Traditionally at this time of year you start seeing a bunch of review and award posts, and quite frankly I am not beneath this in the least. However since we are recording our official AggroChat Games of the Year show this weekend, I thought I would kick off this morning with a sort of “Games of the Blog” post. I am not going to be handing out awards or anything of the sort but instead just going to be spending some time this morning talking about the games that were really important to me during this calendar year. The problem with “of the year” stuff is that I always get tied up on the minutiae of whether or not I should only pick games that came out during a specific calendar year, or if I can freely pick the games that I played and meant something to me. In the end this blog post is likely going to be an amalgam of the two.
Monster Hunter World – PC
If I was going to pick a true “Game of the Year” then it would probably be Monster Hunter World because I have spent more time playing it than probably any other game. It released in January on the Playstation 4 and I played my way through to past Tempered Kirin and into my 50s for Hunter Rank. Then I turned around and completely restarted the game when it released on PC in August and pushed my way back up past Tempered Kirin and into the 60s on my Hunter Rank. I call out Tempered Kirin because it really is the bottle neck for progression and is a truly painful fight… if you are apparently anyone other than Tam who supposedly breezed right past it? The main reason why this game deserves the prime honors for this year is two fold… firstly I played it all year long and never stopped being engaged with it. While I might take breaks I can always return happily and there is always something for me to strive towards be it a weapon or a piece of gear or a new event that is happening for a limited time.
The secondary reason is that this is the game that made me “Grok” Monster Hunter as a franchise. I have purchased several versions of this franchise and each time have bounced extremely hard off of it, because quite frankly the games do a poor job of on-boarding you into this world. They were a game series that assumed you had been playing since the Playstation 2 days and would just simply know what to do without any question. Monster Hunter World on the other hand took time to teach you the ropes and while it has a lot of weird things going on… in the fact that its grouping system is obtuse as hell… it is manageable and becomes way less so on the PC which utilizes Steam social groups in place of a clan or guild. I love this game so much and am completely amped for the expansion later this year, and for the most part this has been a year about me playing Monster Hunter World and Destiny 2 as my primary MMOs. If you have not played this game then I highly suggest you check it out soon. If you end up picking it up on the PC let me know, because I am more than happy to show new folks the ropes.
Destiny 2 Forsaken – PC
During Destiny 1 the Taken King expansion refocused the game and greatly improved the moment to moment interactions, and was more or less the point where I turned from a casual fan to a rabid fanatic. Destiny 2 on the other hand had a really rough start and it felt like they had simply not learned from the three years of lessons taught by Destiny 1. With the launch of Forsaken… Destiny 2 had its Taken King moment where they tweaked all of the things that needed tweaking and presented the best version of the game to the public. The game went from being something that I played but often times felt like I had no real focus… to being a game that I rabidly consume in a weekly cycle that never quite gives me enough time to actually feel like I have done “all the things”. There are so many micro objectives to accomplish and the moment to moment gameplay feels so much more improved, removing all of my complaints from year one. Forsaken presented a story that was not quite what I was expecting, and gave us a choose your own adventure path to move through it. However the real reason why it is on this list is the massive replayability, and the ability for me to drop in any given night and have plenty of things that I want to be doing. It is a great game and our clan is starting to get active once again which is excellent… now I just need to find the people to make a raid happen once more.
Diablo 3 – Switch
A game that I totally did not expect to be putting on this list is Diablo 3 for the Nintendo Switch, but wow is this a great port of the game. Lately this has been my go to game of choice for the Nintendo Switch and apart from some weirdness surrounding seasonal characters it is just flawless. I had never really spent much time playing Diablo 3 on any of the consoles, even though there was a short lived experiment of me trying to play it on the Vita through Remote Play from my PS4. At that point however Diablo 3 on console was a vastly different experience than on the PC because you lost seasons and adventure mode. In the meantime however Blizzard has caught the software base up and as far as I can tell all versions of the game have pretty much all of the features. Diablo 3 fits with the portability of the switch so amazingly well and allows you to drop in and kill some demons and then pop back out and get on with whatever you need to be doing. Well worth checking out especially if you had trouble getting into Diablo as a mouse click game… seeing as a few of the AggroChat folks latched onto this title when they never really had with the PC equivalent.
