2019 Mid-Year Review

Due to the GotY threads being one of my favorite annual traditions of December and January, I tend to spend the entire year looking forward to it and pondering which games I've played that may rank on the list. I know there's at least one other in the Monthly Pile thread that's been tallying their contenders as they play, so I imagine there's plenty of others doing just that.

At the same time, there are plenty of us that are playing games few others or no one else is and would like a chance to discuss them. I feel this is becoming increasingly common as the community's tastes, free time, and finances shift and change, preventing everyone from being a part of the current discussion.

So, here is your chance to talk about the stuff you've absolutely loved and see as being contenders in your top ten. Discuss those games that were absolute disappointments, be they major or minor, perhaps that you had assumed would be at the top of your list. Go ahead and list what you're still looking toward this year. We're halfway through and plenty of potential GotY contenders have already hit shelves, but what do you anticipate will challenge their place?

Go crazy. Review the year up to this point as you see fit.

I've started keeping a doc of what I've played in the vain hope I'll stop breaking the rules. Thus far, I've listed 10 games I played for the first time this year, with 1 that will be disqualified because I've played it a lot before, but merits an honorable mention. Only 4 are from this year, and 2 of those aren't too likely to make the list. Of that, what you will, make.

Naturally, I created this thread because I wanted to discuss this very thing. So, here we go.


Resident Evil 2:
This feels like the natural evolution of where Resident Evil should be. Environmental exploration and puzzle-solving just like you found in the old games, but accompanied with far more user-friendly controls. Yet those improved controls come with harder-to-kill zombies and a Mr. X that is going to give it to ya. The amount of tricks to this game and the manner in which they have maintained replayability is incredible. Hopefully this is the direction the franchise shall be going from here on out.

Devil May Cry 5:
I've been a witness to many long-time fans posting their joy and reactions on the YouTubes, and in some ways it makes me a bit envious as I only became acquainted with the entire franchise starting last autumn. Nevertheless, that was enough time to get a crash course on not just the evolution of the franchise's combat, but its narrative. Boy howdy does DMC5 feel like a video game that wears that title proudly on its sleeve, and yet still manages to sell its emotion and narrative incredibly for those that have been keeping up. Capcom already scored twice this year, and for Monster Hunter fans I imagine Iceborne is going to turn that into a Hat Trick.

Thus far, Capcom is dominating my 2019's Game of the Year.

A Plague Tale: Innocence:
I was hopeful going into this game, though also measuring expectations as Focus Home has a tendency to release jank. I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that the game's mechanics are mostly solid, with the jank rearing its ugly head towards the conclusion. Nevertheless, I was always invested in the story of Amicia and her sick little brother, the stealth-puzzle design prevented the game from feeling like a long and annoying escort quest, and there were even elements of exploration to feed my addiction to collect pointless trinkets in games.

Too early to say on this one. I played Yakuza 0 and Kiwami earlier this year, and both were incredible open-world experiences with a delicious over-the-top nature. Judgment is a bit over-the-top, but feels subdued compared to its brethren. Nevertheless, I'm enjoying the subtle differences between Yagami and Kiryu and the manner in which they interact with Kamurocho. Unless they somehow screw up the game's balance or design further in, I'd expect this to be a contender as well.


Caligula Effect: Overdose:
I actually just wrote about my ambiguous feelings on the game. There's a lot of good here, but at the moment it is solidly a #10 position on the chart, meaning it could easily get shoved out. Just some awful dungeon design that weighs heavily upon the experience, reducing any positive impact the writing or combat system make.

Aside from currently playing Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, which itself could be a contender if I get further into it, there's Fire Emblem: Three Houses in a couple of weeks. If one of the previews Garion shared in the franchise thread is to be believed, it'll be what Fates "ought to have been". That's some comforting praise. Astral Chain is the game I'm most excited about for the rest of the year, being an inventive looking action game from the designer of Nier: Automata. The universe also has a wonderful sci-fi aesthetic to it. I'm just eating everything up about that game. Naturally also looking forward to the Link's Awakening remake, which is releasing the same month as Daemon X Machina. I imagine I'll enjoy the latter, but something tells me it won't be an actual contender. I still need to pick up and play Cadence of Hyrule, too. Square Enix also has Oninaki releasing soon, ensuring that August is going to be absolute torture.

In terms of non-Switch games, I'm actually still interested in seeing what Control will be like. The gameplay looks pretty solid and I'm curious about its story. DOOM Eternal is probably the Western-developed game I'm most hyped for and I fully expect to be a contender. The Outer Worlds looks quite enjoyable, but I won't know if it's a contender or not until I've played it and got a felt for being in the game world. I'll need to clear my Switch schedule for Dragon Quest XI, even though AI: The Somnium Files from the mind of the Zero Escape series is releasing close to it. Let's not forget Metal Wolf Chaos XD, and I'm actually interested in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. I'll wait on Death Stranding as the gameplay footage hasn't sold me, and while I'm not hyped over it, I'm still looking forward to Pokemon Sworld and Shield.

.........what the Hell is up with this year, man...

I have played so few new games this year it's tragic (but my focus has been on school work, not having any money, and doing D&D stuff....not necessarily in that order).

