I must admit, chums, I find end of year lists rather hard to compile. The reason in chief here is that I don’t often get around to playing all of the major releases that I would’ve liked to - it’s a hard knock world, I know - be it down to life or simply not owning the hardware (sorry Super Mario Odyssey).
Yeah, yeah, I know: most folks find sports sims as interesting as spending the afternoon with their spouses’ family, but for me, Ashes Cricket is the best sports game released this year. Dirt 4 came close with it’s rambunctious rallying, but the pure joy of putting my own stamp on a fully licensed Ashes series is just too glorious to deny.
Aussie developer Big Ant builds on the disappointing Don Bradman Cricket 17 with improved visuals, motion capture and audio, to create a game that offers up a grand experience to both the cricketing pro and novice. To do so on a budget the size of titans EA Sports’ biscuit account is even more impressive.
4. World to the West
I first sampled World to the West at this year’s rezzed, and I have to admit, I found it an average adventure during my first foray into its universe. How wrong I was, as the game world turned out to be one of my favourite of not only this year, but this console generation so far.
The game sees you switching between four main characters (a mind control expert, an aristocratic strongman, a shovel-wielding child and a teslamancer) to explore the lush, cel-shaded world, solve puzzles and fight bosses. It’s charming, fun, full of things to do, and sticks just the right side of inspiration over parody with its use of Zelda and Metroid staples - what more could you want?
3. Stardew Valley
I’d been fretting over the choice of Sundered or Hellblade for the final spot on this list, but when I picked up ConcernedApe’s fair farming simulator that ceased to be an issue. I’d always fancied trying Harvest Moon, and here was a modern equivalent that was affordable (£14.99 or less UK-ers) and that I could easily pass off to the girlfriend if it failed to grip me...
Well, it gripped both of us, chums, and its stranglehold is yet to weaken. From the chunky SNES-style visuals, to the many, many side quests, to the pleasure of watching your farming empire rise from a few parsnip seeds - grazie Mayor Lewis - to trying to find a wife/husband by bribing them with gifts, every aspect of the game is truly joyous. If you have children or needy animals be warned, mind: Stardew Valley is one of the most addictive games I’ve ever played!
2. Serial Cleaner
In any other year - naughty Zelda - Serial Cleaner would be walking away with the title here, without question. The premise is simple: you are hired to clean crime scenes of bodies, evidence and blood, without being caught by the rozzers.
Serial Cleaner is, for me, one of the few independently made games to take a fabulous idea and actually compress it into a fully formed diamond. Its simple premise is fleshed out with superb comic book-style visuals, a hilarious 70s setting (complete with costumes, disco and nods to infamous serial killers of the time), easy-to-understand-yet-constantly-evolving gameplay, and the best cop show soundtrack of all time. The indie game of the year for me, without question!
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been said, honestly. Zelda has always had a special place in my heart, mainly down to the wonderful blend of quality gameplay, wistful story and guaranteed ethereal, beautiful music. Breath of the Wild boasts all of these, and though I found the dungeons and final boss fight a little disappointing compared to the genre/childhood defining Ocarina of Time, there’s no denying just how glorious an experience the game was - and still is - overall.
There are moments of wonder at every single corner, from the way the beautiful, cel-shaded (I think I might have a thing for this graphical style…) grass moves in the wind, to the goosebumps that I feel every time a soft piano riff suddenly creeps in, to the depth of the game’s crafting and cooking systems. The sheer amount of freedom on offer it staggering, and really does make up for the ever-so-slightly underwhelming aspects of the game.
I’m still searching for every shrine, side quest, new horse and treasure chest, putting in nearly 100 hours thus far - that might not sound like a lot to some, but anything over 30 hours for a non-sports game is huge for me - and that doesn’t show any sign of stopping, especially with The Champion’s Ballad DLC now live. If you’re one of the strange hermits of mink hollow yet to play the game, I implore thee to venture out of the burrow and enjoy one of the best game worlds ever created.
What do you think of Rob’s picks? Let us know and share your favourite games from the past 12 months below.
For me, 2017 continued the trend of offering up far too many great games to accommodate in a mere 365 days. While that means I haven’t found the time to play big-hitters like Horizon Zero Dawn and Super Mario Odyssey, the many I have gotten to still made whittling my picks down to just five quite an involved process.
