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Games of the Year 2019: Honourable Mentions

“I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne is just more of the same. I give them props for the number of monsters they added but it doesn't feel like as big an upgrade that the "Ultimate" versions of the past have.

The story is even more nonsensical, the writing is even worse, you still can't join friend's missions until they reach a certain cutscene and the end game griding is boring.

I do still like the core game and will continue to play it but I honestly want to see Capcom abandon the World franchise and move back towards the Monster Hunter Generations style where gameplay is the focus over graphics and "story".

Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11 is more of the same from NetherRealm Studios and that isn't a bad thing. It has great graphics with an engaging story and tight combat mechanics. Amazingly none of the tweaks they made to the combat seem to have been for the worse. Replacing X-ray moves with Fatal Blows was a great idea, and the addition of Krushing Blows and amplified moves add more tactical elements to the fights.

The only reason Mortal Kombat 11 is on the honourable mentions instead of the good list is because of the final boss. NetherRealm Studios seems to be incapable of making a final boss that does not suck and they really took it to 11 with Kronika. She behaves like nothing you have fought before, can summon a T-Rex, is immune to most of your attacks and when she reaches half health she summons a random enemy that you have to defeat before you can finish her off. After losing to her for what felt like hours, I finally managed to cheese her by simply spamming the two kick buttons over and over again because apparently that is how you can stun lock her.

I don't understand why fighting games always have final bosses that go completely against the core gameplay, but until NetherRealm Studios figures this out they are probably going to land in the honourable mentions every time.

Phoenix Point

I backed Phoenix Point on fig.co all the way back in June 2017. It was supposed to be the true spiritual successor to X-COM: UFO Defense because it was designed by the same man, Julian Gollop.

An hour or two in the game I had such high hopes. The expanded Geoscape, realistic bullet modeling and ability to aim freely were all things that I thought I wanted in Firaxis' XCOM reboot. But 10 hours later I realized how wrong I was. While I don't think these game mechanics are bad, I think Snapshot Games implemented them haphazardly. Rather than make Phoenix Point feel more strategic and tactical, it instead feels tedious, boring and sometimes incredibly frustrating.

Another major issue is that Phoenix Point makes basically no attempt to tell you anything about the game. Learning through trial and error is the only way. In the past I faulted Firaxis for not having enough variety in the research and combat of the XCOM reboot. But Phoenix Point has the inverse problem where there are simply too many options and absolutely no indication as to what the results will be. With Firaxis' game I blamed myself for making poor decisions but with Phoenix Point I blame the game for essentially lying to me.

Also I want to give serious props to the UX designers at Firaxis. After playing Phoenix Point I can say the UI in XCOM is 1000 times better. Phoenix Point straight up hides information from the user for some fucking reason. Your assault classes can have the ability to "return fire" and this is extremely useful to know because you may position that character in a way so they will be shot. But for whatever god damn reason when you're in the tactical layer there is no way to know if your character has that ability or not. You simply must remember that you gave it to that character otherwise you are SOL.

It sounds like I may hate this game but I am really just disappointed because I can see the potential. I still want what most of this game offers it just needs to have baked a bit longer or have gotten a polish pass from more experienced game developers. I really hope Jake Solomon and the devs at Firaxis are playing Phoenix Point and incorporating some of these concepts into XCOM 3.

Totally Accurate Battle Simulator

While I don't think it has a lot of legs, Totally Accurate Battle Simulator is a goofy, physics sandbox game that warrants its $15 price tag. It is one of those games that is going be more enjoyable for players who have a furtive imagination. I think I'm on the low end of this so I can only play the game for 60 minutes or so before I get bored. But it is one of those games that I seem to be able to come back to every month for another 60 minutes of fun once my brain has recharged.

Rage 2

Rage 2 is the perfect example of a first-person shooter that should not have been turned into an open world game. It has the amazing combat you would expect from a game jointly developed by Avalanche Studios and id Software. The first person shooting and superhuman powers work together amazingly well.

The problem is that to get into combat you need to traverse across a mostly empty open world in a vehicle that is built like a steak house, but handles like a bistro. Another negative side effect of the open world is that all of those cool superhuman powers you get are from "arks" scattered across the world. So if you don't realize that you should go to all of them ASAP you could end up playing most of the game without some of the coolest abilities. It is a really bizarre design decision to actively hide some of the best parts of your game. By the time I finished I had only found 40% of all possible weapons and powers.

I can't recommend anyone buy Rage 2 because it isn't worth $60. Maybe if you find it for $20 on sale. But at this point in time you're probably better off waiting until March and playing Doom Eternal instead.

Apex Legends

Respawn Entertainment is one of my favorite developers so when I heard they were taking on the battle royale genre with Apex Legends I jumped in. At its core Apex Legends is a very fun game. The faster paced combat combined with the verticality and character powers breathed new life into the genre.

Unfortunately there were two major sticking points that caused me to bounce off and stop playing Apex Legends. The first was my teammates. I didn't have anyone to play with so I had to solo queue with randoms. The number of teammates who immediately disconnected or would land seperately and run off and die happened nearly every game. But the second problem which really broke me was I didn't understand why I wasn't winning. The character powers and healing items did breathe new life into the battle royale genre but it also made it near impossible to understand why you didn't kill someone or why they killed you.

I realize this sounds like me making excuses for my losses but I would much rather play a game like Dota 2 where I have a better understanding of where I can improve rather than roll the dice in Apex Legends.

Yoshi's Crafted World

There really isn't much to say about Yoshi's Crafted World. It is not as good as some of Nintendo's other platformers for the Switch but if you're looking for something that is a bit easier and a little more whimsical you can't go wrong.

Super Robot Wars T

I only played Super Robot Wars T on a flight to/from Toronto this summer. It was a fun turn based tactics game but was far too deep for me at the time. It felt like one of those games I'd need to have a guide open or theorycraft to really get into it. Also the sheer amount of fan service for animes that I had never seen became very overwhelming.

That being said I actually do kinda wanna go back and play it. The combat was fun as daunting as it was.