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Editorial

Dec 31, 2019

Scott Ellison II’s Top 10 Games of 2019

Look, a lot of games come out each year. More games were released this year over last. A lot’s changed in this decade in gaming. As a result, it’s becoming increasingly harder to find the time to play them for review, or play anything else for fun. So yes, there’s going to be glaring omissions and other oddities, but at least understand there’s just a lot of fucking games right now. And a lot of them are good. So let’s kick this thing off!

Games I either played some or none of this year:

I’ll give you my hyper-short impressions based on my minimal experience with each of these. Just because I wish I spent more time with them for them to have actually made it onto my Top 10 list this year…

  • Outer Wilds: I love that theme music, there’s some really fantastic things happening here. It brings me joy just thinking about it now.
  • The Outer Worlds: This game I have several hours in, but haven’t completed. I love the universe here, and Obsidian is really in top form. I look forward to beating the game, and playing expansions and DLC, it very much deserves it.
  • Metro Exodus: A series I adore, but simply haven’t had the time to play this one. I’m also hesitant to do so because I want to see that sweet, sweet raytracing when I upgrade to an RTX cards some time in 2020 before playing.
  • Disco Elysium: I’ve played 0.0 hours of this, and it’s honestly a god damned tragedy I haven’t done something about it yet.
  • Children of Morta: What a really neat roguelike that makes character selection feel a whole lot more meaningful, and incredibly detailed pixel art you get lost looking at.
  • Resident Evil 2: I’ve yet to install or play this, but yet I played and reviewed the abysmal Daymare: 1998, a cheap and poor imitation of this fine game that awaits me.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening: This Switch release is so damned good. The puzzles are just so fantastic and rewarding. This is literally the third Zelda game I’ve ever played. First was The Legend of Zelda on NES, then Breath of the Wild, and now this. They should make more of these!
  • Total War: THREE KINGDOMS: Total War has always been a daunting kind of game, but I feel THREE KINGDOMS has a stronger focus, and one on storytelling that helps ease the feelings that you can’t wrap your head around this.
  • STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order: This is a game that’s more than Dark Souls meets Uncharted. Respawn Entertainment again proves their talent. Since the Force Unleashed games are now considered non-cannon, Fallen Order takes its place as it sits in the timeline between Episode III and IV, and just feels, looks, and plays better than any Star Wars games has any right to.

 


Honorable Mention:

Usually I reserve this for a subset of games I played that I still wanted to talk about. This time I’m highlighting one game in particular, and this one came out at the beginning of 2019…

FutureGrind

This is a game that has all the tricks and combos of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, but with the color-matching of Ikaruga. This is a game that constantly challenges you, and ratchets it up in a steady incline. The soundtrack and gameplay work in concert with one another so well. It’s a game you don’t get until its in your hands. Just know that it’s excellent, but probably forgotten among everything else that’s come out this year. So give it a look, it’s absolutely worth your time and money.


 

The List:

And here are the games that resonated with me the most over the year…

 

Gears 5

This year I finally loaded my last save of Gears of War 3, and completed the main story there. I did so on my Windows 10 PC through my Xbox One X while it loaded via Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility. Then, I completed Gears of War 4 which I also left half-finished because I hadn’t finished Gears of War 3. Having done so, I prepared myself for Gears 5, but I wasn’t prepared for what a delight it was to play.

Sure the Horde Mode is the best it’s been, and the multiplayer modes remain excellent. But it was the campaign provided the biggest hits, giving me a binary choice that’s going to affect the next installment in some significant ways. The psuedo open-world has altered what defines a Gears of War game. It’s a fantastic ride that no longer feels like it’s retreating old ground. With a video refresher for the whole series, or just the last game, there’s been no better time to start playing. And if you play any of them, make it this one.

 

Mortal Kombat 11

You’d think after some time you’d get tired of ripping a spine out of your opponent for what must be the 500th time, but here I am playing the most hours of a Mortal Kombat game since I was a kid. Mortal Kombat 11’s story mode was as konvoluted as it gets when you start to involve time manipulation. But, it used kallbacks and references to prior games that were interwoven so well, that if you’ve kept up over the years, there’s a lot of payoffs.

