Y’know, originally there was going to be a Worst Games list here.
There was a lot of crap released this year, aside from some truly great entries, and as much as I want to kneel down and dig into some of the embarrassing titles released in the past 12 months, I can’t muster the energy. Call it a bullshit New Years Resolution, but I just don’t have it in me to further cause ruin on titles like Tyler: Model 009, Metal Gear Survive, and other such non-starters. Instead, let’s focus on some more interesting things that happened in 2018, yeah?
Fortnite Needs a Bigger Bus
Of course, no recap of the year is complete without mentioning the massive impact Fortnite’s “Battle Royale” mode had, exploding onto the scene with more power and force than any other game released in recent memory. There are probably 400 different elements that all came together to provide Epic with the success they needed, from the Free-2-Play model it inhibited, to the Twitch streamers paying close attention to it. The most probable answer to its success, however, is that it’s a newly tapped-into genre with many developers looking on in envy, and many others trying their hardest to “improve” the formula, with varying degrees of success.
The most successful variant so far has been Call of Duty’s “Blackout”, which gets the job done, but that’s it in terms of valid competitors. As it stands, Dying Light, The Culling, Rust, H1Z1, Realm Royale— All they can do is cower in fear at the size of three dominating the market right now, those being PUBG, and the aforementioned Call of Duty and Fortnite.
Within the wastes of developers saying “bugger it” in the sacrifice of their creative integrity, there are people out there looking to do a neat spin on it all. Rings of Elysium, the underwater delight that is Last Tide, the humorous Totally Accurate Battlegrounds, and the rough but gratifying Fear The Wolves. It may have only just recently popped onto the scene as a viable genre, but already there is something for everyone in the battle royale genre.
Will it last? Given that trends pop in and out of existence like a Whack-A-Mole rig, who knows?
Xbox Didn’t Commit Social Suicide At E3 For Once
Yeah, this is one that surprised even me. As Sick Critic’s resident Xbox One owner, every move that Phil Spencer and Co. have been making since the launch of the Xbox One has been through a hole in my hands while they’re over my eyes. After 2017’s hilarious presentation, showcasing Mr. Spencer fannying about with a Porsche, I prepared for the worst with their 2018 conference, as EA didn’t exactly provide a promising start. What did we get instead?
BOOM, GAMES! What’s that, you little bastards? You want a new Halo?! BOOM, Halo Infinite, baby! What about some indie titles, or some AAA flavor, huh? BAM! Tunic, Ori & The Will of The Wisps, Session, Gears of War 5, and a trailer for Kingdom Hearts III! Well, I guess that’s your lot lads, hopefully, you come back soon for mo– BOOM, Cyberpunk 2077 BABY! WOO! See you next year, suckers.
It was the E3 equivalent of Rock Lee taking off his leg weights. Not only was it the competitor with the crippled limbs showing up with what was objectively the best E3 conference of 2018, but it was one of the best E3 conferences in recent memory, period. It got a lot of people excited, it showcased some wonderful looking games, and all in all, the atmosphere was electric.
There’s still not a reason to buy an Xbox One though. Hmm.
THQ Nordic Buying Every Single IP Known To Man
Chances are that if you saw THQ Nordic’s name in the headlines this year, it was most likely because they bought a dormant IP from publishers. Starting off in February, it was announced that they had acquired the entirety of Koch Media, which also included publishers Deep Silver, and also the Metro 2033, Saints Row, and Homefront franchises. Some thought that would be it, but…
Cut to March, where it had been announced that Nordic had made a new partnership with Nickelodeon to re-release and create new games belonging to the Nickelodeon brand. Then in July, they buy German developers HandyGames. A month later? Boom, they buy the TimeSplitters and Second Sight franchises from Crytek. A month after that? Bang, they buy the Kingdoms of Amalur rights from defunct developers 38 Studios.
Showing no signs of slowing down, they continue this endless barrage of purchasing neglected IPs, with the September announcement that they had bought the Alone in The Dark franchise and Act of War from Atari. November saw them purchasing a 90-percent stake in Wreckfest developer Bugbear Entertainment, along with Deep Rock Galactic developer Coffee Stain Studios, before finally topping off the year by buying the rights to Carmageddon. Pfft.
You might call this gluttony, and to be honest? You’d be correct. Props to THQ Nordic for paying the utmost care and attention to the franchises that other publishers wouldn’t, but forget putting too many eggs in one basket, this is them putting the eggs in their goddamn pockets. Will they pull through and reap what they sow in future with remasters and original products?
God, I hope so. I’ve been waiting for TimeSplitters 4 since 2007.
2018: The Year Siege Got S**t
Alright, this is more of a personal beef I have with Ubisoft in general, and despite what I’m about to say, I still believe that Rainbow Six: Siege is a hallmark in multiplayer gaming and tactical combat. However, since the start of Year 3, Ubisoft Montreal have shown signs not only of slowing down but have also shown signs of simply not giving a toss anymore.
Finka and Lion didn’t set off a promising start to the year. With the attack meta completely altered to be in its favor, it’s a move that still hasn’t seen proper balancing, to the point where Lion has been practically permanently banned from the Pro-League set, and it only got worse from there. Maestro is a defense op that still needs severe tweaks to his ability, and Clash is an example of Ubisoft doing the exact opposite.
See, Clash was a great operator from the beginning. Not only a perfect counter to Ash-rushers and the aforementioned new meta with Finka and Lion, she already had perfect balancing. Alas, because she’s a defense op with a shield, something about it screamed “OP!” in the eyes of twitchy, ADD-riddled Beaulo fanboys, even though barely anyone knew how to play her properly, but nevertheless, nerf, nerf, nerf. Maestro remained unscathed, even though using an LMG as a defense operator is like using a nuke on a spider.
Top it all off with sound design problems that have been consistent since Year 2 began, Valkyrie cam spots that are invincible, no-recoil glitches, and client-side errors up the arse recently, and you have a prime example of a game that’s deteriorating faster than expected. Year 4 is probably going to be worse. Imagine it: An Aussie operator by the name of “Bogan” who opens a can of VB that causes all of the defenders to have an Echo debuff, but the debuff causes the game to uninstall. Shudders.
Failure to Launch
Aside from Rainbow Six: Siege falling apart like a leper in a wind tunnel, there were a lot of false starts in 2018. I mean, where do you even start? Well, with Metal Gear Survive, the slap in the face of everybody hoping that for once, Konami would have self-awareness and not fuck up. Dynasty Warriors 9 attempted to move the series in a “bold” new direction but instead left it to stagnate and waste away without proper attention paid to it.
Sea of Thieves was an utterly dull waste of time that came out of the gate anorexic, and whether the DLC released later made the game better or not, it didn’t matter, the damage was done. Extinction was an overpriced bore-fest that was so forgettable, I had to double check with friends to see if I didn’t make it up. Agony was a truly disappointing disaster that failed to serve up some of the most promising features it confirmed would be coming.
We Happy Few was an oddball from the beginning of its existence as a playable game, and it, unfortunately, became another survival sim lost in the depths of Minecraft clones. Then you had the double-bill of crap on toast which was the PR disasters of Battlefield V and Fallout 76. While these two games, in particular, were fairly inoffensive in how they played, it was what went on behind the scenes of both games that truly made people shake their heads, especially in Fallout 76’s case.
From the nylon bag incident and its crappy compensation for people who didn’t like said nylon bag, to the mountain of bugs and glitches. To the alleged disputes within Bethesda’s in-house studios to the newly-arising Nuka-Cola incident, it seems absolutely nothing can go right for the powerhouse developer right now. With these facts in mind, I have no doubts in my mind as I crown Bethesda with being behind the worst AAA launch of all time.
Don’t clap too hard, you might crash the game.
I Owe My Soul To The Company Store: The Crunch “Debate”
Out of all the controversies this year, only one stood out in my mind due to its brief mention in the spotlight of the mainstream gaming media, and how lethal it is to the promise of anyone looking to get into game development. I am of course talking about the comments and evidence behind the development of recent rootin’ tootin’ adventure Red Dead Redemption 2, where writers and former staff talked about the frankly insane work standards the company has.
It’s not a discussion that hasn’t been bought up before. Shit, it’s not even the first time Rockstar’s vile work ethic has been bought up before, but what strikes me as disgustingly fascinated with the subject is just how… accepting everybody is of this. Not to turn this into an opinion piece halfway through, but ignorance, excuses and instant demand for a product they’ll probably complain about stink up the conversation, leading to a depressing look as to what consumers think games are: Magical experiences delivered by pixies.
“You can’t create a product without suffering!”, “It’s just how these things work!”, “Well, maybe if AAA publishers would make better games!”, and other such non-excuses which make even the strongest of stomachs turn. Not that I’m 100 percent knowledgeable on the subject, but that doesn’t matter here, as this is a case of mental and physical degradation that simply isn’t morally right.
There are game developer unions being set up, like Game Workers Unite!, that seek to provide connections to any exploited game developers in the goal of creating a unionized game industry, and that’s great to see. It’s a long time coming, but in the wake of all the problems caused within studios like Rockstar, Telltale, and EA, positive change is coming out of it.
Right, well I think that’s all of the important game news that came out of 2018. There are tonnes of other humorous and depressing moments that were peppered throughout the year, like the reveal of Diablo: Immortal, Cliff Bleszinski getting too big for his boots with Boss Key Productions, the returns of Mad Catz and The Chinese Room, and so on. Overall, it was a more eventful year than 2017, albeit mostly for the wrong reasons.
Does that mean we’re finally done with 2018? Yes, thankfully. It’s time to look to the future, so stay tuned for our look at 20 indie games that are planned to be released in 2019 that you should have a look at also. Until then, stay safe, drink plenty of milk, and treat yourself to a bagel.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.