I have to say that I won’t be sad to see the back of 2018. I lost my Mum to cancer earlier in the year. Gaming is my go to refuge in troubling times, and while there have been some great games this year, I have also been disappointed by a lot of franchises I like. For the first time since Xbox 360, I didn’t buy the new Call of Duty game on launch day. In fact, because it didn’t have a singleplayer campaign, I still haven’t bought the game. Despite being an avid Assassin’s Creed fan, I haven’t put many hours into this year’s entry; it just feels too generic and not really like an Assassin’s Creed game. I love the Just Cause franchise, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with the fourth entry in that series. There have been a few highlights, though, so without further ado here are my five favourite games of 2018.
Honourable mention: Red Dead Redemption 2
At this point, I imagine some of you are wondering why this is an honourable mention and not my number one game of 2018. Well, as much as I find Red Dead Redemption 2 to be a technical wonder, I also find it pretty dull. It is an amazing game to look at. The physics are among the best I’ve ever seen. The world building is top notch. It also features writing that is worthy of some of the best TV shows and movies around. Unfortunately, though, it rarely gets past the open world tropes of go here, do this, travel to there, do that.
5 – Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves is a real ‘Marmite’ game. You either love it, or you hate it. I said in my review of the game that a lot depends on how you experience the game. If you have a group (or should I say crew) of mates to play with, then you will get a lot more out of it. As a solo sailor, the game can feel pretty dull. It has to be said, that at launch, the game was lacking a little in content. Even though there were an (almost) infinite number of missions, because they were variations on the exact same thing, it got boring pretty quickly.
The team at Rare has done a brilliant job of adding new content to the game. Sea of Thieves is a much better game than when it launched. There are new enemies, new islands, and regular new events being added. There is also a new dedicated PvP mode, called Arena, arriving in early 2019. If you haven’t tried the game out yet, then grab some friends and sail the Sea of Thieves.
4 – Pinstripe
The first of three 2D indie titles on this list, Pinstripe is a game that wonderfully surprised me. Indie games are becoming the go-to place for great storytelling in videogames, and Pinstripe takes on this mantle with aplomb. It tells the tale of Teddy. An ex-priest who in the first level of the game loses his daughter. She is kidnapped by the shadowy figure, Pinstripe. You spend the rest of the game trying to rescue her and learning more about Teddy. What has happened to him and some of the demons he is fighting.
The game has a nice ‘Tim Burton-esque’ feel along with some tricky puzzles and great platforming. Pinstripe took me on a great journey that stayed with me for quite a while after I had finished it. It’s a game that can be rushed through in a couple of hours, but you can spend more than three times that finding all the hidden items and tricks of the game. If you want a moving, dark, engaging story accompanied by some cool puzzles and platforming, then Pinstripe is a game you should check out.
3 – Planet Alpha
The Team 17 logo has become something of a mark of quality for indie games. The British indie publisher (and developer in its own right) published several titles on Xbox One this year. Alongside great games like Overcooked 2, Raging Justice, and Yoku’s Island Express they also released Planet Alpha. This game marries puzzles, stealth sections, and fast-paced platforming to some jaw-droppingly gorgeous visuals.
I played Planet Alpha for a bit of a palate cleanser after putting hours and hours into a big AAA game that I was reviewing. It was the perfect antidote. It looked absolutely stunning on my Xbox One X. The puzzles, stealth, and platforming had me scratching my head at times, but the solutions were never too far away. If you love Ori and the Blind Forest and Inside then this is a game that you really need to play.
2 – Dead Cells
Ah, Dead Cells. A game which gained notoriety for the downfall of IGN’s Nintendo Editor due to his review being plagiarised. It’s a shame really as the game deserved to be making headlines on its own terms. This brilliant roguelike-Metroidvania title is not the normal type of game I would go for, but I absolutely love it. The difficulty is punishing but never unfair. The visuals are great with a pixel art style but so much more. It is a game that will have you cursing it for dying but will keep playing with a ‘just one more go’ mentality.
You play as a collection of cells that take control of a corpse at the beginning of each playthrough. You will hack and slash your way through an ever-changing collection of dungeons, ruins, and fortresses. There are multiple routes through the game as you try to escape the island which you are imprisoned on. At the end of each level, you will be able to buy upgrades which will aid you through your current playthrough. You will also be able to spend the cells that you have collected towards items and upgrades that will be permanently unlocked for each subsequent attempt.
I have lost so many hours to this game. It is something that I will keep going back to and will probably love nearly every moment of it.
1 – Forza Horizon 4
What a surprise, eh? The biggest racing game fan in Enthusiast Towers picks a racer as his best game of the year. I have been really disappointed with AAA game in 2018. However, if there’s one franchise that you can always rely on to deliver the goods, it’s Forza. Be it the Motorsport series or the Horizon franchise, they always deliver superb games and this year’s entry is no exception.
Forza Horizon 4 sees the festival move to the UK. As a resident of the area which is kind of covered by the map in the game, I have to say that it is absurd. As a racing fan, though, I can say that it provides a great venue for some amazing racing. The big new addition to the series this time is the inclusion of seasons. Each (real-world) week the season will change. The change to the visuals is pretty dramatic, and certain areas in the map will become more treacherous or even accessible in some cases.
Playground games may not have changed the core game that much since the last entry but when a game is so good to start with, why should they? Forza Horizon 4 is not only the best racing game of the year but, in my opinion, the best Xbox game of 2018.