Game of the Year 2018: Early Front-Runners

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Hello everyone, editor John Breeden here. Chella is off this week as she is busy finishing up her very first videogame that she and her team designed. And she has been asked to speak on important topics like diversity in the game industry, which is why she is currently traveling. Of course, everything poured in at once for her.

But no worries, because I am happy to assist in writing her column this week. I had meant to write something up about the excellent choices that everyone made in their selection of 2017 Games of the Year, and although the window on that has probably closed, I did want to congratulate all of you for voting and picking out some really great games. Tapping into the wisdom of the crowd doesn’t always work, but when you have a dedicated group of game-loving readers like yourselves, things are right more often than not. So I tip my hat to all of you for a job well done.

E3 Expo is right around the corner, and we are sure to learn a lot about new games then, including what I am sure will be a few surprises. I seriously doubt that there will be any new console announcements from major companies, at least I hope not as the current generation is just hitting its stride, though we do know of one new machine – a new gaming console from really old school company Intellivision. I was on the Intellivision side back in the first console war between them and Atari, so it’s kind of nice to see that they are still around, though I wonder what they could possibility do to recapture relevance in today’s market.

Red Dead Redemption 2 trailerBut what I want to present for your consideration today are the early frontrunners for a Game of the Year award for this year. I realize that a lot of great games have yet to see daylight, including some that will surly be huge hits, like Red Dead Redemption 2, but I am just talking about games that our editors and reviewers have already had a chance to check out. There is still a long way to go this year, but early in the race, here are the titles that I think are worthy of your consideration.

For role-playing games, my favorite genre, there are two very different titles that will warrant a look regardless of whatever else comes out this year. The first is Kingdom Come: Deliverance, a first-person masterpiece that tries its best to provide a realistic medieval experience. I personally loved this one. Some of the day to day tasks can get a little bit boring, but main character Henry truly has a blessed life compared to most of the other people in that world. If you are looking for an RPG without a dragon or an elf in sight, then Kingdom Come is for you.

The other RPG that will certainly be in the running is Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, which is a more traditional top-down RPG that happens to be done in real-time with the ability to pause, so it could almost be considered turn-based if a player is really active with the pause. Normally I let the group do their thing for lower-level combat, and then pause and take control for more challenging opponents. The really cool thing about Deadfire is that it takes place mostly on the open sea, which is huge, and littered with uncharted islands filled with adventure. We have not reviewed this one yet – I’ve been playing pirate, but have been really slow in writing it up – but rest assured, it will earn very high marks and is more than worth your time!

Over in the shooter category, we have Far Cry 5, also known as Redneck Rampage 2018. It’s not really called that, but it could almost claim that title. The Far Cry series has been all over the place in terms of settings and also quality, with many people pegging the apex at Far Cry 3, or even one of the peripheral titles like Far Cry Primal. Far Cry 5 takes the series into the United States, to Montana specifically, and treats players to some of the most beautiful countryside and brutal enemies yet. Revamped with a whole new companion system, and supported with an infinitely-expanding Far Cry Arcade mode, it’s a safe bet that Far Cry 5 will be picking up some awards.

For atmosphere, I am placing an early bet on Mulaka. Created by Lienzo, a game studio based in Chihuahua, Mexico, the game puts players in control of a Sukurúame, a shaman of the Tarahumara indigenous people. With a gameplay style similar to The Legend of Zelda, players control the spear-wielding protagonist as he attempts to unite the demigods and prevent the world’s destruction. It uses real Tarahumara culture and legends, and is as beautiful as it is fun to play. If enough people discover Mulaka, it will have a shot at some awards.

Another possible entry for atmosphere, and certainly a contender for simulation, is Subnautica. In this underwater adventure, you must explore the dangerous depths of an oceanic planet that you have crashed your spaceship into. This may be the first survival type game to take place fully underwater, in an atmosphere that can go from peaceful and idyllic to violent and deadly in a very short period of time – sort of like a real ocean. But the sci-fi staples are there in earnest too, including some of the most frightening monsters to ever stalk the screen.

For storytelling, I am looking at The Council, by relative newcomer Big Bad Wolf. The developers there don’t use twitch events like Telltale games, but instead concentrate on deep roleplaying and storytelling. And what a story. The first episode takes place in 1793 on a private island owned by a fabulously wealthy, shadowy figure. All kinds of famous people visit the island for his parties, including George Washington and Napoleon. You fall into this mix, and need to investigate behind the scenes and find out what is really going on, even as murder and mayhem sneak into this enigmatic private sanctuary.

Mobile games are white hot right now, and will probably be for the foreseeable future, as nearly everyone plays something on their phones. In that arena, we get to see quite a lot through our Time Waster column, written by gaming expert Billy White and published every Saturday. There are so many mobile games released all the time, that narrowing it down to just a few to highlight is difficult, but I would like to turn your attention to The X-Files: Deep State, which is available for iOS and Android. The game follows two new X-Files investigators through a series of hidden object puzzles with deep adventure elements. It’s a ton of fun, free to play, and presented as a series of episodes, just like the classic TV show.

I know there are a lot of games yet to come out, and we will probably learn of even more at E3 in about a week. But for now, these are what I consider the frontrunners for a GOTY in their respective categories. Perhaps they will be outpaced and left in the dust, or perhaps some of them will hold on till the end of the year, but they are all fun titles regardless. If you have a few moments, check them out!

How did our guest columnist do? Let us know in the comments section below, and tell us what games you are already anxious to vote for in a game of the year contest.

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