The Council - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

We’re just about halfway through 2018 (which has somehow taken both too long and no time at all). As is tradition, we’ve shaken our our brains around to see which games from the last six months still make our neurons fizzle with delight. Then we wrote about them here, in this big list feature that you’re reading right now this second.

And what games they are! 2018 has been a great year so far, and our top picks run the whole range, from hand drawn oddities made by one person, to big mega-studio blockbusters that took the work of hundreds. And each of them is special to us in some way. Just like you are too. Click through the arrows to see the full spread of our faves so far. Better luck next year to the games that didn’t make the cut this time.

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Legendary Gary

If you really think about it, all videogame fights are technically supposed to be solved, usually by connecting blades or bullets with enemy faces. And ordinarily, beating the dudes is more than enough for me. But there's something about Legendary Gary's fights that keeps me coming back even after I've won. Sure, I beat the dudes, but can I do it better? Win in fewer turns, take less damage, land flashier finishers? I reckon I could. Better rewind. 

Legendary Gary is a modern RPG about playing a fantasy RPG. That fantasy RPG is Legend of the Spear, a turn-based strategy game where battles take place on hexagonal grids. The catch is that all the actions of a given turn, both yours and the enemy's, occur simultaneously. So, if you see an enemy about to attack you, you can easily side-step their attack and set up for a counterattack once they've exhausted their stamina points. You can also preview every turn's outcome at anytime, then change your moves until you get the result you want. And if you ever find yourself in a bind due to decisions you made in earlier turns, you can rewind to any previous turn and start over. 

This might sound like easy mode, and in a way it is, but that's kind of the point. If you just want to win battles and advance the main story, you can with a little trial and error. But if, like me, you enjoy mastering fights, you're in for a difficult, engrossing treat. It might seem like an odd comparison, but I'm reminded of Opus Magnum, a puzzle game about building increasingly efficient alchemy machines. I get a similar sense of satisfaction from watching carefully tuned strategies play out in Legendary Gary. Because you have total control over outcomes, winning battles efficiently feels like solving puzzles with logic rather than beating some dudes with tactics. I also adore the post-fight playback where you get to watch all your turns play out in real-time. Why don't more games do that? 

Again, Legend of the Spear is only half of Legendary Gary. The other half is Gary's grim, long-overdue coming-of-age story. Gary is a jobless bum in his late 20s who lives in his mother's basement. He's classic loser material, but he's got one thing going for him: he wants to be a better person. Sensing that his family, friends and girlfriend are rapidly getting fed up with his laziness, he decides to make some changes in his life. The result of those changes largely depends on the visual novel-style decisions you make, but even when you act with the best of intentions, sometimes things don't play out how you want.

Where Legend of the Spear is governed by hit points and stamina points, the key metric for Gary's life is motivation points. You start out with very little motivation, but making good choices—like getting a job, doing what your mom asks, and helping friends who come to you for advice—increases your motivation. If you have enough motivation, you can choose different, often better dialogue choices. Of course, you can also lose motivation to bad news and bad decisions. Gary is keenly aware he's just one bad streak from slipping back into his vicious cycle of reckless thrill-seeking, but he presses on, and it's genuinely gratifying to see him grow as a person. That said, the main story is at its best when it overlaps with Legend of the Spear.

Not long after he starts playing, Gary begins to notice uncanny similarities between Legend of the Spear's storyline and the problems he faces in real life. Lessons from the game help Gary in real life, and the names of real people turn out to be solutions to in-game puzzles. It didn't take long for me to start hunting information and clues in the real world that might help me in the game, and vice-versa, which livens up both halves of Legendary Gary. I'll avoid spoiling anything, but suffice it to say Legend of the Spear is more than a slice of escapism. I'm only a few hours in, but it's clear there's some sort of meta-narrative afoot, and between the fun combat and characterful story, I'm eager to see it through. 

Legendary Gary

What Remains of Edith Finch programmer Evan Rogers released his solo passion project, Legendary Gary, earlier today. Rogers calls it "a tactics adventure game mashup with a dramatic, comedic story that blends reality and fantasy." It took him four years to develop single-handedly, but he reckons it'll only take you four to six hours to complete. It's now available on Steam for $15. 

Legendary Gary stars—you guessed it—Gary, though at first glance he's far from legendary. In fact, "he's a mess, and he's trying to be a better person." The player is basically Gary's subconscious, so it falls to them to help guide him through everyday life and improve his relationships. At least, that's what you do by day.

By night, players jump into Legend of the Spear, a fantasy adventure with turn-based combat that happens to be Gary's favorite RPG. "There are no dice rolls, no time pressure, and with each choice you can watch how the turn will resolve before you commit," the Steam page reads. "The battles in Legendary Gary are designed to be a stress-free exercise in problem solving." 

Here's a look at Legendary Gary in action: 

Legendary Gary - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

Today I’ve followed in the footsteps of Legendary Gary‘s star by shirking the real world to play video games. Legendary Gary is an RPG about Gary’s humdrum life, parts of which are eerily mirrored by the in-game tactical combat RPG he has just started playing (and we play too), and it seems a good’un. It launched this morning and I’ve played the first hour or so and yep, it’s too bad I have to write this lousy post for our lousy cherished readers because I would like to keep playing. I feel you, Gary. (more…)

Legendary Gary - evanmakesgames
j/k you can buy it now
Legendary Gary - evanmakesgames
On Tuesday, February 20th, 2018 Legendary Gary will be delivered to you fresh from the oven! It's almost ready. Can you smell it?
Legendary Gary - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

legendarygary

You know how Gatsby was, in many ways, not all that great? Well, Gary is not legendary. He might be a heroic character in the games that he plays, and he might well discover that he is more important than he knows in his dealings with family and friends, but he is not the stuff of legend.

He is, in fact, a man with a fairly ordinary life who spends his evenings playing a game called Legend of the Spear. It looks a bit like The Banner Saga, with tactical grids and gorgeous graphics. I’d definitely rather spend my days living an ordinary life and my evenings playing Legend of the Spear than spend my days living an ordinary life and my evenings playing Skyrim, so Gary is probably having a better time than 90% of RPG fans I know.

(more…)

Nov 29, 2017
Legendary Gary - evanmakesgames
Welcome! I'm Evan and I'm making this game. So far I've done all the things that went into the game except the music, which was contributed by xXsickXx. I have no publisher so I'm at liberty to say whatever I feel like here. Pretzels. See? I just said pretzels and no one can stop me. I'll try to check here every morning and answer questions and join in discussions. You can also reach me on twitter: @evanmakesgames
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