Shoehorning an open world into a linear series is very rarely a good idea, but Tango Gameworks obviously didn’t get the memo, because they artfully implemented sandbox environments into The Evil Within 2. The only comparable example that comes to mind is the excellent Batman: Arkham City, whereby rich and spontaneous encounters make scouring environments opposite to the generic busywork we've come to expect.
This acts in conjunction with a bevy of improvements over the original, which itself was a return to form for the (at the time) misguided survival horror genre, to complete one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.
4. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
After being blown away by Uncharted 4, I approached The Lost Legacy equal parts excited and uncertain. More Uncharted couldn’t be a bad thing, surely, but a standalone expansion with a new leading lady? That wasn’t going to match Nathan Drake’s full-fledged magnum opus...
Well, I was wrong. Controller in hand, I seamlessly cut a path through the game like a hot knife through butter, every quiet moment and set piece punctuated by characterful banter. Not only did The Lost Legacy deliver the goods, but it did so in generous fashion, costing half as much as your average game whilst being twice as good and lasting just as long.
The outstanding visuals are also worthy of specific mention. I haven’t put my Xbox One X through its paces yet, but The Lost Legacy on PS4 Pro surpasses anything I’ve yet seen from the beefiest console on the market.
3. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR
Never having played Skyrim - where have I been for the last six years, right? - made my virtual reality trip to the Nordic region all the more memorable. Being fully immersed in such a well-realised new frontier, in which you grow with each and every action, had me prioritising my virtual life as a dark elf above all else throughout November.
Accurate motion controls helped to further anchor me in the simulation, whilst small nuances that would go unappreciated, or totally unnoticed, in any other version of the game flourished into standout moments. These tangible differences make Skyrim VR a must, both for virgins and veterans.
A mixed launch reception has left Prey out in the cold as we wade through awards season. That’s a travesty. Prey is a mechanics and systems-rich game set in an exquisitely realised location, all of which worked in tandem with a gripping narrative to pull me in and keep me firmly rooted in my seat throughout its course.
BioShock ranks amongst my favourite games of all time and Prey expertly channels it without feeling cynical or derivative. For me to say it even comes close to Irrational Games’ seminal 2007 experience, of which I’m quite fond, if I hadn't mentioned, doesn’t come lightly and should help illustrate Prey’s quality.
1. Resident Evil 7: biohazard
I was thoroughly spoilt this year as a big fan of survival horror. The Evil Within II and Prey perhaps offered a glimpse into the genre’s future - the former defying expectations with the fantastic implementation of an open world, the latter an enemy that creates constant tension by mimicking everyday objects - but by revelling in its storied past, Resident Evil 7 surpassed them both.
The microscopically detailed Baker household evokes the original’s iconic Spencer Mansion, a locale so incredibly conceived that these years later I can vividly recall my way around it. It’s a good sign then that I could draw you a map of the Baker home eleven months down the road, even pinpointing every encounter with its brilliantly deranged inhabitants.
Playing in virtual reality further elevates all aspects of the game, most notably imbuing it with a guttural horror that at times got so intense I needed to pause and let my heartbeat recover. In being so affecting and consistently bringing me back with a strong suite of downloadable content, Resident Evil 7 tops my 2017.
Agree with Sam’s choices? Let us know and share your own below.
Good tidings, chums, and welcome to a festive feature with our very own Krampus; yours truly. There’s plenty to look forward to this Christmas though, with a plethora of both corpulent and meager budgeted games, accessories and tidbits. With that in mind, please join me in delving deep into the stocking for a look at some of this season’s succulent silicone satsumas.
Echo - PS4, PC
Echo is one of those games that should be played with all the lights off. The initial hours hooked me with their trippy, sci-fi stylings, inspired use of lighting and mysterious characters. What builds from there is a truly heart-racing third-person stealth/action game that casts the setting itself - a creepy future palace decked out in gold, with faces on every door, and clones or “echoes” of the protagonist - as your enemy-in-chief.
A thinking man/woman’s Resident Evil/Deus Ex in space is the closest comparison I can make, with the way shadows and lighting are used to freak the player out, but it’s the evolving nature of the echoes that really steal the show. The game is under £20 quid, and well worth it for action or stealth fans who are looking for something unique.
