Fanbyte’s Game of the Year 2018

Here we are. It’s been a long road (and a long week for that matter), but we’ve finally reached the finale. This is Fanbyte’s Game of the Year 2018 award. And we’re very proud to be able to share it with all of you.

Many were considered. We argued for hours about the final victor. In the end, though, we went with the game that caught our staff’s collective attention more than any other. The resulting choice not be each individual editor’s personal favorite game of the year, but it was the one we thought best reflected our experiences — not to mention the more general things all of us appreciate in games — in a single package.

So sit back, relax, and… enjoy reading about our runner-up first. God of War was also a great game, after all! Otherwise you can skip to the end for our winner. Thanks for sticking with us through this very hectic year.

Fanbyte Game of the Year

Runner-up: God of War

God of War was almost our 2018 Game of the Year. Almost. So close! That’s wild, since I bounced right the heck off of Kratos’s PS2 and PS3 adventures. It’s not that I don’t appreciate mindless action games, but the old God of War mechanics seemed especially so in light of the series’ equally shallow narrative.

I don’t begrudge the older games for being upfront about what they were: power fantasies where a super angry dude kills his dad. What I perhaps appreciated most about this year’s God of War is the sense of heaviness.

It’s still a power fantasy, sure. The Leviathan Axe is the best in-game weapon for the best combat system I’ve seen in ages. Kratos still does ridiculous things and cleaves through a body count that could cover Mount Olympus. But heavy are the proceedings — not devoid of humor, mind you, but things carry weight.

Kratos, despite completing his quest to eradicate the godly family he used to have, feels what a history of dramatic patricide has done to his relationship with his own child, Atreus. I can’t believe this worked so well. I tried to imagine Kratos taking on a child during his Grecian adventures. Would he feel glee at his child’s increasing knowledge of violence? Would he sacrifice his child if it meant getting everything he wanted?

Kratos exposing Atreus to a world of blood thought left behind weighs on him. The spectacular voice performance and facial animation convey a tired old god. He can still rip a mandible in half if he needs to, though.

-John Warren, Editor-in-Chief

Game of the Year 2018: Monster Hunter: World

Monster Hunter: World is the best game of 2018. The dragon-slaying action game refines more than a decade of great ideas into a single, diamond-dense point. What it lacks in incredibly diverse monsters from the series’ past (many of which will likely show up in 2019’s Iceborne expansion), World makes up for with accessibility. Finally, everyone can enjoy this incredibly rewarding — and equally daunting — formula. It’s even on home consoles, to boot!

Accessibility doesn’t necessarily mean less depth, either. The pool of 14 completely different weapon categories is still there. And each one is like playing a different game unto itself. You can use the highly versatile Charge Blade to dance around enemies — before morphing it into an explosive axe that pummels your foe into the dirt — or fly high with the acrobatic Insect Glaive. Maybe let your three friends take center stage and provide support from afar with the Heavy Bowgun. Or how about countering T-rex bites with the katana-like Longsword?

Once you master a weapon or two, it’s time to start conquering the game’s many enormous beasts. Monster Hunter: World has a bit of an imperialist streak that won’t sit well with everyone. You start the game on an expedition to the “New World” — a land mostly populated by the series’ signature “monsters.” These fantastical dinosaurs, electric squirrels, and inflatable bats each pose unique threats. But nothing is as threatening as four well-equipped hunters ready to rip the beasts apart to learn what makes them tick.

Plot foibles aside, World ferrets out a lot of charm in its downtime. Players must prepare for battle with a hearty dinner, for instance… served by a troupe of talking cats that make a performance out of every meal prep. Your hunter’s handler is an optimistic woman also obsessed with food. A tiny piglet in a sweater saunters around your home base. You can, of course, pet it.

Those small details help smooth over the big, difficult grind World poses. You need to kill a lot of dragons to craft a cute set of armor out of their bone and sinew. Sometimes, that means three or four arduous battles of attrition against these hearty beasts. Other times, you’re stuck redoing the same mission again, and again, and again just to get that one Anjanath Ruby you desperately desire.

So it’s a good thing the game is such a blast to play. The different weapon types aren’t just unique. They bring a deeply satisfying weight to bear with each and every strike. Explosions of stored kinetic energy rip open the Earth with every swing and perfect strikes sing with anime ostentatiousness. There basically isn’t a clunker in the bunch, once you unlock each weapon’s potential, and each is a joy to wield well.

Better tutorials and more streamlined multiplayer make actually achieving that level of mastery easier than any other time in Monster Hunter history. Although it’s still not perfect. Teaming up with friends is a still a chore, for example, and the game should tell you just how the hell things like “affinity” work. But it’s a quantum leap over the recent handheld games.

Not to mention, World coming to consoles means the game can look as good as it feels. It’s not hyper-realistic, or anything. It just provides the sense of scale each great beast needed to seem truly menacing.

And oh, are they ever imposing. The slate of launch monsters was menacing enough. The ones developer Capcom introduced in free updates — the ravenous Deviljho, the gold-plated Kulve Taroth, the complex Behemoth — are many magnitudes more challenging. Some of them even include mechanics that are entirely new to Monster Hunter. And most of those are just as fun to play as the base game.

It’s no wonder so many of us on staff pumped dozens, even hundreds, of hours into the game. There’s always something new. Even if you beat all the existing monsters, more are just on the horizon. Even if you conquer a single weapon type, there are more to craft and modify with “Charms” and “Decorations.” And, when things get really stale, just try playing with a totally different arsenal. It’s always amazing how unique they feel.

Sure. Monster Hunter: World isn’t perfect. No game ever is. But this one is far and away the best we played all year. That’s why we’re delighted to give it Fanbyte’s Game of the Year award for 2018.

-Steven Strom, Managing Editor