This week we’ve started discussing our GOTY picks for 2018. Since we first published this list in July, so many great games have arrived on PC—enough to fill the first two pages of what you’ll read below. Here you’ll find a mix of returning series, indie games, console titles that have finally made the journey to PC, and much more. We’ll update this list again before the end of the year, but you can be pretty certain that some of these games will figure heavily in our GOTY awards.
Football Manager 2019
“Combine all of this with last year’s dynamics system and overhauled medical and scouting systems, and Football Manager 2019 marks another impressive stride forward for the all-encompassing footie management simulator. The long-serving series is the best at what it does, and will be forever judged on its incremental changes year-on-year. Not every annual update is a leap, but this instalment dazzles with both its headline features and a multitude of second tier improvements.”
Verdict: Football Manager returns with a kitbag full of new and overhauled features. It’s the best at what it does, and FM 19 is the best it’s ever been.
“If you can stomach the harsh consequences for failure then Bad North is a great little strategy game, perfect for playing on a break or in short bursts. I keep restarting in spite of the failures and the resets, so that probably speaks volumes for how compelling it is. There’s just something about watching those little sprites batter each other that keeps me coming back. At least until I burn my house down.”
Verdict: Mostly delightful and sometimes punishing, Bad North is a fun alternative to more complex strategy games.
Return of the Obra Dinn
“Return of the Obra Dinn is a stunningly clever thing and one of the best puzzle games on PC. It not only presents you with a vast, complex, and interconnected mystery to solve, but trusts in your intelligence enough to let you do it yourself with almost no hints, markers, or guides interfering in the process. Few games have this much confidence in the player, and it’s a deeply satisfying experience as a result, even if I did occasionally feel like I’d hit a dead end.”
Verdict: A beautifully constructed and powerfully atmospheric mystery that you really have to work to solve.
“Wandersong might be the most heartfelt platformer that I’ve played since Night in the Woods. And while I don’t think its message is as specific or revelatory, it’s still a worthwhile and clever exploration of its themes, and a reminder that there’s joy in the act of play.”
Verdict: “I listened to Wandersong’s soundtrack while writing this review, and I’ve been happily jiggling my leg throughout.”
“Exapunks is a two-coffee game, one that requires focus and alertness. Even then, there’s a hard limit on how good I’ll ever be. I feel out of my depth, like a smart dog who graduated puppy school and has been put in a physics class. Infinifactory and Opus Magnum remain the Zachtronics games I’d recommend to people, but if you aced both of those and are ready to graduate, Exapunks is the next level.”
Verdict: Exapunks is a hacking game that will make you feel like a genius or an idiot—sometimes both in quick succession.
Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales
“Thronebreaker’s scenario variety is the crucial final element that makes it feel like time well spent, even as I approached the 30-hour mark. It’s too light on systems to be a fully fledged RPG, and too unbalanced to be robust and challenging card game. But through a great story, surprising, enjoyable encounters, and a new spin on The Witcher’s world, Thronebreaker carves out a niche that’s well worth your time.”
Verdict: A captivating story and varied card battles ensure this light-touch RPG remains entertaining throughout its lengthy campaign.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
“Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is enormous and beautiful, and it effortlessly ties action, stealth, sailing, faction control systems, mercenaries, and cultist hunting together into one cohesive game that, even after 50 hours, I want to keep playing. Odyssey is a lot more than just another Assassin’s Creed, it’s an RPG of unparalleled scale supplemented by satisfyingly layered and deep progression systems that each play their part in bringing ancient Greece to life.”
Verdict: Though the main story suffers because of it, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is a remarkably massive RPG held together by a web of satisfying pursuits.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
“It can be hard to remember that this is the series that redefined the online shooter just a decade ago. Black Ops 4 is what it says on the back of the box, and little more, but the weapons are fun to use (particularly Prophet’s shock rifle, which never gets old) and its lighter, faster take on battle royale is best-in-class, at least at this early juncture for the genre. So even though nothing about it is surprising, this year’s CoD still gives me what I want after 15 years of blasting through the series: all-adrenaline, with guns that are a joy to use. That’s good enough for me.”
Verdict: A quality-made but unsurprising multiplayer FPS that offers refined versions of the current most popular modes and top-tier shooting.
