I’ve played lots of games in 2020. In part because I couldn’t do a lot other activities such as climbing, seeing people, etc. In part because of the deep desire to return to the familiar while the world was figuratively and literally on fire.
It’s not that I’ve had more time due to the lockdowns or whatnot. If anything, I’ve been working longer and harder this year. But I didn’t have the energy or the mental capability to do much else. And so after work, I just picked up a game instead.
Not necessarily the healthiest option, definitely not the most productive one, but it got me through.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
I was hoping against hope that this would be a great game. I’ve been dreaming about a soulslike game with lightsabers for a long time.
Sadly, the combat was chaotic, the writing and storytelling weak and the main character bland.
It highlighted how fantastic FromSoft are at what they do and that you can’t just drop Souls mechanics into a game and make it magically feel good.
I’ve played a little bit of Stardew Valley, but I just don’t feel the urge to play more. I think part of it is that in order to get the characters to like you more you need to keep giving them gifts and figure out what they do and don’t like. And the farming itself seems to be similarly complex.
Which cheapens the wholesomeness somewhat. I don’t want to keep detailed records of who likes what gift or which seeds are the most profitable. Or read a forum and follow a guide that someone optimised to death.
But not interacting with these systems feels like missing out on a tonne of stuff. I’ve attended a couple of festivals in the game and no one wanted to e.g. dance with me. So yea I can shut in and just focus on farming, but that’s not the life I want my character to live.
Still, it’s a beautiful, lovely game and I’d like to return to it.
Love Is Strange
This is a visual novel inspired by Life is Strange. You play as Max and your photography class teacher asked all of you to pick a partner and do a project together.
You can choose Chloe, Kate, Rachel or Victoria. There’s no time rewind, no horrific shit, you just spend a week together, getting to know one another better and taking the best picture you can to win the contest.
Each playthrough is maybe about an hour long and I did one with each of the characters. It was delightful and really relaxing that Life is Strange could not be.
Some of the faces looked a bit iffy, but overall the graphics were lovely and I really enjoyed the writing.
Wish Dontnod would make a game that didn’t have a tragedy at its core. I really really do.
Doki Doki Literature Club
I kept hearing about this one — how it’s not what it seems and how it’s really good and really smart.
It looks like a super trashy dating sim that I would never have picked up on my own. And indeed the game feels like a massive cliché, but soon something starts to feel off and when it picks up… yeah.
Discussing the details is difficult, because it’s all a massive spoiler directory. But you should know that if you’re faint of heart or a person who appreciates content warnings, please do seek them out even though they’ll spoil things.
I loved the game, but a few scenes were really difficult for me to handle. It was absolutely worth it, but yea it’s not a light carefree game.
Definitely really smart. Certain bits give me strong Undertale vibes.
It’s strange to think of Bloodborne as my comfort game, but it is. Yes, it is tense, unforgiving, with a challenging combat. But once you’ve played it once and know what’s going on, it feels like returning to the place of your childhood.
So yes, when I was at my lowest, I played Bloodborne and it was great.
Ladykiller In a Bind
My other comfort game is this strange but absolutely hilarious, beautifully drawn and perfectly written crossdressing lesbian cruise misadventure.
I haven’t played it much this year, but when I was feeling a bit sick and tired and sad, I gave it a spin for a few hours and felt much better.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
I’ve always wanted to play jRPGs and never got very far with them. I was hoping this remake of FFVII would finally stick and… it did!
It was beautiful and weird and overall more frustrating than fun. But: I’ve definitely enjoyed it and I don’t regret playing it at all. I finally get all the Cloud and Tifa and Barret references and fan art.
Wish I knew it didn’t cover the full scope of the original Final Fantasy VII, though.
Tell Me Why
This is the third Life is Strange game as far as I’m concerned. I’ve had a great time playing it. Loved Aly, Tyler and Michael so much.
Though again, Dontnod how about making a game that doesn’t have a horrific tragedy in it.
Side note: I’ve followed Alyson’s lead and finally got myself a telescope.
Lovely short RPG with great characters and a great endgame (how often does that happen!!).
Took maybe a couple hours to finish, had a simple but intriguing combat I was actually willing to engage with. Cool story, great ending, everything distilled into those couple of hours, no cruft.
I’d love to play more games like that.
One Night Stand
Excellent music, fantastic graphics, I really enjoyed the writing. Short, wonderful game.
It delves straight into the awkwardness of the situation, the intimacy combined with a lack of closeness and the boundaries one needs to be mindful of.
I’ve played it a bunch, but not as much as I expected to. It definitely didn’t get me obsessed to the level the first game did. Which isn’t bad, my relationship with Spelunky did skirt the unhealthiness line occasionally.
It’s a great game, I think I’ll definitely play a lot more of it. But it is much more difficult and I’ve got less drive to play it. Also, fuck the moles.
A Summer’s End
A wonderful visual novel with a unique look and great setting that’s undermined by the writing somewhat. Still, I’ve been glad to have played it.
The combination of Western and Asian cultures, the uncertainties about the handover, the difficult relationship with the parents… it’s got really powerful themes.
Absolutely mental game. Great music, great visuals, bonkers setting and characters. Really, really special.
You’re an immortal detective called in from her eternal prison to solve a murder most foul. The island is controlled by cultists trying to revive the old gods. But, you’re one of the cultists and just want to resolve the crime so you can all get back to living the life and sacrificing the "citizens" kidnapped to worship the gods.
My favourite game of the year. I love the writing, the humour, the characters.
A visual novel of four wonderfully unique American girls, who share two things: being Asian and gay. It is hilarious, smart, surprising, wonderful.
I expect to be playing this many more times.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
I hadn’t planned to play it at all based on the game’s negative reception. But lately, I’ve heard a multitude of "Andromeda was quite good, actually" voices and decided to give it a go.
It’s massive, I’ve not finished it yet but I’ve played a lot of it.
And it’s definitely got a lot of bugs, technical issues and writing problems. If I played it when it came out, expecting more of Mass Effect (though that series got steadily worse too), I’d have been bitterly disappointed.
But underneath all the issues and all the jank, there is a really good game there. Characters I like, good mysteries, learning about a new world, the Mass Effect races you know and love.
The perfect 7/10 game I think. With a potential to have been so much more than it actually is.
In store for 2021
- Finish Mass Effect: Andromeda
- More Spelunky 2
- Vampire The Masquerade 2
- Geneforge 1 Remastered
- Spiderweb Software make really solid classic RPGs
- I was always intrigued by the Geneforge world, but only played the last game in the series
- I was waiting for the remaster (supported them on Kickstarter) and it should come out in 2021
- Queen’s Wish
- The latest Spiderweb Software game
- New setting and systems
- Tries to streamline the classic RPG formula in interesting ways
- Demon’s Souls Remake on PS5
- My PS5 will arrive sometime in February and this is the game I’ll probably play first there
- Predecessor to Dark Souls
Also, almost certainly more visual novels.
If the time & mood is right, I’d like to do a NG++ Bloodborne playthrough to pick up the one remaining achievement (the waking up ending).
Despite last year’s expectations, I will almost certainly not play Cyberpunk 2077 after all. The release has been massively rushed out, it’s apparently super buggy (despite (or because of?) breaking the "no crunch" promise) and they willfully mislead the PS4 and Xbox One players.
I might possibly pick it up a couple years later assuming they’ve fixed it up. Although I’m deeply disappointed with the way CD Project handled the last several months, so I might not out of principle.
Finally, I’d like to give Divinity: Original Sin and Skyrim another chance, but who knows.