Return of the Obra Dinn – PC
This one is extremely fresh to the list given that I played through it in a single sitting this weekend of about six hours. Please don’t let that relatively short play time make you think that the game might not be worth every penny of its $20 price tag however. There isn’t a whole lot I can say about this game that would not give away major plot points, however here goes the elevator pitch version. In 1802 the Obra Dinn set sail with a sixty person crew and disappeared mysteriously… five years later it washed up with no one still alive on board and you are an insurance adjuster for the East India Company tasked with the job of determining the fate of everyone that was on the manifest. The trick is you are given a mystical pocket watch of sorts that allows you to see the last moments of a persons life, and through a series of these still vignettes you have to piece together what happened on the ship. The game is essentially one giant logic puzzle, and as you go you are filling in details in a log book of sorts that asks you to determine who killed a given person and in what fashion. All of this sounds kinda dry to this point… but once I got hooked I could not put the game down because the story it hints at is so interesting. I guess there in lies the problem… you get hints and scraps of information instead of a cohesive narrative and are asked to draw a lot of your own conclusions… which is sorta the thing Destiny does as well. So if you bounce off that sort of indirect storytelling… then it might not be for you. For me however… I gobbled it up.
Draglia Lost – Android
I never expected to care this much about a mobile game. I have been a bit of a snob in that department, not really considering mobile games to be of the same value as more traditional options. Ultimately I would download something from the play store, play it for a week… and then promptly uninstall because whatever mirth was there was gone and I didn’t have a reason to keep playing once I reached the inevitable paywall. With Dragalia however there has been a constant drip feed of content that has kept me engaged, and they do this great thing where when one event finishes… they give you a preview of the event that is just around the corner to keep you interested and logging in every day. This has become my before bed activity of playing through at least enough to finish all of this games Daily quests. When there is an event going on I focus more on grinding my way through the really fun boss fights, one of which is shown in the left most panel of the above triptych. It also feels like I am always trying to build better element focused teams, so swapping out characters and rapidly leveling them up with items to try and keep building a better fighting force. I am still not the biggest fan of the touch to move interface… but once I turned off the rotate 180 degree option the movement felt more fluid and manageable. I still would prefer to play this on the switch… but I am more than happy to keep logging in every day on my phone as I lay in bed.
Magic the Gathering Arena – PC
Over the years I have dabbled in a bunch of digital card games like Hearthstone, but always found them to be lacking in one way or another. I would play them and enjoy them on some level… but never quite replaced Magic the Gathering in my heart. The digital form factor works so much better for me personally as an adult than the paper one, because I just don’t have a group that I can play Magic with in the same way as I did in High School. The other problem that I run into is that while Friday Night Magic exists… it is traditionally way more competitive than I want to be, seeing as I get a kick out of throwing together some janky decks built around a theme… that just get plastered by anyone who is “netdecking” for efficiency. Magic Online was a generally horrible experience because it did nothing to actually onboard the player into it… not to mention its obtuse form of purchasing cards by talking to what is essentially an IRC Chatbot. Arena however brings the sensibility of a digital first game like Hearthstone to my beloved Magic the Gathering and I completely love it. I am not playing every night, but have played often enough to at least get a few rounds in every single week. If you are or were a player of Magic the Gathering… I highly suggest you check it out because this is really the game I was waiting on all this time. Essentially Hearthstone and all of the other related digital card games are dead to me now that the ACTUAL Magic experience exists in a user friendly form.
Night in the Woods – PC
This game did not come out during the 2018 calendar year… but it was really important to me regardless. As someone who grew up in a Tiny town and went through the awkward transition of being one of the few people who made it past my first semester of college… with pretty much a good percentage of my class mates dropping out to “go back home”… this game personally attacked me at times. I related to the tale and the downfall of the town a bit too closely. Sure we didn’t have a creepy abandoned flooded tram system in town, but we had our share of things that were once glorious and had fallen into complete squalor. I also came so damned close to dropping out of college at one point during my path, and I sort of related to that as well. This is a great game and the problem is… I am not sure it would be for anyone who had not experienced some of the things that are slantwise related to the tale that is being told. For me… I latched onto this game hard and it became this weirdly remixed version of my life. For you however… it might just be a cute game with cartoon animals and a weirdly dark story thread running in the background. I think you owe it to yourself however to see which it is for you… because for me it was bordering on life changing.