Some of 2019’s best games took a step back through time in order to push things forward for immersion.
FromSoftware reinforced its one-on-one swordplay in a new setting; under a realm where characters lived and died by the blade. A shinobi’s quest for revenge was a compelling take on a familiar franchise. Players connected themselves with a hero who grew stronger with every death. This was a formula at its most refined.
Pressure hit Respawn Entertainment when it was given a chance to deliver on a franchise soured with a digital monopoly that divided players. Its effort to capture an old feeling of single-player based adventure games across the Outer Rim were apparent.
More importantly, fans and the development team felt a sweet release on release. An itch was scratched in giving players what they wanted from a next-generation Star Wars game that celebrated the former glory of LucasArts’ efforts.
Saturated releases of online-only titles gave Capcom an opportunity to listen to fans in a way that took control of the past and present. It also focused on a single-player experience that reinvented itself without compromises (or zombies). Following a daring approach with survival horror exploration in Resident Evil 7, the long-time series had remembered where it came from. This was the direction a team needed in order to do its most popular franchise justice for new players and veterans. By turning the clocks back to 1998, Capcom had decided to return to Raccoon City. Fan’s prayers were answered in ceiling-breaking cheers (from a crowd who lived long enough to have their wishes granted).
The reveal at E3 2018 was also a rallying cry for Capcom in its effort to fully-realize the horrors faced by you, Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield. With the power of next-generation tools, the team also overcame the technological limitations faced more than 20 years ago. By embracing its own identity, Resident Evil 2 (Remake) had set itself apart from 2019’s other releases at the start.
The result was a title that earns CGMagazine’s 2019 Game of the Year for a rare feat; daring to meet expectations while reinventing an influential game for a new world. Our team members reflected on what makes it special, along with the titles that came close to their own achievement.
Resident Evil 2 Remake – Lane Martin (@Fritzvalt)
A friend of mine told me that if I should play the Resident Evil 2 remake, I should play it on the hardcore difficulty.
He insisted that managing ink ribbons for saving his progress was an integral part of the Resident Evil experience, and that, without that, the game didn’t feel right.
When I first booted the game up I cranked up the difficulty, thinking that I had never had an issue with the save system in old games, and not that this would also make the rest of the game significantly more difficult as well. After dying to the first zombie in the game more times than I care to admit, I was certainly aware that, while this game was a remake of the original, it was a good deal more than that.
That could honestly be the subtitle here. While Resident Evil 2 is a fantastic remake of an already great game, it brings so much more to the table than its predecessor. Updated enemies lead to new gameplay that does a lot to keep an old formula feeling fresh, and the new graphics and music makes every grisly animated corpse and hulking brain monster a sight to behold.
In a landscape full of tired remakes that do nothing to add to their forebearers, Resident Evil 2 sets a new standard even completely original games will have a hard time living up to.
Our review of Resident Evil 2 (2019)
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – Madeline Ricchiuto (@StaggerBlind)
Activision and FromSoftware’s first collaboration in years, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is an intriguing twist on the traditional FromSoftware formula. Sekiro combines the notorious difficulty of the Soulsbourne games with a more linear action-adventure storyline that had a very fantastical bent.
Set loosely in a fantasy version of Japan’s Warring States period, Sekiro is a brutal period piece complete with undead monks, giant snakes, and chickens that can and will kill you. And, depending on how often you die while attempting to save your Young Lord, you can very well bring doom upon all the world with your repeated resurrections. Which adds another layer of complexity to the traditional FromSoftware formula where all the creatures you killed are revived upon your death.
However, unlike FromSoftware’s other games, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice does not allow you to choose multiple paths to victory. You need to play the game as it demands you do, or you’ll never make it past the first boss encounter.
If you even get that far. And with the potential havoc all of your dying can cause, Sekiro is a game that lives off your fear, your despair, and your aggression. It is certainly not a game to be played lightly. Sekiro is an absolute challenge on every level, with a degree of staggering difficulty as you progress and you either evolve along with the game or you die.
