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

ssb-ultimate-smash-poster-artwork-part-2

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

spider-man-

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

monter-hunter

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

dead-cells logo

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

god_of_war_photo_mode

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

Colossus

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.

Image result for transistor ps4

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

Image result for high peak castle solaire

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.

Just A Quick Go: Dead Cells

After my 20-25th death in Dead Cells, I thought I’d take a break and explain why I keep chucking myself at deaths cruel embrace. I’ve had my eye on Dead Cells for a while now but always been hesitant to fully jump on the hype train. The graphics looked amazing, the combat looked fluid and fast. It looked like a fantastic game but I kept hearing that word being thrown around, which kind of put me off it. That amalgamation of two brands, Metroidvania.

Before you brandish the pitchforks, I don’t hate those games. I prefer Metroid Prime to the 2D games though. I tend to fall off the 2D Metroid games at a quick rate. Except for Metroid Fusion, that was a brilliant game. Castlevania I haven’t really played except Castlevania on the N64 which, even in my 10 year old mind, I knew that was a dud rental. After that I never touched it again until the DS games, which I liked. But with both series there is always a point, where after hours into their respective labyrinths I think ‘Where do I go now?’. These games are designed so that you’ll find a pathway but will need a certain tool/key/skill to go that way. The problem is I always end up forgetting where that was and I just lose interest fast when I’m finding dead end after dead end. Dead Cells alleviates this issue for me by not only having a map that has pictures for my dumb brain but also by being a rogue-lite game. A fantastic one at that.

In Dead Cells you play as……….I’ve no idea actually. You are a blob that rolls into a corpse, controls that corpse and then heads off on his adventure. There isn’t much in the way of story here. It’s mostly filler text, scribblings on walls and observations your character can make. These help to fill the world but so far I don’t really know what this world is. Does that matter in a rogue-lite? Not really. There may be a story I’m missing or a reveal at the end but I’ve not even beat the game yet so I can’t explain the world. But that works in Dead Cells favour. As you control this blob controlling a body (I’m a bit of a blob myself so I know how that feels), you venture through different areas on an island, fighting your way through people and abominations. On your travels you will gather a bounty of resources including better weapons, stat boosts, blueprints for new gear, traps, money and the all important cells. Cells are the name of the game both figuratively and literally. Sure on your quest you may find a fantastic sword and astonishing bow but as soon as you die though, you lose all your gear. Cells however, are used to make your next journey easier.

Dead Cells Jars 3
The more you play, the more these blueprints will fill the jars. It’s a visual treat at the start of each run, to see how much you’ve progressed.

As you progress and slay enemies, they will sometimes drop cells. Once you reach the end of the area you are currently in, you go to a hub between areas. Here you can retool your gear, refill on health, enhance your character through mutations (more on that later) and most importantly; spend cells on eternal upgrades. For example, on your previous area you found a blueprint for a slick looking bow. On arrival at the hub space, you speak to a character who trades cells for game wide permanent buffs. Say I had 40 cells and the new bow blueprint I found costs 30 to create and to put into the game’s rotation. I put my cells into that and unlock the bow. Now that bow can appear on all my future runs. Consider it an investment. Now I have 10 cells left. I’m sure you didn’t need me to do that math for you but there it is anyway. What to do with that spare 10? I could put it toward a sword that poisons enemies, an extra health flask on top of my other 2, a perk that allows me to carry over 3000 of my gold to my next run upon my death. There are tons of ways to increase your arsenal and better your odds on your next go. There are lots of ways to increase your chances as you play. You will come across shops, find chests with goodies inside, find cursed chests that offer tantalising surprises for those who are willing to risk it for a biscuit, secret areas and be able to utilise up to 3 mutations.

Mutations are basically buffs for that individual run. When you first start playing Dead Cells, you have a dozen of so to choose from. As you find blueprints though, you will expand that list of possibilities. Do you go attack heavy and increase your damage for 15 seconds after an enemy kill? Go defensive and increase your HP? Increase your damage when you deploy bear traps, turrets or any of the other throw-able tools? The choice is yours but the best of players will choose a mutation that combos with the gear that they have.  All the above is why Dead Cells works for me. I don’t need to retain map data to know where to go. Dead Cells has branching pathways but you will always find an exit you can use. As you progress through the game you will encounter foes that once defeated, will leave a new power up for you which, will help you enter previously unreachable areas and will carry over after you die. It’s this continually satisfaction that keeps me coming back to Dead Cells. When I first played it, I couldn’t do the first area. Now I’m lasting close to an hour before getting my butt kicked. But even when I die, I know that all those cells I collected in the other areas, have all gone towards my goal of beating the game. It doesn’t matter that when I died I lost 26 cells because through the other areas I must have put over 100 cells into permanent upgrades and weapons. The more you play, the better you become. Not only that but your understanding of how the enemies fight improves. And on top of that! For all you speed runners out there. In a lot of the levels you will find doors that are only accessible if you get there within a certain time limit. Through the door you will find a stat increase, money and a stash of cells. So you always have a choice of going through the game at your own pace, or bombing it through the level like a mad man.

DeadCells Ramparts
Ramparts is my favourite location so far, There a very Prince of Persia feel to it when fighting enemies on the rooftops. It looks amazing too.

I realise I’ve written over 1000 words and barely said how I feel about the game. I’ll give a quick summary here but hopefully you found what I’ve described as interesting. This is a great game and thoroughly recommend you check it out. Besides its lavish environments and addictive gameplay, the one thing I love about the game is how it plays. It flows so well. It’s hard to describe except just to say that it plays really good. To compare it to another game, I would say it plays as good as Super Meat Boy. By that I mean, the sense of control and precision. The movement and combat in this game is on that level. Even when things are out of control on screen, I never feel out of control. Besides one or two times when I meant to jump down a narrow gap between two ledges. My character kept grabbing onto the ledges and pulling itself up. I died there which was annoying but on a mostly randomly generated game like this, that stuff is bound to happen. But that was a minor incident in my hours of game time. It didn’t stop me from immediately starting another run. If you’re looking for an addictive, expansive and combat heavy side scroller, look no further than Dead Cells.