Thank you for the clarificationMinor typos/differences like the Spider-Man ones should be fine. The goal is that we automate collecting the majority of the votes. If we have to do some minor manual entry (like combining the scores for "SpiderMan" and "Spider-Man"), that's ok. Now if someone spells "Octopath" like "Achtoepathh" we might miss that one.
It's fine. Comments don't need to be inline.
Your games must be bolded
- God Of War - Clear cut winner for me. No other game had me engaged in all aspects, from the game itself to it's development. Amazing graphics and set-pieces and responsive controls with variety to suit any play style. One my top 10 of all time
- Marvel’s Spider-Man - Became obsessed with it from the day it came out, until I finished it. A true marvel and landmark in my gaming history, that blends the world of video games and movies
- Hitman 2 - How can you improve one the most fun games of 2016? Make more of it!
- Battlefield V - The multiplayer is my current go-to game. It's improvements in squad play make every team action meaningful
- Detroit: Become Human - Best in it's genre, with good freedom of choice and graphics
- Donut County - A good surprise on a game that caught me with it's humor
- Tetris Effect - A nice spin to a classic
- Dragon Ball FighterZ - Finally a Dragon Ball game I really enjoyed
- Red Dead Redemption 2- Everything I saw in the game is top notch. Playing it is a different story. Fuck the input lag and controls in general, and fuck the online grindfest. Stupidly long prologue (along with the other issues) prevent it from being higher in the list, as these really annoyed me
1. God of War: Really close between this and Spider-Man. They both have super rich combat that I love but GoW gets the edge because of its lack of repetition. This applies to everything from combat encounters to environments to character dialogue to just the general forward momentum of the story. I never felt like i was treading water or repeating some open world checklist item. Every side quest i organically found and followed because I wanted to not because I wanted a platinum (which I got anyway). The relationship development has perfect pacing. When I compare it to red dead which constantly repeats story beats and goes almost nowhere character wise from beginning to end this is just so much nicer to experience
I’ve brushed over the combat though it’s so damn fantastic. I’ve never been so engrossed as when I would get on a roll using magic and Atreus and his animals and then return the axe to hit them in the back. Like damn I just love the weight of that axe! Can not wait for the sequel yet I feel perfectly content after beating the Harpie queen. I felt like I had made my own epic poem by the end. An odyssey for gaming
2. Spider-Man: lots of the same compliments but some of the side stuff got a little repetitive. The world is also just New York. It’s a beautiful New York but it’s not nearly as flooring as the lake, the other realms, and the elaborate mines and buildings and mountains from GoW. I do love the combat and the story rivals GoW with excellently developed characters and gradually rolled out arcs and a satisfactory finish. The voice acting in both games is so damn fantastic.
3. Dragon Ball FighterZ: Ok ok I know the guy with this username is contractually obligated to put this game on his list but hey I absolutely love it so sue me. Still gotta get back to it and try the dlc but I actually got good at a fighting game for once. That 530,000 BP trophy drove me absolutely up a wall. Like I might have actually had a stroke while going for it but damn was it satisfying to get. Like with that last victory I ran around the room screaming lol. The story mode kinda sucked but I love playing team matches and if and when I catch up on my backlog I’d love to play some of era on it
During College I took Spanish 101. This class was an unmitigated disaster for me as it was at 10am 3 times a week and given my partying status at that time, was way too early. I sat in the back w/ the other degenerates while the eager kids sat up front, answering questions and generally giving a shit. Near the end of the semester the teacher made us all research a Latin American country and give a presentation in front of the class. The first day of presentations, a red-headed lady went first and proceeding to give her entire presentation in Spanish. This wasn’t a requirement, but she felt the need to go above and beyond to set the bar extremely high. While she presented, I looked around at my fellow degenerates and we all agreed that we hated this person.
- Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
- Octopath Traveler
- Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
- Return of the Obra Dinn
- God of War
- Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
Game of the Year
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
The curse of being a Dragon Quest fan is forever struggling to find the right words to describe what it is about these games that make them so truly exceptional. It's easy to start off with the usual truisms: DQXI has a surprisingly thematic narrative, subtly and delicately penned by an expert writer who understands that the most effective storytelling is often understated rather than trumpeted from the rooftops, comprised of nuances and subtle flourishes that suggest rather than explain. Like its predecessors, it features a meticulously balanced turn-based combat system that provides strategic encounters and thrilling suspense; it boasts a fully-realized world of gorgeous locales and incredible vistas; and it contains a thoughtful progression system that balances party customization with efficiency and fun.
But, while all of those individual components are an important part of the Dragon Quest identity, the core of the series' appeal is something more nebulous, a more inscrutable concept that transcends all of these parts and binds them together into a whole. All of the strong elements of DQXI don't merely work; more importantly, they work together, specifically feeding into one another and self-reinforcing each other until they seem to disappear into a mix, replaced by a general feeling of satisfaction that infuses every nook and cranny of the game. That cohesion is the key to Dragon Quest; not that it is good in many ways, but that it is good in one way that manifests in many ways. It is a singular experience where nothing feels out of place, and everything works in service of the broader feel of the game, that atmosphere of adventure and understated human drama that has always characterized Dragon Quest.
But where DQXI differentiates itself, not just from its predecessors but also from the vast majority of other JRPGs, is in just how polished those individual elements are. It is one thing to say that the gameplay feeds into the scenario design, which feeds into the plot, which feeds into the character arcs, and so forth; but quite another to suggest that all of these elements, even taken separately, are of the absolute highest quality. But that is indeed the case here, and other than the soundtrack (which, despite a lot of controversy, is overall serviceable), the game has a universal sheen over every part of it, a glow of meticulous care that exudes from every component and which makes the act of playing it an absolute joy. This is the tightest that Dragon Quest has ever been in terms of its core game design, from the carefully-paced and constantly evolving scenario design, to the sensible streamlining and retooling of the combat mechanics, and even to such seemingly minor subsystems as the crafting, which consists of a wonderful minigame that provides some of the most exciting moments in the game. To say that a game is greater than the sum of its parts carries a connotation that the parts themselves are lacking in some way; DQXI is a game where those parts are already of the highest standard, and taken together they grow even greater. The total effect is one of astounding quality and incredible consistency; this is one of only three JRPGs to which I would give a perfect score with no hesitation (the other two are Chrono Trigger and Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne).
While the overarching story and its fascinating themes can't be fully discussed without spoiling key moments of the game (and, at any rate, that discussion really extends beyond the scope of this write-up), I can say with utter certainty that I've rarely played a game that commits to its themes with such precision and ambition. DQXI is a story about the value of time from the perspective of one who is looking back on that time, either with satisfaction or regret; it is a story about time that is lost, that has disappeared into the past, and what that lost time means to those who must move away from the past and look to the future. It is a story about the road not traveled, the quiet uncertainty we all share about our difficult decisions, the mistakes that we have made, and whether or not things could've turned out differently had we, ourselves, been different people. All of that time, all of those experiences that never came to be - what can we do when we have lost them? What should we do? In both small, personal vignettes and in sweeping plot twists, DQXI asks these questions and challenges us to consider what it means to "lose" time, and what it means to subsequently recover that time - if, indeed, it can be recovered at all.
Dragon Quest XI is a stunning achievement, a landmark both in its genre and in long-form video game storytelling, and a masterful assortment of elements meticulously crafted into a cohesive, powerful whole. It is fun and often funny, gorgeous and often grand, heartwarming and, at times, heartbreaking; it is, in a word, Dragon Quest writ large, and it is the best game of 2018 hands down.
Runner-Up Game of the Year
Like Dragon Quest XI, Octopath Traveler is that rare game which sets out, from the beginning, to be greater than the sum of its parts. The notion of having eight shorter stories advance alongside one another may be an interesting concept, but at its core it is purely a structural decision - neither good nor bad, merely interesting. Octopath's greatest strengths lie not in that structure in and of itself, but in how the game utilizes that structure to weave an overarching narrative that is thematically focused, a narrative that doesn't drown out the individual stories but rather emerges organically as a shared experience developed, in different ways, by each of them.
