have been unfair to pretend that its latest instalment was anything other than my GOTY. What hasn’t been said about this game? Everything in it was crafted to the Masterpiece level, from its story to the amazing new combat. Plus, the Norse setting – a setting that I am, for some reason, reeeally into – was a perfect fit for the franchise, with its rich lore and amazing character design. Fifty hours of gameplay, a platinum Trophy and at a least a thousand ‘Boy’s later, I closed the chapter of the latest Dad of War adventure, and it was a truly fantastic one.

2nd Place: Donut County

In Donut County, you play a hole in the ground controlled by a raccoon – bear with me – as you try to destroy a city. The 3 hours needed to go through DC are definitely best experienced first-hand, as the simple satisfaction of clearing out individual blades of grass to build up a big enough hole to destroy an entire house, is very hard to describe. In a world where developers are always trying to pack more content and features in their game, one man – Ben Esposito – dared to create a small piece of entertainment that is simple, charming (dat art style!) and relaxing. Definitely one of the more unique experiences of 2018.

3rd Place: Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu

For context, I am a 30 years old man that grew up watching the show since the original series, played the games since Generation 1 and that proudly wears a tattoo of the best electrical rodent of the franchise (it’s Dedenne, not that other one). This game was a pure, unapologetic nostalgia trip for me. The monsters never looked better, the move never felt punchier and the world never looked alive-er. While far from perfect (imposed motion controls, really?), P:LGP was a real blast to play through, and left me wanting for more. Why not a new Let’s Go game, one for every generation, every two years eh? Hit me up Nintendo.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Outer Worlds

 

Bob

Game of the Year: Subnautica

While lacking the huge scope and polish of the other games on my list, this was simply unlike anything I’ve ever played. Like a cross between an open world  survival game and a walking sim, it drip feeds written narrative to give structure to your natural curiosity to explore and discover. The underwater world filled me with wonder, coupled with just enough mild anxiety to make it deeply exciting, and this was supplemented by interesting and enticing means of progression through crafting and base building. I also really appreciated the sleek style of the sci-fi technology, and how well the look and feel of the overall art style, UI design, hypnotic music and audio fit the theme. I ended up spending 70 hours in this game and I can’t stop recommending it to people. Get it, you fools!

2nd Place: God of War

Everything about this game feels focused and hand-crafted, with a great story, amazing combat, and insane visuals on PS4 Pro. I regularly spent whole minutes just marvelling at how rich and polished it was. More than any other game this year, I want to return to this one for more.

3rd Place: Red Dead Redemption 2

I bought and Xbox One X especially for this, and I have not been disappointed. You can tell from every animation, interaction, and sweeping vista, that this game has had an unbelievable amount of time and effort poured into it. That said, I’ve not finished it yet, and there are some pretty egregious usability issues that lead to messy, unsatisfying moments, holding it back from a higher spot on my list.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Cyberpunk 2077

 

Brianne

Game of the Year: Monster Hunter World

Although the console version launched much earlier in 2018, I got my hands on Monster hunter just recently in the Fall.  From the get go, I could feel the MMO-like experience of Monster Hunter World, but to me it wasn’t just a multiplayer game. With the expeditions and optional quests it not only scratched the multiplayer itch of teaming up on a massive monster, but also provided a fulfilling single player experience. As someone who spent many hours in MMO’s Monster Hunters in-world interactions, the mid-hunt monster brawls and the little pets you could collect stood out to me. Whether I was playing it on my own, or alongside a friend, Monster Hunter provided an adventurous and immersive experience in its vast world.

2nd Place: Overcooked

Over the summer I had the pleasure of stumbling upon Overcooked 2 on the Nintendo store and it was an immediate hit as a couch co-op. With the new environments and the same hectic kitchen gameplay, I had no problem jumping back into the world of Overcooked. I found the addition of the throw mechanic and the new more-dynamic environments made Overcooked 2 stand out over its predecessor. From strategising our plan of attack to managing hectic and a sometimes-moving environment, Overcooked 2 has challenge, fun and chaos at every turn.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Outer Worlds

 

Cheryl

Game of the Year: God of War

I loved this game both for the heartfelt story and satisfying gameplay. By far my favourite moments were when Kratos and Atreus (and then Mimir) were having a chat in the boat on the way to an objective. I actually felt a bit guilty when I interrupted Mimir three times trying to finish the same story as I got to an objective too quickly. Evidently not guilty enough to stop doing it; I had some very fun fights to be getting on with.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Outer Worlds

 

Chloe

Game of the Year: God of War

A near-perfect game which ticked so many boxes for me. God of War had such a compelling narrative, and the exploration of Norse mythology through world-building and character-tales was extremely engaging. I grew to have such an emotional investment in many of the characters, and obviously the growing relationship between Kratos and Atreus was incredible to watch throughout. I particularly appreciated it as a game which saw Kratos and Atreus breaking free of the toxic masculinity that is so prevalent within gaming, a great example that as an industry “we must be better”. The cinematic visuals were a sight to behold, and I don’t think I’ve ever used photo mode as much as I did in this game! The combat was perfect; fluid, fun and free-of-frustration. The Leviathan axe just felt so satisfying to throw and recall, and the gradual increase of new, varied combat mechanics throughout the whole game kept things from ever getting stale or button-mashy. Amazing!

