These are games that I briefly tried, often during a livestream, and then made a mental note that, hey, that might be worth spending more time with! At which point, they tumbled into the backlog never to be seen again. Until today. I have unearthed them for this list, which is, uh, games that are…uh, the ten games of 2018 that, well, uh…
Okay, I’m going to be completely honest with you. I’m making this list in the hopes that you guys will check out these games and let me know if I was right. Are they worth spending more time with? Based on my limited time, the answer could be yes. But it could also be no because I’ve only spent limited time with them. Look, I’ve done the work for the other three lists this year, so this one is on you.
10. Infectionator 3: Apocalypse
I know, I know, it looks like some free-to-play thing that’s been ported over from the Apple Store. But really, it’s a hands-off real-time strategy game about throwing tailor-made zombies into populations that grow increasingly wary and then increasingly armed. The emphasis is less on zombies and more on global infection, like a version of Plague Inc with tactical combat. Madagascar, here we come!
9. Aggressors: Ancient Rome
How about a Civilization style strategy games, but anchored in one specific time instead of playing tourist through all time? In Aggressors: Ancient Rome, the ancient era is the setting and not just the early game stuff you pass through on your way to gunpowder, airplanes, and a space race victory. When it was released, I ragequit because of a few interface annoyances. But that was four months ago. Surely that sort of stuff has been patched by now?
8. Ghost of a Tale
What lovely artwork! But is a mouse scurrying around to hide a viable concept for a game? Since pure stealth as a gameplay mechanic is dead — check its pulse if you don’t believe me — is there more to this game than just beautiful artwork, settings, animation, and world-building? Does there even need to be?
7. Project Aura
A for-serious, no-joking-around-dammit, fussy city builder based on surviving ecological disaster. The designers make no bones about calling it a “micro management game”. Like Frostpunk and Surviving Mars, it has an emphasis on the types of citizens in your city. But unlike those games, it’s got a steep learning curve based on obscure resource chains, intricate interdependencies, and an ocean of charts, statistics, and lists.
6. Party Hard 2
Dark, gory, and funny stealth-among-the-crowds gameplay. Hitman on a pixel-art budget, with an emphasis on slaughter instead of surgical precision. And it seems a lot more accessible than the first Party Hard, which was an exercise in repeatedly failing. At least the repeated failure in Party Hard 2 is folded into a progression system based on how you play.
5. Insurgency: Sandstorm
I figured Counter-Strike had moved on without me. Which was fine by me. But then along comes Insurgency: Sandstorm, in which I can fight AI terrorists alongside a team of Counter-Strike players who will go first so I don’t get shot all the time. I can choose among a bunch of different loadouts — well, I’ll be able to once I level up — and it looks way better than whatever Source engine levels Counter-Strike players are still playing.
Hoo boy, does this look rough. No, seriously, brace yourself. This might be the ugliest game I’ve played in the last ten years. But if you look past the visuals — which is difficult, I admit — there seems to be a crazily epic colony management slash city builder slash character RPG slash crafting slash exploration slash combat goulash. It progresses from a settlement of four dudes taking turns chopping down wood so they can build a hut which will eventually give them enough population to assign someone to research bronze tools all the way to the modern era with science, industry, and spaceships to the moon. It’s nothing if not ambitious. Is this ugly duckling really a swan?
3. Project Hospital
The goofy and cheerful Two Point Hospital appealed to Theme Hospital nostalgia and avoided the icky reality that healthcare is a dire situation for many of us. But Project Hospital seems like the more serious approach to the business of healthcare. As I played, I kept thinking one of the best compliments I can pay a management strategy game: “Hmm, this reminds me of Prison Architect.”
2. Starship Corporation
Your business here is spaceship design, with an absurd level of detail. Your spaceship needs to be wired for power. It needs ample fuel storage if it’s going on long missions. The crew needs water purifiers and bunks and access to escape pods in case things go wrong. The cooling vents have to be hooked into the cooling system and then placed against the exterior. Facing outwards, in case you’re having trouble. Weapons? You’re not ready for weapons yet.
Starship Corporation is either an engineer’s dream or gamer’s nightmare, depending on your tolerance for the persnickety interface. But under all those menus, you’ll find a hardcore set of sci-fi Legos with accompanying stress tests. After you make your ship, you take it on test cruises to manage crises in real time. How did you score? Accept the grade and move on? Or adjust your design and try again? If you’re one of those people who whines about having to build spaceships in a strategy game like Stellaris or Galactic Civilizations, you are not ready. But if you want detail in your science fiction, Starship Corporation is prepared to asphyxiate you with it.
1. Door Kickers: Action Squad
The Door Kickers guys have enlisted another developer to help them make an action RPG with tons of unlockables, character classes with smart multiplayer interaction, and a challenging risk/reward system of deciding whether to save up boost juice for a bad-ass superpower or spend it now to stay alive because you might not live long enough to ever even use a bad-ass superpower. They’ve put all this in the context of their trademark whip-smart white-knuckle bite-sized nuggets of tactical action in highly lethal situations. For Halloween, they added a zombie mode and they’ve just recently added an endless skyscraper mode. How can a game like this languish in a backlog?