Wow, what a weird year that was. It may have seen its fair share of disappointments, such as the closure of Telltale Games, but there were also highlights too. Enough to celebrate in our annual GameWatcher Game of the Year 2018 Awards!
2018 saw Command and Conquer return (for worse and eventually better). The old-school FPS seemed to take over from the new-school, at least until 2019. Steam finally got some competition, but not before the entire PC gaming landscape got splintered. Star Wars received a multitude of knocks in the form of The Last Jedi backlash, the Solo: A Star Wars Story collective shrug, the epic Star Wars Rebels show being replaced with the embarrassing Resistance, and Star Wars Battlefront 2 barely clinging to life.
So it's time for the GOTY awards to celebrate the best PC games of the year! You know, the ones that aren't exclusive to console, thank you very much Rockstar. Starting with...
Assassin's Creed Odyssey
Chris J Capel: I played Assassin's Creed Odyssey around the same time as Red Dead Redemption 2 (yes, I own a PS4 too), and many similarities struck me about the games - they're both historical open-world games with a heck of a lot of detail, hundreds of hours of content, epic stories, and a lot of horse-riding. The difference between them is... Assassin's Creed Odyssey doesn't waste your time, and it doesn't have controls that were designed by someone who's never played a videogame before.
I honestly, actually prefer the latest Assassin's Creed to Red Dead 2 - which is still an excellent game, don't get me wrong, but I can actually Fast Travel back to my damned home base in Odyssey, which instantly makes me like it more. The combat is fantastic, the range of things to do is amazing, the open world breathtaking, and being able to choose my main character is the icing on the cake. Plus there's ship combat straight out of Black Flag. If you're a PC-only gamer missing Red Dead, play Odyssey instead. It'll hurt a lot less.
Jonah Falcon: As someone who played the original id Software games back in the 1990's, Dusk brought back memories of cacodemons and arch-viles of the original Doom, but refined to the Nth degree.
Chris J Capel: Dusk is the FPS I've been waiting 18 years for. It's basically a mix of Quake 1 and Blood - two of my favourite shooters. It's a retro-style FPS with secret rooms, killer enemies, powerful weapons, and straightforward graphics that are barely Unreal 1, let alone Unreal 4. Nevertheless, that's not enough to make it a GOTY contender. Dusk goes one step beyond by having incredible, imaginative level design - levels that flip! Set in darkness! Full of traps! Flood completely halfway through! - superb and downright scary enemies, and occasionally a sense of humour. Dusk is just as good as if not better than Quake. And it takes a lot for me to admit that.
Filip Galekovic: I'll be playing Dusk over the holiday break for sure. The rest of the staff at GameWatcher has been gushing about the thing for too long, so yeah.
Jonah Falcon: 2018 was not a good year for me for PC games. Many of the games that I was looking forward to and actually played - like Far Cry 5, Call of Cthulhu, and Vampyr - ended up being at best mediocre, and at worst a complete waste of time. If it was released on PC, I'd have easily gone with Red Dead Redemption 2.
For my best PC game of the year, I'm going with a small indie title Cultist Simulator. While Call of Cthulhu tried hard to capture the feel of H.P. Lovecraft, Cultist Simulator did it almost effortlessly, just with its simple aethestic and haunting music. The game also dispensed with any sort of tutorial, leaving the player to figure out how cards interacted - a deliberate decision by developer, Weather Factory, who weighed the pros and cons of having one, before deciding to not have one.
Filip Galekovic: I'm not usually one for nostalgia, but for me, Dead Cells has that in droves. It's not a simple thing to understand, but back when I was a kid, I used to play all these Java games on my (dumb) phone, and one of my favourites was Gameloft's Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. From the moment I first played Dead Cells, it has had the same brutal, visceral feeling that Warrior Within had back in the day, though it did take me a bit to figure out just why whole thing felt so familiar! Bottom line: good god, Dead Cells is amazing.
Two Point Hospital
Chris J Capel: Theme Hospital is one of my favourite-ever games, and I've been hoping for an update - and a continuation of the Theme series - for a long time, to no avail. Then, out of the blue, the original designers showed up with Two Point Hospital and now I never need to worry about Bloaty Heads ever again - just Jest Infection. Two Point Hospital isn't just a perfect update of Theme Hospital, it corrects all its problems, adds an Aardman-like style, and presents a load of its own ideas that really add to the game. The most sheer joy I've had playing a game all year - and frustration, admittedly, once I realized how incompetent my nurse running the Pharmacy was.
