Gaming on PC has been up and running since 2016, but so far we have never published an end of year list. We think it’s time to change that, so here’s our Games of 2019 list, including our Game of the Year, our favorites for some categories, and the most disappointing releases we played but might not have covered too much otherwise.
So, without further ado, here’s our list, starting with our Game of the Year, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone who’s been paying attention to the landscape of PC gaming in 2019.
Game of the Year – Disco Elysium
Be honest, what other game deserves this spot more than ZA/UM‘s debut RPG? I’d go as far as to say that over the past twenty years the only title that could challenge Disco Elysium‘s crown would have been The Witcher 3, but thankfully, CD Projekt Red‘s masterpiece came out in 2015, so I don’t have to fight myself over which one I prefer. In a market increasingly dominated by big budget rollercoaster rides, ZA/UM Studio chose to create something that went against the norm, and in doing so, managed to bring a new world to life, a world that won’t be forgotten anytime soon by anyone who decides to spend some hours immersed in this groundbreaking RPG. As I said in my review, this is a game that should be experienced by anyone who has ever played a videogame, whether they like RPGs or not.
Action game of the year – Amid Evil
Last year, New Blood Interactive (who are quickly becoming my favorite publisher of all time) unleashed David Szymanski’s DUSK upon us, a shooter that didn’t just copy the classics, but sought to surpass them in every way possible. This year, New Blood is back with yet another retro FPS, Indefatigable‘s excellent Amid Evil. While I missed my chance to review it back when it came out, I finally found time to immerse myself in its Hexen-inspired world, and the experience definitely blew my mind. Everything that I could want in a game of this sort is here. Gorgeous (and intelligently designed) maps, powerful weapons that all have their uses, an intriguing story, and a celestial soundtrack composed by none other than Andrew Hulshult. Amid Evil is pretty much shooter nirvana, and I can’t really recommend any other 2019 action title over it.
Runner-up for action game of the year – Earth Defense Force 5
I know, I know. EDF 5 isn’t technically a 2019 game since it came out earlier for these pesky console systems, but in case you haven’t noticed, this is a PC gaming website, so for all intents and purposes, Earth Defense Force 5 only materialized in my universe this year. And oh boy, what a materialization it was! Take everything people love about B movies and translate it to videogames, then add a healthy dose of great gameplay and you’ve got a Sandlot EDF. Bombastic and incredibly fun to play (and to watch, as there’s comedy at every corner, even if it’s an alien invasion tale), Earth Defense Force 5 is everything that I want from an action game and more.
Multiplayer game of the year – Apex Legends
Respawn Entertainment‘s take on the battle royale genre came out of nowhere and quickly rose to the top of the most played charts. While Electronic Arts’ deep pockets surely helped market the game, I’m confident that Apex Legends‘ excellent gameplay carried it far longer than the marketing dollars. I can’t honestly think of any better multiplayer game this year, and when we take into account that Apex Legends is a free to play title, the choice to hand Respawn the award is even easier.
Runner-up for multiplayer game of the year – Destiny 2: New Light
I’m sort of cheating here since Destiny 2 came out a while ago, but its New Light relaunch (which included a migration from Battle.net to Steam) should count as a new game, as it fixed a lot of issues I had with the previous iteration of Bungie‘s shared world shooter sequel, while introducing enough content to warrant a spot in this list. It helps that there’s a veritable treasure trove of content available for free, so once again, the choice is easier than it might have looked.
RPG of the year – Disco Elysium
Again?! Yes, again! There’s so much that Disco Elysium got right that I’d never expected to see in a modern game that I can’t forget about it (or give its rightful RPG of the year crown to a pretender). ZA/UM deserves this and so much more.
Runner-up for RPG of the year – GreedFall
France-based studio Spiders have been making games for more than a decade, but up until now, their output had been plagued by glitches and a very noticeable lack of budget. The talent and the passion were there, but the means were not, until Focus Home Interactive chose to trust them with GreedFall, a title that channels Dragon Age at its best, beating BioWare at its own game just when people haven’t played a proper BioWare RPG in a decade. GreedFall was a surprise for me, as it fixed almost every issue I had with Spiders‘ previous output, while at the same time showing me that there is a lot of room for something like it. And all of that with a budget that wouldn’t get a 10th of a Dragon Age game out of the door! I’m sad that I can’t award it our RPG of the year award, but honestly, the runner-up title should count for a lot this year, considering the competition. Well done Spiders!
