My Top 5 Games Of 2018

Christmas and New Year joy to all! Now that the end of 2018 is near, this is the ideal time to look back on video games and which games rose to the top for me. Obviously, I haven’t played all games this year, as much as I would like to have that much free time. So, you may have choices that aren’t present on the list either because I didn’t get round to them or they didn’t make the cut. Purely opinion based. So without further stalling, here’s my top 5 games of 2018.

5. Super Smash Bros Ultimate

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This game is a tricky one to gauge for me as it has only just come out. I haven’t put as much time into as other games on my list but I feel this fits comfortably at the number 5 spot. I was concerned that I’d outgrown Super Smash Bros as I hardly played the Wii U version after extensively playing the previous entries. But, so far I’ve put over 20 hours into the World of Light mode alone and I have no sign of stopping. The appeal of all characters and levels from past games being crammed into one package, plus more, is worth the price of admission alone. But, the amount of extra content and the creative ways Nintendo’s series lore is interwoven within the Smash battles is really something special. The game doesn’t need this much content but I fully appreciate the little nods to past series in the World of Light mode. And speaking as mainly a solo gamer, I really feel like the AI is a huge improvement from the last game. Fights are challenging and the AI utilise all tools and dodge roll and hop their way extensively across the stages. Sure, sometimes it seems like the AI is reading my inputs but I appreciate the challenge. Overall this is a great package and it plays great. You won’t come across another game with this much content and a game that also provides the ability to punch Mario into oblivion. I guarantee it.

4. Spider-Man

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I was so happy that this game exceeded the web-swinging from Spider-Man 2! The phrase ‘Captures how it feels to be Spided-Man’ or similar was repeated so much in reviews that it actually became sort of a meme. And I want to avoid saying that but I can’t. It really does capture the feeling of being Spider-Man or as best as I can imagine. The acrobatic swinging is on top form and the fighting is fast pace and fluid. The story is a real highlight for me. There’s a great balance of Spidey characters and villains without being too heavy with the references. I never felt like the story had too much or too little going for it and I genuinely cared for the heroes and main villain which is a great achievement. It ranks 4th because a few things hold the game back which I’d love to see improved in the sequel. I have an issue sometimes with the combat. It gets a bit cumbersome at times compared to the Batman Arkham series and it leads to me bumbling into walls and awkwardly jumping around the brawl. The Miles and Mary Jane missions also wore out their welcome quickly for me. I just didn’t find them fun, they weren’t always clear and they slowed the pacing right down. A change of pace when done right is a beautiful compliment to the previous or following scene but when done wrong it just makes you wish to get back to what you were doing. All moans aside though, I fully recommend this game even if you aren’t a Spider-Man fan.

3. Monster Hunter World

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The Monster Hunter series is one I’ve dabbled in from time to time. I play handhelds less than consoles and so I drop off the portable Monster Hunter’s quite quickly. By quickly I mean after 100 hours which is rookie numbers if you know Monster Hunter games. And so when World was announced I was pretty excited about playing it on the main screen again. It didn’t disappoint. World brings the Monster Hunter series to the big screen magnificently whilst improving the overall gameplay. A big issue I had in the past was how rigid my character felt at times but in World, your character feels sturdy yet mobile. It plays great and features an online system I really enjoy. I hardly use headsets and Monster Hunter World makes it easy to group up with strangers for monster hunting fun and communication emotes which while basic, offer enough variety to get the point across. And then you have the monster tracking system which really streamlines the experience and makes the series feel more focused than previous iterations where you mostly ran to new zones until you finally stumbled upon your sought after prey. Overall, just a great game to hop into for some slaying co-op fun.

2. Dead Cells

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Sometimes, I just want a basic game. A game that is stripped of a big plot and dialogue and loads of filler features and collectables I couldn’t care less about. Dead Cells represents that for me. You spawn as this weird glob thing that attaches itself to a corpse, you run through increasingly difficult levels while finding new weapons and tools and upgrading your stats. You fight through slogs of enemies and run though twisting pathways until you get to a boss or the next section. And you keep going until you make it to the end or you die. After which you respawn as the glob and set off again. If playing through similar corridors isn’t your thing then perhaps Dead Cells isn’t for you as even though the layout changes, there are still structural placements that stay the same. Games like The Binding of Isaac change more of their layouts than Dead Cells but Dead Cells is more about your own comprehension of the combat. You get rewarded for being fast and Dead Cells but you get punished for being sloppy and so you need to strike a fine balance between skill and rashness. I personally love how Dead Cells plays. It’s frantic but controllable. And when you have that control, you have this sense of power that I don’t feel in a lot of games. The way the character moves and how responsive it feels really accentuates that too. It’s a game where I can be effortlessly cutting down legions of enemies one second and then all of a sudden I’m way out of my depth and dodge rolling like an idiot. But it really is a game where the more you play, the more you see your progress through your actions.  To add to that, the more you play, the more permanent upgrades and access to weapons you unlock. Meaning you have more variety and pathways to explore. Dozens of hours in and I’m still unlocking stuff. It’s a game where you can pick up and play an hour of or spend all day trying make it to the end of a run. It’s a games game to me. Lacking in what we expect from most big AAA releases but making up for it in refined classic gaming. And Dead Cells is a masterclass in that regard.

1. God Of War

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This year, like last year with Persona 5, God Of War was my top choice easily. Not only do I believe this to be a well told and fun game to play. But, I really think this is a high point for how game studios should handle past projects. It’s easy to reboot something or to do a sequel a few years later but God Of War really feels like a proper evolution of a character. You could play this game on its own and have a fantastic experience with it but I believe this game is really elevated when you’ve played the past games. Kratos was fun to play as in past games but you would have hated to be his friend or related to him in any way. He was essentially a selfish jerk, fun to play as but basic in character. In 2018’s version of him it really feels like the studio looked at him as a whole and just challenged themselves on making this loud character and evolving him into his next progression. And not even just a small alteration, a big character change whilst also keeping his past nature and actions still present. You feel the weight on Kratos, this heavy burden that he tries to move on from. He reeks of remorse, maybe not about who he killed because let’s face it, a lot of those gods had it coming, but he regrets what he allowed himself to become. I’m going to stop talking about Kratos now as this is the Game Of The Year, not Character Of The Year. Gameplay wise, it’s fantastic. Originally I thought the combat felt more clunky but it feels right for what they’re going for. It’s more weighted than previous games in the series. The Leviathan Axe is a fun new weapon and offers some really creative fighting. The Norse world is a beautiful touch and really opens up a lot of future conflicts which I eagerly await. God Of War is just really focused. It wants to tell a personal story, it doesn’t have loads of filler and collectable, there are fewer characters than fingers of the average person and the game is better for it. A lot of games have end of the world scenarios and God Of War, at its most basic level, is a story of a father and son bond. Sure, events happen around them but we play this game to see their growth. I have to give big praise for the writing and acting from the two leads. The game is leagues above others and joins the ranks of The Last Of Us in terms of characters that I genuinely cared for and wanted the very best for. It takes great skill to achieve that and it deserves recognition for it. Overall this is just a phenomenal game and one of the best returns to a series I can think of. This is how a series continuation should be. You use the past games as a strong foundation, you don’t bury it or dismantle it. Take what you made and what you learned from them and improve upon it. As Kratos told Atreus, ‘Don’t be sorry. Be better.’.

Honourable Mention: Shadow Of The Colossus

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So, I’m cheating here. This is a top 5 but shhhh, I won’t tell if you won’t. Honestly though, this choice is the choice I struggled with the most and one that I’m going to need to think about for future lists. I’ve played this game on PS2, PS3 and now the remastered version on PS4. I love this game and the version that came out this year. If, I were to include this as a contender for this list, Smash Bros wouldn’t be talked about. This is one of the best games of all time to me, never mind of the year. But it’s a remaster! Does that entitle it to be included? I personally don’t think I can include it. If it was my first time when playing it then sure. But, it’s not an original game of 2018 and so it didn’t make the cut. So, I’m writing this for your opinion honestly. Let me know how you feel about situations like this? Also, I just really wanted to recommend this game in case a reader hasn’t played it.

Thank you for reading and feel free comment on what you think of the list or your games of the year. Hope you all had a great Christmas and have a Happy New Year!

Trivia Time: Dead Cells Portraits

You may have noticed that I’m currently loving Dead Cells. I already wrote 2 articles, shill here: My opinion after a dozen or so hoursDead Cells Tips For Beginners and so to complete my trifecta, here’s some cool touches in the game.

So I literally completed my first run today. After many hours of dying just before the final level (at least so far), I visited the High Peak Castle more times than my family. Through it’s lavish corridors and ornate walls, I mercilessly slaughtered many of the kings men. I spared all the king’s horses though. I’m not that sick. Now and then, when I could get a breather and wasn’t too tense to notice, I started to recognise certain gaming icons on the walls. Apparently the king is a fan of fantastic games. Among the elaborate decor you’ll find many portraits scattered around the castle walls. Take a closer look and you may see some familiar faces. The very first one I noticed was from the incredible game Transistor.

