Gaming

2018 Game of the Year Awards

2018 has finally come to an end, and it is time to reflect back on all the greatness that the gaming industry gave us. It was an exciting year for gaming, showing both great games and great mods, with more to come in 2019! Without further ado, let’s get right into it. Note that we were not able to include Red Dead Redemption 2 in this year’s awards due to a lack of a PC release, but should one come out in 2019 or 2020, it would be eligible then.

Mod of the Year – Overhaul

Mod Title: Unofficial Patch 10.2
Game Title: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
Mod Release Date: December 12, 2018
Game Release Date: November 16, 2004
Genre: RPG
Mod Developer: Wesp5
Game Developer: Troika Games
Game Publisher: Activision

 

Overhaul mods are designed to greatly improve upon a game, rather than act as its own standalone game (which is the type of mod covered by the next award). The winner this year is a rather light overhaul, but a critical one. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is quite unplayable without the Unofficial Patch, and version 10 has brought significant improvements in an attempt to alleviate the lack of content coming from the rushed later chapters of a game. Similar to The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords, this unofficial patch makes the game so much better. Never play this game without it! The Unofficial Patch is now up to version 10.2; get it here.

Other Nominees

  • Sim Settlements (Fallout 4)

Mod of the Year – Total Conversion

Mod Title: S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Anomaly
Game Title: N/A (standalone mod)
Mod Release Date: May 11, 2018 (initial, it is constantly updated, already having a beta update in 2019)
Game Release Date: N/A
Genre: FPS
Mod Developer: Anomaly Developers
Game Developer: GSC Game World
Game Publisher: N/A

 

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Anomaly is a dream come true. Take the brilliance of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Chernobyl, the total conversion mod for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat that won this award in 2016, along with much of the brilliance of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Misery 2 which was nominated for Best Overhaul Mod last year, and fold it all into the 64-bit Open X-Ray engine to improve performance, stability, and scalability. That’s what S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Anomaly is. It is an open world sandbox survival FPS, with the story of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl in story mode, but you can completely ignore the story and choose any faction you want for freeplay. One of my favorite game modes is the combination of Azazel mode and Ironman mode while using a random start in freeplay; Azazel mode means if you die, you immediately take control of another character which is pseudorandomly selected. Ironman mode means upon death, your save games for that character are erased.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Anomaly, which is completely standalone, is so customizable and has limitless potential. It includes every map that was ever designed for a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game. Get it here.

Other Nominees

  • Fallout: New California

Best Soundtrack

Game Title: Pathfinder: Kingmaker
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Genre: RPG
Developer: Owlcat Games
Publisher: Deep Silver

 

The soundtrack is such a crucial part of a game. Pathfinder: Kingmaker is another RPG composed by Inon Zur, who has also composed the soundtracks for Dragon Age: Origins, Bethesda’s Fallout series, and other standouts. While not as uniquely excellent as those, the soundtrack of Pathfinder: Kingmaker, largely composed of classical style music, still excels, with several tracks being so positively noteworthy that you might want to take your time in those areas of the game just to listen to it.

Best Sound Effects

Game Title: Insurgency: Sandstorm
Release Date: December 12, 2018
Genre: FPS
Developer: New World Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

 

Many nominees for this award are war-themed multiplayer shooters, so they are directly comparable. And I’ll say, all of these war-themed shooters sound exceptional on my 5.1 surround system. But Insurgency: Sandstorm takes the cake this year. While it doesn’t quite match the fidelity of last year’s winner, Rising Storm 2: Vietnam which remains the best sounding war game to date, Insurgency: Sandstorm comes fairly close, demonstrates excellent attention to detail with its sound and doesn’t have any real flaws. Dynamic reverb and excellent surround spatialization are standards these days for AAA games, and Insurgency: Sandstorm really sounds like such a game, hitting above its price point and its budget. The effort really paid off. Play this game on a surround sound system and you will be transported into a war zone.

Other Nominees

  • Battlefield V
  • Squad
  • Subnautica

Best Graphics, Visual Quality

Game Title: Battlefield V
Release Date: November 20, 2018
Genre: FPS
Developer: DICE
Publisher: Electronic Arts

 

This award is typically a no-brainer, and 2018 was no exception. Battlefield V was in the first wave of NVIDIA RTX enabled games, but this hardly matters since the hardware is hardly there for the technology. RTX aside, Battlefield V demonstrates the continuous evolution of Frostbite engine. EA DICE has held the graphics fidelity throne for three years now, dating back to Star Wars: Battlefront in 2015. While they are not the cleanest wins, with all of these games sorely lacking with regards to procedural physics and other dynamic effects, one can’t doubt the static visual realism that these games provide, with Battlefield V being the best in the world right now overall.

Best Level Design, Set Detail

Game Title: Subnautica
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Genre: Survival
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment

 

This award goes to games that put an incredible amount of attention to detail and artistic talent into the level design, for making truly unique, awe-inspiring worlds. Subnautica is one of the best at this. Taking place on a vast ocean planet with incredible biodiversity, you will explore very dangerous waters down from the surface down to extreme depths of 3 kilometers, and it’s completely open world. The attention to detail in the types of vegetation found below the sea, the terrain, and most of all the biodiversity would be an impressive statement from a AAA game, yet Subnautica is an indie game. This is not the first piece of excellence from Unknown Worlds Entertainment either, with Natural Selection 2 being one of the best and most content-rich PvP FPS games of all time.