Verdict: A trippy, original game well worth playing.
Cat Quest - PS4, Switch, PC, Mobile
I had the good fortune of sampling this entertaining cat-venture at this year’s MCM Comic Con, where I thoroughly enjoyed my fifteen minutes of fun. The full-fat experience is no less brilliant, as you step into the claws, purr-box and dragon-filled kitty world ripe for adventure.
You set out on a Zelda-esque top-down adventure, to save your sister from the evil clutches of a white cat blessed with the power of dragons... lots of dragons. Follow the main storyline or undertake the many side quests posted on town notice boards to level up, get better gear, and ultimately become one hell of a badass kitty. This one is available physically too, so can be wrapped up for the cat-loving adventurer at home.
Verdict: Meowvelous fun!
The Pillars of the Earth - PS4, Xbox One, PC
Based on Ken Follett’s classic novel, The Pillars of the Earth takes the source material and transforms it into a three-part visual novel/point-and-click adventure. There’s a great deal to admire in the charming art style, characters and music, but it’s the lovely pace of the game that stands out the most.
Book one is available now both physically and digitally, with books 2 and 3 to follow (2 is now available on Steam), so you certainly get your money’s worth for the £20 or so you’ll spend. Essential if you enjoyed the novel or TV series, and definitely worth a punt for anyone else with an interest in historical fiction, sublime art, or branching storylines.
Verdict: A gorgeous, well acted and emotional adaptation.
Snakebyte Game:Pad 4 S - PS4
Last up, we have this wired PS4 controller from the fellows at Snakebyte. Having owned their earlier PS3 effort I can happily say that this is definitely an improvement, but not without its flaws.
First and foremost, the wire is plenty long enough to play from the sofa or bed, so no worries there. The ergonomic design of the controller is decent enough, presenting a smaller, yet stockier design more in line with the Xbox pad - but certainly a few leagues lower in terms of comfort and performance.
The buttons and sticks are a bit hit-and-miss, though. The face buttons are accurate enough, but sit loosely in the controller, resulting in a horrid, cheap plastic rattle every time the workmanlike rumble kicks in. The bumpers are on the soft side, making it hard to tell if you’re actually putting pressure on them, and the triggers are functional but lack the comfort of the Dualshock 4 or the official Xbox pad. The clickable touch-pad is brilliant, though!
The sticks are the real let down though, unfortunately, as we encountered problems on all four diagonals while testing games Stardew Valley (diagonal walking speed is painfully slow for some reason), Ashes Cricket (precision batting and bowling is made difficult) and The Last of Us (aiming issues).
As a backup to your DualShock - think local multiplayer FIFA sessions, etc. - then this is fine, but by no means should this be your number one, especially when, at £30, you only have to shell out an extra fifteen or so for the real deal.
Verdict: More potato than present!
And with that we bid you farewell for now, folks. Have a cracking Christmas!
It’s been a good year for gaming (less so for my wallet) with the Nintendo Switch, 2DS XL, SNES Mini, Xbox One X and a new gaming laptop all making their way into my collection over the past twelve months, giving me quite the selection headache – the good kind, as they say in football.
5. WW1 GAME SERIES
Technically this counts as two games, but M2H and Blackmill’s decision to house both Verdun and Tannenberg under the WW1 Game Series umbrella means I don’t have to pick between two of my favourite shooters from the past year, which is fine by me (and our editors, I hope).
Though Verdun arrived late on Xbox One (it was supposed to launch last year alongside the PS4 version) it was exactly the sort of game I wanted Battlefield 1 to be, forgoing semi-realistic aperture sights and hip-firing heavy machine guns for a more realistic First World War shooter that was incredibly satisfying to play once mastered.
Tannenberg continued the developers’ stellar work on the series, this time bringing the action of the Eastern Front to the fore and ensuring the game remained in a constant playable state thanks to the addition of bots. I was a bit sceptical about the lack of controller support (being the filthy console peasant that I am) but the natural limitations of the era’s hardware means you don’t need pro gamer level reactions to enjoy this game.
Turn-based RPGs are one of my least favourite types of game (second only to fighters) so I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed South Park: The Fractured but Whole’s gameplay; turns out all the genre needed to keep my attention was liberal helpings of crass humour, hilarious boss fights and quirky super powers.
