Is Game of The Year an Indie Game?

For those of you that are new to the website, I’ve spent 2018 ranking games for my “best of” end of the year ranking. With every review, the ranking is subject to change. What may end up being my “game of the year” this week, could easily change with the next review, and one other thing before the review officially starts is that it’s important to note that I try and write my reviews a little differently. With every game, I try and find a way to write an article in a creative way that mirrors the game. Some games are easier than others. With all of that being said, I hope you enjoy this week’s review!

This review covers Moonlighter, The Gardens Between, Iconoclasts, Desert Child, and Mutant Year Zero.

Mutant Year Zero

Home. The Ark. Everyday I wake up and wonder what it must have been like to not have to worry about getting killed by some ghoul just because you wandered too far from home without a gun. I’m sure the ancients thought they had it rough, but if they could see the world they left us, they’d realize just how easy they had it.

Every day me and the other Stalkers head out looking for scrap and technologies of old and it’s kill or be killed. Whether it’s rabid dogs or some ghoul looking for his next target… damn ghouls. The further I go out the more they seem to change. One time I saw a guy covered in armor head to toe and another with some sort of a horn attached to him to call for help… gotta kill him quick or that’s it. I’ve even heard rumors of there being guys that can blow things up with their mind. I couldn’t even imagine. It took me long enough to mutate my body enough to be able to handle idiots that tried beating me to death with wrenches. I’m not sure what hurts more, taking a bullet to the shoulder or the feeling I get as my DNA starts changing.

After a couple days away from The Ark, returning home is both a curse and a blessing. Yeah, I get to heal up and if I’m lucky, buy something that’ll make the next journey out easier, but lately, anytime I get to rest my feet, I find myself thinking of a life that would be easier. Not just for me, but for everyone, even those damn ghouls.


Like the ones that run around with those wrenches, what if this world was different, still dangerous but we all worked together? They could use those wrenches to repair things, open new pathways for us Stalkers. If we all worked together they wouldn’t only be stuck with those wrenches either. Instead of being sent out as cannon fodder, they have guns like the rest of us. I just imagine them running up against some amazing looking robotic monster ready for battle. In one hand, a wrench and in the other a pistol. Ha! Those robots wouldn’t know what to think!

The Gardens Betweens

Maybe instead of fighting though, maybe we just… live. Sounds pretty stupid, I know, but if I could just go back in time to the point where the ancient ones didn’t ruin this planet, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Instead of having to hide in the shadows, everyone could explore and experience a beautiful world. The elder said that the ancients use to play games that would exercise their minds for fun. He said they called them puzzles. At first I thought it sounded pretty terrible but the more I thought about it, the idea of being able to actually relax with friends and solve puzzles doesn’t sound too bad. After all, the elder explained not every puzzle has to be difficult. Could you imagine, me and another Stalker looking up at the stars solving puzzles without a care in the world?

I don’t know what’s crazier, thinking about impossible things like that or the idea that once upon a time we use to travel amongst the stars I wish I could just stare at. Personally, I think the elder is pulling my tail. While I would never call him a liar, the thought of walking between the stars and exploring new worlds sounds ridiculous. Sure, I’ve seen some pretty crazy tech that the ancients once used but leaving the planet seems like too much.

Desert Child

Besides, what would be the point? Whether we’re here or there, the one thing life has shown me is that people, in general, are rotten wherever they go. I’m sure folks on another planet would seek out the same things that seem to matter to everyone: money, power, and a good time… I had a good time once. The elder said that the broken down chariots we Stalkers find from time to time use to go so faster than the eye could see. I’m pretty sure he’s exaggerating but even if they weren’t that fast, that’s the kind of a good time I’d be looking for. Hell, even in this crummy world I’d love to be able to go that fast. I could even challenge other survivors. We’d learn who the fastest was. Me, obviously. I’m sure there’d be some pretty good scrap to made in world like that.


Then again, based off what I’m paying at the shops at The Ark, it seems like there might be a good opportunity to make scrap now. Running my own shop though? I don’t know. Seem daunting. Keeping track of prices and what people actually want, I’d need some sort of a machine helping me keep track of all of that. Yeah, that would that be nice. I could just go out at night and under the shadow of darkness search for more supplies to sell to the other idiot Stalkers that actually want to risk their life on a daily basis. Obviously, I’d hold onto the best gear to make sure I had an easier time picking up more loot to sell… that shopkeeper doesn’t think I see what she’s hiding on that back wall, but I see it. The days of me running around with these wired together guns are soon going to be long behind me.

I bet a merchant’s life is a lonely one though. Sure, you’ve got people coming in and out of your shop but what the Dux the point of it all if you’re just always by yourself. I’m sure they’d like to tell you that, “they get fulfillment out of helping others,” but I know the truth. They go home and wish there was more to life than just the daily grind of selling and going out to loot. At least when I’m out in the field taking down ghouls and other dirtbags, I’m with my crew… my family. DON’T TELL THEM I SAID THAT. But yes, that’s what they are. I’d do anything for those morons. Honestly, the scariest part of my day is the fear that I’m not gonna come back to The Ark, it’s the idea of me coming back to The Ark alone. 

Mutant Year Zero

Final Thoughts:

2018 was yet another solid year for indie developers almost to a point where it’s becoming silly to even mention the fact that developer of a game is “indie.” While some games like Desert Child offered great gameplay but stumbled in the execution of its world, others like Iconoclasts and The Gardens Between delivered on a game that fans of their respected genres will be able to fall in love with, much like how many did with Celeste earlier in the year. As for Moonlighter and Mutant Year Zero, the two games that managed to make my top 10 list… for now (it’s not that serious) both offered something that kept my attention for hours and hours. While I selfishly wanted Moonlighter to offer me more in the sense of town building (almost like an Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley), what it does bring to players is a fun loop that I would often find myself getting lost in and asking myself, “where did those last 4 hours go.” As for Mutant Year Zero, my curiosity for this game peaked at first glance and I was so relieved to know that it didn’t let me down. Between the great gameplay, memorable characters, and a post-apocalyptic game setting that’s actually interesting, Mutant Year Zero is the perfect game for anyone looking to scratch that XCOM itch.

Desert Child: 7 (Blockbuster Rental)

Iconoclasts: 7.75 (No Ragrets)

The Gardens Between: 8 (No Ragrets)

Moonlighter: 8.5 (Really, Really, Really Good)

Mutant Year Zero: 9 (Amazing)

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