A lot has happened this year, and in a blink of an eye the world has passed on by. It’s good to record history so that hopefully things like what happens below will not happen again, but as they say, the victors write history. So, it falls to us to be as objective as possible, and to record history as we see it. Of course, it is going to be coloured by my biases, but let us just say that this is the consensus of the crowd as it is right now.
Worst of 2019: Anthem
Anthem was so well marketed by EA. Being made by BioWare,the team behind games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, it is easy to see that the pedigree behind the game was massive, and that was probably why it garnered the hype it did. They did deserve it all, to be fair, as every game they had published till then (with possibly the exception of Mass Effect Andromeda) was a critical darling. Also, they had a publisher behind them, and a pretty big one too. Everything was supposed to go their way.
Then, the game came out.
What a dumpster fire it turned out to be. Half baked ideas, incredibly bad loot drops, and nothing much to do other than the same few missions to grind for what little items it had. It even suffered from controversies like lower weapon rarities dealing more damage than higher ones. Soon after, reports started coming out of the troubles that BioWare suffered while making the game: using Frostbite, an engine which was developed for first person shooters, in a game that was not a first person shooter. Furthermore, they suffered from a brain drain, which meant more pressure was piled on those who decided to stay and see the game through. While it had worked for them in the past, what they called the “Bioware Magic” failed them this time, as just too many things were left undone. It was just a poor thing for BioWare, as the game really had the potential to become great, with just a little more time allowed. Now it will be recorded in the annals of gaming history of being the game that could be, but was not.
Worst of 2019: Surprise Mechanics
Oh EA, how you always throw yourself into the fire. EA really bit a big one when a clip of a hearing in the United Kingdom was released, with a senior executive of EA calling loot boxes “surprise mechanics”. The utter gall. They tried rebranding loot boxes, with gambling mechanics akin to those of slot machines, as “surprise mechanics”. While loot boxes were first introduced a long time ago as a means to support free-to-play games with a bit of cash injection to keep them free, it soon found itself creeping into fully paid games as a way of increasing the longevity of the game.
What took it too far though was the fact that children would sink massive amounts of money into those games in order to get something that they could either show off to friends, or to have something overpowered in their inventory so that it would skew the game in their favour. This led to huge corporations adding these predatory loot boxes into beloved games like FIFAor Overwatch, which had a high demographic of those age groups. What made it predatory, however, was not only was it aimed at those demographics, but also that most of those kinds of loot boxes never described what it had in them. They never did have probability numbers, so players would sink massive amounts of money into a mechanic without knowing what they would even get. That was low, and pretty sickening in my opinion as well.
No conclusion has been made about the mechanic as of yet, but at least some countries are doing things about it. Belgium has banned the use of real money loot boxes from games, subject to criminal law should they be broken. In the USA, a bill was introduced to curtail the sale of loot boxes to those under 18, treating the mechanic like gambling. While it remains to be seen if the bill would become law, at least that is a step in the right direction.
Worst of 2019: Joy-Con Drift
The only kind of drift that can be considered cool is drifting a car. Anything else drifts? It’s either on ice, a slippery slope, or it’s the Joy-con. Earlier in the year, players of the über popular console, the Nintendo Switch, started noticing something weird about their controllers. It would start forcing players in certain directions without them even holding that direction on their joysticks. Soon, people started complaining about it on the internet, and it began a fire that no one could ever predict: Nintendo made something bad. Nintendo had always tried to upkeep its image of being squeaky clean, but this put a pretty big dent in their armour.
At first, Nintendo declined to comment. Also, they charged full price for repairs. As the roar grew louder, investigations were conducted, and it was found that the drift was caused by bits of dust and particles being stuck on sensors, thus signalling to the controller that input was detected. After the issue being reported by Kotaku, the roar became so loud that a class action suit was filed against Nintendo. Eventually the company caved, refunding repair costs to those who had their Joy-cons repaired for the issue, as well as providing free repairs for controllers affected by the issue. That remedial step might have saved some repute for their company at least.
Best of 2019: Respawn Entertainment
Respawn Entertainment. Everyone wrote them off before, even their own publishers. Titanfall 2 was buried by the launch of Battlefield 1, and many thought that was the end of the studio. Titanfall 2 turned out to be a fantastic game, with great gameplay and an awesome story to boot, but Battlefield 1 was the chosen one to fight against the likes of Infinite Warfare from Call of Duty and Gears of War 4 from Microsoft. But oh boy, did they come back swinging in 2019.
The two titles that they released this year, the surprise drop of Apex Legends (literally, since it is set in the world of Titanfall), as well as Jedi: Fallen Order, has become critical darlings. Just the release of Apex Legends alone caused the stock prices for EA’s shares to halt its freefall and skyrocket for that period; and Jedi: Fallen Order put faith back in the hearts of Star Wars fans that a good Star Wars game could be released by EA, following the disastrous outings of Battlefronts 1 and 2. While many may argue that Battlefront 2 was a good enough game, what marred its rise to greatness was the incredibly short single player story as well as its loot boxes. While nothing of Jedi: Fallen Order was truly groundbreaking, what it did well was the basics, and what a game it turned out to be. The studio basically bounced back so hard it put itself squarely on the map, and is now possibly one of the most popular studios in the world. Well done Respawn, you really did respawn and kick ass.
Best of 2019: KEANU REEVES
Who would have thought that a movie actor would steal the year of gaming? While it is not uncommon to see movie actors cross over into the realm of gaming, it is rare for someone to be that worshipped in both. Even Tom Hanks has his brother, Jim Hanks, voice his role as Woody in video games (looking at you Kingdom Hearts). So what is it about Keanu Reeves that has the whole gaming world cheering his inclusion in video games?
First, he could not have picked a better game to be involved in. CD Projekt Red, the studio behind The Witcher series, has garnered a lot of good press about itself with the exclusion of microtransactions in their games, as well as well crafted, well written stories and games. That they were the ones to do Cyberpunk 2077, also a well-loved tabletop RPG, was just icing on the cake. With that much goodwill from the gaming community for the studio, Keanu Reeves joining up with CyberPunk 2077 was just the perfect fit. Also, since he is also known as one of the good guys of Hollywood, who never allowed his fame to get to his head (he still takes the subway apparently, despite his immense fame), it just adds to his allure from the gaming community. Not to mention, the gaming community is often well connected with memes, and Keanu Reeves is a meme lord, that is just… Too much.
Him appearing to announce the release date for Cyberpunk 2077 was just a nerdgasm waiting to happen, and it happened on the biggest stage in the gaming community: E3. Whew, what a time to be alive.
What a year for gaming 2019 has been. Some ups, some downs, but an overall mixed bag. I would have loved to see more of the good this year though. So do you think we’ve missed out on anything? Let us know in the comments below! And remember: YOU ARE ALL AWESOME.