2nd Place: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 

Wow did BLOPS 4 massively exceed my expectations! Despite the lack of campaign, this is essentially a 3-games-in-1 package and all 3 game modes are exceptionally polished, layered and most importantly, so much fun. The option for split-screen for local multiplayer is an extremely welcome addition, and I’ve had endless nights of fun and competition playing alongside my girlfriend since its release – with Blackout, the battle royale mode, being a particular standout. Weeks and weeks of playing non-stop and we still have so much to do in this action-packed game, that’s breathed some new life into one of my favourite franchises.

3rd Place: Forza Horizon 4

By far the most beautiful game of 2018 for me, the graphics and scenery in this game are simply stunning in 4K. The newly implemented season feature keeps gameplay fresh; simultaneously making it seem like four beautiful maps in one, and also forcing you to adapt your driving according to the weather. Horizon 4 feels great, the cars respond sensitively, but it never takes itself too seriously and ultimately lets you feel like a total badass racing, drifting and speeding around the hills of Scotland in a pimped-out Lamborghini; what’s not to love about that?

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Last of Us 2

 

Gareth

Game of the Year: Subnautica

How amazing to play a survival game, all full of the usual crafting and gathering mechanics, that also has a story to follow and a genuine sense of progression. And without a skill tree in sight, too. It’s also scary; thalassophobia is a real thing.

2nd Place: Hollow Knight

I feel a bit bad for including this (it was on my colleague Amy’s list last year!), but, you know: #IdealForSwitch. The Soulsborne/Metroidvania hybrid we’ve all been waiting for, and a frankly ridiculous value for money purchase. Lovely atmospheric sound design too.

3rd Place: Spider-Man

I had a fantastic time playing through Insomniac’s Spider-Man: a fun take on the character and villains, incredible polish and attention to detail, an effective storyline, and on hard mode especially, some fun challenging moments. But this has to go in on the basis of accessibility: from options to autocomplete QTEs, to skipping puzzles, to various colourblindness and subtitle options, to a normalised sound mode.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

 

Harvey

Game of the Year: Marvel’s Spider-Man

Choosing a Game of the Year was tough this time around, however I think based on how consistently great this game was throughout, I think I had to choose it. I’m not sure I’ve ever played a superhero game which makes you feel like you are the protagonist quite so effectively. The web-swinging was one of the most satisfying traversal mechanics I’ve encountered, and the combat was technical but also simple enough for even someone as unskilled as me to be effective at. Once I finished the game’s story, I did something I never usually do and checked the trophy list, trying to find a reason to play more. I only had a few trophies left and promptly earned them, getting the first (and likely only) Platinum trophy I have on PS4.

2nd Place: God of War

A very worthy runner up in my opinion – yet another game that is incredibly successful in making the player powerful. Although the combat and all-round badassery of Kratos was thoroughly enjoyable, it was the unexpectedly engaging story that I enjoyed most about God of War. The various cameos from characters from Norse mythology was great, as was the character building between them. And, you know, that axe.

3rd Place: Spyro Reignited Trilogy

A tough choice for the last runner-up spot, but Spyro wins on pure nostalgia value. Playing through these games again was a real joy (not hair-pullingly frustrating like Crash), and I was surprised at how much I remember of the originals. The updated visuals and animations mean that the game actually looks how I remember it with my rose-tinted glasses on. Nostalgia aside, Spyro still plays like a great 3D platformer, albeit one that isn’t necessarily going to challenge most players.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Beyond Good and Evil 2

 

Jonny

Game of the Year: Monster Hunter World

I’m well aware that my love for this game is for very personal reasons and maybe that’s why I can overlook so many of its flaws but the game just scratches too many of my itches in ways other games don’t.

I’ve played from the beginning of the game all the way to HR rank 101 entirely cooperatively with my girlfriend. It’s been hundreds of hours of hunting together and there have been dozens of triumphs (and failures) along the way. Sharing in those moments together has been one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had. A stream of free content drops and seasonal events has meant that there’s always more to do together.

