Square Peg Gamers Awards 2018

Every year around Christmas, folks from all corners of life gather together and talk about the ups and downs of their year. What were their highlights? What should be better left forgotten?

The discussion around games at this time of year isn’t any different. Except here there’s a bunch of metaphorical digital awards up for stakes. For the first time ever, we (SquarePegGamers of course) shall be hosting our gaming awards to celebrate some of the best titles that released this year, along with some of the absolute worst to boot.

Unlike certain other high-profile award events, however, we’ll be explaining why these games were nominated and why they deserved to win above the others, just for clarity.

 

Best Single-Player Game

It’s been quite a contentious year for single-player titles after the Battlefront 2 controversy from 2017, in addition to EA shutting down Visceral Games and their Star Wars title. After EA’s chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen stated that people didn’t like single-player titles “as much today as they did five years ago or ten years ago”, a flood of high-quality single-player experiences released – too many to list here ultimately, but we caught some of the absolute best.

 

Red Dead Redemption 2

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No one can deny that Rockstar Games are skilled at creating stellar open-world titles with an absurd amount of detail and experiences, from the ultimate smash-hit Grand Theft Auto V to the original Red Dead Redemption. RDR2 is no different in that regard, with a gargantuan and systemic open world that let players experience and craft their own stories in the wild west. From robbing banks and trains to hunting legendary animals, playing poker, finding treasure and interacting with every single NPC you see, Red Dead Redemption 2 almost took the victory with only the extremely linear story missions holding it back.

 

Marvel’s Spiderman

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Anyone that played Spiderman 2 on the PlayStation 2 had long dreamed of a worthy, modern follow up – until Insomniac Games released Marvel’s Spiderman in September, meeting and perhaps surpassing initial expectations thanks to the story. Whilst the open-world is too generic to be considered exceptional, the actual controls for Spiderman and the momentum-based web-swinging make it a blast to play. With light and highly reactive controls, moving through the bustling streets of New York City is always an extremely fun experience that everyone (not just Spiderman fans) can appreciate.

 

Return of the Obra Dinn

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How does one make a detective game where all the answers aren’t provided for you? A surprisingly difficult design task to achieve apparently, considering that it took Lucas Pope 5 years to create Return of the Obra Dinn. Your goal is to figure out exactly what happened to everyone on board the mysterious ship, relying on information that you must piece together using your own skills in deduction. Bring a notepad for this one, because you’ll feel like a genius once everything fits together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle.

 

AND THE WINNER IS….

 

God of War

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There’s only a handful of issues one could quibble about with God of War. The parkour isn’t that engaging, the extremely close camera during combat requires you to glance at a compass to know where enemies and their attacks are, and your attacks are tied to the camera which can lead to some awkward mistakes. Those are the only legitimate complaints however, as God of War hammers everything else down with graphene nails. A perfect blend of exploration and extremely punchy combat ensures that there’s always a ton of options for players to relish in through your journey to the mountain peak, with enough optional content and worlds that are possible to miss that completing them all becomes an eventful and brilliant excuse to isolate yourself and play it all day (and night) long.

 

Best Multi-Player Game

There’s been a certain multiplayer title you’ve probably never heard of going around this year, racking up over 200 million players and becoming available on pretty much every platform with cross-play enabled. Whilst we could look at Fortnite and easily crown it as the most popular multiplayer game this year by stats alone, we aren’t going to do that. It’s fun to be a contrarian sometimes, which is why these titles deserve the nod for best multiplayer game.

 

Battlefield V

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There’s no doubt that Battlefield V has been swept up in a lot of controversies, from historical accuracy to the bugs at launch. However, we don’t feel as though it’s enough to hold down DICE’s specialty in multiplayer design, and BFV is their best iteration of the recognisable sandbox shooter yet. Stunning vistas, twitchy gameplay and huge systemic moments ensure that you’ll be hooked on this WW2 shooter for years to come – or until BF6 at least.

 

Monster Hunter World

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Capcom’s cult favourite Monster Hunter franchise returned to current gen consoles (and PC) in a big way this year thanks to World, an excellent game in its own right (which coincidentally became Capcom’s bestselling game of all time with 10.9 million copies sold by September). Featuring a fully connected world with detailed ecosystems and an irresistible core gameplay loop, hunting and killing monsters with friends has simply never been better.

 

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

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We know, it just came out. However, despite the limited time we’ve had to play Super Smash Bros Ultimate we can easily claim that it’s not just one of the best multiplayer games of the year, but also one of the absolute best games on the Switch as well as the ultimate smash experience. The exhaustive list of stages and characters to play as are exemplary, in addition to a much faster flow of gameplay. Balancing out over 70 characters in a fighting game should be impossible, yet Nintendo somehow managed to achieve the impossible yet again.

