Another year is about to close out and it’s time for me to ponder what games have made the biggest impression on my time and enjoyment. With big changes coming next year that will broaden the reach of people who can play console games we might truly see mobile phones come into their own not as a platform themselves but as a means to stream games from other sources. But it’s only the start of it and time will tell.
Please note that these opinions are my own so feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments below.
My Best Game
The Outer Worlds seems very much like a throwback to modern Bethesda RPGs, which developer Obsidian has plenty of experienice with, but it does one thing “new” which I really appreciated in that it made the most of a smaller scope and gave you a good experience and story that didn’t require a massive time investment to see through to the end.
You play as a colonist from a long lost ship that has been awoken to find your new home is being run into the ground by the very corporations that brought you here. Taking cues from Fallout, Borderlands and maybe even Firefly, there’s plenty of humour to be found in this bleak future where people are contractually obligated to use marketing slogans in conversation. In terms of guiding the overall story the game pushes plenty of major decisions that impact the world and it pulls no punches in throwing one your way from the outset. It gives players options for replaying the game differently too – there’s videos of a speedrun taking advantage of a “dumb” character which amazed me both in that it was possible but that the game lets determined players get away with completing the game in the worst possible way.
The nature of the story also leaves room for more tales to be told with its space western vibes. After stepping away from Fallout 4 this game has brought me back to this style of RPG again and I found it my top pick for the year.
My Also Best Games
The combat could do with a few fixes (okay, a lot) but Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order did give me an adventure that I really enjoyed playing. Cast as a Padawan (apprentice) who survived the Jedi purge from Episode III the story spans a few worlds where you must regain your lost skills and prevent the Empire’s Inquisitors from finding the last traces of the Jedi Order. The game itself reminds me most of Rise of the Tomb Raider with large distinct areas to explore requiring return visits to find everything hidden away. The story works with some well placed references to help it fit within the timelines established in the films. It’s by no means perfect but I played through it from start to finish and walked away mostly satisfied. It’s also the first of the game’s I mention from developer Respawn who’ve had great success this year.
There had been some good hype in the lead up to the release of Void Bastards but I didn’t expect it to consume my time as much as it did. Feeling like a cross between FTL, Doom and British sci-fi comics the game casts you as a reconstituted prisoner who must raid abandoned ships to earn their possible freedom. The game’s mechanics makes it easy to play in short bursts and the presentation is totally unique and a joy to see in action. It was easily one of the best games of the year for me and helped fill a void (lol) in my game time where I couldn’t find the next big thing to consume my time.
Best Late Games
I’ve been playing a lot of Sea of Thieves this year too… much more than I had expected and even more than when it launched. What’s available to players has expanded a lot over time and giving players plenty of choice in what to do. Turns out it’s also really good fun as a social adventure game with a few friends and it doesn’t require much beyond sailing the high seas and beating up a few skeleton pirates of that’s all you want. Or you could hunt skeleton pirate captains, chase buried treasure or even partake in PvP in the Arena. In my case I spend far too much time fishing in the game much to my shipmate’s amusement… it’s relaxing! It’s also given me try out a little streaming which I hope to do more of in the future. 🙂
Halo: The Master Chief Collection FINALLY bringing Halo: Reach into the fold was a long time coming but I’m loving it. The campaign is a great side story to the main franchise backed up with multiplayer that works perfectly. I’m really enjoying getting back into the Firefight too. Playing Firefight Arcade with the Rocketfight variant results in explosions aplenty; just like the good old days! It’s been a big 18 months for the game and with this last update MCC has now completed one of the biggest turn arounds in gaming and saved the franchise in the process. Considering the success of its PC launch it looks like the series has still got a life and I’m glad for it.
Games That Surprised
Though the game had good pedigree I was still surprised with how much I enjoyed Rage 2. Taking on the role of the last Ranger in a post apocalyptic wasteland the game turns into one fun power fantasy as you and your guns chew through enemies faster than you might think possible. We’re not talking nuance here… we’re talking explosions… BIG explosions!
Arriving earlier in the year, who’d have thought Apex Legends would succeed well enough to give the behemoth that is Fortnite a few scares? Respawn’s take on the Battle Royale shooter threw in a few tweaks to the formula that enforced a team ethic and communication as well as an Overwatch like aspect with its character selections. Of the three BR games I play (PUBG, Fortnite and this) I’d say Apex is by far the most accessible due to its great controls and user friendly features. All of this was spun off from their Titanfall IP too and it works brilliantly. Still makes me want to see Titanfall 3 though…
Games That Disappointed
I did enjoy Crackdown 3 when I played through it at launch as it delivers on giving players a modern version of one of the Xbox 360’s surprise games. But it unfortunately stops there. The once vaunted multiplayer with its promised cloud destruction was DOA and there’s little incentive to return to it once you’re done which is sad as it might also spell the end of the franchise too. But Crackdown does make for a good Game Pass title and perhaps the developers may find a way to keep the series alive that way.
Best Game I Should Be Playing
Now that I’ve binged my way through the Netflix version of The Witcher I’m finally back on the Wild Hunt again with CD Projekt Red’s third game in their series and hoping to edge closer to the end this time. Already in my time back playing the game I’ve seen references that make a lot more sense and show how the common source material (ie. the books) fit into this. To say I’m impressed with the quality and consistency in the world building in an understatement. I’ve spent time playing the game since launch but tended to play a quest or two then put it aside which I think is because completing one quest in The Witcher III feels like a compelling story in itself which I can happily put aside. They’ve certainly knocked Bioware off their perch in terms of story quality.
Truth is though I’ve dragged this out for far too long now and the Netflix series has fired me up to “play it properly” and see what I’ve missed. Already a couple of days into playing again and I’ve been clearing up quests that were left unfinished for YEARS and discovering there’s a huge amount amount more to do too if I ever consider trying to 100% the game. Funnily enough it doesn’t feel that long ago since I last played and I can remember enough of the key parts to head in the right direction.
With Cyberpunk 2077 on its way I really need to complete this (and perhaps the DLC) so I can not only dive into that game but also the next season of The Witcher on Netflix. It also looks like more games may be on the way too after CDPR resolved a dispute with the author. There’s so much talk about “games of the decade” lately I think this one might be most deserving of that title.
Expectations for 2020
With new consoles incoming it’s going to be a big year on the hardware front with both Sony and Microsoft intending to bring out hardware that will hopefully push the envelope on performance and value. There’s no doubt games will be coming with them to justify their existence but we may not know just how much will be available until E3. Halo Infinite will be a launch title which is good enough for me but we don’t know what else will be coming too but it seems likely another Forza Motorsport will be part of the mix too.
It’ll be interesting to see if any of these steal the thunder from Cyberpunk 2077 which has been steadily building up hype with some impressive tech and world building. That game will have launched before the new consoles so may dominate the news for months if CDPR support it to the degree they did with The Witcher III where every DLC release, no matter how small, was greeted with enthusiasm.
The biggest question for me might be will I still be playing Elite Dangerous? Pretty good chance I will! It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I’ve got a lot of time and value from this one game. And posted more about it than anything else here. It might just be my own game of the decade simply because of that!
Finally, though it’s not related to games James (aka Grocs) published his first book this year and it’s a great read for fans of the fantasy genre. More details on Wolf and the Crow can be found here. You should check it out. 🙂
Hope everyone’s year closes out on a high note and I wish you well going into 2020!