Kritigri’s Top 10 Played Games of 2019!

Wow it’s that time of year again already! As always, it’s about what I played this year, not just what was released this year, because I’m not made of money and can’t afford to buy every release that interests me for full price. Also, DLC counts if it’s an expansion or a similar level of content release to a pre-existing game.

In fact, let’s acknowledge what I was interested in this year but never got the chance to play:

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

Devil May Cry 5

Planet Zoo

Borderlands 3

Control

Rage 2

Onto what I actually did play, then. I’d say this year’s been pretty good, but every year’s good when you’re looking at your top ten. Games are a lot of fun!


Honorable Mention: The Outer Worlds

This game gets my yearly “I’m sorry I abandoned you” award.

The Outer Worlds was good. GOTY material. I thought that, in my head, as I was playing it. I finished the entire first planet, including a few sidequests, and I was really enjoying my time. But on the way to the next planet I realised that I’d reached a good stopping point, and another release pulled me away.

I swore to come back, but I never did.

I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.


#10 – Beat Saber (PSVR)

Whenever you see clips of people doing amazing things in Beat Saber, just know that they are literal gods who walk among us. The level of satisfaction you get from just watching them work is easily achieved by accomplishing much smaller feats in your own play sessions. The game does exactly what it promises to do in its visuals – it makes you feel like a damn Jedi. When you get it right, anyway. And when you don’t end up punching your bookshelf… I don’t have a lot of movement space in my room.

My only complaint is that there’s no Spotify or Youtube integration, with an algorithm for generating your own levels. Choice of level is sparse, with music that’s personally only enjoyable because of the accompanying gameplay. I’d be way more interested in playing Beat Saber to the tunes of heavy metal, just to see how insane that could get, but it seems like the creators are opting for a DLC method, netting them more money but us far less options in genre. Ah well.


#9 – Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune (PS4)

Of all the late discoveries in my GOTY lists, this one must be the latest. Despite the original game having not even been released this decade, the PS4 remaster holds up. Whilst the fact that it’s a PS3 game shines through in some of the flat platform ledges and basic, albeit touched-up faces, the gameplay didn’t feel clunky at all.

I really didn’t know what to expect going into Uncharted. It’s a genre I never cared about as a teenager – I actually sold Uncharted 3 which came with my PS3 – to the extent that I’ve never even gone out of my way to watch gameplay of the series. I was surprised by the amount of cover shooting the game had, though not unpleasantly so. I was even more surprised by the turn the story takes towards the end, into the supernatural. I took my time with the game, playing through a few chapters over the course of weeks, but I had a great time.

If you’re wondering why I chose the first game, which everyone tells me is rough compared to its sequels, here’s the answer: I’m not doing playing Among Thieves yet.


#8 – Super Mario Maker 2 (Switch)

One of my most anticipated games of the year. The original’s existence was my one regret for not owning a Wii U, having already been deeply invested in making my own Mario levels years before on a fan-made version called Super Mario Flash.

I love that it’s just always there, on my Switch, millions of levels ready to go. This time around Nintendo also included 100 levels of their own in a cute little story mode, where you can rebuild Peach’s castle and earn some new level parts along the way. I’m also a big fan of the huge variety of themes across all games, with night levels including some fun modifiers. It truly feels like there are limitless possibilities.

I made a couple of levels, and was decently surprised to see them get played and rated nicely. However, my idea of recreating Crash Bandicoot levels in Mario Maker form didn’t exactly pan out, and it kinda crushed my motivation to make levels from there on out. Plus, the issue of the level pool being flooded with low quality content stops Super Mario Maker 2 from being higher up in the list; a flaw of its own nature.


#7 – Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4)

I’m going to level with you here – I haven’t played this game in months, so I don’t have any sort of fresh take to give you. But from what I remember, it’s my favourite Assassin’s Creed game since AC2. Kassandra is a genuinely likable assassin with a story that I actually give a damn about, and having agency over basic choices in the story makes a world of difference. Plus, the world of Ancient Greece is superbly crafted. And it’s HUGE. I’m still awestruck and bewildered as to how they made such a huge and detailed environment.

It’s a long ol’ game, and it’s one I’ve pledged to return to at some point. I think that point may be coming up sooner rather than later.


#6 – Elder Scrolls Online: Elsweyr (PC)

Back at the start of the year I played through the preceding Summerset chapter, and considered it to be a gorgeous and well-crafted island with a somewhat dull story riddled with ambiguously magical plot points. Then, in the summer, I began the Elsweyr chapter when it came out, but the story just didn’t grab me, and I ultimately fell off of playing it, not even thinking about it again for months.

