2018 in Review

2018 was a big year for games.
But then again, every year seems to be a bigger year for games than the last one.
Looking back at the list of the many games that I've played in 2018, there's stuff from the beginning of the year that makes me think "Woah, that actually was just from this year?"
Here's a short list, in rough release order:

Monster Hunter World
Far Cry 5
A Way Out
Yakuza 6
Detroit Become Human
Yoku's Island Express
Sushi Striker
Budget Cuts VR
WarioWare Gold
Donut County
The Messenger
Dragon Quest XI
Marvel's Spider-Man
The Gardens Between
Return of the Obra Dinn
Red Dead Redemption 2
Fallout 76
Pokemon Let's Go
Just Cause 4

That's a "small" sample. It can actually be quite overwhelming. I'd like to take some time to talk about a few of them, what I liked and didn't like.

First, A Way Out is probably the biggest example of the feeling "Wait, that was just earlier this year?"
Playing the whole game with a friend, is bound to leave you with memorable feelings that will last for a long time to come.

Yakuza 6 was probably the biggest surprise to me. I had heard of the Yakuza games, but I guess I just never paid attention to it. But finally decided to give it a try, and I loved it. So now I've got Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami (Yakuza 1) that are on my (rather large, to be honest) list of games I consider to be "in the middle of".

Budget Cuts remains one of the best examples of a must-have game when showing off VR. Simple as that.

EXAPUNKS took over my life for a while. Over 50 hours trying to solve all the puzzles it has to offer. Very satisfying.

Speaking of games taking over one's life. Pokemon Let's Go. What a blast that game is. It has a nostalgic factor from the first-gen Pokemon games, but with modern graphics and adjustments. Coupled with some new mechanics, it really becomes satisfying. There's a lot here to satisfy your Pokemon itch.

I was excited for Return of the Obra Dinn to come out. It's enjoyable to explore the ship and see all the details everywhere. However, I feel like I may be missing a sense of observation that is making the 2nd half of the game super difficult for me to figure out some of the remaining cause of deaths. I should probably have been taking notes on actual paper like people suggested.

I've been having a blast playing Fallout 76 with some friends. I love how you can drop in at any time and help someone with their quest, and the game doesn't make you feel stupid for not having caught up to wherever they are yet. This will be a game we'll be playing for a long time to come.

I still want to mention Dragon Quest XI, because that game is quite wonderful, but got buried by life and some other games. I do plan to get back into it once the holidays die down a bit.

So yeah, just a small sample of the games I played this year. Doesn't include Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Katamari Damacy ReRoll, which come out tomorrow.
Either way, easy to say that 2018 has been pretty good for games.

Diablo 3 on Switch

A few months after I made my previous post talking about how Diablo 3 has aged well, Blizzard went ahead and announced Diablo 3 for the Nintendo Switch.
This is a welcome addition to Switch. After playing around with it for a while, I almost want to say it's the best form of Diablo 3. The inventory system is a bit better than the PC version too, in that instead of having to tetris inventory to make room for things, each item simply takes up one slot. And you can easily see what you have of each armor type, instead of everything just in a big wall.
So, it's nice to have Diablo 3 on Switch. It's nice that many developers are bringing over some of their older games to Switch too, especially games from the WiiU that may not have gotten the attention they deserved.
So yeah, Switch is absolutely rocking it with the game library. Can't wait to see what is in story for it in 2019.

Diablo 3 - Game View

Diablo 3 came out May 15, 2012
I've been spending a lot of time playing the game over the last few months, so I felt it was appropriate to celebrate the 6-year anniversary by sharing some quick thoughts on it.

I actually remember pre-ordering the game, and playing on launch-day. Or, I suppose it would be more apt to say "tried to play" on launch day. I remember the launch day was plagued with error messages when trying to start the game.
This was because the game depended on online servers to manage progress in the game.
Eventually, the errors cleared up, and I was able to enjoy the game.

I remember early on, there was an Auction House, where you can buy and sell gear and other items you've found in the game, in exchange for gold. There also was a real-money auction house.
I remember it being kind of a mess.

Anyway, years later, the auction houses have been removed, and there have been many new additions and changes to the game.
As I decided to give the game another try, I breezed through the rest of the new Act V, and unlocked the Adventure Mode.

Oh MAN. Adventure Mode totally adds a well-needed aspect to the game. In Adventure Mode, all the areas from all 5 Acts are unlocked and available. You're then able to choose wherever you want to go. Each act has 5 bounties to choose from. Bounties can be to find a chest, clear enemies, or kill a boss. This adds a lot of replayability to the game. After each Bounty, you get an XP and Gold bonus. Completing all 5 bounties in an Act gives you an additional bonus, as well as a chest full of bonus gear and crafting materials.

