Our Favorite Games of 2018: Natalie's Top Ten


#1

Welcome to Waypoint's End of Year celebration! This year, we're digging deep into our favorite games with dedicated podcasts, interviewing each other about our personal top 10 lists, and reflecting on the year with essays from the staff and some of our favorite freelance contributors. Check out the entire package right here!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/kzvjay/our-favorite-games-of-2018-natalies-top-ten

Our Favorite Games of 2018: Austin and Natalie Don't Know How to Shut Up
#2

I won’t put any spoilers here, but I will definitely be dropping into the forum thread for this article, because I have SO many more thoughts on what we ended up talking about on the podcast, and would love to talk to you all about them!

I’ll hold you to this, Watson!

This is a great list & I will almost certainly be bookmarking it for the future, if only for these passages on Bloodborne and Hollow Knight. They are great encapsulations of long-standing views I have held about how good those games can be at inculcating a determination in those who do not yet feel that pull with games of that sort. Mine was Dark Souls, and if any post-Souls game can do the same, I give it a thumbs-up.


#3

I think my response to the extended Undertale conversation is sort of a nervous balking against the condemnation of Alphys in comparison to Asriel/Flowey. We literally know from canon that Flowey has killed and slaughtered everyone, has burned so many saves/lives on just seeing how many ways he can break the world… and there is zero question in anyone’s eyes that Asriel deserves sympathy and forgiveness.

I feel like the tales of Alphys and Asriel are effectively the same, but the order is reversed. You learn first who Alphys is as a person, then you discover the horrific situation in the True Lab, and have to contend with understanding that she’s been isolated and suicidal because how do you handle your work going so completely and totally awry.

And with Asriel, we meet Flowey first and contend with him through the entire game to the point he’s the FINAL BOSS who aims to kill everyone, and then we learn about why he exists and what happened to Asriel.

Almost everyone I know who talks about Asriel adores him. Precious poor goat son, et cetera. But I know plenty of people who don’t like Alphys, and as someone who identifies with Alphys, with the struggle of how to learn to rebuild yourself after a tragedy, with having to learn the hard way that it’s not through self-removal and isolation…

Why do we forgive Asriel but not Alphys? A cursory surface level read makes me wonder if its because she’s an anime nerd and kind of annoying and is in the process or relearning how to be a person. But the extended discussion between Natalie and Austin makes me wonder like… why one story clearly worked for them and the other didn’t. Why do we allow the redemption arc of one, but hesitate with the other.

But to me, Undertale is about flawed people and how someone’s past doesn’t have to define them, and I enjoy and support the judgements it makes on people like Asgore and Alphys, who have been in unthinkable situations and clearly made the wrong choice, and want to be better, who learn from that.

Hell, sidebar: I think Asgore is way less ‘redeemable’ than Alphys. Asgore murdered children, legit. Alphys was given a task by her king and through her lack of understanding of the forces she was dealing with, everything went horrifically wrong. SHRUG.

That’s my two (or twenty) cents.


#4

I also felt like part of the reaction to Alphys is a misunderstanding here? Here’s where my understanding differs from what they say in the podcast episode (Undertale spoilers):

Austin and Natalie refer to Alphys torturing and experimenting on people in the true lab which made the amalgams, but I understood the situation as her trying to heal a mysterious disease and eventually resorting to the determination as a last ditch experimental cure.

She’s certainly guilty of failing the families out of fear when she doesn’t tell them after it goes wrong, is maybe guilty of malpractice (I don’t know if they could consent to experimental last ditch treatments), but I think she’s less clearly doing wrong than what Natalie and Austin said.

I think this is a misreading on their part, but of course I’m also open to the possibility that I was the one who misunderstood this part. Just wanted to weigh in.


#5

I don’t think I’ve actually played any games from 2018 (other than Life is Strange 2: The Strangening), so it’s nice to see Bloodborne in this list, which I’m playing at the moment. I could empathise with a lot of what was written about it (I’m lucky enough to have actually recorded audio of myself FINALLY defeating Father Gascoigne which is absolutely swear-filled and highlights that feeling of triumph).

The fact that I only really play games for a couple of hours on weekends normally kind of works for me in that game: the frustration of the early slog of the game and kind of “learning your way out of it” is, I imagine, less irritating over a protracted period of time (occasionally grinding with a podcast or album on) than it would be if I was playing more often. After about a month or so, I’ve reached the point where it’s actually fun!

I need to replay (or, actually, properly play) Undertale soon, too, I think. I played through it once on the PC (so obviously I’m missing huge amounts of what the game has to offer!) and might take advantage of the fact that it has since been made available on consoles (which feels more RIGHT, right?) to properly immerse myself in it.

