Rabidgames’ GOTY Awards 2018: Late Arrivals, 76 Mistakes, Cowboys and Malakas

You know the feeling when you have your Top 10 list ready to go and THEN stumble upon more games that you feel should be in there? Bad timing, yes. Especially when you barely scratched the surface after playing them for 10 hours … But more on that later.

Let’s get the awful shit out of the way first, shall we?

Fuck You of the Year

So yeah. Let’s start with Agony – awful game, awful mechanics, and whoever thought basing a game on menstruating vaginas is a good idea needs a health check. Shelling out money for this crap is a little fuck you. Metal Gear Survive was a bigger fuck you – turning a stealth series into a loot survival whatever crap show – bad idea. Konami violating the good name of Metal Gear – even worse idea. So from the bottom of Rabidgames’ heart, fuck you, Konami.

But congratulations, Fallout 76, you’ve managed an entire parade of hard and penetrating fuck yous – a fuck you for an unfinished game full of old Fallout 4 bugs and disappearing camps, a massive fuck you for ripping of your customers and then even fucking up their privacy by somehow releasing personal details(!!!), and then fucking introducing absurdly priced micro-transactions in Fallout 76 BEFORE fixing your shit show of a broken game. Fuck you for saying fuck you to your own player base and for ruining your name, so fuck you very much!

 

Disappointment of the Year

Well, there are a few candidates here. We Happy Few comes to mind – an interesting promise getting lost in its mechanics after two hours. Same goes for Kingdom Come: Deliverance, although it might be a bit more understandable given the scope and ambition of the game. But well, disappointing nonetheless, especially because of the broken and restrictive save system, but also because too much realism can boring. Vampyr started of greatly, but the incredibly boring and too often mandatory fighting weighed the game down a lot (yes, there’s a Story Mode now, but releasing that half a year after the release of the game, too little, too late). Speaking of Dontnod, Life is Strange 2 … sorry, the first game had some magic because of the mix of adventure, teenage drama, its mysteries and its time travel mechanics. Before the Storm failed to back it up (and backtalk was a boring maechanic), and Life is Strange 2 may be better, but it’s still a far cry from the first one. Shame.

Speaking of it, Far Cry 5 is still a nice sandbox, but the narrative suffered from the inconsequential portrayal of the religious christian nuts; why are they nuts? Is it religion? Their wonder drug? The American gun craze? No answers given. But Far Cry 5 suffered even more from the terrible pacing with the mysterious homing abduction crews and missions voiding other missions without warning. Killing the freedom to tackle things is a cardinal sin in a sandbox. Also, the abysmal DLC packs Far Cry 5 shat out didn’t help.

But the biggest disappointment was Just Cause 4. A broken visual mess is the first thing that came to mind, with goddamn motion blur so bad it made you feel dizzy. But the problems run deeper – Avalanche has forgotten what makes Just Cause great: We don’t want fucking escort missions or fucking “defend this position” missions, and we don’t want a wannabe-deep-and-serious story about crap we don’t give shit about. We want over the top action, we want to liberate towns, and we want to blow shit up! To be fair, blowing shit up is still great fun in Just Cause 4, but a game can’t live on just that, especially if there’s less of it. And seeing how much potential there is, it’s a wasted opportunity. Again.

 

Positive Surprise of the Year

It might come as surprise to some, but yes, the much aligned scenario of “games a service” can actually work. Look at Monster Hunter World – a big base game, and nice updates even now, a year later: new monsters, new armour and weapons. And just now, we can play as Geralt! Another good example is Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – more quests, more mercenary tiers, more ways to customise the misthios, a higher level cap … and best of all, all this stuff is absolutely free for both games! This is how you do it right. Yes, this also means disapprovingly looking at your shameful example now, Destiny 2!

