• Navigation
View RSS Feed


BlueGartr Staff Picks - 2018

Rate this Entry
As gamers, the end of the year provides an opportunity to look back at the library of games each of us has finished over the last year. 2017 was an exceptional year filled with numerous phenomenal games. Compared to that overwhelming bounty, 2018 offered far fewer noteworthy games. Perhaps as a testament to the lack of remarkable games this year, we’ve got fewer responses this year compared to past years. Regardless, welcome to the 2018 BlueGartr Staff Game of the Year List!

Byrthnoth: Nier Automata (PS4, XB1, PC)
This is the first time that I haven't said FFXI, but this year I am going with Nier: Automata.

I initially wrote off Nier: Automata as a pantyshot delivery vehicle with a thin plot designed to target sexually frustrated young men, like Bayonetta, Dead or Alive, FFX-2, etc., but it was so much more. The creators of Nier: Automata clearly started with a thoroughly weird dream of the next chapter in their series and then worked backwards (eventually tossing in optional pantyshots.) The plot was weird but cool. Following the plot, the gameplay switched from hack'n'slash to other modes ("minigames"?) as required by the story, which makes total sense in a futuristic setting where everyone is using machines. Most of the minigames were little less polished than the hack'n'slash mode, but they were functional and better for storytelling than showing a cutscene for any type of plot-essential action that doesn't fit in your one mode of interaction (Xenosaga, Star Ocean, etc.). I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just say that Nier: Automata was an enjoyable trip to the uncanny valley and I hope to go back some day.

BaneTheBrawler: Subnautica (PS4, XB1, PC)/Civilization 6: Rise and Fall (PC)

Standalone Game Release: Subnautica. A delightful survival/construction game set on an alien ocean planet, it has elements of horror inherent in the setting: the horror of the depths. Thalassophobes beware, because this game has you go deep into the dark reaches of an alien ocean teeming with life big and small.... and deadly. Accompanying you on this journey through the depths is a story of greed, cheerful corporate disregard for human life, and a sense of loneliness, all reminiscent of Portal. The game has a reasonably robust crafting system allowing you to build tools, gadgets, vehicles, and homes. The base-building alone is great fun, as you find blueprints for modules capable of different tasks, and assemble them however you see fit to build a base that meets whatever needs you have. The gameplay loop of meeting your survival needs (air, water, food, power, materials) is rewarding, if perhaps a touch grindy. But the grind is to scale with your ambitions, and so does not wear oppressively on the player. The creatures are a mix of thoughtful realism and fantastical horror. Some are more believable than others (lookin at you, crashfish) but all fit into the world's rather extensive ecosystem. I love this game and look forward to their first expansion which is set to feature the Arctic biome, and a new character/story.

Expansion/Addon: Civilization 6: Rise and Fall. Civ 6 was already pretty robust, especially with the modding community busily at work, but Rise and Fall added several new mechanics: Loyalty, Eras, and Alliances. The Alliances seemed to me somewhat lackluster, but perhaps that's because the AI is still not very smart. Loyalty and Eras, however, were a fun addition to the game, with Loyalty solving one of the most aggravating tactics: Forward settling. Now, cities insufficiently supported by surrounding loyal cities will slowly lose loyalty and declare independence. If an enemy nation exerts enough pressure (or conquers the independent city), the city may then join their empire. This leads to some interesting new strategies for cold-wars. The Era mechanics are an interesting, if rather passive, addition. Your progress throughout each Age of the World determines the bonuses (or penalties) you receive in the next: A Dark Age, Normal Age, Golden Age, or Heroic Age. In a Dark Age, you suffer penalties but may choose powerful double-edged bonuses to try to reclaim your glory. In a Normal Age, your choice are somewhat more mundane, and offer only mild bonuses. In a Golden Age, your choices are potent bonuses which can cement your place as a great Empire. In a Heroic Age, only reachable by going directly from a Dark Age to a Golden Age, your bonuses are numerous and powerful, giving you the chance to build a truly great empire. Maintaining the "era score" required to hit the Age you desire is another element to track in the already intricate dance of Civilization, but it is not so burdensome as to be a bother. As with past entries, Civilization 6 only gets better and better with expansions and mods. I eagerly await the recently announced Gathering Storm expansion, which plans to add long-desired features like Canals, Climate Change, and Natural Disasters. 

Honorable mentions: Spiderman, God of War, and Red Dead Redemption 2. I didn't actually play any of these, but I may as well have, because my fiancee watched Letsplays with me in the room that went through the entire story (I missed a lot of Red Dead's story, but got the gist). Good games, good stories. Dutch is an asshole, Doctor Octavius makes me sad, and Tealc dad of war best dad of war.

Post-Choice Honorable Mentions: Smash Bros and Stellaris's Megacorp expansion. Both great, but launched too late in the year to win imo.

Serra: Destiny 2 - Forsaken (PS4, XB1, PC)
Given how much time I’ve put into the Destiny franchise, it might be surprising that it has only found its way onto my list, even as an honorable mention, once. Forsaken, the latest expansion to Destiny 2, is my game of the year for a number of reasons. For starters, Forsaken brings Destiny 2 to the best place the franchise has ever been. Bungie has seemingly also found a better way to support the game with continuous content over the course of the year. However, I’m admittedly a pretty die-hard Destiny player and was going to play regardless of the quality of the expansion. Not only has Forsaken given me a reason to log back in nearly everyday, but it has brought back a lot of my friends who had previously stopped playing. While the numbers have dropped over the past few months and fluctuate with content releases, I can’t think of a single day that I’ve logged on and been the only player online.

Honorable Mentions: Celeste, Hollow Knight, Smash Ultimate

Happy New Year, Everyone! Here’s to 2019!