Shmee’s Top Five Video Games Of 2018!

I played a lot of video games this year, and I have had a lot of fun! We are so spoiled these days. There is a good/great game coming out every week it seems. Here are my top five games in in reverse order:

5: Monster Hunter: World

I have always witnessed the Monster Hunter phenomenon from the outside. It has always been on platforms that I don’t have. This year Capcom let us all play! And it is a cool grind. The only thing holding this game back for me is that none of my friends play, so I don’t get to experience the co-op, but from what I have played, I can easily see why Monster Hunter: World has set the world on fire.

4: Batman: The Enemy Within

While season two of Telltale’s Batman series started last year, it ended this year, and what an ending it was. I loved it, and I am getting upset writing this knowing that there will not be a season 3. Any game that lets you play as not only Batman, but also as Bruce Wayne is something not to be missed. Since Telltale’s demise this game has become hard to find, but you should still seek it out anyway.

3: PUBG

PUBG finally went 1.0 this year, and while Fortnite has taken over the Battle Royal world, I enjoy the minute to minute tension of PUBG more. I know it is buggy for a ‘released’ game, but it is fun, and that is all that matters.

2: Hitman 2

I just got Hitman 2, so I haven’t posted a review for it yet, but it is ‘just’ more Hitman. Which is great because I LOVE Hitman. Bigger, better and more murderous sandboxes to take out ‘bad’ guys in. Crazier ways to try and kill people. It is all so good, and I would play this game forever if they can keep making it.

1: Red Dead Redemption 2

Everything about Red Dead Redemption 2 is almost perfect. My main complaint is that just that there is so much of it. A complaint that there is too much game is not a real complaint. If you can play Red Dead Redemption 2, you should. If you can’t, you should find a way to play it. Unless you are too young that is. In which case play it in a few years.

I hope you had as much fun playing games this year as I did. Also, Forza Horizon 4 came out this year. So, I know I limit myself to five games, but every Forza Horizon game should be played, and this year was no different, so it gets a very honorable mention. Let’s hope that 2019 year will be as good for games as the last year was.

Shmee Heads West For Red Dead Redemption 2!

I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed when Red Dead Redemption 2 was announced to be a prequel to Rockstar’s classic western game, but that disappointment was misplaced, Red Dead Redemption 2 is fantastic.  Just about everything about it works.  It turns out there is a reason it took them eight years to make a followup, near perfection takes time.

In the first game you as play John Marston hunting down your former crew, the Van der Linde gang, to free you wife and child, and now in RDR2 you play as Arthur Morgan one of the leaders of that gang during its final years.  I didn’t know if I wanted to be an outlaw, but they give the supporting cast so much heart and story, and Arthur’s yearning to be good even though he was raised bad is a little heartbreaking.  In other words, I am fine with it now.

Like all Rockstar games, Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place in an open world, but unlike most modern games, that open world is not just a series of icons to track down.  There are markers for different characters to interact with, but what you will be doing when you get there varies, and then there are just random things that happen as you ride by that you can interact with, or not, and most of it is amazing.  It is no wonder they force you to play the game awhile be for they let you buy your fast travel map, and even then, it is only to an unlocked location from your main camp, and it doesn’t let you fast travel back.  They want you to explore their world that they lovingly crafted.

That is not to say the normal open world stuff is not there, you can hunt, fish, ride up on camps, and get in all the shoot outs you want, but this feels more like a real place and not a carnival.  As a matter of fact, it makes Rockstar’s other premier franchise, GTA, feel like a cartoon.  If you do bad things exploring this western paradise, you will get punished accordingly, and you will have to pay your bounties or face the consequences, and due to the realism of the world, you feel bad about hurting people and taking what doesn’t belong to you.

It is not all sunshine and open pastures however, I hate their menu system. I know it is supposed to make the game more ‘tactile’ and ‘real’ feeling but holding down buttons while cycling other buttons is a chore, and once you have played for a while, the long horse rides do feel a little grindy, so you will be more willing to pay for a train ticket or a stagecoach ride.  These are minor quibbles, but over a lot of hours, they do start to get more annoying.

While I know this review is a little late for most gamers because they are already playing Red Dead Redemption 2, I just wanted to add my two cents because I have been thoroughly enjoying myself.  If you haven’t spent the money on Rockstar’s latest epic yet, you should.  It is an amazing accomplishment.

Shmee Hangs With The Thief Of Thieves!

Apparently Rival Games has been playing a lot of Hitman, and is very fond of Telltale style narrative games.  Because Thief of Thieves, based on the Kirkman comic of the same name, attempts to be a mashup of the two.  Since this “first volume” (AKA Episode 1) is availble free as part of Xbox Game Pass, I gave it a try.

Let’s get the good parts out of the way first.  It looks great.  It looks like a comic book come to life, with clean lines and vibrant color.  Rival clearly has a good art and graphics team.  Also the diolog and story seemed pretty good.  It is hard to say because the first episode is really short, so I didn’t get a clear picture of how the story was shaping up.

Now on to the things that don’t seem to be working very well.  In an attempt to frame the action like a comic book, Thief of Thieves has set camera angles.  It looks great, but it is frustrating to not get a clear view of what is going on.  Likewise, while I am on board for a story based stealth game, it plays like someone added Hitman mechanics in to Telltale’s stiff old engine.  Which is to say, they do not work so great.  You are supposed to be a spry thief, but you move like a Mack Truck with a transmission problem and a power steering fluid leak.  The first episode is pretty easy, but I could already see that I will be hating things if they get any more complex.