BUT... here's where I stand so far:

Return of the Obra Dinn
Probably the best Detective game on the market that actually lets you be a detective (even though you're an Insurance Investigator). Also I can't say much about it without spoiling some really jaw dropping reveals. JUST PLAY IT.

Observation (EGS)
Grungy "Space Emergency" Genre interactive story game in which you play the AI on the ship rather than a crewmember. Very big 2001 influences. I loved it to bits. The sound design and acting (which involves most of the same actors as Alien Isolation) is top notch.

The Room 3
It's...more The Room. Still an excellent puzzle game, but really very much more of the same.

Operencia: The Stolen Sun (EGS)
Quite a surprise, actually. Only heard about it a couple of weeks before it was released. Really solid AA square-based dungeon crawler with a fairly reasonable difficulty level, some...enthusiastic voice acting and really nice environmental puzzles. (apart from two really annoying sliding block puzzles). Good story as well, with a focus on Eastern rather than Western European mythology.

The Sinking City (EGS)
A broken, buggy mess of a game with a terrible attitude towards women and an enthusiastic but ultimately flawed approach to depicting Lovecraft's racism. Still, as someone who loves their Yog-Sothery, it scratched the itch and i'll probably go back to play it again and catch the couple of side quests i missed (and maybe destroy the world this time who knows).

Whispers of a Machine
Short but sweet Cyberpunk post-apocalypse graphic adventure game. Not going to win any prizes but it was pretty good. Had some nice ideas with puzzles branching depending on which skills you focus on developing that it doesn't really take advantage of, but hopefully if they do another game they can expand on those ideas more. Also the protagonist has great hair.

Outer Wilds (EGS)
Liked this a lot. Groundhog day meets the existential dread of a Supernova destroying your star system but with a cheery cartoon style and space banjos. Wore out it's welcome for me in the end because the final "win" state requires you make some very specific actions that can easily cause your death, having you to restart from scratch and eventually i just gave up and watched the ending on youtube.

Currently playing : The Call of Cthulhu. I went back to pick this up after finishing Sinking City. It's alright. Nothing to write home about in a hastily scribbled scrawl. Protagonist is voiced by Samuels from Alien Isolation (and the AI in Observation) so that's good, he's got a soothing voice!

Also Dragon Age Inqusition because reasons.

I've very much enjoy the years in terms of gaming! I've so far managed to complete 10 games, with an 11th incoming! I'm swifty working my way through my backlog, while also being able to play some newer games.

Favourite game so far: Sekiro! It'll take some topping of that. It really mixed up the From Software formula. I didn't really know much about the game before it came out, and it sort of popped up out of nowhere for me. It requires a fair amount of patience, but has a nice story and some really cool mechanics.

Biggest disappointment: Steep! I loved the lasst SSX game and thought this would be right up my alley. But there was just something off about it. It felt like it was confused as to whether it wanted to be an arcade game or a simulator too often.

Biggest surprise: Subnuatica! So, I'm only about 6 hours in, but I have avoided survival games like the plague due to never really getting on with them. I saw someone say they had similar feelings but loved this game and I must say I'm really enjoying it and find it quite relaxing. I played it because I had a passing interest due to the hype around it and it was free (thanks, Epic!) I wish I'd give it a go sooner.

Honourable Mention: Twitch Sings! Me and my girlfriend have used this as a kareoke tool and had a load of fun. It's free and has loads of songs on, so it's definitely worth it if you want to give singing a go. The only disappointment we had is that the scoring system is fairly basic, we wish it would have difficulty levels or a % for notes hit.

Most played: Rocket League! In May was my first anniversary of playing Rocket League. It's now my go-to multiplayer game. I can't see myself tailing off any time soon, I just love it too much.

Most looking forward to: Fire Emblem: Three Houses! I've largely neglected my Switch this year, it's almost like I forget I have the thing. I was a huge fan of Fire Emblem: Awakening, but bounced off Fates fairly hard (I think the choice in games and their respective difficulties made it hard when I would've liked a nice middle-ground.) I actually only realised it's coming out this month when a friend told me a few weeks ago, but I think I can definitely sink my teeth into it and give my Switch some much needed love. It was hard to pick between this and Pokemon, so I guess it's more just looking forward to having an excuse to get addicted to my Switch.

Games completed so far (story completed):

- Yakuza Kiwami (January)
- Ronin (January)
- Battlefield V (February)
- Madden '19 (February)
- Anthem (March)
- Unravel 2 (March)
- Sekiro (May)
- Steep (June)
- Crash Bandicoot: Warped (July)
- Snipper Clips (July - just three more levels to go)

Other new games played:

- Mordhau
- Imperator: Rome
- Golf With Your Friend
- Borderlands 2

So, I've had quite a variation of games which has helped keep things fresh and exciting for me. There has also been plenty ticked off from the backlog, and you might notice that cluster of EA games in Feb/March - that was on a EA Access pass. So, I haven't really spent that much money while getting plenty of enjoyment from a range of games; I'm very happy on the whole!

Chris, I’m impressed you played Yakuza 0, Kiwami and Judgment this year. I really like the Yakuza games, have played 3-6, but I have to take about a year in between each.

Great idea cceserano.

The two stand out games for me so far this year are Hollow Knight and The Division 2. Both are contenders for high spots on my list.