Then, last week, I got the urge to resume my travels and discovered that the second half of the Elsweyr story is when shit got interesting. And just when I’d grown attached to the characters, the story ended, and I continued onwards to Southern Elsweyr in the accompanying DLC released this fall to wrap up the year-long storyline. As far as ESO stories go, it was pretty grand! Zapped some dragons, helped some cats, did the hero stuff. I haven’t actually tried any of the side-stories yet, though. I’ve spent my last few play sessions levelling an alt through the Daggerfall Covenant questlines, which I’ve scarcely touched.

This year is the first time I’ve given into temptation and opted into the optional ESO Plus subscription instead of just buying the smaller DLC packs outright. I’ve gotta say, the freedom of being able to loot everything without worrying about the crafting materials eating up all your bag space does make questing that little bit more enjoyable.


#5 – Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled (PS4)

CTR:NF is the most generous game when it comes to free content that I’ve ever seen, with one huge caveat: Despite initially promising that the game would have zero microtransactions, season two saw the introduction of the ability to buy Wumpa Coins alongside earning them through play. I’ve kept a close eye on the valuation of store items, though, and nothing’s been tweaked to be more of a grind that I can see.

Anyways, this game is more than just a faithful remake of the original PS1 title. It goes above and beyond, including every track from the PS2 successor Crash Nitro Kart, as well as the aforementioned seasonal content, each bringing with it a free new track that’s unlocked for everyone. It is incredibly generous. Not only that, but I personally find the gameplay more fun that Mario Kart 8’s, and I love Mario Kart 8 (though I am now AWFUL at it).

I’m currently a bit burnt out, having successfully completed my Champion Kart grind in the Halloween season, but it’s definitely a game I’ll be returning to often.


#4 – Pokémon Sword (Switch)

I almost didn’t buy this game.

The last mainline Pokémon game I really loved was Pokémon Diamond. I’ve always been more of a fan of the remakes and spinoffs, like Pokémon Leaf Green, Pokémon SoulSilver and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee Edition. It’s only because I bought the two-game-pass thing months ago that I decided to pick up Sword; I was initially going to go for Dragon Quest XIS, but I fell off playing the demo. (It seems like a really good game, my attention span just betrays me.)

I’m so glad I changed my mind! This has legitimately been the most fun I’ve had in a Pokémon game for years. I love the setting, I love the Galar region Pokémon, I love the story (yes, even Hop), and I love the spectacle of gym battles. When you look at a clip of a Pokémon dynamaxing it looks stupid, but when you’re immersed in the game’s story and challenge, it genuinely feels awesome when you dynamax for the first time.

Hell, I’m even planning on checking out the anime for Pokémon Sword when it comes out. And I never watch the anime! That’s how much I love the Galar region.


#3 – Halo: Reach (PC)

It feels like I’ve been waiting to play a Halo game for my entire life, and I am so, so happy that I finally have the chance to do so.

That being said, Halo: Reach’s campaign didn’t really grab me until halfway through. The somewhat blunt gun-feel took a little bit of getting used to after years of Destiny 2, and the setting of the first few missions isn’t quite the fantastical sci-fi romp that I’ve known Halo to be from afar. It does get there eventually though, and when you’ve spent some time with the weapons they do feel effective in their own way. By the fifth mission I’d fallen fully in love with Halo: Reach.

The multiplayer is hugely refreshing, hailing from an era before ultimates and gameplay tailored to try and give every player their hero moment. There’s obviously still a fair amount of one-shot kills, such as sniper rifles, rocket launchers and energy swords, but these are weapons which you have to fight over to obtain, rather than being a bar which charges up over a set amount of time. I love the Crucible in Destiny 2, and I do enjoy the ultimate based gameplay, but it does lead to more moments of frustration. In comparsion, Halo feels like a breath of fresh air.

I can’t wait for the rest of the collection to come to PC.


#2 – Destiny 2: Shadowkeep

Choosing between this and Halo for #2 was a difficult choice. I have friends who would object one way or the other. But when it really comes down to it, to what I spent the most amount of time in getting the most amount of enjoyment out of, it has to be Shadowkeep, purely by way of design.

