The Gold Standard – 2018

2018 has been a pretty great year for Ninja Refinery, but better still for gaming in general.

Of course, it’s the end of the year and everyone feels obliged to create “best of” lists and rate everything, usually in a ranked list. To hell with that though. Ninja Refinery doesn’t believe in scores and rankings. I believe in having a good time and enjoying everything that I can.

Having said that, reflection is pretty common at this time of year, and well, there’s been a lot reviewed and played. Of those, there were a lot of “exceptional” ratings given out. Whether or not that cheapens the meaning of that award is up to everyone else.

Fact is, I’ve worked really hard to keep creating content for this site, and luckily for me, there have been more than enough opportunities to do so.

This is all about sharing some of the amazing stuff from the past year (played in the past year, not necessarily released this year). No order, no ranking, just pure 2018 gold.

 

Monster Hunter World

Just, wow. I’m actually back at it in Monster Hunter World after finishing God of War, and I’m determined to see Rathalos and Diablos done before the year ends (edit: Only Diablos to go, but it’s New Year’s eve!!).

A colourful, bright world full of monsters. What more could you ask for, eh? How about slick combat with a massive variety of weapons (and therefore methods) to choose from? How about deep crafting and rpg elements?

This is a game that lets you do you, whilst making sure you’re challenged and having fun too. Each monster is unique with it’s own AI, attack patterns to learn, strengths and weaknesses to study and bodies to be carved for loot. It’s like every fight is a boss fight, and you need to learn how to approach it.

The environments are lush, the characters are fun (gotta love those Palicoes!), the music is fun, it looks great and the gameplay loop is nigh on perfect. The more you put into this game, the more you get out of it.

I only wish I had people to play with, I can see it being even more fun with a group of friends! Random internet strangers are fine for now, though.

This will fall into 2019 with loads more hours ahead of me, and I can’t wait!

 

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

A stunning final chapter in the already excellent series. Seeing Nathan Drake go on one last adventure and tackle relationships with his long-lost brother, and of course his wife.

This was a wonderful way to close out a series I’ve loved, and it didn’t disappoint at all. It looks great, the cinematic set pieces were nothing short of excellence and the acting, motion capture and voice work was stellar.

I’m a little sad that I can’t experience it for the first time again, but it’s on my list to re-play somewhere down the line. A total joy, and one of the best that the PS4 has to offer.

Solid gold!

Here’s the review

 

Warframe

Interestingly, this game came up as the game I’ve logged the most hours with, in 2018. I had no idea, but I knew that this would feature here, months ago.

I’ve not reviewed it, but I’ve written about it time and time again.

Well over 100 hours into a free to play game? Who knew?

Warframe is the epitome of the gold standard, always excellent, always fun, always improving. I’ve not even touched it for a couple of months, and I know I’m missing out on the massive Fortuna update, and loads more.

This is a game I’ll come back to time and time again. To me, this is my Destiny 2 replacement. Just a shame I couldn’t get others to truly give it a chance.

I’d recommend this to anyone and everyone, pure gold indeed.

 

Spider-Man

We all knew it would sell like hot cakes, Spider-Man games are generally quite fun, although some would argue that they’ve never quite reached the high standards set by the classic Spider-Man 2 on Playstation.

It seems to me that this is the best version of a Spider-Man game, and better still, one of the best games this year.

I sunk around 30 hours into it, and ended up doing more side quests and collectable stuff than I’d ever normally do in an open world game.

You feel like Spider-man, swinging with ease, darting through the city, stopping crime and saving the day. Then, you see the lovingly created city and the golden sunrise and you want to just carry on for a few more minutes.

Great story, great combat, loads of replayability, and now I have the 3 DLC’s to play in the new year, so here’s to plenty more time with Peter Parker and company!

 

God of War

I’ve harped on about this enough recently. It’s not only setting the gold standard for games I’ve played this year, it’s hit my all-time top-ten list of games. An incredible adventure that just oozes excellence.

Slick combat, punishing enemies and crunching weight make this a satisfying endeavour every time you encounter an enemy. Mixed with the story, the cast of excellent characters and a father-son relationship that’s more complex that relationships you see in a lot of games, you’re in for a treat.

