As we move another day closer to 2019, it’s time to continue looking back on the year that was and talk about another two awesome games from 2018.
If you haven’t read my 4th and 5th place picks then make sure you check them out here before reading these ones!
As with yesterday, I’ve only played games on PC, HTC Vive and Nintendo Switch, so I haven’t played anything that wasn’t on those platforms, and I won’t be covering early access games since they’re not finished.
There’s no more time to waste, so let’s get to it.
3 – Omensight
With most of the games on this list, I end up talking a lot about one thing in particular that stood out to me and made it worthy of being on a Game of the Year list; this isn’t the case with Omensight. There isn’t one thing that stands out to me when I play Omensight, because it’s just all really well designed and so much fun.
The basics of the game are that the world has ended and you, the Harbinger – a deity like being whose job it is to stop the world from ending, have to relive the final day of the world over and over again to work out how to stop it. You can’t just do whatever you like however, you play through each day by following around one of four characters that are related to how the world ended.
Each character has very different personalities and for the most part are at each other’s throats the whole time. The game makes sure to not frame anyone as the bad guy at any point, but at the same time does point you towards a few assumptions early on, which get subverted later down the line. The writing forces you to see the complexities of the land from every angle, to the point that you find yourself naturally distrusting certain characters, which can affect your actions and decisions in the short-term, to both your advantage and detriment.
While the levels are mostly linear there are various points where you can branch off and explore, and the game encourages this, as pretty much everything in the world gives you further understanding of the story you’re caught up in.
The story also scales quite nicely, but with every new discovery, the threat of whatever is causing the apocalypse closes in more and more. While you’re never actually under any real-time pressure, the game does a good job of keeping you on edge towards the later half and you’re never truly safe, which is quite hard to achieve when you’re literally playing as an immortal ancient spirit.
That said you’re not immortal in battle, and for me this is what brings the game up from a great game, to one of the best of 2018. So much attention to detail went into the story, and in a game like this, I often go in expecting the gameplay to not be anything special in order to flesh out the story; but that’s not the case here.
A lot of time and attention was clearly put into making the combat and platforming mechanics of the game feel great. While the camera could be a bit more cooperative, every jump and swing of the blade feels important in this system. While most fights aren’t particularly challenging, you can’t just sit there and mash the attack button to progress.
The different abilities and attack types that you can unlock add just enough complexity to the hack-and-slash combat to stop it being boring, while not so much as to overwhelm you. I’m generally not massively into a hack-and-slash combat system, but here everything flows so well and feels impactful that I can’t help but have tonnes of fun playing it. Whether I’m hacking through waves of enemies or a single boss, there was never a boring fight.
Omensight is an extremely well-rounded game, with a compelling and popular story with a unique style of telling it, gameplay that matches up with that story perfectly and it never stops being fun to play at any point. I look forward to going back to this one at some point next year to experience it all again.
2 – Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu/Eevee
What? A Pokemon Game on my game of the year list? No way.
To the surprise of precisely no-one, I really enjoyed this year’s addition to the Pokemon franchise. I’d never played a game set in the Kanto region before, so this was also a brand new Pokemon experience for me and I was very happy with it indeed.
I’m not going to sit here and review the core Pokemon mechanics, because I’m sure you know whether or not you like them by now, so let’s just look at what’s new.
First of all, I think this was a great insight as to what the Nintendo Switch can do for the Pokemon franchise. Pokemon games always seem to be the ones that push the hardware to their limits and you can tell Sun and Moon were desperate to break free of the shackles the 3DS had them in. While it wasn’t the huge leap that we got from DS to 3DS, you can see that the developers were getting used to using this new hardware and this will have certainly given them the experience they need to make next year’s games look stunning.
I loved having Pokemon run around in the overworld in order to encounter them. It adds so much liveliness to the world, that the older games now look sparse in comparison. The new catching mechanics are something that seem to have split most people right down the middle, and I don’t really know which camp I fall into if I’m honest. I had a lot of fun with the new level of interactivity that this system provides, however being unable to battle a Pokemon, and thus having very little control over the catch rate, was rather frustrating. Moving forward I’d like to see some sort of hybrid of the two systems, or at least the option to choose.
The integration with Pokemon GO seems to be a fairly welcome feature as a whole, and as someone who didn’t use it at all during my main play through, it isn’t something that will hinder you should you choose to ignore it. Similarly the Pokeball Plus is a nice little peripheral that is a cool add-on for any big Pokemon fans, but I found the regular Switch joycons to be just as good to play the game with.
The game was also filled with lots of little easter eggs and subtle nods to earlier games in the franchise, this kind of stuff was really nice to see as a fairly long-term fan of the franchise, and seeing Jesse and James in an actual game for the first time in forever was a fun little thing to see.
Aside from the new stuff, this game is still filled to the brim with all the Pokemon flavoured goodness that has been in the franchise forever. I felt that just enough was shaken up to justify these remakes, but not so much as to completely suck the identity of the franchise out of them.
As a whole, the Let’s Go! games were a very faithful recreation of Kanto, which makes use of all of the lessons we’ve learnt in game design since the originals launched. I feel like this was another great outing for the Pokemon franchise, and seeing how the developers have been able to use the hardware has got me extremely excited for when Generation 8 is launched in 2019.
So there’s 2nd and 3rd place! Share this around on social media if you enjoyed it, thanks to @magiclollyl on Twitter and make sure to follow me on Twitter @10ryawoo where it’ll be really obvious what game I’m going to talk about tomorrow for my Number 1 pick and favourite game of 2018! I’ll see you there.