As far as the story goes, I made an excellent decision in brushing up on the lore of Destiny before this expansion dropped. (Chapters, DLC, I don’t care what the devs call these things, they’re expansions.) The “oh shit” moment near the start of the campaign was really an “OH SHIT” moment for me. The over-arcing narrative of events on the moon was really fun to explore. To be honest, though, the seasonal story felt tacked-on, and the Vex Offensive event for season 8 had absolutely no replayability. Season 9 has just kicked off but I’m still a little burnt out from reaching the end of season 8’s loot pass, and it’s a little weird adjusting back from Halo.

Nevertheless though, I’ve spent literally 100 hours in the game since Shadowkeep launched and while I may have gotten frustrated with it towards the end there, the majority of time was well spent.


#1 – Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

I beat this right at the start of the year in January, so my memory might be a little vague, but this remains the best game I’ve played on PS4. One of my favourite fictional worlds from one of my favourite game developers turned out to be an amazing (hah) combination. I immediately fell in love with the story and bought all the DLC, playing to 100% completion. This is legitimately one of my favourite versions of Spider-Man across all forms of media, up there with the Spider-Verse movie and the Ultimate Spider-Man comic line.

I’ve honestly been keeping myself from doing another run through the game until my memory of it is distant. And hey, it is now… and to grab that platinum trophy I need to beat the game on its hardest difficulty. So there’s a good excuse.


Most Anticipated 2020 Titles

And that’s a wrap on 2019!

This list could have looked very different without a few delays, however. Where would Animal Crossing and DOOM Eternal have landed on this list? What if the other Halo games had also launched this year? Let’s take a sneak peak at what the next year holds in store. My most anticipated titles, not ordered because I honestly can’t choose, are:

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

Elder Scrolls Online: Untitled Skyrim Chapter

DOOM Eternal

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Halo 1-4

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga

And probably a bunch of stuff I’m forgetting right now. Looks to be a good year!

Kritigri’s Top Games Played During 2018

Welcome back to Kritigri’s Top 10 Games Played, this time during the 2018th year since some kid was born in a barn or something. Once again I would like to reiterate that since I don’t always play the most recent games, this list is not restricted to games released this year (although to be honest most of them were this time around). I’d also like to clarify that a game previously featured can be featured again if there’s been a major DLC or expansion release, or some other transformative update that has changed the game significantly. Also, I bought a PS4 about a month ago, so that marks three years in a row where I’ve introduced a new console (or PC) to my gaming arsenal.

Let’s begin with not one, but three honorable mentions.


Honorable Mention – Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4)

A-HA! Caught RED-HANDED, FRATERNISING with CRIMINALS!

The only reason that this isn’t on the list is because, well, I’ve only just started playing it. I’m about five hours in, but I’m already gushing about what a bloody masterpiece it is, and how proud I am of Insomniac for creating yet another brilliant game that’s rocketed to the top of my favourites. The world feels lived-in and vibrant, and the game keeps throwing things to do at you as you progress throughout the campaign (I watched 60% of a playthrough when it released). The unlockable suits and powers are excellently crafted, but most beautifully of all, this game has a story which is every bit as captivating and authentic as any Spider-Man comic or movie I have ever read or watched. Just… bravo, Insomniac. Bravo.


Honorable Mention – Fortnite (PC)

Well I say PC, but my best played game was on the Switch. Go figure.

I played a lot of Fortnite during season 4 with a friend, as I was interested in the Battle Royale experience but not quite willing to shell out money at the time. Plus, I preferred the look of Fortnite’s cartoony aesthetic compared to the gritty military visuals of, say, PUBG. I played a lot of Fortnite when I was invested, and had an unashamedly fantastic time doing so, but the way the Battle Pass system works eventually made the game feel like a bit of a chore for me, as I was determined to unlock the full Omega skin but had a long road ahead of me and little time to accomplish it. Plus, I found myself altering how I played games in the hopes of completing challenges, as opposed to playing it for the enjoyment of it. After unlocking the full Omega skin shortly before the end of season 4 I ultimately felt burnt out, and have only rarely returned to the game since. Still, I can see why the kids love it. Stop mocking them. Let them dance. But remember, this game is more than just memes. Epic have built something really unique here within the Battle Royale subgenre.


Honorable Mention – Runescape (PC)

Wouldn’t be Runescape without a yak in the picture

This game doesn’t qualify for the list as it’s one I’ve been playing on and off for almost half of my life, and it hasn’t had any kind of expansion or game-changing update to warrant inclusion as something new that I’ve played this year. And yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if I sunk the most hours into Runescape in 2018 than any other year. This year I finally achieved my first level 99 in Woodcutting (it was an auspicious moment), and then followed it up with 99s in Firemaking, Divination and Fletching, in that order. I also unlocked the endgame city of Prifdinnas, which requires effort enough to be considered a 99 in itself, in my opinion. Crucially, I achieved a high level (70+) in almost every skill, which has opened up so much more of the game for me. Runescape doesn’t attract too many new players these days, but it keeps the ones it has, and therefore most of the updates that are made for it are skewed towards the higher levels so as to be appetising to its active player-base. While you certainly don’t start in a barren wasteland at level 3, it does create this interesting situation where the game just gets bigger and bigger, the higher level you are.