The perseverance and strength of will required to truly enjoy Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice makes it stand above most other games released in 2019.
Our review of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Alex Handziuk (@alexhandziuk)
2019 was a year packed with Star Wars content.
Not only was there the long awaited finale of the Skywalker Saga, and the Baby Yoda laden shenanigans of the Mandolorian, but 2019 also marked the first great Star Wars game in over a decade, Star War Jedi: Fallen Order.
Taking place in between episodes III and IV, Fallen Order follows Cal Kestis, a former Jedi padawan on the run from the Empire. You’re quickly thrown into a high stakes battle to survive and fight back against the forces of the dark side, and the journey is an immensely gratifying one.
Within the first hour, the game quickly unfurls around you, introducing new locales, allies, enemies, and upgradable force and combat powers at a consistent rate. The story features a lovable cast led by Cal’s mentor Cere Junda, a tough pilot named Greez and the adorable droid, BD-1, with each member adding their own distinct weight to the story’s proceedings.
At its core, the game is a Star Wars power fantasy and being able to wield a lightsaber against a horde of enemy stormtroopers is as satisfying as it is stylish. There is a fair bit of nuance to the combat, and higher difficulties don’t inflate enemy health bars, but instead lower parry windows and punish you for mistakes. Fallen Order also rewards exploration in the form of a wide range of unlockables including lightsaber, ship, droid and clothes customization.
It both succeeds as a great video game and a long awaited oasis for fans of Star Wars and video games. While it slightly pains me to say so, the force is indeed strong with this one.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen order is hopefully the start of a long and stable line of interesting Star Wars games.
Our review of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Outer Wilds – Joe DeClara
It’s rare for a game to surprise me in a way that lasts with me days after I’ve finished playing it. Even more rare for me to be surprised in such a way, twice by the same game. Outer Wilds kept me in awestruck wonder throughout my 20-hour playthrough, and despite having finished it last spring, I still think about it on a daily basis.
I remember the first time I flew past Brittle Hollow, how unassuming it looked until I got close enough to see the black hole eating away at the planet from the inside. I think of how well the game’s story ties into its mechanics, how it seems impossible that one came before the other. I ponder over its themes and philosophies on the space-time continuum, consciousness, and the mind-bending thoughts that come when considering what happens when the two meet.
Most of the time I spend thinking on Outer Wilds, I’m wondering how in the hell it was made.
While Outer Wilds, created by Mobius Digital, looks to be a space exploration game, it is better thought of as a singular, gargantuan puzzle that is a joy and a terror to tinker with and traverse.
Every moment of exploration yields unexpected wonders.
Some are spectacular, like a water planet ravaged by perpetual tornado storms. Others are small, like a journal entry theorizing time travel. But all are equally exciting, as they always lead to another bevy of mysteries and opportunities for adventure.
This daisy train of mysteries sustained until the very end, leaving off with the greatest mystery of all: why we are here, and what comes after. Few other games have done that for me, and no other will likely ever send me so far down that rabbit hole as Outer Wilds did me this year.
Blasphemous – Brendan Quinn
I was raised Catholic, love Death Metal, and my favourite game series of all time are the Soulsborne games. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Blasphemous, from Spanish studio The Game Kitchen, was my personal GOTY for 2019.
It’s also no surprise that a country famous for the exceedingly sadistic and brutal Inquisition would give birth to a title that can be summed up as “Medieval Catholicism-inspired Metroidvania”. I cannot overemphasize how much I enjoyed the setting and aesthetic, from the blood-soaked introduction and tortuously designed, eternally suffering enemies and NPCS to the world-building, lore, factions, and artifacts.
This is a game that is excellent no matter your background, but if you have even a passing interest in Medieval Theology you’ll get a lot more out of the game. Of course, the title also features fantastic level design, tight and fluid controls, fair but punishing combat, and creative, thrilling boss fights. Long story short, Blasphemous hit all the right notes for me personally and is well-deserving of my 10/10 score.
Our review of Blasphemous