This year has been an amazing one for video games franchises, as sequels, prequels, and reboots have given life to many beloved, yet ageing series. But while there have been many triumphs, there have also been a fair amount of titles that have simply failed to live up to the name they represent.
Below is a list of games that did their franchises proud in 2018, and a handful that dropped the ball.
Games That Did Their Franchise Proud
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
The Assassin’s Creed franchise has undergone a considerable transformation over the years. What was once a stealth-driven series, revolving around a story about fighting Templars, has now evolved into a sprawling, epic action-adventure title, filled with a wealth of different narratives, characters, and landscapes.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey continues that growth, expanding upon the combat and gameplay introduced in Assassin’s Creed Origins. Branching paths, character choice, and other small narrative elements also add a depth to the story that has been sorely missing from most previous titles.
Kassandra also stands out as one of the best characters of this generation, thanks to a mix of humorous and clever writing.
Spider-Man is hotter than ever, due mostly in part to his growing role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But while that may draw buzz to anything relevant his character, like a video game, that hype also breeds comparisons and high expectations.
That is why it’s even more impressive that Marvel’s Spider-Man managed to not only thrive amongst that pressure but stand out.
From a gameplay aspect, Marvel’s Spider-Man takes the best elements from past installments in the franchise and really makes them its own. Web-slinging feels even more fluid than in Spider-Man 2, while combat is as smooth as it has ever been, drawing comparisons to the beloved Arkham series for good reason.
While the story may simply be classic Spider-Man, it has just the right amount of camp and emotion, driving home the core elements and themes that fans love about Peter Parker and his alter ego.
God of War
Of all the games on this list, the God of War series was the one in most desperate need of a revitalization. While the remasters were a nice nostalgic touch, more recent installments showed that the series had a lot of glaring problems that needed to be fixed.
God of War did so, and then some.
The first problem is addressed by improving the series’ protagonist, Kratos. While he started off as a badass, fans grew tired of his one-dimensional personality as the series went on, as he felt hallow by God of War 3.
God of War fixes this by introducing a family. Through this family, Santa Monica Studio injects new life and personality not only into Kratos but into the series as a whole.
Combat elements like Kratos’ Leviathan Axe and boss battles that vary in scale also widely differ from the hack and slash instances the series has been known for in the past. Overall, everything feels improved, while also managing to build upon the best parts of previous games.
Dragon Quest XI
It has been eight years since the last mainline Dragon Quest game released in the west. Couple this with the fact that JRPGs aren’t really the commodity that they once were, and you can see why there were a lot of doubters going into Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age.
Even with a chip on its shoulder, Echoes of an Elusive Age does the series proud, giving fans both quality and quantity. Colorful characters, gorgeous art, and accessibility are just a few of the things that propel you through the vibrant world, one that is overflowing with content.
Dragon Quest XI has set the bar for what the series should hope to be in the future, implementing a modernized touch, while capturing the charm of 90s JRPGs all the while.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption is heralded by casual and hardcore gamers alike as one of the best video games of all time. The world, its characters, and the way it immersed you in its fantastical version of the wild west is unlike any other title around.
Somehow, Red Dead Redemption 2 manages to surpass the high bar it set for itself with the first installment, and as a prequel no less. The story rides off the back of a lot the themes, and even characters, that Rockstar emphasized in Red Dead Redemption, following Arthur Morgan and the Dutch van der Linde gang.
This gang is filled with amazingly unique characters, stories, and ideologies, all surfacing throughout the many main quests, side missions, and small interactions Arthur has with them throughout the game.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is also ridiculously realistic, featuring a world, characters, gameplay elements, and even physics that mirror what it would actually be like to live in the American Southwest during 1899.
Games That Dropped the Ball
Over the years, the Fallout franchise has been in a bit of a decline. While many fans loved the direction Bethesda decided to take the series in via Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4 faced criticism for straying from the norm a bit too much.
Innovation is always important in a franchise, but Fallout 76 is the exact consequence of pushing too far in one direction. Adding multiplayer has been a big discussion amongst those who love the series for a while, but many were still worried when it was revealed that Fallout 76 would be an always online multiplayer title.
Those worries were realized when the game released, as it seemed like Bethesda only released the game in order to have an online version of Fallout to test opinions on the mode.
One of the biggest disappointments revolves around what they did to the franchise’s narrative structure. Where previous installments focused on NPC interaction and choice, Fallout 76 has little to no NPCs in it at all, telling the stories and quests by audio tapes instead.
This choice may seem like it makes sense for a world that just went through a nuclear fallout, but it doesn’t fit the mould of what fans expect from a Fallout game. Instead, it simply leaves players lonely and bored.
Sports video games are always one of the most profitable genres in all of gaming, as casual players love to immerse themselves in their favorite sports. Even adamant casual fans couldn’t stomach the issues with NBA 2K19 though, and their disappointment was understandable.
This year’s version of the game is severely bogged down with microtransactions, ads, and pay-to-win tactics that take away from the best mode in the game, MyCareer.
MyCareer mode lets you build and customize your player from the ground up, weaving a narrative around them as they rise through the ranks. NBA 2K19’s Career Mode is bogged down by the aforementioned microtransactions, as progression is halted if you don’t invest real money into the Virtual Currency (VC) system.
Skill Points are tied to the VC system, meaning you get more with each purchase. If you don’t buy the currency, then your player will brick and miss passes consistently, meaning you merit good enough stats to earn more points naturally.
This is emphasized when playing against others online, as most can just boost their player’s stats with the VC in order to win effortlessly.
While The Mad Ants Prelude story is great, anything after it simply feels like a grind because of how the progression system is tied to microtransactions.
Metal Gear Survive
Ever since it was announced, Metal Gear Survive simply sounded like a cheap cash grab. At the height of the survival game genre’s popularity, Konami announced they’d be making a survival game set in the Metal Gear Solid universe.
The concept angered fans, as it was such a far cry from the series roots. Still, some were optimistic.
Once the game came out, it was clear that little to no effort had been put into making it stand out. Gameplay was grindy, combat wasn’t fun, and the world felt grey, boring, and more lifeless than the enemies that inhabited it.
The game is so bad that many don’t even remember that it released this year. That includes Konami apparently, as almost nothing has been done to improve the lackluster nature of the game since it debuted in February.
Metal Gear Survive didn’t just drop the ball, it threw an interception that would make Nathan Peterman proud.