Top 5 games of 2019
2019 was a pretty excellent year for games all things considering. Franchises being reborn into the new age. Old hand veterans trying new styles and indies releasing addictive smash hits that have gone on to be extraordinarily popular. I actually managed to play mostly the latter this year, as a lot of AAA releases have actually passed me by this year, Looking at you Sekiro. At least we have all had Bethesda to laugh at this year. None the less, I ended up playing a lot of games this year that I didn’t think would be for me, yet ended up being the games that truly stuck with me. On the other hand, I played games that I thought I would love, such as DMC5 and Wargroove, and didn’t end up enjoying them. HONOURABLE MENTIONSDauntless
Phoenix Labs Dauntless was an excellent game for people looking for that Monster Hunter Style combat fix, with none of the ancillary extra stuff that Monster Hunter provides. By dumbing down the combat and increasing the pace, Dauntless ends up filling a hole in the genre for people wanting a game with awesome boss fights and a breakneck barrier to entry into monster-fighting style games. The game accrued a substantial fan base at launch, and with it being a free title garnered a lot of positive attention, the only downside is the updates didn’t match the growth of the game, with new monsters and updates being added just a little too slow to keep my interest.Outer Worlds
Obsidians first true outing into making a big open-world game that wasn’t to do with Fallout was always going to be one to watch, and it delivers in spades. Outer Worlds has the tell-tale signs of a game made with actual passion. The conversations can be a bit clunky and the world can feel a little empty at times, but Outer Worlds is story-rich, with easy to pick up gameplay and characters who feel real and believable. The way Obsidian masterfully crafted story and a world that intertwined like this is excellent. My only wish is that they would have been a little bolder and made a few more risks as at times it felt like they were sticking way to close to the blueprints of the Fallout games, however, if this is what we are to expect from Obsidian I feel like we have nothing to fear going into the future. With DLC penned for 2020, I look forward to the game being further expanded on and to step into Outer Worlds once more. Blair Witch
Blair Witch was Bloober Teams most recent attempt of horror, and while the pace can be slightly off, and that at times it was funny rather than scary. Bloober team still managed to make a pretty good horror game. The characters were what kept the game playable for me as it was definitely their strong suit. They showed their cards way too early with some of the plot elements, but there was a lot of charm to Blair Witch, mainly through your relationship with your dog, Bullet. That dog alone could have easily carried a game that didn’t have the Blair Witch name. I hope Bloober team keep improving, as each time they have made a horror game, it has gradually increased in quality. They are definitely a team to watch going into the new year.Monster Hunter World – Iceborne
The only reason Iceborne is an honourable mention is because it is technically an “Expansion” then a new game for 2019, although that could fool anyone. The sheer amount of additional content added with Iceborne is nothing short of phenomenal. Capcom has truly made a gift that keeps on giving with Monster Hunter World, and Iceborne is a testament to that. Multiple new monsters, new regions, new quests and more. It keeps me coming back to Monster Hunter with renewed vigour.
NUMBER 5 Total War: Three Kingdoms
As an amateur when it comes to the Total War franchise, I didn’t know what to expect coming into the series. As someone who was interested in the time period, yet not a huge fan of the real-time strategy genre, I was going into Total War apprehensive. I was wrong. Total War has such a decent learning slope and a gentle barrier for entry, I found myself absorbed by what I played. I was able to take my time learning and discovering how the game worked, whilst also getting that feeling of satisfaction when clever tactics allowed me to turn a bad situation into something advantageable. It has given me the urge to go back and try some of the other Total War games with a bit of a new perspective. It’s a game with surface-level simplicity yet a true wealth of complications and deep tactics you can really delve into if you want to improve. I highly recommend Total War: Three Kingdoms to strategy newcomers and veterans alike, as there is a game here for everybody.
NUMBER 4Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
It’s always nice when crowdfunding works. Bloodstained is a fantastic game to come out of Kickstarter, with the actual feel of old school Castlevania actually alive in this creation. With the added benefit of being created by old-school hands of the genre, Bloodstained goes above and beyond expectations. With a well-crafted story with a competent beginning, middle and end. Multiple endings and multiple routes, and a well-rounded cast of characters, friend and foe alike. Bloodstained was able to give me that nostalgic feel deep down whilst playing it, and I was always excited to transition to the next room and see what new challenge was around the corner. There are a couple of gripes, but they don’t compare to the overall positives of the game. I’m hoping thanks to the success of this game we will see more from Koji Igarashi in the future and maybe even an extension to the Bloodstained franchise in general.
NUMBER 3Code Vein
The words “Dark Souls clone” get thrown around a lot now, with many games trying to replicate that same feel as it’s namesakes. Code Vein gets as close to Dark Souls as possible, albeit with anime characters and a crazy story than grittiness and grey. To be fair, calling it a “Dark Souls clone” is doing it an injustice, it used an interesting mechanic called a “Blood Code” system, which means you can switch your build-up and abilities around with a moment's notice, so it doesn’t lead you into committing to a build you may not like. The combat isn’t fantastic, but it’s definitely functional enough to be engaging, and due to the variety, you never feel like you’re going to be stuck for too long. It succeeds in what it sets out to do, which is be a highly rewarding, fun experience with excellent bosses and a riveting story, all wrapped in a very twee anime parcel to be enjoyed, it’s definitely not for everyone, but if you are into soul’s likes and manga, this is probably the game for you.
NUMBER 2 My Friend Pedro
Sometimes all it takes to be a good game is just to have a solid core mechanic and a short campaign, and that’s enough. My friend Pedro proves that. It’s not a long game by any stretch of the imagination, with it only taking about three hours overall to finish its main campaign, the joy comes from tackling the higher difficulties and perfecting the very satisfying mechanics. There aren’t too many games out there where you can kick a frying pan into an enemy, shoot it to ricochet a bullet into a sniper whilst listening to the ramblings of a banana. Yes, a banana. My friend Pedro's satisfying combat kept me coming back for more, and I hope for more levels or a sequel one day to help extend the amazing core this game has.
NUMBER 1 My time at Portia
My personal number one of the year isn’t necessarily the best game by a gameplay or technical standpoint, but it’s definitely the one I have played the most and loved the most. Portia is such a charming game, from everything to the characters, the art style, and the overall feel of the game itself. I love how it takes the day to day farming sim style of games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley and takes that into managing a building company. It’s a real fresh feeling game with plenty of different mechanics, from chatting to relatable villagers to mining for lost treasures to just relaxing on my land building requests for a friend. There was always something to do and I was never bored. At its roots, Portia hasn’t got a proper learning curve, or a hardcore boss fight, or even a truly structured gameplay loop, I just loved my time in Portia for the experience and that’s what makes it my game of 2019.