This was by far the game I’ve played the most in 2018.

2nd Place: Grand Theft Auto Online

This game is 4 years old. It’s also the only game my brother and my friends from college all own. Being able to catch up with friends and family while working towards long term goals under the guise of gangsters, bikers and thieves isn’t something we all planned for. It just kind of happened.

We’re now at the point where the game has given us dozens of anecdotes; I have fond memories of a negotiation with a rival gang of players that ended in a bloodbath over a package. Bits like those are why we all keep coming back.

3rd Place: Marvel’s Spider-Man

(Mild Spoilers ahead)

I really like Spider-man comics and I felt this game really embodied what made his story so great. The writing, voice-acting and narrative really pulled me in while the combat and web-swinging sealed the deal for me.

There’s an underlying melancholy in the game as well. Even if they’re doing their best, the characters are flawed and things don’t always work out for everyone. The end to Marvel’s Spider-Man really hit me in the feels so good too making it one of my best gaming moments of 2018.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Outer Worlds

 

Marco

Game of the Year: Detroit: Become Human

What makes us human? This existential question is as old as the dawn of the human species, and philosophers, anthropologists, psychologists and (thankfully) primatologists attempted to answer it in many ways. Detroit brings this fundamental dilemma directly to the players, asking them to identify the subtle line that divides humans from sentient androids. Should androids that resemble and feel the same human emotions considered humans as well? Well, it’s up to the player to decide it. This is because the game doesn’t provide you with a universally-true answer, but instead, gives the players hundreds of possibilities to express their own opinions, values, and feelings about the human nature. The choices that players make are meaningful, impactful, and often, difficult. Main characters might permanently die as a consequence of bad choices, so players have to evaluate really carefully if saving that not-so-interesting NPC is really worth it. The game might not be perfect (i.e. some accessibility and replaying issues are present) but the narrative is engaging, the acting is great, and the number of different possible endings has no precedent.

This game made me think and reflect, giving me at the same time an incredible and engaging gaming experience. For these reasons, Detroit is the game I enjoyed the most in 2018.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Pokemon 2019/Crash Team Racing

 

Ori

Game of the Year: Marvel’s Spider-Man

I could never get bored swinging around New York with Spotify on in the background, it’s the perfect way to kill the time (and bad guys), especially when you want to relax and play at your own pace. As a reformed completionist I had to seriously refrain from trying to 100% the plethora of side quests, collectables and kickass alternative outfits. The combat reminds me of the Arkham games and Shadow of Mordor – for me it means I wasn’t bogged down with too many combos and the fights felt smooth. The only thing that could have made this game better would have been if Stan Lee had narrated it like the original PS games.

2nd Place: A Way Out 

I’m always searching for a good couch co-op game and we need more games like this one. Prison fights, car chases, arm wrestling, baseball, Connect 4, throwing chickens, stealing cookies, hiding in laundry. It has everything. If you have a friend, go play now.

3rd Place: The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

A beautiful, emotional mini-journey with stunning visuals and music. Although it doesn’t include any of the characters from the first two games, it was the perfect way to momentarily satiate my hunger for the Life is Strange universe in anticipation for the release of Season 2, what’s more it’s free!

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: The Last of Us 2

 

Seb

Game of the Year: Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead’s story of internal conflict, and the last hurrah of an old-fashioned way of life, could almost be a parody of the game itself. Rockstar’s stunningly beautiful world contrasts against their outdated and unfit-for-purpose UI, controls, and tutorialisation. No sooner am I swept up in a breathtaking and seemingly-endless landscape, than I’m brought back to earth by a figurative or literal hoof to the face: accidentally assaulting an innocent bystander, or upending my nag into a passing tree. Frustrations aside, it will be the memories of Red Dead’s sweeping vistas and interesting characters that last. There is no question that it is an absolute masterpiece.

2nd Place: Beat Saber

A masterclass in simplicity, Beat Saber is the ultimate see-it-and-need-it experience. The thumping soundtrack and ridiculous difficulty have kept me coming back for more, week after week. Jumping into VR before work for a quick song or two is a joy, and a bit of a workout.

3rd Place: Into the Breach

I’m a die-hard FTL fan, so Into The Breach was an inevitable purchase – especially once it hit the Switch – but its unabashed complexity and pacing has resonated with me in ways that similar games have not (looking at you, XCOM). I particularly love the content unlocking meta game that allows on-demand exploration of new ways to play.

Most Anticipated Game of 2019: Beyond Good and Evil 2


Hope you enjoyed reading – Everyone at Player Research wishes you a wonderful holidays and a happy new year!