 

AND THE WINNER IS….

 

A Way Out

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The individual parts of A Way Out aren’t terribly unique individually (a linear, story-driven adventure and co-operative gameplay) but when paired together, it ends up becoming a stand out multiplayer experience. The screen is permanently split throughout the entire game (apart from cutscenes) so that players can see exactly what the other is up to at all times, a rare feature in this day and age. With plenty of puzzles and challenges ahead along with a spectacular ending that should never be spoilt to anyone, grab a friend and play through this one blind. There’s not a shred of doubt that A Way Out deserves a lot of recognition for that alone.

 

Best Indie Game

Separate from giant AAA published titles with expensive budgets and large development teams are independent games, which often meet and sometimes surpass their bigger siblings. It’s tough to break out into the big world, but these ones did it with flying colours and are well worth your investment.

 

Celeste

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Matt Makes Games (or Matt Thorson + a small, talented team) have created a classic title that shall live on for years to come with Celeste. Fitting in with the best examples of difficult parkour platformers like Super Meat Boy, Celeste features excellent level design that doesn’t often repeat itself, along with plenty of variety and different creative gimmicks each level to test your abilities. Wonderful music, wonderful art, wonderful story, wonderful design, wonderful game.

 

Minit

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How much can you do in just 60 seconds? It’s not enough time to even think about all the things you could do in a minute, yet here we are. You can sing a nursery rhyme in 60 seconds, stroke your pet, send a quick message, contemplate life… or you could die instead. In Minit, you’ll explore and piece together the environment in front of you with the wildly unique twist of an inevitable demise every minute, as the title implies. It’s a miracle that a game can be designed with that concept in mind, yet Minit achieves just that, earning a spot on this list.

 

Return of the Obra Dinn

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There’s an incredible number of things to gush over with Lucas Pope’s Return from the Obra Dinn. Art style, writing, gameplay, sound design, music; it’s all here, nominated for plenty of different awards in other categories. We recommend you head in blind for the optimal experience – with a notepad for assistance.

 

AND THE WINNER IS…

 

Dead Cells

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Determining the genre of a game can be a difficult task sometimes, especially when many of them have such silly names and combine them all the time. Combining roguelikes and metroidvanias, Dead Cells is officially the first – and best – “roguevania”. Through beautiful pixel art and a moody atmospheric soundtrack, Dead Cells combines the best of both worlds with deeply satisfying combat, exploration, and challenge for one hell of a time, stealing our best independent game award – and admiration.

 

Best Artistic Direction

Separate from graphics sits the overall artistic direction of a game, where achieving realistic visuals isn’t the goal compared to getting an outstanding look that captures incredible views after more incredible views.

 

Return of the Obra Dinn

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The most immediate aspect people notice with Return of the Obra Dinn is the unique art style. Whilst the game is rendered in 3D, each screenshot could look like a still image from a much older game thanks to monochromatic visuals that were inspired by early games on the Macintosh. Every aspect of the game is drenched in this style, holding and captivating you throughout an extraordinary detective adventure.

 

Tetris Effect

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Tetris is easily one of the greatest games ever made, but the simple blocky graphics ensured that it’s never actually looked like one of the best. That all changes with Tetris Effect, which entrances you in with psychedelic particles that hypnotise you as you lay and order every block together. It’s phenomenal to look at in motion, a must play.

 

Celeste

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Pixel games can sometimes cause a bit of an argument. Sometimes they’re used as a crutch by unskilled artists to make a game look retro. In Celeste’s case, it’s the complete opposite. The screen is filled with an immense amount of detail, filled with pleasant colours to look at as you traverse across each level. It’s soothing and natural, something only the most skilled pixel artists can achieve.

 

AND THE WINNER IS….

 

Octopath Traveller

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What would Final Fantasy VI look like if it was remastered for the modern day? With higher resolutions, vivid background details and a complex amount of systems working together, Octopath Traveler captures exactly what those old 16-bit JRPG’s looked like in your memories. The mixture of blocky characters and modern rendering techniques should clash, but they’ve been covered over with more beautiful pixelated details to ensure everything seems smooth. It’s without a doubt deserving of best artistic direction.

 

Best Graphics

As technology moves forward, the graphics continue to improve. These games managed to push the boundaries of what’s possible and stun us with even more outrageously realistic visuals.

 

Battlefield V

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Featuring fancy new ray-tracing graphical effects, Battlefield V pushes DICE’s reputation for amazing visuals even further. The lighting and reflections look breath-taking as you run, drive and fly through the massive maps. It’s almost unimaginable to comprehend how your system hasn’t blown up yet.

