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40 of the best: RPS' finest reads from 2019

For it is a human number; it is 40

Featured post

Look, there’s only so original you can be with a best-of-the-last-year feature. At the end of the day, a post like this is little more than a rickety bicycle, creaking under the weight of the glistening Content Ogre that rides it. Still, even an ogre’s bike needs a decent paintjob, so here’s the gimmick: the year is 2020, and 20 plus 20 is 40. So here’s 40 of our best posts, videos and podcasts from 2019. That’s it: numerology. that’s all we’ve got. Give us a break, it’s the first Monday of the decade and we’ve not had our lasagna. The 40 articles aren’t arranged by any criteria beyond very vaguely chronological order, and a desire to create a faint sense of variety. Howev-

*ding, ding*

Oh gosh, look at the time! Here comes the Content Ogre now, giving us a merry wink as he rings his bicycle bell. Come on then – let’s hop on board, and see what he keeps in that big, stained canvas bag of his. I hope it’s good articles from Rock Paper Shotgun, and not festering offal!

1. Nate writes a novel’s worth of Dwarf Fortress stories

After Graham made the mistake of asking him to write a diary series on Dwarf Fortress, Nate started the year with a tale of seven dwarves and their horrible underground zoo, and kept bombarding Graham with it until he finally caved in and employed him. The series is currently on hold between seasons, but you can read the first twenty three episodes, complete with illustrations, lego dioramas, and an actual novel’s worth of text, in this link.

2. Wot Brendy Thought of The Division 2

Even though he’s now returned from death as a list goblin, everyone here misses Brendy’s features, and particular his reviews. It’s hard to pick a favourite from last year (this piece on Pathologic 2 was a close contender, as well as its followup for whiners on the game’s easy mode), but our choice cut has to be his verdict on The Division 2, which he called “a colourful firing range full of wonderful jerks”.

3. Corey Milne crosses a galaxy in five months

There’s little more gripping than a reporter embedded in the midst of chaos, trying to relay a sense of what’s going on to the folks at home. It gets even better when the reporter in question is among a fleet of 13,000 starships, attempting to cross an entire galaxy. In this three part series on Elite Dangerous, contributor Corey Milne attempted exactly that, and it’s every bit the adventure you’d expect.

4. Alice O weighs in on Sonic

We spent ages going through Alice’s news posts looking for one to include here, but we kept getting distracted by the sheer quality of some of her headlines. Nevertheless, the list wouldn’t have been complete without an entry from the Treehouse’s unsleeping Cerberus of a newshound, so we settled on this exquisitely-pitched post regarding the redesign of the cinematic Sonic the Hedgehog. It made some extremely serious people extremely cross, and it’s ace.

5. Alice B writes about gigantic Ancient Greek lasses

Alice writes brilliantly about sexiness, or its absence, in games. Having explored weird power fantasies in janky bloodgetter Vampire:The Masquerade – Bloodlines, she followed up with this joyful love letter to the massive ladies of Assassin’s Creed: Oddysey, which features speculation on the kind of woman who could crush you or I “like a toddler squeezing play dough in their fist until it all squishes out the sides between their fingers”. Erotique!

6. Sin’s unknown pleasures

Another gladiator who became an emperor (by which we mean a reader who became a staffer), Sin’s Unknown Pleasures column – in which she evaluates an endless torrent of unpublicised steam releases like someone trying to review grains of sand as they fall through an hourglass – was a reader favourite even before it became her regular job. It’s worth reading any installment of UP, to be honest, but Sin’s pick of the bunch from 2019 is this one, featuring friendship games, racing games, plague doctor games, and literary adaptations about bean farming.

7. John reveals the secret history of RPS

Of course, as RPS gained new faces in 2019, it lost some too. One of those, along with Alec Meer, was the blog’s co-founder John Walker. Before he left he laid a glimmering egg which, when it cracked and spilled words everywhere, revealed the Secret History of RPS, in no less than five volumes. It is, genuinely, a splendid bit of internet history, whether you’re a newcomer or a reader since day one.

8. Astrid’s Metal Goose Solid hypothesis

Before she joined Matthew Castle’s Video Legion, Astrid was a regular contributor to the site – just last year, she produced this excellent mini podcast series for us, for example. Once part of the Hive Mind, however, she was able to take her analytical talents into the mysterious eighth dimension of video, and began honking out some excellent thinkwatches for the YouTube Channel. We say “honking” because we like to say “honking”, but also because one of her best pieces was this, on how Untitled Goose Game is basically Metal Gear, with a bird:

9. Graham buries his friends

When people leave a site, it’s always someone’s job to tidy up after them and say a few words in mourning. At RPS, that person is editor Graham, who has now had to eulogise everyone who hired him, and has taken on a weird sort of Thanatic energy as a result, like a mild, Scottish version of the Undertaker off of Wrestling. Last year he had to tombstone-piledriver Alec, John and Brendy into their ringside graves. But Graham giveth as well as taketh away, as he also wrote this guide on how to pitch to RPS, which frankly everyone looking to write for us should read.

10. Katharine experiences a frightening chair

Our hardware editor Katharine does a great job of explaining the inexplicable, and bringing a touch of colour to the otherwise forbidding, monochrome numberscape of PC hardware. Sometimes, however, she gets to just have fun – like this time, when she encountered the frankly horrifying, £25,000 THRONOS, a piece of furniture she described as “an envoy from a hellish future where gaming chairs have enslaved humanity

11. Steve Hogarty writes the paragraph of the year in April

Steve’s Premature Evaluation column, in which he has a look at Steam Early Access games, is always a delight to read. But this entry in April, as the heading suggests, kicked off with a powerful contender for the best paragraph on the site in 2019. Just look at it. Then read the whole piece.

12. Nate spends seven months limbering up for a colossal Garfield shitpost

Once he finally had the keys to the Rock Paper Shotgun CMS, Nate began systematically filling it with bullshit. From this series of MS-Paint-illustrated vignettes about Hearthstone characters being dickheads over tiny amounts of money, to these ruminations on the theme of ‘Halo characters going to the shops’, it was a silly year. And that’s not even mentioning Cum Hulk. It all culminated, however, in this sprawling and utterly accurate review of PC games masterpiece Garfield Kart Furious Racing.

13. Alice L becomes a Simsfluencer

Our Alice Liguori, of the RPS Vidbud Corps, really likes The Sims. Whether it’s making them into mermaids, or buying them enchanted jumpers, or whatever the hell it is the Sims lets you do these days, she’s into it. And now, after a series of videos about the tiny computer people, she seems to be becoming some sort of YouTube authority on them. Even if you don’t like the Sims, it’s worth dipping into Alice’s videos for the sheer, infectious delight she gets from her digital people-farms:

14. Giada Zavarise goes Berserk

One of the things we try to do with RPS is introduce people to things they’ve not really considered before, and this article from contributor Giada Zavarise does it brilliantly. At least, that is, if you’ve not encountered brutal manga Berserk, or realised its deep connection with From Software’s beloved Souls games. Jump in now, and learn all about “Guts, a big dude with a big sword who wanders a medieval world filled with horrors.”

15. Brendy protects 90 million children online

After the BBC ran a grim story in May about a young Roblox player being groomed by a predator through the game, Brendy wrote this thoughtful, fascinating feature based on an interview with the game’s “mega-moderator” Laura Higgins, about how to look after a community of kids that’s bordering on a nine figure number.

16. Kat Brewster attacs and protecs

Contributor Kat Brewster writes Priceless Play, a round-up of free games, for us, and 2019 saw it embark on plenty of lovely outings. This one, featuring graveyard swordfights and dinosaur protection schemes, is as pithy and as charming as they come.

17. Alice B gets exiled to the moon

Hey, remember that time Alice got turned into a melancholy witch and stuck on the moon for a whole month, relaying her experiences to us back on earth every day? You don’t?? You had best remedy that, immediately.

18. Dave and Ollie teach us the way of the blade

It would be extremely remiss of us to write this list and not highlight the work of Ollie and Dave, our astonishingly hard-working guides writers, who labour all day in the SEO-coloured caverns beneath the roots of the RPS Treehouse tree, to bring knowledge and relief to the googling masses. Quite frankly, the volume of work they put out in 2019 was immense, but two standout moments came in May, when Ollie and Dave both addressed the noble art of battering people into chunks with swords, in Mordhau and Sekiro respectively.

19. Wot Sin Thought of Eliza

Some reviews are funny, some are succinct. Some are gleeful monsterings, while others are love letters. This review by Sin, of visual novel Eliza, is something all of its own. Much like Gordon Ramsay, we can only describe this one as ‘fucking raw‘. It’s brilliant, so you should go and read it.

20. Alice O’s love letters to Destiny 2

Our News Editor Alice O insists that she is in no way a features writer – she’s a bit like the chief engineer in a star trek, keeping the news engine thrumming away smoothly while the rest of the crew pontificate and posture on minor alien political crises. While we wouldn’t dare disagree with her, you’d be a fool not to witness the brilliance of her writing on Destiny 2. Just jump in and pick one at random; even if you don’t care for Bungie’s space looter, you’ll enjoy what Alice writes about it.

21. Matt gets competitive

Matt is renowned on the team (along with Ollie) as being “the one who actually, properly likes competitive games”. In November, he had the opportunity to explain exactly why that was – and when it stops being the case. The piece, which tackled chessdads, Team Fortress 2 and self-recrimination, was the second installment in our new, high-falutin’ Game DNA series, and it was an absolute beauty.

22. John reaches Peak Steam Charts

Much like the blue ghosts in Star Wars, everyone who leaves RPS eventually ends up returning as some sort of ethereal presence. In John Walker’s case, it was one heck of a haunting, as he continued to supply us with his legendary Steam Charts articles, which were always, definitely, about the top-selling games on Steam. It’s hard to pick a best-of-2019 moment from the (now concluded) series, but this had to be the moment we reached Peak Steam Charts.

23. Jay Castello covers the Overwatch League Finals

Historically, we’ve not written a great deal about esports, but contributor Jay Costello’s Know It OWL series, on the Overwatch League, was a joyous exception. Naturally, this piece on the league’s final in September was a highlight, capturing the drama, the personalities and the Doomfists behind the competition.

24. Graham gets to review a game for once

For all his shovelwork, Graham isn’t just our gravedigger, you see. It turns out that when he gets to write about games for once, he’s really good at it. Check out this piece on Noita, the game that ate the end of his year like a raging, egg-spawned worm, or this thoughtful piece on Spiritfarer. Our overall pick has to be his review of the much anticipated Void Bastards, which is a cracking example of how even-handed a review can be.

25. Alice B, Nate, Matt and Alice L get exiled to space

It’s hard to get several of the team together for a proper multiplayer diary series, but when we do, it’s a treat. In WASTES OF SPACE, Alice B was exiled beyond the earth’s atmosphere for the second time in 2019 (careless frankly), and had to improvise the colonisation (and strip-mining) of an alien world with a crew of three fools, an enigmatic NPC helper robot played by contributor Sam Pinney, and a game – Space Engineers – that none of them had the first idea how to play. There’s bickering, wolves, Vengaboys, car races, and a giant metal spider like the one off of Wild Wild West. And you can read it from the start here. Sam wrote a post mortem, of sorts, explaining how to turn any game into an RPG.

26. Matthew reviews Blasphemous

As commander of the 14th RPS Digital Television Squadron, Matthew spends a lot of his time making pained expressions while playing Divinity: Original Sin 2 with Alice L. But sometimes he reviews games too, and this video on blood-drenched pixel horror Blasphemous, was an unholy little treat:

27. Nic Reuben teaches us to talk like fackin future fackin cockneys

Nic Reuben is one of our point of lay contributors, and his eggs are always a joy to crack open – for example, this delightful delve into the localisation of Monster Hunter: World. June brought with it the nightmarish videogames meat market of E3, and while Matt and Brendy were on the ground for the event in LA, Nic was with our folks at home, manning the pumps to keep the site hosed down with content based on what was coming out of the show. Hands down the best bit of our E3 coverage was this group effort, which Nic spearheaded, that used the debut of footage from Watch Dogs Legion as an excuse to teach readers how to talking like a fackin future fackin cockney. You will laugh.

28. The Cheerer and the Jeerer

Speaking of Matt and Brendy, they disappeared when they arrived in the US, only to be replaced, for the duration of the trip, by two enigmatic figures known only as the Cheerer and the Jeerer. Together, this strange double-act live-blogged every E3 press conference, with one being endlessly positive, and the other a relentless, joyless gloom-hole. It was genuinely something of a work of art, and made E3 coverage far more entertaining than it had any right to be.

29. Nate takes speed and writes about crabs and warthogs

Nate’s not always silly. Sometimes he writes about how simulated economics in zoo games, for example, and how they lead to runaway hyperinflation based on sickly warthogs. And sometimes, just sometimes, he writes about fishing for simulated crabs, while taking amphetamines. OK, it sounds silly, but we promise it’s not.

30. Sin enjoys a roguelike

Sin, famously, does not enjoy roguelikes. But all this changed in August, where she fell under the spell of that month’s pick for our Can’t Stop Playing title: the sublimely silly Streets Of Rogue. In this article, she talks about reverse engineering some of her favourite fictional characters using the expansive and lurid palette offered by the game’s range of options. If you want to recreate The Grand Budapest Hotel in a top-down dystopian street-brawling game, here’s where you find out how.

31. Alice B shoots an albatross out of her wrist

One of the most sublime articles of the year snuck in right at the end, as Alice B reacted to the announcement of a new BioShock game with the revelation of a shocking but now universally-recognised truth: that an albatross would be the perfect bird to shoot out of your wrist. Prove her wrong. Go on. Yeah, that’s right: you can’t.

32. The Video Team play reviews roulette

Possibly the finest regular feature produced by the RPS Video Empire is Reviews Roulette, which kicked off in 2019 with a simple premise – go in to a bunch of unknown, low-budget games, completely unaware of what to expect, and attempt to play them. The results are splendid. the whole series has been a riot, but the crowning moment was this video, called “probably the most entertaining game video series on YouTube” by commenter Mph_Seti, which featured both ghosts and eggs:

33. Matt gets press-ganged into a space war

As well as writing news, features, and the weekly Sunday Papers digest, our Matt produces regular content specifically for our kind, devoted site supporters. In this piece from April, he recounted how a newly-hired Nate, a bit pissed at an EGX party, forcefully conscripted him into an all-too-real space war, and it’s a grand bit of reporting. Alas, only those elegant and generous souls in the RPS supporter programme will be able to read this piece. For the rest of you, why not read Matt’s coverage of independent games festival Feral Vector, held in June, in which (similarly) Nate trapped him in a LARP based on the song ‘The Boys are Back in Town’.

34. Tim Stone lets the comment section control a war

Tim Stone, the contributer also known for the regular Foxer puzzle, is our resident War Game Person, and writes the superb Flare Path column, which makes fun, colourful reading out of straightfaced, deadly serious games for straightfaced, deadly serious people. In 2019, he took the column back for a spin in one of its most beloved formats, as he invited the comment section to guide his actions through a simulated warzone. How did it go? Find out for yourself, in the complete Quitting Qatab.

35. Craig Pearson rewrites history

Sometimes, a game is so tepid that you just don’t know what to say about it. In November, when contributor Craig Pearson was faced with the extremely bland Terminator: Resistance, he took a novel approach to the problem. Abandoning the review midway, he took a hard turn off the road and embarked on an elaborate time travel fantasy about the Terminator games that might have been made, if the game he was reviewing had not existed. It’s a good’un.

36. Alex Wiltshire discovers the mysteries of the planets

In his Mechanic column, contributor Alex Wiltshire delves into the guts of games, talking to their developers to find out what makes their most unusual, innovative or notorious features tick. In this instance, he was looking at the much-praised groundhog-day-in-space game, Outer Wilds, and asking how creators Mobius Digital created a planet that destroyed itself every 22 minutes.

37. Matt asks if AI can beat internet bellends

Matt does love him some artificial intelligence. Along with philosophy, and defeating people, it’s one of his big passions, and it’s the driving force behind Smarter Than I, his series of articles dealing with the intersection of AI and games. In this series, you’ll find discussion of whether AI can coach you to play a better game of Overwatch, whether it can help eliminate toxicity in online multiplayer – and even whether it can design games. Plug in 2 tha matrix.

38. Heroes of the Brinelands enjoys its 165th Episode Spectacular

While the RPS Podcast (soon to return) was alright, it barely cast a shadow next to the incandescent brightness of RPS’ long-running D&D podcast, “Heroes of the Brinelands”. Led by veteran GM Brendy, the series passed the 150-episode milestone in 2019, and the highlight had to be this very special 165th episode, in which Alice, Nate and Astrid’s characters were up to their old tricks again, investigating a mysterious disappearance int he cavern-city of Snarlgrove. Dicebreaker could learn a thing or two from this series.

39. The Video Team become hitmen

Along with the continuation of Alice L and Matthew’s epic playthrough of Divinity: Original Sin 2, 2019 saw the birth of a blood-soaked new series, as they attempted Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, alongside new friend Astrid. However, possibly the highlight of the year in Let’s Plays was this profoundly disorganised attempt by Alice and Matthew to become contract killers in Hitman 2:

40. Alec returns with a belter on Disco Elysium

The end of the year saw one last showing from a familiar face, as site founder Alec Meer returned with this extremely weighty, highly personal piece on Disco Elysium. It’s a great reminder of the kind of work RPS was founded on, and the sort of work we’d like to keep publishing.

*ding, ding*

Phew! There goes the Content Ogre. I’m glad his sack contained loads of good games articles after all, as some offal would have been horrible. We hope you had a good read – and here’s to plenty more in the year to come. Farewell, until the next time the Ogre comes round.

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