Kansas City Area Gaming Community 2018 Game of the Year Award

YIKES that title is a mouthful.  Oh well.

At the start of this year I thought it would be fun to poll some local gaming groups and get some data to see it would show something resembling a Game of the Year for the greater Kansas City area.  I didn’t really get a ton of responses, but I did get enough to work with and I plan on doing this again next year with a bigger push and more structure and categories, so please look forward to that!

Once I had the data, I assigned point values to each pick based on the placing each person entered (1 point for 10th place down to 10 points for 1st place) and then used the forbidden arts of MATH and SPREADSHEETS to conjure this list into existence.

ANYWAY, you probably don’t wanna hear me ramble on about nothing, you want the list!  Let’s get this going!

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Pictured: that same damn view of Union Station that anyone who’s ever even thought about Kansas City has like twelve copies of | Image Credit: VisitKC

10. Detroit: Become Human (PS4)
and Into the Breach (Win/Mac/Switch)

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Fun Fact: it took me like 25 minutes to put these logos together in Paint.  I am not a smart man. | Image Credit: FutureFive and Giant Bomb Wiki

Up first, a tie!  Neat!

Detroit: Become Human grabbed quite a few players with the studio’s signature choose-your-own-adventure style take on the concept of android sentience.  While some beats in the story felt pretty heavy-handed and may not have been given as much care as they could have been, the story as a whole remains relatively engaging and solid.  The amount of choices and their impact impacts the story in pretty meaningful ways.  The game also looks drop-dead gorgeous.  A must-play for any fan of choice-based storytelling.

Conversely, Into the Breach feels pretty light on the narrative but delivers an absolutely rock-solid gameplay experience.  Drop three mechs onto a board and try to keep your cities alive from an ever-encroaching onslaught of giant bugs.  It’s a turn-based tactics game that really feels like a very challenging, but not unfair puzzle.  Sure, I’m definitely oversimplifying this game, but I strongly advise you to check it out.  Into the Breach is something that’s definitely quick to understand, but good luck trying to put it down once it gets its hooks in you.

9. Soul Calibur VI (PS4/XB1/Win)

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Ending AA of NieR: Automata, probably. | Image Credit: Giant Bomb Wiki

After the pretty lukewarm reception to Soul Calibur V in 2012, the future of the Soul Calibur series was pretty uncertain.  Some time passed, the developers announced a new entry bringing back old fan favorite characters, the release came around, and they fucking nailed it.  Soul Calibur 6 is the best the series has been in years, no doubt to the dev team’s focus on feedback from the community on the previous titles.  Each character has weight in ways that feel fun and make sense and landing those big hits as the game slows down makes you feel like an absolute badass.  The series is also no stranger to having a meaty single-player component and this installment provides that in spades.  The character creation, another series staple, is nothing short of incredible and can eat away at more time than you cared to spend crafting your Carl Wheezer with a giant axe.  I can’t really speak to the competitive longevity of the game myself, being a super-casual fighting game fan, but I am seeing plenty of big tournaments popping up with SC6 on the docket and the scene seems to be thriving for the first time in years.  I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

8. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (PS4/XB1/Win)

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“Hey you got any games on your phone?” | Image Credit: Giant Bomb Wiki

It wouldn’t be an end-of-year list without a Call of Duty game, now would it?  Black Ops 4 made headlines months ago with the decision to scrap the traditional single-player campaign and instead focus on three core multiplayer components, including the all-new Blackout battle-royale mode.  Sure, the series always does incredibly well both commercially and critically but I feel like everyone was talking about this game way more than previous installments just because of it.  Sure, it never did Fortnite numbers and lots of people have issues with their approach to monetization, but overall Black Ops 4 is a great time if you’re looking to have some mindless fun.

7. Pokemon Let’s Go, Pikachu!/Let’s Go, Eevee! (Switch)

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“DON’T MOVE.  It can’t see us if we don’t move.” | Image Credit: The Pokemon Company

I know at least personally, I had a pretty mixed reaction to this game when it got announced.  I’ve always been a huge fan of the previous Pokemon titles but never really fell in love with Pokemon GO and the marketing around this game focused quite a bit on the catching mechanic from that.  Thankfully, while that mechanic is a part of the game, the rest of it feels just like a traditional Pokemon experience, but finally pulled into the 21st century.  The lack of the traditional random encounters seemed like a weird idea on paper, but it removed the tedious grinding since you can just see the Pokemon out in the world and choose which one you want to encounter.  Sure, the game is very simple and honestly too easy after a while, but that’s totally nothing new for the Pokemon games.  It’s nostalgia done right, and the perfect comfort food game to just relax and have a good time with.

6. Fortnite (PS4/XB1/Win/Mac/iOS/Android)

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Dishing out some Orange Justice to make ’em Take an L.  …Floss.  | Image Credit: PlayStation Store

OKAY SURE YEAH THIS GAME HAS BEEN AROUND FOR A WHILE.

SUE ME. (Please don’t sue me.)

I had an internal debate over whether or not to cut this from the list just based on the fact that it’s technically not a 2018 release but since it got a substantial amount of votes AND for some reason it’s still technically an early access release so whatever.  It counts.