Hollow Knight
Confession: I'd never played a 2D metroidvania before Hollow Knight, or at least not for more than a handful of bewildering seconds. In the back of my mind I've wanted to dive into one but I always felt 2D platforms weren't really for me.

Spikeout recommended the heck out of Hollow Knight and, as I often end up liking what he recommends, I gave it a go. I was honestly expecting to play it for ten minutes and then spend a few weeks saying things like, "No. It's fun. Just didn't grab me," and, "I'll probably get back to it!" knowing I wouldn't. Instead the games singular atmosphere and delightful, minimalistic characterisation captured me allowing the exquisitely considered difficulty curve to reel me in. Love the game.

The Division 2
I thoroughly enjoyed the first Division. It's atmosphere really, as much as anything. It felt like a real time and place. The Division 2 had very little appeal for me after trying the demo. I could see the combat had been refined but the game came across as more of the same in a less atmospheric world.

Since then a group of us bought cheap copies and started playing. Turns out, what is lacking in a sense of time and place, is more than made up for by the combat. The cover system is unbelievably fluid moving in and out of cover, switching from one piece of cover to the next is all smooth and hiccup free. On top of that, the cover system feels necessary but not something the game is trying to force you to use. The enemies are also much improved. They have tactics and manoeuvres that will catch you off guard. The skills, like riot foam, drones, seeker mines, etc, all feel satisfying and tactical.

Skillup described The Division 2's combat as 'realtime X-Com.' At times, with four players, it very much is, but there is also a pinch of Far Cry 2 and the original Ghost Recons in there. Which is a recipe for a very happy Higgledy.

Clusks wrote:



So far I have had a year to forget.


Prey (PS4)
Enjoyed the opening scenes. Got distracted. Shall begin anew at a later date.

Batman: Arkham Knight (PS4)
Enjoyed the opening scenes. Got distracted. Shall begin anew at a later date.

Mass Effect (360)
I found the combat a cumbersome chore. The planetary traversal could also be so barren as to induce snoozing.

Dragon Age: Origins (360 & PC)
I bounced due to loftier than was wise expectations that became a sinking ship through modern eyes. I spent entirely too long hopping between platform, and class, and character mindset, as if to somehow remedy this.

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura (PC)
I could muster little motivation to solve compatibility issues amongst the lacklustre combat.

Invisible Inc: Console Edition (PS4)
I've no actual complaints. This is a fine game. I simply didn't gel with it at this time. Perhaps somewhere down the road.

Seven: Enhanced Edition (PS4)
Failed to generate momentum amongst general disinterest. It was an impulse purchase. Not what I expected.

Gemini Rue (Android)
I saw this was available on Android. Great. Turns out I hate touch screen controls. I wish this were available for consoles. It's on PC? I know. I own a copy there as well. I recall compatibility issues. (My lasting impression of PC gaming is literally compatibility issues.) I'll probably force myself to make do with one of these lesser platforms as it is a proper good game.

Mass Effect: Andromeda (PS4)
This has been a real highlight. I've forged good memories with this one. I'm closing in on the finale. The combat is fine. The world traversal is good. The characters are well written and well voiced. I did require a second run at it to adjust to the departures from ME2, and ME3, from the cast and the crew, to the open world approach, to Ryder not being Shepard. Once I cleared those rather sizeable hurdles it became a joy to behold. Mass criticisms be damned! I want a sequel!

Slay the Spire (PS4)
Creative. Addictive. Awesome.


Thank goodness for the latter three or my year would be a bust. A three out of ten success rate. Damn!

Going forward I've had my head turned by The Division 2, and Borderlands 2, and I am so down for the September release of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition on consoles.

Here's my top 3 so far.

What Remains Of Edith Finch
I've sang its praises on various threads here now. It's a fantastic game. Very unique, very clever and completely captivating. Will be hard to knock this off my top spot.

There hasn't been an Advance Wars for something like 10+ years, but this more than scratches the itch. It does enough to distinguish itself from Advance Wars - in some ways better, some ways worse. Hard to make the top spot when it's so derivative, but I've still loved every minute I've spent with it.

Forza Horizon 4
Arcade-y racing that lets you enjoy it however you like. Lots of freedom, lots of customisation and constant rewards.

I've only played a little of Metro Exodus, but if it keeps up with what I've done so far, it'll likely be on my list too.

Higgledy wrote:
Clusks wrote:



Superhot is great, I just wish the story mode was a bit longer, I managed to finish it in the same day as starting the game.

I could have played a lot more. I’m hoping there is a sequel in the works. The challenge modes are a lot of fun. Well worth having a go at.

My top game so far this year is Kingdom Hearts 3, which is quite surprising as I had not played much of any KH games since the original on the PS2. Waypoint's podcasts going through the convoluted history of the series helped get me into the lore, and my love for Disney animation did the rest.

Crackdown 3 is another surprise hit for me. It is the perfect Game Pass game - easy to play and silly silly fun.

Really thought-provoking thread, ccesarano.

I find myself at the furthest end of the spectrum (further even than SpacePPoliceman) because I haven't bought a single new game this year. My newest purchase was Horizon Zero Dawn back in May. The other games I bought this year are Metro Redux, Heavenly Sword and Mirror's Edge.

I'm sure that some fantastic games have been released in the last 7 months, but I've just not been moved by any of them. That's pretty unusual for me.

When I look at the release schedule for the rest of the year, I'm hard pushed to find any Day One purchases beyond Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. What I've seen of Star Wars: Fallen Order has been underwhelming, so that's now a bargain bin dive in 2020. And the absence of any meaningful information about what Death Stranding actually is has really put me off. I suspect that this PR approach is deliberate, because there is less to that game than there first appears.

So this a one-new-game year, I guess...

Higgledy wrote:

Great idea cceserano.

detroit20 wrote:

Really thought-provoking thread, ccesarano.

Thanks, but this isn't the first time I've done it. I don't think I was around last year to post it, though, so here we are.

steinkrug wrote:

Chris, I’m impressed you played Yakuza 0, Kiwami and Judgment this year. I really like the Yakuza games, have played 3-6, but I have to take about a year in between each.

It might help that I don't play them to 100% completion. Yakuza 0 I still have to do pretty much the entirety of the Real Estate and Hostess Club missions, having only done the first general phase of those. Judgment I may take a bit more time on, but I've already seen that you gotta complete a Mahjong side quest just so you can complete a number of other ones. I have no clue how Mahjong works, therefore I will probably not be a completionist this time around either.

Yay! Lists!

I haven’t been playing a lot this year. I’ve been too busy working and spending my free time working on projects I’m not ready to talk about yet.

But I’ve got a few contenders:

Best continuing experience from last year:

Fallout 76

I’ve put hundreds of hours into this with my wife and the only reason we stopped is we ran out of new content. With more missions and characters coming soon, we’re both looking forward to the upcoming addition of NPCs, which everyone says they want but will probably break the world for me. Time will tell.

Best TCM of Horizon: Zero Dawn that everyone inexplicably hates:

Days Gone

How is this not on everyone’s list? It is almost literally a reskin of Horizon Zero Dawn: the same emphasis on stealth, the same large and mostly empty world, the same repetitive bandit camps and the same level-up system that includes an ability to slow down time. Fast Travel even requires buying or finding an item to use. Heck, it even features a snarky protagonist that will. Not. Shut. Up. Ever.

And it’s just as beautiful, just as well voice acted, and just as fun as Horizon Zero Dawn.

Seriously. It’s practically the same game, and I’m loving it.

Best Unlicensed Deadpool Game:

My Friend Pedro

My wife came to me and asked if I’d heard of this, because it looked to be up my alley.

She was right.

It’s basically a side-scrolling Deadpool game with bullet time and bonuses for shooting bad-guys whilst engaged in crazy acrobatics (some levels involve riding a skateboard, which you can kick-flip into an enemy’s face before shooting him and then landing on the skateboard to keep riding)

The titular Pedro is a talking banana that could just as easily have been one of Deadpool’s signature chimichangas. I’ve finished the game, but I won’t tell you what happens to Pedro.

Most disappointing:

Void Bastards

I bought this on a recommendation from a trusted source. The humor is right up my alley. Sadly, the virtually impossible rogue-like nature of the game is not.

I was actually kind of enjoying it until I lost some very good character build, and some valuable loot because I got killed after hitting the button on the airlock to escape. After that the game started to feel like a slog, and the humorous writing didn’t save it for me.

Last Year’s Mothergunship is superior to Void Bastards in most ways. Go play that instead.

Runner up: Iron Maiden’s lawsuit against 3DRealms resulting in them changing the exquisite name “Ion Maiden” to the bland title “Ion Fury”

Best Mario Game

Mario Maker 2

The inclusion of a fun and engaging single player story mode almost makes this worth the price. The inclusion of a bunch of new tools and a robust level creation system makes up the rest of the price.

I’d advise you to ignore the multiplayer, but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Days Gone

How is this not on everyone’s list? It is almost literally a reskin of Horizon Zero Dawn: the same emphasis on stealth, the same large and mostly empty world, the same repetitive bandit camps and the same level-up system that includes an ability to slow down time. Fast Travel even requires buying or finding an item to use. Heck, it even features a snarky protagonist that will. Not. Shut. Up. Ever.

And it’s just as beautiful, just as well voice acted, and just as fun as Horizon Zero Dawn.

Seriously. It’s practically the same game, and I’m loving it.

There have been quite a few videos defending the game. I'm certainly going to play it eventually it's just at the back of a long queue (so is spider-man, so it's in good company.)

As continues to be a growing trend over the past number of years, I'm finding the games I enjoy the most are the ones I never even saw coming. Titles that drop straight out of nowhere, in most cases discovered randomly due to little or no marketing at all.

Overcrowd: A Commute 'Em Up

Like it says on the tin, Overcrowd is a glorious mashup of builder/tycoon foundation, RTS staff management, and spacial puzzling. All done with crisp, inviting visuals and a killer retro soundtrack. It's a really unique product.

It's funny, as someone who's completely allergic to the RTS genre, Overcrowd does have a lot of RTS gameplay elements but it doesn't bother or fluster me in the least.

You spend a lot of time directing your staff around taking care of decaying needs, like emptying bins, filling fuel generators, watering plants, etc. Then you have to pay attention to how the commuters are reacting to the space. They have little text prompts over their heads commenting on lighting conditions, amenities, prices, and such. They can be pro or con and this affects your station's Reputation, an important game statistic. So you're reacting to their needs in real time, using Bonds (game XP) to build out your tech tree with new infrastructure items to make them happier.

There's a lot to pay attention to, but it never feels overwhelming or anything. The game is just asking you to consider big-picture growth while paying attention to small-picture station maintenance.

It's pretty damn ace when you get into the rhythm. It's got a neat flow. Reminds me a lot of Two Point Hospital but with deeper building tools.

Overcrowd is my current front-runner for GOTY.

Amid Evil

I was a big fan of Dusk and I just didn't see AE topping it. For one, I'm not even a Heretic/Hexen fan in spite of enjoying genre peers back in the day (always thought the spell weapons looked wimpy and lacked punch). But man, Amid Evil has made me a believer.

Game feels glorious to play at a buttery smooth 120fps. The level design is creative, complex and colorful as hell. And with Dusk's soundtrack composer Andrew Hulshult bringing the heat for AE, the beats just get your blood pumping.

So all & all I went in thinking it would likely be a fun little retro fps romp, but man this game went and unexpectedly blew me away.

Project Zomboid

My lttp discovery this year was Zomboid, an Early Access title that's been in development since 2013. I've been aware of the game for some time, but for whatever reason I always thought it was an action title.

Closer inspection revealed that the game is actually a hardcore simulator at heart. One where you manage character hunger, thirst, pain, emotions, temperature, boredom and more.

It looks a bit dated like the Sims 1 in presentation (which I personally find endearing), and it's got so many gameplay systems, so many gears running under the hood that the game feels completely original, fresh & inspired in spite of the rudimentary presentation.

Objects in Space
OiS feels more like Space Submarine Simulator as the game has you relying solely on nav stations to make your way around. It's all chunky retro analog navigation with more buttons, dials, switches and levers than you can shake a stick at. And it feels awesome to wrap your head around and utilize.

Add to that a healthy dose of story beats with pretty dang good writing and fully fleshed out space trading/pirating career options. Another low-fi production that really impressed this year.

In the Hunt: My Time At Portia, Kenshi, Sunless Skies, Train Valley 2

Still looking forward to this year: Automachef, Transport Fever 2, Necrobarista, Jupiter Hell, Ostranauts, Night Shift/Stay Out of the House

Higgledy wrote:
doubtingthomas396 wrote:

Days Gone

How is this not on everyone’s list? It is almost literally a reskin of Horizon Zero Dawn: the same emphasis on stealth, the same large and mostly empty world, the same repetitive bandit camps and the same level-up system that includes an ability to slow down time. Fast Travel even requires buying or finding an item to use. Heck, it even features a snarky protagonist that will. Not. Shut. Up. Ever.

And it’s just as beautiful, just as well voice acted, and just as fun as Horizon Zero Dawn.

Seriously. It’s practically the same game, and I’m loving it.

There have been quite a few videos defending the game. I'm certainly going to play it eventually it's just at the back of a long queue (so is spider-man, so it's in good company.)

Having played both, I am going to state baldly that Days Gone is the better game.

Because of the GOTY thread, I'm now in the habit of keeping a word document with the games I have played each year, how I would rank them, and I usually copy and paste the reviews from the Finished thread into the document so I can reuse my wording for the GOTY thread. So I'm all set up for this.

Vying for the number 1 spot:
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen – I played both vanilla and the expansion in separate runs, but to meet the spirit and letter of the law for the GOTY, I’m just putting WOTC here. Nothing new to add to this conversation. It’s just a great game.

Xenoblade 2 – This game had a great sense of adventure, great world design, great music, and a darn good story. I’ve followed along at the conversation around it while I was playing it and afterwards to see where others stood. Some have been pushed off by the character designs and the way the game leers at some of its women, and others ran into the incredibly dense combat system, that tbh I only really had understood around halfway through the game. But despite those issues, I really enjoyed the strong points of this game, and my impression of the game have only gotten stronger since playing it earlier in the year.

Other completed games that could be on a top 10:
West of Loathing
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu
Cadence of Hyrule
What Remains of Edith Finch
Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

Games I didn’t stick with but will probably circle back to:
Dauntless – I like action games and RPGs, but had never played any of the monster hunter games. I thought I would dig this and took it for a free test drive, but at around the 10 hour mark I realized the cycle of fight monsters to upgrade weapons to fight monsters to upgrade weapons just wasn’t fun like I thought it would be. I might try again and be more deliberate about playing with friends or GWJers to see if that makes a difference for enjoying it.

Drox Operative - One of those games that Veloxi tells everyone is mandatory. The whole space-ARPG-in-a-4x game thing seems cool, but I was playing it at a time when I wasn’t feeling like playing or learning anything new, so I only put an hour or two into it. I want to loop back to it later when I can give it a better swing.

Surviving Mars - Got through the tutorial, then was tired and went and played something else. Will probably circle back on this as well.

New games I'm looking forward to:
Rebel Galaxy Outlaw – Another one Veloxi has pushed hard, and I think I’m sold.