With South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker at the helm the comedy credentials were never in doubt, but the fact that the gameplay outshone the humour at times is a testament to its quality.
For a game that’s all about taking down a death obsessed cartel in a war-torn country, Ghost Recon Wildlands is weirdly relaxing.
I’ve probably spent more time than I should have watching the dynamic weather roll across the game’s stunning scenery whilst melancholic guitar riffs sound off in the background, and since the patch adding Xbox One X support went live, fictional Bolivia has never looked so good.
Luckily, Wildlands is also bloody good fun to play, whether solo or with friends, and for those that are willing to go looking for it there’s a decent story about the moral complexities of a war on drugs to be found.
As great as Breath of the Wild is, after the initial sense of awe began to wear off I found myself yearning for the more structured design of the Zelda titles of yesteryear.
BOTW’s shrines are fun, for the most part, but even the best one’s I’ve come across so far pale in comparison to the classic temples the franchise has seen throughout the years.
Still, exploring a broken, almost dystopian version of Hyrule and uncovering its hidden secrets is immensely rewarding, but without the iconic temples the package just doesn’t feel complete, and it’s because of this the game just misses out on my top spot.
1. CALL OF DUTY: WWII
Despite Sledgehammer’s willingness to play it fast and loose with the game’s historical accuracy (aperture sights in the 1940’s, seriously?!) Call of Duty: WWII really is a return to form for the franchise, particularly on the competitive side.
The campaign, while enjoyable, is still your classic by-the-numbers Call of Duty affair, but I haven’t been this hooked to the series’ multiplayer since back in its heyday.
War mode is the main highlight, taking inspiration from Overwatch’s escort missions and Battlefield 1’s Operations, blending those with the frantic, fast-paced arcade combat of CoD to deliver a truly moreish experience that I keep going back to.
Do you agree with Liam’s choices? Let us know your own highlights from the past year below or over in the forums.
Join the Pass the Controller team as they choose their top five games for the year, starting with Editor James Parry.
This year has been unusual. Not because I’m rapidly facing my own mortality as I finally hit 30 years of age, but because I gained not one but two new consoles. The Nintendo Switch was an eyebrow-raiser from when it was first announced and the reality proved to live up to the intrigue of its concept.
On the scale of known quantities, I knew what I was signing up for with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Having not owned a Nintendo console since the Wii era, I knew the Mario Kart series was something I needed to own to fulfill one of the Switch’s vital functions - local party play.
More than a few couch split screen sessions were had, an increasingly rare feat in the modern gaming world, and (perhaps with the help of some alcohol) fun and merriment ensued.
The reliable experience I was looking for was delivered across the board with a level of design and polish fitting Nintendo’s top quality first party offering, speaking of which...
4. Splatoon 2
The only shooter on my list, much to my surprise, is the sequel to a game I’d heard good things about but never played. Splatoon 2 set the barrier of entry low, a welcome feature for any follow-up, and has a skill ceiling which can be difficult to spot at first glance, thanks to its cartoony presentation.
There are certainly some curious design decisions, which only Nintendo could get away with. Limiting maps to two at a time on an arbitrary rotation? Nonsense! Only a handful of modes, gated by yet more arbitrary-ness in the form of level requirements? Preposterous!
Despite these quirks, the game is just such simple, sit down and play fun which you can find real depth and satisfaction in if you have the commitment (and time) to devote. The fact this is one of two games which not only drew in me, but also my other half, is telling of how slyly it introduces new players.
Get inked with the video review.
Putting this game on the list seems almost redundant at this point. Official Game of the Year from The Game Awards aside, every member of the team who has picked this one up has gushed (and will no doubt gush further) about just how great a game this is.
It is fantastic, of course, (hopefully my own gushing review told you as much), but it has its flaws too. Why make weapons so brittle that I scarcely want to use them? Did the world truly need to be as vast as it was to have the same effect? Why only let me decorate my map, MY MAP, with just 100 icons?
The puzzle elements were certainly a highlight though, in the way they challenge you to look again at how things might work, and step right up to the limit of frustration before finally relenting. A beautiful and expertly crafted game like this needs no higher praise than managing to get away with the least convincing (and, arguably, necessary) cross-dressing of the year.