Even though there's a level cap of 70, you can still earn experience to get "paragon levels", which lets you increase various stats.
And you continue to find new gear.
As you get better gear, you can fight on higher difficulties. Which further lets you find better gear. So it really gives you opportunity to continue playing quite a fair amount.
And there are Seasons, which gives you a few months to level up a new character, and complete different objectives, which will give you opportunities for new gear and other unlocks.

Overall, the game feels very solid, and it can really dig into your mind to get you to keep playing.
I'm enjoying it, and i'm excited to see how far I can push my character.

Sometimes, you just want to destroy many many demons.

Yakuza 6 - Game View

I'll just cut to the chase.
This game is awesome.

With that out of the way, let me share with you the joy I have discovered, that is Yakuza.

I know I've heard of the Yakuza games in the past, and overlooked them as boring and mindless fighting games. But that is furthest from the truth for Yakuza 6, and I am so glad that I gave the game a chance.
For starters, this is the first Yakuza game that I've ever played. The game includes recap videos for the previous games, but even without watching them, the game does a good job of introducing the characters and establishing the plot, to where I'm not feeling like I'm lost in the story, or overwhelmed, or missing out on some crucial information. That is often hard to get right in sequels on long-running game franchises.

So, here we are as a Kazuma Kiryu, a legendary Yakuza fighter, who has decided to try turning a new leaf, and atoning for his past, to start a new life.
But when his daughter goes missing, he goes looking for her. And he finds things are quite complicated, and is dragged back to his old life, where he has to defend himself from mafia, and other various thugs.

The game starts out with a 20-minute cutscene. It's the first hint of what you can expect with this game. This game cares about story-telling.
Soon, you arrive in the main city of the game, and given free rein to roam about the city. The game gives you a map, with an indicator of where to go to further the story. Otherwise, you can visit just about anywhere in the city. The city is full of diversions and mini games and side quests (sub stories, as they call them) to encounter.

Like, immediately, I discover a karaoke lounge, where I can play a rhythm game, where Kiryu ends up in a bizarre music video.
Later, I stumble into a "cabaret club" where you flirt with girls to try to get them to go on a date with you.
Later, I run into someone on the street who is fighting with his girlfriend, because he's spending all his time and money in "live chat" rooms online. This triggers a sub story where he takes you to an internet cafe, where he teaches you how to flirt with cam girls online.
And then there's a whole thing where you have to chase a drone through the city.
You go to another city where this punk yakuza guy is picking fights with you. You keep beating him, but he keeps coming back for more. Until he is attacked by other yakuza, and you rescue him, and then he starts praising you and calling you his "anaki" as a term of respect. This goes on for quite a while.
And there's a whole section where you're going around a city carrying a baby at night looking for milk, and every few minutes he cries and you have to shake the controller to appease the child.
And all of the story content, and mini games, and substories, are all tracked via an in-game award system, where you are given experience to level up various aspects and unlock abilities, for everything you do.

Everything is played with such sincerity, yet there's also such a bizarreness to it all. The contrast between it all is simply amazing, and hilarious. I love it.
Most of the core of the game is walking from place to place, with short and intense fight scenes sprinkled about, with extended cutscenes all along.

It's hard to really describe this game. All the bizarre things it throws at you, while still wrapped in such a serious tone. The game seems to enjoy how bizarre it is, and it has no shame in doing absolutely anything it wants. And i love that.
I've already purchased Yakuza 0, which is a prequel to the entire series, which I look forward to playing once I finish through Y6.

So yeah, don't let the "tough brawler" exterior detract you from what is a delightful and quirky adventure.

Spy Party - Game View

SpyParty just recently came out on Steam on April 12, 2018.
But I've been following the game far longer than that.
I signed up for the Early Access Beta list on May 11th, 2011. So it's been at least 7 years that I've been watching the game grow.

After signing up for the Early Access Beta list, I finally got my invite to join on June 7th, 2012. Beta was $15. After that, I was able to jump in and start playing.
However, the game never really grabbed my attention when actually playing it. So it remained something that I just watched development of.

But when it was finally released on Steam, I rediscovered the game, and fell in love with it.

The game is a two-player game, where one person is a Spy at a party (hence, the name) and the other person is a Sniper. It is the Sniper's goal to identify the spy and shoot him.
The twist? The Sniper doesn't know what the Spy looks like. The Spy's job is to blend in at a large group of people, completing various spy missions, without standing out. Everyone else at the party are computer-controlled.

