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January 16th, 2019

Penguin DT's GOTYs 2018!

What am I working on right now?

Well, I had a long break from everything, including Penguin DT shenanigans. If you don't know why, I urge you to check out the last Weekly Penguin of 2018. To put it simply – and it hurts me to type it out – but my mom passed away in early December. Obviously this both gut-punched all the energy out of me and occupied all of my time.

So, since the last blog update not much has happened. I've returned to Penguin DT work slowly, focused on creation of textures – particularly complex pipes. I've also spent some time planning out what kind of scenery the game will have and design the basic props needed to bring those scenes to life.

But let's leave that behind us for a minute and concentrate on something great!

Penguin DT's GOTYs 2018

That time of the year – you know, the one when everyone lists their favourite games for the year. Again, video games were the best thing about the past year. Though this year was, at least for me, a lull in highly anticipated triple-A releases, indies and other underdogs really took the spotlight.

So, let's roll!

Best positive surprise:

Monster Hunter World

(runner ups: Vampyr, Project Warlock)

I've never played a Monster Hunter title before – I've always been mainlining on a wrong system – and when I finally got the chance to try this massive franchise out, I jumped in with both feet.

Monster Hunter World is a nice, up-beat adventure, set in fantastical environment with a brilliant ecosystem of monsters. And oh, the monsters – they really are the stars of the show, each requiring completely different strategies to conquer. Oh wait, are the real stars the Palicoes, especially the Meowscular Chef?

The game has tons of meat on it, having so much depth that it keeps introducing new systems almost to the very end of campaign. And when you complete the campaign and aren't allergic to multiplayer, Capcom keeps expanding the endgame with free stuff.

And yes, you can play the campaign as offline single player, unlike most of modern co-op centric games.

Best soundtrack:

Dusk

(runner ups: Overdrive, Vampyr)

Andrew Hulshult has been one interesting composer to follow, starting by doing fan-stuff for mods and now he is doing the music for the latest Quake! And with Dusk, he has done one smash hit masterpiece. Score of Dusk fits the game perfectly, ranging dark industrial ambient tracks to delightfully smashing metal mayhem that could level a forest.

Last soundtrack to get me this psyched was DOOM '16 – and if you know how big of a fan I am of that Mick Gordon experience, you'll know this comparison is huge praise.

By the way, if you are allergic to using Steam as a music store, you can get the soundtrack album on Bandcamp, too.

Most addictive:

Mothergunship

(runner up: Monster Hunter World)

When this year started, I was certain that getting hooked on hunting monsters for specific weapon parts in Monster Hunter World would be dangerously addicting. Well, it is, but I didn't expect that this year I would encounter something even more addicting. That something is Mothergunship.

This genre-bending indie rogue-like bullet-hell first-person-shooter generates the levels from pre-designed rooms – chosen based on the type of the ship you enter – and shoot hundreds upon hundreds of robots. Then you take the points you collect to vendor, buy some gun parts and design your own, unique weapons.

And testing those creations against waves of enemies in ever-changing maps is one darn addictive loop. You've all heard that 'one more turn' joke? For 2018, Mothergunship is that phrase personified.

Best of Backlog:

Ruiner

(runner ups: Resident Evil Revelations 2, FarCry 4)

I've hyped Ruiner quite a bit both on this blog and on social media, so I'm sure you all knew this was coming. This game is essentially what you get if Diablo was set in the bleakest of cyberpunk universes and took ton of combat advices from DOOM '16. What you get is one energetic, ever-moving ride of brutality.

Not only does the game play like a dream, it is also drop-dead gorgeous, looking like something straight out of 80s cyberpunk anime – and is backed by a hard hitting electronic soundtrack.

If I had played this game in 2017 when it was released instead of waiting for the physical release, it would've been a serious GOTY contender!

Timo's GOTY:

Call of Cthulhu

(runner up: Ni no Kuni II)

I played two 2018 titles: Call of Cthulhu and Ni no Kuni II. Both were nice, but I loved Cthulhu for its short length, its atmospheric feeling and the tight plot. There were some not-so-good sneaking moments, and some combat that wasn't done to my liking, but otherwise the game was just gold. I paid full price and so far have played it once through, 10 hours. It makes about 5€ per hour. And I still feel that I got my money's worth.

– Timo

Petja's GOTY:

FarCry 5

It has a good story and excellent gameplay. The open world is beautiful and filled with both missions and enemies. Arcade mode adds to the value and DLCs are original and fun to play.

– Petja

Jouni's GOTY:

Call of Cthulhu

(runner up: Dusk)

I had two games bloodily fighting for the top spot – Dusk and Call of Cthulhu. I was almost tempted to do another I-pick-two choice, but I can't make that a habit. Especially when I ask my fellow penguins to pick their faves!

In the end my pick could be controversial one, especially since I'm a hardcore classic FPS fan. I choose Call of Cthulhu, but Dusk is right at its heels.

The reason I went with Cthulhu in the end could be down to me being so starved of actual Cthulhu mythos games – and this is the first game since the original Alone in the Dark titles to actually capture the atmosphere, story and setting of Lovecraft's writings. Don't get me wrong, there are great games that borrow from Lovecraft – like freakin' Quake – but they don't really feel like actual Lovecraft stories.

