My Video Games of 2018: Shooting Aliens and Collecting Strawberries

If you want to learn about a person, look through their video game library. What type of games do they enjoy? How many hours have they poured into sports games? What system do they prefer? Gaming has never been taken as seriously as film or literature, but I think the medium deserves its day in court. The stories and mechanics of games are some of the best ways to enjoy a multitude of worlds in a very active way. I, like more writers, love stories. 2018 was an excellent year for gaming. And the five (plus) games that are included on this list are some of the best stories you can enjoy with a controller in hand.


5. Destiny 2: Forsaken

destiny2_forsaken_directions.jpg

This is the only MMO I’ve ever loved. It’s not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination. But it has its charms. This game universe is space opera at its best. It’s all about gun-toting space wizards at war with a Lovecraftian darkness. You go on quests, you battle four or five different alien races, each with a unique design and history. This soundtrack is epic and soaring, and each planet has its own suite of brilliant music. When you’re not questing alone, you’re doing it with friends. Many of the toughest environments in the game require a group to even get through. And when you get bored with killing aliens, you can always drop into the competitive Crucible mode and battle against other players.

I’ve put more hours into this game than any other in 2018. It’s endless loot and shoot gameplay is addicting, if a bit disrespectful of your time. But it’s Destiny 2: Forsaken’s flavor that keeps bringing me back.

For more on my thoughts on Destiny 2: Forsaken: Tim Burton Spook Music: An Ode to Destiny 2’s Halloween Event.


4. Celeste

celeste.jpg

On the surface, this is the kind of throwback platformer that are a dime a dozen in any game system e-store. I heard the merits of this game screamed over every video game podcast and website for months after Celeste’s initial release. And then it happened again when this dropped on the Switch. So, after I found myself bored and sleepy on a Saturday morning, I snatched this up from the Holiday PS4 sale.

But Celeste is not just another recycled platformer. It’s a precise and brutally tough platformer, that happens to have a beautiful core. Celeste is the mountain. You play Madeline, who is climbing that mountain. You meet a variety of goofy characters, and get to watch Madeline grow as your skills grow. Celeste has a lot to say about depression and self-worth. It comes at those issues in a mature way that we don’t often see in games. This game is beyond sweet and worth the challenge.


3. Red Dead Redemption 2

rdr2_screenshot_084_copy_0

This had to be my most anticipated game of the year. And, as I’m sure you already know, Rockstar delivered. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a slow, momentous beast of a game. You fill the shoes of gruff everyman Arthur Morgan. You run with his gang and commit crimes. Things go good, things go bad and then they go even worse. The Dutch Van Der Linde gang is filled with characters that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. When you’re not riding through beautiful natural vistas or shooting everything, you’re hanging out in camp, drinking and listening to tales of the glory days.

This is not a happy game. But this is a story that everyone should experience. It’s beautiful and savage, and filled with more minutia in the moment to moment gameplay than you could ever want. But if you take a breath and get on the same wave length, you’ll feel like a cowboy.


2. Marvel’s Spider-Man

3436903-marvel-spider-man-open-world

HOLY CRAP I’M SPIDER-MAN AND I’M SWINGI–WAIT–DID YOU SEE THAT!?

That stream of Caps above is an approximate approximation of what was happening in my brain while I was playing this game. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a perfect Spider-Man game. The swinging is fast and the combat is simple to learn and a joy to master. Insomniac has crafted a New York City that is a joy to explore. Avengers Tower! The Sanctum Sanctorum!

But that’s not all. The story explores Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s relationships and his place in this world. Old rogue’s gallery villains are recreated in unique and brilliant ways. It can’t be ignored just how clean and fluid this entire game feels. The collectibles and side missions are fun to experience and collect. And the end couple of missions of this thing are *sighs* wonderful.


1. God Of War

god-of-war-kratos-leviathan-axe.jpg.optimal.jpg

God of War is nearly perfect. Let’s break it down. A character piece for Kratos and his son. A combat system that is both visceral and beautiful. A world steeped in history and magic. Adventure on a scale rarely recreated in this generation of games. Probably the best looking PS4 exclusive!

But it’s not just that. Both Red Dead Redemption 2 and Spider-Man had those same qualities. But God Of War stands apart. This is a video game story of loss and of growing love. Kratos is a man with a horrible past. He has known loss both in his past and very much in his present. And to watch this wild demigod grow as a person and as a father felt momentous in every conceivable way. Come for the Leviathan axe and stay for the character growth.


Bonus Round….

Can I talk about some runner-ups? Kind of. I played a few other games that aren’t quite Top 5 material, but deserve your attention in some other way. The only other game that belonged this high up was Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. It’s another rip-roaring adventure game where you get to jump off stuff and have awesome sword fights. And, if you play as Kassandra, it’s kind of like you’re playing as Wonder Woman. Which is cool.

The other game I wanted to talk about is Call of Cthulhu. This game is…not anything that I wanted it to be. It’s essentially a walking simulator with some very diet-light environmental puzzles. But being able to spend some slow time in a quaint little Lovecraftian world is kind of fun. If you can snag this game up for cheap (or maybe a rental?) I think you should do it. Especially if you’re a Lovecraft horror nut.

This was the year I discovered the joys of the PS4 Platinum trophy system. I’m by no means a trophy hunter, but I enjoy the added value of hunting them down. Earning the Platinum likely means you’ve seen most of what the game has to offer. I earned five Platinum trophies this year: The Order: 1886,  God of War, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Marvel’s Spider-Man and Fallout 4. My Fallout 4 platinum was the most well-earned. I love the Fallout franchise, even if Fallout 76 may be the worst game I played all year. Scratch that, worst game I’ve played in the last five.


That is my version of the gaming year that was 2018. This year was abnormally strong, but it wasn’t without its disapointments. This was the year that made me glad to own a PS4. This was the year where I was inspired and strengthened by the games that I played.

 

Tim Burton Spook Music: An Ode to Destiny 2’s Halloween Event

I have a soft spot for a good horror video game. Earlier this year, I jump-scared my way through Resident Evil 7. I played and was subsequently terrified of both Outlast games. Even games like Dead Space (a perfect blend of atmosphere and tense combat) and Bioshock (my favorite game of all time, don’t @ me) are perfect replays once September ends. This year, I intended to play through Bioshock again, which has served as my October tradition for quite some time.

But this year was different. I was swarmed with great games! Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey had my attention for awhile. Red Dead Redemption 2 is literally two days away. Those, coupled with the fact that I’m working a book AND trying to absorb all other kinds of spooky media, my old favorites didn’t have time to sneak in. All seemed to be lost…

Destiny 2.jpg

Then I heard about Destiny 2’s Halloween event. It’s called Festival of Souls, and it’s everything I could want from a game. My love/hate relationship with Destiny 2 is particularly strong. I love the game’s world and over-all flavor. The shooting feels good, and the music is some of the best music in gaming (once again, don’t @ me). But the game is also obtuse and disrespectful to your time in ways that few other games are. It’s community can be toxic and elitist in the worst possible way. While playing through a Raid earlier this year, I met some of the worst people I’ve ever had the displeasure of gaming with. It soured my experience with this beautiful mess of a game. I deleted it off my PS4 and moved on to other games, with no intention of playing D2 again.

And yet, here I am.

I couldn’t help but see details about the event on social media. A month long event where you don masks of famous Destiny NPCs and dive into a creepy simulation called The Haunted Forest. The rewards range from the interesting to the irresistibly spooky. As you battle randomized enemies, you’re hunted by Destiny 2’s version of a slasher villain. This axe wielding creature lurks in the darkness of the level (you can only see via your Ghost’s light) and can one-shot you with ease once he spots you. It’s Halloween done Destiny style, complete with unique Tim Burton spook music in the Tower and a seemingly endless grind for stylized loot.

From Bungie/Activison

Delving into this level with two other random players and battling the darkness together is totally wonderful. It doesn’t have the frustrations or challenge of something like a Raid. But in this busy and spooky month, I’m okay with that. I just want to don a mask and shoot some aliens. I hope Bungie makes the Festival of Souls an annual event.

I’ll be there next year for sure, my Horror Story Auto Rifle in hand.

5 E3 Games That I Will Be Buying

I know this is a author website but I can’t help but be excited for E3. So if you can forgive me for this diversion, I’m going to geek out for a minute. The biggest video game convention of the year was packed to the gills with incredible announcements and news from nearly every developer. I decided to write this up to make sense of all the awesomeness. I’ve also decided to exclude games that have releases too far in the future (new Elder Scrolls!!! Cyberpunk 2077!!!) to try and narrow the list down. So here is the list from least to most.

5: Dying Light 2

dying light 2.jpg

The first Dying Light was a underrated game. Developer Techland has announced that this game will be bigger and better in every way. They’ve updated the combat system and added some RPG elements as well. If the developers are to be believed, then choices will really matter for this one. I’m very excited to see how it all plays out.

4: Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

AC

I just platinumed Assassin’s Creed: Origins earlier this week and finished that game out very excited for whatever Ubisoft was going to do next. The updated combat and traversal elements made the grind of the previous games into something truly magnificent. Just like Dying Light 2, Ubisoft Quebec has promised an addition of more RPG systems. I’m excited to Spartan Kick some people off some things when this game drops in October.

3: Metro: Exodus

metro%20exodus.jpg

Russian post-apocalyptic first person shooter. Resource management and mysterious monsters from unknown places. I played the Metro games when they were remastered and I enjoyed them immensely. The gameplay trailers showed a beautifully desolate world that also looks very dangerous. I’m ready to kill some monsters as soon as this game drops.

2: Spider-Man

spiderman.jpg

Ummmm… This game looks insane on every level. A Spider-Man game with a Batman: Arkham combat system and a story that looks like it matches with the best of what Rocksteady conjured up. The complexity and speed of this game looks to be everything I could dream of in a superhero game.

1: The Last Of Us Part II

SCREEN_TLOU2_Teaser_03.jpg

This is the big one. Anyone that owns a modern PlayStation is beyond excited for this sequel. The Last of Us is a masterpiece. Harrowing. Brutal. If I had to pull a non-gamer into this pixel world, The Last Of Us would be the game I would load up. The gameplay we saw shows a game that has doubled up on the violence and darkness. Sony has been on a role lately. Spider-Man comes first. Then this one. It’s going to be a good year.

