I was skeptical of DUSK. I’d seen it being played by others when it was in early access and I wasn’t particularly drawn in by it. It emulates older games, but I thought the enemies looked goofy in a way that would take me out of the game. As it got near non-early access release, it’d acquired some buzz behind it. Since I loved the games it purports to be inspired by (Blood, Quake, Redneck Rampage, Heretic, etc.), I gave it a shot. That was a good decision. DUSK was my favorite game to come out in 2018.
DUSK has a story in the same way all of those games had stories. It’s loosely told, doesn’t really mean anything, and it’s totally optional. This is a classic first-person shooter. Collect weaponry, find colored key cards, kill enemies. It’s got episodes that each have a theme, going from rusty farms to industrial plants to hell.
I am a product of the generation that made those classic FPS games and DUSK really takes me back to those days. It feels like a sequel to Quake. From the movement to the survivability to the weapons and the hordes of enemies, DUSK perfectly emulates those games. It just feels right. There’s no modern “niceties” to it. Health doesn’t regenerate. There’s no recharging shield. You can carry as many weapons as you can find. No objective marker. No one yelling at you to shoot the something or other. It really is “find the key, kill the enemies”.
Beyond the sometimes goofy-looking (but always lethal) enemies and some levels that weren’t quite as easy to navigate as others, I don’t have much to complain about. It’s a fast moving, fast action, classic FPS. The music rips, the levels are really atmospheric, the action is excellent. If this came out 20 years ago (okay, maybe 22 or 23 years ago), it’d be hailed today as a classic. Who knows what the future holds, so today DUSK is the best example of neo-retro done right.
Reference: David Szymanski. DUSK (New Blood Interactive, 2018)
2018 wasn’t exactly a great year for me and video games. I played a lot of games and very few of them stuck with me. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the games, but I wasn’t really feeling much of anything. Even the two games I spent the most time playing this year, Final Fantasy XV and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, didn’t make the top of my awards. They merely consumed the most time. As I look around at other GOTY lists, I’m seeing a lot of stuff I’m either not interested in, not on a platform I own (or even compelling enough to buy that platform to play it), or some combination of the two. But that doesn’t mean that there were no good games! I absolutely loved my GOTY, and many of the others on this list! It just means that most of these are only going to have one honorable mention, and some of them may not be from 2018.
2018 Game of the Year
Right, this was an easy choice. I love DUSK. It’s a Quake/Heretic/Blood sequel I never got. It’s ugly but fun. It’s an amazing emulation of games from the mid-90’s, but even better. Many games have tried to make neo-retro work and failed. They usually get the look right, but not the feeling. DUSK nails it all.
Runner Up: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
2018’s 2017 Game of the Year
Assassin’s Creed Origins
I’ve had a long-lived love/hate relationship with Assassin’s Creed. I almost always finish them, but I rarely enjoy them. They’re just kind of mindless filler, and after Unity, I was pretty much done with the series. Until Origins. Origins brought me back because it changed so much of the Assassin’s Creed formula. It changed so much that it’s more or less a different game entirely from its predecessors. The same could almost be said for Final Fantasy XV. This is a series that I’ve played (nearly) every game but never enjoyed them and never finished them. I enjoyed FFXV and finished it. Dark Souls 3 didn’t particularly change much of the series but it is the first one I enjoyed enough to finish
Runners Up: Final Fantasy XV, Dark Souls 3
The “I Wish I Had More Time for This” Award
Battletech could almost go into “Wish I Liked This More” because I enjoyed the short time I’ve played it, but maybe not enough to go back. I love the Battletech world, but I’m much more of a Mechwarrior type of person. Still, I came home from Gencon and wanted to jump right into Battletech. I got humbled on my first real mission and I haven’t worked up the nerve to go back. I want to. I eyeball it. But I don’t know if I’ve got the time to invest in re-running the beginning or starting up again and seeing if I’ve dug myself into too deep of a hole to get out of.
Runner Up: Into the Breach
The “I Wish I Liked This Game More” Award
Hollow Knight is the clearest winner of this award, maybe the easiest choice of the year. I really enjoyed the demo for Hollow Knight, so much that I bought it immediately upon release. But the punishing difficulty, often aimless design, and awful body retrieval mechanic turned me off eventually. This is a beautiful game, fun in many parts, and doesn’t want you to enjoy it. I love a good Metroidvania. Hollow Knight hates me and I refuse to stay in an abusive relationship with it.
Runner Up: CrossCode
The “I’m Never Going to Finish This, But It’s Still Great” Award
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
This isn’t entirely fair, because Super Smash Bros. Ultimate just came out weeks ago, but there’s so much in there that there’s essentially no possibility I’ll ever see the end of it. There’s so many character unlocks, so many spirits, so many minigames, just an unholy amount of video game. Even the World of Light seems like a nearly impossible task for all but the most dedicated SSBU player. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot. The same could be said for Forza Horizon 4. It’s a fun game, but I play racing games in 2-5 hour spurts maybe three or four times a year. When I want to play one, I enjoy it, but I get my fill of them pretty quickly.
Runner Up: Forza Horizon 4
Awards for Things That Aren’t Video Games That I Loved in 2018
Best Film – Annihilation
Best Album Single – Childish Gambino This is America
Best Novel – Peter Watts The Freeze-Frame Revolution