This is far longer and more in-depth than I originally anticipated, so I'm going to also post this to my blog, which is in dire need of an update. Top Ten Video Games Deozaan Played in 2019
My top 10 video games I played in 2019. None of these were released in 2019. But all of them I spent at least a few hours playing in 2019, if not multiple 10s or 100+ hours. Ranked in approximate order of enjoyment (#1 is the one I most enjoyed).
#10 Hollow Knight
tl;dr ("just show me the list")
#10 Hollow Knight
#9 Borderlands GOTY
#8 FTL: Faster Than Light
#7 Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop
#6 Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate
#5 Disgaea 5 Complete
#4 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (OpenMW + TES3MP)
#3 Slime Rancher
After watching 2 or 3 Let's Play videos of Hollow Knight
, the thing that got me to pull the trigger on the purchase was the soundtrack. I knew I'd enjoy the gameplay as well, since I have been known to thoroughly enjoy games in the "Metroidvania" genre. But the first three areas of the game I'd seen in the Let's Play had such beautiful music that I didn't want to wait for the rest of the videos to release to hear more of it.
In that regard I was slightly disappointed, because most of the soundtrack is made up of the various battle tracks that play during the many boss fights, whereas I really liked the soothing and beautiful background music from the various regions in the game. Nonetheless, it's still a good soundtrack.
As for the game itself, it seems pretty enjoyable. Unfortunately, I kept encountering input lag, such as pressing a button and the game not responding (immediately), or releasing a button and the game acting as if I were still holding it. In a game with so much precision platforming required, this meant a lot of stupid deaths. For example, I might be walking in a direction and making a series of jumps, then I'd let go of the direction button to wait for an optimal time to make the next jump (or avoid an enemy, whatever) and the game would act as though I was still holding the direction button down and walk me straight into a spike pit. Or sometimes I'd tap the direction button momentarily to re-position myself slightly closer to the edge of a spike pit and I'd just keep walking straight off the edge. Similarly, sometimes I'd press the jump button or the attack button and nothing would happen, or at least it wouldn't happen immediately (when I needed it) and I'd either fall from lack of jumping, or miss the enemy I was trying to attack, or even worse, take damage because the enemy hit me.
At first I just thought the game was hard, and that I wasn't playing well. Often times the input lag was so small that I blamed these misses on myself and my unfamiliarity with the game. But I'm generally pretty good at these kind of games and I felt I was making too many rookie mistakes--the kind of mistakes typical of a person who has to keep looking down at their gamepad for up to two seconds almost every time they want to push a different button. And as it happened more and more often I began paying closer attention to it and noticed more egregious cases where, for example, I'd let go of the direction button a full half second before the edge of a cliff and my little bug knight would just keep walking straight into the pit. Eventually my initial reaction almost completely reversed. Instead of feeling like the game was fair and I was at fault for the mistakes, I began to see the game as unfairly causing me to make mistakes I wasn't actually making. And even if perhaps something really was my fault, I could never be sure anymore.
I put the game down for a while (months) and came back to it for one reason or another. I don't know if I changed some settings or if there had been an update to the game or what, but the input lag was much improved. It was still there sometimes, but it wasn't so obnoxious as the first time I played.
And so I played for a few hours and explored and generally enjoyed myself. But I think I'd already mentally moved on from Hollow Knight, because I didn't feel compelled to keep playing and eventually finish the game. I think if I had had a better initial experience with it I probably would have seen it through to the end.
That said, I did finish watching the Let's Play of it, and enjoyed that.#9 Borderlands
I spent about 20 hours playing Borderlands back in 2011-2012. I enjoyed it, but I don't think I progressed very far in the story. I was playing through it in multiplayer with a friend. And kind of randomly we just stopped playing it together. It wasn't really a conscious decision that was made. It was just... life, I guess. I didn't want to progress through the story/game without my friend so I stopped playing it and didn't really touch it again until last year when Borderlands Enhanced was released (for free!) to everyone who owned Borderlands.
I happened to have an old gift copy of Borderlands GOTY in my Steam inventory, so when Borderlands GOTY Enhanced was released in 2019 and it was technically included with my gift copy I had, I decided to send the gift copy to a different friend, with the intention of him and I playing Borderlands Enhanced together. Unfortunately his computer (a laptop) couldn't handle the graphical requirements of the Enhanced edition, so we just started playing through the old Borderlands GOTY edition.