Best Multiplayer

Game Title: Insurgency: Sandstorm
Release Date: December 12, 2018
Genre: FPS
Developer: New World Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

 

Insurgency: Sandstorm picks up its second win for 2018. It is essentially identical to the first game, but on Unreal Engine 4 rather than Source Engine. Insurgency: Sandstorm is a modern warfare themed Close Quarters Battle (CQB) FPS. This means it is an infantry focused experience with only light ground vehicles. It features both co-op and PvP, with multiple game modes for each just like the first game. The most played game modes for both co-op and PvP are objective-based designed to encourage advancing rather than camping, in order to capture objectives and allow your teammates to respawn. Nothing original there, but it is a solid game mode that makes sense for war games. Each team has multiple roles, such as commander, support gunner, demolitions, etc, with limits on how many players can play each role for the sake of realism as well as balance. Commanders function similarly to commanders in the classic Battlefield games or Red Orchestra/Rising Storm games, being able to give orders and designate targets for various types of aerial support. Insurgency: Sandstorm also features wave-based co-op survival. The one thing the game lacks right now is moddability; Insurgency began as a mod, but mod support is expected in the future.

Other Nominees

  • Squad
  • SCP: Secret Laboratory

Best RPG of the Year

Game Title: Pathfinder: Kingmaker
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Genre: RPG
Developer: Owlcat Games
Publisher: Deep Silver

 

The much endangered RPG genre finally showed a return to form this year: for the first time in many years, we got not just one, but two role-playing games that actually encourage role-playing rather than shy away from it! The last RPG I’ve played that encouraged role-playing was Wasteland 2 from 2014, but the second half of the game seemed as if all developers went on strike and some inexperienced interns had to finish the job. But I digress.

The winner this year is Pathfinder: Kingmaker, based on the tabletop RPG and adventure books of the same names (Pathfinder RPG, Kingmaker adventure books). As one would hope from an RPG based on a tabletop RPG, the role-playing is ample here; this game really allows you to develop your character’s personality with very little restriction especially with regards to alignment, which comes into play not only while adventuring but also in the strategy element; ruling your Barony (and later Kingdom). An innovative idea executed very well.

 

Not only do you not feel railroaded into playing one type of person (the opposite of games such as The Witcher series which can never be RPGs, Pillars of Eternity which is just a weak RPG, and even the Divinity: Original Sin games), you also have the ability to act with more free will. Not as much freedom as say the first two Fallout games, but you can at least deal with most situations however you’d like. One downside in this regard is how permanent death is, despite the presence of spells and scrolls that should allow you to resurrect people (they only work on fallen companions in combat). The environment also isn’t as interactive as RPGs of past that would allow you to break simple doors and locked containers. Nevertheless, this amount of role-playing hasn’t been seen in years, and this game also excels in combat.

 

The only other video game RPGs with this much diversity in possible character builds are Neverwinter Nights, Neverwinter Nights 2, and The Temple of Elemental Evil. Pathfinder: Kingmaker has 9 playable races (one added by a paid DLC), 11 skills, 15 base classes (1 added by paid DLC), 6 prestige classes, hundreds of feats, hundreds of spells, and just about as many different types of weapons as any other RPG, and all the standard armor types from Pathfinder which is based on Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. The enemy diversity of this game far surpasses almost all fantasy RPGs and only D&D based games and Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura are comparable. This greatly increases tactical difficulty of the combat, as certain foes will have certain strengths and other weaknesses or outright immunities, which you will have to plan for. Games like Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin and Dragon Age are all of course loosely inspired by D&D, but they all have very simple and bland gameplay compared to video games such as Pathfinder: Kingmaker. Also note the difficulty customization shown in the last image above, the best I’ve ever seen!

 

So as an RPG, Pathfinder: Kingmaker is one of the best in years, and Kingdom Come: Deliverance is also no slouch. Let’s hope Owlcat Games has a future.

Other Nominees

  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Game of the Year

Game Title: Subnautica
Release Date: January 23, 2018
Genre: Survival
Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment
Publisher: Unknown Worlds Entertainment

 

It was closely contested, but we had to give the big award to Subnautica. Such a unique and immersive game; by no means the first open world adventure/survival game set in a fantastical place, but one of few to get it right. It is wondrous, mysterious, and extremely intense as a survival game. And it is not just a bland procedurally generated world, but a hand crafted one of a kind place that truly comes to life. You’ll want a display capable of both good picture quality and high refresh rate to enjoy this one!

Other Nominees

  • Pathfinder: Kingmaker
  • Phantom Doctrine
  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Most Anticipated Game of Next Year

By “next year” we really mean 2019. For this award, we will for once agree with a mainstream opinion: we absolutely cannot wait for The Outer Worlds. While my opinion of Obsidian Entertainment has been 100% negative as of late, with the uninspired Pillars of Eternity games and the horrendous Tyranny, I believe The Outer Worlds to be an actual motivated and ambitious effort by Obsidian Entertainment, and with a Take Two subsidiary publishing it, I don’t think a bland uninspired game with zero ambition will be accepted. No, I predict we’ll get something much closer to the quality of Fallout: New Vegas, the last truly great role-playing video game to be released by any studio. Fingers crossed and happy belated new year!


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