With 2018 in the books it’s time to look back on the biggest stories in gaming. It was a rollercoaster ride that featured a number of highs, lows, and some surprises. Here is what stood out the most in what was a packed year.
Single-Player campaigns ruled 2018
God of War, Spider-Man, Red Dead Redemption 2, Yakuza 6/Kiwami 2, and Assassins Creed Odyssey were single-player titles released in 2018 that were all well received and helped ease concerns relating as to whether or not single-player titles were dying. Each of these titles featured strong narratives, gameplay, and interesting worlds that players could lose themselves in. While RDR 2 and God of War separated themselves from the pack, an argument can be made for each of these titles as to why they should be considered for Game of the Year.
Indie Titles continue to challenge Triple-A titles
Who says Indie titles aren’t Game of the Year material? Celeste has been hailed as one of the best titles of the year deftly blending tight, precise platforming with nuanced and poignant storytelling. Dead Cells is a rogue-like, metroidvania title that features challenging combat in an ever-shifting environment. Moonlighter let’s you live the life of a shopkeeper as you explore five different environments to gather wares for your shop. Indie titles have continued to thrive and 2018 was no different.
Fortnite remains King of the Mountain
Love it or hate it, Fortnite has created a sustainable model for success not just for the battle royale genre, but for every online-only game to follow. There are consistent updates that introduce new mechanics and environments to keep the game fresh and exciting for newcomers and established users. Fortnites popularity grew exponentially in 2018 due to Epic Games dedication to its user base. Their transparency is something that all publishers should follow. Which leads me to…
Publishers continue to question the intelligence of their consumers
In somewhat of a shock, publishers other than EA and Activision decided to show just how disconnected they are from their fanbases with questionable announcements and releases. Bethesda had a disastrous year with the release of Fallout 76, the sheer number of issues plaguing the title at launch that went beyond the game itself could have long lasting negative effects on the Fallout franchise in the future. Blizzard followed suite with the announcement of a mobile Diablo title at Blizzcon that frustrated longstanding fans of the studio. If perception is reality, then it became increasingly clear that it’s not about the consumer but the bottom line.
Microtransactions will remain a trend for the foreseeable future
While EA was slammed for the intrusive inclusion of microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2, it did nothing to prevent publishers from continuing to work to monetizing their consumers. It’s frustrating seeing their inclusion in full-priced titles, but this is a strategy that will remain in gaming regardless of the outcry by the community. As long as there are people who are willing to spend their money on cosmetic items or shortcuts, microtransactions are going to remain prevalent. These features however should never affect gameplay as it creates an uneven playing field. See NBA 2K for example, as you can jumpstart your character by dropping money for upgrades. It’s just indefensible.
Online-Only titles continue to struggle out of the gate
Patience is a difficult virtue to preach when we live in a climate so steeped in instant gratification. Online-only titles have struggled to provide consistent enjoyment due to the lack of content at launch. While these titles will eventually find their footing, see No Man’s Sky and Destiny 2, publishers are still unable to meet the expectation of consumers. Sea of Thieves and Fallout 76 were this years online-only titles that missed their mark and while theres hope that Sea of Thieves will be able to turn the corner with recent updates, Fallout 76 is an entirely different story, Bethesda has significant work to do and repairing their relationship with the consumers is at the top of their list.
Microsoft is building for the long-term
It wasn’t a strong year for the Xbox One in terms of software, as it’s most successful release was Forza Horizon 4, but Microsoft made waves with the acquisition of a number of studios which should help set them up nicely for the future. The lack of IP’s has really hurt Microsoft this generation, as their reliance on established franchises and has made it difficult to generate any tangible excitement. This all changes with these acquisitions as it shows an emphasis on creating new experiences. While it may not affect 2019, 2020 could be the year the Microsoft turns it around.
Fighting games are making a resurgence
With Dragonball FighterZ, Soul Calibur 6, and Super Smash Bros Ultimate all being released this year, it’s nice to see that fighting games are having a bit of a resurgence. Each title is solid, with Dragonball and Smash Bros Ultimate being spectacular additions to the genre. There were a number of content updates for Street Fighter V and Tekken 7, so the competitive fighting landscape looks sustainable for the foreseeable future. With Mortal Kombat 11 on the horizon, what was once a grim future, now looks bright.
Remakes/Remasters continue to be hit and miss
For every high quality remaster such as Shadow of the Collossus and Spyro Reignited, there were questionable remakes such Secret of Mana and Devil May Cry HD collections. While none of these titles broke any new ground, you could see which titles were there to introduce classics to a new audience and which were released as a quick cash grab. Updating visuals is one thing, but some of these titles start to show their age when it comes to gameplay. To be clear, remaster/remakes can be good for gaming, but only if the studio takes time to update the title for modern audiences. The upcoming Resident Evil 2 looks to be the best remake yet.
VR is making a push for relevancy
Although its taken some time, VR has finally started to find its footing. With quality titles like Tetris Effect, Moss, Astrobot, and Beat Sabre finding their way to the PSVR, consumers can finally be content with picking up the peripheral if they so choose. While it was difficult to recommend before, there are a number of titles to choose from that there is something for everyone. With every genre so well represented, VR has finally found time to shine.
On to 2019, which should be as strong or stronger, especially considering that the next generation of consoles could be introduced.