If you’ve been on the fence about it, or have the same idea of the series as I did (I thought it was all just hack and slash), then just dive in headfirst and see what happens. I can’t think of anyone that wouldn’t enjoy this game.

Outstanding.

 

Red Dead Redemption 2

Where do I begin? This is a big big game that took me in excess of 50 hours to just complete the main story and some side missions.

Stunning vistas, fantastic voice acting, a reasonably satisfying story and a lovely lead into the first Red Dead Redemption. This is triple A gaming at it’s finest.

Sure, I’m a little burnt-out on it, and haven’t touched the online component yet. But Arthur Morgan has stuck with me. My horses, my near misses and spending time with Dutch’s gang have impacted me on a more personal level that a lot of games can ever hope to do.

Fun nonsense, serious drama. Red Dead has it all.

It became a bit of a grind during the second act, and I felt myself forcing through it. Although I feel that was a reflection of how Arthur was feeling, how the story was making me feel about the characters and circumstances. Surely, something that hits that hard is worth recognising as a work of art?

A game whereby gold is a rare commodity, is pure gold in itself.

 

No Man’s Sky

A game I haven’t touched since February, and basically wrote-off as a game I just can’t get into…..

What’s it doing in the list then?

The thing with No Man’s Sky is that I constantly think about it. The peaceful exploration, the discovery of new planets and flora/fauna. I was at peace and in awe most of the time I was playing it, and that’s something I’ve not found anywhere else since.

Beyond that it’s come on in leaps and bounds, with the NEXT expansion, and rolling out to Xbox One, too. This game is only getting bigger and stronger. Recognised now as something it wasn’t when it was released.

No Man’s Sky is a game that’s never really left me, even though I left it. Now, I’m coming back to it in 2019 to see if I can find that calming gameplay I’ve since craved.

 

PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds

Without a doubt, this must be the game I’ve written the most about over the last 12 months. Playing it since day one of the Xbox One beta and sticking with it ever since.

This isn’t so much of a gold standard game in terms of how it looks, and there’s no narrative to speak of. It’s a simple core premise, that just works perfectly.

Hell, the game itself is pretty rough sometimes. Between getting disconnected mid-game, rubber-banding, having texture pop-in way too late. It’s been an experience learning to love it. Yet, it’s always good fun.

Solo or squads, it never matters. It’s exhilarating, it’s fun, and I don’t see it ever falling out of my good graces.

Ropey? Yeah, still, after 12 months. But it kind of adds to it’s charm to be honest. That, and it’s ignited my love for the battle royale genre, which sees me trying every variation of it going…..for better of for worse!

 

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Last one! Another big one, too.

Metal Gear Solid V is a masterpiece in it’s own right. Massive open areas, slick stealth and loads of fun to be had on your way through a mission.

Arguably one of the best games to provide you with the “emergent” experience, where by you’re always having to react to the situation at hand. Only cutscenes are scripted. The rest is up to you.

A massive array of things to do (arguably too much, when it comes to base management etc). You’re never stuck for a fun mission. Even the boss battles were enjoyable.

It’s sad that it’s be the last Metal Gear Solid game, or at least the last “proper” one with Hideo Kojima at the helm. However, it’s a hell of a way to go out.

I miss fulton extractions of enemy troops, and the weird noises that Quiet makes when she’s got a target in her sites.

A game full of intricate systems, open-world chaos and excellent stealth gaming make this the last one to make the cut for 2018’s gold standard.

 

2019……

It’s already been alluded to, but I’m hitting No Man’s Sky again, Warframe, PUBG and Spider-Man.

However, I’m already heavily invested in Monster Hunter World and want to see myself hit a couple of the bigger end-game hunts. So I’m really excited to get into that.

Then, I have a stack of new stuff from Christmas ranging from Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, Call of Duty Black OPs 4 (battle royale, baby!) and Bloodborne.

All this is to work around a new feature where I’m playing the tri-fecta of Wii U games. Breath of the Wild, Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. I want to see all of these finished, back to back in the first half of the year.

I have no idea how I’ll find the time, but I’m up for giving it a go!

Wonder how much of the above will hit the 2019 gold standard?

Happy new year to anyone that actually reads this! Have a great one.

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