The Caltrops Top 50 Games of 2010-2019: #50-40

Welcome to the Caltrops list of the 50 best games of the decade, which was from 2010 to 2019. Here is a link to the previous article, which had some honorable mentions. And if you’d like to discuss the list with people, please do! This is the way to the Caltrops forum.

Entries #39-30
Honorable Mentions Part One

#50 – CITIES: SKYLINES by Colossal Order Ltd. (2015)
Steam Link

There was an attempt by Electronic Arts to make an online Sim City game that was online all the time, even in single-player and of course the release was incompetent and they even said themselves it was dumb. Eventually they made an offline mode for this single-player game like they were doing us a favor. The game was awful, the maximum city size was small and it seemed like that was the end of SimCity games.

Then Cities: Skylines was released. Holy shit, it was amazing. This was “all EA had to do” and by that I mean not attempt to go cryptofacsist on their customers, but of course they can’t do that. Cities: Skylines is a beautiful, immersive game that the Caltrops forum spent weeks HGLUAHGLUAHGLUAing over. We all played it and loved it.

“Yeah, but for a Wittgenstein city aren’t you mostly just yelling at all the new citizens to leave? 8)” — Mysterio, 3/11/2015

#49 – XCOM2 by Firxasis (2016)
Steam Link

On one hand, it seems less than ideal to include a game that so frustrated valued forum member FABIO. On the other hand, he came around on it and XCOM2 had lots of advocates. The thing is, XCOM and XCOM2 are always going to be behind the eight ball when they start. X-COM from 1994 is possibly the greatest computer game ever made. XCOM2’s objective is to be better at being an X-COM game than the RoboCop and Total Recall remakes were at being RoboCop and Total Recall. And I think that while XCOM2 makes some odd choices (the 4-troop limit, starting you with pre-made characters, having panic when the troop limit is 4) they are much better at attempting to recapture what the original X-COM game did 25 years ago than most soft reboots and remakes. We have an entire base where the topic is Guess Who Fucked Up X-COM now. The highest praise I can give XCOM2 is that they didn’t.

#48 – Retrobooster by Really Slick (2014)
Steam Link

The first time I played Retrobooster, I just wanted ten minutes of solace. My life is a lot less hectic now, but Retrobooster is so much fun because it’s the next game in the Asteroids -> Asteroids Deluxe -> Choplifter -> Gravitar -> Gravitron 2 lineage. You’re in a gorgeous alien world where your mission is to shoot down enemies and not squash little guys who are on your side. The game’s writing is beautifully integrated within the actual game world while you’re playing. We’ve seen things like the high score table being part of the experience in, say, Omega Race, but I can’t remember ever seeing this effect before. It forces you (at times) to read or shoot. And it looks so good when things are blowing up.

#47 – Mount and Blade: Warband by Taleworlds Entertainment (2010)
Steam Link

Roop says, “I looked through my Most Played Steam List, and it was all just games I ran multiple times with mods, like Skyrim. I wouldn’t call that close to game of the decade, but because of all the creative mods I sure spent a lot more time than I should have with that janky fucking thing. Then there’s Warband. I didn’t ever mod that one but holy crap, I spent so many hundreds of hours on that game and then all over again on each of the two expansions. It’s clearly my most loved game… and it’s almost sad really. Not once did I ever finish a campaign!

#46 – Slay the Spire by Mega Crit Games (2019)
Steam Link

pinback says, “Awesome combination of deckbuilder and roguelike. If you like either of those styles, I find it impossible to think you wouldn’t get into it in a big way.”

Rafiki says, “This game is great and very addictive. The UI is damn near perfect. Cards display how much damage or block they’re going to do, and if you have modifiers that raise or lower the amount it’s automatically reflected on the cards themselves and colored green or red to let you know if you’re doing above or below the base amount. Relics that trigger after certain events, like every 3 turns, 10 attacks, or 6 plays, helpfully have counters attached to them. Each turn, you can see what an enemy plans to do (attack, defend, buff, etc) in a little icon over their head so you can plan accordingly. If you want to know what a buff or debuff is on your or an enemy, just mouse right over it and a clear and concise tooltip will explain it. Whoever designed this UI deserves an award. If I could make a single change, it would be to the damage modifier for vulnerability. Vulnerability makes an enemy take more damage, and to see the damage increase you have to drag a card and hold it over the appropriate enemy to see what the effect will be. I’d love to just be able to mouse over an enemy and have the cards auto-update, although I can see why they did it the way they did since you can sometimes have 10 cards in your hand which crowds out the ability to see the effects of all of them.

The artwork and presentation is simple, but it’s fine. You’re not going to really remember any enemies or attacks, but you’ll be focusing on your hand anyways. The upside is you don’t have to sit through 20 minute Final Fantasy animations. The cards are where the bulk of the artwork went and they look good, and the cards for each character have completely different visual styles, which is really nice. The music is good and doesn’t become grating after repeated playthroughs.”

