I opened the door to 2019; felt like I was struck dead. Saw the future, but all the future was was the past repeating itself. “Fuck,” I exclaimed. “No!,” I pleaded. I tried to slam the door shut, cried in horror at the terrible revelations unfurling themselves. But there was no closing the door. Before I knew it I was on the other side, mistakes ready to be remade; but would any lessons be learned? I feared for the worst case. I was right to be afraid.
The last decade of incredible game after incredible game coming into my life has caught up to me. “The Dark Souls Effect,” if you will. When you’ve been to the top of the mountain so many times, is the appeal not somewhat lost?
Demon’s Souls; Dark Souls; Fez; Breath of the Wild; State of Decay 1 & 2; PUBG; Elite Dangerous; Nier Automata; Dishonored 2; Dishonored: Death of the Outsider; Dead Cells; Mass Effect 2 & 3; Fallout: New Vegas; Inside; Halo: Reach; Alan Wake; The Last of Us; Gemini Rue; Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception; The Walking Dead; Dark Souls II; No Man’s Sky; Firewatch; Life Is Strange; Until Dawn; Skyrim; Rayman Origins & Legends; Virtue’s Last Reward; Metro: Last Light; Rocket League; Spelunky; SteamWorld Dig 1 & 2; Spec Ops: The Line; Journey; Papo & Yo; Bulletstorm.
So many of the best video games I have ever played, I played in the 2010s. It becomes increasingly difficult to add to that repertoire while still dipping into it on a regular basis. In 2019 I reached that saturation point. Most of the games I played in 2019 were called State of Decay 2, or Dead Cells, or Dark Souls. I didn’t tread much new ground, which kind of simplifies talking about the past year in games for me. I don’t have a hell of a lot to add to the conversation!
It’s a tight list this year, and there’s not much on the outside either.
Starting with the most significant game that I’m truly disappointed I didn’t push myself further in, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. First, I’m willing to follow FromSoftware on any journey, they’ve earned that. But what would happen if you stuck them in a room alongside the creators of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and Horizon: Zero Dawn? People … we don’t need these ridiculously unwieldy subtitles. Just call the fucking game Sekiro. Whatever. It’s fine.
So yeah, if you look through my history of games played on the PS3 and PS4, you’ll see that I have the platinum trophies for Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, Bloodborne and Dark Souls III. That doesn’t mean anything beyond I played the shit out of those games. That trend sadly died with Sekiro. I don’t know how much time I spent with it; if you adjust for time that was just spent staring at the screen doing nothing (I do that a lot) I probably put in 10-12 hours. I don’t think I beat a single boss. I beat one or two mini bosses. I think the game is incredible; it’s a logical evolution of the Souls formula, particularly of Bloodborne, and I believe the game is worthy of all praise it received. I’ve just had a difficult go of it is all. It’s cool as fuck … I just am not that good at it.
The other game I anticipated as much as FromSoftware’s new game was Obsidian’s new game, The Outer Worlds. Earlier this year I foolishly said the lasting legacy of that game and Outer Wilds would be the naming kerfuffle. I was wrong. It turns out one of those games will have a legacy of some kind, and the other game is called The Outer Worlds. Yeah. Fucking gut punch. Obsidian’s new game is just fine. It was a devastating blow to my continued love of video games, honestly. Obsidian Entertainment, they who could do no wrong. Look, The Outer Worlds is not a bad game. It’s just…a fine game. I think it does prove one thing: they’re competent at developing working video games. They’ve had a reputation for bugs and skronk and jank; it turns out that had more to do with the developers they piggy backed off of: Bethesda and Bioware.
The Outer Worlds is a far less buggy game than Knights of the Old Republic or Fallout 3; the two games which were the backbones of Obsidian’s most beloved games. So we can put that argument to rest. Turns out Bethesda and Bioware are the fuck ups. As of me writing this in 2020, Bioware’s existence hangs on a string and Bethesda’s last game is a steaming turd that nobody outside of a deeply hardcore audience can tolerate. So … yeah. This trio of once-beloved developers have all seemingly lost their way. I give Bethesda and Obsidian a legitimate chance to recover. Bioware on the other hand is done. The Dragon Age series is garbage. And that’s apparently the series they’re working on right now. They could win people back with KOTOR 3, but it looks like Dragon Age is next for them. Which is too bad, since the only good Dragon Age game is called Dragon Age II, a game I’m sure they’ll avoid replicating in any way.
It’s fine. It’s time for the old guard to fuck off anyway. Fuck off, Bioware. Fuck off, Blizzard. Make way for new ideas and new people.
Gears 5 happened in 2019. Not Gears of War 5. That’s not a game. Gears 5. I’m maybe halfway through. It’s fine. As always, these games should only be played co-operatively with a friend and laughter and maybe substances. It’s fine. Okay it’s better than fine. Gears 5 is good. There’s a girl in it. That’s all right.
You know who the uncontested best developer of 2019 is? It has to be Respawn Entertainment, right? They put out two games that people liked a lot; two games that I like at least a bit from what I played of them. Apex Legends was the last battle royale game to squeak into existence before we decided that we have enough of them. And it turned it to be pretty good, and people like it. I like it too. I didn’t play it for more than 5 or 6 hours, but it does good things. Good for Respawn.
They also made the very popular Jedi: Fallen Order. I’m not putting “Star Wars:” at the front. One colon per game, okay? Jedi: Fallen Order stars a guy who looks like Archie and a weird looking potato-headed alien and a non-trusting Han Solo-type lady. It does some cool Star Wars things. And it was inspired by Dark Souls, just like 62% of all video games from the 2010s. I guess it’s good. I’ve only played maybe 4 hours so I don’t have much to say, other than it did well, and Respawn is really killing it. In owning the Star Wars video game license for over half a decade, EA finally published a Star Wars game that most people think is better than “not good.” Good job, everyone!
Oh, I played SteamWorld Quest for about 5 hours. I don’t have much experience with card-based battle games, but I’ll play your shit if SteamWorld is in the title, that’s for sure. It seems pretty good to me. Playing it is kinda fun. Taking in the writing is kinda fun. The game is kinda fun, I’d say!
I don’t have much left. Rounding out the rest of the year, I finished Celeste! What a good ass game. Play Celeste. Please. It was one of two games that I saw end credits for in the year 2019. Yeah, that’s right. I told you: Games are dead to me now, apparently. But fucking Madeline! Hero of the year 2018.
I duked it out with Steerpike’s favourite Shadow of the Colossus boss in 2019: the 11th colossus. That guy really is a fucking piece of shit. But I did it; I managed to play the PS3 remake (yeah not the PS4 one) of this game at least one time every single year of the 2010s that it existed. One colossus per year. Tortoise won the race, y’all. Bravo, me. I should be done with it in 2024.
On that note, shout out to my PS3. What a great console. I haven’t unplugged it ever since I bought it 10 years ago. My PS4 is probably going in the trash long before the PS3.
I played a tad more of Red Dead Redemption II. There’s no way I’ll ever finish that game. Unless I break my leg and am holed up on my couch for months, there’s just no damn way. Respect to Rockstar for making what I’m pretty sure is their least shitty game (their only non-shitty game?), but I can see that world map. I’ve touched 2% of it.
Other than that … yeah, I pretty much just played Dead Cells and State of Decay 2. Those are two excellent video games. Some people think that they were the two best video games of 2018. Who’s to say?!
I have one last thought, actually about a 2020 game. The Last of Us, Part II. First off, Naughty Dog, good job going the Godfather, Part II route. Solid choice. That’s where my compliments end. I don’t know which Naughty Dog employee said this– I’m pretty certain it was someone high on the food chain– but when they said it, I recoiled. I fucking recoiled and then some. When they said this, it made me not want to play TLoU2. It even made me retroactively like TLoU1 less. Are you ready for the quote?
“The Last of Us was a story about love. The Last of Us, Part II is a story about hate.”
EX-FUCKING-CUSE ME? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? FUCKING BARF. THE LAST OF US WAS A STORY ABOUT LOVE!?!?!?!?!??! BAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH. THE LAST OF US IS A DREADFULLY CRUEL AND MEAN-SPIRITED GAME ABOUT HOW HUMANS ARE ALL A LOST CAUSE AND WORTHLESS MURDERING AND RAPING GARBAGE PEOPLE.
THE LAST OF US WAS ONE OF THE MOST DEPRESSING, HOPELESS, PESSIMISTIC, NEGATIVE STORIES I’VE EVER EXPERIENCED.
AND THAT WAS YOUR GAME ABOUT FUCKING LOVE?!?!?!?!?!?!?
AND THE SEQUEL IS ABOUT HATE?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!?!?!??!?! HOLY FUCK. HOW FUCKING DARK IS TLOU2 GOING TO BE? IT’S ABOUT HATE? JESUS MOTHERFUCKING CHRIST. OH GOD. SAVE US ALL.
Fuck Naughty Dog. Fuck The Last of Us. Fuck the dorks who perpetuate this. Fuck angry boys. Fuck man children. Fuck us all. Fuck me.
I fucking hate video games.
If you played video games in 2019, you already know what number one is going to be. Two things in 2019 were unanimous: Lamar Jackson, and the best video game.
Oh, and one other thing: Bernie Sanders for goddamned President.
There was no Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus-type political game this year so I have to shove the political rant in right here.
