Games Played in 2022
Playing video games in 2022 has been really erratic. We’ve had an infant and everything became unpredictable. There were times I could play for a few hours at a time. And then no games for a couple of months.
- Elden Ring
- Life is Strange: Remaster
- Clicker Heroes
- Knights of San Francisco
- Butterfly Soup 2
- Scarlet Hollow
- Heaven Will Be Mine
- Done With
- Not Quite Done With Yet
I was quite excited about this. I’ve always had a hard time to get into "true" open world games (such as Skyrim, Morrowind, Oblivion). They sounded fascinating, but I’ve never lasted more than a few hours. I couldn’t get on with the systems and combat.
I also always felt a bit lost. Unsure what to do, where to go, worried I’d waste time just randomly wandering around.
Elden Ring seemed perfect. I really get on well with the world-building, aesthetics, equipment and character development of Dark Souls and Bloodborne (plus, they’re some of the very few combat systems in games I genuinely enjoy). But I also couldn’t imagine how it’ll all work.
Both Dark Souls and Bloodborne have a really tightly designed and packed world. All the areas are connected, everything works together. Would it work just as well in a big place where you’re free to wander wherever you’d like?
But Elden Ring is indeed great. The systems work really well and you get the fabled freedom to explore, take on things that strike your fancy and all that.
It definitely all feels less tightly integrated than the other soulsborne games, but it still works. I’ve had loads of fun exploring in the game. Riding around on horseback is fantastic and yeah, just really fun.
The ability to go somewhere you’re clearly not ready for yet, evading danger, picking cool stuff on the way and getting some nice money/items/experience boost that way is something I love doing in RPGs and rarely get to.
Elden ring has that in spades.
It is also much more legible and accessible than its predecessors were. It has an actual map and you have a better idea of where to go and what to do (though it still absolutely doesn’t hold your hand). And much less dark (though it’s not all sunshine and roses).
But the game is hugely, impossibly large. After spending over eighty hours in it, I’m seemingly about halfway through. And that’s just too much.
I’m not sure I’d be able to dedicate the time this game needs in the best of times. With a baby and life that generally leaves me quite drained in the evening it’s not going to work.
You need energy to play this game. And also some sort of regularity. I was only able log in every few weeks and even with my copious notes, I spent so much time just catching up on where I was and what I had planned to do.
It does have some flaws too. Some of the dungeons are very similar to one another, bosses are reused with minor modifications. And I feel bad to just rush through the story because:
- I’d be missing so much
- I doubt I’d ever return to this game for additional hundreds of hours again
So towards the end of the year, I gave myself a permission to just let it go. I might return at some point (every time I played it I genuinely had fun), but I might not (everytime I wanted to play something, I felt I couldn’t play anything else, but also dreading booting Elden Ring up).
Life is Strange: Remaster
I’m not sure the original Life is Strange needed a remaster. The original game came out in 2015 and I don’t think it aged that badly.
But I’ve been meaning to replay it and Before the Storm in the story order (i.e. BtS firs and then LiS proper as opposed to the order they were released in). And this remaster happened as part of Life is Strange: True Colors release so… sure… let’s play the touched-up version.
I don’t think that much has changed, really. It wasn’t particularly more amazing visually or anything.
But I had fun with it. Max and Chloe is the best time.
It did show its age though. The controls are clumsier here than in the latter games. Some of the writing feels a bit off, the voice over is more miss than hit for a few characters. The dream sequence in the final episode was always just terrible and it still is.
But I got to spend quality time with Max and Chloe and that was still awesome.
More than anything though, it’s really interesting going back to the original game and seeing what evolved out of it. With 3-5 games (depending on what you’re counting), the "Life is Strange" formula is clearer and broader than what this particular game did. But it did set off a trend that’s been used successfully in the years since.
This was a really unexpected comeback.
I’d played this game about 12 years ago and stopped when the grind got real.
Recently, I was thinking about picking up a game like Clicker Heroes — that I could leave running in the background on my tablet and click around when I felt like it and had a bit of time. Low effort pick up and drop back again.