Return to Hyrule with our video review.
Joy. That is how to sum up Super Mario Odyssey in one word. Plenty of Mario games have you living in fear of lava or racing against a timer, when those same elements crop up here they have a sense of levity to them (I mean, you can literally become the lava after all).
Hundreds more moons than needed to progress can make the pursuit of them accidental as much as hard-fought, which keeps everything exceptionally well balanced as you progress through the game. Don’t like the feel of a level? Never mind, you can basically skip it without much impact.
Even dying is only a temporary setback, far more than any other title in this list, and the game encourages you to explore and embrace the world as you go, not just one world either, but a technicolour spectrum of some of the most inspired level design the 3D platforming genre has to offer. Having all that with you on the go? Even better.
Portability is a big reason why this game makes it to the top of my list. As a standard game you can just plug into in front of your big screen at home, there’s still an excellent game to experience, but it’s when you let it slowly overtake your life, stealing moments at every turn, that it really goes that step further.
Crashing two different IPs together is no mean feat, particularly when one is as world-renown as Mario, and Ubisoft have done an exceptional job. While visually Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle doesn’t quite reach the caliber Mario’s own quest does, and, you might argue, nor should it, but the presentation is smooth and the gameplay gripping.
Creating something which looks easy but can actually be quite challenging is somewhat of a recurring theme of this list, and Mario + Rabbids does the best job of it, giving you what you never knew you always wanted. A surprising, addictive experience which is just the right length and difficulty to suck you in without it becoming too much, and paves the way for greater things going forward if Nintendo continue to let others play with their toys.
Want more? Here's our video review.
Do you agree with James’ choices? Let us know your own highlights from the past year below or in the forums.
It was quite difficult choosing my top five games of the year, not least because I seem to have trouble grasping the concept of time and originally added in two titles from last year...
The Escapists 2 improves on the original in a multitude of ways: upgraded graphics make a notable difference right off the bat, prisons are bigger than ever to accommodate up to three other players in co-op - without making them so expansive as to make navigation a pain - there are new challenges to complete, new escape methods, an expanded crafting system, and a suite of customisation options that further set it apart from its predecessors. It's by no means a perfect game, but the budget price and relaxing pace make it a good shout in my book.
The closing moments of Mass Effect 3 seemed to divide people the way Marmite does, in that you either hate it, or you're wrong. Andromeda shies away from that controversy by setting itself in a galaxy 600 light years away.
Starting anew meant that significant changes could be made to the formula, and, although they weren't all well received, it felt like a much needed fresh start for the series. Of all the criticisms levelled at the game, you can't say the story was uninspired because, as we pointed out in our review, it was quite literally inspired by the original trilogy. Even derivative, some might say. Regardless, it was a solid attempt at something new and there's a lot to build on going forward.
The Stick of Truth was an outstanding game that needed no improvement. Evidently, Ubisoft didn't get that memo because The Fractured But Whole fixes things that weren't even broken.
The most striking change is the completely overhauled combat system, which has been upgraded to such an extent that it makes revisiting The Stick of Truth seem like a real step backwards. There are more classes to choose from, more companions to assist you in combat, or whilst exploring, and tons of references for fans of the show.
Add to that a completely bonkers story that wouldn't be possible in any other universe, and you've got a near flawless gem.
Another sequel that ditches the old formula and replaces it with something fresh, Assassin's Creed Origins takes the skill tree from the Far Cry series and the extensive map from Ghost Recon Wildlands and meshes those elements with its own DNA, creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Visually, it's nothing short of stunning (especially on Xbox One X), with populated urban areas, open air markets and temples giving way to rolling sand dunes around the Pyramids, making grabbing screenshots with the in-game photo mode a genuine treat.
To top it all off, the clunky, never-quite-right combat system has been reworked into something more accessible without being overly simplistic.
1. For Honor
For Honor definitely had a rocky start, but its unique "Art of Battle" combat mechanics keep a devoted few coming back. Actually, "few" is maybe a little unfair, as more and more players are picking this up thanks to the occasional free weekend and ongoing improvements.
The game is incredibly easy to pick up and play, but mastering a particular hero takes dedication. While it's possible to pull off devastating combos, an experienced opponent almost always has a way of countering you and turning the tables.
