This year lacked the explosive start of Spring 2017, when Nintendo gave us Breath of the Wild and the Nintendo Switch (and BioWare released Mass Effect: Andromeda, which made my top five but fell off real quick after that).
Comparing to my Most Anticipated Games of 2018 list, I’ve already fallen behind. As a Fig backer, I own Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, yet opted to replay the first game again, this time with The White March DLC. I’ll definitely get to Deadfire this year, but it’ll be awhile.
As for State of Decay 2, I find myself lacking a modern Xbox console, and not terribly keen on purchasing it through the Microsoft Store on PC. I may have to bite the bullet at some point because I do love that franchise, but I wish I could just play it on Steam.
This summer I’m back on getting through my backlog. I finally got a PlayStation 4 last year, and my wife (and I) went nuts getting me games last Christmas.
I spent a good chunk of the first half of the year finishing Horizon Zero Dawn. Now I’m currently making my way through the entire Uncharted series.
My Top Five Games of the Mid-Year 2018
5) Jurassic World Alive
It’s Pokémon GO with dinosaurs, of course I love it! It’s actually a better designed game as well. Instead of flinging PokéBalls, you send out a drone to hit the dinosaurs with tranq darts.
You don’t capture dinosaurs, you collect DNA. Reaching certain thresholds let you acquire them and level them up, letting you make progress every time you see one, instead of all-or-nothing.
The battles are a lot more fun as well. You don’t have to travel to a Gym to fight, you can queue up anywhere and engage in fun turn-based battles, with each dinosaur having a few abilities to choose from.
The Supply Drops are also more plentiful, making Jurassic World Alive a much easier game to play for folks who live outside of major cities. I don’t know if I’ll still be playing by the end of the year but so far it’s completely replaced Pokémon GO as my AR game of choice.
Frostpunk didn’t enter my radar until I played a bit of it at PAX South earlier this year. It looked like a fun little city builder that attempted to tackle real social issues within a harrowing weather-apocalyptic scenario.
It does that and more. Frostpunk is easily the most emotional and dramatic sim builder I’ve ever played, with haunting violins, bleak art, and scenarios that force you to take extreme measures to keep your people fed, warm, and content. The balance of surviving each day is razor thin but incredibly satisfying, creating an overarching story rarely seen in the genre.
3) Jurassic World Evolution
Every once in awhile I reach a halfway point in the game where I decide, yep I’m going to do it all. It happened earlier this year with Horizon Zero Dawn, and it’s currently happening with Jurassic World Evolution.
Jurassic World Evolution is Frontier’s spiritual successor to Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis, one of my all-time favorite theme park sim games. Frontier did a phenomenal job with Planet Coaster in 2016, and JWE continues the trend.
As a console release, it’s not nearly as deep or moddable as the PC-only Planet Coaster, but the focus on dinosaur care and AI and the way the campaign is structured over multiple challenging islands has kept me engaged far longer than Planet Coaster did.
2) Into the Breach
We finally get to a game that will be on most game critics’ end of year lists. From the makers of FTL comes another equally compelling strategy rogue-like. Into the Breach sheds much of the randomized frustrations from FTL, instead offering a Chess-like experience that rewards strategic planning and a deep knowledge of the game’s units and systems.
Into the Breach is shockingly easy to beat (unlike FTL). The replay factor comes from unlocking different teams of mechs and earning the rich variety of achievements. I fell off after about 10 hours but of all the games on this list it’s the one I most plan on returning to.
1) Monster Hunter World
Even after playing the demos late last year I still wasn’t completely sold on Monster Hunter World. Then I received a surprise review code, played a few hours, and immediately convinced my friends to get it.
We had a freaking blast.
With Monster Hunter World I finally understand all those Dark Souls fans. MHW demands intricate knowledge of poorly explained mechanics, yet it’s incredibly rewarding to master a weapon and fell a new monster for the first time.
There are only a handful of zones but they’re all very large, varied, and fun to explore. Hunting the same monsters with the same weapons rarely becomes repetitive thanks to the rich monster AI, interactive zones, and weapon attacks. I’ll never forget the first time the T-Rex I was fighting fled to a different area – only to run straight into a dragon. The ensuing chaos was the moment I fell in love with the game.
I spent over 100 hours with Monster Hunter World. While the post-game continues nearly indefinitely, I put the controller down after defeating Xeno’jiva with my buddies. I’d more than gotten my fill. Now I have an all new appreciation for that series, as well as any series that get its arcane, maddening, yet intriguing hooks into you.
My Top Five Most Anticipated Games of the Second Half of 2018
Bard’s Tale IV
Despite being a sequel to one of the oldest RPGs in video games, Bard’s Tale IV looks like on of the most unique RPGs I’ve ever seen. The combat system alone looks delightfully old school: first-person yet turn-based and tactical. Right up my alley, which is why I backed it several years ago.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
I still need to play the 8-bit teaser game that Castlevania creator Koji Igarashi recently released, but I’m super excited for this Kickstarter spiritual successor. Fans have definitely been burned on these kinds of projects before (see Mighty Number 9) but everything I’ve seen of Bloodstained looks like they’r eon the right track to making an all new, yet classic 2D Castlevania.
Release: November 14
Multiplayer Fallout? Seems pretty weird, particularly from one of the most prominent single-player AAA developers in the industry. I wasn’t terribly keen on the building aspects of Fallout 4, but the RPG-shooter mechanics were still solid. Exploring a limited population server with friends could be a lot of fun.
Red Dead Redemption II
Release: October 26
My #1 Most Anticipated Game of 2018 is still, well, highly anticipated. So much so that many of the new E3 release date announcements were for early 2019. Nobody wants to compete with a Rockstar release. The original RDR was one of those holy grail games that I loved for both single player and multiplayer, and I can’t wait to dig into both this fall.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Release: December 7
I’ve never not owned a Nintendo console, but I also don’t get them on release. Traditionally it’s been the release of a Super Smash Bros. game that spurs me into the purchase, and it’s looking like that’ll be the case here. In other words: I’ll definitely be getting a Nintendo Switch this year!