Game of the Year 2019

I know it’s later than usual and there are fewer “parts” but 2019 was a weird gaming year for me.

Most Disappointing Game 

Winner: The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds started strong. I enjoyed just about everything on that first planet. However, the more I played, the less enthused I was with pushing further. The visual style, dialog, quests, and combat all began to grate on me. It was a tighter and more compact take on Bethesda-style RPGs like Fallout but it was still one of those games and I think I’m officially exhausted by that style of game. 

Most Surprising Game

Winner: Ring Fit Adventure

That weird reveal trailer sold me on the idea of Ring Fit Adventure. I wanted it but I didn’t want to rush out and buy it for $100 just yet. I bided my time until a sale popped up and I pulled the trigger on what turned out to be my favorite fitness game. But it wasn’t just my favorite: my fiancĂ©e has been enjoying the hell out of it as well. She didn’t take to Wii Fit U but Ring Fit Adventure has her playing 5 out 7 days in a week.

Best Old Game

Winner: Red Dead Redemption 2 [X1] 

Red Dead Redemption 2 requires a commitment to the bit. The bit? Being a cowboy. You have to love being a cowboy and that doesn’t mean just cherry picking the shootouts and horseback riding. Red Dead Redemption 2 asks people to commit to the life of a cowboy including the mundane and hardships. I was willing to commit and I loved a vast majority of it. It’s one of the best games I played this year. It might be one of the best of the generation. 

Top 4 Games of 2020 

Winner: Apex Legends

  1. Ring Fit Adventure 
  2. Untitled Goose Game 
  3. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening 

Apex Legends is game of the year for 2019. According to PlayStation’s year end wrap up, I played over 400 hours of it. Completed 3 battle passes and I see no sign of slowing down in 2020. It clicked with me like Overwatch but without the need for a large cohesive unit. I effectively staved off the desire to get Call of Duty: Modern Warfare because of Apex Legends’ hold on me. It took a while, but Respawn Entertainment made a battle royale game that suited me.  

You would think all that time playing Apex Legends meant I didn’t have time to play other games but that wasn’t the case. A mixture of misfires and the desire to play older games resulted in a year where I didn’t have enough for a top 10 let alone I don’t even have enough for a top 5! 

Ring Fit Adventure was sneaky good courtesy of Nintendo’s ability to make just about anything fun. Gamifying exercise isn’t new but executing it this well is. It’s the best game of that genre to date and one that I can see myself “playing” for many years to come. 

Untitled Goose Game snuck in and won me over with its mischievous stealth puzzles. House House successfully created a charming stealth action game while minimizing the punishing frustrations of the genre. 

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a solid Zelda title that was marred by technical performance issues. It’s a damn shame but I pushed passed it towards the end and ultimately enjoyed my time with it.  

Here’s to 2020!

There are many, many gaps including Resident Evil 2, Control, and The Outer Wilds but that was my 2019. I hope to address those omissions in 2020.

The Outer Worlds PC Review

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I think Fallout 3 may be last Bethesda-style RPG that I enjoyed and will enjoy. I tried Obsidian Entertainment’s Fallout: New Vegas which was so buggy on PC at launch that I effectively wrote it off. I didn’t much care for Skyrim either. I learned my lesson and didn’t bother with Fallout 4. I was tired of the treks across post-apocalyptic wastes and clunky action. I haven’t returned to one of those Bethesda-style action RPG in 7 years and was going to keep it that way until The Outer Worlds launched on Xbox Game Pass. I heard rumblings of it being Fallout meets Mass Effect and was intrigued.

Obsidian looked like they were on a quest to prove to the world that they could make a better version of one of those Bethesda-style action RPGs without the bugs and a strong narrative backbone. The space faring sci-fi setting was a departure from the Fallouts and Elder Scrolls of the Bethesda but anyone who’s familiar with Bethesda’s work will see past the aesthetic differences.

They made one of those games at a smaller and more manageable scale. It wasn’t a sprawling, detailed or intricate Bethesda’s behemoths but it was certainly lightyears ahead on the stability front. It also looked markedly better thanks to superb art and that Unreal Engine 4.0 magic.

The game makes a wonderful first impression filled with promise of adventure and good times. There were fun and humorous moments in dialog, hacked terminals, and combat. Then I landed in Monarch and — very much like its citizens — I was tired of it. I met with the new corporations and factions, heard their stories, and was bored of it all. The runaway capitalism schtick was no longer hitting its mark. Conspiracy theories seeped in to replace it but by the time I reached the jewel of the Halcyon colony, Byzantium, I was jaded and desperate to wrap up my time with this game.

Building my character was fun and motivated me to engage with the quests, combat, and exploration. I liked the perk system and the choice of accepting a flaw in favor of a perk point. I took the concussion flaw for an extra skill point after suffering repeated blows to the head. In retrospect, that hindered me a bit because I focused on expanding dialog and hacking options with a sprinkle of engineering and science on the side. I wanted to keep options open and was willing to forgo combat effectiveness for it.

The combat was serviceable. Tactical Time Dilation was an interesting take on Fallout’s V.A.T.S. It gave me the opportunity to slow down time, target weak spots, and inflict status effects such as blinding or crippling enemies. I could have finished the game without it but then I would have been forced to fight in real time and that wasn’t ideal considering my lack of investment in combat skills. A mixture of cheesy tactics and TTD took me far and I would argue that it may have taken me too far because I was melting against the likes of Universal Defense Logistics in the latter stages of the game. When I was looting UDL forces for better armor on the run up towards the end, I realized something had gone awry.

I probably could have avoided most of my deaths with judicious expenditures but I was stubborn and was willing to send my companions out as fodder. I am certain I would have changed my reckless ways if I had chosen a difficulty beyond “hard” where companion permadeath was enabled.

When I heard of the inclusion of companions and their quests, I immediately thought of Mass Effect 2. I misplaced my optimism for these companion quests because they were generally uninteresting and rote. I spent far too much time helping Parvati secure a date. Getting Vicar Max high in search of enlightenment was a letdown. And the others? Insurance fraud and wild goose chases. These quirky quests and tidbits were given too much limelight in the Outer Worlds. They may have contributed towards the ending I received but I didn’t like the pay offs.

The faction quests unlocked material change in the world and they offered insight to the political workings of the colony. Trying to find the balance of happiness for all parties was intriguing. Did Obsidian intentionally want me to prefer helping these corporations over my companions?

I came to The Outer Worlds with thoughts of Mass Effect mixed with a Bethesda-style action RPG. Instead, I got a Bethesda-style action RPG with a dash of Mass Effect flavoring. The first few hours of it was great but I felt all of it outstayed its welcome due to its limitations. I started to see familiar faces on new characters. I grew weary of the same talking heads with their tiresome tales of woe. It’s been 10 years since my last enjoyable foray into this style of RPG and unless there are drastic changes to the formula, it will be another 10 before I revisit it.

Verdict
I don’t like it

Ratings Guide