End of Year Awards: Part I (Awards)

Remember me? Yeah I’m still here; Still playing games, still thinking about them and still occasional even writing about them. Kind of amazing really given that 2018 was also the year I became a parent for the first time. My daughter is doing great by the way. She’s a delight. A time consuming, endlessly confusing one, but a delight none the less.

Oh yeah, she’s recently started to wave bye-bye; it’s adorbs.

Anyway you’re not here for that. You want video games, and that’s exactly what I’m wanting to give you. Let’s cut the to chase; I’m writing two posts. Part I will focus on some arbitrary awards (this post is part I), and part II will by my official game of the year list. For Part I, I’ll be using some of my favourite award categories from previous Giantbomb GOTY Deliberations. Why? because they’re fun (and I’m a parent now, and you’ll accept my decision?)

Lets go.

2018s Old Game of the Year (An Old Game that I loved in 2018)

Rocket League

2018 saw me aerial back-flip into Rocket League in a big way. The Switch version of the game isn’t the prettiest version, it’s not the most popular version and it likely isn’t the best version, but it is the version I spent more time with than any other video game in 2018.

With it’s short burst of gameplay and ability to play without having to hog the TV (which is invaluable in a household where both new-parents are actively looking to chill out by playing games on the same TV), Rocket League was, and is still an amazing game, and its one I’m pleased to say is still very much a part of my gaming life even 4 years after it invited itself into it.

Honourable Mentions: Captain Toad, Mark of the Ninja

Biggest Surprise

Bad North

Bad North is a delightfully cute tactics game in which you control a very small number of soldiers in their defense of an island against the invading hordes. It’s not all that deep, but what it loses in that department it more than makes up in charm, character and replay-ability.

If you enjoy games like Into the Breach and Advanced Wars, give Bad North a look. It’s certainly not as tactically tasking, but it might just be the perfect counterbalance. Great music too.

Honourable Mentions: Astrobot, The Gardens Between

Game I Should Play More

Into the Breach

Speaking of tactically tasking video games. Into the Breach will be found on many a game critics top-10 lists this year, and its easy to see why. It’s demanding but fair take on the genre is perfect for players who want less Xcom and more Advanced Wars, and the run-type nature allows players to experiment with different play styles and …..tactics??.

Whenever the game comes up I’m hit by a sudden urge to grab my Switch and load it up once more, and in 2019 I will make a point of doing just that at some point, because much like FTL before it, Into the Breach deserves all the love its getting.

Honourable Mentions: Bad North

Game I Beat My Head Against Because Reasons Award

Guacamalee 2

Oh boy. I don’t think I’ve ever gone from loving a franchise to being done with it in quite as quick a time as I did with Guacamalee 2. It’s not that the game is bad, far from it. There’s just too much of it. Too much frustration, too many endless dungeons of death, too many poorly placed checkpoints and too many death rooms.

I knew what I was getting into with Guacamalee 2. I knew it’d be a demanding experience, but where the previous entry was a tight little game with brutally difficult bosses, this entry felt cheap and a little unfair; asking the player to control the game in ways the engine just isn’t capable.

It’s a real shame because the original Guacamalee was one of my favourite games from its year of release. Guacamalee 2 just didn’t hit me in the right spot. I’m sure many will love it, but for me I fear the series has gone in a direction I don’t wish to follow.

Honourable Mentions: Red Dead Redemption II

Best Moment or Sequence

Red Dead II – The Ending of Chapter 3

Red Dead Redemption II has an awful lot of problems. However offering a plate full of absolute carnage, packaging it up into a beautiful, heart-pumping hour of drama and then unleashing it directly into your eyes and ears, isn’t one of them though. My best gaming moment from 2018 is just that. Surprising, thrilling, tense, beautiful; the ending of Red Dead Redemption chapter 3 literally has it all.

I don’t want to name anything specific, because in my opinion you need to play it to truly understand the events; the excitement of whats happening on screen, but I’ll say this: Everything changes post Rhoades.

I can talk about how the game, how the developers turned this hour of gameplay into something absolutely mind-blowing. The gameplay is on point, the score is thumping, the dialogue tight; the voice acting and direction just out of this world.

It was one of the rare moments in gaming where I just stopped the game and told my partner to look at the screen. She had no context for what was happening, but I just had to show somebody. So much happens in such a short space of time, it was more akin to the ending of a series of television; the briiiing, briiing, brriiing, BOOM! of Breaking Bad season 4 finale, the finale of Game of Thrones season 6. Perfectly produced, edited and delivered. Video Games can match the best of TV and Film; it’s rare but in this case, Rockstar did just that.

Honourable Mentions: Going Under – Astrobot, Getting the SMS – Bury Me, My Love

Most Disappointing Game

Red Dead Redemption II

Hear me out….

I really, really enjoyed Red Dead Redemption II. It’s not a bad game at all, in fact don’t be surprised to see it on my final GOTY list. It’s a masterpiece in Video Game form.

And that right there is the issue with RDII. In order to be a masterpiece of the medium it has to make some pretty large decisions, and unfortunately for me, I found some of those large decisions to be insanely frustrating.

Be it the awful controls, the poor (2001 era) shooting, the is-this-really-the-best-you-could-do-UI, the aggressively overlong story or the janky way the horses controlled, I found the game frustrated me as often, if not more than it delighted me. To the point that at one point, for a good hour I’d listed my copy of the game on Facebook Marketplace, so done was I with it that I was willing to sell it at a loss mere days after it had been released. Ultimately I did decide to persevere; more through sheer determination to finish this ‘gaming watermark’ than anything else. I did ultimately end up ‘enjoying’ the experience, but heck….

Red Dead Redemption II is a constantly impressive game, but its far from constantly enjoyable. And that’s kind of how I feel about it as an entertainment product. Beautiful, impressive…just not that much actual fun to play for large sections of its runtime. Which is why it takes home my award from my disappointing game of 2018.

Honourable Mentions: A Way Out

And there we have it. My 2018 awards. Keep an eye out in the coming days for my overall 2018 GOTY list. I’ve still got one or two games I’d like to take a look at before going final with it, but I can’t imagine it’ll be far off.