Around this time of the year, I start wondering whether any of the games I’d hoped to see before year’s end may still be coming. More broadly, how well did my anticipation of the gaming universe in 2018 match reality? This year, I broke out my top five most eagerly awaited games by platform; here’s what we know so far:
- The Room: Old Sins – Yup. The Room. Still a great formula.
- The LotR LCG – Out on PC, still coming for iOS. Sounds pretty good, though not entirely faithful.
- One Deck Dungeon – As expected, this was a solid game really well-suited to the platform.
- Door Kickers 2: Task Force North – MIA
- Here Be Dragons – 2019
Games which make me wish I wanted to sit at a computer more:
- Battletech – Seems like just what I want it to be, but not where I want it.
- Overland – 2019
- Phoenix Point– 2019
- Into the Breach – On Switch! Quite good, but subject to the same strangeness as FTL, where most of the reason to keep playing is the achievements [um, I keep playing FTL because I STILL CAN’T WIN THE DAMN THING -ed.] which unlock new squads, but many of those achievements seem to rely on opportunities you can’t force. Playthroughs which don’t present those opportunities accomplish nothing, which is fairly demotivating.
- Mr. President – 2019
- Victorian Masterminds – Preordered for November.
- Stuffed Fables – Reviews made this seem like it didn’t solve my major problem with Mice and Mystics, which was that it seemed a little slow and fiddly for such a shallow game. I never liked messing with cheese. I still might play it, but my enthusiasm has receded to manageable levels.
- AuZtralia – Reviews suggest that it turned out to be more of a train game [and a new Martin Wallace train game is a bad thing how? -ed.] and less of an anything else game than I was hoping. I might still try it eventually, but it’s not a priority.
- Root – I was hoping this would be more approachable than it seems to be. I’m still excited to play it someday, but it doesn’t seem like the GMT COIN series made kid-friendly I wanted.
- A Way Out – Took a darker tone than Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, so it doesn’t seem appropriate as a couch co-op option with my 10-year-old the way I was hoping it would. Had it been similar in tone to Brothers, that would have been very enticing. This might be the game, more than any other, which made me realize I make these lists with a bit too much hope in my heart.
- Shadow of the Colossus – I can see why this was unique, and it was interesting, but it felt like a slog by the end.
- Ghost of Tsushima – No word.
- Call of Cthulhu – Reviews were pretty mixed. I’m intrigued, but happy to wait for a deep discount.
- Far Cry 5 – Hope again. This could have signaled a dramatic and daring shift into meaningful contemporary commentary. Instead, it seems to have been sort of bland in that regard. I got it out of the library, and played for a while—it still feels like Far Cry, which isn’t bad. Liberating outposts remains a fun stealth/combat puzzle. But it also doesn’t feel culturally meaningful the way a game like Spec Ops: The Line does.
- The Resistance: Avalon: My kids and the neighbor kids got into One Night Ultimate Werewolf, so I figured I’d introduce them to the reigning monarch of the genre, according to reviews. They love it, but the concept of deception is slippery in their hands, so I’ve no idea what it would be like with consistently competent players.
- Lovecraft Letter: We’ve played a lot of Love Letter in my family, mostly because it’s so portable and quick. It’s … fine. That’s pretty good for such a small game; Lovecraft Letter is dramatically better, though. I bought it because it was on clearance and had unusually nice bits, but it adds a few strategic wrinkles and some surprisingly effective temptations. Where success in Love Letter often feels like a matter of lucky guesses, lucky draws, or obvious plays, it’s madder cousin does more to let you set up lucky draws into plays which dramatically raise the volume in the room.
- Villainous: Our first game included this exchange: “Why can’t I go to the Cave of Wonders at the beginning?” “Because-“ “Oh, it’s just like the movie!” Sometimes this game feels terribly imbalanced, but it does more to get my kids thinking about theme/mechanic fit than any other has, and its bits are just a joy to be around. Even better, we’ve given a copy to a cousin who lives far away, so we’re hoping to play via FaceTime one of these days.
- The Arkham Horror LCG: after I bought the Carcosa big expansion, I was disheartened by the mechanic of secret cards, which don’t seem to work well with solo plays, so I’d planned to give the rest of the cycle a miss. Eventually, I tried the scenarios that kicked it off, and then quickly bought everything else. Still fantastic. I do find myself enjoying the early scenarios in a cycle more than the later ones, though. They’re more familiar, so it’s easier for me to feel dread. Bend reality too far, and I don’t recognize it enough to feel any particular way about it.
A few games I haven’t played also seem much more promising than I expected. Spider-Man on PS4 is good? I don’t know what to make of that. After a friend pulled my 9-year-old son into a few games of Magic: the Gathering, KeyForge started looking pretty nice. When you’re playing decks you didn’t build with cards you don’t know, it’d be nice if everybody else were, too. While we’re dreaming, if nobody got mana screwed, and the art were a bit more colorful and cheery, that’d be swell. I’m also noticing that I really wish I wanted to play games on a PC, because Battletech, Return of the Obra Dinn, and Terraforming Mars send the homunculi fruitlessly scurrying around my skull in search of the levers they can pull to play those games.