Ah, 2019. You kind of sucked. I mean I guess you started okay, but around the halfway point you took a turn for the worse and I’m glad to see you go.
But you know what’s always been good to me? Games. I played a lot of games this year. Read into my escapism however you want, but 2019 let me try my first Fire Emblem game, dip further into indie darlings, and deliver packages as a glorified UPS delivery man.
The following is a list of some of the more memorable, or unmemorable, moments from 2019 in gaming.
Best “Multiplayer” Game
Death Stranding: Whereas Sekiro completely abandoned the multiplayer component of the Souls series, Death Stranding picked up passive online interactions and ran with it.
Death Stranding was the first game that made me really feel like other players inhabited its world alongside me, always just around the corner. Finding that perfectly placed bridge or ladder that shaved minutes off your journey, linking your own zip-line to another’s to make mountain traversal a breeze, seeing lost cargo from other players that you can pick up and deliver for them, all keenly highlighted the point Kojima was trying to make with his new genre of strand games.
The effect is quite astounding. It made me consciously take the time out of my own journey to stop and try and rebuild a road or drop a ladder for others. I was constantly in debt to other players and the desire to pay it forward never left me over the fifty hours I spent with the game. In an industry where battle royals’ one-winner-takes-all attitude is the order of the day, it was refreshing to play a game that so seamlessly let players work together to build something new, interesting, and wholly good.
Favorite Ongoing Game
Final Fantasy XIV: In my quest to play every Final Fantasy game, I decided 2019 was the year to dip into the MMO world of Final Fantasy XIV. I hadn’t played an MMO since Runescape, so I was a bit hesitant that I’d enjoy it. I shouldn’t have worried. Not only was I completely sucked into the world and its characters, but it gave me some time to reflect on my own experience with online communities and making internet friends.
I think about Final Fantasy XIV often, and can’t wait to go back.
Hindsight is 20/19 (The One That Doesn’t Hold Up)
Untitled Goose Game: Look, the memes were fun, but Goose was a relatively shallow experience as a game. The titular animal, while hilarious, is a bit unwieldy, and I found myself rushing through the end of its already brief two hour experience just to finish it and move on. I should have taken my roommate’s advice and played a Hitman game this year instead.
Best Single Player Game
Disco Elysium: I was on the edge of my seat frequently throughout Disco Elysium’s thirty hour narrative. I hung on each roll of the dice, and couldn’t wait to see the reaction NPC’s had to my character’s bizarre philosophical musings. Disco is a special, weird, and superbly written game and I’m not going to attempt to summarize the experience here. The ending left me breathless and tied together threads I didn’t know the game had been weaving the entire time. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking, timely and historically reverent, beautiful and ugly. Play it.
Backlog GOTY Award
Titanfall 2: When the original Titanfall released in 2014, I mocked it, without having played it, for being just another entry in the oversaturated arcade shooter market Call of Duty had bestowed on us. After getting into Gundam and learning to love mechs, Titanfall 2 quickly became the game I heard whispered on the edges of mech-Twitter.
The movement, gunplay, and mech interplay are all top notch. Titanfall 2 is just a really tight experience that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s also quickly become one of my favorite speedruns to watch during Games Done Quick.
Didn’t Click For Me, or, Not Steve Content
Pokemon Sword/Shield: Pokemon Sun/Moon was the first Pokemon game I’d played since Gold/Silver and it got me excited about the series for the first time in over ten years. I was really looking forward to the series’ first true outing on the Switch but realized pretty early on that something about the series had lost its magic during its mobile to console evolution.
Seeing the Pokemon in the grass takes away the fun surprise of an encounter but also triggers my compulsion to pick the area clean of every new Pokemon I can find, which makes working through areas more of a chore than a thrill. Dynamaxing is the most useless mechanic I’ve seen introduced to the series. The towns, while sporting good music, are lifeless cardboard cutouts. The game just feels slow. I’m also tired of Hop trying to use me as a springboard to his own Pokemon Champion greatness.
