Last year saw some very important games for a lot of people, including us here at Novus. Whether it was a big hit of the year, a small indie launch not many people were aware of or even an older game we just discovered, each of us has something that will go down as #1 from 2018. As we see in the first few big releases of 2019, we’re taking a look back at our personally significant games of last year.
Civilization VI. Yes, I know the game’s from 2016, and yes, I know I’m the resident Civ freak here at Novus. Thing is, 2018 (and honestly just the past few months) is when I really started getting into the game. Even as recently as back in August or September I wouldn’t have called it my most significant game of the year – in fact it may not have even held that title the year it launched.
If you look back at my last couple of articles, you’ll see me complaining a bit about Civ 6, and especially about the first expansion, Rise and Fall. I’ve said a couple times that I’m probably going to air my grievances with it, but now… I don’t know if I will. I’ve always enjoyed the game, and while there are some things that have been improved since Civilization V, a game I adore beyond belief, there are a few things that took big steps backwards as well. Namely the “diplomacy”, which is frustrating because diplomacy is such a massive aspect of the Civ series. Up to now I’ve been able to get about two games in before getting frustrated, even though I would have enjoyed both of those games. Playing now however, I could have recently finished my second game and I’d already be itching to start a third one. I’d even already have things planned out for my next game as early as the middle of the previous one.
In my last game, Korea was being a jerk, and declared war on me along with Persia. Let me tell you, taking her out was fuuuun, even despite having to deal with the slightly exaggerated warmonger hate that looks to be finally getting dealt with in Gathering Storm. It wasn’t very long into the war (once again in my usually-last-for-a-while second game) that I started really wanting to play as Korea in game number three. Civilization VI may be two years old at this point, but it’s my most influential game of 2018 for one reason: this is the year it stopped being “just one more turn”, and started being “just one more game”.
Pokemon has been on a strange journey these last few years. Is it for kids? Is it for the twenty-something adults who were kids when it first came out in the 90s? There has always been something of an identity crisis since the mid-2000s when the originals started being considered “retro”. The regular format kept the status quo for the most part, a new title for the kids and diehard fans with new monsters and features, followed up by a remake of a classic full of nostalgia and familiar Pokemon for the older fans.
Enter Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu / Let’s Go Eevee. Drawing on the nostalgia that keeps older fans coming back and the hype of 2016’s Pokemon Go which saw fans young and old take to the streets bumping into lampposts chasing a Diglett, this brand-new Switch title had something for everyone in 2018. Fans lucky enough to have been around when Red and Blue launched got to see one of their most loved games re-imagined for consoles whilst children had a chance to experience Kanto in one of the most accessible and child-friendly Pokemon titles ever.
Playing Let’s Go Pikachu has been a fantastic experience these short few months, bringing me back to what was possibly my first experience of nostalgia when FireRed & LeafGreen launched back on the GameBoy Advance. Not only did it faithfully recreate and refresh the Kanto region, but it drew serious inspiration from one of my favourite Pokemon games: Pokemon Yellow. As a diehard fan from childhood, I was an avid follower of the anime, and Yellow’s inclusion of fan-favourite characters like Brock, Misty, Jessie & James amongst other things was such a thrilling experience. The return of all of these characters and events was always exciting to come across.
But despite being considered far easier than its predecessors, Let’s Go was clearly aware of its older fanbase. The dialogue was full of subtle (and not so subtle) nods and references that the older players would pick up on and chuckle at, and it even managed some genuinely emotional scenes that one could only have imagined back on the GameBoy. (Looking at you, Marowak. *sniffs*)
Of course, the big eyebrow-raiser making people sceptical was the Pokemon Go influences. No more battling every wild Pokemon you see down to within an inch of its life before trying to catch it. Nope, just bump into them, plug them with berries and throw balls at it until it catches. Sounds boring, but in practice this change was actually very refreshing and formed one of my favourite elements of the game. So much so in fact, that I had hoped this feature would become a mainstay of the series. Battling trainers was far more enjoyable and ceased to be a chore because you were battling far less often, and you still gained XP from catch bonuses so you weren’t missing out.
In a time where fans have become used to half-finished, buggy releases or over-hyped titles that fall flat on launch day, it was so incredibly satisfying to get myself genuinely excited for this game, pick up a Switch specifically for it, boot it up and be met with nothing other than pure joy and giddiness. I haven’t been excited enough to buy a console for a specific video game since the Xbox 360, and the experience delivered. Thank you Pokemon for a great send off for 2018 – let’s go!
As 2018 has come to a close I’d like to look back on a title released during the year that rekindled my love of gaming. For the last few years I’ve felt my desire to play video games waning – the urge to log in at all had already dwindled when I received a chance email in 2016 welcoming me to a technical alpha for Sea of Thieves. From the first time I set sail I was addicted. I followed the progress, provided feedback on the forums, and felt good about being part of a dedicated community once again. I got my wife and friends involved as much as I could leading up to the launch, and when it finally went to retail I raised anchor as soon as possible. The seas were immediately filled with all sorts of players, from adventure seeking swashbucklers to bloodthirsty brigands, all hoping to explore and engage on the Sea of Thieves. Even though I had already been playing for over a year I was still just as enthusiastic about the launch. I got my friends together and we sailed as much, and as often, as we could.
With regular communication and content releases by the Rare crew the game keeps getting better and better. New activities, new loot to be had, and new places to explore – the world is growing around us and with us. It’s a level playing field focused on real learned skills with new tools being added all the time where you can create your own fun at every step. Despite some rocky reception it had a solid launch – even with its hiccups. My wife and I were sailing launch day before our daughter came along and even now our little pirate loves to watch us sail, fight, and plunder. It’s something that gives me a chance to play a game with my family while my six-month-old daughter is laughing and immersed in the beautiful world as she works on her sea legs. It’s only a matter of time before she’s actually sailing with us.
The unique artistic style, a loose quest structure, lateral progression, and ever evolving world have given Sea of Thieves a niche position in the gaming world. In true Rare form the comedic aspects are top notch and the studio sets a solid example for how developers should interact with their player base. So, Sea of Thieves is my top game of 2018 because it’s a great sandbox shared world adventure game that gives us freedoms to play how we want. Maybe I’m a little biased as someone who appreciates pirate lore and history, but the title has truly carved a special place in my all-time favorites. Bottom line, who doesn’t love a game where you can launch a drunken vomit spewing pirate from your cannons onto the deck of an enemy ship to apply some tactical chunder?
What game was most influential on your 2018? Let us know!