Bogdan Robert Mateș: It has become quite common, in the past few years, to find myself more impressed by indie efforts than by large blockbusters and 2018 is no exception. Although it barely released this month, Nomada Studio’s dreamlike puzzle platformer Gris was the most impactful experience of the year for me across all media. An abstract journey through dealing with grief, its watercolor world constantly oozes beauty, favoring exploration at one’s own pace as there’s no death to worry about. The melancholic yet uplifting story it tells, or rather suggests through audio cues and elements of the environment, went straight to my heart. Although it’s not particularly challenging, fluid movement and moments of ingenuity in some of its puzzles more than make up for it. It might be a bit of a strange choice, but if there’s one game from 2018 that’s bound to stick with me for a long time, it’s Gris.
Synthetik: Legion Rising
Filip Galekovic: Synthetik is not a title many have heard of, which strikes me as odd. It is one of the most obvious homages to the whole Robocop, synth-wave aesthetic which permeated the late eighties, all the while combining this sort of visual style with modern gameplay mechanics neatly packaged into a rogue-lite the likes of which you've never seen before. Synthetik is brutal, with weapons that scatter cyborgs across entire rooms, and with gun control features not even ARMA would be ashamed of. Dead Cells got ahead and won out in the end, but not by much.
Warhammer Vermintide 2
Bogdan Robert Mateș: When I took to Steam to check how many hours I had spent in Warhammer: Vermintide 2 this year, I was surprised to see the counter show a few over one hundred. I certainly don’t remember having played this much, but I guess that goes to show how good a job Fatshark did with their sequel. The five charismatic heroes from the original received three classes each, catering to different playstyles. The sneaky Skaven befriended some of Nurgle’s pestilent followers and got a few of their bigger friends to join as ruthless bosses. There’s significantly more loot, a refreshed focus on staying close to your team and helping each other when enemy hordes pour down upon you, and, on top of everything, brutal, meaty, visceral first-person combat. If you’re into Warhammer’s take on fantasy or co-op titles, this one’s a must have.
Chris J Capel: If you've been looking for the successor to Left 4 Dead, this is it. So much fun.
BATMAN: THE ENEMY WITHIN: Telltale's last full game was their second Batman season, and also (heart-breakingly) their best game, with the series all about building your own Joker who would be unleashed in the final episode - which can play completely differently based on your choices. A perfect swansong for Telltale.
JURASSIC PARK: EVOLUTION: It may have had its flaws, such as a general lack of depth, but it was so much fun to manage those dinosaurs. "Jurassic Park management simulator by a fantastic management sim developer" was a game pitch we'd dreamed of, and Planet Coaster devs Frontier thankfully provided. Worth it for the Nvidia Ansel support, really.
STAR CONTROL: ORIGINS: Stardock picked up the Star Control license and, astonishingly, did it right. Star Control Origins is fun, funny, and all together engaging, but a few technical issues let it down. Still, a worthy runner-up for GOTY.
A WAY OUT: A Way Out is without a doubt the most satisfying co-op experience we’ve ever had, beating even Left 4 Dead, but not enough of the team played it to nominate one of our perfect 10 scoring games this year.
PILLARS OF ETERNITY II: DEADFIRE: A truly amazing RPG and another of our two 10 scores this year, with our review Aron Gerencser calling it "as close to the perfect RPG as one can get." Don't overlook it, even if the rest of us did. Whoops.
And now... without further ado...
The GameWatcher Game of the Year 2018 is...
Perhaps a surprising winner, but a unanimous one! Yes, the retro FPS Dusk is the GameWatcher Game of the Year! It received three nominations from the team (compared to every other game here, which just got one) and everyone else said they couldn't wait to play it. It wouldn't be enough to simply imitate Quake 1, Duke Nukem 3D, Blood or other classic late 90s FPSs to get our GOTY - Dusk is a successor to them. It take those classic shooters as a blueprint and adds its own style, own ideas, and clever gameplay changes.
Most importantly, something you can't imitate is design, and Dusk's level, monster, and weapon designs are all amazing. The levels become increasingly more imaginative and clever, with wonderful secret placement that make them euphoric to find. The enemies are threatening, satisfying to fight, and scary - we haven't had a monster scream at us in this way since that Reaper thing in Blood. And the weapons are just great - there's a crossbow that fires bolts through enemies! Even the pistols stay useful until the end.
A worthy Game of the Year then, and if you're a FPS fan - particularly one craving for the good ol' days of the genre - you need to pick up Dusk.
But do you agree? Disagree? Or just have your own PC game from 2018 you want to nominate? Let us know in the comments! Happy holidays, and have a great 2019! Let's start looking forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.