Here's everything I didn't get round to writing up earlier, and now I can put a line under 2019!
Halo 4 (Xbox One, MCC version):
Way better than I remembered it from when it first came out. A couple of duff vehicle sections aside it's non stop action, plenty of great set-piece fights, the Mantis bits are great, grand scale, architectural weirdness. So much promise that never quite came together in the sequel. You don't get much more Halo than that I guess. The Prometheans are unfairly maligned. The knights are more worthy opponents then the Brutes ever were, thwarting your attempts to engage them at distance and rushing you down at close quarters. They also have the kind of distinctive silhouettes that made the original incarnation of the Elites so iconic. The Watcher / Knight resurrection mechanic is a very cool riff on the recharging sheilds forcing you to comit to the finishing an enemy off that made the Elites in Halo:CE such dramatic foes. What are the crawlers though? If the Knights are post singularity forerunner humans then are the Crawlers their dogs? Am I killing hundreds of ghost dogs?
The story is a morass of bullshit although the central idea of fleshing out the Master Chief as a manufactured sociopath left adrift when the systems that maintaim him fall apart is cool. Sadly the execution is muddled at best, the treatment of Cortana as a character being a significant example. Post singularity love interest or surrogate mum? Pick ONE. Don't do both. That's just weird.
Halo Reach (Xbox One, MCC version):
The best one overall in my opinion (although maybe too somber and self serious for it's own good) taking the grounded, human setting of ODSTs city and widening the scope to a whole planet. Plenty of knowing tributes to Halo:CE levels, you get your Silent Cartographer beach landing bit and your Truth and Reconcilliation night time sniper action. There's a fair bit of rushing structures, getting inside them, blowing up reactors and jumping out while they explode, which is the kind of simple moment to moment level progression that the whole franchise could have benefited from more of. The Elites are back which is very welcome, but they feel slightly lacking compared to their original incarnation. Their animations and howls of rage and exhilliaration are all toned down. That's made up for by grand scale and breakneck pacing and it's pretty obvious playing both games one after the other that 343 leaned heavily on Reach as the blueprint for Halo 4.
Some decent glaciers.
By the end of the game the story collapses in to farce under the sheer weight of heroic sacrifice after heroic sacrifice but Jorge's storyline stands out as a terser, smarter exploration of the same themes of alienation and rootlessness that Halo 4 wades around in.
Wraps up with a dramatic fight in the rain against waves of enemies, a tense encounter with some super powered elites, a brief nose dive in quality with a shit turret section, but then redeems itself with that final section.
Ruiner (Xbox One):
Intersting take on a twin stick shooter where you're typically only fighting two or three enemies at a time and they can soak up a lot of fire before they go down. Lots of dashes and switching weapons on the fly gives it an almost character action feel. Overall if suffers from repeating the same handful of boss battles throughout the game, pace destroying town sections and a story with a distinctly edge-lordy whiff about it. Fantastic design and production values but the performance on a One S suffers a lot. I can't remember much about how I felt playing it only a month and a bit on but I didn't rank it that highly on my big list of what I've finished at the time, although I honestly couldn't tell you why now...
Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor (Xbox One):
Pretty sure nobody from the Tolkein estate paid too much attention to this one because psychically exploding Orcs heads Scanners style does not seem on brand for Lord of the Rings.
All the fun here is in interacting with Uruk captains and the nemesis system. The story missions and ending sequence are just dull cruft in comparison to the endless procession of procedurally generated orc dickheads and their hilarious nonsense. Nothing in any game has made me smile this year as much as an Uruk captain launching in to a florid description of the ways he'll end your life before being instantly decapitated the moment he's finished talking.
Without the nemesis system this would be a duff Assasin's Creed clone with IP inappropraite levels of violence. The genius bit of design that elevates it is the simple idea of taking all the systemic chaos of a Ubisoft style open world game and adding one simple layer of persistence to the systems so each chance encounter with a powerful enemy has an inkling of significance and consequence. It's a crime that this design philosophy hasn't caught on.
The Bard's Tale Remastered (Xbox One):
Sands off the more sadistic edges of the 80s original while keeping the atmosphere and no frills dungeon crawling happily intact. I never got too far on the original when I was young because for some reason it never occured to me to make my own maps (I did manage to commit the entire layout of the 1st level of the cellars to memory though!) so it's nice to go back and get some closure.
It's a very tightly scoped game - a town not a city, with a handful of dungeons that link together in novel ways - with a balanced economy (resurrections and status heals cost more gold as you level up). When you reach the point where individual level ups start to lose significance the game compensates by introducing new magical loot on the later dungeon levels. Later on the dungeons become more convoluted and you get mired down navigating endless spinner traps and zones of darkness but a few simple puzzles and some decent meat and potatoes tactical combat kept me interested.
Tempest 4000 (Xbox One):
I was aiming to cement my position in the top 10 of all three XBL leaderboards but in the end I managed top 10 on classic mode then I think top 30 for pure and just outside the top 50 for survival. I've probably slipped down a fair bit now as it looked like there were still some regular players chipping away at it. I've left it too long to go back to now so I'll call it done. I didn't come close to clearing the game without continues but made it through all the levels twice in Classic mode.
I think it's an overall improvement on Tempest 2000 which would let you build up 10s of extra lives only to see you haemorrhage most of them on visually incoherent difficulty spike levels you had to strategically warp past. This is much more balanced although even after running through the game twice I found some of the later levels hard to decipher visually and mechanically. It's not as rich mechnically or visually as Space Giraffe was sitting somewhere in the middle of T2000 and Space Giraffe.
I played too many game in 2019, mostly at the expense of sleep, so I really need to scale things back for 2020. I've got Tactics Ogre, Jedi: Fallen Order and Outer Worlds left outstanding so they need finishing off first of all. I'm also thinking I should try and cross some classics off my must-play list. I finished about 3/4 of what I started, the only notable game that fell by the wayside was Outer Wilds which my posts in the game specific thread cover my journey with in detail.
I've been ranking everything I've played since I started posting in the "Games you've completed..." threads but the top 10 is looking a bit dull now thanks to the Master Chief Collection and how highly I rate the Halo series... Here's everything ranked for 2019 and my top 10 since 2017:
All games finished in 2019 ranked:
A pretty decent mix of stuff. Creature In The Well was the only thing I'd describe as genuinely bad. R-Type Tactics is deeply flawed but at least interesting.
Top 10 since 2017: