Game of the Year can mean a lot of different things. Sure, we typically mean unabashedly great games — modern classics that we suspect will stand the test of time. But nothing is ever perfect. Even the greatest games of the year have flaws that we simply gloss over, because the final result is just too good to ignore.
This category is not about those games. This category is about the games that we found some semblance of joy in (or addiction to) in spite of their shitty practices. In the case of the runner-up, that meant enjoying a game despite in-game and real-world flaws. For the winner, it’s all about pushing against a business model that is increasingly out of favor in the games industry.
And now, here they are!
Runner-up: Detroit: Become Human
Before anyone writes me angry tweets — yes, Detroit: Become Human is a hugely problematic game. However, similar to The Room, it can be an enjoyable train wreck full of the David Cage-isms we’ve come to expect.
Huge overarching plot that ultimately leads to one of a few basic outcomes? Check. Characters used as plot points rather than being well-written? Check. Gratuitous-yet-very-awkward sex club and/or sex scene? Double check. Horrendously tied together allusion to the political issue of the time? Big ol’ checkerino.
But, despite all this, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Detroit. That’s largely because of its subject matter, which is increasingly at the forefront of media lately. Westworld, Deus Ex, Humans… Hell, even Sophia the Robot have all dominated headlines and bring forth similar questions. How much of ourselves do we see the things we create? And what does our ability to empathize with those things (or not) say about us?
I love it when games tackle these incredibly difficult questions in different ways and that’s why this is one of my Problematic Faves of 2018.
-Andrew Whitmore, Social and Community Manager
Problematic Fave of 2018: Dragalia Lost
There is no shortage of gacha games on mobile phones. Hell, there’s not even a shortage of them developed by Cygames: makers of Granblue Fantasy and Rage of Bahamut. The genre has gained a bit of traction here in the West, too — enough that Nintendo put its seal of approval on one of the thinly veiled gambling games this year.
Dragalia Lost is an action-RPG where players pump time and money into their smartphone to unlock pictures of hot guys and gals. These characters also have gameplay functions, but that’s not the real appeal. You’re here to grind crafting materials, to get stronger, so you can have more pulls at the waifu slot machine. It’s simply the way of things.
Dragalia Lost was incredibly stingy, even by genre standards, at first. Although it gets a bit more generous with each update. Its real achievement, however, is how approachable it makes the gacha bandwagon. Despite their shallow cores, these games are usually incredibly complex. Dragalia Lost is no different. It just has a much cleaner tutorial and user interface than its peers. It’s also pretty fun to play (if you don’t think too much about the grind). There’s just enough skill and nuance to its positioning focused combat to eat up 15 minutes at a time, day in and day out.
But the real draw remains the music. The pretty package is also a treat for the ears at every turn. It’s almost a shame that such a great soundtrack and so many fun characters are hamstrung by gacha exploitation. It may be a pleasure to play, but we can’t overlook the usual crappy business practices.
-Steven Strom, Managing Editor