Another important reason for my increased time in Gielinor is my clan. Hi, clan! The game is so much better when you have people to talk to, let alone awesome people such as yourselves.


#10 – Celeste (Switch)

Down I go…

Celeste is a difficult platformer with a heart of gold. I’ve not finished it (or admittedly picked it up in a while), but it nails the level of difficulty required for stubborn players like me who want to bash their heads against a level for a good half an hour if necessary until completion, when the sense of satisfaction becomes palpable. Plus it is not shy about throwing new mechanics at you and moving on, without milking each mechanic for as long as they probably could. The game also lets you know how many times you died on each level, which is always a fun statistic. The Switch’s easy sharing functionalities have made for some fun moments on my Nintigri Twitter feed, too. I’ll be coming back to this one.


#9 – Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch)

Have you ever accidentally thrown your key to escape into an endless void? Toad has.

Bloody hell does this game make me smile. I’m not a huge puzzle game kinda guy, but I bought this on a whim during a sale and at the recommendation of a streamer, and boy am I glad I did. The game is bursting with charm, although its bright exterior belies some truly perilous situations in later levels. The level design philosophy seems to be all about packing as much stuff into as small a level as possible and it truly is impressive how successful they were in this endeavour; what at first seems like a simple chunk of world is often home to many nooks and crannies that you’ll need to access if you want to complete every objective. Plus, bonus objectives add replayability post-completion, and the level count is nothing to be sniffed at.

And so it comes to pass that perhaps my favourite puzzle platformer is one that features characters who can’t even jump. (Their backpacks are simply too heavy!)


#8 – Pokemon Let’s Go: Eevee Edition (Switch)

He RIDES on your HEAD

I feel ashamed. I’ve only beaten the first three gyms, and then I got distracted by the PS4 I purchased. But make no mistake, my time in Kanto is far from over. Because holy heck have I had a fantastic time rediscovering all my favourite first generation Pokemon and interacting with a familiar world in new ways. I’ve always favoured the remakes over new games (my favourite Pokemon games peak with Pokemon Soul Silver and Pokemon Leaf Green), because they’ve always felt like a perfection on old ideas, and the Let’s Go games take it one step further by reinventing the nature of capturing and levelling up Pokemon. It’s honestly refreshing, although I’m glad it’s a spin-off and not the prevailing philosophy for the core series.

One gripe I do have is that the game feels somewhat too easy, as the focus is on collecting and levelling rather than battling trainers, but I’m still fairly early in the game and I have noticed a bit more variety being introduced to trainer battles, so maybe that’s not a problem later on.


#7 – World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth (PC)

“To find him, drown yourself in a circle of stars.”

Seeing as I expected this to be at the top of this list pre-launch, expect most of this entry to be me exploring why it isn’t. Firstly, though, it is here because the continents of Kul Tiras and Zandalar are beautifully realised, new expansionary features such as Allied Races and the War Campaign were welcome additions, and because ultimately it’s still new content for World of Warcraft, which is ever contesting with the real world for possession of my soul.

To start with, the levelling experience didn’t grip me as much as I’d expected. I feel like this is in part because the story was building up to a war between the Horde and Alliance but focused instead on local issues, in part because Blizzard have jumped the narrative shark of dealing with the Legion, and in part because when stretched across three zones, the pacing of questing felt elongated and never-ending. Stormsong Valley is beautiful, vast, and bloody endless. This isn’t helped by the fact that zones were designed with side-quests in mind, but there was no indication that what you were doing was vital to the story or not until you’d spent half an hour killing quillboars only to check your story progression and find it hadn’t moved an inch. Hence, after cleaning out Tiragarde Sound and Stormsong Valley of every yellow exclamation mark I could find, I only made it a few quests in to the hauntingly atmospheric Drustvar before hitting level 100, and being required to finish the zone to continue the over-arcing narrative without getting any further relevant rewards became a frustrating grind despite the fantastic setting.