Age of Wonders: Planetfall – I like 4x games for the strategic layer, but often the combat bores me. Styling the combat after XCOM, or maybe the recent Shadowrun games, seems like the perfect solution. But I’m hesitant to get the game at launch with only like 6 factions. This one may be waiting for a sale, but I’ll be keeping an eye on the thread.

Pokemon Sword – I play most of the Pokemon games, so getting this is a no brainer for me. This one is now controversial for limiting which Pokemon are even allowed in the game, but that is a sort of a positive in my eyes; I’ve never played Pokemon competitively before, and at some point the sheer volume of creatures you have to consider using or defending against just gets silly. If they do a good job of picking who’s in and who’s out, it could make for a balanced metagame that is accessible for a lot of people.

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered: May not get it this year unless there's enough interest to get a group together, but I love the music in this game and would love an excuse to go back and beat it.

I’m also interested in Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Outer Worlds, but I’m waiting for more information or sales before pulling the trigger.

A few that have really stood out so far:

Return of the Obra Dinn: This is by Lucas Pope, the guy who did Papers, Please, and it is amazing, a genuinely new thing in the world. It is unique, the only game of its type. It reminded me very strongly of the early era of computers, but not just for the graphics, the obvious point of congruence. Rather, one of the things that really hooked me was the sense of playing with a new interface. There's a great deal of hidden functionality in the skeuomorphic book that you use to manage, well, everything. I had a lot of fun just exploring how that worked; it reminded me quite strongly of the early Mac, in finding neat little hidden tricks that made perfect sense once you spotted them.

This is what you should know about the game itself: it's a thinking/puzzle game. Beyond that, the less you know, the more you'll get out of it. To whatever degree you can, look at it with child's eyes.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey: Got it in the Steam Sale for cheap. I was really pissed at Ubisoft up until about level 20, because they make the early game an absolute slog, I think to try to sell their XP and loot boosters. It is very painful and annoying, and I believe it's deliberate. But it does ease up past L20; the later game flows much more normally, and becomes much more fun. And the voice actress for Kassandra (the Greek equivalent of FemShep) is awesome. She's the best female lead I've played since Mass Effect. Such a great voice, although she does mispronounce at least a few things, so she's not perfect. But damn, can she deliver a line.

If you can tolerate the early grind, where Ubisoft is trying to reach into your pocket again, it's a solid offering.

My Time At Portia has an insanely addictive main loop. Dear Lord, I was stapled to my seat. But at the end of the game, big jobs stop showing up, and it falls apart almost instantly. There's not much to it *except* the building loop, so once that's done, the rest of the game has no legs at all. That part, however, is compelling.

It's a management game, a bit like Stardew Valley, but you're not running a farm. You can grow things, but there's no money in it, it's more to provide raw materials. I never got much past 2 or 3 plants. The core loop is getting big jobs from the central depot, and then assembling whatever the order is using the machines you've constructed. The goal is to try to work efficiently; the machines take some time to finish things, so you're juggling multiple timers and your own resource-gathering expeditions, trying to make a profit so you can expand your machine shop and build bigger things. It's really fun watching the things you build change the world. This part of the game works incredibly well.

The other stuff? Meh, not so much. The combat is pretty broken, to be honest, and I ended up cheesing my way to the endgame because I stopped leveling up. You only level up by banging rocks, not fighting, and I'd put a bunch of resources and time into facilities so I hardly had to bang on rocks or trees. So I was way underlevel compared to the bad guys, and had to rely on NPC companions to do the killing while I did the kiting.

It's flawed, but it's a gem anyway.

So far, if I focus only on relatively new games:
Sekiro - it was great, but easily the weakest From Souls-style game yet. A #1 contender nonetheless.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey - really enjoyed this. Much more so than Origin, which I also liked. AC is more RPGish than ever before, which for me is only a good thing.
The Walking Dead: The Final Season - I think I cried a bit. Loved it. Shame a studio had to drive itself and its employees to the brink and over to make it.
Outer Wilds - Currently playing this. Incredible exploration game. A bit too early to say if it will last.
Baba is You - Thanks to GWJ for playing this on twitch a while ago. Probably wouldnt have noticed it otherwise. It is a freaking brilliant puzzle-game. Also makes my head hurt.

Still got to play
Resident Evil 2, A Plague Tale: Innocence, Return of the Obra Dinn and others though.

Upcoming games
The Outer Worlds, Settlers, Telling Lies primarily. And lots of others that are more into the wait-and-see category.

I'm a little late to the party, but I'll chip in my $0.02.

GOTY Contender(s):
There's really only one right now: Marvel's Spider-Man. Believe the hype!

Runners up: Celeste has had a grip on me lately, and I think it's amazing how well the development team executed a tight, challenging platformer while blending in a really touching story. Tactics Ogre has been great and easily could end up high on my list.

Best unintentional prep for Celeste: VVVVVV

Best surprise: Rediscovering my love of Nintendo with Super Mario 3D Land and Metroid: Samus Returns! Though I'm a pretty big JRPG enthusiast, Nintendo was my first love, and these games were fantastic.

Favorite old game revisited: A tie between Persona 5 and Baldur's Gate -- the latter has actually aged pretty well!