Call of Cthulhu does the source material justice – both the pen-and-paper RPG and H.P. Lovecraft. It is not a typical survival horror game and definitely not a shooter like the previous titles bearing the title. Instead, it is a narrative-driven adventure game with RPG mechanics – and it comes together as a solid, eerie thriller built on atmosphere instead of jump scares.

Thank you, Cyanide and Focus Interactive, for getting Lovecraft right.

Honourable mentions

So many games and so few prizes to give away! Each of these games is as worthy a visit as any of those mentioned above;

  • Dusk (David Szymanski / New Blood Interactive)
    Like I mentioned with my GOTY, I really struggled to choose between Dusk and Call of Cthulhu. Though the decision went to Cthulhu in the end, Dusk is every bit as amazing. Dusk is a love-letter to the super-fast 90s shooters, in particular Quake and Blood. It is not a cheap cash-in riding on nostalgia, but supremely well-crafted gem of a game. It looks like long-lost brother of Quake, plays like Quake on speed and has an amazing soundtrack – which I praised earlier.

    If you're like me and love your classic first person shooters, please, get the game now. Or wait for it to appear of GOG.com – but then you'll have no excuse to miss it!

  • Overload (Revival Productions)
    Overload is basically Descent 4 in everything but name. It is designed by the original Descent crew, has very similar design and even the same composer delivering one brilliant soundtrack! Unlike other recent throwback style FPS revivals, Overload doesn't go for a retro look, but a modern one – yet it runs buttery smooth, even on consoles. Good stuff all round – and one amazing Kickstarter done-right!

  • Vampyr (Dontnod / Focus Interactive)
    Vampyr is one of the most unique game experiences this year. You play as a doctor-turned-vampire during in 1918 London during the horrendous flu epidemic. There you balance between doing the right thing by helping people and amassing power by preying on the citizens. This truly atmospheric action-RPG is closer to Dontnod's underrated début Remember Me than the narrative-focused Life is Strange.

2018 games in the to-play cue

These games are in my (Jouni's) need-to-play list, but I didn't get to them yet and thus can't valuate them for our GOTY awards. The list is a lot longer this year due to the happenings in my personal life. Even one of my most anticipated titles for the year, Darksiders III, slipped to this list as a result. However, you can look forward to seeing some of these games next year in 'Best of Backlog' category.

  • Darksiders III
  • Tetris Effect
  • FarCry 5
  • Nairi
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Spider-man
  • God of War
  • Just Cause 4

Most anticipated games of 2019

Whilst I don't see much positivity in the year 2019 in so-called 'real life', in the world of video games it's shaping up to be one of the most explosive ones of all time. Depression be damned, playing games will be hell-of-a-time. And most of the time that is a literal statement.

  • DOOM Eternal (id Software / Zenimax)
    I mean, do I have to explain why?

  • Sigil (Romero Games)
    Because one new DOOM game for the year wasn't enough, we're also going to get Sigil, a new episode to the 1993 original game from the lead designer John Romero himself! This one will be available as a free download in February – or, if you pre-ordered it via Limited Run Games, as a physical version complete with a custom soundtrack by Buckethead.

  • Devil May Cry 5 (Capcom)
    And since we haven't killed enough demons at this point, the one-and-only Dante returns to the job in a new Devil May Cry. And this one is a special sequel, finally continuing the story from the then-series-closing cliffhanger of DMC2!

  • Ion Maiden (Void Point / 3D Realms)
    The engine I truly began my development hobbies with was Build, then powering Duke Nukem 3D. If someone would've said that one of the most interesting looking action games of 2019 would be a new shooter running on that 90s tech, I would've laughed. I'm not laughing now, though; Ion Maiden is superbly brilliant and I can't wait to get my hands on the full game!

  • Rage 2 (id Software / Avalanche / Zenimax)
    Wait what, even more id Software goodness? A sequel to the most under-appreciated game in id catalogue comes as a duet between id and Avalanche (of Just Cause fame) – and it looks to be one explosively fun package.

  • Biomutant (Experiment 1O1 / THQ Nordic)
    How about an original open-world action RPG that is a Kung Fu adventure with post-apocalyptic flavors – and starring great looking animal characters? Oh, also, the studio behind it consists of Just Cause vets? If this wasn't on your radar yet, I hope it is now!

  • Penguin Wars (Dispatch Games)
    One of the most legendary penguin games from the gaming history and I never got to play, it being Japanese exclusive... until now! The HD version arrives for PlayStation 4 later this month and I'm looking forward to experiencing this piece of penguin gaming history!

  • Resident Evil 2 (Capcom)
    One of my all time favourite horror games of all time is set to return with a brand new coat of HD paint and a free-from camera. My only concern is whether this remake will be more the atmospheric RE Revelations, or the shooty-bang-bang RE4 – I'm rooting for the former.

  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (ArtPlay / DICO / 505 Games)
  • Anew: The Distant Light (Resonator Games)
    Returning from the previous lists, these two are Kickstarted metroidvanias with plenty of developer pedigree, have gorgeous art and amazing soundtracks. Both were also delayed to 2019, just in case the line-up wasn't grand enough.

Until next time,

Jouni Lahtinen, the head penguin