If I was told this was a proof of concept for a Kickstarter, I would be excited.  The fact that this game is already out and completed on PC, so the stiff unresponsive controls probably will not be sorted out, gives me pause.  The cool look and interesting story are enough for me to recommend a download for people with Game Pass, but I would hesitate to recommend paying anything more for it.  If things get better as the series progresses, maybe.  Though I wouldn’t hold my breath.  However, I am curious where things are going next, so if the next episodes all end up on Game Pass, I will probably keep playing them.

Microsoft Makes The Internet Mad! But They Shouldn’t Be.

I was going to review The Grinch today, but the internet has been all in a tizzy about Microsoft’s newest studio acquisitions.  Namely Obsidian Entertainment and inXile Entertainment.  There have been a lot of gifs on the subject.  A few of these:

And probably more appropriately some of these:

And while seeing these major RPG studios get gobbled up by a corporate entity known for buying studios and then closing them after a couple disappointing games seems alarming.  We all need to take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture.

Both of these studios were having cash problems.  It turns out for inXile making RPGs for a niche market doesn’t provide a lot of cashflow, and for Obsidian, they were also releasing niche isometric RPGs that were doing okay, but their major games like South Park were not doing a ton of business.  As we saw with TellTale, once cash gets low it only takes one mediocre round of funding, and all your employees are walking out the front door with their knickknacks in a box with no severance package.  All of the sudden a major cooperation with a lot of cash and a history of treating employees well seems like a good idea.

Not to mention for most gamers nothing changes in the short term.  Obsidian’s next untitled game is still coming out for all platforms on 2K’s new indie label Private Division, and Wasteland 3 from inXile was partially funded on Fig.co, so Microsoft will have to publish the game on all the platforms that were listed there (Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One) to honor its investors.  These games getting finished was probably not a certainty a few months ago.

Now after those two games, I am sure their next games will be locked in to Microsoft platforms, but their games usually don’t push graphical boundaries, so finding a PC able to run them shouldn’t be an issue.  Better yet, so Microsoft can get some ROI we are guaranteed at least one more game from each of these devs.  Which we should all be very happy about.  Even better Brian Fargo from inXile was going to retire after Wasteland 3 came out, but now it sounds like he is sticking around for a while.  It is probably nice being able to just build a game without wondering where all the money will be coming from.

With these purchases Microsoft gains two legendary RPG houses (Even more legendary if you take in to account they used to be Black Isle Studios and Interplay Entertainment.  I mean Microsoft needs to buy the Interplay company branding like yesterday), and it gets to add a lot of games to its upcoming PC focused Game Pass, and at least two exclusive RPGs for the Xbox One X2 or whatever they will call it.  For everyone else, we get four games instead of none, and even if the studios do close, we know Microsoft will treat those employees properly while they look for their next opportunity.  What I am saying is, everyone wins, and sounds like a good deal to me.  Better yet, I am betting we are getting that Halo Universe RPG in a few short years, and that is something to be excited about.

The Diablo Immortal Controversy Is Everything That Is Wrong With Fandom!

Blizzard teased that something big would be happening with the Diablo franchise at this year’s BlizzCon, and of course fans jumped to the conclusion that Diablo 4 was going to be announced, or at the very least info on a new expansion, but that of course was not the case.  What was announced instead was a new free to play (F2P) mobile game being done by an outside studio.   The game is called Diablo Immortal.

This sounded great to me.  Diablo on the go?  Why not.  As long as the F2P stuff is optional.  I mean Pokémon Go, PUBG, and Fortnite have all shown that games can be F2P on phones and still be fun.  Hardcore Diablo fans on the other hand raged.  Don’t go anywhere near Blizzard on twitter or any of the Blizzard franchise Reddit pages.  It is just hundreds of angry gamers lashing out at anyone who works at Blizzard/Activision with toxic vitriol, and what is sad, is that this isn’t surprising.

Lately whenever a developer or any other media company does something fans don’t like, fans feel it is their duty to lash out, to get things changed, or to get the people responsible fired.  Look it is okay to be disappointed.  To have a large stage show in front of the most hardcore of hardcore fans that paid hundreds of dollars to be there live and fifty bucks to watch virtually then announce a mobile game was not a smart move on Blizzard’s part, but while it is okay to be disappointed.  To out and out rage is not.

Blizzard has several F2P games, and I am sure they thought one based on one of the their biggest franchises would big news.  It was, but not for the reasons they were hoping, and the fact this rage has lasted all weekend long with no signs of slowing down is saddening.  We as fans need to be better about this.  If you don’t like the game, don’t play it (though everyone is going to).  Also, I am not saying not to voice your displeasure.  Please do, but be respectful.  It is much different to say, “Blizzard is a bunch of greedy a$$h0!es!” versus, “Man I am bummed we didn’t get any new mainline Diablo content.”, or “Why use BlizzCon to announce a mobile game?”.  Two of those statements get our points across, and might even get read by Blizzard employees.  One makes us look like a bunch of jerks.  I will let you decide which is which.

We should all be true to our feelings, but taking them out on the people that make our games and movies is not helpful.  It is upsetting that so many fans feel like this is okay.  It makes it hard to call myself a gamer knowing that so many of us act like entitled brats about little things that don’t matter.  What’s worse is that we all know Diablo 4 will come out sooner or later, Diablo fans are just mad they feel they were bait and switched, and even if they were to some small extent, this is not how it should be dealt with.  We should all take deep breaths and be grateful for all the great content we have and that is continuing to be made.  Not pitting ourselves against the people that are making it.