At end-game, everything became time-gated. You needed to reach certain levels of reputation with certain factions in order to progress, which was an issue when the only method of earning said reputation was to grind World Quests. Island Expeditions, while delivering on promises of exotic landmasses and a new style of gameplay, actually gave little reward and amounted to little more than a stressful combat rush which didn’t let you stop and take in the setting or provide any sort of narrative. And Warfronts were so impressively time-gated that I actually gave up on waiting.

8.1 may have fixed a lot of these issues, but I’ve not yet returned to have a look, and don’t think I will until I have much more time available to me. There’s no doubt that the expansion is fun and gave me hours of entertainment, but when ranked up against Legion it just doesn’t yet compare.


#6 – Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind (PC)

Who needs Star Wars Droids to project a messenger? Just possess an elf!

Right, so I did include ESO in my 2016 list, but this is about an expansion sorry, chapter, that was released in 2017. Sorry for the confusion. Anyway, I wasn’t expecting too much outside of the ordinary ambling around Tamriel I do in my occasional bouts of playing the game (I’m almost level 50 now, you know), but to my surprise Vvardenfell hooked me in. Before that, I’d spent some time in Coldharbour completing the main quest line, so it helped that I was already immersed in the game, but questing in Vvardenfell was so interesting and fun that it almost reminded me of some of my deepest dives into Skyrim. Not that you should ever compare ESO to Skyrim. They’re different genres, okay? STOP GIVING IT NEGATIVE REVIEWS FOR NOT BEING MULTIPLAYER SKYRIM i’m fine.

Maybe I’ll play Summerset in 2019!


#5 – Assassin’s Creed Origins (PC)

Every game needs a photo mode.

Origins, not Odyssey. I’m a bit behind. But Assassin’s Creed Origins marks the first RPG(ish) that I’ve fallen off of, and successfully returned to six months later without needing to restart the game and subsequently fail at progressing. I’ve still not finished it and I have put it down again for the time being, but I have faith that when I return to Egypt once more it’ll be the game’s refined stealth and combat systems that keep me entertained, while exploring Ptolemaic Egypt will keep me immersed far better than Bayek’s decent-but-meagre personal plot. This game feels like a deep dive into ancient history and my favourite parts are always the things I learn about the contextual world that genuinely fascinate me.

Shooting bandits in the back of the head without alerting the rest of the camp is a close second, of course.


#4 – Spyro Re-Ignited Trilogy (PS4)

I love how the PS4 takes screencaps upon earning trophies. Also, game’s bloody pretty innit.

This game is what caused me to finally buckle and buy a PS4. I have no doubt that it’ll be announced for Switch and PC eventually, but I have no regrets. Reliving my childhood was a complete blast, and the games look absolutely gorgeous in their new rendition by Toys For Bob. I spared no time in getting a Platinum trophy in all three games, and even streamed my playthrough of Year of the Dragon, the game I was most familiar with. The only gripe I have is the Sgt Byrd was a goddamn disgrace to control, but that may have been the case in the original, too, I don’t remember.

I was excited for this game for a long time and after completing all three, I’m still itching to play more Spyro. I could honestly replay the whole trilogy right now, if I didn’t have so much else I wanted to play!


#3 – Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy (PC)

Crash symbolises life. The bear symbolises me.

I just had to choose between Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon and I do not want to talk about how difficult it was to put one above the other. When it comes down to it, though, I love difficult platformers, and while Crash may not have been designed to be difficult for its time it’s certainly aged that way. I’ve gotten every crystal and gem in the first two games, and am very slowly working my way through the relics (speedruns, for the uninitiated). In Warped, it seems that you need to get relics first to unlock every level, so that one is slightly more complex. Regardless, I intend to fully complete them all if I can. I’ve certainly made the most of my many many failures within my playthroughs.


#2 – Ratchet and Clank (PS4)

This legitimately took my breath away.

You didn’t think I was just going to let Naughty Dog beat Insomniac, did you?

Ratchet and Clank was my original reason for wanting a PS4, and the strongest, and holy shit I finally got to play it and it was amazing and Insomniac please marry me. This game was not only a recreation of the original but an improvement upon it, with new areas and a new story, which was incidentally based off the animated film that was also based off the original game! (It was okay). Not only that, but this game feels like an amalgamation of the best parts of the entire series, including favourite guns from previous games such as the Groovitron and Mr Zurkon. Not only that, but Insomniac cooked up some new guns too, such as the brilliantly inventive Pixelizer and the Proton Drum. The game added a set of collectables in the form of Holo-Cards, cards which showcased some of the series’ other guns and characters as well as providing some fun lore about them.