Then you’ve got the Krypt, an RPG lite and labyrinthian place to explore. It’s no doubt the best form of the mode yet, and I’ve yet to komplete everything. I’m not kompetitive or good enough to play online, so the living towers konstantly being refreshed full of challenges for me to face will keep me koming back until the next NetherRealm game.

 

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition

Truth be told, I didn’t play RTS games in the late 90s. They were a genre I didn’t know enough about, and I stuck to racing games and first-person shooters. I finally got into them, and something like Age of Empires was a series I hadn’t truly played. And it’s impressive how a 20 year old game never felt so fresh to someone’s who’s never played it before. It looks and plays even better.

The work that’s been done to the game looks fantastic, even over the 2013 release of Age of Empires II HD, which I played a lot of. It’s just a better game, and for all the base game and all the expansions you get for $20, is basically a steal. These “Definitive Edition” releases are getting better and better, and I look forward to Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition, and eventually a proper new entry, Age of Empires IV.

 

Ion Fury

Previously named Ion Maiden, is the prequel to Bombshell where you play as Shelly Harrison (before she became “Bombshell”). Voidpoint Interactive learned their lessons from Bombshell, and made a game that runs on EDuke32 (the Build engine), and has a paltry 96MB install that spans seven zones. The game is a classic first-person shooter, and relies on keycards, secrets, and an arsenal of weapons that would make Lo Wang proud. It’s got a feverish pace, and a soundtrack that doesn’t quit. Simply put, Ion Fury evokes all the 1996 nostalgia of Duke Nukem 3D, but without all the misogyny.

I think it’s worth mentioning the excellent AMID EVIL and Blood: Fresh Supply came out this year, too. It was a great year for retro first-person shooters, so don’t sleep on any of these three.

 

Valfaris

This game is pure metal. You crash-land on to the planet of Valfaris, killing a few of its bad inhabitants along the way. From there, it’s clear that this is an action platformer that is feels incredible to control as you lay waste to everything in front of you. The soundtrack that accompanies the gameplay is relentless. This is a must-play, the weapons provide that endorphin drip-feed to upgrade them to their full potential. There’s now a New Game+ that makes things harder, which is quite the task, given how challenging the game is to begin with. There are no disappointments to be found here. As Justin Celani said in his review, this game is metal as fuck.

Like with my last entry, I think it’s worth mentioning some platformers of a different variety were also released this year: Blasphemous, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. They are all worth checking out, but Valfaris stood out from the pack.

 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

First off, Modern Warfare‘s campaign is simply excellent. The levels where you’re required to use night vision are incredibly tense. You have to make split-second decisions, and if you’re not careful, mistakes will be made. At its core, this is a Call of Duty that you’ve come to know, but a bit more grounded with some moral grays. It’s a reboot, so you’ll see returning characters like the venerable Captain Price.

I’d love to talk more about the multiplayer modes, but you know TDM, Domination, Search & Destroy, and Headquarters are good modes. They’re staples, and feel good with the weapons, the visuals, and the sounds. What I really want to talk to you about is Gunfight, holy shit is this a great mode. I can’t stop playing it, and I’m dragging my friends with me to play it. It’s a 2v2 mode where you and a friend or stranger are placed into a small arena, given a specific set of weapons, and need to eliminate the other team. These matches go really quick, but it’s the first team to six wins. So it’s entirely possible you go eleven rounds before it finally ends. You have to play this mode (when you’re done reading the rest of this list I made).

 

 

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw

Double Damage Games is back with a prequel to Rebel Galaxy, a similar yet wildly different game. This is X-Wing meets Freelancer, where they live again in a new skin. You play as Juno, and you’re out for revenge. You’ll do so from the first-person perspective as you pilot various ships that you acquire and upgrade into. You’ll have to outfit your ship with new weapons and other hardpoints to bolster you ability in combat. You can have a wingman out there, but for the most part it’s going to be you.

