While I managed to play a good number of games in 2018 that I loved there were also a handful that inhabited that middle ground. They weren't bad games by any stretch but they just didn't grab me like my favorites did.
I debated putting Octopath Traveler on my "bad list" because it is one of my biggest disappointments of 2018. But I really didn't want to group it with the shitty games on that list so I decided it should head up my honourable mentions instead.
I was super in the mood for a JRPG when Octopath Traveler was released and I thought it was going to be one of my games of the year. A couple hours in and it was pushing all of the right buttons. The story for the character I selected was engrossing and the combat system was deep and nuanced. But as the game went on the rough edges of old school JRPGs started to surface and take some of the joy away.
Things like only party members who participate in the battle gain experience and there is no way you can swap characters out mid-combat which leads to a monotonous grind. Also random encounters are incredibly frequent that they become tedious and boss battles are so drawn out that they become boring. While I still maintain my love for the combat system it is not something I want to be doing constantly.
Also it has become apparent to me that I am a fan of the JRPG stories where it is an epic tale affecting the entire world. The completely silo'd stories for each of the 8 characters were far too small for me to truly enjoy. I know some people who loved them but I wanted something much more vast which is why I loved Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age so much.
However, the cardinal sin is that the game presents you with a choice of eight characters at the very beginning with absolutely no knowledge of the combat system or each characters' strengths and weaknesses. You must choose a character that will stay with you for the entirety of the 50+ hour game with this complete lack of knowledge. If you picked a character that you did not like your only option is to restart the game and eventually play that character's opening chapter again. This is absolutely inexcusable and I cannot believe it made it into the final game.
Burnout Paradise Remastered
I thought I was going to enjoy replaying Burnout Paradise Remastered but after about three hours I realized that getting 100% in the game all those years ago burned me out on Burnout Paradise. I still think it is an amazing game and anyone who hasn't played the original should play the remaster. But personally it hasn't been long enough yet to make me want to go back. I feel really stupid writing that last sentence because the game came out a decade ago! How long do I gotta wait?
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 stayed off of my "good list" simply because I didn't play it enough. I probably played about six hours over three nights and while I enjoyed myself it wasn't enough to keep me coming back. Games like this I enjoy playing with friends and it seemed that none of us wanted to be the person who suggested we play Black Ops 4. There was always another game that we were interested in instead.
That being said I think the Blackout mode is the best take on the Battle Royale genre. All of the other popular games are so rough around the edges because they are developed by relatively new companies. When you put the Call of Duty polish onto the Battle Royale mode you get something really fun.
Artifact is Valve's take on a digital collectible card game and they did an amazing job. It is supposed to invoke the feeling that you are playing a match of Dota 2 and it does that in spades. I played it only for a single night (for about three hours) and could immediately see the potential. The game has so much depth and constructing decks has so much nuance due to the introduction of hero cards.
There are two things that have scared me from playing more Artifact. The first is the same thing that scares me away from playing most card games and that is constructing decks. I find it very easy to get paralyzed with choice when trying to create a deck of 60 cards from a selection of hundreds.
The second thing that scares me is Artifact is straight up pay-to-win. There is no way around it. You pay $2 for a pack of 10 cards that are completely random or purchase individual cards off the Steam marketplace which means the price is whatever the community decides. There is a great website that shows how much it costs to own every single card and as of this writing it is about $150 USD. What frightens me is that this number has no upper bounds because Valve can release new cards whenever they want. After a couple of expansions it wouldn't shock me if it cost $500 to own every card.
I wish Artifact were a "living card game" where you can buy all of a certain set of cards so the total price to own everything is constant. Then do the typical Valve thing where you can infinitely monetize cosmetic stuff. It will be interesting to see if this business model works out for Valve or if the inflated cost drives players away.
Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight
I don't have much to say about Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight other than it is a solid rhythm game I put about two hours into and would like to play more. It came out in between Pokémon: Let's Go and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate so you can guess where a lot of my time went instead.
The Swords of Ditto
Elsie and I put an hour or so into The Swords of Ditto. It is a fun Zelda-lite co-op action game but I can't imagine playing it solo. All of our entertainment came from hacking and slashing through monsters and solving puzzles together. We could probably put another hour or three into it before the gameplay got stale but for its low price I would say it is totally worth it.
I know Dota 2 was released over five years ago but with constant updates it is essentially a new game every year. Having watched every The International tournament since 2012, I finally made 2018 the year where I played Dota 2 and I played a lot of it. I kept it off my "good list" since the game technically wasn't released in 2018 but I enjoyed the time that I spent with it. As a competitive multiplayer game it results in a fair number of frustrating moments but they are easily outnumbered by the amount of fair, intense matches that I experienced.
Dota 2 is a very time consuming game though and because of that I haven't played it in about four months. I honestly do want to go back and play more of it but having been away so long I find it daunting to try to understanding all the changes that have occurred. But I wouldn't put it past me to fall back under the spell in 2019.#GamesOfTheYear