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Your game of the year, not released this year - 2020 edition


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I bought a WiiU having skipped it and not owning a switch so for me it’s been a feast of MK8, Super Mario 3D world, BOTW, Pikmin 3 and Bayonetta 2. Talk about a great set of games to keep me busy. 
 

I also completed and absolutely loved The Last Of Us remastered which I thought was stellar. 

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As others have said, the extended lockdowns this year have been great for a combination of revisiting old games, catching up on the backlog and simply having more available time to invest in videogames. This is probably the most consistent videogaming time I've had since I was a teenager. A strange response to this however is that I haven't necessarily enjoyed it that much, as having the rest of my life mostly being put on hold somewhat irritated me and made me feel like the time spent playing could and should have been spent doing other things. However, I have played some fantastic titles in that time. I'll only do a quick naming of a lot of them, with some extended thoughts on titles that left a greater impression (for better or worse).

 

My time playing games this year has been split into 2 periods; the UK lockdown of the Spring into early Summer, and from September onwards in which I moved to Prague. Let's go!

 

Spring saw me finally get around to investing the time into fully playing through Breath of the Wild, after starting it last summer but work then getting in the way. There. That's it. Game of the fuckin' year.

 

 

 

Honestly I kind of am tempted to just leave it at that. Utterly captivating experience, I've never felt so rewarded by a game encouraging me to explore and discover, to find my path and create my own story. What more needs to be said? It's been three years since release and the thread for it still gets regularly posted in. Peerless.

 

This time in the beginning of Spring also saw me complete a second playthrough of Fire Emblem Three Houses (the Silver Snow arc), and I fully intend on doing the Edelgard and Dimitri arcs once I've given it enough time to build a thirst again. A game I've thoroughly gotten invested in, and I loved how the characters build and develop, in particular how some of the branches provide memorable interactions (I was genuinely taken back in my Golden Deer run when Dorothea who I had recruited commented on the death of Ferdinand in a later battle, a real moment of solemn grief that stuck with me). It's a shame that the Monastery stuff feels underdeveloped as the idea of it is sound and I like getting that separate space to simply chat to my squad. I also jumped on the Animal Crossing train which dominated my life for a good month or two before tailing off, and my thoughts are a little torn. I love the relaxed pace and mood of it; I was going through a rough time and I found the experience comforting and supportive, something I definitely needed. It also provided a lovely way to communicate with some friends of mine spread across the planet. However, I guess I'm just not interested in those kind of games in the long term, as gradually my zeal wore thin (I would estimate this kicked in once I had collected all the fossils, and then consistently grew). I now haven't touched it in months. Who knows, maybe I'll get back to it.

 

I got my PS4 sent down to Wales from Scotland, and with some money I got cheap copies of Days Gone, Deus Ex Mankind Divided, Judgment and Nier Automata. In order: Surprisingly enthralling, thoroughly enjoyed, enormous letdown and possibly an all-time favourite. Spoilers likely within these.

 

Days Gone

Spoiler

I had read through the thread on Days Gone here and it really spoke to me, so I also invested in playing on Survival mode and despite the amount of bloat it adds due to the lack of fast travel, it really should be how the game is played. The atmosphere and almost doomed nature of the title is felt when you're given this quiet time to drive across the ruined landscape, left to muse on whether it's all worth it. In the character of Deacon St John I also found myself growing to love his quirks; the mumbly tone of his voice and how he talks to himself, it lent him an air of relatability that I rarely feel towards a game protagonist. I was very much invested in his journey, despite the bumps along the way really dragging the experience about 15 hours longer than it needed to be. But goddamn, riding around the map gave me those BOTW feelings of quiet reflection.

 

Mankind Divided

Spoiler

Also for all its flaws, good lord it is compelling to explore every nook and cranny of Mankind Divided's Prague (I only now realise that I played it a handful of months before moving there myself). Nothing more than that to add; it's wonderful to see and 'open world' focused more on density of a small location over an ever-expanding world, making it a fitting contrast to Days Gone. I still have a soft spot for Adam Jensen as a character and I hope we get to return to his story someday, if only so we can see how the developers continue to build on this idea of a densely packed world deep with interactions. I spent may hours looking around the rooftops searching for open windows and skylights, constantly on the lookout for more secrets.