It is a hilarious confusion.
I was playing with a friend. So there was the added aspect of taunting each other, how we were doing a good job of hiding, or "Oh, did I just see you take the guest list, hmmm??"

After playing so much with my friend, it's given me a new appreciation of the game. And now I'm likely to play alone, with the automatic matchmaking, to play with other random people.

So, if you find yourself playing some SpyParty, send me a message and we can play together.

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 - Game View

Three years ago, I wrote about how much I enjoyed Xenoblade Chronicles X.
I still have not played the original XBC, although I have the 3DS version, which I intend to play one day.
But here, we have Xenoblade Chronicles 2, which I guess is meant to be more of a sequel to the original game.

Leading up to XBC2 coming out, I tried to go back to XBCX, since I knew I still had some story left to get through. The game has so many functions and systems, that I found it really intimidating trying to get back into. I gave up, and instead directed my attention to the release of XBC2.

So what did I think?

Yes. It's good. It reminds me why I loved XBCX so much. Huge world to explore, and fun goofy story, and able to play at my own pace.
I found myself losing hours to just exploring the open areas, gathering items, and planning for buying certain items, or building up the Development Level of different areas, and tracking down side quests.
I also got the expansion pass. It has been so cool when each new expansion pack gets released, and then opening up the game, and seeing what new items are given, or what new quests there are to handle.
It serves as a nice diversion to the main story.

The main story is fun. It just feels really long at some points. Which is why the side quests are delightful.

I'm still working my way through the game. I'm at Chapter 4. The game is broken up into 10 chapters. But I've already spent 51 hours playing, and I still enjoy it.
So, I suppose the game still has that intimidating factor to it, where it's going to take up a LOT of time to play through.
But again, I still enjoy it. I've been taking a break to play other games lately, such as Yakuza 6, but I keep thinking of my time with XBC2 and excited to get back to it.

Fortnite - Game View

Fortnite is the super-popular game that has been sweeping the world. Even people who would never normally play games, are seeing Fortnite, and they want in on the popularity of the game. At the dinner table, mention Fortnite, and all the kids' ears will perk up, "DID YOU SAY FORTNITE?!?"

But is it actually good?

To answer that, let's back up a bit.

Fortnite came out July 2017, as an early access co-op game, requiring a purchase to access the Save The World campaign mode, with the promise of a free-to-play release in 2018.

A few months prior, March 2017 saw the release of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and it started rocketing up the Steam charts, and the Twitch streams.

To avoid being overshadowed by PUBG, Fortnite comes out with a free-to-play Battle Royale mode of their own in September. At the time, I passed it over, seeing it as a desperate and cheap ripoff, and that nothing more would come of it.
Little did I know, a few months later, it would start to dominate the social media sphere.
April 2018, can't go a day without hearing about some twitch streamer playing Fortnite, or some YouTuber suddenly starting to play Fortnite. Because the game is captivating a sizable audience, and everyone wants in on that attention.

But is the game actually good??

Eh, it's alright.
I think Epic Games accidentally landed on something huge. I think the Battle Royale mode was initially meant to just be a marketing ploy to get more attention into their for-purchase mode. Instead, it has grown to be a cash cow.
With the success of the Battle Royale mode, the Save The World mode has seemed to fall off the radar. It was originally stated to be released free-to-play in 2018, but I haven't seen any real news about it. Supposedly it'll still come out this year, but it's probably safe to say that it's a lower priority at the moment, compared to continuing the improvement and additional purchase options for the immensely popular Battle Royale mode.

When I first tried FBR, I could not really get into it. But over the following months, it seems they've made huge improvements for it. The art style and building mechanics work well together. I think the game really works best when playing with someone else, or interacting with others. Which is likely why it's so popular on Twitch.
Playing it alone, not much fun. Playing with others, and being able to laugh at things that happen, is a joy.

If you go into the game wanting to win, you're going to be disappointed. Only one person will win any round. But if you focus more on just trying to get as far as possible, and enjoying the moments in between, you may find crazy shootouts, or tense times, which will stand out the most, and are what really makes the game enjoyable.

So, playing alone, not so fun.
Playing with friends, it can be a good time.
That's about all I have to say about that.

Back to the 90s

I have many fond memories of games that I played while growing up in the 90s.
I've said that the last few years have been a wave of amazing games, but some of the most memorable games that I've ever played are ones that I played 20 or so years ago.
Or, I suppose, it'd be that these games are the ones that became more ingrained in my mind, because there wasn't such an overwhelming number of games constantly coming out, as we have today. So the good games were better able to stand out. Or just because I was younger and that's just how things work.

