Despite the rise of ‘games as a service’, the last few years have shown definitively that being able to play and savour a game experience on your own is still a huge part of what gamers want. Not everything has to be connected, not everything has to have a dozen other players running around acting like twits, and the purity of taking on a challenge by yourself remains massively appealing.
This year’s winner for Best Single Player is one such game; it’s a story wrapped around an adventure that you tackle on your own. But there’s a twist, if you want it, a rope or strand to see how other people are enjoying the same game as you.
Death Stranding is simply an incredible single-player experience. The world is expertly crafted and hauntingly gorgeous, and the countless microscopic game systems and gameplay elements come together to form an addictive experiment in what is quite literally a walking simulator. But while Death Stranding is a single player game, it’s one where you can feel connected to the rest of the world.
The core message of bringing people together and supporting your fellow man, rings throughout every story beat of the game, but it also influences the gameplay as a whole. Its asynchronous online component means that your game world is influenced by countless other players, though you may never see them. Sam Bridges from across the globe can build bridges and roads that will appear in your game, and likewise, the ladders and ropes you build to cross a narrow river or descend a rocky mountain may come in handy for other players facing that same arduous journey Everyone can build equipment and structures that simply benefit themselves, but with a little extra effort, you can also ease the burden of other couriers.
Death Stranding would all fall flat if it wasn’t for that incredible feeling of support you get from discovering a battery station just as your bike is reaching empty, or an extra pair of boots in the middle of a blizzard. That feeling of camaraderie and togetherness ignites a spark of joy and hope that helps let you know that while your journey may be a solitary one, you are never truly alone in Death Stranding.
– Miguel M
Control – Runner Up
For years Remedy has specialised in making games that let them express their love for episodic, television-style storytelling. Alan Wake broke the story of the game into episodic chapters, Quantum Break had literal live-action television episodes interspersed throughout the game, and while Control doesn’t have upfront television novelties like these in it, it still ends up being the most successful blend of video game and television storytelling I’ve ever experienced. The game develops an entirely original voice and style that combines the bizarre and uncomfortable pacing of Twin Peaks with the interactive exposition that only a video game could provide.
So much of Control is a mystery; The world, it’s inhabitants and why they are the way they are will never be outright explained to you. It’s up to you to piece together vague messages and phone calls as you blast away ethereal enemies and upgrade Jesse’s combat abilities. You start out weak and confused, but as your toolkit grows more fearsome and your combat capabilities expand, your grasp on the world and how things came to be at the Oldest House start to click together in tandem.
Control isn’t just a stellar action adventure game, it’s the most raw and uncompromised expression of Remedy’s style and vision that we’ve seen yet.
– Miguel M
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice – Runner Up
FromSoftware is truly the gift that keeps on giving. More than a decade after Demon’s Souls and the birth of a brutal new sub-genre, the Japanese team once known for its middling mech games are now hailed as masters of the action RPG. “Huh, but isn’t Sekiro just another Souls game?” you might ask. At it’s core, yes, but you don’t even need to scratch below the surface to recognise both major and cleverly subtle shifts in FromSoftware’s recycled template.
Sekiro is more focused than its forebears, limiting player customisation in favour of having a preset protagonist. Combat options have also been pared back, though what’s left is a hyper satisfying melee system that relies more on skill and timing as opposed character loadouts and other RPG devices like ability trees and level grinding. As someone who loved Demon’s Souls yet bounced off its sequels, I was surprised just how well Sekiro clicked, making it one of the smoothest, most rewarding entries in the action roleplaying genre.
– Jim H
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses
- A Plague Tale: Innocence
- Resident Evil 2
To catch up on the Game of the Year awards we’ve handed out so far, here’s a handy list:
- Best Remaster/Remake
- Best Visual Design
- Best Soundtrack
- Best Ongoing Game
- Best Multiplayer Game
- Best Gameplay
- Best Narrative
Which game has really stood out for you this year as having exception? Let us know in the comments below.