We played for probably about 10 hours over multiple game sessions, and we ended up getting even less far than I had originally all those years ago before he and I stopped playing that game together. But it was fun and it reminded me of why I liked the game so much originally. So this time I played a bit on my own and I think I almost got caught up to where I was when I played in 2012.#8 FTL: Faster Than Light
FTL: Faster Than Light is a game that originally released in 2012 that I'm not actually very good at but I really enjoy so I keep coming back to it from time to time. It's a spaceship roguelike-like with permadeath, meant to be played through in relatively short bursts. It does save the game at the beginning of each sector so you can play for an even shorter amount of time and continue where you left off later. But once you die, your save file is deleted and you have to start again. (But progress towards unlocking achievements or other ships persists even when you die.)
Cumulatively I think I've spent about 60 hours playing the game (some on Steam, some on GOG), and I don't think I've ever once legitimately won. One time I thought I got close to winning, but lost against the final boss. It turned out to be a boss fight with multiple stages to it and I was totally unprepared for that because nothing like it had ever happened in the game leading up to that moment. In retrospect it's a pretty cool surprise that makes the final battle so much more daunting and the hopeless struggle of the minimalist plot so much more real. But at the time that was the best I had ever done and I barely managed to win the first stage of that final battle. So when I made the final shot that removed the final point of health from the enemy ship and started to see the explosions I was exultant. But that feeling was immediately ripped away from me and replaced with shock and horror when the boss activated their jump drive and escaped to another region in the sector. I pursued, but my ship and crew were already in bad shape, and the boss was basically restored to full health, with new weapons to attack me with, and different kinds of defenses to prevent my attacks, so I was annihilated pretty quickly. I felt cheated, and I was mad. So the next time I reached the final sector I alt-tabbed out of the game and made a backup of my save. I only had to restore it two or three times before I came out on top and won.
After that, I never attempted a "straight" game again. I'd either always back up my save when I reached the final sector or engage in even more explicit cheats. I use a memory editor such as Cheat Engine
to find the memory values for fuel, missiles, drone parts, scrap (money) and sometimes even ship hull health. Sadly, even cheating so blatantly, I've still lost the game multiple times by having my entire crew killed off due to fires, lack of oxygen, or intruders beaming themselves onto my ship and wreaking havoc! (I can't seem to find my crew members' health values in Cheat Engine...)
Normally I don't cheat in games, because I feel doing so ruins the fun of it. But I'm not sure I'd even play FTL anymore if I didn't use cheats to keep myself in the game long enough to at least get close to the end of a run.
It's really fun trying out the various ships, trying to staff them with the right crew with their special abilities in the right room, etc., to make things go in your favor. Unfortunately the difficulty feels largely up to chance, and you can be having a perfect run where you've been virtually untouched by enemy fire and then suddenly be totally destroyed in a single battle because one thing went wrong so perfectly (i.e., bad luck) that it leads to a death spiral.
I should also mention that I really like the soundtrack. In the years since buying the game, I have looked up the FTL OST artist on Bandcamp
and have purchased a few of his albums.#7 Alien Swarm: Reactive Drop
Alien Swarm originally released in 2010 on Steam as a free multiplayer top-down action shooter. (Those in the know will know that Alien Swarm actually
released long before that as mod for Unreal Tournament 2004.)
Quite a few of us here at DC played Alien Swarm together
back in the day. I had a great time playing it with you all.
Reactive Drop is a re-release of the Steam (Source Engine) game but adds support for more players, more co-op campaigns, more weapons, more game modes (e.g., PvP), and basically more everything. Unfortunately, I didn't get much interest from folks when I mentioned it here at DC
But last year I mentioned the game to a friend as something we could try playing together and we played through the original campaign in an evening or two.
It's still something I really enjoy. But while Reactive Drop did improve the AI to make the single-player experience better, this is still a game that I only play multiplayer. And since I generally don't like playing online with strangers, and none of the people I know seem to be interested in this game anymore, it's not something I play much.#6 Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate
Monster Hunter Generations originally released on the Nintendo 3DS in 2015, and I played it for something like 170 hours and still didn't do everything I wanted to do in the game. It's another one of those games that is best enjoyed in multiplayer, and so I thoroughly enjoyed playing it with friends before they moved on to other things. But I was still interested in playing it so I played a lot more solo than usual.
Then Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate
released for the Nintendo Switch in 2018 and I bought it, expecting the usual people I know to also buy it and we could all get together to play (or play online). Unfortunately for me, none of the people I regularly play Monster Hunter games with bought the game, so I was left to play solo. I played through all of the single player stuff I could muster, but the "real" game and all the best equipment is found in the multiplayer quests, designed for up to 4 players to be hunting, and thus somewhat on the difficult side for a single person to get through alone.
