Best Game - Return of the Obra Dinn
1st Runner Up - Night in the Woods
2nd Runner Up - A Hat in Time
Should I be concerned that my two favorite games of the year were about death? Okay, they approach it from different angles; Obra Dinn is about the crew of a cargo ship being massacred by a rogue officer essentially unleashing a curse on everyone, Night in the Woods is more about what value life has when you're going to die in the end anyway.
So let's round this list out with Hat in Time, a cheerful game about a happy girl exploring a forest cursed by a jealous queen and a dead prince... ah fuck it.
Worst Game - Armikrog
1st Runner Up - Final Fantasy X-2
And if there's a running theme with my two least favorite games of the year, it's that they both want to milk fans by taking a flawed classic, stripping out the good bits, leaving the bad bits, and adding in even worse bits. You might think Final Fantasy X-2 would be the more painful of the two because Armikrog was over quickly, but at least the combat system was... well, it could have been something in the hands of people who gave a crap about what they were doing. Armikrog was three hours of deep fried dog shit so full of itself it ends on a cliffhanger for a sequel that I'll be surprised to ever see made.
Prettiest Game - Pankapu
1st Runner Up - World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
2nd Runner Up - Secrets of Raetikon
Since Battle for Azeroth is still ongoing, no word yet on if it'll continue the 2018 trend of the prettiest games having the worst endings. But since the World of Warcraft expansions have to keep coming, I imagine it'll at least end on a cliffhanger like Warlords and Legion.
Best Soundtrack - World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
1st Runner Up - Deltarune Chapter 1
2nd Runner Up - A Hat in Time
What gives BfA the edge over Deltarune is having a far more extensive collection; Deltarune has great music, but there just ain't much there and some songs are bizarrely short (and yes that is where the original mp3 cut off, I didn't edit it). Battle for Azeroth's soundtrack ranges in style from tribal to seafaring, and it's a shame the Temple of Sethraliss dungeon kind of sucks even setting aside the orb glitch because I really like the music in there.
And Hat in Time has to score a position at least for "Your Contract has Expired".
Funniest Game - Dude, Stop
1st Runner Up - Deltarune
2d Runner Up - A Hat in Time
To be honest I'm torn between whether Dude, Stop or Deltarune should get first place. Dude, Stop can get tiring to listen to over and over as you repeatedly solve the puzzles, but first time's a charm. Deltarune doesn't run its jokes into the ground through repetition, but didn't make me laugh out loud nearly as much. And I dunno, maybe Hat in Time isn't "comedic" so much as "cutesy" but it was worth a few chuckles.
Most Pleasant Surprise (Games) - Return of the Obra Dinn
1st Runner Up - Deltarune
Calling Obra Dinn a "pleasant" surprise might be a little odd since it's a game about documenting almost sixty grisly deaths. But it seized my memories for weeks after I'd completed it, and I still remember the giddy feeling I got when I identified the bosun. And I only found out about it through Zero Punctuation's video on it as Steam had filtered it from my viewing because I'd blocked games with nudity in them... even though it's happy to load my discovery queues with hentai sliding tile shovelware.
And Deltarune was certainly a thing that came out of nowhere.
Biggest Disappointment (Games) - Cat Quest
1st Runner Up - Secrets of Raetikon
2nd Runner Up - World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
Yeah, I didn't think anything was going to disappoint me more than a game I went into because, holy shit, an RPG starring a cat! only for it to be a load of nothing. Secrets of Raetikon was an okay artsy platformer, but dear God that ending was so offensive it flushed all positivity I had for the game down the toilet.
And I'm far from the only person let down by Battle for Azeroth; the expansion being an undercooked buggy load of tedium has become something of a meme, leading to nicknames like "Beta for Azeroth" and "Battle for Content".
Most Satisfying to Finally Finish After Tormenting Me For Years - The Spyro Series
Having grown up with a Nintendo 64 I missed out on the Playstation staples. And even though the Spyro games got more irritating as the trilogy went on, it was nice to finally experience them. Guess Crash Bandicoot is next.
Game Whose Quickie I Need to Follow Up - World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth
Because I didn't have any games I abandoned this year, let's take a look back on the reason for that.
The 8.1 patch fixed several of the problems I mentioned in my quickie. There are now quests that pop up every few days that give Expulsom, and it seems to be more common from better quality items. They also appear to have increased the spawn rate for Anchor Weed, the rare herb that's needed in the stat potions, and gave Alchemists an ability that lets them turn the common herbs into 10 pieces of it once a day.
As for the Island Expeditions, you no longer have to hope for a certain enemy type to invade and guide your group of randos to a portal for a chance at a prize, you just have to have the appropriate enemies on the map. They also made it so each expedition gives you a bag of Seafarer's Dubloons (I'm pretty sure previously you only had a chance to get some) and added a vendor for them, so if you're like me and spent months without a single mount drop (until the game shotgunned me with three in one night) at least each one is progress towards two purchasable mounts and some other prizes. They're still not the best thing in the world and are downright miserable without a tank, and that Alliance bot group with the Gnome Rogue needs to get in the fucking sea, but if you've got a tank, good gear, and a podcast or audiobook they're... doable.
The Battle of Dazar'alor raid (which released January 2019 but fuck it) is also less terrible than Uldir. Turning into members of the opposite faction for three of the nine bosses is a cute idea, and the bosses have better mechanics. One of them is a group of four bosses that are fought two at a time and you have consider the order you kill them in and when to do it so their incoming abilities don't overlap, two of the battles have you split up to defeat two minibosses before taking on the main boss, and shrinking and sabotaging the robots in Mekkatorque is a fun idea even if he is a great big middle finger to melee DPS.
But other problems are still persistent. I'm not sure how they could clear up past visual noise, but they could stop making new fights particle effect shitshows. I almost wiped the group in Mekkatorque once because there's so much shit going on in that fight I zoned out and didn't realize I had a bomb on me until somebody called it out in Discord. And I have lost track of Jaina multiple times because she's the same size as your characters and gets lost in the pile of melee fighters wailing on her along with all the obfuscating ice effects. And the game is still buggier than a beekeeper with the sniffles. That glitch in Temple of Sethraliss, where the orbs you need to progress disappear rendering the dungeon uncompleteable? It fucking happened live during a major tournament to the top guild in the world.
Best Movie - Thor: Ragnarok
1st Runner Up - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
2nd Runner Up - Spider-Man Homecoming
Guardians 2 might be confusing because I never did a quickie for it. I watched it just before Thor Ragnarok and while I enjoyed it I could not figure out how to review it. After holding up the update for weeks, I finally cut it.
Worst Movie - The Amazing Spider-Man
1st Runner Up - The Amazing Spider-Man 2
2nd Runner Up - Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
I'm giving Batman v. Superman a little slack here because it as least tried. It tripped on its shoelaces and slammed face-first into a rock, but at least it tried. The two Amazing Spider-Man films had no ambition beyond keeping the Spider-Man film rights in Sony's hands, and didn't even get that right since Sony is now sharing him with Disney/Marvel.
Best Book - Song of the Summer King
1st Runner Up - Familiars
I barely read any books this year and didn't even get around to a Discworld. Another thing to blame WoW for, I guess.
Worst Book - The Dragon Chronicles
I had forgotten I read this and was about to say I didn't read any bad books this year. Then I was looking through the quickies I did for the year and saw, oh yeah, this collection of mediocrity and rubbish. Did I mention one of the stories has the character going into a ruined lighthouse, where there's feral cats and a dead, rotting kitten? Fuck this book.
Best TV DVD - Samurai Jack Season Two
1st Runner Up - Rick and Morty Season 3
The third season of Rick and Morty may have upped its animation budget and delved into more complicated stories, but it also upped its edginess to the point of offputting. Samurai Jack, meanwhile, continues its blend of atmospheric visuals, martial arts action, comedy, and emotional gutpunches during Jack's quest for the glimmers of hope in what seems to be a dead, irredeemable world.
... except for the farting dragon episode. Come on guys, you're better than that.
Most Satisfying Mystery to Put to Rest - Darkmouth
There are three more books in the Darkmouth series, but I don't know if I plan to continue them. On one hand I wasn't overly impressed with the first book. On the other, it's not uncommon for the first book in a series to be the one where the least stuff happens, and maybe later books have more meat on their bones. Back onto the first hand, I feel like the problems I had with the first book (i.e. the focus on the main character's daddy issues as opposed to the monster hunting) would persist through the series. Darkmouth was a mystery that prodded me for three years, but now it's not much more than an afterthought.
Non-Game I Made It a Decent Way Through then Abandoned - Third Rock from the Sun Season Four
I gave the first season the benefit of the doubt that it was just trying to find its footing, but the fourth season was just as uncomfortable. This season had a two-parter with Dick dating an obnoxious priss who's allergic to everything just to make Mary Albright jealous. I gave up halfway through the second episode and it took me ages to go back and finish it.
The reason I even watched this show in the first place was because I learned Auron's voice actor, Matt McKenzie, was in an episode. He plays the father of that baby Tommy and his new girlfriend (I guess he dumped that feminist strawwoman between the first and fourth seasons) babysit in "The House that Dick Built." Yeah, the guy who gets maybe ten seconds of screentime and four words of dialogue? After sating my curiosity I decided, well, that was something, Third Rock, now piss off.
Let me tell you a story from May 2019 (yeah, it took me ages to write this); my World of Warcraft subscription ran out the morning of the 15th, a Wednesday, and with a load of fuck all going on in the game I took the rest of the week off (WoW's weekly cycle starts on Tuesday for those of you with a life). It was actually quite a nice little six day vacation. I would have taken another week off, but when the island expeditions were changed on the weekly reset, Mogu came up on one of the three islands. Completing an island when there are Mogu on it has a small chance to net you a gold-colored quilen* mount, which I really wanted because the only other way to get a quilen, the jade one, is to spend hundreds of dollars on an unopened Mists of Pandaria Collector's Edition.
* They're actually shishis, but Blizzard calls the manticores the Horde flies on "wyverns" so it wouldn't be the first time they botched their mythical animals.
I spent the next five days spamming island expeditions damn near all day, cursing at pugs who split up, screaming when elementals or Cthulhu monsters invaded and spawned bullshit that trails you through the entire island, and getting progressively more irritated with Alliance bots who don't know the meaning of "fuck off." Not only did I not get the gold quilen, I didn't get any mounts despite the enemies needed for them to drop frequently appearing or in the case of the yeti mount, always being on the same island as the Mogu. I barely received any other prizes, just some armor appearances and only one new pet, and amassed more than enough dubloons to buy everything worthwhile from the store. After I closed the game Saturday night I sat back, asked "What the fuck am I doing?" and cut my losses.
When the Crucible of Storms raid launched my guild ran Normal difficulty once, beat the first boss on Heroic once, then shrugged its collective shoulders and abandoned it. Hardly anybody has been on since, everybody pretty much having left the game until the Rise of Azshara patch. There might be a silver lining to BfA being so tedious and barren; if the guild disperses or people transfer to the upcoming vanilla remake, I no longer have "hanging out with buddies" tethering me to the game and can move on with my life.