Gameplay is king, when you get down to it. To be a great game, you don’t need to have the most involving story, the most stunning graphics or the glitziest of Hollywood stars lending their acting talent, just fun and engaging gameplay.
Those things certainly help, and as games have broadened their scope and ambitions over the last few decades to tackle broader topics, to deliver stories in new ways, sometimes the way a game plays can take the back seat, but it’s still the defining characteristic of a game. It’s this that throws a game into its genre, this that engages your reflexes, teases your brain with problems to solve, that gives you the satisfaction of overcoming a challenge or opponent.
Our top three for Best Gameplay in 2019 are fairly different, but follow in the footsteps of some of the defining trends of the past decade.
FromSoftware are known for punishing games that are absurdly fun to play. The formula they use is constantly evolving though, and each new game pushes it forward that much more. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice takes everything they taught you in Dark Souls and Bloodborne and turns it on its head; no longer should you be dodging for your life, but standing your ground and waiting for the right moment to take your foe out in one hit. Combining the ever-evolving combat with a vast array of different tools and techniques to use and master and you’ve got a system that always leaves you feeling like a badass.
Sekiro also manages to have the best world traversal in any FromSoftware game thanks to the grappling hook and the ability to vault off of walls. It’s the perfect example of a game that let’s you improve and show off your new skills, rather than letting you rely on levelling up your character, you simply have to level up your own skills.
– Jason C
Apex Legends – Runner Up
Answering the question that no-one was asking, Apex Legends is a fantastic blend of Titanfall 2 and battle royale. Sure, it loses a little something from Titanfall 2’s exceptional feeling traversal – the wall running in particular – but it makes sensible tweaks and changes to suit the larger map and longer-ranged battles.
It also brought a ton of new ideas to the table. Being built around having teams of three allowed them to bring in hero characters and player roles, while communicating while playing without a headset has never been easier than with the adaptive ping system, but it really boils down to Respawn’s ability to make fast, fluid and satisfying first person shooters.
Apex Legends might be standing on the shoulders of Titans, but it’s an excellent game in its own right.
Death Stranding – Runner Up
Some would argue that a game that boils down to Post Apocalyptic Postman Pat, a game built around fetch quests shouldn’t even be considered for Best Gameplay, but just tell that to the people who have put dozens of hours into Death Stranding. It’s a real testament to Kojima’s design process that you actually start to care about stacking boxes correctly on your back and then then navigating up and down mountains.
Regular video games will have your hero fly in all directions, carrying impossible amounts of gear in your infinity spaced pockets, but Death Stranding makes you realise just how easy you’ve had it. Inventory management is a puzzle in itself, and a surprisingly engaging element that you never get bored of as you prepare for another journey where every step is filled with the treacherous potential of the game’s terrifyingly real physics.
There’s even solid gunplay for those missing the shooty bangs. Whether you are fighting crazy MULES or spooky BTs, the combat is always engaging. Oh and Piss Grenades. Death Stranding should win just for that.
– Nick P
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Borderlands 3
- Disco Elysium
- DOTA Underlords
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list:
Which game has really stood out for you this year as having exceptional gameplay? Let us know in the comments below.