 

Remake/Remaster of the Year

Shenmue 1/2. It’s that simple. Sure, it might be a relic of the past, but fucking hell, what a relic! Much like the first Life is Strange, Shenmue is a great example of deceleration in games: You NEED to take things slower than usual because some things WILL only happen at a certain time. And you can’t sleep during the day, so why not explore for a while? Shenmue is also a nice adventure, and although it “deserves” some credit to have invented the fucking “art” of quick time events, the fighting relying on it is introduced rather late. At its core, Shenmue is about discovering a world, but doing so without all the ubiquitous GPS markers and detailed explanations where to go next we’ve been accustomed to these days (well, there are directions, but you better remember them). Chances are you’ll also see some cool glitches …

 

Before we get to the top 10 games, let’s have a look at the games that missed out but still deserve honourable mentions: The Crew 2 is good fun, but sadly lacks some substance and logic. We’ve had two good wrestling games in 2018, and both WWE 2K19 and Fire Pro Wrestling World are rather unlucky to miss out on a top 10 spot. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is better than the combat-heavy Rise of the Tomb Raider, and more exploration is always welcome, but somehow, the Tomb Raider reboot is still better. And last but not least, Dragon Quest XI is decent JRPG, sure. But somehow, it lacks memorable characters, a gripping narrative for most parts and definitely better pacing. Being reduced to 50% of the party size and being forced to fight drawn-out battles just because got boring after the third of too many times, sorry.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, gamers of all ages, drum roll please …………

 

 

Rabidgames’ Top 10 2017

10. Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor Martyr
Yes, the name is stupidly long. But if you feel like Diablo in space, this gore-heavy game about some insane space inquisition shooting up the shit out of everything is great fun. The three classes of 40k Inquisitor Martyr (each with 3 sub-classes) play pretty differently, and then again you can go for different approaches with the many different weapons of Inquisitor Martyr. As opposed to Diablo 3, Inquisitor also boasts a massive selection of skill trees to choose from so you can build everything from flamethrower tank to magic nuke wielder to concealed sniper terror. And while the story of Martyr isn’t super original, it is 3 leagues above Diablo’s at least. But, what should we call the game?

9. Divinity Original Sin 2
Wait what? How comes this game is just here? Well, true, there is some good writing and some compelling characters. And you can do many things. But … somehow, Original Sin 2 takes place in a generic fantasy world we’ve seen many times, and before you get the story really going, you spend too much time in the first big hub (which actually is a strange phenomenon because Pillars of Eternity and the first Original Sin had the same problem).

8. Phantom Doctrine
While many would compare this game to XCOM 2, Jagged Alliance 2 is a more apt comparison. Phantom Doctrine puts more emphasis on stealth, and the characters also tend to be rather … unique. The mix of strategic action on the world map and thrilling stealth-packed missions with potential danger in each room won’t get old quickly. But prepare to spend some time with the quite strange story in the Cold War setting of Phantom Doctrine – one mission alone can easily eat up an hour, and things can go south in one turn …

7. Ni Nu Kuni 2
This game is different – it’s pretty easy (except for the optional dungeons), it’s pretty light-hearted, and everything is simply as straightforward as it seems. But Ni No Kuni 2 is fun – the colourful real-time battles, building the capital of your kingdom (although very, very basic) and also the real-time strategy parts, they’re all good fun. If the story was a bit deeper and made a bit more sense, it would have been an even better game – but hey, sometimes we also wanna watch Brooklyn 99 rather than Breaking Bad

6. Spider-Man
Any time spent swinging through New York is a good time. You perv, swinging like Spider-Man, of course! While swinging is definitely the highlight, the diverse missions (from talking to fighting to swinging to playing detective to – too much of – stealth), the interesting characters and the graphical beauty of New York itself make Spider-Man a fun game to swing around and kill some time – never perps though (not officially at least). Sadly, it gets  bit repetitive towards the end, especially with the boss fights.

5. Yakuza 6
The Yakuza games have always been the one JRPG that’s different. Some call the series “GTA in Japan”. Some call it a beat ’em up. Some call it a mafia sim. It is almost all of this (the GTA part being rather misleading), and more. It’s also a deep and serious main story combined with goofy side stuff, although when it plays a goofy scene after a gruesome murder, it can seem odd. And Yakuza 6 is a bit more structured, but it also offers some crazy “clan creator” battles (with a ton of Japanese pro-wrestlers), and there’s also a cat café!!!

