Looking back on the year, as one does on New Year’s Eve, I initially assumed it would be hard to find enough good games to make a list worth reading. It’s not that I haven’t played many games this year, just that a lot of the big titles I have either skipped, or not really enjoyed.
As it happens, I’d just forgotten a couple of great games from earlier in the year! So here are my top five games of the year, in roughly their order of personal enjoyment.
5. FAR: Lone Sails.
Repair, upgrade and sail across a desolate landscape until you reach the end. There’s not really a story to it, it’s really short, but it’s a wonderfully serene ride, interspersed with occasional bits of tension. Most of the puzzles are fairly easy, but satisfying to figure out.
4. Jurassic World Evolution
A park building simulator with a bunch of dinosaurs? Yes please.
Being that it’s based particularly on the more recent Jurassic World series, it’s not just straight up genetic replication as you can alter the animals’ genetic makeup. Changing everything from colouration to aggression levels can make your zoo more popular, but also much harder to manage. Dinosaurs can break out of their enclosures, and then there’s screaming and running… and sedating the beasts from your helicopter!
There’s only a set number of maps, no real open plan or random generated terrain. But that hardly matters as you can tinker with your various paddocks pretty much endlessly.
3. Monster Hunter: World
The Monster Hunter series has a long history in Japan, where it has been insanely popular over many generations. While some entries have done quite well in “The West”, it’s never really taken off. Partly because of some really clunky mechanics, like the many loading screens needed to finish a single monster hunt.
All that is gone in World, you can chase monsters across a pretty large, completely open map. Actually, a half dozen maps in total, each featuring a very different environment in which to stab, bash, ride and shoot monsters.
BIG monsters. With so many different weapons and armour sets to collect, you could be at it for hundreds of hours. If you’ve the patience, anyway. It can become something of a grind, particularly past Hunter Rank 50.
2. Fallout 76
Yes, it’s buggy as heck. And feels kinda unpolished in parts. And you’re at the mercy of the internet’s reliability, and the people on the internet not being as terrible as usual.
But it’s so much fun exploring Appalachia, reading the stories of people who survived the apocalypse, collecting loot, building up your personal camp, taking down dangerous mutated wildlife, tweaking your character build, helping friends, fighting with or against other players…
Fallout 4 is still my favourite, but I’ve been playing Fallout 76 pretty much every day since it was released.
For more on this, see my article on Player Attack: Fallout 76 is still fun for the lonely and friendless.
A post-apocalyptic city building survival hybrid? The world has entered a new ice age and you’re the mayor of one of the last cities on Earth. Build warm houses, set up furnaces to keep everyone warm and enact laws to keep everyone in line.
Things usually start off fairly easy, with the temperature barely below zero. As you start building up your city, gaining new people and better facilities the temperature will start dropping, sometimes precipitously as storms strike, with occasional thaws to give you time to recover.
It’s probably the toughest city builder ever made, but so fantastically well designed it never feels like an impossible challenge, if you can just research that next tech or get that new building finished…
Frostpunk also happens to be my favourite review of the year. Can’t take all the credit as all I did was write the script while excellent bosslady Jessica Citizen presented it for the Player Attack TV show. But the result is wonderful, if I do say so myself. Please watch it!
Hope everyone has a wonderful 2019!