I Did Play That, Didn’t I?
Super Mario Maker 2: This game just came out at the wrong time for me. Had it released in the middle of Little Big Planet’s height – when I was mature enough to understand decent level design but had the free time of a teen to doodle and workshop levels during class – I would have eaten it up. Instead, I’m an adult with enough projects to work on without Mario getting in the way.
I never quite got into the game the way I wanted to, and while there were some amazing multiplayer moments of hilarity with me and my friends, I found that I quickly moved on from the title. I’ll probably go back and poke around now that the new Link power up is out, but the game didn’t have the staying power I wanted it to.
Cadence of Hyrule: My biggest fear going into Cadence was the dungeon-crawly nature of the title. I never played Crypt of the Necrodancer because I was afraid the game would be more of a slog than fun (I bounce off rogue-likes pretty hard). I tried Cadence because I was in the mood for a classic Zelda game, but Link’s Awakening hadn’t released yet.
Boy am I glad I did. The music was fantastic, the gameplay loop was addictive, and it absolutely scratched that classic Zelda itch. The game was also the perfect length, capping out just when I was ready to be done with tapping to the beat.
Final Fantasy XIV: Why? Why does no one talk about Final Fantasy XIV’s music? It’s not just some of the best in the series, but one of the best soundtracks period. Each area has its own distinct flavor and night/day variations that fit the mood perfectly. And there’s so much of it that it’s hard to pick one as an example. There’s surely something for everyone here, but for me, this track always sounds like home.
Favorite Game Encounter
Guardian Ape, from Sekiro – Shadows Die Twice: Even though my roommate ruined the surprise, the Guardian Ape fight sticks in my mind as one of the most fun, grotesque, and exciting encounters in recent memory.
The minute you first defeat the Guardian Ape, your heart rate begins to slow down and relief washes over you. The moment lasts just long enough before the ape springs back to life and picks up its severed head to come at you again.
What makes this fight so fantastic isn’t just the surprise, but the way the ape’s mechanics change completely. It swings around wildly, being headless and all, and requires you to learn a new set of moves to deal with. Your heart rate begins climbing all over again.
And then there’s the time you run across him again.
“Waiting for Game-dot” (I’ll Get To It Eventually)
Red Dead Redemption 2: I still haven’t played this because I was afraid it would lose emotional impact since I never played the first game. I also played a ton of 40+ hour games this year and the thought of jumping into another massive experience like that left me exhausted. And yet, my roommate, the most cynical of all gamers, won’t stop talking about it. I’ll have to play it eventually, or I’m afraid he’ll take me off the lease.
Game of the Year
Sekiro – Shadows Die Twice: I thought Souls games couldn’t surprise me anymore. After blowing through Dark Souls III, I had assumed the series could go on ice indefinitely, and I didn’t have much interest in Sekiro until its release.
Boy was I wrong. Not only is Sekiro one of the best games in the Souls series, it’s downright one of the most challenging games I’ve played to date, and the thrills are all the better for it. The combat is exquisite, and unlike other titles in the series where you can use multiple character builds and strategies to take down an enemy, Sekiro is as singularly focused and sharp as Wolf’s blade.
Every enemy is a puzzle that needs to be solved. This means every encounter has to be learned and perfected. The resurrection mechanic isn’t there to make the game easier, it’s to give you more time to learn how to defeat your foe. You’ll get so good at this that by the time you finally defeat the boss that destroyed you within ten seconds of a fight time and time again, you’ll do so without a scratch.
Sekiro is the epitome of tight, fun, and exciting gameplay, and it’s all wrapped up inside a bizarre world with grotesque monsters and hidden secrets behind every corner. The game is difficult until you learn to speak its language, but once you’re fluent, nothing comes close to the experience it provides.
Hey! We do have fun on the Unofficial Gameological Discord Server! Come hang out and talk about games or whatever strikes your fancy. We’re friendly! We came up with the prompts together!