I posted nothing last year, apparently.
2018 was a very busy year, but somehow I found time to play some games. Here they are, in no real order. Overall this has been a year of trying to figure out what genres I really like: I’ve put some time into games I didn’t get on with to try to push myself, and I’ve tried games that I think I’d otherwise have ignored. I’ve paid more attention to where I’m having fun and where I’m not.
I think I played most of Nier: Automata in 2017, but I finished it in 2018. It is an absolutely incredible game that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I don’t really know what to say about it: it does interesting things with narrative, and characters, and the nature of a game being played multiple times. I loved it. It isn’t perfect, but it’s so, so good.
Spec Ops: The Line
This was an interesting game. It looks like it’s going to be a fairly bland military shooter, and in gameplay terms, it really is, but the setting and story are absolutely wild. If the gameplay was a little better, this would be completely unmissable, but sadly it’s not quite there. Still, it’s a wonderful example of a story that only a game could tell: by the time you reach the end, you’ve really been on a journey with the characters.
Oh wow I’m still playing this game. I’ve been playing it for 249 hours, the last 70 of those on one base, and I have all but 3 of the achievements. I love it. This is my go-to game when I don’t know how long I’ll be playing for.
I’ve never been an achievement chaser, but for some reason I’ve got really into that in Factorio. It’s a very open game, and normally I bounce off that kind of thing, but the achievements have given me things to work on and that’s enabled me to really get into the mechanics of the game.
Super Mario Odyssey
What a lovely game this is! This was the first game I picked up on the Switch. It manages to combine loads of Mario nostalgia with new ideas and makes a great game out of it all. I got as far as the Dark Side, but I can’t be bothered to get the remaining moons. There are just so many! Perhaps I’ll get back to it one day.
Amnesia: Dark Descent
I try to do something a bit scary for Halloween when I can, and this year I decided to play Amnesia at last. I haven’t finished it yet, but it certainly is scary, and I’m enjoying it.
This game was the one where I really realised the strength of audio logs, journal entries, and the like. You’re suffering from amnesia, and along your journey you find pieces of your own diary which detail how you got to your current situation: it mixes the detailed, slowly told story of the past with the fast-paced fear of the present. I know this won’t be news to basically everyone else, but I’m not very perceptive, and this is the first time that I’ve really recognised how this technique works.
Magic The Gathering Arena
Woah, after so, so long, Magic The Gathering finally has a decent online version worth playing. And it’s free! The generosity of this game in giving out free cards is surprising, and very welcome. As a casual player with very little free time, it gives me enough cards to keep me interested, and enough free decks up front to give me things to do. That’s always been the barrier to entry for MTG and I think they’ve really solved it here.
I really enjoyed watching the OWL and had a few weeks of playing Overwatch quite regularly. It’s still a great game. I don’t have a lot more to say about it: it’s a good multiplayer shooter. If I had a team to play with I’d play all day.
I’ve been meaning to play this since it first hit early access and I finally found some time for it. It is huge and strange.
God of War
The storytelling in God of War is absolutely fantastic: a truly cinematic masterpiece. The combat is great fun and the level design is great, but the side quests left me cold and the variety of enemies was sorely lacking. Those small issues didn’t stop it from being an excellent and very moving game, though.
Fire Emblem Awakening
I have bounced off this game several times, and finally decided to push on through this time around. I’m glad I finished it and I had a good time, but I’m not going to be continuing with the series - tactics games are OK, but they don’t really engage me as much as I’d like. I did exactly the same thing with Final Fantasy Tactics: I bounced off that until I was working nights and had nothing to do at 5am.
Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
After hearing that this was amazing I picked it up in a sale and decided to make it my last game on the 3DS. Playing this, I realised that Zelda has a particular habit of employing a technique that I absolutely hate in games: the theme park queue trick. It keeps telling you that you have one more thing to do, but just as you think you’re done, you turn the corner and there’s a whole bunch more stuff to do. That aside, this was a very cool game, but it cemented my opinion that Zelda isn’t for me, in general.
I played this on my commutes to my new job. I’ve been really enjoying having a train ride to play games on after years of commuting by car: it’s a lovely way to experience a story.
I have friends who play a lot of Stellaris, and I can see why, but it seems to be a game I have to dedicate more time to: I just can’t finish a game in between save game breaking patches. This is a silly state of affairs because they happen months and months apart. I really need to put some proper time into this and actually see the endgame.
I love this game, by the way - I just never get round to it for some reason.
Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds
The good bits in PUBG are great - the build up of each game makes the firefights at the end really intense. Sadly, they are few and far between and I spend most of my time in this game moving from house to house, alone, waiting for a sniper to take me out.
Fortnite, on the other hand, is just a little faster and while that makes the best bits not as good as PUBG, it does remove a lot of the bad bits. Sadly, I really don’t get on with the building, so it’s not the game for me.
I spent a lot of this year with a child asleep on me, and a lot of the rest of the time was unpredictable. Picross on my phone got a lot of hours. This is a good puzzle style - how come I’ve never played it before?
Artifact is Valve’s new card game based on Dota, designed by Richard Garfield of Magic The Gathering fame. It is played across 3 boards simultaneously, and it looks really, really complicated. In practice, it’s actually quite simple to play - your decision space in any given moment is very small, so it’s a lot easier to get into than I expected. Sadly, it seems that the community disagrees and is falling off it quite quickly, but I’m hopeful that Valve will manage to change it to get people playing more, because it’s great. I’m hoping to play a lot more of it in 2019.
I’ve barely dipped my toe into Hollow Knight, but it looks very pretty. I’m not really sure if I like it, yet: maybe I don’t like metroidvania games? Somehow, I’ve never really played one!
Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Breath of the Wild is this incredibly beautiful game, to look at and to play. It is an open world like none before, with an amazing sense of depth. And… I don’t think I like it. I haven’t given up on it yet, but so far it’s just too open for me, just too directionless. I know that’s the whole draw of the game for most people, but I just keep finding myself in bad situations with enemies that are far too powerful, and I don’t feel like I have a quest within reach, and I’m lost, and my weapons are all broken, and I just don’t get it. I’ll keep trying.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Horizon is a big, beautiful game which I really enjoyed right up until the last 20 minutes or so. There’s a lot I could complain about but really, my memories are all great: it’s involving and rich, the story is good enough to keep me happy and the combat is loads of fun. I even did a few side quests, which you’ll rarely catch me getting involved in. There are too many systems in this game - levelling, skills, crafting, gear, hunting - and I don’t think any of them are deep enough, but that doesn’t stop it being very ambitious.