games / Columns

The Top 8 Gaming Surprises of 2019: Kingdom Hearts 3, Outer Worlds, More

November 5, 2019 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Kingdom Hearts 3 Kingdom hearts III

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about gaming surprises of 2019, for good and for bad. Most of these are good, like “Wow, I expect this game to be bad and it’s not”, but in a few cases, the inverse is true, I expected a game to be excellent when it’s merely “OK”. There are three games that would have made this list but haven’t because I haven’t played them: Untitled Goose Game (I haven’t played it), Disco Elysium (They never sent a review code, so thanks for that), and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (not out yet, but I hope it’s good). With that said, let’s begin:

#8: Anthem is Adrift

If you look at the nuts and bolts of Anthem, it is actually not terrible. I just mean the actual shooting/flying around stuff, it’s not game-changing, but it’s perfectly serviceable. The problem is, what EA finally released is barely a game. You go through the most stereotypical and rote campaign ever with completely placeholder characters. No choice you make actually matters, which in a Bioware game is kind of nuts. And once you beat the campaign the game is like “Well, do you want to play on a harder difficulty?” Their whole content plan/roadmap thing has been completely negated and this game, like most EA games, has been left to twist in the wind.

#7: Kingdom Hearts 3 is Actually Fun

I didn’t really play Kingdom Hearts 3 for its story. Yes it has been a lot of years between “main” Kingdom Hearts games but they went off the rails already with all the side story nonsense, so I pretty much ignored that. I played it more for its gameplay and it was really solid. You have a lot of options as you fight the Heartless (among other stuff), from summons, to different forms, to trigger commands and what not. This can make the game STUPID easy but I honestly liked it. Also, the Gummi Ship stuff didn’t completely suck, so it only took 3 games for them to get it right.

#6: Tetris 99 is King

Yeesh, how great is this game? While shooters are doing the whole Battle Royal thing, Tetris is the only genre where it actually makes sense. I say this, of course, after finally getting my first victory in the game about a week ago during the Luigi’s Mansion event. Had this not occurred, I would still be cursing it because I’m not good enough. While I’m not a huge fan of how you direct your attacks, just the idea that you are playing competitive Tetris again 98 other people is still great. Now, if they could only make Wordtris 99, then we could finally evolve as a society.

#5: Mario Maker 2 Is Meh

Ever since they announced it, I had really been looking forward to Mario Maker 2. I didn’t play the first one, so having the chance to play this version seemed like it would be great. Actually playing the game (by yourself) is fine, but everything else about the package is kind of annoying. I found the “maker” interface to be cumbersome and non-intuitive. I’m also not a huge fan of other people’s levels. Occasionally, you can find something creative, but most times they are either boring, or annoying (and not fun) to play. Lastly, the online co-op is some laggy garbage, with frames dropping and button presses being registered late. I guess I just expected a lot from Mario Maker and it didn’t reach my goals.

#4: The Outer Worlds is (largely) Bug Free

Who could have imagined a Bethesda-style game, without the Bethesda-style bugs? Part of this is by design, the actual levels in The Outer Worlds are fairly small, compared to the sprawling mess that a typical Bethesda game has. It’s not some 4 square mile map (Fallout 4), or 16 square mile map (Fallout 76). Instead, each planet has a main town, maybe a few ancillary towns, and usually 4 or 5 other places of interest and that’s about it. They have some actual constraints but use them well. Also, I love that things aren’t jittering all over the place like in Skyrim or Fallout 4. If you pick up something from a table, half the other crap on the table isn’t going to have a physics freak-out and be knocked over also. There are one or two small bugs, like if you use a character special ability and they aren’t close, they’ll just really quickly run in and do it, but that’s about it. I would rather have a smaller game that is polished, then a big game that barely works.

#3: Bloodstained is a Blast

There have been a lot of bad Kickstarted games over the years, especially from people who should know better. Mighty No. 9 is probably the biggest offender, but Star Citizen, Godus and that Bubsy thing are all contenders for this dubious honor. I got a suspicion that Shenmue 3 fans are also going to be in for a rude awakening in a few months. So, it’s a pleasant surprise that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is actually enjoyable to play. It’s not the greatest Metroidvania ever, and isn’t quite as good as SOTN, but it’s on par with about every other Castlevania. You have access to a lot of weapons, there are numerous things to collect, and combat can vary wildly on what you have equipped/are using. I just hope another one can get made and it doesn’t take them 4 years like this one.

#2: Fire Emblem: Three Houses

I was actually shocked how much I’ve enjoyed this game. I’ve played through it twice already and just purchased the season pass over the weekend, getting a nice supply of hilariously awful outfits. I love how (generally) basic the combat has, but it belies a hidden depth, if you really dig into it. It has a fairly large lovable cast of characters, some of them aren’t great, but others are truly memorable. Plus, I just like the fusion of Disgaea, X-COM, Persona and a few other games that make up Three Houses. It is really one of the best games to buy on the Switch, at the moment, even if it doesn’t have Marth in it.

#1: Remnant: From The Ashes

Remnant is a pretty good little action-RPG game. The shooting is solid, it has some very interesting upgrade mechanics, and playing with friends is a lot of fun. I was shocked because it’s the only Dark Souls-like game that has actually clicked. The biggest reason is because it has ranged combat and not melee. While it does have some melee combat, you are primarily shooting demons and creatures with guns. This make it feel much more tactical and fun. I also admire the different game worlds, how you can re-roll your main story (but keep certain things about your character) and the amount of different weapons you can acquire. This game isn’t at the top of my GOTY list, that’s probably Resident Evil 2 or Fire Emblem, but the fact it will make it on there at all, is shocking.

For comments, list your own personal game surprises in 2019.

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