 

Judgment

Spoiler

Judgment started off potentially being one of my favourite titles by the Yakuza team before swiftly nosediving into being one of the worst by the end (take with a pinch of salt, I'm also the weirdo who thinks 0 is a massive letdown). For all I enjoyed of its setup and characters (I unashamedly love how much of a 'middle aged idea of cool' person Yagami is in those goddamn skinny jeans) and changes to the core gameplay, over the course of the game it only began to show holes that got progressively larger. No game has ever made tailing missions fun, and this game is FUCKING FULL of them. By the end they become infuriating, as the map is so small that characters have to take needlessly long and inefficient routes to their destinations solely to provide the 'challenge' to the player tailing them. And the combat (maybe this is a balancing issue, as I was playing on Hard) is utterly rife with super armor and locked animations, where I died numerous time due to being locked into an animation that the enemy just super armoured through and wrecked me while I couldn't defend. It's a game where a lot of neat new ideas get introduced but never go anywhere interesting for me, and I think there's no better example than the Mortal Wound system. Permanent reduction of the health bar which needs specialist treatment/equipment to restore is a very interesting idea to force the player into a more considerate approach, but when you can only carry a finite amount of items that can treat it and then end up in the final chapter where bosses can throw those moves out as often as they like, I was just glad the whole thing was over. It never commits to its more fun ideas too; I absolutely loved the final chapter as it looked like we would not have an obvious boss battle finish and instead get something more interesting, but nope the game is going to force that in anyway, and it also happens to be the very worst final boss of the entire series in my opinion (haven't played Fist of the North Star or Like a Dragon yet). Major disappointment, mayb end up being the one title in the series I don't do New Game + for.

 

Nier Automata

 

Spoiler

Nier Automata is an absolute wonder. I loved the original Nier so it should come as no surprise, but rather than rehash what everyone already knows about it, I want to share what makes me love it so much. It managed to reuse the same template and formula of its predecessor while simultaneously exploring it in a new direction that both surprised and amazed me. I've seen people talk about how Last of Us 2 is remarkable for exploring the story from the perspective of the 'villain', ahem what about this game right here? The first Nier used the idea of a 'new game plus' to explore the story with fresh context, revealing new information along the way. Automata does the same thing only to THEN pull the rug out from under you and go 'naw mate, story is actually only half way done' and goes in a completely new direction. The pacing is sublime and it continuously builds to a crescendo that delivers in fucking spades. I ended up getting Endings C & D at about 3am as I was just so gripped by the setpieces leading up to it that I just didn't want to go to bed until I saw it through. That tandem bossfight leading up to the climactic decision is amongst the greatest setpieces of any game I've played, an absolute marvel that comes at the tail end of a game that gave me many marvels along the way. A definite one to replay some day.

 

After the summer, I now only have my Switch to hand. Mario 3D All Stars was great (never played Galaxy or 64 properly before, so that justified the purchase) but for me this has become the golden age of the eShop with its plentiful sales and mega discounts. I've had some disappointments (yeah, alongside Yakuza 0 I'm also not the biggest fan of Hollow Knight, arguably one of my least preferred Metroidvanias I've played on the system) but this is more the time to explore lesser-known, smaller games that can perhaps challenge my ideas and views on what a 'good' game can be viewed as, as I have been predominantly shaped by well-known titles over my lifetime. Toki Tori 2+, Sundered, Horace, Flipping Death, Moonlighter, Hard West, Donut County, Blood Will Be Spilled, West of Loathing, Wulver Blade and Return of the Obra Dinn (that last one is essential, fuckin' play it!) have given me a range of experiences that arguably I've valued more than most of the bigger titles I played in the beginning of the year. They're shorter, more compact and don't drag on to the point of boredom, so even with their flaws (Blood Will Be Spilled in particular is interesting but poorly optimised for Switch) I cannot outright be frustrated by them due to their punchy playtimes, which is arguably a big reason why Hollow Knight bored me. I now have The Shrouded Isle and Jenny LeClue to finish playing, and again, I value the alternative experiences the eShop is providing me now, though I'll always have a taste for a bigger release (any recs for a solid RPG on the Switch? I'd like DQ XI but only pre-owned, I don't want to support Sugiyama).

