Let’s start the year by keeping the old traditions alive- Late as usual- my bestest best games of 2018 arrives today and let me assure you that this is the bestest best list you will ever read in the strategy-gaming real-estate internet. Only due to the fact that is personal, does not involve only strategy games and it revolves around the pieces I had the most fun this past year. The list goes from least favorite to 2018 greatest bestestestestes best of bests.
Ancestors Legacy– Kickstarting this bestest best bestestest list we have the Dark Ages Company of Heroes equivalent. With a huge campaign spawning 3 different factions, this is the RTS that managed to created interesting melee combat that does not involve units waving swords and lances around until a health bar reaches zero. Positioning, unit type, concealment, ambushing, flanking and opportunity pace the combat the same way CoH did a couple of years back. With an emphasis on terrain usage, this medieval gem got much less praised that it deserved.
Moonlighter- A gem forgotten by now, never got the attention it deserved at launch. I described it in my first impressions as follows ”
In a genre so rarely seen, whose captivating ideas are usually let down by their lack of mechanical intricacies and depth in both management and combat, Moonlighter is a rare gem despite being no exception. While at times it can be a victim of its simplicity that might be very well the reason for its charming appeal. It’s a game with the size and depth of a dog’s water bowl. But it’s the kind of bowl your dog loves and you’re just happy he loves it and you love it too”. I haven’t picked up ever since, but it remains in my mind as one of the most chill games you can play. The dungeon crawling element is quite basic and the store management bits is rather amusing for someone who works in retail like myself. You should give it a try, those were a good 20 hours of fun for 15 bucks.
Dungeons 3– The first but certainly not last videogame of previous years to make it to this list, Dungeons 3 arrises from the underground to a top spot in strategical entertainment. I was to review this game upon playing it, before life got in the way and work happened and ruined my perfected pitched plans. Let’s do it live: Dungeons 3 stands out as being a colourful two layered game by mixing the underground facet of light-dungeon management and adding up a cover of typical RTS that has you controlling powerful evil minions to defeated the disgusting forces of evil. All this action is filled by the buttery voice of the game’s narrator that made Stanley’s Parable the gem that is today, Kevan Brighting. The campaign is pretty lenghty, running across a total of 20 greatly passed missions, including new enemies, new units for you to use, new rooms to build and new mechanics to interact with. It’s an overall solid would smack my snots/10.
Ultimate General: Civil War/ Gettysburg– I’ve never really got around to playing Ultimate General when it came out. Created by the Total War legendary modder Darthmod, he transfered his skills to a grandiose Gettysburg interpretation in it’s 2014 UG: Gettysburg and 3 years later to his magnum opus “Civil War”. The first game has you fighting the iconic bloodiest battle that ever took place in US Soil and the second one has you commanding an entire army through the various battles of America’s deadliest conflict. The gameplay is rather simple, focusing more on positioning than on anything else, it highlights the importance of out manouvering your enemies (the game has a very slick “drag to issue orders and set paths” kind of system), cover became more important than ever during the American Civil War and Ultimate General AI’s will have some hard earned lessons to teach you about that. I may write an AAR about some of the battles I played. Oh, don’t forget about the graphics! The diorama kind of art style is a feast to sore eyes in modern wargaming space.
Scourge of War: Waterloo- Well well, talking about sore eyes. Man, Waterloo is an ugly game. It really is: Foggy, look resolution textures, 2D sprites and choppy animations. Upon realizing that you pull your camera back to really grasp the size of the battle this game is really trying to portray and imediatly forget about all that. This game is HUGE. In my mind I’ve always imagined napoleonic battles as a very local afair. Boy was I wrong. Did you know that the Waterlook took place alongside a nearly 4 miles long battle line? Can you imagine the scale of that? And Scourge of War thinks it’s soooooooooooo special that it manages to replicate that almost perfectly. This game is the definition of extreme realism. Researched almost as hard as some academic thesis, it’s astounding the ammount of detail it contains. This game might has be featured in some university courses as mandatory bibliography. In all honesty, despite the game tremendous size I would rather take part in small scale local skirmishes as it is a more personal experience and allows for more tactical nitty-gritty. But you can command the whole battle if you want, just take a day off work.
Into The Breach- The turn based strategy otaku of every online publication this past year. It got astounding reviews and earned multiple game of the year awards. This both amazes me and scares me. Mainly because while ITB was a pretty great game with an interesting twist, allowing you to see what your enemies would do the next turn and creating an entire game revolving around the concept of forecasting. ITB focuses on protecting your cities (your HP, really) against what are basically Kaijus. You do this by manipulating the environment and the enemies in a 64 square space grid, making them attack each other, trowing them around, preventing their attacks and having you surviving your engagements rather than outright acting as a bug-spray man erradicating bugs. You are not supposed to kill them all, unless you really want to, that is also possible. But it is scary that this was the best we got in the mind of so many people. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed ITB and finished more times than I could be arsed to count, I unlocked all the mechs and played them all, what really annoyed me was how superficial and forgetful it all felt. I really don’t like the idea of “stripping down strategy games to their essentials”. It’s still a great game and a stapple in the genre so you should play it.
Subnautica- Are you a person that’s afraid of the sea? Well then you can skip Into the Breach (this joke is bending my brain). If you’re the kind of person that always wanted to know what it is like being a puffer-fish and fantasize about living your life as a squid, then Subnautica is the game for you. It takes you in an amazing journey where you go and find Nemo, help the Little Mermaid and end up partying at Bikini Bottom. It’s a really light-hearted and relaxing game. No, fuck this game, it gives you a knife (not immediately) and a bathing suit and releases you into an unknown water-planet filled with creepy, punk-ass fishes that all look like they belong into a bad neighborhood in the projects. Other than that Subnautica is a gorgeous looking and fantastic adventure into an unknown planet where you are the underdog. You will not dominate the wildlife, you’re a stranger that does not belong there and have to make due with what you manage to salvage. Subnautica distances itself from other survival-like games by having a very linear story but maskarades it very well. Subnautica is not only one of the best games of 2018 but one of the best games of all time.
Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment- Shovel Knight is my favourite game of all time. For no particular reason, really. I don’t even enjoy platformers and this was the game that managed to bring me back the joy of playing videogames like I did when I was a kid. A classical fantasy adventure/platformer with memorable characthers, a charming protagonist, interesting new mechanics being introduced every new level, an array of cool and special enemies, precise controls, replayability. Shovel Knight has it all and Specter of Torment, the newest expansion of the game brings a “new” face to all that I mention plus a whole new move set, a new story, new motivations, new weapons, new enemies and all those goodies. If Shovel Knight: King of Cards is as good as the OG Shovel Knight, Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment then I’m pretty sure we will see another list in 2019 with Shovel Knight landing once more in the top spot.
Honorable Mentions- Yakuza 0, CM Black Sea, The Operational Art of War 4, Opus Magnum, Sonic Mania, They are Billions, Sniper Elite 4, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 (Workshop mods)