Game of the Year – Banner Saga 3
Stoic Games have just nailed it. Start to finish. You want to talk about choices? You want to talk about how one small decision can affect the outcome of an entire people? This. The Banner Saga 3 should be viewed as that benchmark. With the end of the trilogy now out, the full weight of your protagonists choices are laid bare for everyone to see. Did you follow the path of the father Rook how lost his daughter? Or did you take the path of his daughter that loses her father? Through either path there will be plenty of choices that to quote one of my favorite songs from Live, are the Beauty of Grey. There is no Black and White. There is no real at times Good or Bad. There just is and it was absolutely fantastic for it.
First Runner Up – Dragon Quest XI
I’ve been waiting on this one for a long time and for a little while we didn’t know if we were even going to get it because of the apparent “lack of interest” for the series. Finally in our hands the latest Dragon Quest is that. A Dragon Quest title in all of its Glory saddled up with loads of quality of life improvements for the series to make that classic gameplay relevant to today’s standards.
Second Runner Up – CrossCode
I’ve got to give it to the devs on this one. Wow. CrossCode blew away most of my expectations. Indie RPG. 16-bit classic look. Today’s gaming standards. It’s smooth, responsive, gorgeous to look at and fun for hours upon hours. Probably my fondest memory of this was going into the Early Access and reading the apology that only about fifty hours was currently available while they geared up for the full release. Fifty. Hours. Most AAA give you ten! Twenty if you add in a NG+. Thirty for a Platinum trophy on a PlayStation. CrossCode has also usurped .Hack as King for my single player MMO emulation.
Biggest Surprise – Towards the Pantheon
After having played the demo I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this one. I mean the demo was fantastic but it was a horror based puzzle, again, in a 16-bit like classic look, but horrifying as hell for some moments. How did that translate into the final RPG? Beautifully. Acting as a backstory to the events of the whole and to one of your characters, all of Towards the Pantheon was wonderfully designed, written and musically orchestrated. Following an unlikely party, everything just worked and it was perhaps one of the best ten hours I’ve spent on a video game title this year.
Guilty Pleasure – Dauntless
While I haven’t been into “MonHon” as much as some of the others on the team, I’ve played the living hell out of multiple versions of Dauntless once it hit the Beta stages. Having started at the Alpha to get a taste for it, I didn’t want to put in too much effort and lose it all to a server wipe, so the day it launched? So did an unhealthy addiction both solo, with my brother and with other members of the team. Basically a “monster hunter lite”, not unlike Sacrifice: Sinner for Redemption being a “dark souls lite”, you get to get straight to the good part. The Fighting. Tons of customizations, a fair amount of weapon choices, and damn have I spent a lot of time hunting something just for pants. Literally because I needed to make pants as I had the rest of the set!
Biggest Disappointment – Noamund
Tales of like battle system? Chess like components? Interesting art style and RPG mechanics? Noamund had EVERYTHING it needed to make a splash. Having been Kickstarted and released on Steam, everything just felt lacking, unpolished and in certain cases sloppy as the default Spanish voices were left on but with no subtitles. Actually it even kept Spanish text in the Kickstarter backer location that was available to explore near the beginning. Add in sloppy gaming mechanics and what I was really looking forward to ended up being one of my biggest disappointments of the year.