It’s that time of year again! Each year, DigitallyDownloaded.net recognises the best, most interesting, most artful and most creative games across a wide range of different categories, and 2018 was no different. In fact, this has been one of the best years for releases, from big blockbusters all the way down to the tiniest of indies.
As always our selection process is as follows: Games released on any platform between December of the previous year (2017 in this case) through to November this year can qualify. If a game was released on one platform last year, and then a different platform this year, it can still qualify for awards (as has been the case in a couple of examples this year). The game doesn’t necessarily have to be released in the western market, though for obvious reasons we’ll reward games that are accessible and available for English-speaking players ahead of those that are too hard for most people to experience. The entire DDNet team comes together to shortlist, and then vote on the award winners in each category – awards are not based on reviews or review scores (because that’s one person’s opinion), so it’s entirely possible that the winner of a category will have a slightly lower score than a silver or bronze medalist, or a game that didn’t even make the finalists.
One of our favourite things about games is the way they tell stories. Just like a good book or film, a good game has the potential to take us somewhere fascinating and wonderful, get us to think about things in a way that we hadn’t previously, and provide us with fascinating characters and situations long after we’ve put the controller down. To us a good game is good storytelling, and this year we’ve enjoyed many truly brilliant stories.
The FMV game has made a bit of a comeback in recent years, and it’s the quality of titles like The Infectious Madness Of Doctor Dekker that is driving it. A blend of psychological investigation story and Lovecraftian-inspired horror, Dekker is impressive because it’s restrained – it’s a game of interviews and listening; of catching nuances in what people say, and the vivid pictures that they paint, rather than what you see. It’s a compelling mystery story that’s very difficult to put down.
Death Mark is one of the best visual novels that we’ve come across, and that’s because it does such a good job of working within classical horror themes. It’s structured as a compilation of ghost stories, and has a bit of everything – it’s got extreme violence, spooky settings, and plenty of sex to boot. The near Sadian approach to fetististically violent sexuality is going to come across as uncomfortable for some, but in an industry that rarely pushes past “extreme horror” being a juvenile sequence of ugly monsters and lots of gore, it’s great to see something like Death Mark approach the subject in a more literative way.
Oh, and it’s got plenty of twists and turns too… it’s a page turner if nothing else.
In an industry that outright celebrates war with little genuine effort at reflection, it’s so important that we have games like 11-11 Memories Retold. This look back at the impact that World War 1 had on people is so simple, and yet so powerfully told, that it’s going to be remembered by those who play it long into the future. It’s set in a war, but it’s not about making war – the two protagonists that you play as have little to do with actual combat. Instead, you experience the horrors they experience, and follow them as they slowly come to realise what a resounding lie everything that they’ve been told about war is. In a world with the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty, that makes 11-11 Memories Retold one of the most important games developed in recent memory.