This time of year is all about lists; nice lists, naughty lists, and now for the first time, a list of accolades in a random category chosen by our writers. From indies to VR to…what I assume is weeb stuff… here’s what mattered in the WellPlayed office.
Indie Game of the Year: Draugen
There are just some games that once you finish them they stay with you for a long time. Draugen from Red Thread Games is one of those games. It had been on my radar since its announcement back in 2014 when it was billed as a psychological survival horror game, and although the finished product has evolved from its initial concept, the end result is an incredibly emotional experience thanks to some fantastic writing, voice acting and sound design. It could have easily have been my game of the year, alas it settles for my indie game of the year, and for anyone who enjoyed games like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter or What Remains of Edith Finch you owe it to yourself to play this game. Currently only available on PC, Draugen will launch on consoles (inlcuding the Nintendo Switch) in 2020 and I can’t wait to play through it again. Red Thread Games are now forever on my radar.
Best Remaster: Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
The chibi toy-inspired art style captured my heart after seeing the first trailer. An old school Zelda I missed, I welcomed the opportunity this year to finally play it. While there are a few little issues I thoroughly enjoyed this unique and strange adventure through a colourly lively island, trade quests and all.
Best Weaponised Motorcycle: The Cavaliere (Devil May Cry 5)
In this rather niche category, Devil May Cry 5 was peerless in 2019. The ever-charming rogue Dante proved that a motorcycle need not only be a mode of locomotion, but also a deadly weapon. Despite the fact that Nero was supposed to be the main character, even his ability to surf his own detachable exploding arm paled in comparison to Dante’s deadly dual-wielded whirling dervish of death. The Cavaliere is the finest motorcycle-based weapon since Shiva from FFXIII, and that’s no small praise.
Indie Game of the Year: Lovely Planet 2: April Skies
Even though I felt that Gris was one of the best indie games of this year, I had to give my vote to Lovely Planet 2: April Skies. An obscure indie title to say the least, the sequel to the also excellent Lovely Planet is an FPS that sees you majestically traversing a cutesy world. It’s hard to explain what Lovely Planet is, but I suggest you jump on Steam, drop a couple dollars on it and give it a try. You’re getting a gem of a game, while also supporting an indie dev. Need I say more?
Best Girl of the Year: Hilda Valentine Goneril
Look, I know Dorothea’s a better person and is objectively the best girl in the game, but I can’t help loving Hilda: Her hair is pink dude you don’t understand pink girls are so good.
Community Manager of the Year: Rebecca Ford (Warframe)
I spent quite a while trying to think of an award that wasn’t your standard ‘remake/expansion/live service game of the year’ and I ended up realising that while we celebrate the great games that come out, we often forget to celebrate the great people behind them. Sure, we have e-sports person of the year and such but those people aren’t the ones working on the games, which is why I decided to go for Community Manager of the Year and awarded it to Warframe’s Rebecca Ford. Affectionately known as Spacemom amongst the Warframe community, Rebecca Ford has always been placed in high regard in terms of community managers. She does an excellent job at engaging with the community and also acts as the coordinator for the other community managers who specialise on specific platforms like Megan Everett for Xbox. In addition to this, she was featured as a part of Forbes’ ‘Under 30’ list for 2019 and she did an incredible job with TennoCon 2019. She definitely deserves recognition for her work with Digital Extremes and Warframe.
Best Sound Design of the Year: Ape Out
Sound design is vital to video games, I don’t think anyone would dispute that as a fact, but I can’t say I have ever played a game where sound design is as important to the overall package as Ape Out. Every single action you perform has a sound that accompanies it, whether that be a loud cymbal crash when an enemy hits a wall, or a low drum when you are hit by a bullet. The soundtrack is created by you, for you, tailoring itself to your playstyle and making the experience unique and personal. It doesn’t hurt that the audio is heavily jazz inspired and catchy as all hell either. Ape Out is fast, frantic and incredibly addictive and a large part of that is thanks to its amazing audio design.
Indie Game of the Year: Mutazione
Mutazione owes just as much to indie films as it does indie games. A peculiar world full of quirky characters that tell deeply personal stories despite being so far removed from what real people are like (and in this case, largely not even people), coupled with a unique visual language and acoustic flair. It’s Wes Anderson meets Maurice Sendak through the lens of a point-and-click adventure. Most all of, Mutazione excels in giving its characters and stories time to breathe. It’s the kind of ‘slice of life’ dramady to give Lady Bird a run for its money, and it’s also a very good video game that lets you collect and grow plants. Honestly, if this isn’t peak millennial artistic output, I don’t know what is. Play this game.
Best VR Game: Blood and Truth
Since I am the de-facto guru for all things PSVR, I thought this category would be the most appropriate for me to give some insight on. While I felt 2018 was a stronger year for virtual reality, 2019 has some gems as well. However, the standout title is Sony’s marquee release, Blood and Truth. Set in the underbelly of London, players engage in an action-packed John Wick-style romp full of epic explosions, cinematics, car chases and… deejaying? Blood and Truth’s attention to detail and the ability to interact with different objects help to build a sense of place and immersion, while its high octane set pieces and insane production values, puts it in a VR-equivalent league to the likes of Uncharted. Given what’s powering the games now, I can’t wait to see what Sony has in store for its VR titles in the next generation.