A Year in Gaming: 79-71

Some rather obscure titles in this part of the list. Enjoy!


#79 They Are Billions (PC, 2017)

A very pretty yet gory gothic real-time strategy title that forces you to build up your town and its defences quickly, lest you be overrun by the titular billions. Which are zombies. It’s a zombie game. Taking a note from other zombie titles such as 7 Days to Die, They Are Billions gives you time to shore up your defences before bombarding you with hordes of the undead. And you’re never really sure that you’ve prepared enough until the zombies are knocking at your walls.

I think it’s a very cool concept, but it just didn’t grip me in the way an RTS game should. The zombie hordes feel unfair, and they’re probably supposed to. This doesn’t make for engaging gameplay to me though. The game wins above its predecessors on this list for its gorgeous art style and originality for a zombie game.


#78 Cook! Serve! Delicious! 2! (PC, 2017)

The sequel to the popular indie title Cook! Serve! Delicious! delivers a huge amount of content for fans of the original. In this game you take the lead in various restaurants, preparing food made to order throughout the course of a standard working day. In addition to preparing the food, you must carry out menial tasks such as cleaning the toilet and taking out the rubbish. All of this is carried out with quick key entries. There’s a huge range of dishes to make, and each has a particular method with its own key combinations to make it happen. But don’t worry, by the end of the working day you’ll be cleaning toilets in seconds, and you’ll know how to make a burger, hold the cheese, with a quick dance of your fingertips.

The food is displayed in high-resolution, semi-realistic, beautiful art which without fail makes me hungry. Each level takes the form of a theme restaurant which adds to the idea that you’re working in each of these restaurants. As you earn money in these normal levels, you can earn money with which you unlock new dishes and decorations which you can use in your own restaurant. There’s some semblance of story progression, but the game isn’t shy about making it known it’s for gameplay, not food lore. Though there are detailed info cards for each dish should an inner gourmand start growing within.

All in all, it’s a very fun game. It scratches the itch for fast-paced gameplay without much thought. It’s a good casual game to spend a few minutes to an hour at a time, but any more than that and your fingers may start bleeding. I’d recommend it if it’s on sale. It’s certainly a step up from the original.

Fire Emblem Warriors Flying Unit.JPG

#77 Fire Emblem Warriors (3DS, 2017)

The second Koei game on the list. This is Fire Emblem’s take on Koei’s hack-n-slash empire. It does okay, I guess. I haven’t played the Switch version, but I’ll say now that the 3DS version is plagued by the small screen (even on the New 3DS XL) and shoddy graphics, which make the game a slight chore to play for long. Add to that drab environments which the series isn’t really known for and a quite boring playable cast, and what you have is a game that barely scratched the surface of what they could have achieved.

The gameplay is fine, and to give them credit they translated the key tenets of classic Fire Emblem gameplay into this genre quite well. The weapon triangle is in action: swords beat axes which beat lances which beat swords. Archers beat flying units, and mages are pretty awesome. Your characters level up, gaining (partially) random stats and eventually unlock ‘support levels’ with other characters, allowing them to have chats. It’s all well and good, but the characters are so… uninspired.

Most of the characters are taken from Fates and Awakening, recent entries in the series. I don’t begrudge them taking a few characters from the most recent, very popular games but it would have been nice for them to explore the other titles in the long-running series. Especially ones with more interesting personalities. Playing as Eirika from FE8, or Boyd from FE9 would have been far more interesting than Bland Sword Lord 1, Bland Sword Lord 2, or Bland Sword Lord 1 But A Woman This Time Ooh. That’s my main issue with the game. I barely enjoyed any of the characters, in a game series now known for its focus on characterisation.


#76 Dragon Quest Monsters: Terry’s Wonderland 3D (3DS, 2012)

Disclaimer: This game has not been released in English, however there is a complete English fan translation project.

This game is a remake of the modest 1998 GameBoy Colour hit Dragon Warrior Monsters, a spin-off of the hugely popular Dragon Warrior series (now called Dragon Quest). It is the first entry on this list which I would put as part of the Mons genre, a subset of RPG in which the goal is to collect monsters which make up your party. More well known entries in this genre include Pokémon, Digimon and Shin Megami Tensei. It’s one of my absolute favourite genres.

It’s disappointing, but not surprising however, that this game failed to deliver on its promise of entertainment. Compared to its original games, the fights are more exciting and obviously more pretty. The story is presented in a more fluid fashion and the wider range of monsters is fun to play around with when the breeding system is unlocked. However, I find myself preferring the original for various reasons. First, it lacks the charm of the original. Sure, this is a subjective thing, but the original was a very charming game with its idiosyncratic way of conveying information, with shortened words making up item names and place names. When translated to the 3D world, it doesn’t scan well. Second, the dungeons themselves just aren’t that fun to traverse. After a few dungeons, you start to notice the same old patterns – there isn’t much variety and this is a game in which you are expected to play dungeons multiple times to grind for experience. Third, it’s just not as challenging as the original. This is something that the early Dragon Warrior games thrived on. It’s just not there. Bosses may rely on brute strength or gimmicks to beat you down but an avid RPG player isn’t going to find many setbacks. Compared to a more recent entry you’ll find way further down the list, it pales in comparison.


#75 FTL: Faster Than Light (PC, 2012)

For some reason I have quite a bit of nostalgia for this game, which is odd since I really haven’t played much of it. This title is a very successful roguelike strategy game. For those unaware, a roguelike game is a game that features a gauntlet of levels which get increasingly harder, often providing you with random rewards, untold risks and tough enemies with little chance to heal without some luck. You are not necessarily meant to survive until the end, and are supposed to get a little further each time you play, honing your skills and/or waiting for that lucky playthrough. Other examples of these games, to give you an idea, include the Binding of Isaac, the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, and Enter the Gungeon.

FTL features a pretty barebones interface in which you have a spaceship, the means to upgrade it, and a list of crew members that you can order around. As you progress through the galaxy using your FTL drive, you’ll come across random events, shops, space-to-space combat and an ever encroaching wave of super-powerful rebel ships. Last until the end and you’ll fight a final boss of epic proportions. If you beat the boss… it’s time to do it all over again, but maybe this time you use a different ship, with a different crew. It’s a game that rewards patience, skill, more patience and luck.

I’ll say now that I am a fan of roguelikes, but FTL isn’t one that grips me as much as others. It is certainly addicting gameplay, but I find the difficulty curve a tad too steep and the AI’s ability to fuck you over just a mite too strong.


#74 Aragami (PC, 2016)

This game was one that caught my interest quickly by means of its unique artstyle. Giving me hints of Sly Racoon, Aragami is a pretty gorgeous game where everything looks and feels exceedingly fluid. Within, you play some sort of undead ninja summoned by a girl whose orders you follow. The story is okay, serving as a means to go here and there, but where this game shines is in its gameplay. As an undead ninja assassin hybrid, you have Dishonored-style abilities, which include warping to any place within your line of sight and instantly killing enemies you can sneak up on. Eventually, you get more flashy skills, such as summoning a floating ball of pulsating death, which is always fun.

At its core, Aragami is a stealth game, and it encourages you to stay hidden and in the shadows. If you are caught, it doesn’t take many hits from the enemy to end you. You also only recover your energy in the shadows, and you need that for your super-useful warping skill. Something I really love is that the game eschews the immersion breaking energy bar that other games of the genre might have, instead representing the protagonist’s energy/mana/whatever with a pattern on his shroud which fills up with white light.

Diligent players will find all the means to upgrade your character through his extensive skill tree, making him an even better undead ninja assassin thief adventurer hybrid, and I’ll say this much, exploring the levels is fun. The game has a very eastern feel about it, and the set pieces are gorgeously crafted. It’s a fun game to dive into and explore.


#73 Etrian Mystery Dungeon (3DS, 2015)

I already know this is going to be one of the lesser known titles on the list. The Etrian Odyssey franchise is one well known for its unique gameplay in which you explore a dungeon and all of its monsters and traps within, whilst also drawing and updating the map for it yourself. It’s a very fun series of games. This is a spin-off of that franchise.

Featuring many hallmark classes from the mainline games, Etrian Mystery Dungeon requires you to create a party of various heroes and take them into deep dungeons of varying depths to complete tasks and quests of varying danger. It is the standard Mystery Dungeon fare. If you’ve played any of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, imagine that but in a far more standard medium-fantasy setting.

It’s quite a fun game, marked by the standard high difficulty spikes and complex gameplay of the dungeon-crawling roguelike genre. Having so many options for character classes makes this title extremely fun to experiment with, and I’d recommend it to any turn-based strategy RPG fan.


#72 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch, 2017)

When it comes to racing games, there are two in my mind. This, and Crash Team Racing for the PS1. With the announcement that the latter may be receiving a remake, I can only really be excited for that.

Mario Kart 8 is a really fun entry in the series, and I’ve enjoyed playing it both solo and with friends. It makes for a great drinking game, and it’s fun to play to settle arguments. It’s one of the most visually appealing games I’ve played this year and playing it with my fiancé on the train was a highlight of… well… that particular train journey.

What can I say? It’s just a basic racing game. It’s fun, but it’s not something that grabs my attention for hours on end. I don’t have much of a nostalgia-boner for the Mario franchise as I wasn’t a Nintendo kid, so it doesn’t really resonate with me as much as say, CTR did. Enjoyable all the same, though.


#71 Yo-kai Watch (3DS, 2016)

The second Mons game on this list, Yo-kai watch is a game in which you fight and collect the eponymous Yokai of Japanese mythology to battle. It’s a very colourful, maybe even childish game with rudimentary RPG features and a fair amount of cartoonish humour. That said, the combat system is very unique and fun to mess around with, and Mons collecting will always be fun to me.

The story is pretty basic. It seems to rely heavily on ‘this Yo-kai is causing mischief, go deal with it’ multiple times. It works, I guess, but writing this up now I can’t remember a single important plot point barring a broken watch, and I’ve played through a fair amount of the game.

I think the series would benefit from some complexity added into both the storytelling and gameplay, but with a franchise so obviously aimed at young children I am not holding my breath.

Stay tuned for the next ten, which will feature two more mobile RPGs, a disappointing sequel, a hellishly good remake and a fair few strategy games.

Next: 70-61.

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