#45 – Trover Saves the Universe by Squanch Games, Inc. (2019)
Steam Link

This is what Erik Wolpaw said about this game before it was released: “[Jay] Pinkerton and I spent about a month breaking story with Justin Roiland on Trover Saves The Universe. Here’s the trailer, which contains a lot of swearing. And I don’t mean like one or two “damns” 30 seconds in, either. The hardcore swearing starts at second zero and then continues pretty much uninterrupted by words that aren’t swears for about 3 minutes.” Rather than link to that, I will link to this extended ad that came out, which is hilarious and this fake ad by RedLetterMedia. RLM was told to just make something funny even if it had nothing to do with the game itself.

I bought Trover on day one and the game itself is just as funny as the ads are promoting it. Look, video games are usually extremely unfunny. Most games are not even good enough to make you push slightly more air through nostrils than one normally pushes. There are jokes everytime you go to do something in Trover and they always made me laugh. Maybe it’s because I enjoy anything Justin Roiland says, but if you’re looking for the funniest game of the decade, it’s this one.

#44 Banished by Shining Rock Software LLC. (2014)
Steam Link

Billed as a city-building strategy game, inspired pinback to write the following:

These are the main complaints in almost every critical review I’ve read of this game.

1. It’s TOO HARD: Hey genius, that’s why they call it a GAME. A game about SURVIVING with a handful of numbnuts in the middle of nowhere. I’m sorry you keep running out of food and wood. Perhaps click “restart” and try something else? Plenty of people have managed to build thriving towns of hundreds of citizens, even without whining about how hard it was to get there! If you just want to hang out in the woods and have everything go right for you, play fucking Proteus or some shit.

2. The UI SUCKS: This one I truly cannot forgive. The UI is fantastic. How did that one review put it:

“This doesn’t excuse the woeful interface, how it presents itself as prettily minimalist but in fact you need to manually keep open and arranged several, heavily statistical and visually tedious windows throughout.”

LOLOLOL. SEVERAL TEDIOUS WINDOWS. Look: open the little town summary window. Open the job list window. YOU ARE DONE! And they cover about 1/20th of the screen, and give you everything you need to know about everything. I can’t help it if your contacts prescription is off and you can’t read the tiny little numbers and letters, but when you can do and see everything you need to play a game, AND the main screen is still perfectly visible and uncluttered, THAT’S A GOOD INTERFACE.

And how do you “manually keep open” windows? Look, they stay open all by themselves! SCIENCE!?!?

I can’t believe ONE GUY wrote this entire game. It’s the most compelling city-builder I’ve played since SimCity 2000.

Editor: Giggity.

#43 My Friend Pedro by DeadToast Entertainment (2019)
Steam Link

Max Payne crossed with Contra crossed with Hotline Miami. And it looks great and it’s about a bipolar person. Caltrops has a long history of letting bipolar people’s behavior slide, and My Friend Pedro is no different.

The game uses “ballet” in its description, which I first saw used with the original Max Payne game. That took a lot of guts, to go the other way to describe their game using that word at that time when the press turned on Romero for being too manly about his marketing. Max Payne as a franchise has really lost its way and although My Friend Pedro is 2D, it’s a fine successor to making gunplay poetic.

#42 Marvel’s Spider-Man by Insomniac Games (PS4) (2018)
Playstation Store Link

(I’m amused by the fact that after release they tried re-branding this as “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” As someone who bought it on day one I can tell you, quite categorically, that nobody was calling it “Marvel’s Spider-Man.” If you’re going to pretend there aren’t a bunch of other games that have the exact same name because your marketing team is dumb then at least have the balls to stick with that decision and not try to get us all to call it something else later, you cowards.)

There is a guy that cosplays in the area where I work in a Spider-Man costume, and it’s the one from this game. It is my goal to take a photograph of this man, therefore sort of turning me into Peter Parker when he dresses up as Spider-Man. The cosplayer sometimes gets asked to leave the area by security and I think if the place where I work ever gets exploded by the Hobgoblin shortly after security ran off the guy already dressed in the Spider-Man costume, my call to 911 is going to sound a lot like Kevin Cosgrove’s although I’ll be a lot more disappointed and my call will have a lot more sighing.

#41 Hollow Knight by Team Cherry (2017)
Steam Link

Entropy Stew, a programmer, says, “That is the best recommendation I can give to any game, because I just don’t play to the end anymore. I could have been playing Zelda of all things, but this drew me away. It’s the best money I’ve spent on a game since Rocket League.”

#40 Kerbal Space Program by Squad (2015)
Steam Link

Welp, I went through the comments on Caltrops and found this post by skip where he talks about the awful work conditions the developers put their remote workers under and this post by Jsoh Cable where he states that the alpha might turn into something nice after a thousand more updates. None of this really affects the game itself, of course.

It did get a good number of votes and I’ve had multiple jobs where people have talked about how much they love it at work. There’s a thread on their forum where the developers simply ask the question, “What did you do in KSP today?” and it’s got 15,000 replies. And they are still updating it, so I guess it really did get that thousand updates Jsoh was asking for.