2018 was one terrific year for gamers. It started off strong, and by the end of the year was delivering too many games for one gamer to possibly get through. I mean, who has time to play both Assassin’s Creed and Red Dead Redemption when they come out in the same month? Narrowing such a terrific year down to a single list wasn’t easy. We here at The Fandomentals have tried our best. Here’s our list of the titles we most enjoyed this year, and why.
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey
You probably could have guessed this game would end up on this site’s Best Of list the moment Ubisoft revealed it at E3. The ability to play as either a man or woman in ancient Greece and romance a variety of men and/or women at your leisure? Sign us up for the game where we can play as a queer Greek mythological hero a thousand times over.
Of course, there is so, so much more about this game to love. It’s an epic, sprawling game packed with things to do. Odyssey takes the revamped Assassin’s Creed formula introduced in Origins and improves just about everything. The more action-focused gameplay changes with the removal of shields. The skill tree allows players to tailor the game to their preferred style of combat. You’ll find an abundance of locations and quests to explore.
Along your travels you’ll decide the fate of Alexios or Kassandra as they embark on a quest centered on family, vengeance, and in typical Assassin’s Creed fashion, the discovery of ancient artifacts that can control the world. Multiple questlines lead to multiple endings, and the fate of numerous characters are decided by the choices you make.
Assassin’s Creed has changed a great deal since its inception, but if this is the kind of game we get for that change, then maybe change is a good thing.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
The sequel to Obsidian’s old-school RPG came out in May this year, after a period of open beta. Tensions ran high during it and when the game came out… well, it was an Obsidian product in many ways. Those tend to encounter rough waters early on.
Once the waters calmed a bit, it was smooth sailing into a mix of traditional RPG experience and solid innovation that the first Pillars of Eternity taught us to expect. Deadfire gives us a vast world that breaks away with some albatrosses hanging on Western RGs’ necks – it has a non-European setting that’s also not human-centric. Where it does falter in terms of story is pacing. It falls into the very common trap of giving us an open world and a main quest that would have us ignore it and pursue our goal.
In terms of gameplay, Deadfire takes the first game’s real-time-with-a-pause model and pushes the envelope further. In a controversial decision, it drops a traditional D&Dism and removes per-rest spells for the few classes that had them. Now all basic resources are usable on a per-encounter basis. Perhaps the biggest addition is multiclassing, letting us combine classes and gain versatility at the cost of power.
Not all of those innovations work as well as we’d like, but they do create a more interesting experience than in the first game. There’s just more of everything and new spins on many familiar RPG topics.
God of War
There existed skepticism about this game from the moment Sony revealed it. The amount of changes filled fans with doubt. An over-the-shoulder camera? An axe instead of the iconic chain blades? Kratos has a beard and a son now? Even the early gameplay videos filled me with doubt. This wasn’t the God of War we knew and loved.
Somehow it managed to make us love all over again while still retaining much of what we already did. This was the kind of evolution for the series that makes a series truly last. The combat felt different yet similar, and of course remained just as good. Kratos evolved from his angry dudebro male power fantasy days to something more complex and engaging. His relationship with his son Atreus easily drove the story while also paralleling the main villain. Real storytelling in God of War. What a wonder.
The change in setting from the Greek myths to the Norse pantheon was just as good, and showed a great deal of respect for the mythology. Sony Santa Monica put on a masterclass in wordbuilding here. The levels delve into some of the most colorful and fantastical aspects of the Norse myths. Statues, buildings, and shrines deliver “history” lessons while also seeding conflicts for both this game and future entries.
It’s just all so, so good.
There’s a reason God of War got so much praise from the entire gaming world upon release. If you have a Playstation 4, you owe it to yourself to play this game. This might be the best thing the gaming world offered in 2018.
Spyro Reignited Trilogy
Toys for Bob did something truly wonderful with their remaster/remake of this classic Playstation trilogy from Insomniac. Remaking a classic game is always a tricky business. Ultimately your goal is to update it for modern sensibilities and functionality while simultaneously recapturing the experience as gamers remember it. A hard task lots of developers have failed at. This is especially true with games on the original Playstation, that awkward phase between 2d and 3d that has destroyed the quality of so many former classics
Not here. This remake did exactly what it needed to, whether you’re a hardcore fan still playing the originals or a newcomer. Spyro retains all the fun and joy we remember while also eliminating the frustrations in order to appeal to first-time players. Come on, using the right analog stick to turn the camera? Mindblowing.
Not everything about Spyro still holds up, even with modern graphics. Each of the three games are very much of the collect-a-thon type that felt old even by the end of the original Playstation’s life cycle. Things get a bit repetitive, especially in the first two games. It’s a more simplistic style of game than modern gamers might be used to, even from platformers.
Even still, Spyro Reignited is wonderful. It’s absolutely gorgeous and plays smoothly. If you like the Spyro games, you’ll like this. If you like platformers, you’ll probably find some joy in these games. And you get three games for less than the usual price of one. What’s not to love?
This is easily the best Spider-Man game ever made. More than that, it’s the endpoint for the evolution of Spider-Man games, the moment where a capable developer had the technology at their disposal to truly make gamers feel like the friendly neighborhood webhead.
At its heart, this feels much like the Batman: Arkham games. It has a similar combat system, with an emphasis on multi-directional combo-based brawls and mastery of gadgets, as well as a stealth system perching players from above before swooping to neutralize bad guys. However, Spidey’s superior strength, speed and agility makes for something more aggressive than Batman. As such Spider-Man plays like a superior version of what the Arkham games offer.
It also solved the dilemma facing most open world games with one key, unique element; Spidey’s web-swinging. This reduced almost all the frustration of navigating the open world and completing its repetitive tasks. Climbing a building to get something is no longer a 20-minute affair. In five minutes you can swing in to stop a crime, run up a building to collect a collectible, snap a photo of a landmark, and be halfway to your next story mission.
Combined with a story that nails every emotional beat and shows a true love for Spider-Man comics, and you have one hell of a game. We can’t wait to see what Insomniac does with a sequel.
Red Dead Redemption 2
We probably don’t have to say much about this choice. Rockstar’s latest blockbuster does everything you expect from Rockstar at this point. The world is vast, detailed, and alive like no other company has ever quite matched. The cinematic presentation ranks among the best in the business. The gameplay doesn’t quite match the level of everything else, but carries its weight. You know what you’re getting here; an excellent game pushing the boundaries of the industry, even if it doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Red Dead 2 came with a lot of expectations. The first game was one of the most beloved and critically-acclaimed of the previous console generation. We think it met those expectations.
More than any Rockstar game yet, Red Dead 2 really tries to invest the player in its world. The focus on the camp creates a bond between the player and the gang. You complete activities to improve the camp, go on missions for and with its inhabitants, and invest yourself to your desire in its general morale. The world goes on around you, creating the impression of the player existing within it rather than everything simply standing by, waiting for you.
And when you get to the main story, the missions are the kind of tense, exciting stuff you come to expect from Rockstar.
There’s been a bit of a backlash from gamers about Red Dead 2. It’s too slow, the controls aren’t great, there isn’t a great deal of reward involved in its tasks. These flaws certainly exist, but they pale in comparison to everything the game does right. It’s one of the best this year, and there was never any reason to expect otherwise.