The game is beautiful. The first time I saw Novalis I nearly cried, and I wish I could tell you I’m exaggerating. Seeing something you’re intimately familiar with and have a plethora of childhood memories attached to recreated with such care and skill is an experience that cannot really be summed up in words.

As it stands, I’ve beaten the game’s campaign and its challenge mode, and only have four trophies left: fully upgrade every weapon, fully mod every weapon, fully upgrade Ratchet’s health, and witness the Groovitron animation for every enemy. That last trophy is so easily missable that I legitimately had a bad dream about forgetting to do it last night. If you miss an enemy, you have to redo an entire playthrough. Not cool.


#1 – Destiny 2: Forsaken

I have been ironing some banners recently

I BET THEY DIDN’T EXPECT THAT! – Lord Shaxx

Yes, Destiny 2. I shunned it a little in 2017, but hello, 2018 called and it wants its GOTY back. I’m attributing this to the Forsaken DLC as it is for all intents and purposes a major expansion, but if I’m being honest I started to get back into the game when my friend convinced to give the Warmind DLC a go. Unlike Curse of Osiris it actually had content, and Mars is still my favourite location to this day.

Forsaken, though, added an enthralling campaign, two new locations, a new type of enemy, wove a compelling narrative, redesigned the way gun slots work, and most importantly, added Triumphs and Collections, essentially adding achievements into the game as well as a way to see what gear you’ve earned (and potentially re-acquire it) with ease. These simple features have made the game immediately more quantifiable in scope, and have allowed players to set themselves goals and drive themselves to replay content they otherwise wouldn’t. By players, of course, I mean me.

The bounty system is also a welcome return, as I feel I’m never short on things to do, especially with the release of the Black Forge and its daunting Power Level requirements. (I’m still in the 570s.) Many of the issues that plagued the game in Year 1 have gone, and while Bungie still makes some questionable design decisions, I find that I experience two moments of satisfaction for every one moment of bafflement.

I’m yet to determine whether DLC of the Black Forge variety is particularly lucrative or worth the money, but here’s hoping for more expansions like Forsaken in the future.

The Nintendo Switch, and Nintendo’s Recent Launch History

When the Switch was first announced, I was ecstatic. The proof-of-concept type trailer that they used to show the functionality of the Switch was a frequently watched video for the next few weeks, and the possibilities – mainly, portable Skyrim – were enticing. It’s the most excited I’ve ever been for a Nintendo home console, as somebody who only really paid attention to the company’s non-handhelds around the launch of the Wii. And for the most part, my excitement remains unchanged. But there’s one big reason (besides the price) that I’m not going to grab the console any time soon, and it’s the same reason why I’ve never been all that fussed about rushing for a brand new Nintendo console.

Launch titles. Nintendo has a history of launching their consoles with very little in the way of actual games, and the Switch is no exception. Typically, there will be one big, triple-A title, followed by a smattering of third party games that are swiftly forgotten in the following months, and a game or two which promotes the main gimmick of the console. For instance, with the launch of the DS, the US saw the release of Super Mario 64 DS – a remake of an older game – alongside Asphalt Urban GT, The Urbz: Sims in the City, Feel the Magic: XY/XX, Spider-Man 2 and Madden NFL 2005. The Wii’s launch was somewhat more respectable, with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Wii Sports (their proof of concept style title), and a handful of larger titles found on other consoles. The 3DS launch was particularly barren, with not a single standout title and a smattering of potential interests depending on your niche franchise preferences. The ill-faring Wii U launched with a dramatic number of title ports that ultimately failed to pull audiences away from rival consoles which did a better job of running the games.

The Switch, then, follows this pattern to a tee. You have the large triple-A title that everyone wants to play, namely The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. And you have their gimmicky demo, 1-2 Switch, which I’ve seen reported as being fun for a few hours but far from a full title. (Hello again, Wii Sports. I see they gave you a hefty price tag this time.) You have an attempt to revitalise a dead franchise (here’s to you, Bomberman) and a few niche or unique titles. In all fairness, I’ve not played them. They could be fantastic. But I’ve not heard much besides “meh”.

I was going to dedicate a portion of this blog post to what I thought was a less-than-wise decision to launch your new console with its main title being available on the previous platform. From what I’ve seen and heard, Breath of the Wild is only slightly less impressive on the Wii U – almost negligibly so. I’d just like to point out that on this front, though, I was dead wrong, as Breath of the Wild is apparently outselling Super Mario 64 as a launch title so far. I felt that was worth mentioning, considering how this blog post has criticised Nintendo’s console launches so far. I’m not a big Zelda fan myself, and even I want to get my hands on this one.