Mixed feelings award: Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel. I still plan to write more in the JRPG thread. There was a lot to love about this game, and it overstayed its welcome by 10-20 hours. It is simultaneously respectful of, and very demanding of, the player's time, which is a weird combination.

Biggest "disappointment": I've tried not to do disappointment too much this year -- if a game on my backlog doesn't click with me, I try to write it off and move on, or maybe revisit it if I can tell the game is just not for me right now. I think one of the biggest things I've realized is that I don't really enjoy games based around awkward, hard-to-control characters (Mushroom 11, Incredipede, etc.). Makes me wonder if I'll ever get to Octodad.

Hidden Gem: Algobot, an indie programming game about a robot aboard a starship. Super cute, with short levels that start easy but get challenging over time, especially if you are trying to craft your programming routines with maximum efficiency. I could see this game being too easy for someone with a programming background; for me, it was perfect.

The first half of 2019 was all about the hits of 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Titanfall 2: Like most of the world, I bought Battlefield 1 at the time and totally missed this. It is one of the best single-player FPS campaigns of all time, and it has me cautiously optimistic about Respawn's Star Wars Thingy.

Prey: This was really good, even if survival-shooter fatigue crept in along the way. Is turning around and running to the last recycler because my inventory is full again really a way to build tension? Still all but certain to be in my top ten.

Marvel's Spider-Man: Like LastSurprise says, "Believe the hype!" I was never the biggest Spidey fan, but this and Into the Spider-Verse really have me reconsidering.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey: This is too huge, but it's also good enough to keep me coming back. Now that's an impressive feat.

Even 2014's Sims 4 stole some time, even if it's a long shot to land in the top ten.

If not for Tetris 99, 2019 wouldn't even be on the board in the first half. Anthem and Imperator: Rome could both use some work, to say the least. I was so disappointed by the reviews of Bloodstained on Switch, I bought and enjoyed Timespinner instead.

...But there are signs of a big comeback in the second half.

Total War: Three Things made a good first impression. I just need to finish watching those ItalianSpartacus tutorial videos... whatever happened to written manuals anyway?

Fire Emblem: Three Other Things is digital heroin.

A certain GWJer insists Rebel Galaxy Outlaw is the real deal.

I already mentioned Respawn's Star Wars Thingy.

The avalanche is coming...

Any chance we'll be seeing a GOTD thread soon? The teens are almost over, and 2010-2019 has been quite an interesting decade.

Up on my list for this year (so far):

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden - STALKER is one of my favorite games of all time, so when I started hearing about an XCOM-like STALKER game with anthropomorphized PCs, I was all-in. Having played it, it's hard to not recommend this game to the XCOM-curious who got held up by XCOM and XCOM 2's difficulty.

Stellaris - Steam had a free weekend close to the release of the latest DLC, and I got a chance to play through one game. I didn't realize how much I wanted a game like this, and I was completely absorbed with. I definitely plan on playing more this year.

The Wolf Among Us - This has been sitting on my pile of shame for YEARS. Even worse, it's been installed on my computer since 2014! Enough was enough. I was in the mood for a story based game after a lull in Netflix content, and this called to me. Wow. WOW! It's soooo good! Besides a game braking bug that prevented me from getting past the epilogue (ended up watching my unique ending on YouTube instead) I was completely engrossed by the characters, world, and writing of this fable-based noir. This makes me lament for the loss of Telltale, a company whose games I always tried to buy at release even knowing I'd wait for the season to finish before I could enjoy it. This is my personal swansong for dear Telltale. Godspeed.

Crypt of the Necrodancer / Cadence of Hyrule - For me, Crypt beats our Cadence for me in terms of replayability and overall game design. But you just can't help but love the nostalgia trip from Cadence. I couldn't stop playing Cadence for at least a week, and it's always an incredible temptation whenever I pick up my Switch.

Watch Dogs 2 - I want to say this was on a Steam sale sometime in February. Having enjoyed but been left mostly unimpressed with the first Watch Dogs, I was very wary of getting back into this franchise. However, I remembered Austin Walker of Waypoint applauding the game for its interesting commentary on Silicon Valley culture and having a black protagonist worth a damn, so I picked it up real quick. And I'm very glad I did: it's not a GREAT game, but it has more character and energy and spunk than the vast majority of open world games, and it is my favorite Ubisoft open world game in quite a long time. As soon as I finished this there were so many podcasts and articles that suddenly popped up about it, so I was also able to engage with the game on an intellectual level after finishing it as well. And with the announcement of Watch Dogs Legion, I'm all in on this franchise. Loved 2, very much looking forward to Legion.

Baba Is You - The most unique puzzle game I've ever played. I'm not even close to finishing, but I have dreams about this game more often than I care to admit. It's stayed with me.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice - Oh yes. Sekiro. This "easy" Dark Souls spiritual successor is anything but. It kicked my ass so, so many times. And yet the new setting, the focus on movement and timed blocking really drew me into the game. In my opinion, this is my favorite FromSoftware game yet. It's a polished and more interesting game for the casual FromSoftware fan, probably less so for the FromSoftware hardcores.

Wargroove - It's been too long since we've had an Advanced Wars game... and it looks like it's going to stay that way. In the meantime, Wargroove was a fun game to fill in the gap. I'm glad someone is picking up what Nintendo is not putting down.