I finally bit the bullet in the summer of 2019 and started playing online with random strangers. Sometimes we'd come across someone who really sucked and brought the whole team down. And occasionally I'd join a group and help them with their quests, only to have them bail out and quit when it was my turn to choose the quest. But for the most part it was a pretty good experience. And sometimes I'd luck out and join a group of 2-3 others who seemed to be masters at the game and could get me through quests in mere minutes that I had been struggling to complete on my own (or with other, less experienced groups), and it would be awesome!
Eventually one of the friends I regularly played past Monster Hunter games with did buy the game, but wanted to start a new character rather than import their progress from the 3DS, and also told me they wanted to go through a few single player missions to get back up to speed on how to play the game, but that in a few days we'd get together and play. So I decided to put the game down and wait until we could play together and bide my time with something else in the meantime.
Unfortunately for me, that friend and I never really played the game together after that. By the time I'd realized my friend and I weren't really going to be playing it, I'd already gotten fairly obsessed/distracted with the next game on my list. I haven't really picked up MHGU much since then, but I think I have put in about 150-200 hours on MHGU (on top of the ~170 hours on MHG for 3DS) since purchasing it.#5 Disgaea 5 Complete
Disgaea is a tactics/strategy RPG game that doesn't take itself seriously. And in fact it is intentionally ridiculous. You can play through the entire story and beat the campaign missions with characters who are "only" level 100-150. But the real draw to the game that causes me to obsess over it is that the game allows you to massively over-level your characters and skills and weapons and other equipment. The max level is 9999. You can do literally billions of points of damage. And there are tons of characters/classes to unlock in various ways.
Also, once you finish the main story, there's a much bigger "post-game" that challenges, encourages, and even helps you to max out your character levels. There are all kinds of systems in the game designed to be exploited to enhance leveling/powering up your characters, skills, and equipment. And in fact, in the first game there was a bug in the XP (experience points) calculation that made it so a level 99 enemy gave just as much XP as a level 300 enemy, and instead of patching it or removing it, it became a standard feature for the rest of the series! And since then every game has a stage set up with a few enemies which are (or can be through in-game tweaks) level 99 and are standing in a relatively convenient position to be killed in one shot (once you're powerful enough), allowing for fairly easy grinding relatively early on.
That's what a lot of the (post) game is: grinding. If you're not into that, you can still enjoy the main campaign without much grinding. But for people who enjoy maxing out their characters and getting the best skills/weapons/equipment in the game, Disgaea delivers all that and more in the post-game!#4 The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (OpenMW + TES3MP)
A friend and I were talking last summer about how we wished there were some good RPGs like Morrowind that had multiplayer. I had heard in the past of various mods to the Elder Scrolls games that attempted to hack some semblance of multiplayer into them, but at the time my understanding was that they were pretty terrible experiences and not really worth it. So after that discussion with my friend, I decided on a whim to do another search to see what, if anything, had changed on that front.
I discovered that OpenMW
, a free and open-source recreation of the Morrowind engine, has a fork or companion project called TES3MP
that is attempting to add networked multiplayer to the mix. Not only that, but it was in a pretty good state. So I downloaded and set up all the server files and helped my friend get his copy of OpenMW set up and configured to connect to me, and we played Morrowind together.
It brought back a lot of wonderful memories from years ago when he would play Morrowind on his Xbox and I would play it on my PC, in the same room at the same time. We'd watch each other and comment on each other's games and make jokes and just generally hang out and "play together" our separate single-player copies of the game.
So it was amazing to finally be actually playing together in the same game world and progress through the quests and story lines together! Granted, Morrowind hasn't really aged that well, and there are certain things about starting a new game that can be annoying, such as some classes being almost completely unable to even strike the weakest enemies in the game, much less kill them, until the attribute that affects attack accuracy is leveled up. Or certain classes' running speed feeling slower than a snail (and objectively slower than other classes' walking speed) until the attribute that affects speed is properly leveled up.
But I "fixed" that by opening up the Construction Set (the tool the developers used to make the game) and created a few items that had permanent buffs attached to make us move at a decent speed and able to at least hit the things we were trying to attack. And actually that's an understatement. We'd both played the game to death in decades past, and neither of us felt like slogging around the huge world for hundreds of hours, so the equipment I made in the Construction Set was pretty cheat-like, making it virtually impossible for us to die while we had it equipped.
