The best PC games of 2018 (so far)

HALF­WAY THROUGH 2018, TH­ESE ARE THE BEST PC GAMES WE’VE PLAYED YET.

PCWorld (USA) - - Contents - BY HAY­DEN DING­MAN

As al­ways, it’s hard to be­lieve we’re al­ready half­way through 2018. Seems like just yes­ter­day we were crown­ing 2017’s best PC games ( go.pc­world.com/17be), and now there’s six more months of ti­tles swelling the back­log.

This year’s been a bit odd though, with many of the big­gest and most an­tic­i­pated games (Sea of Thieves) floun­der­ing, and oth­ers end­ing up on this list that I hadn’t even heard of un­til they popped up on Steam (Yoku’s Is­land Ex­press). We’ll see how many of them sur­vive for our fi­nal Game of the Year list in De­cem­ber, but for now? Read on for our 10 fa­vorite PC games of 2018...so far.

SUBNAUTICA

I’m not much of a fan of sur­vival games nor­mally, but Subnautica ($25 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world.com/subnh) had me hooked for weeks. The mysteries of its alien oceans held so much promise, and I fell right into the fa­mil­iar loop—craft­ing gear to go deeper to find new loot to craft even bet­ter gear, and so on, sink­ing ever fur­ther into the depths and en­coun­ter­ing weirder and weirder crea­tures.

It’s a mar­velous ex­am­ple of world­build­ing, blended with a story that ca­su­ally guides you to in­ter­est­ing hand-crafted mo­ments with­out un­der­cut­ting the strengths of its sand­box. Just enough di­rec­tion to keep you mov­ing for­ward. Or down­ward, as the case may be.

A CASE OF DIS­TRUST

I’m a sucker for a good de­tec­tive game, and A Case of Dis­trust ($15 on Steam, go.pc­world.com/dists) is a great one. Set in San Francisco in the 1920s, you play as Phyl­lis Cadence Malone, a pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tor on the trail of a mur­der. The game is al­most en­tirely based around con­ver­sa­tions, as you in­ter­ro­gate var­i­ous mem­bers of the com­mu­nity and try to catch them in lies.

But it’s the art that re­ally earns A Case of Dis­trust a spot on this list. Every frame is this eye-catch­ing monochro­matic min­i­mal­ism, more sug­ges­tions of scenes than any­thing else. It’s ab­so­lutely stun­ning, and an ex­cel­lent pair to the writ­ing it­self.

KING­DOM COME: DELIVERANCE

When I first saw King­dom Come: Deliverance ($60 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world.com/kcdh), I thought it might be a dis­as­ter. It was just so damn am­bi­tious, an El­der Scrolls-style RPG set in me­dieval Bo­hemia with semi-re­al­is­tic melee com­bat, po­tion brew­ing, horse­back rid­ing, and about a dozen other sys­tems on top. Oh, and it was be­ing made in Cryengine, which is hardly what I’d pic­ture for an El­der Scrolls-style RPG.

And yet some­how it works. King­dom Come: Deliverance is janky as all hell, bu­grid­den, clumsy, and of­ten poorly voice-acted. De­spite all that, it’s also one of the most—and I don’t use this word of­ten—im­mer­sive RPGS I’ve played in a long, long while. By the end, I felt sur­pris­ingly in­vested in my char­ac­ter Henry, the black­smith’s-kid-turned-knight who helped save a realm. Proof history can be just as com­pelling as fan­tasy, given the de­vel­op­ers put enough love and care into the de­tails.

BATTLETECH

Battletech ($40 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world. com/batlh) is flawed. Every­thing about it is just a hair too slow, its in­ter­face is con­vo­luted, and its story not as deep as I’d like from the de­vel­op­ers who made the ex­cel­lent Shad­owrun games.

But the core of the game is worth

over­look­ing those flaws. Battletech is one of the most sat­is­fy­ing tactical games in years ( go. pc­world.com/mstg), as you launch en­tire grips of mis­siles onto an en­emy’s head and then close in to punch one enor­mous mech fist into their stupid mech head. There’s also a lot of fun to be had with the unique man­age­rial layer, which tasks you with eval­u­at­ing risk on free­lance mer­ce­nary con­tracts—bal­anc­ing the promised re­wards with the po­ten­tial for pi­lot death or, worse, the loss of an en­tire mech.

With more per­for­mance fixes on the way, it’s a game that’ll only get bet­ter as the year goes on.

INTO THE BREACH

Where Battletech is all about spec­ta­cle, Into the Breach ($15 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world. com/itbh) is the po­lar op­po­site type of tac­tics game. It’s un­re­lent­ingly small, its grand story of mechs ver­sus gi­ant bugs nev­er­the­less played out on a eight-by-eight grid.

There’s a ton of depth to it though, and Into the Breach got me into that “one last round” mood ( go.pc­world.com/olr) more than any other game this year. Each map takes maybe 5 to 10 min­utes to fin­ish, and the fact you can see where en­e­mies will move on their next turn makes each ac­tion feel more like a puz­zle than a stan­dard tac­tics game.

MINIT

Minit ($10 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world.com/ minith) is clever as hell. On the sur­face it’s a top-down Zelda-style ad­ven­ture. There’s a catch though: Each life lasts only, as you

might in­fer, one minute. You keep any weapons or items you col­lect in that minute, but any con­ver­sa­tions or en­e­mies or ob­sta­cles? They re­set. Thus every life re­quires plan­ning and pin­point pre­ci­sion, as you slowly but surely make your way through the world.

There have been other games in this vein, like Half-minute Hero. It’s still a pretty novel con­ceit though, and I had a great time blast­ing through Minit’s puzzles, and an even bet­ter time en­joy­ing its writ­ing, which pokes fun at some long­stand­ing Zelda tropes.

GHOST OF A TALE

As a kid I re­mem­ber read­ing the Red­wall books and be­ing fas­ci­nated by its minia­ture fan­tasy world, where mice wielded swords and fought off the rat men­ace. I bet the de­vel­op­ers be­hind Ghost of a Tale loved those books too.

Not that the idea of a minia­tur­ized mouse world is unique to Red­wall, but Ghost of the Tale ($25 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world.com/ goath) feels like it could’ve been pulled

straight from that uni­verse. You play as Tilo, a mouse forced to sneak through an oc­cu­pied cas­tle, avoid­ing the rats who hunt you and try­ing to win al­lies along the way. It’s just a won­der­ful set­ting, and the stealth side of things is ac­tu­ally pretty damn ro­bust too. One of the most charm­ing games of 2018 for sure.

YOKU’S IS­LAND EX­PRESS

We’re liv­ing in a golden era for the so-called “Metroid­va­nia” genre, what with Hol­low Knight, Ax­iom Verge, Blood­stained: Curse of the Moon, Steam­world Dig 2, and so on.

Yoku’s Is­land Ex­press ($20 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world.com/yokuh) is one of my fa­vorites though, com­bin­ing the well-worn genre with—of all things—pin­ball. Rather than hop­ping around like a nor­mal plat­former, you’ll use flip­pers to bounce your­self around every screen, solv­ing puzzles and ex­plor­ing the is­land of Moku­mana on a quest to de­liver the res­i­dents’ mail and, maybe, save ev­ery­one from de­struc­tion. It’s a fan­tas­tic genre mashup and one of 2018’s best sur­prises.

WARHAMMER: VERMINTIDE II

Warhammer: Vermintide II ($30 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world.com/whvh) is empty fluff, but it’s en­ter­tain­ingly empty fluff. Oh sure, there’s a story of some sort here, but even af­ter play­ing every map dozens of times I still couldn’t tell you what it is. All I know is it’s Left 4 Dead, but with Warhammer char­ac­ters us­ing

great big swords to chop rats and other nasties apart. Just hordes and hordes and hordes of en­e­mies, all be­ing mas­sa­cred.

Rarely does a mind­less game like Vermintide II make it onto a list of mine, and I don’t know if it’ll sur­vive through De­cem­ber. But it’s im­mensely sat­is­fy­ing, and I had a great time get­ting to­gether friends for a few weeks of small talk in­ter­spersed with fran­tic head­chop­ping ac­tion.

