2018 has been an absolutely insane year for gaming, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to play as much as I would have liked for variety of reasons, though I did play some things. These were my favorite games of 2018, listed in no particular order.
Civilization VI: Rise & Fall
Like Civ V, VI has required DLC and expansions to fully flesh out (though I’d argue VI launched in a much better state than V) and this year we got the game’s first expansion, Rise & Fall.
Rise & Fall added a number of new civilizations to the game, as one would expect, but it also introduced new features such as Governors, Loyalty, Emergencies, and Ages. Governors allow you to assign characters to cities, offering certain boosts unique to each governor. Ages are where the expansion’s namesake comes in, allowing for empires to rise and fall over time through the achievement of Golden (or Heroic) Ages or a plunge into the despair of a Dark Age.
And finally, there’s Loyalty, which I feel was the most impactful new mechanic introduced in R&F, and one that changes expansion and conquest completely. Cities in R&F must remain loyal to stay within your empire and each city generates loyalty pressure that can make you reconsider settling too close to another civ or make you take your time when conquering. You can no longer just rampage through an enemy’s cities carving your way to the capital, unless you don’t mind razing. Capturing a city surrounded by other cities from the same civilization will often end up with the city flipping back to its original owner through loyalty pressure. There’s too much to dig into here, but Rise & Fall was a substantial expansion that improved on Civ VI's foundation in many ways.
Slay the Spire
Slay the Spire is an indie card-based roguelike by Mega Crit Games. Like Civ, Slay the Spire is a game I go back to over and over because it’s so easy to jump in and out of. In the game, you take control of one of three characters, progress through levels full of tough elite and boss battles, interesting loot, and, of course, random events. Die and you’ll have to start over, but each run will earn you points towards unlocking new cards to add to your deck in subsequent runs. It’s one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played and anyone who appreciates deckbuilding and roguelikes should check it out immediately.
Dragon Quest XI
It’s been a long, long time since I’ve enjoyed a JRPG as much as I enjoyed Dragon Quest XI. I wrote about this game somewhat recently, so it should be no surprise that it ended up on this list, but DQXI is a true love letter to JRPG fans. It’s a classic JRPG to a fault, so if you need all that crazy action combat to enjoy a game like this, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. However, old school fans of the genre will really appreciate DQXI for everything it is as well as everything it isn’t. Ultimately, it’s a massive game with tons of fun characters, puns, and a huge variety of enemies and bosses to fight. I still haven’t completed the post-game. The grind is real and I need a break!
Spider-Man fans have been waiting since 2004 for a proper follow up to Spider-Man 2 on the PlayStation 2 and I’m pleased to say that Insomniac’s take on Spider-Man lives up to everything I could have hoped for and more.
Spider-Man on the PlayStation 4 is pure joy to play. Like the PS2 game, it’s fun just to swing around the city. It may not have the crazy swinging physics of SM2, but Insomniac completely nailed the feel. Even though it’s possible to take the subway to get closer to a distant objective, I found myself just swinging my way through the city each time.
The game’s combat mechanics are a very Spidey spin on the type of combat popularized by Rocksteady’s Batman games, but this isn’t a bad thing at all. Spidey is an agile character and it really comes through in the combat. It’s fun as hell to zip and swing around the environment while slinging webs and using all sorts of creative and fun gadgets to not only win the fight, but do it in style.
The game’s story doesn’t really break any new ground for a Spidey tale, but Insomniac nails its huge roster of characters perfectly and I really can’t wait to see where things go next. This game is a must have for anyone who owns a PS4.
As a huge fan of the series, a Battlefield game is almost guaranteed to make my list any year there’s a new one out and Battlefield V is no different. The game has issues to be sure, and I’m not just talking about the sorts of bugs and little things that Battlefield fans are used to at this point, but more DICE’s curious approach to the game’s content. Wanting to tell the untold stories of WW2 is fine, but the game is really missing the classic battles players come to expect from any WW2 game of this size and scope. We’ll get there eventually, but it could be quite a while before we do, due to the structure of EA’s live service for the game.
That said, this is probably the best Battlefield has played in years. There are a couple small issues right now, but the gunplay is pretty balanced across the board and the team achieved the sort of easy to learn, hard to master shooting mechanics that any competitive shooter worth its salt should be going for.
The simple fact that guns have distinct recoil patterns to master is a huge change from the random deviation we’ve had in the past. Small things like being able to sprint while crouching are game changers. But my favorite feature of all is actually the removal of easy spotting. You no longer just shoot at a bunch of Doritos in Battlefield; you’ll need to spot out enemies on your own or rely on some very limited spotting mechanics. DICE still has some work to do to improve enemy visibility, but even in the game’s current state it’s hugely refreshing to be able to just play the game and not the minimap or lazily scan for a bunch of floating triangles to shoot.
What are some of your favorite games of 2018? Share your list with us in the comments below!