Outer Wilds - There have been lots of varying opinions on this one. I definitely sit on the side of thinking this game is a masterpiece, and it is very much in the running for my top pick of 2019. This Kerbal/Groundhog Day/Gone Home mashup confused the heck out of my in the first hour, but once I began to understand what the developer's were aiming for, I got on board very quickly. The story begins to unfold in an unexpected way, and I was surprised to find it's very focused on the challenges of climate change, fear of entropy, the role of science in culture, and learning from the mistakes of past generations. Timely messages I'd say. Hearing the audio cue at the end of each run and knowing what's about to happen made me feel quite melancholic, giving me a moment to appreciate the beauty of the planets and life around me as impending doom engulfed the horizon.

Games I'm interested in playing (in order of activity on my hype-meter):

Spelunky 2 - Assuming this comes out this year, GOTY without question. It's inevitable.
Death Stranding - I'm just curious what the hell this is?
Psychonauts 2 - Can Double Fine follow-up the funniest game of all time?
Griftlands - Klei is king.
Total War: Three Kingdoms - Maybe I'll actually enjoy a Total War game?
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - (See: Cadence of Hyrule)
Hollow Knight: Silksong - Can Team Cherry follow-up the best Metroidvania of all time?
Ori and the Will of the Wisps - Can Moon Studios follow-up the second best Metroidvania of all time?
Twin Mirror - Looks great, and sounds right up my alley.
Killer Queen Black - Never got to play the arcade game, now's my chance.
Doom Eternal - Can iD Software follow-up the best reboot of all time?
Void Bastards - I just want to see Chinese/Scottish space pirates!
Control - I liked Quantum Break, didn't love it. Hopefully this can overcome the pall of its predecessor.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order - If the leans full Dark Souls, this could be amazing. But it probably won't.
Luigi's Mansion 3 - Gooigi

Interesting how few games on here are actually 2019 games. A little bit of Sekiro and not much else. (I suspect we'll see some Three Kingdoms show up before too long, though.) Rough year?

mr_n00b wrote:

Any chance we'll be seeing a GOTD thread soon? The teens are almost over, and 2010-2019 has been quite an interesting decade.

I doubt Eleima would want to herd all those cats so close together, so you'd need someone else worth dealing with the time and headache that such a thread would require.

I love that kind of "look back" thing, though.

kazooka wrote:

Interesting how few games on here are actually 2019 games. A little bit of Sekiro and not much else. (I suspect we'll see some Three Kingdoms show up before too long, though.) Rough year?

Part of it is just the community. Be it time or money, there's a cost to playing games and a lot of times people aren't playing what is the latest and greatest. From my perspective, there also aren't any "major" titles people on GWJ were hyping up for in the first half other than Sekiro. Rage 2, maybe? Anthem? But from what I've seen, both games have either had a lukewarm response or a disappointed one, respectively.

Maybe if more of you jokers would play quality stuff like Resident Evil 2, Devil May Cry 5, and A Plague Tale, you'd have plenty in 2019 you loved.

But all seriousness, you'll probably see a good mix once the 2019 GotY thread rolls around. People will get some of the above-mentioned titles on sale, and other 2018 or earlier games will be appreciated.

A bit of recency bias, but I am going to play FE:TH for months (at least until Fallen Order comes out) and it is leading the GOTY list in my heart (still early).

I've played more than I thought this year so far. I just in July I finished Mario + Rabbids (started quite a while ago) and Ori & the Blind Forest. M+R was good, Ori was great and is going to be on my top 10.

Probably the game that grabbed me the most this year is one that I would have never played if it came from any other studio. I think I may be done after not play for the last few weeks, but I love my run with Respawn's Apex Legends. The art direction hits me just right. The mobility and gunplay is so reminiscent of the Titanfall games, which I always wanted more of, so I was instantly in love there. The only thing I don't love is the inherent downtime that comes with a battle royale game, and they at least made it more palatable by having respawing. Most of the things that bothered others didn't register with me. It was the right game at the right time.
I'm now looking forward to my continued exploration of XB gamepass on PC. I've already given Forza Horizon 4 a good bit of time, and tested out a few others, like CrossCode (would love playing if I hadn't watched an LP of most of it and had more time - check this game out), Automachef, and Wargroove. Very much looking forward to Rise of the Tomb Raider, Sunset Overdrive, and Guacamelee 2, and probably few others.

Other top 10 contenders this year include: Axiom Verge, Iconoclasts, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

quote is not edit...

UpToIsomorphism wrote:

A bit of recency bias, but I am going to play FE:TH for months (at least until Fallen Order comes out) and it is leading the GOTY list in my heart (still early).

What’s FE:TH? I should probably know but can’t work it out.

ccesarano wrote:
mr_n00b wrote:

Any chance we'll be seeing a GOTD thread soon? The teens are almost over, and 2010-2019 has been quite an interesting decade.

I doubt Eleima would want to herd all those cats so close together, so you'd need someone else worth dealing with the time and headache that such a thread would require.

I agree that it would be an enormous undertaking. I think you'd have to break it in to chunks (Best Strategy Game, Best FPS, etc), but even then it's a hell of a spreadsheet.

The answer is probably The Witcher 3, btw. Or Fortnite. Or Pokemon Go