Mainly cause I want to really appreciate Delta Rune whenever I get round to that.


#6

Natalie is the reason I picked up Hollow Knight; the section here just helps even more.

Bug is good.


#7

Oh boy! An excuse to talk too much about Undertale!

For me, what really makes Undertale sing is its strong understanding of the language of videogames; its ability to bring together mechanics, writing, and music to make dramatically (and often comedically) powerful moments

The biggest (but not only) example is the how combat works. Normal battles aren’t just fights, they’re little character vignettes, expressed through both writing and systems. These are often funny, but they can be sad or creepy, too. And instead of the traditional “boss fight then cutscene” model of storytelling most games in the genre opt for, Undertale frequently brings those elements together to make stronger, more singular moments.

Early game spoilers: By the end of the Papyrus fight, you’ll have either convinced him to be your friend, or you’ll have killed him. In either situation, the mechanical tension and the narrative tension are ultimately the same thing and are resolved in unison. The sequence would be far weaker if it was just a fight where you beat him up for a while and then afterwards you got a narrative scene where you make a moral choice.

It’s a part of the game that I rarely see talked about in depth, but I genuinely believe that it’s an incredibly important part of why Undertale was so affecting for so many people.

(Also, Hollow Knight is extremely dope, and would definitely be in my top 3 games of 2018 if I hadn’t played it in in 2017)


#8

I’m going to preface this with a note that I’m being serious here, as I think it’s possible I might be misinterpreted as being critical or sarcastic.

This thread, and all the excited people talking about Undertale, makes me kinda sad about my own reaction to the game. I utterly bounced off it every time I tried playing it, and I do wish I could get as much out of it as you guys seem to.


#9

I think it took me a while to be won over. The quirkiness was a bit too detachedly ‘Internet’ for my tastes; the details kind of reveal themselves as you go (especially on a second playthrough – I only got a short way through a second go-through, but it’s interesting seeing things in an ever-so slightly different light).

To be honest, the thing that really snared me in was how good this was

OH MAN CHILLS


#10

(also anyone who likes Undertale should REALLY REALLY play Anodyne - it’s on consoles now, and it’s a similarly sort of reflexive hearkening back to a certain era of RPGs and has probably my favourite post-main game mechanic in terms of opening up the game world for all sorts of weird post-modern exploration)

(also Yume Nikki, which is a fascinating curio more than anything; but definitely deserves credit for seeing a haunting underbelly in video game nostalgising)


#11

That’s partly my problem - the Homestuck style humour is decidedly not to my taste, and I had to grit my teeth through the demo when playing it - but I also just don’t get on with the mechanics in general (whilst, I recognise the “bullet-hell meets social combat” encounter mechanism is really innovative… I also really don’t get on with it; and I strongly dislike random encounters in RPGs, so…). [I also own more soundtracks to video games I’ve not played than to games I actually have played, so I’d probably just get the soundtrack, which admittedly is pretty good from what I’ve heard of it. But I don’t need to _play_ a game to listen to its soundtrack :wink: ]


#12

I’m not surprised, honestly. Undertale has a very specific tone and aesthetic. I find it to be very good at what it does, but if you’re not invested in that particular thing, then it doesn’t really make much of a difference.


#13

Ok i’ve just listened to the pod and while the actual discussion was really good, there’s one part of the Undertale talk that i’m really just completely baffled by; during the discussion on Toriel, Natalie says that the Fallen Human, the one Toriel raised, was “groomed for sacrifice” and i’m really baffled as to where that idea came from. Yes, the tapes in the True Lab show that their death was an intentional sacrifice as part of a plan to have Asriel go through the Barrier and take enough souls to free all the monsters, but the same tapes also make it very clear that it was entirely their own plan, and that Toriel and Asgore knew nothing about it. They still kinda suck, Asgore especially, but they definitely didn’t want their child to be a sacrifice.
The whole discussion on forgiveness was really good and i definitely agree that that aspect of the game was let down by the fact that no-one who should have faced consequences for their actions ever did (Asgore should be extremely in jail as well as extremely divorced). i really hope Deltarune explores this kind of thing more thoroughly.


#14

I gotta say, it is fascinating to me that people have such strong feelings about Undertale’s characters. I must not have engaged with enough of the side content or read the wiki enough - I genuinely did find it mostly a light experience with elements of meta-darkness and really strong wholesome comedy. I didn’t encounter any of this True Anything, and managed to miss its discussion entirely.


#15

I think what Austin and Natalie took issue with more was how the game treated Alphys’s actions. They’re not given much gravity by any characters in universe, it’s just bundled into forgiveness for all.

I’m replaying the game very soon, and I feel I’ll have some thoughts to add once I’ve done that, especially with how I’ll be re-evaluating the game in a new context.