4. Monster Hunter World
Damn, this game of the year territory now! In most years, a game as addictive and deep as Monster Hunter World would quite easily have been the best game. Alas, not in 2018. There isn’t even a lot of negative things to say against the game – and yet it doesn’t make the top 3. Maybe it was released too early in the year, maybe it’s a bit too hard to get back into it. Some palicos might cry now …

 

3. God of War
What a game! The narrative developing, the first boss fight, the big reveal about the boy, how that works with the Norse mythology, the compelling gameplay, that moment when you get to equip THOSE weapons … if it wasn’t for the boring waves after waves of the same enemies towards the end, God of War could have been a really divine experience. For once, a child character isn’t utterly useless or magically unseen by the AI (which explains why Ellie ended up being The Last of Us), and even more, we see some nice character development with the BOY. So take it from someone who despised the old God of War games for their button mashing and QTE boss orgies, this new incarnation of God of War is deicidally exquisite! And we already have a thundering cliffhanger …

 

2. Red Dead Redemption 2
Here’s the thing: Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game with two sides: On the one hand you have the greatly written story, the amazing characters, the ingenious camp with its hundreds of dialogues. Those people might be criminals, but there OUR criminals. You get attached to them. But don’t get too attached though … And on top of this, Red Dead Redemption 2 features an amazing world. Vast, vibrant, detailed, and so much to discover. From wading through snow to finding pretty weird secrets in abandoned houses, it offers a lot. And walking around Saint Denis at night, now that is some real magic.

But there’s also the other side: Very generic run of the mill shooter mechanics, idiotically scripted and narrow missions that can shatter the sandbox experience, and being able to fail a mission instantly because you wandered off a meter to the left – and this very failure caused the game to break a bit so you lose interactions with 4 vital members of your camp for two chapters. As much as Red Dead Redemption 2 shines in many ways, the gameplay mechanics are nothing special in most cases and downright awful in some. And do you have a moment to talk about suicidal horses?

It is a shame though, because Red Dead Redemption 2 surely had the potential to be THE BEST GAME EVER – well, if only it hadn’t ironically failed at the game part … Narrative, characters, atmosphere, immersion, making the world and its inhabitants feel alive – that’s all there. It’s a shame Red Dead Redemption 2 stumbles at the first gameplay hurdle, and still, despite all those complaints, hardly anyone can deny it is a masterpiece when all the parts connect.

 

1. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Another Assassin’s Creed as game of the year? Really? Yes. And not just that, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is arguably the best Assassin’s Creed. Sorry, Ezio. It has one of the best main stories of the series (to be fair, that’s not a high bar), easily the best side quests – some even getting close to the level of Witcher 3(!) – some interesting and distinctly odd characters (Socrates comes instantly to mind) … but here’s the thing: Odyssey absolutely shines where Red Dead Redemption 2 fails – gameplay. Once you’ve gained a few levels and you can choose how you want to play, Odyssey really opens up. Pure stealth, pure ranged fighter or melee tank – all possible. Granted, the easiest high-level build is probably the virtually unstoppable fire whirlwind, setting every enemy ablaze and sending their ashes to the ground very quickly.

But it’s not just the fighting – there is so much to explore in Odyssey’s world, so many side quests to take on, there are the naval battles and the conquest battles (well, we’re back to  fighting, and here you should go for melee build/equipment), there are almost 50 cult members to hunt across ancient Greece, mythological beasts to fight (which is one of the three main quest story arcs by the way), and if you want a challenge, fight the top mercenaries that can kill you within 10 seconds even on easy if you’re careless … Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a massive, massive game. And while it doesn’t look as good as Red Dead Redemption 2 and yes, the lack of pyramids is still mourned, it still looks stunning.

There is one thing you need to know about Assassin’s Creed Odyssey though: Plan to play the game for at least 100 hours. At least. Come on man, what else would you expect from an odyssey? It’s in the title! It is big, it is massive, and no, you don’t need to buy any micro-transactions. The game is very gracious in giving you many different means to level up quickly. Besides, getting lost while exploring has rarely been as easy as in Odyssey – and that’s a compliment.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: