I’m not going to lie, I bounced off this game after 5 hours. I may go back to it eventually, but this game still deserves to be on my top 5. It’s not even that this was a slow year, it wasn’t, but Disco Elysium is art and was created by artists. I will gladly spend full price and bounce off 100 games like this rather than buy most of the crap that gets churned out by the AAA industry.
What makes Disco Elysium special is that it feels like the old Infinity engine games finally evolved into something more modern. Nothing has come close to Baldur’s Gate 2 in terms of isometric RPGs for almost two decades now. All we’ve had have been games trying to imitate an older style. Disco Elysium feels like a leap forward on the way games can handle narrative and does things with the skill system that are shockingly imaginative. It had depth that is almost never seen, unfortunately to its detriment of times. Most people who bounce off the game do so because they realize the games staggering narrative depth isn’t for them, but they all seem to agree on the brilliance of the game. I hope games that push older “Niche” genres while actually advancing them in meaningful ways come out more often.
4. They Are Billions
It’s hard to feel as passionate about this game as I did when I played it two years ago, but as it only officially came out of early access this year I feel it needs to be on this years list and not 2017 (Some people get really uppity about giving game of the year to early access games …… Scott…..). However, I feel I need to take the time to recognize the brilliance of TAB. The game gave the RTS genre life and did so through a single player experience most publishers would have written off to cash in on multiplayer microtransactions. TAB recognizes that the most fun many of us having is turtling and devised a thematic and intelligent system around it.
The saddest thing about the game was that it was delayed to add a single player campaign that turned out to be quite shit. Everything that the game offered was still there and none of it was diluted, but people playing the game in 2019 might unfortunately experience a sub par part of the product that was completely unnecessary. The new mode doesn’t take away anything but it might dilute the experience for some. Underneath it all though is still the great skirmish mode I’ve loved for the last two years.
3. Anno 1800
It was tough deciding where to put this game. Anno games get better with age and more DLC and a proper expansion always put the finishing touch on a masterpiece. I expect the game to climb in my mind over the next few years but as of today it’s hard for me to push a game I don’t even consider the best in the series any higher (That still goes to 2070). Thankfully this game returned to its roots of complexity and depth after the watered down “Appeal to the masses” attempt of 2205 and I’m happy to say it’s the best-selling Anno game to date. I’m always a fan of deep complex city builders that aren’t just a liner set of hand held experiences. This is truly city building at it’s finest and I’m so glad Ubisoft continues to stick with experiences that other publishers would write off as “Too Niche”. Blue Byte studios are alive and well and I will always be there day one to enjoy a product that the world has far too little of.
2. Luigi’s Mansion 3
What a beautiful experience. It’s amazing that the exploration, agency and environmental interactivity usually reserved for immersive sims was found alive and well in a Nintendo game of all things. It’s a theme of this list that this year was filled with so many enjoyable, single player experiences that would have been laughed out of an EA or Activision-Blizzard executive meeting. LM3 gave me a deep, colorful experience that I enjoyed for a generous length of time. Every floor was interesting, every secret had me emoting outload “Wow that was clever”. The game put a smile on my face for nearly 20 hours. LM3 is a game I will come back to every October for a truly special experience.
1. Ace Combat 7
This wasn’t even close. This was like a Lamar Jackson touchdown run. It came out of no where, ran full speed ahead, juked, spun, and moonwalked into the endzone of my heart with purpose, emphasis and swagger. There are so few military flight games in the world that don’t go full “Flight Sim” (Again… a common theme in my list…..). That a company could still produce an arcade style flight sim that prioritizes the gameplay elements over the realistic simulation elements, and could do so with such high production values, is a miracle. This game has dozens of hours of beautifully crafted and varied missions. I was so inspired by the detail of the planes I watching documentaries on military aircraft for weeks after playing the game (Seriously, there are some great ones on the MIg-31 or YF-23 on YouTube).
There’s something about experiencing a game well after it’s release that makes it feel more special. I wasn’t expecting AC7 to hit me so hard which is precisely why it did. It was the game I thought about the most at work when I wasn’t playing it and it’s the game I will reach for more often the next year than any other game on this list. A masterclass of gameplay mechanics in a genre that I truly love but felt lots to time. I salute you Ace Combat 7, and everything you mean to gaming.