by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 28th December, 2018
2018 was a great year for gamers; we got to play a ton of superb games many of which were available for all major platforms, the Nintendo Switch proved to be a force to be reckoned with and the console received most of the indie hits seen in a previous couple of years on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and the sheer quality of both AAA and indie titles was impressive.
Dragon Quest XI landed on PC, which would be impossible just ten years ago but it happened. The game is an excellent JRPG that comes with an amazing story but since it originally got released in Japan during 2017 we couldn't put it on our list.
Next, we have Injustice 2 and Dragon Ball FighterZ, a couple of superb fighting games that offer pretty visuals, tight combat, plenty of characters to play with and a ton of content. The great thing about both games is that they come with surprisingly strong single-player offering making them both excellent choices for warriors who prefer fighting alone.
Mega Man 11 is one hell of a journey and is a sure buy for Mega Man fans. On the other hand, the game failed short when it comes to content and quality compared to previous games from the series.
And Ni no Kuni II, no matter how good it is, never managed to top its predecessor which is still one of the best JRPGs we have ever seen or played. Yoku's Island Express and Moonlighter provided excellent platforming and rogue-lite experiences but both games failed to climb to the top of the hill when it comes to indie games released in 2018.
And finally, Ashen and its hardcore combat (that's better than in Dark Souls) are a perfect match but this Action RPG suffered from a plethora of problems during launch, the most notable being broken multiplayer component. But despite the fact these games didn't find their place on our list, we have to say that every single one is a great title worthy of your time and attention.
The last decade was a time of massive changes in the gaming industry and one of the most notable was adding RPG elements to other genres, making them more addictive and more varied by implementing various character and weapon upgrades that created additional depth and made games more addictive. The most affected genre surely was FPS, which usually constituted out of relatively simple games that provided lots of guns (which couldn't be upgraded) and even more enemies and demanded from gamers to kill everything that moves.
And Dusk is one of those games, the only difference being the fact that this one came in 2018, not in 1999. Simplistic in nature, like the original Doom or Serious Sam yet addictive like the best parts of Destiny 2, Dusk provided games a much needed old school FPS fix, which usually comes once or twice per year. In Dusk all you have are your weapons and with them, you need to kill tons of enemies that range from easy to kill cultists to diabolical creatures capable of turning you to mush in a second.
Frantic combat, simple visuals, linear levels, nonexistent story, and one of the best run "n'"gun action we've seen this year. Yup, Dusk is sweeter than honey if you're an old-school FPS fan.
Two Point Hospital brought back the golden age of gaming in the form of a management game combining modern visuals with classic gameplay that borrows heavily from legendary Theme Hospital that still is one of the best simulation/management titles of all time. But this one is great on its own and once you play it a bit you will completely forget about Theme Hospital (if you're an older gamer) or wonder how on Earth no one thought until now to create a game like this one (if you're younger than 30).
The game is cute as they can be and is so stuffed with quality humor it bursts into laughter every time you look at it. And once you start playing, you will burst into laughter too, and more frequent than you think. And funny enough bursting into laughter is probably a disease you'll treat in Two Point Hospital. Yes, here you don't have to deal with real-world diseases that are anything but funny; in this game, you will face horrible illnesses such as cubism, emperor complex, or premature mummification. If you like a good laugh and management games you simply have to get this one.
The only downside is that the game shares the common problem found in every single similar game - after a while, it all becomes micromanagement hell.
After IO Interactive gave Hitman series a soft reboot with the fantastic 2016's Hitman (with one major flaw, the episodic nature of the game that made fans furious), they returned with Hitman 2, which is even better than its predecessor. Firstly, we got all levels at once, yay for that! But seriously, Hitman 2 is the ultimate assassination sandbox game.
It is filled with unique solutions to your everyday problems (Agent 47's everyday problems are how to kill his targets silently) and each level of the game is a perfect little playground that simply demands to be played at least a couple of times. The suitcase is back but killing people with guns is boring. Sabotaging a race car, using a giant fan to push a target from a ledge, or feeding someone to a hippo is much more satisfying and in the spirit of the series.
The game is a bit short but it has huge replay value because the number of ways you can eliminate targets is astounding! Weekly elusive targets return so that's another way to sink more hours into the game. Visuals are nothing special but pretty enough to make the game appealing to most gamers and the added value of receiving all levels from the original game in one package (for owners of 2016's Hitman) for free is another plus. The best stealth game of 2018 and one of the best Hitman games ever.
Do you like card games? Do you like playing alone? If you answered yes to both questions play this one, now! Play it even if you answered yes to just one question, even if you answered no to the first one because Thronebreaker is an amazing card game that looks and sounds like a full-fledged RPG.
If it weren't for battles that take place on a board and are fought with cards, Thronebreaker would indeed be a proper RPG. It has an amazing story, it is all about roleplaying, it is filled with conversations, it simply brims with decision making with each decision carrying consequences that will become apparent sooner or later, and it has a main base that can be upgraded and improved in many ways.
When you think a bit about it Thronebreaker is indeed an RPG the only difference from other RPG games being card battles and the inability to level up your heroine, the warrior queen Meve of Lyria and Rivia. On the other hand, you can level up your camp and cards, as well as craft new ones (think of this as a replacement for crafting and buying new weapons in classic RPG games).
The only noticeable downside in Thronebreaker is its laughably easy difficulty, which can greatly annoy grizzled veterans who played dozens of card games.
