Matt's Top Five Games of 2018

I spent the first few months of 2018 wrapping up games I had started in 2017. Persona 5, Zelda Breath of the Wild, Elder Scrolls Online's Morrowind expansion to name a few. I also fell off my normal try everything routine somewhat and jumped into Heroes of the Storm nightly and binged World of Warcraft with my wife for a month or two. 2018 was still a solid year throughout. 

Check Out my Top 5 Games Below!

5.) Celeste

Celeste cleaned up at this years Game Awards and it is well deserving. I personally thought the narrative tried to oversell its personification of mental health issues but that aside, I was in love with this game back in January. Tight platforming challenges and instant restarts brought me back to my Super Meat Boy days and the pulsing soundtrack is worth listening to well after you've completed the game. As I cleared ever increasingly difficult levels I constantly felt like I would never get passed the next one but somehow always managed. I opted to complete the games story only while avoiding various collectibles and torturous bonus levels. The pixel art is bright an wonderful and I'm not surprised to see Celeste's protagonist Madeline become somewhat of an indie mascot.

4.) Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

People love to hate on Call of Duty yet it continually tops sales charts every single year with no end in sight. The franchise is annually the tightest multiplayer first person shooter on the market and it's formula has stood strong before, during, and after the rise of "shoot and loot" games such as Destiny and the Division. I wasn't a fan of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare or Call of Duty: World War II so it had been a couple years since I felt at home with an entry in the franchise. Black Ops 4 brought me right back. Featuring three multiplayer suites, it's traditional online competitive create-a-class multiplayer, Zombies, and new battle royale mode Blackout, there was more than enough to keep me engaged while getting over the fact that it lacked it's annual campaign mode. Each of Black Out 4's three game-play tiers feature enough content to command a separate purchase but fortunately they are all available on a single disc or download. Blackout mode is my favorite battle royale mode ever because of Call of Duty's refined intuitive shooting mechanics and smooth game engine that I feel other royale games lack. Many of Blackout mode’s map locations are comprised of actual maps from previous Call of Duty games which I love. This also applies to the competitive multiplayer suite which contains updated versions of older maps that I spent the peak of my Call of Duty career enjoying many years ago. 

3.) Far Cry 5

I've never been a fan of the Far Cry series but I have given most of them a chance. Maybe I went into Far Cry 5 with low expectations but it wound up being one of the most minute-to-minute fun games I played all year. Far Cry 5's humor and over the top combat mixed with an open-world that isn't excessively large, made walking in any direction enjoyable instead of overwhelming. There are objective markers all around you. Go east to loot a cash stash, go north and liberate a compound, all while being randomly attacked by bears and dive bombed by cultists in crop dusters. It's just fun. After about 25-30 hours some of the tasks started to feel repetitive but it was easy for me to tie up the main quest and roll credits. I appreciate that in a game, I really do. Ubisoft recently released the trailer for Far Cry 6 which appears to be a direct sequel to the events in Far Cry 5 and I will likely be picking it up day one for that reason.

2.) Owlboy

I am still so charmed by this title.Originally released in November 2016 on Steam, I had never actually heard of Owlboy until it released in February of this year on Nintendo Switch. Flying well below my radar, pun intended, Owlboy's critical acclaim caught my attention just as I was wrapping up my Celeste play-through and I was hungry for more 2D side-scrolling on my Switch. Not only did Owlboy scratch that itch, but out performed Celeste in many ways. It features extremely well done 16-bit era graphics and an impressive musical score, it isn't as challenging as Celeste (in a good way), and it's narrative happens to be it's strongest feature. I regret not editing a video review or doing any let's plays of this game and I would be willing to play through it again just to do so because I truly want to share more about it with the world. Pick up Owlboy on any platform you can. It is absolutely worth your time.  

1.) Octopath Traveler

When Octopath Traveler was announced an early demo was made available on the Nintendo Switch store. I was intrigued by the game’s premise and old school SNES rpg style graphics but the demo fell flat as far as I was concerned. A second demo replaced that one closer to Octopath’s launch which actually allowed you to begin the game with any of the eight playable characters, play for three hours, and continue your save when the full version released. I loved the idea of getting a head start and not losing my progress. 

The battle system is non typical of other turn based rpgs mostly due to the ability to boost the amount of hits your character can do in a specific turn taking advantage of your opponents weakness in a rock, paper, scissors weapon system, where the goal is to break your enemy so they can’t attack. The music is iconic and I don’t think they will change the main theme or battle music much for the inevitable sequels. The graphics are a unique combination of classic 16-bit and new age particle and bloom lighting effects layered over a 3D pop-up book world. It's old school with a fresh coat of paint and it stands out.

Having picked up Octopath Traveler not long after Persona 5 took me an entire year to finish, I assumed Octopath would take the same amount of time however, I underestimated how much progress I could make daily due to Nintendo Switch’s portability. So I put about 60 hours into it in about three months finishing all chapters for my three favorite characters and all but the last chapters for the rest. I started my game as Therion the thief and collected the other seven characters bringing them each up one chapter at a time occasionally grinding for experience for a lunch break or two, nothing painful. One really cool feature of Octopath Traveler is that you are free to only use one character the entire time or any combination thereof. There is a lot more to do as far as endgame dungeons go but I felt satisfied and chose to shelf it while I still loved it rather than get burnt out. I'll likely still break it out from time to time until Octopath Traveler 2 arrives. 

- Matt

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