BEST GAME OF 2018 (SO FAR): CE­LESTE

Ce­leste ($20 on Steam, go.pc­world.com/ cels) is the tight­est plat­former I’ve played ( go. pc­world.com/tpip) since Super Meat Boy. That’s the first point, and it’s im­por­tant. Play­ing Ce­leste is a joy, mas­ter­ing all of its in­tri­cate move­ment tricks and try­ing to scale the tit­u­lar Ce­leste Moun­tain. And af­ter the story’s over, there are the B- and C-sides—“se­cret” lev­els, even more dif­fi­cult than the orig­i­nals, for those ded­i­cated few who want a true chal­lenge. It’s fiendish.

It’s Ce­leste’s story and at­ti­tude that ul­ti­mately put it at the top of this list though. Un­like Super Meat Boy and other plat­form­ers of that ilk, which of­ten pit game against player, Ce­leste wants you to suc­ceed. It’s con­stantly reaf­firm­ing that it be­lieves in you, that you can def­i­nitely scale this moun­tain if you just keep try­ing, that there’s no shame in tak­ing ad­van­tage of the ac­ces­si­bil­ity op­tions (like slow­ing down time or giv­ing your­self an ex­tra jump for the harder gaps).

And that at­ti­tude jibes with its story, in

which Made­line bat­tles against her de­pres­sion. It’s a more poignant theme than I ever ex­pected from one of th­ese pre­ci­sion plat­form­ers, and months later I’m still think­ing about some of its best mo­ments. No small feat.

HON­OR­ABLE MEN­TION: PREY: MOONCRASH

Mooncrash ($20 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world. com/pmoh) is tech­ni­cally DLC, and thus in­el­i­gi­ble for hon­ors un­der our usual Game of the Year rules. Not a huge deal, be­cause Prey ($30 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world.com/pry) was on our best games of 2017 list ( go.pc­world. com/bg17), but it’s worth high­light­ing Mooncrash any­way. It’s per­fect.

Ba­si­cally, Mooncrash takes Prey’s sys­tems and straps them onto a pseudo-rogue­like.

The en­vi­ron­ments are al­ways the same, but weapons and ammo (and I think en­e­mies too) are ran­dom­ized each run. Thus you’re never quite sure whether you have the right tools for the job, and the re­sult is some re­ally clever prob­lem-solv­ing on the part of the player. It forces you out of the com­fort zone that games like Prey of­ten let you slip into.

Pair that with Mooncrash’s sur­pris­ingly good story, and it de­serves a men­tion here. I wish Bethesda had made it a stand­alone ex­pan­sion so more peo­ple could ex­pe­ri­ence it with­out the up-front cost of buy­ing Prey also—though hey, while we’re at it? Play Prey. It’s great.

HON­OR­ABLE MEN­TION: AS­SAS­SIN’S CREED: ORI­GINS: CURSE OF THE PHARAOHS

Last but not least, an­other ex­pan­sion. I wasn’t ex­pect­ing much from Curse of the Pharaohs ($20 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world. com/acoh). I thought As­sas­sin’s Creed: Ori­gins ($60 on Hum­ble, go.pc­world. com/acr) was fine, but it wasn’t my fa­vorite in the se­ries. Also, it was enor­mous ( go. pc­world.com/eno). More? I thought that seemed un­nec­es­sary.

But Curse of the Pharaohs suc­ceeds ( go. pc­world.com/cotp) be­cause it’s un­like any­thing As­sas­sin’s Creed’s done be­fore. The se­ries is tied in­ex­tri­ca­bly to its his­tor­i­cal set­ting, but Curse of the Pharaohs leans into the Egyp­tian pan­theon and more fan­tas­ti­cal el­e­ments, send­ing Bayek into the af­ter­life to hunt down Tu­tankhamun, Ne­fer­titi, and more. Th­ese ar­eas blend history and myth and re­li­gion into wild dream­scapes, the likes of which As­sas­sin’s Creed has never at­tempted. Gi­ant scor­pi­ons, tow­er­ing stat­ues, fields of grain and eclipsed suns.

I only hope we see more like it with this year’s As­sas­sin’s Creed: Odyssey ( go.pc­world. com/acod). It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing di­rec­tion for the se­ries.

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/subn

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/dist

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/kcd

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/batl

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/itb

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/goat

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/minit

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/yoku

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/whv

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/cel

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/pmoon

WATCH THE TRAILER: go.pc­world.com/acoc

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