Welcome to the end of the decade; the end of the 2010s; Al at Decade’s End. This is a miniseries where I celebrate the past ten years in video games, starting by talking about my favourite games from each year, and ending with the end-of-year extravaganza for 2019! The games I talk about here might not necessarily be the best of the decade, but they sure left the best impressions on me for one reason or another. Now we’re moving onto lists! And so, without any more delay, we begin our look at my top 5 games of 2019!
5. Mortal Kombat 11
We can’t have a top list without a fighting game, I just love them so much. Mortal Kombat 11 is the one fighting game released this year that I thought was the best of the pack. While the gameplay itself has been a bit toned down in terms of speed and craziness compared to Mortal Kombat X, it has some of the best feature sets out of any fighting game within the modern landscape. First and foremost is the game’s phenomenal tutorial which not only explains the mechanics of Mortal Kombat in an easy to understand way, but also takes the time to break down certain important concepts shared across all fighting games like the neutral game and frame data. It might be a bit much at first, but it’s amazing for those who are maybe picking up MK11 as their first fighting game or just want to see a good explanation of fighting games. The other amazing thing about Mortal Kombat 11 is the online multiplayer. MK11 has one of the best implementations of fighting game netcode I’ve seen, which in layman’s terms means online matches are almost always smooth barring some absolutely terrible internet connections. The game basically has the two most important things a modern fighting game should have: a good tutorial and a good netcode. The half decent single player offering doesn’t hurt either. Overall, Mortal Kombat 11 is a game that should serve as an example for other fighting games to follow going forward.
4. Kingdom Hearts 3
I’m just going to get this out of the way now: I was disappointed by Kingdom Hearts 3. As a conclusion to a story I had been following for more than a decade it was extremely lackluster. Despite that however, this game is still super fun as an action RPG. The Kingdom Hearts series has always had interesting combat, with Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix having some of my favourite combat ever in an action RPG, and KH3 is no different. While I still prefer the second numbered game, KH3 succeeds in blending the KH1 and KH2 battle systems with the more experimental systems of the spin-off titles in a satisfying way that provides both style and depth. The game is also gorgeous, and has an amazing soundtrack. If you can get past the strange disjointed story, Kingdom Hearts 3 is a very fun action RPG with decent replayability.
3. Tetris 99
I was super impressed by how Apex Legends came out of nowhere with basically zero fanfare and stole a good chunk of the battle royale market overnight. As far as fun factor goes however, Tetris 99 is by far the most fun battle royale game out there. It’s literally just you playing battle Tetris vs 98 other players, and it’s about as hectic as it sounds. Out of every game I played in 2019, Tetris 99 is the one that had my heart pumping the most. It’s also free to play on the Nintendo Switch! There really isn’t much else to say about Tetris 99. It’s mass multiplayer Tetris. It’s free. Play it.
2. Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers
SPOILER WARNING – SKIP TO #1 TO AVOID. TL;DR This is the best Final Fantasy story in a VERY long time.
Is it cheating to put a game expansion on this list? Probably, but Shadowbringers is just that good. The third expansion in Square Enix’s relaunch of MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV Online, Shadowbringers builds on a huge world revelation introduced way back in the Heavensward expansion story by taking the player to what amounts to a parallel dimension that’s been all but destroyed by your parallel self being way too good at his job of being a Warrior of Light. This sets the stage for arguably the best storytelling in the entire game’s history, and in my opinion one of the best stories in the entire Final Fantasy franchise. Yes, it’s up there with Final Fantasy 6 for me. Shadowbringers also features one of the best soundtracks in the entire franchise. I really don’t understand how the team did so much right in an MMO in order for me to hold it in higher regard that most single player games. Before Shadowbringers, I would have seen the very idea as improbable at best. On top of the amazing dramatic elements, Shadowbringers introduces two new job classes into the mix: the Gunbreaker tank job class and the Dancer ranged damage dealing job class. Gunbreaker is a Final Fantasy 8 fan’s dream come true, as it makes use of the famous gunblade to both protect and deal massive amounts of damage compared to the other tanks, and Dancer is a unique take on the support damage dealer archetype with buffs, debuffs and healing all rolled into one. If neither of those strike your fancy, most of the jobs were overhauled except for Samurai, which is already perfect (SAM mains rise up). As of the time I’m writing this, the first wing of a Nier: Automata crossover raid dungeon has been added as well, and if nothing else, just listen to the Weight of the World remix that was done for it. Enough rambling though, I love Shadowbringers.
1. The Outer Worlds
My top game of 2019 is Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds. When I first saw the reveal trailer of this game I could only think of one thing: Fallout in space. That thought was all it took to get me hyped for this game. It’s been such a long time since a western developed RPG captured my attention as much as The Outer Worlds has. While there were some unfortunate side effects from me playing the Xbox One version (the loading screens…oh God…), the writing and the character building kept me going until the very end. At the very start you wake up from cryogenic suspension as a colonist in a distant galaxy that’s being run into the ground by greedy corporations, and it’s up to you how you want to make yourself known to the settler and corporate factions within the Halcyon colony. The biggest thing that I walked away loving about The Outer Worlds is the fact that the way you build your character affects them in every aspect of gameplay, from combat and exploration to dialogue. For example, if you have a high enough medicine skill you can pick dialogue options that draw upon your medical knowledge for unique solutions to problems, and dialogue focused skills like persuasion give your character the ability to inflict certain debuffs to your enemies in combat specific to the persuasion skill. My personal favourite however, has to be one tied to the Flaws system, in which you have the option to take on character flaws in exchange for extra perks of your choice. After a somewhat harrowing fight against some robot constructs, I took on the self-explanatory Robophobia flaw. From that point forward, almost every robot I spoke to gave me the choice to scream uncontrollably as a dialogue option. Combat itself felt a bit clunky on a controller, but was made much more fun and bearable with the Tactical Time Dilation mechanic, the ability to slow time for brief moments that’s explained as an “unfortunate” side effect of coming out of cryosleep that will likely never heal. Specializing my character into long guns and picking off enemies one by one with slow-motion shots from my silenced sniper rifle was an extremely good feeling. I can’t wait to try more character builds in The Outer Worlds, especially when the eventual DLC drops. This is my game of the year for 2019.
Stay tuned until next time, where I talk about my biggest missed opportunities of 2019!