Why Devolver Digital Was My Favorite Publisher of 2018
2018 was a great year for gaming. We had some great outings from Sony, namely Astro Bot and Spider-Man. We saw the release of the widely anticipated Red Dead Redemption 2 and Super Smash Bros Ultimate. And in racing, Forza Horizon 4 upped the ante when it comes to racing games. In a year full of highlights, one publisher managed to captivate me more than any other: Devolver Digital.
“Yuck, an indie publisher? Indie games are all the same and they’ll never be as good as AAA titles!”, I can imagine you saying. I used to think like you. I used to think the entirety of the indie market was comprised of roguelike games desperately trying to hypnotize gamers through mere nostalgia. Games like Shovel Knight, Bastion and The Talos Principle made me rethink my naive ways. There are loads of uninspired and generic games flooding the indie market, but it would be fair to say that the indie scene is a lot more creative than the AAA market. At the forefront of all this, lies Devolver.
Devolver started off 2018 with the release of both The Red Strings Club and the very odd but very interesting Minit, which can best be described as a minimalist Majora’s Mask. This was followed by two other games: I Hate Running Backwards and The Swords of Ditto, one of the best games released in the early months of 2018, with its unique take on roguelike elements and fantastic cartoonish graphics.
July saw the release of both the Switch version of Crossing Souls and also The Messenger. Crossing Souls ended up being the closest to a game version of Goonies the world has ever seen, with a heartfelt, occasionally tearjerking story, great graphics and more 80’s pop culture references than your father’s diary from when he was your age. I don’t even know where to begin with The Messenger. Not only was it the best indie I’ve played this year, but it could actually be the best game I’ve played in 2018 altogether. The tight controls, the hilarious dialogue, the fantastic graphics, the challenging but fair boss battles; everything was crafted with so much love and dedication in order to create a Ninja Gaiden clone that’s a hundred times better than its source.
Devolver had two particularly unique releases this year. Despite the trend of indie developers avoiding licensed games, Devovlved and published a Game of Thrones title. Reigns: Game of Thrones is a game in where you do is swipe left of right as if you were playing a medieval version of Tinder. And surprisingly, it works. How they managed to make such a simplistic and non-traditional concept feel like an arcade title full of variation is beyond my comprehension.
Devolver’s final game for 2018 wasn’t a super violent pixel-heavy game or a retro title with an arcade feel, like they tend to feature. Instead Devolver released the emotional adventure, GRIS. Heidi called GRIS “so unique that you’ll be captivated from the start.”
Devolver also re-released a few games, mostly to the Switch. Not only did they port Minit and Reigns: Game of Thrones to it, but they also ported older games like Broforce, Mother Russia Bleeds and Not a Hero to the portable console. They also finally released The Talos Principle for the Xbox One, most likely as an appetizer for an upcoming sequel.
They knocked it out of the park with its second E3 press conference in a row. Devolver not only showcasing a few upcoming games such as My Friend Pedro and the long-awaited Western release of Metal Wolf Chaos, but they also poked fun at the AAA industry and its often controversial monetization practices. Few companies are able to make fun at those practices with such confidence. I really hope they up the ante once more in 2019. In the meantime, make sure to follow their Twitter page. Whoever runs it needs a raise, that person is a hero without a cape.
Those are the main reasons why Devolver stole the show in 2018: fun games, fun games, and more fun games. In a year full of strong AAA titles, I never would have thought an indie publisher would become the one I’m looking to the most for future releases, but that’s the reality. Devolver won me over, and I’m okay with it.