VR game of the year – Pistol Whip
Just when fast-paced gun-fu action films make their comeback with John Wick, Cloudhead Games decides to unleash a rhythm game that immerses the player in an experience that does its damnedest to emulate the feeling of being John Wick. I’m not a fan of the songs that ship with Pistol Whip, yet I haven’t been able to stop playing it for a single day since it came out. It has completely displaced Beat Saber from my daily VR schedule, relegating it to a distant second place. I truly can’t recommend Pistol Whip enough, both as a title for VR veterans and newcomers to the platform. Bravo Cloudhead!
Runner-up for VR game of the year – Beat Saber
One of the best VR games ever released, Beat Saber is a great way to get into VR (and a blast at parties). Just like with Pistol Whip, I’m not a fan of the bundled songs, but thankfully there’s a very active mod community creating all sorts of tracks, so you will always find something that clicks with you.
Hardware of the year – Oculus Quest
2019 saw the introduction of two very important virtual reality headsets, Valve’s premium Index, and Facebook/Oculus’ budget conscious standalone offering, the Quest. While someone who’s made of money should definitely pick the Index above any other piece of VR kit, I think that the one that’s making a bigger impact right now is the lowly Oculus Quest, as it’s perfect for people who aren’t yet sold on the whole virtual reality concept, or lack a powerful enough computer to try it. Add the Oculus Link feature which lets you use a Quest as a Rift S on a supported machine, and you’ve got a winner (plus, you can play Half-Life: Alyx, since Valve has confirmed that Link will be officially supported through SteamVR). So yes, technically the best hardware of the year award should probably go to the Index, but when it comes to making a big impact on the number of people who own VR systems, I think that the Quest takes the edge, so congrats Oculus!
With these awards out of the way (I know, they are a bit lacking on many fronts, but I’d rather focus on the genres that I enjoy the most instead of trying my hand at something that I don’t feel qualified for) it’s time for our disappointments of the year, of which there are a few.
First in line is Red Dead Redemption 2, though not for the reasons you might be thinking. While the game’s launch left a lot to be desired (crashes, failure to properly start, you name it), I disagree with the notion that it’s badly optimized, as it seems to have shipped with a good number of future-proof options that weren’t properly labeled as such, thus leading to people trying to max out everything and getting poor performance. No, my issues with the game run deeper than that. From the incredible amount of unnecessary animations ruining the multiplayer experience, to the game’s hopelessly outdated quest design, everything screams last generation but the graphics. Do I think Red Dead 2 is a bad game? No, far from that. It was still one of the most disappointing releases of this year for me though.
Next we have Boneworks, a VR title that tries a lot of new things and succeeds, while at the same time trying a lot of old things that were discarded for a reason, and that drags the experience down a lot. Having a full body ingame is something we don’t see in a lot of VR experiences for a reason, which is that the hardware will only track our hands and our head for now, leading to weird arm movements when games try to guess the correct placement of bones, joints, etc. That’s already an immersion breaker for me, but it wouldn’t be so bad if Boneworks didn’t also make your body a physics object that interacts with the world. While I understand the idea behind this choice, I also think that the benefits don’t outweigh the losses here, as the potential for motion sickness inducing moments is incredibly high. And if that wasn’t enough, there are no mid-level saves (a feature that might arrive in January). This is a game that will constantly tell the player to take breaks, while at the same time forcing them to complete relatively long levels in one sitting (30-60 minutes on average, more if you get stuck). I hope the rough aspects will improve with time, since the development team (Stress Level Zero) are really passionate about their work, but I can’t help but feel incredibly disappointed with some of their choices.
Third (and last) we have Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint. I know the gaming press wasn’t too hot Ghost Recon Wildlands, but I personally enjoyed it a lot, and played dozens of hours in co-op with friends. When Breakpoint was announced, I wasn’t completely sold on the whole Epic/Uplay exclusivity thing, but I still gave the game a chance based on its predecessor’s excellent gameplay. That was a mistake, considering whoever was in charge of directing Breakpoint thought that moving away from Wildlands was the right move, and instead implemented gear stats and other things from The Division, while at the same time neglecting to fix the parts of Wildlands that actually needed changing (vehicle controls, the crappy story, you know…). The result is something that suffers from an identity crisis, not knowing whether to be The Division or a modern Ghost Recon game, and being worse than both games on their own. Truly a big disappointment for both fans of the older Ghost Recon titles and people who started following the series after Wildlands. Hopefully Ubisoft can salvage this wreck, but I wouldn’t hold too much hope for it happening.