Look at where unfettered capitalism has gotten us all. We’re all winning hard, eh? Fucking hell. Obviously vote for whatever democrat gets the nomination; but make it fucking Bernie, people. The time for being radical has long been upon us. The time for shitty olds is gone. It’s time for them to fuck off and die. Hell, it’s even time for people my age to fuck off and die. Give the world to young people. They’re the only ones who give a shit about it.
Fuck the United States of America. Fuck China. Fuck Russia. Fuck Europe. Fuck Great Britain and all that shit. Fuck Canada. Fuck old white men. Fuck all nations. Fuck nationalism.
Most of all, fuck millionaires and billionaires who keep their money hidden in their bank accounts, and their children’s bank accounts, and who talk about responsibility and giving back, and how everyone else needs to try harder.
Everyone else never had a chance, and it’s because of you.
“And I hope that you die, and your death will come soon; I’ll follow your casket in the pale afternoon; and I’ll watch as you’re lowered down to your deathbed; and I’ll stand over your grave till I’m sure that you’re dead.” –Bob Dylan, “Masters of War,” 1963
“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. […] It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. […] [Americans] will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.” –excerpt from Slaughterhouse-Five, pgs. 128-129; Kurt Vonnegut, 1969
“Raised my rifle to my eye, never stopped to wonder why; then I saw black, and my face splashed in the sky.” –Neil Young, “Powderfinger,” 1979
“Where do bad folks go when they die? They don’t go to heaven where the angels fly, they go to a lake of fire and fry; Won’t see ’em again till the Fourth of July.” –Curt Kirkwood, “Lake of Fire,” 1984
I’d like to acknowledge that I’m fully aware of the irony of preceding the screed I just went on by endorsing a white man for President, and of following it up by quoting four white men. Some of them are okay, in fact.
Onto this lean, this rather ripped list.
#4 – The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was a video game from 1993 that people liked. Now it’s also a video game from 2019 that people like. I like it too.
10 bombs for 10 rupees is the heist of the decade.
#3 – Life Is Strange 2
I haven’t even finished the second of five episodes of Life Is Strange 2, but it already did enough to convince me of its worth. I probably could have stuck the politics here, actually. Frightened, shitty cop shoots a Mexican father. His two sons, in the heat of confusion, go on the run. Life Is Strange 2 is superbly written and packed with feels. Those kids experience a lot of pain and a lot of bullshit. All because a “trained” police officer couldn’t control his fear of an unarmed and innocent man. Art imitates life too. The cop was a white dude obviously.
We’re the best, eh.
If I don’t die in the mass suicide event of 2033 known as White People Finally Realized How Bad Things Had Gotten And What They Collectively Had To Do To Give Everyone Else Some Kind Of Fighting Chance, then my life was a fraud. Hold me accountable.
#2 – Control
Remedy is back, baby. It’s weird that Remedy Entertainment spent a few years on the experiment of What Would It Be Like If We All Of A Sudden Made A Shit Video Game, but that’s exactly what they chose to do after 2010’s excellent Alan Wake. They made Quantum Break, a dreadful game. And those of us who had loved Remedy for many years thought “oh no, it’s over.”
We were wrong, I’m happy to say. Because Control.
Control is good. Control is essential. Control is Remedy back in Max Payne 1 & 2 form. Yes, I said that.
#1 – Outer Wilds
Thank fuck for Outer Wilds. If Outer Wilds didn’t happen in 2019 it would be safe to declare video games dead. I mean, I guess Outer Wilds can’t happen again in 2020 so…uh, yeah, I guess video games are dead. But at least we got one last good one.
Outer Wilds is one giant clockwork puzzle. If you don’t know things about it, don’t look them up. It’s not like spoilers would ruin this game, but just try figuring some things out for a while before you go looking for answers. There’s plenty to do. It feels like critical darling status has been achieved with Outer Wilds, but I really don’t know how many people who follow games have played it. On all the podcasts I listen to about games, I’d say about a third of people had played and loved the game; a third was waiting for the right time to play it; and a third didn’t know about it. It already feels like a cult classic. Underdog hit, for sure. I think it’ll eventually come to be regarded as one of the most painstakingly designed, beautifully realized video games to ever be made.
Criticisms: I think it takes too long to finish (unless you’re on amphetemenes and are a puzzle-cracking god), and I think some of the puzzle solutions are too obtuse, or “out there.” And for the first few hours, learning to fly your wooden spaceship can be…challenging.
Compliments: Everything else.
I won’t say really anything about why this game is worthwhile and fantastic. You should discover that for yourself. If you have Xbox Game Pass that’s an easy way to check it out. If you don’t, it’s worth whatever the price is.
In the meantime I open my eyes and look up to Giant’s Deep; I say, “hello, Gabbro, I see you there.” I know they see me as well. I let out a long, heavy sigh of relief (dread/sadness/understanding/humility?). Somewhere from behind, faraway and ancient: The faintest sound of a closed door.
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