As we played together through the story, we'd occasionally (or frequently) goof off. One of us (usually my friend) would try to surreptitiously attack the other, unfailingly the other would notice and respond in-kind, and then there'd be all-out war for 20-30 minutes with us jumping around firing off spells or bolts/arrows or swinging our weapons at each other.
Then one day I got a sneaky idea. The game allows you to create your own spells, but generally "balances" that aspect by making more powerful spells far too expensive to cast, or reduces the chance of the spell being successfully cast down to 0 (depending on your skill in the appropriate school of magic for that spell). So one day I created a spell that increases the jump skill by 100 (the max) for 1 second on target. Meaning I would shoot a magic projectile and if I hit a living creature, that creature had only 1 second before the spell wore off in which they could jump dangerously high. And when I say dangerously high, I mean so high that they would die from the impact when landing.
My friend is a competitive kind of person who tends to value physical strength in his video game characters. He often chooses the Warrior or Barbarian archetype. Whereas I generally choose the wimpy Mage archetype. Despite this, he often wants to compare our characters' physical strength or prowess with two-handed swords or whatever in games we play together. So he didn't find it at all out of the ordinary when I suggested to him, "Hey, let's go outside and see which of us can jump higher." So we stood a few meters apart, facing each other, jumping up and down repeatedly like idiots. Then I cast my jump spell, it hit him, and... he was gone! I looked up at the sky to see a small dot getting even smaller as he continued to gain altitude. This continued until he became no bigger than a few pixels squared. A good 15-20 seconds later he finally came crashing down to the ground and collapsed.
Luckily for him, the custom equipment I made that increased his stats kept him alive. Despite the fact that it was his character who had likely broken his ribs, as well as every other bone in his body, it was I who was having trouble breathing. It took me a couple minutes to stop laughing, and for the rest of the night I couldn't contain the laughter each time I thought of it.
We engaged in various other shenanigans during our time playing Morrowind together. But that was probably the highlight of the playthrough for me.
As for TES3MP, it did work pretty well most of the time. But the further we got into the story, the more bugs we encountered where quests got stuck or something happened for one of us but not the other, etc. We had to resort to using console commands a few times to "unstick" a few quests, but we played through the entire main story quests of the campaign and the expansions.#3 Slime Rancher
Slime Rancher is a game that I had my eye on for a while but never purchased/played because I was waiting for the price to be right. I didn't expect the price to be right last year because I had set a New Year's Resolution for myself in 2019 to not buy any games that year. But then the Epic Games Store launched and they started giving away a different game every fortnight (see what they did there?) and Slime Rancher was one of them. Since the price was free, the price was definitely right.
I played it. I enjoyed it. I don't know if any other game has given me such a feeling of playful, wondrous exploration since the days of the Nintendo 64 (Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, etc.) or perhaps Nintendo GameCube (Pikmin).
I loved reaching new areas and seeing what I could find and what new types of slimes I would discover. I enjoyed grabbing a few slimes to bring home to the ranch and start feeding for their, uh... crystals? I forget what they were called in-game, but they were essentially slime crystals.
I liked the progression of the game. There were big doors that couldn't be unlocked without finding some kind of item or solving some kind of puzzle. While my progress was gated, I couldn't wait to see what was on the other side of the door. Unlocking them sometimes led to a new area, and sometimes just opened up a shortcut between two areas I already had access to. But it seemed like there was always a goal to pursue. Whether it was expanding the ranch to allow for additional slimes, chickens, or plants, or unlocking a new area to discover new and different types of slimes, chickens, or plants, or collecting enough resources to buy upgrades or new technology to make things easier or more interesting, there was always a reason to keep playing.
Until I reached the end. Once I'd explored all the areas there were to discover, the game didn't quite satisfy me the same way it had before. There was still additional technology to buy, and the way to get the money to buy it was through selling slime crystals. But the game features a simulated economy where if you sell a lot of the same kind of crystal in a short period of time, it will flood the market and the value of that type of crystal will crash and it will be nearly worthless for a while, until it slowly climbs back up again. But when the last upgrades are really, really expensive, and you've sold crystals of every type the game has to offer until they're all nearly worthless, and there's no new areas to see or explore, then there's not really a lot to do while waiting for the market prices to recover. In the past the market problem wasn't a problem because I was spending so much time running around new areas, seeing the sights, discovering and solving puzzles, grabbing new types of slimes and plants and animals I'd never seen before. Once I no longer had the distraction of going out and doing stuff, it became a bit of a chore just running back and forth on my ranch trying to micromanage everything to grow as quickly as possible to get me more crystals faster. And then when the crystals themselves became nearly worthless, I just kind of lost the motivation to keep pursuing it.
