Recognizing the best games we played on PC this year.
Playing games on PC provides a very unique kind of joy, a very different kind of experience from what a massive number of people get on consoles. While there are obviously loads of games that are common across PC and consoles, some of the best PC games out there are the ones that are tailor-made for that platform, for that platform’s audience, with its biggest strengths kept in mind, while it’s fair to say that even with the games that are released on both consoles and PC, most of them end up running, looking, and playing much better on the latter. As such, it’s quite hard for PC gaming to have a bad year, and 2018 was, in keeping with that trend, an excellent year for those who play games on PC. Here, we’re trying to undertake the unenviable task of picking out just fifteen of our favourite games from a mammoth catalogue, before going to give the top honours to a single one out of all of them.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
THE NOMINEES ARE…
Subnautica isn’t your typical survival tile. That’s not to say it doesn’t have the kind of mechanics you would normally expect to see in survival titles. Collecting resources and building up your base are very much part of the gameplay loop- but where other games in the genre tell you to, first and foremost, collect resources in harsh environments and unforgiving circumstances, Subnautica allows you to pause, take a knee, and look at the view. And, boy is it a view worth looking at. Its deep, vast, open seas are ripe for exploration, and full of beautiful things to gawk at.
INTO THE BREACH
A passing glance might give you the impression that Into the Breach is yet another tactical turn based strategy game, an indie take on the likes of XCOM. But you know what they say- never judge a book by its cover. Because while it certainly is an indie take on the likes of XCOM, it is, in many ways, better than this genre has ever been, with a strong and unforgettable identity of its own. Its battles are short and engaging, yet full of opportunities for thinking up and executing tactics. On top of that, powered by the writing of the legendary Chris Avellone, and an excellent, mood-setting soundtrack, it comes out as an extremely well-rounded experience that absolutely should not be missed.
The random procedural generation of a roguelike should not meld well with the meticulous level design and developer determined progression of a metroidvania game at all. And yet, against all odds, logic, and game design common sense, developers Motion Twin have managed to make it work, somehow. Dead Cells is a deft blend of two genres that are entirely at odds with one another, and in the process, delivers one of the most memorable games of the year, not just on PC, but in general.
MONSTER HUNTER WORLD
Monster Hunter has technically released on PC before (though never in the West), but Monster Hunter World was, if we’re not splitting hairs, the introduction to Capcom’s popular franchise for many PC players. And what an introduction it was. Releasing a few months after its console launch earlier in 2018, Monster Hunter World on PC was defined by the same strengths that took the world by storm on PS4 and Xbox One in January, while the added benefits of buttery smooth performance and shinier visuals added to the experience even more.
Celeste is a game that takes you by surprise when you first play it- it’s not that you don’t expect it to be good, but just how good it is, and in how many ways, is frankly surprising. Its inch perfect platforming and smart level design, both of which combine to make for a challenging experience that prods players to keep on trying again and again even in the face of constant failures, makes for a compelling experience that is hard to get out of. But even if you’re not one who cares for platformers all that much, Celeste is still a game with a lot of heart, propped up by excellent writing that delivers a moving story.
FORZA HORIZON 4
The Forza franchise continues to move from strength to strength, and Playground Games continues to show that the Horizon offshoot can be just as engaging as experience as the Motorsport mainline- if not even more so. Forza Horizon 4 is a stellar experience, where the simple act of driving around is utterly blissful, and is leveraged excellently by its variety of things to do, excellent open world, and infinite replayability. This is also a game that looks absolutely stunning, and if you have a system that can run it on the highest possible settings, it delivers a visual experience like no other.
Frostpunk’s premise as cross between a survival title and a city builder is something that immediately sounds interesting on paper. When you play it, it puts its money where its mouth is. Frostpunk is a harrowing yet utterly compelling experience, which uses its beautiful visual aesthetic to pull you right into its fascinating world, its consequential decisions to keep you consistently engrossed, and its storytelling chops to deliver a strong narrative where you might not be expecting one. It’s not a breezy experience, but if you’re looking for something different, and something that you will remember for years to come, Frostpunk is the perfect fix for you.
THE BANNER SAGA 3
The Banner Saga is a series that found its footing from the very first second of its very first outing, and these were strengths that it continued to build on constantly. With The Banner Saga 3, the conclusion to this epic story, the series reached its absolute zenith. An excellent story that served as a satisfactory conclusion to an engrossing tale, mature and thoughtful writing, weighty choice and consequence mechanics, and an engaging tactical combat system are strengths that have defined Stoic’s RPG series since its inception, and with the conclusion to their saga, they have honed their craft to near perfection.
