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Well, here it is. We’re on the last day of the year and that means it’s time for my favourite game of the past 12 months. Yes, before we head into a brand new year, let’s take a look back at what was awesome.
There’s plenty of great games on the way in 2018 (more on that this coming week), but we shouldn’t forget that video game fans were also given a huge amount of excellent content to play this year. The games below represent titles that had the biggest impact on me, whether a game I couldn’t wait for or a surprise gem that came out of nowhere. Seriously, picking one to stand out from the rest was an absolute nightmare.
and the nominees are…
Assassin’s Creed Origins
As I mentioned in a previous award, Assassin’s Creed Origins serves as a fresh start for the franchise, both in story and in game design. Gone are much of the things that fans didn’t like including forced stealth missions, easy combat, and the over-reliance on the Assassins versus Templars theme. Origins also brings a heavier dose of Role Playing into the traditional action franchise, letting players work with skill points, experience, and loot to customize Bayek to their play style. The story is a revenge-driven tale that slowly opens up into something grander, but the setting really steals the show in every aspect. Traveling around ancient Egypt is a ton of fun, especially when sliding down a pyramid, or climbing up famous structures like the lighthouse in Alexandria. Overall, the extra development time clearly did wonders for not only the franchise but Assassin’s Creed Origins as well.
Horizon Zero Dawn
I guess you could consider this game a surprise as well. Guerrilla Games is known for their work on the first-person shooter franchise Killzone, so transitioning to a third person, open-world, action game is quite the change of pace. As you can imagine, those risks paid off in spades. The game presents players with this sense of mystery, which is actually carried forward by the game’s protagonist Aloy. The game hides plenty of information at first, such as what’s going on, where this game takes place, and how things got this way. There’s this synergy between Aloy and the player as well when she discovers something about the world, you do as well. Combat is also a dream, comprising mainly of slingshots, trip wires, and bow attacks, players fight off against various types of robot animals. Each one brings a new style of gameplay making combat feel unique and just plain fun, which goes a long way to helping this robust game feel fresh hour after hour.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
I know this game came under some controversy due to the sudden inclusion of an in-game store and microtransactions. Thankfully, I never found this unnecessary inclusion to get in the way of the core gameplay and frankly, I never felt the need to actually buy anything either with in-game or premium currency. From a gameplay perspective, Shadow of War picks up right where the first game left off, with Talion and Celebrimbor looking to not only kill Sauron but take back Mordor as well. The game features five unique zones to explore, a new loot and customization system, and plenty of orcs to convert to your cause. The Nemesis System is once again the main star of the show as it seems to remember even more things this time around. In addition, I found the story to be pretty interesting especially with a number of twists and turns as the game flies into the final chapter. If you’re a fan of the first game or open world games, Shadow of War is very easy to recommend.
I’ve written about the magic of Supergiant Games and Pyre at length in previous articles and for all of the nominations it’s received so far. Coming into the game, I had no idea what to expect from it, as previews had trouble describing what it actually was. Basically, Pyre takes place in a high fantasy style setting where individuals branded as criminals for various just/unjust crimes are exiled to a place called the Downside. In here, they perform events called Rites which are the meat of gameplay. Think of something like Rift mode from Destiny mashed up with something like Rocket League. What really surprised me were the story moments that held these segments together, which introduce interesting characters, tough decisions, and a plot that slowly pulls you further and further into this world. The magic of Supergiant Games continues.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
As I’ve said previously, Hellblade literally came out of nowhere for me. It’s a little different from Ninja Theory’s previous work in that it’s not as fast and action heavy. Instead, Hellblade introduces players to Senua, a Celtic warrior suffering from mental illness, likely post-traumatic stress from previous dealings with Viking invaders. The unique element here is that players will suffer from delusions right along with Senua, from voices praising and doubting what you’re doing, illusions that aren’t there, and more. It’s unnerving and completely interesting. What’s also incredibly impressive is that this is intended to be a smaller release, yet the studio managed to pack in their extremely high production values. Seriously, the facial animations and visual style are unbelievably good.
and the winner is…
Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn is such an intriguing game not only because it’s something remarkably different from what people expect out of Guerrilla Games, but it reimagines the open world genre. Guerrilla does a remarkable job keeping the world interesting by providing an interesting story, making side content meaningful, and making every robot fight interesting and fun. It’s almost like the studio took the open world formula and combined it with a light form of Monster Hunter. It’s a truly delicious combo.