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Cai’s Best of 2018

An indie rules the roost

This year, the Doublejump Management decided to use Game of the Year time to allow each of its writers to shine individually by producing a short article containing their Game of the Year selection for 2018 along with up to two honourable mentions and up to five things that they’re looking forward to seeing in gaming in 2019. As always, we more than welcome your thoughts and opinions as well; head on over to our Discord server or our newly-created Facebook Group to discuss gaming’s past year with our team and our community!

My Game of the Year: Celeste

There were a lot of not very surprising hits this year, with Red Dead Redemption 2, Spider-Man and God of War among others absolutely sweeping up the award season, but my personal game of the year has to go to the surprise contestant, Celeste. I worried that because it released so early in the year, some of the bigger games from bigger developers would overshadow it, but its Game of the Year nomination at The Game Awards has confirmed that it’s a well-respected game despite its smaller developer and more limited resources.

Celeste is an incredibly strong game in every respect, from tightly controlled and simply designed gameplay that uses different mechanics to full advantage, to the introspective and deceptively simple story that ties the game together. Celeste has a lot to say, and says it clearly and concisely. The game can take however long the player wants, depending on if they want to just breeze through the story or focus on collecting strawberries and completing bonus challenges. Celeste has so much replay value, and all of the difficulty comes from level design rather than cheap gimmicks.

As a final bonus, the incredible Lena Raine gives us a soundtrack that is atmospheric and easy to listen to, and manages to not be grating as you replay a difficult section 160 times; the cherry on top of an outstanding platformer. Celeste is a triple-A game hidden behind an indie label and an indie price tag, so I cannot recommend it enough.

Honourable mention: Chrono Trigger

The only reason Chrono Trigger is an honorable mention is that it’s actually from 1995, but it’s on my list since I only ever got around to playing it this year. As classic RPGs go, this is one that always slipped by me, but I finally remembered it existed a few weeks ago, and I’m hooked. The party system is neat and defined, which I appreciate, and the gameplay is simple. I also appreciate the option to enable real time combat, which adds a bit more tension and panic to every encounter, and the soundtrack is certainly on its way to being stuck in my head forever. The storyline has got me intrigued – time-travel is always cool – and there are enough side missions to keep me engaged when the story starts to slow. 9/10 stars, Chrono Trigger. You get the other star when I finish it.

Honourable mention: Persona 5

I can’t figure out whether I actually like Persona 5 or not. It’s so long and so winding, I have no idea how far in I actually am and whether I can make a judgement just yet. All I know is, I like all the characters (except Yusuke, obviously) and I like interacting with them. Persona 5 is the first modern JRPG I’ve ever gotten really into, and it hasn’t been what I expected. The reason Persona 5 is on my list is that there’s a dancing game spinoff now, which is… good… I guess? Being honest, I don’t understand why there’s a dancing game spinoff of Persona, but you keep doing you, Atlus. I respect that.

What I’m Looking Forward to in 2019

Cyberpunk 2077: Cyberpunk 2077 will be the absolute biggest smash hit of next year, as long as it actually releases. CD Projekt Red has been protective of its scheduled release date, and it’s already been delayed several times, so there’s no guarantee that it will come out any time soon, but the 45-minute gameplay demo the studio showed off at E3 earlier this year has reinvigorated confidence that it’ll be ready soon. I could never really get into the Witcher series, since I’m a little sick of the classic medieval fantasy setting, so I’m really looking forward to a game with CD Projekt Red’s pedigree, in a setting that I’m actually interested in. Give me Blade Runner meets 1970s punk and I will be a very happy man.

Necrobarista: Necrobarista is a coffee-based narrative game set in Melbourne, and it’s coming out early 2019, which ticks all of my boxes. I had the pleasure of chatting to the game’s lead designer earlier this year, and he assures me that there are several intertwining plot threads, and a player won’t be able to see all of them at once. In his words, “there’s a slice of life drama, there’s one about undead Yakuza and there’s one about a teenage love story,” so it’s really bringing something for a lot of different demographics. While we’ll have to wait and see how the narrative plays out, we’ve already seen the general art design which is fantastic, so if nothing else, it’s going to look absolutely fantastic.

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