Tried a couple idle/clicker games, they didn’t stick and so I’ve tried Clicker Heroes again.
And (for what it is), it’s really fun. Not something you want to dedicate a lot of attention, but just setting things up and having the numbers grow exponentially is great.
What I hadn’t appreciated before is the insight this gives you into the differences between linear and exponential growth. One you rarely see elsewhere.
The whole arc of the game changes significantly as you progress through and there’s always something else you want to see which keeps you playing and forces you to change your play styles over time.
By now, I think I saw almost everything there is to see there though (meaning: I was on my second 1M+ HZE transcension, unlocked three of the five Scout heroes, joined a clan for a while, went through several special events and the only substantial achievement missing was Leeroy Jenkins).
So by March 2023 I’ve had my fill and gave it a rest, but it is genuinely more fun than I expected.
Knights of San Francisco
Wow, this is such a lovely little short thing.
Think of the "gamebook" or "choose your adventure" books. Where you read a section, make a choice and it’ll tell you which page to turn for the next piece of the story.
Knights is the best translation of that idea into a video game that I’ve seen. I’m always surprised these games are relatively few and far between. There’s a few gamebook ports (most famously, Sorcery!) but little else (alternatively: I’ve just never really delved into the Twine games and interactive fiction where almost all of these games exist).
Knights is an original story and game designed specifically for the platform (iOS and Android).
As such, the combat system, map and everything else works perfectly. It looks great too — clear and beautiful while preserving the look-and-feel of the gamebooks.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic (or possibly just decayed) fantasy San Francisco. And the protagonist is a necromancer. When you kill someone, you can raise them from the dead and have them join your party.
It’s a really cool game, with a simple but good story and a world where your particular magical ability is surprisingly well integrated into the setting. This is something that I see very rarely and value a lot.
I’ve learned about it thanks to The Buried Treasure blog.
Butterfly Soup 2
The first Butterfly Soup is one of my favourites. The perfect comfort game. Funny, short, beautiful, wonderful.
Just like Butterfly Soup, the sequel is a visual novel that takes roughly four hours to play. It’s about four gay Asian girls playing baseball and going through their lives in California while attending high school.
I loved the original as well as this one so much.
It gets a bit more heavy and serious in places and I feel it’s a little more polished too. Especially Min-seo grew a bit more mature, but also had to confront some of her internalised prejudice. And Noelle’s visit to her family in Taiwan, I mean… I can only imagine what she was feeling but fuuuuuck.
But it is absolutely still Butterfly Soup.
The game starts right where the first one ended (not the epilogue, just the main story at the high school) and I think the best way to think about it is as a second part to the story introduced in the first game.
It is an absolutely amazing piece and I’ll almost certainly play this (along with the first part) again.
Another Buried Treasure.
And goodness what a treasure it is.
Scarlet Hollow is a horror visual novel, but most of the time it’s about feeling a little unsettled by what’s going on rather than full-on terror (though horrible things can and do happen in every episode).
You travel to a remote city where your estranged aunt has died. Your cousin invited you to the funeral that’s in seven days. You live in a derelict house and meet the locals in Scarlet Hollow — the nearby town.
It’s a mining city and your cousin Tabitha is the owner of the mines. The city has a storied history and things start to get weird fast.
Scarlet Hollow is a wonderful game, light-hearted and genuine, funny and sweet, but also absolutely dark and heavy. Especially the latest episode that came out (number four out of seven) gets pretty fucking rough though #3 was no slouch either.
It’s quite unlike most visual novels so if you’ve been put off by the genre, do give this one a go nonetheless. It’s brilliantly written, super replayable, with real huge consequences to your actions that persist across episodes and completely change the situation.
In many ways, it’s actually pretty close to a bare-bones RPG in a visual-novel format. Not quite there, but yeah just super fascinating.
I’m eagerly awaiting the last three episodes.
Heaven Will Be Mine
I’ve been reading about Heaven Will Be Mine for a long time, to the point of having it installed on my tablet (and therefore super easy to pick up) and still not touched it for about two years.
Well not anymore.
