It’s that time of the year where everyone starts telling you what the best games of the year are. And so we’re going to do the same!
Game of the Year
Will’s Pick – Disco Elysium
For me this year has been a good year for games, not only have some amazing new titles been released. We’ve also seen a lot of games develop and change to become better and better. Titles like Risk of Rain 2 and Children of Morta were two games I’ve loved playing. Then there are games that were others which I’ve played in 2018 such as Escape from Tarkov and Destiny 2 that have given me great moments in 2019.
That being said, picking my game of the year for 2019 was the easiest decision I’ve had in a long time. No other RPG has made me feel like my choices, my personality and my stats will impact on outcomes quite like this game. It’s Disco Elysium. 100%. No doubt about it. The game is fantastic.
Ever since I played it at EGX Rezzed a few years back I knew it was going to be special. Those opening few moments of that demo stuck with me until it’s release. The detective RPG described as a mix between True Detective and Baldur’s Gate has received mass critical acclaim already and it’s easy to see why. It’s smart, witty and engrossing, it’s packed full of personality and engaging story content.
A wild ride in a wicked world
Set in the fictional city of Revachol Disco Elysium puts you in the shoes of… well for a long time I didn’t know. Due to being so drunk I forgot basically my entire existence. Raphael was a name I made up for myself after trying to convince my subconscious that that’s what it was. However, he’s a cop – albeit a bit of disastrous one, and you’re on an open-ended case to solve what appears to be a murder.
Inspired by pen and paper RPG’s you get to choose a ‘build’ for your character at the start of the game. There are four main areas to choose from, each one with five sub-skills that you can level up over time. All these skills basically act as branching dialogue options and skill checks in certain situations. The unique thing here though is that these skills have a personality and will talk to you. Whether you’re deep in conversation with someone or just notice something in the environment, some area of your inner self with have something to say about it and quite often it leads to hilarious consequences.
Usually with RPG’s that offer stories with a branching narrative or choices that have a lasting impact. It can feel like failing a skill check or a speech option means you miss out on something. However, with Disco Elysium that isn’t the case. Even when you fail something, you still get an interesting outcome. In some cases, it can be more fun to fail a check as the results can be very funny.
To say that the game features branching paths is probably a bit of an understatement. It seems that every NPC you can interact with has something useful to say, they feel like real people living in this world. As a result, they have their own stories to tell and that come with their own tasks or quests for you to follow. That being said, it doesn’t feel like fluff either, each task I’ve followed through on is deep and rich with interesting stories and outcomes. They lead to surprising revelations, strange situations and give you the opportunity to flex your character’s weird inner self.
At this point in time I’m 20 hours into my adventure – yes, I haven’t completed it yet, but whatever, I know I love it. It’s been an enthralling adventure the whole time. Additionally, I don’t think I’ve ever explored a world so rich and full of lore as I have in Disco Elysium.
I feel like I could wax lyrical about the game all day long, so I will simply end by saying. If you enjoy RPG’s – especially point and click ones, then you must play this game.
Murr’s Pick – Death Stranding
This year there were many games that I wanted to get, right from the offset with Resident Evil 2 Remake in February. It’s been quite the stellar year. The first big game I played through to completion this year was Days Gone, and there were plenty of other smaller games I picked up too. However, one of the final games I picked up ended up being head and shoulders above the rest although a rather polarising game too. Death Stranding.
Like the masses prior to launch, I had no idea what Death Stranding was about. I’d watched the trailers, but there wasn’t any clear cut explanation as to what was going on. Additionally, the more trailers that released over its development, the more outrageous characters we were introduced to and more weird events occurred. I was Puzzled, very puzzled. That being said, I was intrigued and had faith in Kojima after the stupendous Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Tomorrow is in your hands
Let’s get it out of the way, I’ve not completed Death Stranding yet, I’m 40 hours into it and just started Episode 6, of what I believe is 12 Episodes. Furthermore, let’s also get this out of the way too, Death Stranding is essentially a delivery man simulator. Okay, it’s out there, excellent.
Why on earth would a premise such as delivering things from point A to point B make such an incredibly addicting game? Well for starters, it’s set in the United States in a state of a post-apocalyptic event that Kojima has created. But what I really love about this game is the ever-evolving open world.
After finishing up a few hours on an evening, you can log back on the next day and find the next part of a highway you’d been working on has been constructed in your absence. What’s the big deal about this? The highways connect cities across the UCA (United Cities of America). Which makes your delivery routes so much quicker. However, it’s the fact that these highways that take 1000s of resource materials can be completed by a collective bunch of online strangers who’ll never cross paths in game (they’ll tread on each others paths to routes, but will never actually see one another). It’s not just that, but multiple bridges, ladders, climbing gear and zip lines all created between these players that are left help one another connect the UCA to the chiral network.