But overall, I loved it. Unlike Disgaea 5, the grinding in the "post-game" of Slime Rancher got a bit tedious for me, but aside from that, I loved the colorful, playful, whimsical world of Slime Rancher. I'd love to see more games evoke similar feelings of whimsy.#2 Factorio
Oh Factorio! I love you so! Factorio is one of, if not the best Early Access/In Development games I've purchased. When Steam Early Access first launched, and Kickstarter for that matter, I bought/backed a bunch of stuff. Then I got burned by too many disappointing Early Access games that either never really launched, or just weren't very good when they did launch. So I pretty much swore off buying any game that wasn't officially released yet.
I had been seeing trailers for Factorio but they never really caught my interest enough for me to really look into it, especially because it was still in Early Access. Eventually they released a trailer which showed more of the game in a way that somehow got me interested enough to start looking into it. And they had a free demo, so I tried it out.
I spent a couple hours with the demo and really liked it, and wanted more. I decided to buy the game despite it still being in development. I have certainly gotten my money's worth!
I've played through the game (from humble beginnings to launching a satellite into space) several times. I generally like to turn off the biters (enemies) so I can just take things at my own pace and build the factory, which means I usually play between about 40-70 hours on any given save file before I put the game down for a while or just start a new map. GOG says I've played Factorio for about 300 hours since I got it in late 2016, but I'm pretty sure I've done more than that.
It's hard to explain how easy it is to play this game so much, but I made an attempt in those early days here on the forum
. It's also hard to explain to people why they might like building a factory or dealing with logistics. After all, I wasn't sure that I would like it until I tried it. It seems I'm not the only one who felt this way. Here's a little mini-review of the game which tells you why you might want to give it a try:
The music is generally pretty good, too. But kind of a soft/ambient style that's easy to ignore. So maybe not for everyone.
I really like this game, and I suspect that in a few years it may surpass my #1 choice in this list.#1 Terraria
Terraria launched in May 2011 and a week later I had written a positive review for it on Steam. In the not-quite decade since then, it is not only the game I have spent the most hours playing, but it is the game I have played the most consistently. I don't think a year goes by that I haven't played this game.
A large part of that is probably the fact that the developers keep adding more to the game in free updates. In fact, the "final" big update to Terraria is in the works and for all I know is due to be released at any moment. It was supposed to launch before the end of 2019 but taking the current date and the fact that it hasn't been released yet into account I think it's fair to say that obviously that didn't happen.
Terraria just has so much to offer. If you're a creative type you can just design and build interesting things. If you're a completionist you can try to get all the rare gear in the game. If you like exploring and seeing new things, a new world is just a random generation away. If you like the action of combat, there's a lot of variety there, as well. And if you like to do any or all of that with friends, Terraria has you covered!
I tend to dedicate significant amounts of time on a single video game for a relatively short period of time (perhaps a few weeks), playing it "to completion" (or until I've done all I want to do in the game) and then move on and never play the game again. I also usually hate starting a game over from the beginning when I've spent so many hours progressing on a game. And honestly I don't really like starting over with a new character in Terraria when I've got an awesome, fully decked out character, but generally the people I play it with want to start over with noobs so I sigh in displeasure and do it anyway and then I'm over it and enjoying the game again.
(In fact, Factorio is the only game I can think of where I'd happily spend 40-80 hours progressing in the game and then just as happily start a new game from scratch with as much excitement and anticipation as before.)
The fact that I just keep coming back to Terraria is a testament to its fun and lasting power. I couldn't remember how much I paid for it when it launched, but I just found this thread where I talked about the Terraria launch
and said it would cost $10 and asked if anyone wanted to go in on a 4-pack at $7.50 each. I also re-purchased the game on GOG at $2.50 a few years later. Steam says that I've played Terraria for over 800 hours. GOG says I've played it for about 75 hours. That works out to about one penny per hour I've spent playing the game. And when the new big update comes out sometime this year, I imagine it will get many more hours of play. Talk about getting your money's worth!
Oh, and I really like most of the music, too. That said, I don't really listen to the soundtrack very often because it's just not quite the same without the context of the game.
Terraria gets my vote for best game of the last decade.