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 the final category of our awards, and it’s the best games, overall, of 2018! We’ve drawn these three from the winners of other categories, as they really represent the very best that 2018 threw our way; creative, important, intelligent and deep games that have helped to push the medium forward in some way.
What a stunning hit of nostalgia Octopath Traveler provided us with. While the game itself is most certainly modern in design and structure (and quite innovative with the way it handles such a large cast of leading protagonists), the game also offers the most gorgeous homage to 16-bit JRPGs that we’ve ever come across. Gorgeous sprites and 2D environments, combined with a soaring, classical soundtrack, has provided something that we hope is just the start for Square Enix. We need more games like this one out there.
If you were one of the couple of hundred people who actually played Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, you’ll know why it is quite possibly the most perfect example of a “hidden gem” that we’ve ever seen in video games. It sold terribly, to be frank, and that’s such a pity, because it’s such a beautiful game. Introspective and reflective, this is a game about storytelling, about how stories are crafted and then shared.
It’s also a rich look at the culture and heritage of America and its unique storytelling environment. With a performance by Sting, and a truly incredible soundtrack, this is one indie title that punches so far above its weight, we only hope that people continue to discover it and talk about it for years into the future.
Given that 11-11 Memories Retold won four categories in this year’s awards, it’s should come as no surprise that it was effortlessly our #1 pick for game of the year. 11-11 Memories Retold is a truly powerful and emotional take on the horrors of war. It’s not a war game that positions you as a hero, turning back tides of enemies with your trusty gun. It’s not a game about violence at all. It’s a game about the innocents that get caught up in the war, and why their stories, experiences, and the horrors they go through are the ones that we should be remembering when we think about war.
Released right around the same time as the vile trash that is Battlefield V, it’s quite sad to think that 11-11 Memories Retold will only be played by a fraction of the people that EA’s game will attract, and it will generate even less discussion. But it is a game with blockbuster values (including the stunning art design, contributed by Aardman), and it’s a true and honest look at the real meaning and impact of war. It’s somber, but absolutely essential for anyone who cares about games as something more than passive entertainment.