The story itself when you get into it really does start to click, and the understanding of why Norman Reedus is carrying a baby, or why there are black ghost figures roaming the planet are explained and you know what, it does make sense then. This was a long haul marketing ploy from Kojima to keep these things secret. It worked and genuinely isn’t too bad to understand when playing the game. As mentioned in a recent roundup, just completing Episode 5 about Mama…Wow, right in the feels.
Much like his previous game MGSV: The Phantom Pain, you can go into massive depth on your load outs for deliveries. As you complete more deliveries on new routes or in specific times with undamaged cargo, you earn reputation which eventually levels you up to better gear to carry more cargo. Honestly, the comparisons between the two are pretty uncanny. While MGSV: Phantom Pain had you grind resources and staff for Mother Base building. Death Stranding has you grind resources for the ultimate connected UCA to ensure all deliveries are done with ease and efficiency to avoid MULEs who want your cargo and BT’s who are the remains of the dead haunting the world.
Death Stranding was a gamble, no other way to describe it. Sony wanted a Kojima game on board, they courted him out to all Sony first party studios. Gave him a game engine, gave him a blank cheque and put a lot of faith in the genius that he is. It was a gamble though, fortunately for Sony and half of the video game journalism world, the gamble paid off and the game is absolutely fantastic. We know nothing of what’s next for Kojima. Hopefully, a year off to relax, but whatever his next game ends up being, I’m already there day 1.
Will’s Pick – Slay the Spire
Another stellar game that I played this year was Slay the Spire and I only picked it up on a bit of a whim. The deck-building roguelike blew me away with its vast array of depth and variation with every run you do. Additionally, each character you can play as offer a completely different play style.
This year was the year that I started to branch out with the genres that I play and enjoy. Slay the Spire was the game at the forefront of that. Normally it’s not a game that I would have picked up, but the overwhelmingly positive support of it made me take a closer look and I’m so glad I did.
Slay the Spire has you fighting your way through randomised dungeons. Each level of the dungeon culminates in a boss fight where should you win, you’ll progress on to the next level. Along your journey, you will collect new cards to add to your deck. Furthermore, you’ll be able to collect potions and relics that can grant powerful bonuses.
The great thing about Slay the Spire is that it’s easy to get to grips with and it’s quick to get going. There is no unnecessary fluff around the game. Meaning you start a run and are instantly fighting. However, there is a fantastic level of depth to understanding each class and the meta with the cards you collect. Certain cards will synergise well to create devastating combos. One particularly memorable run saw me starting with a huge hand and lots of extra energy to spend on deploying those cards. As a result, I was able to win most fights within the first turn.
Murr’s Pick – Shakedown Hawaii
For the longest time, I was convinced my runner up would be Days Gone. Although, in the interest of fairness, I went back through my list of 2019 games and somehow forgot that I’d purchased, played and completed the empire tycoon game that is Shakedown Hawaii.
From vBlank, the creators of Retro City Rampage, Shakedown Hawaii continued on their traditional top down GTA1 style inspired city. And brought with it some improved graphics and a game with a motive. To rule all of Hawaii.
Playing initially as an out of touch CEO who’s company is falling behind to new technologies like streaming videos and online shopping. The objective of Shakedown Hawaii is to rebuild Feeble industries back to its glory and bring it up to date with the rest of the world. From taking over fruit plantations abroad in which you can use cheaper fruit on your products and have them marketed as environmentally friendly to gain good press for a crappy tasting product, it’s schemes like this you’ll play out as the CEO of the company, his son who is a wannabe gangster so willing to get his hands dirty in situations like this, and your consultant abroad who really doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty abiding to the CEOs every call.
What I liked about Shakedown Hawaii is how in-depth running the business aspect of the game is considering its retro visuals and game-play. As well as shaking down every business in Hawaii to become its owner, you then get the ability to add bonus perks to businesses to increase revenue. You can set out your own annual salary to have spending money, or take a lower cut to ensure it all goes into the companies bank account to keep out of the red. If you own coffee establishments you can raid coffee delivery vans you see on the road to get the delivery to your shop to A) ensure you have stock and B) run other coffee establishments out of business as they lose their stock and need to order more. It really has some clever business mechanics which of course, would never work, but nonetheless are brilliant for this game.
The game is also very tongue in cheek with its humour. There are lots of jabs at things we’re now accustomed to such as day one patches in games, with the take on this in Shakedown Hawaii that it takes all day to complete while you impatiently wait.
I put a surprising amount of time into this game, it is addictive trying to take over every business on Hawaii be it big or small. It’s a very addictive and funny game that I’m glad got a physical print.