The game offers the freedom to pursue eight stories, but it also suggests that we aren't exploring eight different stories, but rather one archetypal story told in eight different ways. Such narrative syncretism is apparent even from the brilliant title "Octopath Traveler." Note the singular, rather than plural, "traveler" - it is the player who is this "Octopath Traveler," an invisible anthropologist accompanying this band of characters, inhabiting each of them (the "Octopath") from time to time, and studying the ways in which they interact with the wonderfully vibrant world in which they roam. The player is the perfect traveler, one that wafts effortlessly to and fro across geographical, political, and economic lines to observe society at its most beautiful, its most sinister, its most hopeful and hopeless, its most peaceful and belligerent. And each time, this traveler takes a little piece of each experience with it.
It is no coincidence that these thematic and structural ambitions coexist with the various innovative path actions, particularly Inquire/Scrutinize; the characters, and by extension the player, are intended to exist within this world, and not simply pass through it as a series of pit stops along the path of a mythic journey. Octopath Traveler is a game in which the NPC greeting the player at the entrance to the town is a migrant having a hard time adapting to life in a close-knit community; where guards and other armored men loafing around the tavern are mercenaries displaced by the end of war and the existential crisis that peace brings to a professional soldier. Plagues, wars, and various other calamities have caused numerous peoples to uproot in diasporas that lead them far and wide across the realm. All of these little worldbuilding details are intended to be uncovered, puzzle-like, in the player's gradual understanding of this world and its cultural heritage. Every path action develops this understanding, one NPC at a time; and the total effect is both thematically compelling and mechanically engaging.
Mechanical depth is, indeed, the excellent foundation upon which these themes and narratives are built. Octopath, far from a gameplay-lite storytelling experiment, boasts an incredibly polished and satisfying turn-based combat system that utilizes simple mechanics and concepts to add nuance and strategy to each battle. The Boost and Break mechanics operate in a devilish synergy to provide an intuitive but unpredictable flow to combat, where strategy can be developed and executed with precision but enemies nevertheless have constant options for disrupting the player and introducing a bit of entropy into the machine. Preparation itself is often half the battle, and the game's twist on the classical job system provides a fantastic framework within which to play around - all within some sensible limitations, such as a one-character-per-secondary-job limit, that prevent the player from outright breaking the game.
In its bold thematic ambitions, unique plot structure, dazzling presentation, and incredibly polished gameplay mechanics, Octopath Traveler both summarizes the strengths of the classical JRPG and provides an inspiring vision of new strengths to come. The recurring imagery of travelers winding their way through the countryside is fitting for a game that seems to stand at a crossroads for the genre, one foot in its past and one in its future; and here, in the present, is this singular, remarkable game, one that I have no doubt will endure as a modern classic. Were it not for the heavyweight JRPG peer that is Dragon Quest XI, it would be the best game of the year.
Indie Game of the Year
Iconoclasts is not a game without its rough edges. In fact, compared to virtually everything else on this ballot that isn't Where the Water Tastes Like Wine (discussed right below), it is arguably a "worse" game in a more objective consideration of all its strengths and all its comparative weaknesses.
However, Iconoclasts overleaps many of those relative shortcomings with gusto because, ultimately, many of them go hand-in-hand with the game's biggest strength: it was made by one person. Those rough edges themselves are the counterpart to the eccentricities of the game, memorable quirks that exist largely because the game as a whole was birthed from the mind of a single individual.
Iconoclasts is one of the latest in that illustrious legacy of bizarre but fantastic indie games that emerged from the monumental blood, sweat, tears, and imagination of a single person - in this case, Joakim "Konjak" Sandberg. While it shares the action-game DNA of Konjak's earlier work - notably Noitu Love - it fuses these satisfying combat mechanics with Metroid-like world design and, perhaps most importantly, its rather involved story.