Despite all of this, I’m still pretty damn excited for the Switch. I’ve seen the list of games which are coming to the console, and I’m absolutely planning on buying titles such as Skyrim, Terraria, and Stardew Valley for a second (or third) time, as well as investing in some other indies that I’ve not gotten around to yet like Shovel Knight, The Binding of Isaac and Unbox. Plus, the 3DS gamer in me is eager to delve into the Virtual Console library again, and to own some of Nintendo’s older games that previously didn’t make it onto the 3DS shop. Plus, as somebody who skipped the Wii U as deftly as Neo from The Matrix dodges bullets, I’m looking forward to owning a Nintendo home console again and playing some larger titles.

But that’ll all come in a year or two. Because, once again, Nintendo has given us a console with hardly any decent games attached. I’m just hoping that Breath of the Wild’s success will carry the Switch past Nintendo’s recent early day console failings. The 3DS caught up, but the Wii U never did quite manage to recover from so many devs pulling their support.

I’ve also found Nintendo to focus somewhat too much on giving their consoles some crazy functionality, to the point where it can hinder gameplay. I can only assume that after the Gamecube’s failure to compete against the Xbox and the PS2, Nintendo decided to stop competing altogether and take things in a whole different direction. It worked for the DS. Theoretically speaking, it worked for the Wii, but in a manner that made it more of a family party console than the Nintendo gaming console that many people wanted. I can’t count the number of times I got sick of playing Animal Crossing because of the Wii’s motion controls. The 3DS had a dismissable gimmick, so much so that Nintendo capitalised on it and sold a non-3D variant of the console. The Wii U was a weird mess of motion control and dual screens combined into a home console with an identity crisis. The Switch, however, has functionality which actually makes it more convenient to play, like Nintendo’s handhelds, as opposed to being less convenient, such as its home-based predecessors.

So, that’s about the sum of my thoughts regarding the Switch. I’m sure they mirror many others. I’ll be excited to own it when it has a decent library a year or two from now, so that it can be the companion console to my gaming PC. As much as I frown upon Nintendo’s functionality-driven approach to consoles, it works out for them in the somewhat niche market of PC gamers looking for a console that isn’t simply a less-powerful version of what they can already accomplish. Making it semi-portable is what mostly solidified my interest in it.

The Secret Double Life of a Villager (Animal Crossing)

Sometimes, I like to play World of Warcraft and smite my demonic foes. Sometimes I play Unreal Tournament and go on a massive killing spree. Sometimes I boot up Rocket League and roar at my screen when my teammates are idiots. But sometimes, beyond all that, all I really want to do is live in a little virtual town with animal friends and make money by catching fish, selling fruit and working to build a better house.

Animal Crossing: City Folk was one of the main reasons I got a Wii back in 08, and it was my first Animal Crossing game. I don’t remember where I’d heard about the series (I vaguely recollect an online forum based around Wii titles called friendcodes.com), but it’s up there with Minecraft, WoW, Spore and Terraria as one of those few games that caused me to almost leap out of my seat with excitement when I first laid eyes on it. From there, I watching Animal Crossing Let’s Plays on Youtube (there was a great Gamecube one I remember fondly) and pining for a title in the series until I finally acquired my Wii.

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After much digging, I managed to find this screenshot from my City Folk save on an old website. Excuse the quality.

Eventually, however, due to the nature of the Wii in having to set it up whenever you wanted to play (sometimes getting the Wiimotes to sync to the sensor bar was a bitch), I got sick of playing it, and moved on with my life to let my town become overgrown with weeds and abandonment. I’d actually become interested in the previous title in the series, Wild World, as it was a DS title and was therefore more easily accessible. I believe it was Christmas 2010 when I got the game, and to my delight one of my villagers was a penguin named Aurora. Later, when I’d abandoned my town and restarted with a new one, Aurora once more moved in, following me between saves. I think she’s my favourite villager.

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Erm… woops.

But the latest entry in the series (unless you count Happy Home Designer) is New Leaf, and I made sure to pick that one up alongside my 3DS. The quality-of-life changes are delightful, the graphical updates much appreciated (although I do miss the old grass somewhat) and the game as a whole feels familiar, but better. I recently decided to try out Wild World again and found that I couldn’t adjust back after being spoiled by New Leaf. I think my favourite part about New Leaf – besides them fixing the hastily deteriorating grass found in City Folk – is the ability to choose the beautiful town ordinance, making the age old dilemma of your town being overrun with weeds nonexistent. I can abandon my village without having to worry about restarting when I return, or spending an hour de-weeding the entire village.

