Top 10 Games of 2019

I played way more games this year than I did in 2018. Several of my favorites for this year weren’t exactly new though. 2019 was a year of blessed re-releases. For the first time since 2010, I got to (legitimately) return to vanilla World of Warcraft and explore the original Azeroth that I fell in love with all those years ago. In March, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was announced for PC and Halo: Reach dropped at the start of December. These are not new games; these are games I played years ago.

I thought for a while about how to handle them in my normal rules for these Top 10 of the Year pieces and I think it’s best to exclude them. I enjoy all of Bungie’s Halo games and while Reach is basically a stopgap until Halo 2 and Halo 3 drop, getting back into that sweet, sweet Halo has dominated my gaming time since it released. The original World of Warcraft is one of my favorite games of all time and placing it on this list would only knock out deserving games that I enjoyed for the first time this year. I write about WoW enough already anyway.

In short: while those re-releases have their issues (Reach lacking Theater and Forge, for example), the games are awesome. Both are as fun as I remember. Play them, have a blast. 

Here are my guidelines for this list:

  1. In the case of a non-multiplayer-only game, I must have played its single player experience to completion. This does not require a 100% of all that the game has to offer. Instead, a completion of its main quest, story or campaign will suffice.
  2. I must have accomplished the above rules in 2019. The games on this list are not all 2019 releases. It is a list of what I played this year.

I think the only games this disqualifies that I started this year are God of War (PS4) and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Switch). 

Let’s go. 

Continue reading Top 10 Games of 2019

You’re Gonna Carry That Weight – Death Stranding

Death Stranding raises a question: do video games always have to be fun? 

There are plenty of games released before Death Stranding that presented this same question but they were limited to smaller budgets, indie releases and avant-garde art games. Death Stranding is the first time a AAA budget title is arguably not fun — and that’s kind of the point. It shouts its question from atop a mountain of money, from heights that only Hideo Kojima could reach. 

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Hollow Knight: A Deep Journey

SPOILER WARNING: Some mild gameplay and plot spoilers below.

If you have any plans to play Hollow Knight, please play it.

Hollow Knight released in 2017 and I am upset that I spent the last two years of my life without playing it. Please stop yourself from continuing the same mistake I made and play it now, particularly if you are a fan of the Metroidvania genre.

Hollow Knight is the tale of the diminutive Knight as they explore Hallownest, a fallen insect kingdom deep beneath the ground. Much like the treasure and secrets Hallownest is known for, the map itself is full of surprises, even for the genre. The oppressive tunnels and caverns of the fallen kingdom open into beautiful gardens and canyons and a glowing peak for the civilization’s crown.

It’s full of surprises. The content its underground depths hold for a $15 USD ticket cost put fully priced AAA games to shame. There is more here than there should be for an indie game — definitely for one made by three people. Ari Gibson and William Pellen, with the help of composer Christopher Larkin, have created a pure vessel for gaming and Metroid-inspired brilliance themselves.

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Complicated and Messy: Kingdom Hearts 3

SPOILER ALERT: Includes (slight) spoilers for Kingdom Hearts 3/the Kingdom Hearts franchise.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is a game that’s 13 years late.

It’s not outdated. The AAA sheen permeates throughout the game, in every aspect of its aesthetic. Those 13 years built the game up too much. Kingdom Hearts 3 was probably never going to be the game it could have been, because it’s a game that tries to be too many things.

Like its kin The Last Guardian, Duke Nukem Forever and Half-Life 3, Kingdom Hearts 3 was put off, in development and delayed for a long time. Presuming the E3 2013 announcement trailer wasn’t too long after development started, it was in development for at least 6 years. That 2013 announcement trailer was arguably several years late too.

The Kingdom Hearts franchise hasn’t exactly been handled gracefully. The first game released in 2002 and its numeric sequel followed at a reasonable pace in 2005. Even that’s not the whole truth though, as a plot-important spinoff subtitled Chain of Memories released on the GameBoy Advance in 2004. Unfortunately, this started a trend for the series where subsequent games, despite being important to the plot, were flung out across the gaming industry’s current console generation.

In a way, this foreshadows some of the issues that Kingdom Hearts 3 (actually the 10th game in the series ignoring re-releases) come to struggle with. The franchise itself can’t decide what it wants to be about. Picking a random game out of the franchise wouldn’t guarantee you the gameplay of the numeric titles. The plot across these titles are handled like the opening moves on a Go board: the stones are placed wide across the board with the hope that they will all connect with the final, uniting move.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is supposed to be that uniting move. It’s an incomplete victory.

Continue reading Complicated and Messy: Kingdom Hearts 3

Top 5 Games of 2018

I didn’t actually play a lot of games this year. Oops. Believe me, that’s not what I wanted to realize when I sat down to compile the list of games I completed this year in preparation for this piece. I have started more games than I played, I just haven’t finished them. I’ll probably finish most. Some I won’t.

I played seven games to completion this year. Two were multiplayer games and one was a replay of an old favorite with self-imposed challenge rules. So there will be some adjustment to the article this year. For one, we’re only going to talk about five games instead of the usual ten. It’s more like four though. You’ll see what I mean below.

Here are the rules, as always:

  1. In the case of a non-multiplayer-only game, I must have played its single player experience to completion. This does not require a 100% of all that the game has to offer. Instead, a completion of its main quest, story or campaign will suffice.
  2. In the case of a multiplayer game, I must describe how I played it. Whether cooperative or competitive multiplayer, I will detail whether I played with friends, matchmaking, or online or local multiplayer.
  3. I must have accomplished the above rules in 2018. The games on this list are not all 2018 releases. It is a list of what I played that year.

Let’s get started.

Continue reading Top 5 Games of 2018

Now! Show yourself! Deltarune!

WARNING: THE POST BELOW CONTAINS LIGHT SPOILERS FOR THE GAME DELTARUNE, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO: CHARACTER NAMES AND APPEARANCES AND GAMEPLAY SPOILERS.

Toby Fox made my Halloween at work torture when he released Deltarune early that morning.

More accurately, he released chapter 1 of Deltarune. The game isn’t complete yet. Where Undertale was proof that one person could make a game alone, Deltarune is impossible to make solo. It dreams too big. Compared to Undertale, that’s saying something. The game isn’t here yet. It will be here when it’s done. As a fan, that’s both refreshing and torturous. I want the game now and I want it to be good. The logic in me says, “Take as long as you need.” The rest of me says “Give it to me now.”

That’s an unfair desire and one that fans should be careful to check before they turn to Twitter vitriol. I want the game now precisely because it is so good. It took the most famous aspects of Undertale and ran with them: the music, the clever battle system, the lovable characters. When the boots of Deltarune hit the ground, it felt so obvious. Of course these were the next steps. How did no one think of them sooner?

Continue reading Now! Show yourself! Deltarune!

Lonely Rolling Star – Katamari Damacy

The King of All Cosmos went on a wicked bender and destroyed all the stars in the sky. It’s up to you, the Prince of All Cosmos, to set things right.

That’s the plot of Katamari Damacy. You, the centimeter-sized prince to your father’s planet-shadowing height, are gifted the titular katamari: an ever sticky ball to roll around and correct the overwhelming junk of planet Earth. There’s more than enough stuff on Earth to turn into stars. Thumbtacks and erasers, people and cars, skyscrapers and continent. Katamari Damacy is a game of scale — everything can and will be consumed by the katamari.

After all, the Prince has a deadline. The katamari must be a certain size before the time runs out. And even if it’s not big enough, well. We can turn it into some nice stardust.

Continue reading Lonely Rolling Star – Katamari Damacy