 

But what is the game of the year not from this year? One other person in this thread called it. The best title I've played, that properly got under my skin and sunk its hooks deep in?

 

RING FIT ADVENTURE

 

This goddamn game is incredible. You want to talk memorable experiences? Ring Fit Adventure son. Interesting mechanical depth? Ring Fit Adventure. Hilarious dialogue and characters? Ring Fit Adventure. A genuine experience where you have to fight tooth and nail for victory? RING FUCKING FIT ADVENTURE.

 

I am not joking. I had this whacked up to full intensity and boss battles where full on challenges, and the satisfaction of beating them is unrivalled by any other game I have EVER played. When I bested Dragaux for the final time, as the burning seared through my thighs on that final squat? No game has come closer to how satisfied and rewarded I felt afterwards. As I no longer have a tv I have slacked on it, but come the new year I'll ideally be able to get stuck into the NG+ and build myself back up. This is the kind of transformative experience that a videogame can give, and I was honestly waking up every morning wanting to get pumped up and fit. I thought it would be a fun gimmick game, and ended up getting my GOTY that may very easily sneak into my personal all-time favourites. Everyone really should give it a go, few games are as encouraging and supportive as this, and the minigames and bonuses give it a surprising amount of extra content. I said about looking for a good RPG on Switch, well this one is the absolute best. Change my mind.

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On 25/12/2020 at 16:57, BabelRich said:

Another vote for Slay the Spire. That shit ate all my time earlier in the year. Had to force myself to stop to get other stuff played. 

Ayup, my name is Danster and I'm a Spireholic... It first started for me when it was voted highly in a forum annual vote - I thought I should try it. It was a spire-al from there on...

 

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A Plague Tale: Innocence has been an incredible game so far. Despite being a PS4 release, it's the game I've played the most on my PS5. I thought it would be good, but it has far exceeded that. The story is gripping, and I'm enjoying the stealth gameplay mechanics. Amicia - the lead character - also has a fine slingshot weapon.

 

It's kind of an appropriate game to play during a pandemic I guess; it's made me appreciate that at least we are currently experiencing a plague of deadly rats!

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Only just spotted this thread after posting a similar GOTY reply in the 'completed games' one...

 

Quote

Jedi: Fallen Order - This was my Boxing Day purchase last year - and my first completion of 2020 - and I absolutely adored it. It's far from perfect in several departments being objective, but the fusion of soulsborne-lite combat/loop with Uncharted style platforming, all wrapped up in some of the best Star Wars atmosphere for years created a package that landed in exactly the right form at exactly the right time to push all of my buttons. Added to that BD-1 being one of the best ever sidekicks ever (so much so I built my own lego version of him) gave it a charm that outweighed the slightly wooden lead character and saw it also become my first platinum trophy of the year too. It also marked the first step in a resurgence of my love for Star Wars being followed up by the excellent The Mandalorian and Squadrons. All in all - for me - it was just a brilliant brilliant experience and I can't wait for a sequel.

 

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On 29/12/2020 at 11:10, alex3d said:

Rocket League - played it with my brother over Christmas, it's still so much fun.

 

Disco Elysium - just brilliant.

I stand corrected. It's Black Mesa. This came out of nowhere for me and I can't believe how good this is.

 

 

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I have to add something else: Satisfactory.

I bought it on Tuesday evening. between then and now, about two and a half days, I've hit 23 hours of game time.

Game is, quite literally, a black hole of time if you get into it. Hours upon hours of exploration, base building, logistics and horrific maths to effectively make the game play itself. Also, it has co-op, so if you don't know what the fuck you are doing, you can brute force some of the more basic tasks until you get your head around it.

If I'm not playing it, I'm checking YouTube videos on how to build and/or admire a multi-storey factory that has sandwich floors to hide miles of conveyor belts to provide *just* the right ratio of materials to build something fucking stupid like 300 rotors a minute.

It's absolutely absurd in how much content there is, it's capable of absolutely thrashing a 3080, and yet it's still early access.  So I guess I can throw it on a GOTY list when it's officially out (and hopefully on the newer consoles so more people can enjoy it). But it's worth commenting on after getting such an unexpected rager for it, I suppose.

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