It’s a genuinely strange sci-fi visual novel where you play a pilot of a huge combat ship. The ships are like the extensions of the pilots' bodies — there’s connection that goes beyond a machine and its user.
The Solar System has suffered an existential threat that was never made clear, but it got averted — mainly thanks to these ships and their pilots. Right now, three factions with vastly differing views of where to take humanity and further exploration are at conflict with each other.
Despite being on the opposing sides, the pilots are lonely and isolated and have more in common with themselves than the rest of the humanity. So they fight when ordered, but also talk and visit each other’s ships (and more).
The whole setting is quite text-heavy. There’s a lot of exposition there that’s part sci-fi and part… philosophy that has physical effects? For example the gravitational pull is both a function of mass but also of culture and their effects are intertwined.
This mix is kind of hard to read and understand — especially when you’re a sleep-deprived parent dealing with the after effects of an MS attack combined with corticosteroid IV whose ability to focus is tenuous at best (I played it at weird time okay?).
I’ve really enjoyed it, but the descriptions made about as much sense to me as Deepak Chopra. I think Heaven Will Be Mine has much more substance though, I just was too tired to appreciate it fully.
I’ve finished one playthrough and really liked it all the way to the end.
Wanted to give it another go with a different character, but I never got around to it.
Rather than feeling guilty and thinking I’ll get back to them, I’m letting these games go:
- Elden Ring
- Heaven Will Be Mine
- Geneforge 1
- Clicker Heroes
Not Quite Done With Yet
I’ve got a Steam Deck in December and while setting it up, I’ve played a few Spelunky runs. It’s still a fantastic game that I’m now incredibly rusty with.
Honestly it’s amazing how well together the game is put. Also a little sad that I prefer it to Spelunky 2, but oh well.
I suspect with the super easy way to pick up, I might play more throughout the year.
No recording, no dailies or anything, just 15 minutes of fun.
Haven’t played it for the entire year, thinking I won’t ever get to it and then… played a few runs in December. And I think I’ll definitely play a few more when the mood strikes.
I don’t have any big games lined up now (freed from the clutches of Elden Ring and Geneforge 1) and while each run takes quite a lot of time (around 40-60 minutes now that I’m able to get quite far), it’s an awesome experience and a world and characters I want to return to.
There’s a couple of games that I definitely want to get to. And then a bunch that I’ve been thinking about and will probably fire up at some point unless something huge comes out that will take all my remaining gaming time away.
I mean, Mass Effect 5 isn’t going to come out for another couple of years.
Scarlet Hollow (new episodes)
This game took me completely by surprise and didn’t let me go. With more episodes scheduled in 2023, I’ll definitely come back.
Get in the Car, Loser! The Fate of Another World
If Christine Love makes a game, I’ll play it. That’s the rules.
And she has just released a DLC to Get in the Car, Loser! The systems in that game spoke to me a little less than her previous works, but it’s still a wonderful piece of writing, humour and character building.
Of course I’ll play the DLC.
Cyberpunk VN? Self-driving cars and you being one of the last human cabbies left? Works on the Steam Deck? Yes please!
Another Buried Treasure thing that really got me interested so I’d love to give it a go.
I loved the time loops in Minit and Outer Wilds and have a soft spot for them in books and TV (stargate anyone?).
So yeah, this sounds fascinating and also have a pretty intriguing setup on top of that — you having a total amnesia, possibly being possessed by an alien or something and being thrown out of an airlock at the end of each loop.
I love the trailer and the atmosphere of this.
Not sure I’ll love the actual gameplay (heard mixed reactions), but deffo want to experience it for myself.
I Was A Teenage Excolonist
Cute-looking choice-based VN-like sci-fi RPG. Sign me up!
Demon’s Souls Remake
I’ve never played the original Demon’s Souls, but it’s the soulslike that kicked of Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Elden Ring.
I want to give it a go, but I generally need some break between soulslikes. They’re quite intense and demanding. And based on my experience with Elden Ring I’m not going to rush into it.
That said, the main game seems to take around 30 hours which is much more acceptable (though it’ll be like 50 for me, then).