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.
The Xbox One had a relatively quiet year, it must be said. That’ll change for Microsoft soon enough since the company went on an acquisition spree that was truly impressive this year, but for 2018, Xbox One owners needed to rely more on third party games for their console. Thankfully, there were more than enough great third party games to choose between anyway.
It’s actually very hard to do Lovecraft’s blend of horror justice in a visual medium like a videogame. His strengths as a writer don’t translate very well to a medium that specialises in explicit depiction rather than implication. So we were so happy to find out that Call of Cthulhu managed to find a way to do Lovecraftian horror just perfectly. This horror adventure/RPG hybrid takes the popular pen-and-paper RPG of the same name, and finds a way to make it really sing on the Xbox One, without relying on the kind of common horror video game tropes that usually ruin games based on Lovecraft.
Life is Strange really paved a new way forward for narrative-driven video games. The sequel proves that it wasn’t a one-off for developer, Dontnod. Life is Strange 2 is another stunning coming of age story, wrapped up with plenty of drama and mysteries. The new characters and narrative are instantly appealing, and by the time you’ve finished the first chapter, you’re going to be itching for more all over again.
11-11 Memories Retold is the way all games about real war should be. Somber, emotionally impactful, and free of the lazy “heroism” and “light in the darkness” nonsense that has not characterised a single actual war in human history. The games industry is downright irresponsible with how it treats war as a subject, and in doing so has turned video games into part of the recruitment propaganda efforts of the real world military. This needs to stop, and it’s games that have an appropriately horrified look at was, such as 11-11 Memories Retold, that are going to do it. This is the most important game in a decade.