James Lynch – Destiny 2: Shadowkeep
Now look, hear me out. I fully understand that a lot of people have sailed permanently away from the S.S. Destiny, but I have personally clung desperately on waiting for the good times to return. Shadowkeep is those good times. The return of Eris from her long absence brought the Hive to the forefront once again, and the game is miles better for it.
The additional content that the expansion brought is, almost exclusively, appealing (to me at least). The fact that Bungie split from Activision earlier in the year may or may not be a coincidence, but the output without the great overlords above is markedly different from what came before. The Pit of Heresy may also be my favourite dungeon in the game’s history and I think it all comes back to the fact that this game now feels like an improved, prettier, updated version of the first at its peak, and I love that. It’s also the game I’ve played 15 times more than anything else this year (don’t shoot me).
Ben Gibson – Mordhau
Mordhau is the type of game that can simultaneously be a technical, skill based multiplayer hack and slash title as well as one where you can throw all of that out the window, embrace the ridiculousness of it and have just as good a time. Create your build and carefully customise your weapon, armour and cosmetic items for maximum effectiveness, or go in shirtless with a lute, play the Mortal Kombat theme, then turn the lute on its head and smash the other guy over the head with it. It’s stupid fun, and not in a bad way. The meme-iest multiplayer maulfest of 2019, Mordhau also wins the award for the best tutorial probably ever. Get it and find out why.
Peter Sallale – Control
Control is a masterpiece of a game. Bombastic, fluid combat makes players feel like a reality warping powerhouse. The art direction, especially the use of brutalist architecture, is unmatched by other games of this year. Exploring the Oldest House as Jesse Faden and learning more about this strange world is a surprisingly compelling aspect in itself; the world is filled with the surreal, the weird, the melancholy, and everything in between. Control is an experience that is hard to forget, and Remedy Entertainment has another hit on their hands.
Elijah Gonzalez – Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
For what feels like the umpteenth time, FromSoftware has reinvented their much beloved house style to deliver something challenging and captivating. At its core, it succeeds at the same things that have made the Souls games such a phenomenon. It’s hard, but not egregiously so. There are almost no throwaway encounters, each duel requiring focus and mastery of the core mechanics. While the Souls games retaught many of us what it’s like to feel truly at the mercy of a single-player game, Sekiro pushes these bounds further by placing so much importance on its parrying mechanic. Here precision is everything. Mastering the particular timings of each new foe takes on the cadence of a rhythm game, your diligence rewarded with the immensely satisfying pang of a deflected blade. While it is not exceedingly open-ended, exploring this world, with its half-explained logic, is enrapturing. Mysterious paths unfurl in disparate directions, each further unveiling grim visions of atrophy and decay. It all culminates in a dizzying final boss fight, a whirlwind of lighting and flashing steel that is not only one of the best encounters FromSoftware has ever crafted but is one of the best climatic showdowns in recent gaming history.
Emily Shiel – Life is Strange 2
Life is Strange 2 was one of my absolute favourite games of 2019. It wasn’t afraid to dive into heavier topics head first and change the severity of its tone. This addition to the Life is Strange universe brought up issues of strict immigration policies, police brutality, racism and the loss of a loved one in such a much more direct way than the previous games.
It also still had its moments of levity and gave us genuinely heartfelt interactions between Daniel and Sean. It was truly a unique story and worked well as a standalone to its predecessor. The performances by both Gonzalo Martin (Sean) and Roman Dean George(Daniel) felt real and honest.
It’s clear to see that LiS 2 is a game written with so much heart. DontNod should be proud of the series they have created.
Benjamin Williams – Dicey Dungeons
My game of the year is Dicey Dungeons. It combines an adorable game show aesthetic with thoughtful turn-based strategy and throws in a light-yet-meaningful narrative. Dice are used and abused in creative and heart-wrenching ways and the different characters have playstyles that match their personalities. I 100%-ed this game because I wanted to see everything it had, including the devilish Halloween update! Come for the cute characters, stay for the chirpy dialogue and random-but-fair gameplay!
Thank you, once again, good folks of the internet for reading. Please do make sure to check back regularly for fresh content throughout 2020!