It’s really wild how big Fortnite is.  The moment you have people in your family asking about what the hell this newfangled “fork knife” thing is or you have teachers constantly talking about how the kids in their classes won’t quit furiously flossing every single day, then you know that this thing is an absolute phenomenon.  It’s for good reason too; Fortnite is just a lot of fun to play.  Sure, it’s not the first battle royale game on the scene (as has been made very aware by the competition) but it’s bright, it’s colorful, it’s incredibly polished, and it runs on damn near everything.  Most importantly, it’s free.  What’s not to love?

5. Celeste (PS4/XB1/Switch/Win/Mac/Linux)

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Yeah, I highly doubt this is OSHA compliant. | Image Credit: celestegame.com

Just from looking at a few screenshots of it, Celeste looks just like any super technical challenging platformer but then you finally get your hands on it and you blink and it’s suddenly 3 in the morning.  It might not be breaking a whole lot of new ground here but everything it does, it does incredibly well.  The controls are super tight and every death feels like it was your fault, but in a way that encourages you to keep trying and keep learning.  The story’s approach to mental health was incredibly refreshing and stuck with me personally quite a bit after the credits rolled.  Did I mention that the soundtrack slaps fucking hardCeleste is absolutely worth your time and if you just want to finish the main story, won’t take much of it.

4. Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

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Yeah the game is really great, but honestly the photo mode is worth full price on its own. | Image Credit: IGN

2018 was a damn good year for Spider-Man, and his triumphant return to gaming mainstream was no exception.  The story told here isn’t the most complex, but is relatable, engaging, and has more heart than most.  The web-slinger controls like an absolute dream too, with zipping around New York eventually feeling as simple as riding a bike.  The open world itself is a blast to explore and while many got pretty burnt out on the amount of collectibles and the pretty similar combat encounters, I never found issue with those.  This game had quite a few moments where I felt like an absolute badass, notably jumping off of the Empire State Building while the orchestral score swelled not only was exhilarating, but felt like something right out of one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.  If you’re a fan of Spider-Man, superheroes, or just a great open-world experience, you would be doing yourself a disservice in not picking this one up.

3. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Switch)

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Lucas giving a presentation on why Nintendo should just brING MOTHER 3 TO THE WEST DAMMIT NINTENDO PLEASE | Image Credit: smashbros.com

EVERYONE IS HERE! (Except Waluigi.)

It’s really a testament to how well-received and popular this game is considering that it came out December 7th and is not only on a quite a few other game of the year lists, but in that short time became the 5th best-selling game of 2018.  The game feels great to play with most fighters feeling incredibly balanced and honestly just fun to play.  The amount of content you get for your money is insane, between the fighters, stages, music, and the meaty single-player modes, but the quality and care taken with every part of this game is honestly unbelievable.  The Smash Bros. series has gone from being a cool Nintendo crossover platform fighter to a genuine celebration of gaming and is honestly the closest thing we have to a video game hall of fame, at least in a playable form.  Sure, there have been some issues with the roll-out and maintenance of the online multiplayer system and unlocking the 74(!) playable fighters available at launch can feel like a chore, overall this game is absolutely worth you pay for here and is a definite must-own for any Nintendo Switch owner.

2. Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4/XB1)

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The gritty reboot of The Nightmare Before Christmas seems to be in good shape. | Image Credit: Giant Bomb Wiki

There’s no surprise that this game is ranking this highly.  You could ask just about anyone who plays games at the start of the year what they were anticipating getting their hands on in 2018 and most of the time people would say Red Dead Redemption 2.  Hell, it was the most purchased game of the year, beating out this year’s Call of Duty.  For most people, it absolutely delivered on the hype that’s been building up since the first game.  The game is drop-dead gorgeous, the music and how it’s used is incredible and the narrative is incredibly personal and easily Rockstar’s best narrative work they’ve ever done.  Sure, some players can be turned off by the relatively slow pacing but it feels like an intended artistic choice by the developer that fits well with the setting.  Red Dead Redemption 2 may not click with absolutely everyone, but there’s no game out there that will.  I do know that it’s one of the most impressive video games ever made and anyone with any interest in the medium would do well to give it some of their time.

1. God of War (PS4)

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I don’t have a dumb joke for this one so instead just enjoy this gorgeous screenshot. | Image Credit: Giant Bomb Wiki

If you were to tell me that one of the best gaming narratives to come out of 2018 was focused on Kratos from the God of War series, I would have laughed for at least 20 minutes but, here we are.  In a series with a history of very massive, literally god-like stories, the decision to focus on a very personal family story did this game a lot of favors.  Kratos struggles with balancing atoning for his past atrocities, while also raising his son to be everything he wasn’t, and the voice work and animation absolutely shines in bringing this struggle to life.  Combat is super fluid and engaging, but every hit feels like it has just the right amount of weight, and the creativity in combos allowed by using the leviathan axe as a projectile opened up some unique approaches to combat.  There’s no shortage of incredible things about this game, but I honestly just recommend jumping into this one as blind as possible; you certainly won’t be disappointed.

