5. Playerunknown's Battlegrounds
PUBG Corporation, Bluehole
Though PUBG did not invent the genre, it remains my favourite so far out of all the BR games I’ve played this year. More importantly than artistic graphics, innovative gameplay, or even basic stability and playability (all of which this game was certainly lacking), PUBG did something that not many games (especially multiplayer titles) have been able to do for me. For the first time in a while, I got scared playing a game. With the knowledge that scoped-AR wielding foes could be stalking around any corner of the map, the uncertainty of inconsistent loot acquisition, and the constant looming threat of the ever-encroaching “blue circle,” PUBG kept my level of fear, and thus, exhilaration, at crazy high levels all throughout a match. Every new town or compound looming over the horizon gave way to further doubt and questioning, every shot heard across the valleys and hills forced another discussion about which direction to head or which to be weary of. This game more than any forces near-constant communication and teamwork, and playing with my teams of friends was another really strong reason why this game stood out for me this year. Most importantly, this game helped me to recognize the fun in losing, and helped me to understand the importance of losing in order to improve my skills. You lose a lot in PUBG, but for good reason. While I can’t recall the hundreds of wins I must have across all other competitive games I’ve played over the course of my gaming life, I can remember each and every detail of my 5 wins in PUBG last year. That's something special.
4. XCOM 2
Firaxis Games, 2K Games
XCOM 2 scratched half of a very important itch for me, an itch that's been itchy since I played Final Fantasy Tactics, both on the PS1 and then later on the PSP. The isometric tactical turn-based combat was something I was missing, and more than anything I really enjoyed the strong bonds I began to form with each of my Squad Members with me as their Commander. It’s an interesting game, in that it’s difficulty lies primarily in how much value you as the player place upon the lives of your soldiers. There were many missions that I would have succeeded, but decided to restart due to the loss of a veteran soldier that had been with me from Mission 1. I simply couldn’t go on saving the world from aliens knowing that my carelessness in planning led to the death of a dedicated and valuable soldier. I began to outfit them in gear and clothing not necessarily best suited to their playstyle, but what I thought they would prefer to be using. This game is on my list because in addition to all the fun I had with it, it really caused me to care a lot about my team, to the point where I wasn’t trying to alpha-build my way through, but listen to my mental version of what they would want. If you know me, and the way I play games, you’d know that this is a big achievement for XCOM 2.
3. Dark Souls III
From Software, Namco Bandai
What can I say more about this game that I haven’t already said so many times across countless podcasts, and the feature I wrote in April largely inspired by my experiences in DSIII? This was the first "SoulsBorne" game I went into blind, the first challenging game that challenged and eventually overcame my desire to alpha-build, and the first game in the series that I finished to a personal level of completionism. I also had so much fun in the PVP, with its extremely limited communication options giving way to the sometimes absurd and always intriguing methods of conveying intent or instruction to players who I was sometimes trying to kill, and who were sometimes trying to kill me. The two DLCs were excellent, one in size and one in story, and I always feel grateful for a meaningful reason to return to a game I love. The series’ conclusion with The Ringed City DLC especially was not only challenging to complete, but presented it’s story in the perfect enigmatic and environmental way that is endemic to From Software’s games. Really, any further than that, my praise becomes nothing more than “I like this game and it is good.”
2. Darkest Dungeon
Red Hook Studios, Merge Games
If XCOM 2 scratched half of the itch left by Final Fantasy Tactics all those years ago with its tactical combat and characters with whom I felt inseparable, Darkest Dungeon scratched that itch 10x harder. I fell in love with this game after my first dungeon. A large contributory factor was the narrator, whose constant updates helped to pick up a lot of the slack from my imagination, so that I was more able to focus on gameplay, which was a welcome boost. Once again, I was incredibly attached to my roster of characters, and this time around my attachment was supported by the stress system whereby their personalities were developed through their successes and failures in dungeons. Should I really consider taking my Highwayman into the Cove when I know he has a crippling fear of the terrifying fish-monsters that inhabit it? Nevermind the negative gameplay stat that such a decision would confer, this would be simply cruel! Another strong mechanic that really resonated with me was the buying menu that appears right before setting off into a dungeon. This final ‘are you sure’ question of preparedness really helped to reinforce the fact that once you embark on your quest to purge a dungeon, you are stuck there until you succeed, die, or run turn-tail out the way you came in. The game and it’s art have such personality, and all of these things work together to create for the player an experience that you end up really caring about. In addition, the depth of stat building and skill selection really helps to add a level of gameplay challenge that feels good to get right.
1. Destiny 2
For all its warts and woes, Destiny 2 is my favourite game of last year. I really enjoyed all of my gaming experiences this year, but the race for 1st is not even close. I’m serious in saying that all those other games below it on the list were only fighting for 2nd place. To put into perspective just how much of this game I have played, in the 3 years that Destiny 1 had been out before 2, I have logged 301 hours into playing that game. Since only the 24th of October, 2017, I have already logged 182 hours slaying the fallen, taken, cabal, vex, and hive threats to our solar system in D2. There are many reasons why I really really enjoy playing these games. The first and most obvious would be the extremely polished shooting mechanics that I believe only a Bungie game can truly deliver. The gunplay is superb, and every class of weapon stands distinct in its area of expertise, giving an intensely varied style to all possible play options. Additionally, this time around for D2 they’ve really done a lot better of a job of presenting what I already thought was an intriguing story in an incredible world.
The setting for the Destiny games is something that I am extremely into, I really can’t see myself ever getting over just how awesome I feel playing the part of a Guardian becoming a legend. The shared world elements help to make me feel like I am really a part of a greater effort to rid the world of darkness and bring the light of The Traveler to all corners of the universe. Also, this time around I worked really hard to level up quickly, take on the raids as soon as we could get our fireteam ready for the challenge, and work for the best armors, weapons, and cosmetics I could. I grinded for the coolest loot and honed my skillset and game knowledge in PVE and PVP in order to be a valuable member of my clan. Without sounding too much like I belong in r/gatekeeping, it feels really good to be really good at this game. Having played WoW and similar games before Destiny, I had resigned myself in my mind to staying in the average tier of players, never having seen the Mythic difficulties of things like raid content or the Legendary rewards available at those high levels of play. While that was ok for me (and anyone, play your games however you want), I have really grown to appreciate the feeling of being ‘good’ at a game I love. I really think that in addition to all of the other things I stated, this feeling of accomplishment is what has Destiny 2 holding the #1 spot on my list this year, and the 1# spot in my heart.
Games I need to play in 2018:
Alpha Protocol, Dragon’s Dogma, Prey, Divinity Original Sin 2, Dishonoured 2, They Are Billions, Sea of Thieves, Subnautica
Overwatch, Mass Effect: Andromeda Multiplayer, No Man’s Sky, The Witcher 3