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.
It’s hard to look at the blockbusters each year and pick out winners. Games made by major studios, with significant budgets and large teams behind them tend to be derivative and simple, in order to appeal to the maximum audience possible. Blockbusters are usually products, created purely in the pursuit of making money, and publishers don’t tend to be all that interested in what audiences get out of them, so long as they had enough “fun” with the game that they “got their money’s worth,” thereby justifying the purchase of the game. With that being said, there are some blockbusters out there in which the developers and publishers put an effort in to do something beyond spin money, and certainly the three games below are all excellent examples of blockbuster games at their very best.
Along with Tekken, Dead or Alive, and Street Fighter, Soulcalibur is the blockbuster fighting franchise, and we’ve been waiting a long time for this latest edition. Soulcalibur VI offers it all; stunning character models and environments, a huge single player mode to go with the multiplayer action, accessibility for newcomers but complexity for veterans, and some stunning fireworks during the fighting itself.
Assassin’s Creed is like the big budget Dynasty Warriors; the ultimate reason that we play these games is for the way they depict history and meld in real historical figures, locations, architecture and events with the more fanciful and fantastic elements. With Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Ubisoft took us to ancient Greece, and as a follow-on and compliment to the previous one, set in Egypt, it’s a great little rush. Especially for those of us that spent a lot of time studying ancient Greece back in the day. It’s a delight to see just how Ubisoft went around really recapturing where the imagination took us with those dry, dull textbooks.
11-11 Memories Retold certainly doesn’t look like a blockbuster, but that’s why it’s so exciting; it’s most definitely one. It involved Aardman Animation; a studio that has made hundreds of millions from its films. It involved Elijah Wood, one of Hollywood’s most recognisable stars. And it was published by Bandai Namco, one of the world’s biggest publishers.
11-11 Memories Retold is proof that a blockbuster doesn’t need to be a open world or battle royale shooter. It proved that major game releases don’t need to unquestionably include massive kill counts and bloodletting. It was proof that games can handle war with a mature and appropriately reflective tone. 11-11 Memories Retold gave us hope that blockbusters can be more than empty entertainment, and, coming so late in the year, it came as a relief to us all.