So there you have it!  2018 was a pretty damn stellar year for games and while we don’t know a whole lot about much of the releases for 2019, I’m hopeful that the trend of good-ass video games is going to continue.  Thanks so much for everyone that participated in this poll, I literally couldn’t put this together without you.  Sure, these results may not reflect absolutely everyone, but it’s still neat to see the trends, at least in my opinion.  It’s important to remember that games are incredibly subjective and very personal for millions of different people.  If you had an incredible experience with a game in 2018 and it’s your personal game of the year, then that’s awesome, and nobody can take that away from you.

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!  You can follow me on twitter if you’re interested @TheKamdyman, and hopefully I’ll have more to share soon as to where you can keep up with me!  As always, you can keep an eye here for more posts, there should be more coming soon!

See you soon!

What I’m Playing: ONRUSH (PS4)

Hey there friends!  I’m jumping back into this whole “writing about games” thing with some regular check-ins on how I’m feeling about what I’m currently playing!  These aren’t necessarily intended on being in-depth reviews or anything, more of my impressions and thoughts. I just really like firmly organizing my thoughts, and I find that writing helps with that!

Anywho.  Yeah.  ONRUSH.

It’s fucking FUN.

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ONRUSH, if you aren’t aware, is a fresh take on your typical arcade racing game from Codemasters Cheshire, formerly of Motorstorm fame.  In fact, I’m pretty hesitant to even call it a racing game because it honestly isn’t.  Hell, the game will literally teleport you back to the pack if you get too far ahead or drop too far behind. The best way I can describe it is an objective-based, class-based, combat driving game, but that sounds incredibly wordy and boring, so just look at this cool clip I took instead. Because holy shit does this game nail presentation.

Driving around these tracks feels really damn good, too.  Hitting a ramp the just on the edge and launching your car like a perfectly-thrown football and nailing the landing feels fucking awesome every single time. The rush I feel when zipping around in this game absolutely gives me a Burnout or blur vibe (something I have been DESPERATELY missing lately) with each enemy take-down accentuated with an incredibly satisfying slowdown.  Sure, lots of racing games have embraced that effect in recent years, but with ONRUSH I felt that each time I took out an opponent I had to work a little more to earn it.  It can be a little confusing to understand how securing a kill works, and one of my gripes with the game definitely is how little it explains a lot of its systems, especially something as integral as the combat.  Jump off a ramp and land on an opponent? They’re totally fucked.  Ram into someone while boosting but hit the side of their car with the wrong part of yours? You’re totally fucked.  I’m not really saying that it’s bad, but I would be a little more forgiving if they took a little more time to explain it.

The objectives in this game also are varied and fun and each vehicle class has different strengths and weaknesses that make them perfect fits for each different mode you’re playing.  My favorite mode has to be Overdrive, in which you and your team of 6 have to burn more boost than the other team across multiple rounds.  Chaining boosts and plowing through both other drivers and the smaller, weaker vehicles whose sole purpose of existing is for you to destroy for extra boost, honestly doesn’t get old. The other objectives include a version of your typical king-of-the-hill with a moving ‘hill’ your team fights for control over, a mode similar to ‘gun game’ in Counter-Strike where once you wreck you switch classes until you run out, and a race-against-the-clock mode where you have to fight to make it into narrow gates to increase your team’s time.  While each of the different cars play to the strength of each objective, the cars of the same weight class look incredibly similar and are pretty tough to distinguish at breakneck speeds, especially with how cluttered the HUD can get.

The soundtrack here also does this game a LOT of favors.  It consists of a lot of EDM with some sprinklings of other genres thrown in here and there, but everything is designed to make you actually feel like you just did a sick barrel roll through like twelve trees and they definitely pull it off.  The music dynamically changes across different actions and states in each match, so if you’re on a hot-streak of take-downs or flying through the air the music flows into different tracks as what is happening changes.  Every time a bass drop timed perfectly to when I slammed the ground after shooting off a ramp I shouted “FUCK YEAH,” much to the dismay of my neighbors.  As much as I love the sound design and soundtrack as a whole, I did get pulled out of “the zone” every time I popped my class’s ultimate ability and the Sick Jamz™ I was enjoying was cut by a long scream that completely cuts out any music that was playing.  I think it could have worked pretty well mixed on top of the other tracks, but also I’m not a sound designer so I’ll just stop talking about that now.  Overall, this soundtrack is genuinely incredible, and if you’re interested in hearing about the process behind it, Codemasters put up a really excellent read here.

I’m really enjoying my time with ONRUSH so far!  I jumped into it kind of late with me playing the version I got included with my PlayStation Plus subscription, but I’m thrilled I checked it out.  I was a tad bit worried about finding multiplayer games but I actually have spent way more time with the pretty lengthy single-player. I can’t really say how much longer I’m going to be going back to it, but it’s a very good game if I need to zone out for a while. I think there’s a whole lot to love about this game and really only have minor issues with it overall.  I’d be really stoked to see them do a sequel or push out some more content but unfortunately it seems like there’s no chance of that happening.  If you’ve got this game in your library or were thinking about picking it up on a sale, I definitely think it’s worth a shot!

See ya next time!

Kam