What truly sets Iconoclasts apart from its Metroid-like indie peers is indeed this story, a fascinating tale of individualism against the "machine" of society that twists and turns with all the idiosyncrasies that one would associate with a singular creative vision. It is precisely the strangeness of this narrative, and the way in which these admittedly time-tested themes are uniquely conveyed, that make the game memorable and one whose final act lingers long after the credits roll. As its title indicates, "Iconoclasts" isn't concerned just with rebellion; it is, rather, a game where idols are indeed broken, where broad social structures are questioned, and where moments that should lead to revelation and ascendance instead provide nothing but existential hollowness. That existentialism is the melancholic underbelly of this vibrant world filled with colorful characters and eye-catching locales; it is that thematic uneasiness that imbues all of the platforming, the puzzle-solving, the advancing of the plot, and the exploring of this world with its artistic edge.
Beyond the narrative itself, the game plays exceptionally well, with the core gameplay coated in luscious sprite-work and a groovy soundtrack that features, among other things, a stunning arrangement of the Moonlight Sonata. The puzzles strike that delicate balance between challenge and frustration, keeping you on your toes without keeping you stuck in one place for too long.
While those more conventionally "gamey" elements are great, the real star - as discussed above - is the story and its assortment of quirky characters, and the way that Konjak's focused creative vision peers through every aspect of the game and delivers a riveting story in its own idiosyncratic, but endearing, way. Iconoclasts is an impressive, inspiring work of indie game-making and creative storytelling in general, and it is my overall pick for indie game of the year.
Best Narrative/Storytelling of the Year
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine ("WTWTLW") is perhaps the most important game of the year. While it unfortunately didn't receive much sustained attention in the gaming press, its accomplishments in terms of its production history are as notable as the finished game itself. It is a game comprised of countless short stories, anchored by a unique cast of fellow drifters and storytellers during the American Great Depression, in which each character is written by a different author. This astoundingly diverse and ambitious team consists of talented writers from many demographics: women, African-Americans, European immigrants, and countless others contributed their own unique voices to this wonderful game, building a tapestry of authentic storytelling that illuminates many of the most marginalized groups living on the fringes of mainstream American society throughout the early 20th-century. Rather than lost and forgotten to the vicissitudes of history, WTWTLW unearths these pregnant seeds of human experience and allows them to flourish, capturing a sharp, melancholic, but ultimately hopeful look at characters who continue to get by in whatever way they can.
That quality of storytelling is, indeed, the greatest strength on display here - though there are certainly others. The art style is striking and memorable, the hard lines calling to mind wood block prints and the colors evoking an America that lies somewhere between the modern world and a mythic yesteryear. The game itself finds the player backpacking around the country on a quaint world map, whistling and hitchhiking along the way, as the aimless path of a vagabond leads through town after town, city after city, and - most importantly - story after story. The stories themselves are a combination of original material, and those culled from a vast amount of anthropological research into the folktales and fables of the time. It is, in a word, a love letter to American history, told not through the dusty pages of history books about old white men, but rather through oral histories and cherished tales passed down in all the many cultures that comprise the great American mosaic.
While I could discuss the gameplay in more detail, and give a brief overview of the core mechanics (you essentially collect stories and then tell them to characters based on their preferences in order to make them open up to you and befriend you), I suspect that anyone interested in this sort of game has heard enough to consider giving it a shot, irrespective of whatever the core gameplay entails. There is nothing else like Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, and it is one of the most underappreciated triumphs of the year, as well as a monumental cultural achievement. In a time where American society has become increasingly factionalized and antagonistic, this game is a panacea of togetherness, a bold and breathlessly artistic compendium of rich native storytelling from voices that may sound different, and may speak of different things, but which are all distinctly American.
Best Art Direction/Visual Design of the Year
Given that this entry of the ballot is listed under "Best Art Design/Visual Direction of the Year," words can only convey so much that isn't conveyed by the majestic screenshot above. Gris is the most recent entry on this list (it released less than a week ago), but it is unquestionably one of the most striking and emotionally resonant experiences of the year, due in large part to its watercolor aesthetic and the pure artistry of its world. The game features an abstract, impressionistic narrative in the style of Journey and Abzu, dealing with themes of loss, despair, acceptance, and hope (in this respect it often feels like a more ethereal counterpart to Celeste). The gameplay consists largely of running/platforming with light puzzle solving, and it succeeds in keeping puzzles engaging without emphasizing them to the extent that it detracts from the delicate mood and vibrant dreamscapes. To say any more would be to impute my own interpretations onto the work, and therefore I'll leave it be. It is an easy inclusion and one of the best games of the year.