 

God of War

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Stunning is a simple word, but God of War’s graphics own it. From the incredible detail seen on Kratos and his on to the environments, it’s actually puzzling how the PS4 manages to render all of it at 30 frames a second in real-time (even more with the performance mode on PS4 Pro). A special nod goes to the particle effects, present throughout the entire game in many subtle ways.

 

Sea of Thieves

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Rare might have sodded up on the content side of the game, but it’s easy to see where their effort was placed. This may just be the most realistic looking water effects ever achieved, from how the waves froth and lap against the sand, against your boat and move across the vast ocean. Let alone how it looks during a storm, where it becomes a climatic enemy of its own.

 

AND THE WINNER IS….

 

Red Dead Redemption 2

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Open-world titles usually don’t have the grandest graphics to offer due to the large world that needs to be rendered along with the many minor details that have to be accounted for. Rockstar has blown these assumptions away, however, as Red Dead Redemption 2 takes the award for being the most realistic looking game made, period. The detail is intense, from the thousands of animations that seamlessly blend together along with spectacular modeling and texture work. The world itself feels alive, lived in, and that it will live for a long while after you’re gone.

 

Best Music

Who the heck doesn’t like music? It’s the window to our soul, and something that games must always excel at to keep us interested. To that end, there was some fierce competition in 2018.

 

God of War

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The gods demand giant, sweeping soundtracks to accompany their titanic struggles and that’s exactly what Kratos got. Just an orchestra wouldn’t do, as even a large choir is added to play off the humongous settings and events that take place across Midgard, adding an intense amount of satisfaction and scale to bombastic set pieces and intense battles.

 

Celeste

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A lot of indie games harken back to simpler times, where pleasant and fun 8 and 16-bit tunes forced their way into our long-term memory banks. Lena Raine (the composer for Celeste) takes advantage of that, with a mix of piano and chiptunes to provide soothing, reflective, depressing and fun tunes that fit the mood of Celeste’s story, visuals, and gameplay perfectly.

 

Red Dead Redemption 2

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It takes quite a while to complete Arthur Morgan’s fantastic adventure, with even more content afterwards to boot. Scoring the entirety of it must’ve been exhausting, doubly so considering how consistently strong the music is throughout. Whether you’re riding across fields listening to a soft guitar accompany the amazing visuals or running away from a heavy gunfight with bounty hunters on your tail, there’s always the right piece of music for the right frame of mind.

 

AND THE WINNER IS….

 

Octopath Traveller

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It’s impossible not to get goose-bumps when listening to Octopath Traveler’s soundtrack. A full orchestra provides an amazing range of music, from soft and melancholy tunes to upbeat melodies and intense, bombastic fights that are always a joy to listen to. The variety is immense in that regard, and amusing considering that it fits so well with the struggles and stories of the small 16-bit characters you play as. Listen to it when possible, it’s gold from beginning to end.

 

Best Writing/ Story

As a medium, games can be used to tell extraordinary scripted narratives to create beloved characters and experiences that match up and sometimes surpass the efforts of Hollywood. These are this year’s best examples of it.

 

Celeste

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The premise is extremely simple; Madeline, (or whatever you name her) is climbing Celeste Mountain. The answer why only opens more questions, each more interesting than the last. Celeste’s themes discuss important issues in society today, from anxiousness and depression to the defining achievement we all strive for. It’s unbelievable how many people this story can relate to, and how the gameplay itself subtly ties into the overall important message – it earns a spot for best story without any doubt at all.

 

Marvel’s Spiderman

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Our favourite web-slinger has featured in many different stories across a multitude of platforms for over 50 years, but Insomniac’s take managed to be surprisingly original, heartfelt and fitting for the titular character. There’s plenty of surprising moments with quite a substantial amount of maturity for a character that yells silly quips at thugs all day, making Marvel’s Spiderman more than worth a full playthrough.

 

A Way Out

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One of EA’s more interesting releases this year, A Way Out was a peculiar combination of a co-op multiplayer experience mixed in with an interesting story that manages to grab the attention of both players simultaneously, providing a fun and rewarding experience – the ending, however, makes A Way Out that much more special and deserving of a spot for ‘Best Writing/ Story’.

 

AND THE WINNER IS….

 

Red Dead Redemption 2

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Following on from the heels of the original Red Dead Redemption was never going to be easy at all, considering how beloved it is by almost everyone that has played it. Despite that, the sequel (or prequel) manages to be as strong in every way possible. Similar to John Marston, Arthur’s tale is an endearing, amusing and tragic one from beginning to end that touches upon a myriad of emotions. It was stunning to see Rockstar catch lightning in a bottle once before but somehow, they’ve managed to do it all over again.

 

Most Disappointing Game of the Year

Excitement can be very cruel indeed. Certain games promise the world and fall vastly short of expectations in several ways, whether through incompetence or deliberate poor decisions that failed to hold them up under scrutiny.

