2018 was a year marked by a heightened, global sense of strife and division. Our collective appetites for media were stretched out of whack. We had backlogs of television shows, video games, podcasts and YouTube videos, but it was hard to even concentrate on "entertainment" when the call to arms against evil was so strong. In 2018, a game shorter than ten hours was a highlight, not a disappointment. And yet, here we have the massive 60-hour-plus epic Dragon Quest XI, designer Yuji Horii's opus (perhaps), as our favorite game of the year.
Dragon Quest XI gets to the very core of the JRPG genre: to team up with friends in order to banish evil from the land. The series prides itself on tradition, and the latest entry is no different, down to the (very) old-school silent protagonist and turn-based combat. There's no DLC to download and no hackneyed multiplayer mode. Dragon Quest XI is simple; it's just the player and the game, which provides a singular, universal quest. But it all feels slick and modern, with fast-paced battles and exploration. Akira Toriyama's Dragon Quest aesthetic has never looked so good in 3D, and the amount of cities and dungeons, each with its own mood and theme, is dizzying. The pacing of new content is excellent for such a lengthy adventure, and there are tons of challenges for hardcore players. Despite the justified grumblings over the MIDI soundtrack (and any politics from its creator), Dragon Quest XI may be one of the strongest JRPGs of the decade and a welcome addition to the Dragon Quest lineage.
Octopath Traveler's arresting visual style and gorgeous music immediately captured our hearts and attention back when it was first announced in 2017. As a new Square Enix property, it takes cues from other favourites like the Bravely series and implements a fast turn-based battle system that not only evokes the old-school feel of those SNES classics we know and love, but also transcends them with the modern conveniences we expect from new games. Each of the eight characters has a different story to follow, and all of them feel unique; some are grander than others, but each one has a story beat that's bound to resonate with you one way or another. And the simple yet in-depth job system is easy to grasp but hard to master; with twelve different subjobs to unlock, mixing and matching roles among your party members is a lot of fun. Who doesn't want to see Cyrus the Scholar in a dancer's outfit? There's so much to love about Octopath Traveler. It's a unique IP we'd love to see come back and a worthy runner-up for 2018's Game of the Year.
We like to list two runner-ups on this category anyway, but since Octopath Traveler and God of War were only one vote apart, it was even more vital to show them all! Even so, we all knew Dragon Quest XI would win this, didn't we? The latest entry in the long-running series is considered by many to be the finest outing yet, so it's great to see years of waiting was worth it.
Now, Square Enix, let's talk about Dragon Quest X in the West...