That sums up my E3 favorites. There was a lot of incredible looking stuff floating around this year. It’s a great time to be a gamer.

 

My Ten Favorite Video Games of All Time

Lists like these can be a little silly. But MAN are they fun. For my swing at this I tried to choose games that have stuck with me over the years even if they aren’t perfect. So, without further ado, here are my ten favorite video games of all time!

10. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin’s Creed series’ mix of stealth and crazy history has always fascinated me. Unfortunately, the games up until this one didn’t hook me. I took a chance on Black Flag though, hoping pirates would finally be the element that would suck me in. That first sea battle blew me mind. It was new and thrilling. Sailing and upgrading my own ship in a living and breathing Caribbean world kept me hooked for weeks. The familiar assassin gameplay left me smiling. This one is a true gem.

9. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

You’d be hard pressed to find another game on the Game Boy Advance with more depth that Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. This strategy RPG had a deep class system, a brilliant and complex story, coupled with an art design that still holds up to this day. Battling a vast conspiracy in Ivalice and adventuring with your clan members makes for one hell of a game.

8. Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Cobi’s Adventure

This is my ‘I’ve never heard of that game’ entry. Released in 2001 for the Game Boy Color, it was initially dismissed as a Pokemon clone. I’m here to tell you that it’s WAY more than that. DWM 2 puts you in the shoes of a monster battler trying to save his home island from sinking into the ocean. This adventure takes you through countless worlds with three monsters to back you up. Sounds simple right? It is. Until you dig into the breeding system. Breeding two separate monsters almost always gives you a new beastie. Chaining together specific combinations and you can build an unstoppable fighting force. With over 300 monsters to befriend/create, the game never gets old. The battle system is basic but it has an incredible depth if you pay attention. This game is incredibly underrated.

7. Batman: Arkham City

 I’m a major Batman nerd. Though Asylum, Origins and Knight have their charms, no game is better at making you feel like Batman than Arkham City. With a sprawling game world and a story that pits you against The Dark Knight’s extended rogue’s gallery, Batman: Arkham City is a testament to what a superhero game should and can be.

6. Fallout 3

What can I say about Fallout 3? What makes it so beloved? Is it the evil (but also funny) world of post-apocalyptic Washington D.C.? Is it V.A.T.S (which you use to strategically dismember, vaporize and behead countless enemies)? It’s both of those things and more. Fallout 3 is a masterpiece action RPG that can’t be missed. But you probably already knew that.

5. Pokémon Crystal

Ahhh… Pokemon. It’s a formula that has seen little changes over the past two decades. Pokemon X/Y brought us into the modern era of gaming. Sun/Moon shuffled some franchise staples around. But, for my money, I don’t think anything can knock Pokemon Crystal out of my memory as my favorite Pokemon game. It was my first major gaming obsession and Generation 2’s batch of new ‘Mons to catch, trade and battle are as iconic as the original 151. I know he has no competitive viability. But Typhlosion is still awesome.

4. Fire Emblem: Awakening

I’ve been playing Fire Emblem since the first GBA game graced the U.S. It’s a brutal strategy RPG that focuses on a cast of lovable misfits and warriors facing off against near insurmountable odds. Awakening hones this formula to perfect. I’ve never forget this cast and the nail-biting battles we fought together. The new time travel and marriage system adds depth to an already dense system. Fire Emblem: Awakening is a brilliant game packed into a small package.

3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Thousands of gallons of ink have been spilled talking about this game. And it deserves every bit of it. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an astonishing achievement in every way. The world building. The combat. The story. Every inch of this world is bursting with things to do and horrors to see. Watching your actions reflect upon the game world is horrifying. No other game world has transfixed me more than this one. This thing is a masterpiece that everyone has to play.

2. Skyrim

Epic. No. That’s not the right world. Expansive? Also not quite right. Flexible? You know what? It’s all of those things. There is a lot of incredible RPGs out in the world. Skyrim (and the rest of the Elder Scrolls series) are the most accessible way to step into a fantasy world. Skyrim is massive and welcoming. The combat is a blast, the quests are memorable, and the world is unforgettable. Skyrim, even all these years later, is still a masterpiec

And number one is…

Bioshock!

I had a hard time nailing down my number one choice. The Witcher 3 is a polished monster, and I’ve logged more hours in Skyrim than is healthy. But when I thought about the tragic saga of Rapture and the mad genius Andrew Ryan, I knew where Bioshock belonged on my list. This dark city beneath the waves hasn’t left my memory since the first time I stepped out of the bathysphere. I play through it every October just so I can once again step into the perfect combat and story that make up this game. No enemy is more terrifying than a Big Daddy. Nothing will break your heart more than meeting the Little Sisters for the first time. Now. If you haven’t played Bioshock… would you kindly go and rectify that?

Those are my Top 10 Favorite Games of all time. What do you think of my list? Am I crazy? Do I need to play more games? Maybe. Comment below and let me know.