Most Interesting Concept of the Year: Return of the Obra Dinn
Return of the Obra Dinn is without a doubt one of the smartest games of the year. It is essentially a crime reconstruction procedural, all set on an atmospheric ship conveyed through an absolutely brilliant art direction. The main activity of the game involves utilizing clues to reenact a crime scene, determining what happened, how, and perhaps most importantly, why. The same crisp, steady attention to dialogue and narrative as was present in Papers Please are also present here, and the game turns what is essentially a heavily-modified game of Clue into a terse, intelligent thriller where nothing but the limits of your wits stands between you and unraveling the mystery of the Obra Dinn. It is to crime reconstruction procedurals what Papers Please was to civil service simulators: something you never thought of, never expected to work, and yet somehow it does with flying colors. Lucas Pope is 2-for-2 with extraordinary, experimental gaming experiences, and all the buzz around Obra Dinn as an indie darling for the year is utterly well-deserved.
Hidden Gem of the Year: ZeroRanger
If you've heard anything about ZeroRanger, you've probably heard that it's the Undertale of STGs. I'm not a fan of comparative shorthands like that, but in this case it's fairly warranted. ZeroRanger is a seismic shift in STG (otherwise known as "shmups") storytelling and one of the most interesting narrative experiments of the year, one with the customary mindscrews leading to fascinating insights into the act of playing games and what it means to progress, to live, to die, to start over, and do all those other things that your character does in the broader framework of "playing a game." To say anymore would do the game a disservice. Play this game to see the state of the art for STG storytelling, one of the most underappreciated narratives of the year, and a damn fine STG in terms of its core mechanics and level design.
Best AAA Release of the Year: God of War
The rest of Era will cover me on this one. I'll just say that it's not often that I truly feel a AAA game resonates with me in the way that I associate with titles like indie games or more niche RPGs. Loved the combat, loved the setting, loved the technical achievements (especially the "single-shot" framing), and I loved the bigger storytelling moments that landed masterfully.
Biggest Surprise of the Year: Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
I hadn't played an Assassin's Creed game since AC2, and essentially picked up Odyssey on a whim due to my interest in the Ancient Greek setting. What I discovered was one of my favorite open-world experiences of the generation (and, by extension, pretty much of all time at this point), a stunning recreation of a setting that I cherish with a careful balance of action, exploration, climbing, riding, sailing, and everything in between. After completing the main narrative, I still find myself returning to Odyssey to explore more of the map and soak in the extraordinary sights as I meander about, through babbling creeks, bustling cities and imposing cliffs, all framed by a wonderful main character (Kassandra) and a surprisingly touching story of familial loyalty in a complicated world. It is content rich, expansive, impressive, and most importantly, some of the most fun I've had all year. Will stick around for many more ACs to come, and I've already moved backwards to catch up with Origins (which I'm also enjoying).
Best Level Design of the Year: Celeste
Celeste emerged early in the year as a frontrunner for GOTY come awards season, and its a testament to its quality that that sentiment is still going strong nearly twelve months later. While much has been written and discussed about its powerful themes and incredible soundtrack, at its core the game, as an extreme platformer, lives or dies by its game mechanics and level design; and in this respect, Celeste is a stunning testament to its developers' talent, featuring devilishly tricky platforming that never runs out of creative new ideas or new twists on earlier concepts. As a total package, it is unquestionably one of the best indie releases in recent memory, and one that earned every bit of praise lavished on it.
Am I missing something here? I think I can use anything but I edited the comment just in case
You need to use the Ordered List function (see the OP) - if you look at the other entries you'll see how the list is indented - that's because of the Ordered List function