Ever since Firaxis restarted X-Com series with XCOM: Enemy Unknown (with great success, the game was among the best titles in 2012) turn-based tactics games started appearing like mushrooms after rain. But the problem was that most of those iterations were far below the excellence of XCOM and its sequel, Enemy Within. That was until we saw Mutant Year Zero, a game that finally challenged the XCOM games and while it didn't beat them, it came extremely close to taking the throne of turn-based tactics genre.
It offers original and well-written story, a cast of diverse characters each with its own mix of abilities, weapons, and powers, superb visuals, and challenging set of levels that demand thinking ahead and a good deal of chess-like planning of your every move. And those characters are hilarious to listen to and play with; each of them comes with a plethora of one-liners that will make even the grumpiest gamers to laugh, if just for a second.
The game is excellent in every way except when it comes to the length of its campaign; we would like if it was at least double its length. And with its extreme addictiveness, its campaign feels even shorter, which is a real shame because this is almost as good as XCOM and it is so hard finding a game that is as good as XCOM.
The triumphant crescendo of one of the best indie RPG series we have ever seen is indeed a majestic experience that combines the best parts of the past two games and gives gamers enthralling combination of epic story, turn-based combat, detailed hand-drawn visuals, and a cast of intriguing characters. The end is near and you have to battle your way through the crumbling world on the brink of the apocalypse in order to finish the grand journey that started four and a half years ago with the first Banner Saga.
The game is filled with choices and consequences and the great part of it is the fact that all the choices you made in two previous games will affect your journey in this one. Yes, a decision you've made four years ago can get back and haunt you, making your journey that more difficult. Or maybe you helped someone who didn't forget the assistance, and who will give you a hand when you desperately need one? Who knows because, in The Banner Saga 3, all stories connect into one giving you unique ending to your marathon journey that finally comes to an end.
Monster Hunter: World is the first Monster Hunter game for the PC but this one didn't get remembered just by that fact. Instead, Monster Hunter: World gave players a huge world to explore (yes, it's in the title but still, it's worth mentioning) filled with various creatures that can be killed and skinned for valuable materials.
The game is far more forgiving than most other titles from the series but that doesn't mean it's bad. The combat is interesting and tactical and the co-op game mode is excellent for playing with friends because the biggest monsters require coordinated attacks and cooperation in order to be defeated.
A new action RPG classic, Monster Hunter: World is the best looking game of the series despite its visual flaws in the form of noticeable clipping and poor texture work that is visible in many regions of the game. Also, the game isn't for fans of story-driven games and for those who don't like the concept of grinding as the main game mechanic.
Because of these shortcomings, we cannot put Monster Hunter: World higher on our list; it is simply a game that you either love or hate. But if you love this type of game, Monster Hunter: World probably ended on your list of five (or ten) best games of this year.
Mobile gaming space is mostly filled with pay-to-win titles that come free but soon after you install them beg for more and more money in order to keep playing but from time to time we receive a gem of a game that is worth every penny. And this is the case with Pocket City, a city management game that is the best title of its genre released in 2018, no matter the platform.
The game is available for free (with ads) or for a couple of bucks, both on Android and iOS and if you like this type of games we are telling you to go and buy the paid version because it is so good it could sell for $30 and it would still be worth it.
Pocket City is a city builder for mobile devices that is free of all those nasty free-to-play limitations that are usually the reason most of us stop playing 90 percent of mobile games we found interesting. You start with a small settlement and over time can develop it into a huge metropolis that asks for constant care and management in order to thrive even more.
The main game mode is filled with free-flow missions that reward additional money and keep the game interesting and challenging over time. And it all plays so well that you will surely catch yourself spending hours at a time in front of your phone instead in front of your PC or console because yes, Pocket City is that good.
If we had to pick the most beautiful game of 2018 Gris would be the undisputed GOTY. This indie gem looks like a painting in motion and no matter the fact that the term was used to death, it definitely fits this game.
This adventure is a surreal journey through all kinds of psychedelic worlds filled with otherworldly scenes which are experienced through the eyes of a young girl that needs to return colors to this barren universe. On its surface, Gris is a simple platformer but as you progress through the game you will discover new colors, with each color adding new elements making the game more than the sum of its parts.
By collecting orbs and adding colors you unlock new elements that are part of the world, each more intriguing than the last one, which in turn opens up more orbs that can be collected.
This all leads to new ways of travel that include swimming, floating, and flying. With time you will also stumble upon simple yet rewarding puzzles and will also slowly discover the game's mysterious story. Gris is one of those games where the game's world plays the main role and although it is extremely short (the game can be finished in just a couple of hours) Gris will stay in your memory for years to come.
Return of the Obra Dinn is unique in so many ways. Its visuals are original as they can be reminiscent of games released decades ago when graphics cards were in the realm of science fiction and when 8-bit visuals were still years away. Its hardcore puzzles ask from players to keep written notes in order to be able to keep track of the game's huge number of puzzles and characters.
Its unique environment, an abandoned ship filled with corpses and murders to solve. And its gameplay, a time manipulating powers that give you slices of the past containing smithereens of a solution to each murder.
This game looks and plays like adventures of times past but it still managed to gather a large fan base that simply adores it, and for many good reasons. Playing this game is like a watching a superb episode of Hercule Poirot, like reading an unpublished masterpiece of Agatha Christie, like eating a sweet chocolate cake.
This game is a gift to adventure lovers, both old and young and it is one of the best mystery solving games we played in the last couple of years. Its hardcore nature in combination with excruciatingly hard puzzles is the winning formula that made Return of the Obra Dinn a proud member of our Best of 2018 list.