Ubisoft haven't confirmed a second year of content, though with long-awaited dedicated servers on the way it seems fairly likely. It’s also worth noting that Rainbow Six Siege was in a similar position upon release, which has me hopeful for the future.
If you're yet to get your hands on this innovative fighting game, now's as good a time as any.
What do you think of Chris’ picks? Be sure to share yours with us below or over in the forums.
When Raiders of the Broken Planet launched back in September, comprised of the free Eternal Soldier campaign and paid Alien Myths add-on, it also came with the promise that independent developer MercurySteam would continue to expand upon that base experience. Refreshingly, at least in the current gaming climate, the Spanish studio have been true to their word. A bevy of free updates and the new Wardog Fury campaign have taken this unique shooter-come-brawler-come-stealth-‘em-up from strength to strength.
Each objective-based mission is frantic fun.
Newcomer Loaht is a stubborn warthog of a man and steals the show in terms of both his character and gameplay. Wielding a devastating grenade launcher (once you’ve grasped its arced trajectory, at least), a suite of professional wrestling moves, and, most intriguingly, the ability to transform into a powerful beast for a very limited time, fans of mid to close-range play will likely find themselves a new go-to.
Loaht is exclusive to Wardog Fury owners, who can enjoy playing him in the latter three missions of the campaign, or in any mission after beating Wardog Fury in whole. The mystical Iune was recently added to the game and is available for all to purchase, regardless of what paid expansions they own, while CQC specialist Doldren and the mysterious H.I.V.E. are due the same fate soon. Considering it’d take hours to earn enough Gold for Iune (the cost of unlocking characters is our biggest gripe with Raiders, whether measured in time or monetary investment) we’ll have to let the trailer do the talking on this one.
Whilst a bit stingy when it comes to handing out currency at the moment (again, Raiders is very susceptible to change), the supply of free game updates has been anything but. UI tweaks make for a more streamlined experience all around, whilst Xbox One X enhancements give the game a significant performance and visuals boost for owners of Microsoft’s new console.
HDR and increased resolution make Raiders noticeably sharper, bringing the game’s lumpy-faced character to the fore, while faster load times and an improved frame rate round out what’s a much better experience on the whole. Being an Xbox Play Anywhere title, we’d previously opt to play on a Razer Blade laptop over the Xbox One S, but now the tables are turned, with Xbox One X taking precedence.
Finding a co-op match to experience Wardog Fury at its fullest can be a challenge at certain times of day, which is unfortunate, but going solo is still good fun. Raiders’ second premium campaign offers up more of the unique and enjoyable action gameplay that makes the game so intriguing, regardless of how you engage with it, posing fans a tempting call back to arms. Not only that, but multiple enhancements, a great new character in Loaht, and a more engaging narrative should be enough to draw newcomers into the fold.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming co-op let's play to see Raiders of the Broken Planet’s Wardog Fury campaign in action.
It’s that time of year again, chums; ridiculous high-budget John Lewis adverts make the news, Strictly Come Dancing peppers staff room TVs, and Ubisoft’s long-running salsa series returns to sweat a pound or two off our pre-Christmas waistlines. Is this year’s edition a Brendan Cole masterclass or a Dad-dancing disaster? Let’s find out!
Has much changed since last year? Are we being ripped off?
As with any series that’s done the rounds, not a huge amount has been altered, and perhaps for good reason. The presentation doesn’t need changing, as it really works, so it honestly comes down to song selection. The problem here is that outside of the 50-odd included on the disc, everything else is hidden behind the Just Dance Unlimited membership.
Ubisoft has been good enough to include a free 3-month pass here, but after that you’re looking at £25-30 a year depending on your platform of choice. Not a completely horrendous price point, but certainly something to think about for the amateur jive-ist.
With that in mind, would you recommend it?
For us, this is a cracking Christmas party game, especially if you can find it at sub £20. You don’t need to shell out on expensive controllers, as your friends/family/enemies can use their phones, the Just Dance TV footage is both hilarious and cringeworthy, and, honestly, even for an oft-cynical shit like myself, it’s just bloody good fun.
Christmas is almost here and 2017 is drawing to a close, so we’ve decided to mark the occasion with our final podcast of the year.