Another year, another feast of games to devour. Here are my 10 favourite games of 2018.
Vampyr was a charming, ambitious game, despite its clumsy combat and sometimes tedious navigation. Getting to know its London’s residents and tending to them as a doctor would, only to feast on them when I needed the XP, gave me a lot of feelings. I hope to make time in the new year to play its new modes, which hopefully let the story shine through more.
Standalone Gwent officially released this year, and though the card game’s changes have left me in the dust, story mode Thronebreaker let me ease into the new cards and mechanics while taking me on a tale of intrigue and political power straight out of The Witcher universe. I’m glad there’s at least a little Witcher on my GOTY list.
I’ve been playing the same fight in Thronebreaker, Gwent’s standalone story, for a few hours now. I still haven’t beaten it. In most games, that would make me frustrated with myself or furious at the designers. But thanks to Thronebreaker’s unique mechanics, I’m itching to keep trying.
Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 was my first Far Cry, so I can’t say how it falls in line with the series as a whole. While it was ridiculous, explosive, and usually fun, I was most enamoured of its take on religion. I loved its cult radio station; the complicated Christian issues it raised, whether intentional or not; and the fact that in the end (fight me) the cult was right.
Far Cry 5 let me write about a lot of my non-games passions, so I’m fond of it for that, and I’m excited to see where New Dawn takes things.
I've spent a long time trekking across Far Cry 5's fictional Hope County, Montana fighting the members of an apocalyptic cult led by a man called Joseph Seed, and I'm still not sure what their deal is. They drive around blasting weird Christian synth and shooting non-members on sight. It's weird and terrifying and unsatisfyingly explored in this epic-length game. For all its nods to contemporary politics and societal strife, Far Cry 5 is just another fun permutation of the usual Far Cry formula with nothing very interesting to say.
The Red Strings Club
This little indie game from the Gods Will Be Watching team came out early in the year. I loved its alcohol mechanic, where you manipulate people’s emotions with booze to get what you want, and the complicated choices you make throughout the plot. Developer Deconstructeam recently released a game about a hitman working in a flower shop, which I definitely want to make time to play.
The Red Strings Club starts, and ends, with a character falling out of a high-rise window. There's no indication that you could do anything to stop this from happening, or even that you're supposed to. The game is more interested in how you get to that point — and the web of lies, manipulation, and tough choices you leave in your wake.
Frostpunk had me from its first wintery trailers; I’m a sucker for any game that takes place in the snow. This gritty city-builder from This War of Mine’s devs combined survival mechanics with tough choices into a game that seemed made just for me, even if most of my playthroughs ended in disaster.
In Frostpunk, a new snowy city-builder by This War of Mine studio 11 Bit that is out today, the player develops a city in a frozen wastelands.
You must fuel the churning generator at the heart of your town, feeding it enough coal to keep your people alive. The cold is your first and greatest foe, and it's my favourite part of the game.
Boats, sea shanties, and board game randomness—Nantucket was another very Riley game. Through its simple but beautiful art and awesome soundtrack and sound effects, Nantucket let me tell my own Moby Dick story.
Red Dead Redemption 2
When the first Red Dead came out, I had neither the money nor space for a game console. I read about the game obsessively and dreamed of playing it. Red Dead 2 let me live that dream at last, giving me so many adventures wrapped in a sometimes clumsy but always affecting package. I’m still on Chapter 4, and will probably be forever, because even though I want to see the end, I don’t ever want to be done with this game.
From tip to tail, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a profound, glorious downer. It is the rare blockbuster video game that seeks to move players not through empowering gameplay and jubilant heroics, but by relentlessly forcing them to confront decay and despair.
It has no heroes, only flawed men and women fighting viciously to survive in a world that seems destined to destroy them.
Hitman 2 takes everything great about 2016's Hitman and amps it up with new mechanics and weapons, crowds you can hide in, and new locations full of secrets to find. I’ve barely scratched the surface of it and, like its predecessor, I’m sure I’ll return to it for a long time.
Hitman series protagonist Agent 47 isn’t an interesting guy. Despite his gleaming, barcoded head, he disappears into a crowd. He can somehow pass for anyone, no matter how famous; he can seamlessly live their life and look great in their pants. He uses this ability to wreak havoc everywhere he goes. Hitman 2 investigates this, asking who 47 is and why he does what he does, and the game answers this best not with its cutscenes but through its gameplay: because he —and the player — can, because they both have a keen eye for everything that can go wrong.
Into The Breach
Into the Breach is tough as hell, especially for me, who tends to make impetuous choices in strategy games. I’ve played a ton of it on my PC and even more of it on my Switch, and while none of those hours have seen me through to victory, I can never resist trying one more time.
I love survival games, and I’ve been taken with Subnautica since its earliest of early access days. Its ocean is by turns peaceful and terrifying, and it always felt both scary and exciting to go deeper. Its story propelled me forward without sullying the survival elements or impacting the game’s unique progression. I’m so excited for the upcoming Below Zero expansion, which, by adding cold weather, is making Subnautica even more my kind of game.
Most of your time in Subnautica is spent deciding whether to listen to your curiosity or your terror. It's a tough choice.