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Yes, Queenie. Yes I do.

I’m not entirely sure what it is that keeps pulling me back to Animal Crossing. I’ve never fully paid off my debts and acquired the largest house, or maintained a perfect town or grown much of a bond with my villagers (besides Aurora in Wild World).  But every few months or so I’ll get this little niggling at the back of my brain to go back and play more, and I’ll do everything there is to do in a day in the game, every day for a week or two, until I give up on the debt again. But I’ll always return, no matter how many Animal Crossing inspired games I play in-between.

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Yes, Ed. It’s so quiet. I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone besides you today. Where did everybody go?

One last thing: If you love the Animal Crossing soundtrack as much as I do, consider trying out this website. It plays the appropriate soundtrack for the time of the day, and you can choose between games in the bottom right. It can make life pretty peaceful!

The Endless Quest for Loot (Diablo 3)

I’ve never played any of the previous Diablo games, and I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about Diablo 3’s state at launch. However, my prior addiction to World of Warcraft had caused me to take a look at Blizzard’s other games, and Diablo 3 had caught my eye many moons before when I tried out the demo on PS3. After a swift recommendation from a friend, I plunged in wallet first and entered the world of Sanctuary.

The story caught me off-guard. I remember that I’d been intrigued by the gameplay, but when I actually bought it around two years ago (shortly after the release of the expansion, Reaper of Souls), I became quickly invested in the actual events unfolding around me. I had also been enticed by the cinematic at the begging of Act IV (spoilers, watch at your own discretion), but I’d mostly attributed its awesomeness to Blizzard’s ever-spectacular cinematic team; seeing it in context with the narrative was a whole other layer of enjoyment.

But that was a few years ago. I completed the game ages ago and have gotten a second character to level 70 alongside my original Wizard. So what am I still doing playing the game?

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The other day, my friend and I were lucky enough to take down a treasure goblin which opened a portal to The Vault. I think I gathered around 40 million gold overall.

Well, Diablo 3 really comes to fruition as a game after its completion. When you finish the story, you’re launched into adventure mode, and that’s where the game really opens up. You can gain infinite amounts of paragon levels which allow you to attribute small enhancements to stats (I’m currently at level 103), and the game becomes a search for gear which will enhance your skills and complement your character’s abilities. I’m currently attempting to gather the set pieces needed to pull off an Archon build for my Wizard… and in all honesty, this is the first time in a hundred paragon levels and countless hours of gameplay that I’ve actually decided to look up a guide on how to build my character, and it’s really given me new motivation to continue playing. There’s countless ways to improve, such as switching up which abilities you use so that they work together to create a unified effect (I currently work with a lot of lightning) or enchanting your gear to have some extra defenses if your character becomes squishy. It’s a never-ending balance of doing enough damage and having enough toughness and recovery, and choosing when to finally move up to the next level of difficulty for faster experience and more rewards.

It’s rare that I become so invested in an RPG that I continue to return to it. Nowadays Blizzard allow you to create seasonal characters, meaning that you start completely fresh (with no shared bank or money with your previous characters) and complete quotas (such as hitting max level) to unlock rewards such as gear and cosmetics. When Season 6 began a few weeks ago I began levelling a Demon Hunter with a friend, but soon decided to continue working on my main character outside of the seasonal game and truly get to grips with the way the metagame works. And I’ve been having a blast.

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Kadala sells you random items in return for Blood Shards. I got ridiculously lucky when searching for a particular set helmet (orange items are legendary, green items are set items), but alas, did not find the particular one I was looking for.

Diablo excels at giving you a sense of progression and achievement far into the depths of the adventure mode. From treasure goblins to cursed chests, to random legendary item drops and even the sound that it makes when it clinks to the ground and the beam of light the shines upwards from it, everything is designed to make you feel accomplished as you romp through the ever demon-infested lands and kill bosses you’ve put down many a time before. And it doesn’t feel monotonous, because you’re always working towards a new, greater goal. The layout of areas is randomised, and if you’re doing rifts then the very lands you’re running through are randomised too. I hope Blizzard will put out another Diablo 3 expansion sometime, but honestly, the updates and continuous re-iteration of game systems is enough to keep me going, so long as they stick with it. Diablo 3 is one of my favourite games of all time, and I’ve only got more gameplay ahead of me.

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Just remember… there is no cow level.