It happens every year. With so many high quality games releasing these days, some invariably fall through the cracks. Perhaps they released at the wrong time of the year. Maybe they got swamped by other releases. For whatever reason, some games just don’t get the attention they deserve – at least in our opinion. So, before the deluge of games start to drop in 2019, how about taking a look at 10 under appreciated gems from 2018…
As I mentioned in our G’sOTY piece, ONRUSH is likely to be underappreciated during its own life time much like cult classics Blur and Split/Second. The racer without a finish line, Onrush is a brave and experimental title that does away with many of the staples of the genre to focus on the carnage of crashing and team based driving. There’s strategy here though. It’s not all smashing and bashing. The various game modes force you to focus on your racing lines to ensure you’re making the most of the vehicle you’re driving while defending your rear and attacking those in front of you. I played Onrush for months during 2018, in the single player campaign and then in the ranked mode and it has been a real joy throughout. For whatever reason though, OnRush failed to sell, charting at #34 on release week and never re-appearing which eventually lead to layoffs at developers Evo. Pour one out for OnRush, Evo and Rushy. They deserved more.
Rossko chose Crossing Souls as one of his G’sOTY and for good reason. Packed to the gills with 80’s nostalgia, Crossing Souls is an homage to a decade many gamers hold dear to their heart. But this title is more than just a pop culture filled adventure. The story in Crossing Souls is powerful and poignant, surprising and convention bucking. The characters, as stereotypical as they first appear, have depth and a development arc which do more with the formula than Goonies and Stranger Things put together. It’s a truly wonderful game but doesn’t seem to have had the recognition it deserves this year, placing it on this list.
It’s a bit cheap to say “X co-op game is better played with friends” because the reason that most games are like that is because of the chemistry with your friends, not that the game is any better. Strange Brigade, however, is one of those rare games that is genuinely better with friends and the more the merrier. Designed as a co-operative experience right down to the boss weaknesses and a requirement for diversionary tactics, Strange Brigade is a top quality shooter, breathtakingly beautiful at times with a terrific sense of humour. It shows a real sense of self awareness in everything it does too, especially through the “voice in the sky” narration which holds its tongue firmly in its cheek.
2018 was a landmark year for Metroidvanias. There were a tonne of them released and a number of them were damn good. Guacamelee 2 was the last to release in 2018 and if some rumoured sales numbers are true, it hasn’t performed as well as the original game – yet. That’s a shame because Guac2 improves upon the original in almost every way and certainly deserves to be mentioned alongside Dead Cells, Celeste, Donut County and Florence as a standout indie game of 2018.
Virtual card games are a bit of a niche as it is but Insane Robots is even more of a rarity because unlike many of its peers, it’s not about deck building. Instead, both the player and their foe use a pre-defined deck of cards and it’s more about the strategy and how to play them that defines the game play. I had a lot of fun playing Insane Robots, awarding it an 8/10 in my review and it was one of the highest rated Xbox One games of the year for several months – but that didn’t seem to translate to player numbers meaning it was a struggle to get an online PvP game going. That’s a shame the developers have really supported the game throughout the year with a new “best of 3” multiplayer mode, a deck information system so you can really get to grips with the cards and new local features. Insane Robots deserves a lot more attention that it got in my opinion. If you’re reading this at the time of publication, Insane Robots is currently on sale on PS4, itch.io and Steam so get too it.
Where The Water Tastes Like Wine
Sometimes, the relative failure of a game is inexplicable. That’s the case with Where The Water Tastes Like Wine. A folk tale building game that has you build up stories as you traipse across America seemed to be on everyone’s lips before release, had won nominations at a number of game festivals and even had the singer Sting attached as vocal talent. The game released to some critical praise (including a 9/10 review from our Rossko) as well as some…lukewarm responses too. None of that, however, translated into sales. Speaking on Twitter, the developer Johnnemann Nordhagen said “The game has not performed as well as I had hoped or expected” and had sold less than 4k copies as of April, 2018. Since then, a free “Tall Tales” update added 15 more stories to uncover and a free “Fireside Chats” companion was launched which is a demo of sorts for the title. If you’re looking for something a little different and want to play the game that Rossko described as “a colossal reimagining of what a narrative driven game can be”, take a look at WTWTLW.
Maybe it was because it’s a ‘toys to life’ game or maybe because it was sandwiched between a number of this year’s biggest triple-aye releases but Starlink’s release came and went without so much of a murmur. Since then, the game has been heavily discounted which means a lot more people have been picking it up and despite one almost universal criticism (the toys are a little cumbersome to put on and play with) it’s finally finding an audience. Since my kids unboxed a version that Santa left under the tree, they’ve been talking about little else and I can see why. Part No Man’s Sky, part Lylat Wars with the Ubisoft open world formula all over it, it’s pretty damn good. Plus, the Switch version has Starfox. Win/Win.
How exactly we aren’t talking about an MLG Laser League tournament in the same tones as we discussed Rocket League a year ago is beyond my comprehension. As multiplayer experiences go, Roll7’s Laser League was one of the best to release in 2018 but inexplicably, it failed to explode in the way it deserved. Visually spectacular and tactically deep, Laser League still has a pretty healthy online community so if you’re looking for something with a multiplayer bent to delve into from these underappreciated titles, give this a go.
Tally ho. Chop Chop. Etc etc. Arcade games seemed to be a bit of a dying breed these days but for those that like their game with a twitchy coin-op nature and a tongue pressed firmly against its cheek, 2018 saw the release of Rogue Aces and that will absolutely tickle your fancy. Flying a plane along a 2D plane while bombing the snot out of tanks then making an airship look like swish cheese is common place in one of my favourite, must underappreciated games of 2018. Rogue Aces is absolutely deserving of your time.
Developers Spearhead Games made a real name for themselves with Stories: The Path of Destinies so expectations for the spiritual successor Omensight, were high. They absolutely delivered on those expectations. A time travelling murder mystery, Omensight has you play as “The Harbinger” who investigates the fates of 4 characters on which the future of the world of Urralia hinges. It’s phenomenal stuff that deserves far more plaudits than it got in 2018.
Are there other games you think deserved more attention in 2018? Head to the comments section and let us know.