After several years in early access, Endnight Games’ survival-slash-horror title The Forest received its much-awaited full release this year. The progress it had made while it was in early access had convinced one and all that it would be a stellar experience- which, as it turned out, it was. The Forest’s desolate and haunting setting is one that will immediately pull you in, but what will make you stay is its completely open ended structure, that puts you into a harsh environment full of dangerous and mysterious things and people, and tells you to survive as best you can. It’s a gruelling and compelling experience, and one that stands as one of the best and most imaginative survival titles ever made.
Take Hitman’s 2016 reboot, which finally brought the series back to fan adoration, and make it bigger and better in every possible way. It’s a simple mandate that Hitman 2 followed, and it executed it flawlessly. It could have gone wrong in a lot of ways- there are many sequels that have failed in doing just that. But Hitman 2 delivers a staggeringly fine crafted stealth game, possibly the greatest one of this generation, with its sandbox providing infinite possibilities for emergent gameplay, and making it perhaps the best game in the series since Blood Money.
FOOTBALL MANAGER 2019
You know exactly what you’re going to get with Football Manager 2019 if you’ve played this series before- it’s a good thing, then, that what you get is a solid, dangerously addictive, and obsessively detailed management sim that oozes love for the sport of football and everything to do with it. Developers Sports Interactive have been at the top of their games for as long as anyone can remember, and Football Manager 2019 is probably the best the series has been in years. It does, of course, bring over the same compelling structure the series is known for, while significant improvements made to key areas make it an even deeper and more tactical experience.
Given how crowded the turn based strategy genre is with excellent releases (even in 2018, as the previously mentioned Into the Breach illustrates), it’s hard for any game to be able to stand out. And yet Harebrained Schemes’ BattleTech manages to do just that. It’s an incredibly challenging yet deeply addictive game that you might not expect to think much of at first, given its admittedly uninspired presentation, but the more you play it, the more you fall in love with it. A lot of the credit for that also goes to its incredible setting, its captivating narrative, and a surprisingly amazing soundtrack.
Though disguising itself behind the veil of a simplistic looking 2D point and click adventure, Unavowed is one of the tightest and most compelling experiences to have been released on PC this year. From its strong visual design to its excellent writing, from its incredible atmosphere to its compelling narrative, from its memorable cast of characters to its imaginative and captivating setting, Unavowed is an unforgettable ride from start to finish.
RETURN OF THE OBRA DINN
Return of the Obra Dinn screams originality with every fibre of its being. It’s instantly apparent the moment you first lay eyes on its monochrome yet oddly attractive visual design, and becomes even clearer as you play more of it. Its twisting and turning narrative keeps throwing curveballs at you, but everything feels earned, intelligent, and merited. Its characters are solidly written and excellently developed, making the already strong narrative that much more compelling. Its puzzle design is intelligent and creative, so much so that you look forward to the next one even while you’re wrestling with whatever the game has just thrown at you. Return of the Obra Dinn is a very unique experience, and one that imprints itself in your memory with its constant excellence.
NI NO KUNI 2: REVENANT KINGDOM
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on the PS3 has one of the most devoted and dedicated fanbases, so any game following up to it would have had to live up to immense expectations. Whether or not Revenant Kingdom is as good as or better than is predecessor is up for debate- what is inarguable is that on its own two legs, its a wonderful game. On a superficial level, its beautiful visual aesthetic and immediately attractive art lends the game immeasurable life, while on a deeper level, its charming cast of characters and fantastical setting make your stay even more memorable. With an improved combat system and a surprisingly full-featured and addictive kingdom building and managing mechanic added on top, Ni no Kuni 2 becomes that much more compelling as an experience.
AND THE WINNER IS…
THE BANNER SAGA 3
Stoid Studio’s Banner Saga is a franchise that crept up out of nowhere and took our breath away with two excellent outings. Given the quality of the first two games, expectations were high for The Banner Saga 3, and these were expectations that it delivered on in spades. When a franchise is as story-focused and reliant on player choice as The Banner Saga is, reaching a satisfactory conclusion is no easy task – as several examples over the years will tell you – so the fact that The Banner Saga 3 delivers a conclusion that is more than satisfying, while also retaining and improving upon the core strengths that made its predecessors so great, should tell you all you need to know about just how spectacular it is. Though The Banner Saga 3 is dwarfed by industry heavyweights in terms of visibility or budget, it stands toe to toe with the best of the best in terms of sheer quality.