The game supports HOTAS controllers, and while it felt a little more natural or nostalgic, the controller is what the game was made for. There’s auto-tracking function that locks on and follows a ship during combat, making engagements not only go faster, but more successful. This is a fantastic game on PC, and is coming to consoles sometime next year. It’s an absolute joy.

 

Hypnospace Outlaw

This is another game with “outlaw” in the title, but I trust you’ve never played anything like this. It all feels like you’ve dusted off an old Pentium 266Hz machine, booted it up, and it somehow still works. You’ll peruse Angelfire and Geocities-like websites, looking for dirt and offenders. Because this is, after all your job in Hypnospace Outlaw, to be a detective. Though, you’ll be so enthralled with this fake OS and internet that you’ll get lost in discovering every nook and cranny there is to offer. Solving the later cases requires some careful digging and lots of exploring, so this is a game where you’ll want to take notes along the way. It’s a bizarre but wonderful title that begs for your attention.

While you’re there, make sure you listen to Granny Cream’s Hot Butter Ice Cream jingle, it’s everything you didn’t know you wanted. Hypnospace Outlaw just got mod support, so the way that this fake internet is going to expand and do more over time is so exciting to me. I want to spend more time on this internet, than the real one. And so will you.

 

Void Bastards

Never before have I loved a roguelite more. Void Bastards has a linear progression, but the means to go about it is non-linear. It has momentum, odd quirks, and incredible personality. The sharp and witty writing of the interstitials are excellent, guiding you along your path to freedom. But along the way you’ll have to board ships, loot and fight through ships and sections of the nebula. Take too long in a sector, and you’ll be pursued by pirates, or what I call, a “death squad”, because never was I able to survive their attacks. Aside from that, you’ll assemble a lot of weapons and gadgets that will allow to do things like teleport enemies into airlocks and evict them without so much as a blink of an eye.

The best moments of Void Bastards is when you’re given a prisoner with some sort of trait that either helps or hurts you. The funniest ones are the ones where you have a persistent cough, are height challenged, or are completely colorblind. It’s things like this that keep the game fresh, and as prisoners come and go, the persistence of chipping away at your goal of rebuilding the ship to make it home is oh so rewarding. There’s now new DLC and new modes to play, I only wish it had separate save slots for experimentation.

 

 

CONTROL

I’ve heard so many good things about this game, and even saw some critics had panned it. I didn’t get to play this for myself until just over a month ago. And since I completed it, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. It’s taken control. I mean, I’ve completed every side mission and collected every unlockable outfit for Jesse Faden since then, and it still is something I think about. It’s fucking excellent.

There’s so many great moments, puzzles, and combat was a joy. There’s no ammo per se, but the myriad of weapon formations have a limited amount of shots that can be fired before needing to recharge. This is where your powers come into play, and using the punch or control while a gun recharges is essential to surviving fights as health must be collected, as it isn’t regenerative. Each wing of the Federal Bureau of Control is themed, each with its own experiment gone awry, and a cast of characters to talk to and learn from. Exploring these, picking up collectibles, is all part of the experience that never feels like a chore.

By now, you’ve probably heard of everyone gushing over the ASHTRAY MAZE. It’s a late-game mission that you may come across during your time, but requires certain abilities and actions before you start it. This is far and away the best sequence in video games…EVER. If you weren’t sold on CONTROL before now, or up until now, then just go into the spoiler fog of war to see it for yourself, either again or the first time…

!!! SPOILERS BEGIN !!!

This is a culmination of all your powers, weapons, and skills you’ve acquired up until this moment. It’s not so much a test, but a place to truly showcase how powerful you’ve become over the course of the game. The music from Old Gods of Asgard (aka Poets of the Fall) is just so perfect here.

 

!!! SPOILERS END !!!

 

CONTROL is a triumph and is Remedy’s best yet. I’m enamored by it, and will be returning shortly for the Expeditions update that released earlier this month, and the upcoming DLC that’s to come in 2020. It’s the surprise hit of the year, and my favorite game of all of 2019 – and that’s saying a lot for what an incredible year of games there were.