 

We Happy Few

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It’s quite a shame to see how We Happy Few turned out. What looked like a highly intriguing 1984 mixed with Bioshock instead turned out to be an immensely buggy, unfinished survival game with a few good bits tagged on. Slapping a £50 price tag on top was simply unjustified, and thus we are left to mourn the grand potential We Happy Few couldn’t achieve.

 

State of Decay 2

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This could’ve been so much more. Whilst State of Decay 2 proved to be successful in the charts, it wasn’t able to hold a candle in the long run due to unpolished visuals, poor framerates and a crude number of bugs.

 

Sea of Thieves

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Rare’s return to form wasn’t as fruitful as many hoped for. Whilst Sea of Thieves featured stunning water effects and a pleasant art style to boot, it also provided an empty world with little to do aside from annoying other players to no end. It’s another entry into the ‘games as a service’ style of release, with future updates expected to solve this issue and draw players back. As of now, however, it fails to do its visuals justice.

 

AND THE WINNER IS….

 

Fallout 76

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What else could have possibly deserved such a sad award? Bethesda promised a lot with 76 and failed to deliver on nearly all of them. Instead, we’ve ended up with a dull game where the only excitement takes place outside of it with the many amusing controversies it has caused from being released in a clearly broken condition to false advertising and accidentally releasing private customer details. Fallout 76 is a clear mess from every aspect, and only just barely misses the ‘Worst of 2018’ list.

 

Worst Game of the Year

Not every game can be a winner. Sometimes they fall just short, or struggle to break out of mediocrity. Others don’t even try, failing upon release to outright condemnation amongst consumers and critics. It’s one of the two award lists where winning is actually losing.

 

The Quiet Man

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Square Enix and Human Head Studios must’ve been blind themselves when The Quiet Man was released – blind to the many inexplicable issues and troubles that are present within, easily resulting in one of the worst titles released this year. A baffling story with poorly directed FMV, achingly bad sound design, buggy and mind-numbing combat and dull graphics ensure that The Quiet Man was doomed to begin with.

 

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

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Harry Potter fans have long dreamed of a proper attempt at a role-playing game set within J.K Rowling’s imaginative universe. Whilst Hogwarts Mystery attempted to solve that, it also brought along a plethora of waiting timers, expensive microtransactions and truly terrible gameplay. It’s easily one of the worst mobile games of the generation.

 

Dynasty Warriors 9

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Not every game needs to have a massive open world to explore and for Dynasty Warriors 9 that is certainly the case. Struggling technically and gameplay wise with giant open areas with nothing to do, it’s highly advisable to avoid this mess wherever possible.

 

AND THE WINNER IS….

 

Metal Gear Survive

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For the sheer audacity of releasing a hacked together poor man’s Metal Gear game without Kojima behind the wheels, Metal Gear Survive stands as a vivid insult towards all gamers from a selfish company seeking only the most in profits. The gameplay loop is beyond dull, removing nearly every systemic function from the much better Metal Gear Solid V and replacing it with the tediously rote task of bashing zombies across the head repeatedly. Add in an ugly colour palette and microtransactions, and it’s a clear winner for the worst title released this year.

 

Best Game of the Year

This is it; the cherry on this year’s sundae, the ultimate elusive high score, the grandest award possible – which game deserves to win Square Peg Gamers first ‘Best Game of the Year’ award?

 

Celeste

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Quickly labelled as a contender to be one of the years absolute best titles in February, Celeste stormed its way through any doubt to become a beloved indie classic for years to come. It’s not just the fast, stimulating, challenging and fun gameplay, excellent music and stunning art that promotes this little indie game to the top, but also a provocative and thoughtful story that shall resonate with many in this day and age.

 

Red Dead Redemption 2

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If Red Dead Redemption 2 wasn’t at least nominated for game of the year, there would be a strong chance of us getting pelted at with rocks. Of course, though, there are many other reasons for it to be nominated. Outstanding in nearly every way, Rockstar’s new magnum opus is a defining title for the current console generation – the number of nominations alone should give that away.

 

Return of the Obra Dinn

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Lucas Pope has managed to outdo himself once again with Return of the Obra Dinn, standing out as one of best games you can pick up this year. It’s a fascinating detective game that makes you feel extraordinary every time you figure out exactly what happened, and that alone deserves a nod to be nominated as one of the best games this year.

 

AND THE WINNER IS….

 

God of War

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It’s easy to summarise why God of War deserves the crown. The graphics are beyond stellar, the world is explorable and intriguing, the combat’s explosive and extremely fun, and the story is captivating regardless of whether you’re a fan of the old titles or a newbie. Mash it all in together, and you have one for the ages.

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