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Among other icons, the always fabulous Solaire was doing what he loves to do. Praising the sun.

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As far as I’m aware these are just references to these games and have no other impact on the game beyond aesthetic. It’s a nice touch though. The publishers, Motion Twin, clearly love video games, not only is it shown in these details, but also in their well crafted game. There are other video game references in these portraits and throughout the game but I’ll leave the rest to be found by yourself. So, next time you’re going through High Peak Castle, take in the artwork when you get the chance.

Dead Cells Tips

Currently I’m trying to clear a Dead Cells run. I got far but not far enough,  yesterday I got to the final boss (I think it is anyway) and died miserably. But I now continuously get within range of that fight. I’m not a master of the game but I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve. So here are a few things I’ve learned and you never know, they may help you too.

  1. Everyone will have their own way of playing Dead Cells. Some will prefer bows to shields, or traps to grenades. I’ve no intention of saying ‘There’s only one way to win and if you don’t do this you’re stupid’. What I will say though is on each run, pick a focus. To simplify; there’s 3 stats you can upgrade. Brutality, Tactics and Survival. For your best chance, even though I know it’s tempting to spread your upgrades evenly, try to funnel most of the upgrades into one category. Specifically, a category that buffs most of your gear. Combine that with the right mutations and you’re building a strong run. For example, Twin Daggers, Firebrands, Powerful Grenade and Fire Grenade, which are all Brutality gear (red colour). Add the mutation which lets grenades almost half their cooldown, throw in 10-20 stat increases into the Brutality stat and you have a strong bit of kit.
  2. Continuing on from my ‘pick a focus and stick to it’, I’ll now say, maybe don’t always do that. Yes, I’m being contradictory! For good reason too. This game isn’t Blondie’s One way or Another. It’s not black and white. Pick a focus but be flexible. If you find gear along the way that is better than your current gear, give it a go. It may not be in sync with your other weapons but its overall stats may be better. Not only that but…….
  3. ……..Use weapons that you’re comfortable with. Now if you did that all the time, you wouldn’t get better at this game and you’d be shooting yourself in the foot constantly. Try out other weapons and see what gear you prefer. I’d advise that a run that is going swell though isn’t the time to try new toys. If it’s working for you, why change it too much. I am a bow person over a shield person. I prefer the offensive approach and haven’t found my flow with shields. That’s why when I’m on a good Dead Cell run, if I have a Quick Bow II and come across a Front Shield V, even though I know the Front Shield is better stat wise, I’ll keep the bow. If you’re on a run where it’s pretty weak or in the early stages then go nuts and try out new gear. Remember though, just because you find higher level gear doesn’t mean you need to take that over a weapon you know. Play to your strengths, nobody else’s.
  4. Downward smash is your dear friend. Not only does it damage enemies you land near, but it also stuns them. On top of that, it negates being stunned from falling great heights. If you know the layout and what’s below I would almost always recommend slamming into the ground. I don’t recommend doing it if you don’t know what’s below though. Nothing more demeaning than pile driving yourself into spikes (yes I got the trophy for doing that). As long as there isn’t spikes or a pit you’re not only making a grand entrance to your foes but also shaving precious seconds off your run. Which, brings me to timed doors.
  5. Timed doors offer great rewards for those that risk it for a biscuit. But slow down Sonic, there’s no rush early on. Play the game at your own pace in your early runs, once you find your flow and how the game controls you’ll find that you can breeze through certain enemies. Once you have confidence in yourself and are comfortable with the controls, my advice, would be to always start like a sprint rather than a marathon. If you rush and die in the first level, what does it matter really? Survive and get access to the timed door and you’ve already set yourself with extra cash and cells to upgrade with. Overall you’ve made your game easier, even if you die in the next level, your Dead Cells experience has improved. Once you’re confident in your skills, then always go for the timed doors. If you miss one by a few seconds, screw it, get the next one. If you’re trailing behind by quite a bit, then forget about it. Explore all the level, kill all enemies you can and relax a bit.  If you can, always go for the timed doors, but that is once you’ve learnt the general level layout and enemy types. Otherwise, you’re just rushing to your doom.

Lastly, have fun. You don’t need to complete Dead Cells straight away. The more you play, the more you improve your chances. Even if you only spend 1 cell the entire game, that is still 1 cell more than you had the previous runs. It’s a game that greatly benefits from your time. When you die, think of all the cells you put towards your future endeavours and hit that restart button.  Best of luck.