Either way, I've been thinking a lot about some old games, and how they still have retained their relevance to this day, and I wanted to write a little bit about them.

First, a big problem I have with older games, is that over time, as I've played newer games, and have become more comfortable with how games function today compared to back then, I've found that it is much harder for me to go back and play those older games (or games that are meant to play like the older games).
I remember really liking Planescape: Torment. Last year, a spiritual successor, Torment: Tides of Numenera, was released. I found that I just couldn't get into it. Similarly, Wasteland 2 came out and I just wasn't able to get into it as much as I would have wanted to.

Fallout 1, 2, and Fallout Tactics were games I really enjoyed in the late 90s, early 2000's. The Fallout series in general has really persisted in my mind ever since I played them. Fallout 4 was released about 2-3 years ago, and I played through that (You can find my Daily Recap of it on my website somewhere). But Fallout 4 was not like Fallout 1/2. Now it is more of a realtime first-person shooter, rather than the turn-based isometric RPG that the older games were. So I suppose it trying to "keep up with the times" allowed the franchise to live on. (Not counting all the legal stuff and change of ownership that happened behind the scenes. It's complicated.) I recall that some fans of the Fallout series were disappointed with the direction that Fallout 3/NV/4 took with the FPS format. Personally, I find it refreshing, and gives a new perspective on the World that the Fallout franchise has built.

I was talking to a friend about old games that influenced me, and the Fallout games came up. I tried playing Fallout Tactics, and I became impatient within 10 minutes of starting it up. Which, maybe I just need to be in a certain mood to give it another try, but I was disappointed that I couldn't force myself to play it. I already beat the game in my younger years, of course, so I wanted to revisit it.

I've been watching a Let's Play of Fallout 4 recently, and it has been very enjoyable. It can be really fun seeing someone else play something you've played, while he adds his own personality and stuff to the action. It's also fun when he discovers things I missed in my playthrough, as well as just general different play style than how I would play.
It just makes me really happy that the Fallout series is able to live on, when it impacted me so much in my younger years.

So, I've covered "Old games that are hard to revisit, even through sequels" and "Old games that have enjoyable modern sequels", now we have one more category. "Games that truly withstand the test of time"

Perhaps my favorite video game franchise of all time would be Myst. Everything about Myst and the sequels and related media, are simply amazing. The games are beautiful, every detail is well thought-out, and and the story is subtle but woven into every fabric of the games.
The original Myst was released 25 years. From it, spawned five games, an MMO, remakes, remasters, re-releases, three books, a comic series, a spiritual successor, and several attempts to make a movie/tv series (Which may one day happen, but… we shall see.)

It's been 25 years, and the Myst name and series retains a strong presence in gaming history, and the ending has not yet been written. A 25th Anniversary collection is planned to be released this year with all the games updated to work on modern computers.
Going back to play a 25-year old game can be a difficult ordeal. But Myst hides its age rather well. Myst's environments were all pre-rendered, with clever interactive bits, so it was able to show off amazing detail, even on such low-spec computers 25 years ago. And remains impressive today. With the upcoming updates this year, it should guarantee that the game can last for another 25 years and beyond.

Myst's gameplay is exploration-driven. You learn by observation. It's all done at a fundamental level that I can enjoy it today just as well as I did 20+ years ago. It's really hard for me to really describe it all. It just kinda "works". And it has stuck with me throughout my entire life. And I am glad that I can still appreciate it today, where other games have eluded me over the relentless march of time.

What Remains of Edith Finch - Game View

I like games. I like good games. I love it when I get to play a really good game.
Sometimes though, there comes a game that leaves a lasting impact. It creates a memorable experience that keeps me thinking back to it and say "Wow."

What Remains of Edith Finch is one of those games.

You start the game as Edith Finch, walking to her childhood home. Edith narrates this segment, as you see things that give you a hint as to the family history of the Finches. This house is big. It has rooms and floors added on to it in a very haphazard way.
When you entered each family member's room, you are transported into a new scene, where you become that family member, and learn about that person, and how they (supposedly) died.

Each segment was creative and unique. You never know what you'll experience next, which makes you excited to keep going, and to see what happens next.
It is an emotional roller coaster of surprise, amazement, bewilderment, and sorrow.

This is a special game. It is obvious that the developers cared a lot about what they were creating.
This game deserves all the attention it gets, and more.
It's a short game, but a meaningful one.

This game is my Game of the Year 2017.

You can also check out my Let's Play on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmzwUQOgybF58arBns_8iMrYEZLZBCCqA