“You can’t ignore FIFA 19’s obvious and sizeable qualities. Depending on your threshold for corniness, you could argue it’s worth it for The Journey Alone, and although PES feels like the more organic, spontaneous and subtle game of football, EA Sports’ latest effort isn’t far behind it. However, the significant new features feel a bit thin on the ground this year, and that shouldn’t be ignored.”
Verdict: Maintaining an almost impossible level of polish across its many modes, FIFA 19 might not eclipse PES 19 on the pitch, but it demonstrates its worth via The Journey.
Forza Horizon 4
“The best thing I can say about Forza Horizon 4 is it’s worth enduring the pain of the Microsoft Store for. But where Forza Horizon 3 quickly established itself as my favourite racing game, FH4 isn’t quite as noticeable a step up. It’s still an incredible sandbox, with a consistently satisfying loop of fun and rewards, but its differences won’t be apparent until the weeks and months to come, and the success (or not) of its seasonal event structure. What’s already here is beautiful, entertaining and polished, but it’s not yet clear if it can maintain the promise of the festival that never ends.”
Verdict: Unless you’re looking for a hardcore sim, Forza Horizon is still the best racing series around.
The Bard’s Tale 4: Barrows Deep
“I’ve sunk about 40 hours into The Bard’s Tale 4: Barrows Deep so far, and I’m not ready to hoist my ‘Saved the World’ tankard just yet. It’s a really big game. But even though I have yet to dispatch the latest and greatest threat to the city of Skara Brae—and the greater world of Caith, because the adventure goes far beyond Skara Brae’s walls—I am happy. This is the dungeon crawling adventure I’ve been waiting for.”
Verdict: An old-fashioned game in a shiny new package, The Bard’s Tale 4: Barrows Deep is a worthy addition to a classic series.
Valkyria Chronicles 4
“It’s a pity that its moments of light relief sometimes strike the wrong note, and that later chapters introduce more far-fetched ideas that sit awkwardly next to the more sober character work. Yet these aren’t ruinous by any means: Valkyria Chronicles 4 has the narrative depth to match its tactical smarts, with enough small refinements to outrank its predecessors.”
Verdict: Combines robust storytelling with consistently inventive, surprising missions.
Destiny 2: Forsaken (DLC)
“It had a lot of mistakes to correct, and between an engaging campaign and an engrossing endgame, it’s managed to right almost all of them. I’m coming up on 100 hours logged in the expansion and I don’t even feel close to done, nor have I slowed down a bit. My friends and I have been burning the midnight oil and playing almost every night, which would’ve been unthinkable before. After a precarious first year, I’m finally enjoying Destiny 2 again. It feels good to have it back.”
Verdict: A fantastic course correction that makes Destiny 2 worth playing again. Here’s hoping the momentum lasts.
Frozen Synapse 2
“Frozen Synapse 2 is not a game of dice rolls or chance. Luck isn’t meant to be much of a factor. It’s about running the very same simulations your opponent is probably running too and then trying to get inside their head and figure out what they’ll do with that information. Just like in chess, it’s about seeing a good move and then looking for a better one.”
Verdict: Frozen Synapse 2 has plenty to offer with its campaign, but again, this sequel is at its best when playing against other fallible humans.
“So some of its systems are a little obtuse or would benefit from a bit of post-release tweaking but none of that got in the way of me properly losing myself in Megaquarium’s little world. The building is simple but fun, letting you shape your venue, but ultimately not distracting from the main draw: curating and caring for the fish.”
Verdict: A charming watery theme park management game where fish are friends, not food. Until they eat each other or you forget to feed them.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
“The balance of puzzling, exploration, and action has always felt a little off to me in this modern incarnation of Tomb Raider, leaning a little too heavily and frequently towards the latter. But Shadow shows impressive restraint, rarely using combat as a crutch and focusing more on what makes this series special: namely, raiding tombs. And the tombs here are undoubtedly the star of the show, and some of the best in the series.
Verdict: A greater focus on raiding tombs, and massively improved stealth combat, make this one of Lara Croft’s best modern adventures.
Two Point Hospital
“While Two Point Hospital does cover a lot of familiar territory, it doesn’t feel like it’s been rudely dragged out of the ‘90s. If you’ve been offering up stethoscopes to Hippocrates’ ghost for a new Theme Hospital, you’ll find it here; but if you’re not craving that fix of nostalgia, Two Points Studios’ spiritual successor will still keep you up to your elbows in corpses and icky illnesses until the wee hours of the morning.”
Verdict: Two Point Hospital is a brilliant management game, regardless of nostalgia.