2020 Community Game of the Year - Polls CLOSED, results being processed

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As 2020 draws to a close and we breathe a collective sigh of relief, I invite you, my dearest fellow Goodjers, to reflect on the games that brought us joy and got us through the day in this, the 2020 Community Game of the Year thread. Much love and thanks to ClockworkHouse who was holding the reins until I stepped in for the 2017 edition. This year more than ever, I look forward to reading your delightful lists and sharing the joy of gaming with all of you. A huge preemptive thank you to you all.

Most of you know how this works, but nevertheless, here's a refresher course. Each year, GWJ community members vote for their favorite games of the year. As always, we'll be sticking to our rule of limiting the selection to the games that you first played in 2020, whether they were new releases or not. Doesn't matter if the game is one year, five years, ten years, or thirty years old, what matters is that it's new to you. Additionally, if you change your list during the course of the month, PLEASE do not edit your post, but make a new one and tell me you've changed your mind. Finally, and this is new and specific to 2020, but I ask that you skip any mention of "disappointments." I know that we like to mention games that we were excited about and didn't quite live up to the expectations, but... folks... this is 2020, so let's keep this a positive thread.

Polls will be closing on January 1st January 4th, 2021, 9am GMT+1 (that's 3am EST, or midnight PST). If you all behave, I might let myself be persuaded, extending the deadline a few days. Maybe.
Complete guidelines in Q&A form in the post below, and final results will be posted on the Front Page!

Below are the Official Rules of the 2020 Community GOTY Voting Thread, Q&A style.

  • What games can I vote for? Any game you played for the first time in 2020. Say every one had been telling you how awesome Morrowind is and you picked it super cheap and loved it? You can absolutely put it on your list. But if you're into your third playthrough of XCOM 2 and already made it #1 on your list last year, then you don't get to vote for it again. Voting this year is still open to any game on any platform from any year.
  • How do you know if I really played it for the first time this year? Despite all evidence to the contrary, I don't have psychic powers. That'll be between you and your conscience, so we're on the honor system. But really, why would you try to rig a forum poll?
  • What if I didn't finish it yet? That's just fine. If you feel you've played enough of this game for it to surpass others you've played this year, go ahead and put it on your list. Sometimes, we don't have to play more than 5 hours of a game to know we're going to love it (not to mention that some games are really suuuuuuuuuuper long: you might not have finished it, but still know it's awesome).
  • Why are we doing it this way? Because we're all busy and free time is a precious commodity. Because 2020 was weird. GWJ is a community mostly populated with mature, adult gamers with jobs (it's right there in the name of the site), family obligations, hobbies, and other things that take up our time. And we can't all afford the new hotness as soon as it's released. Most of us have piles (see m0nk3yboy's 2020 thread), and though we try to play through them, we don't often get a chance to say that we really love something even if it's a bit older.
  • What if the top game ends up being from 2012 or something? In over ten years, that's never happened. I'd be very, very, very, very surprised.
  • So how are votes counted? Games in the top spot on a list get ten votes, second place gets nine, et cetera, et cetera, with tenth place getting a single vote. If your list is out of format (lists that aren't ranked and/or lists that go over ten), games on your list will get one vote each for the first ten games only. If you do not abide by the format, I'll make an executive decision and sort it all out.
  • Can I vote for an expansion pack? For the purposes of vote counting (and my sanity), votes for expansions are folded into votes for the base game. So for example, a vote for The Witcher 3: Blood & Wine is counted as a vote for The Witcher 3.
  • I played a game before, but this year I played the remastered Director's Cut with new content on a new platform. Can I vote for it? Nope. Again, the spirit of this thread is to vote for things that were new to you this year, and replaying a game you love with spiffier graphics runs somewhat contrary to that. On the other hand, some remasters and re-releases significantly change the original game, and sometimes replaying something can feel more revelatory than playing something brand new. In the end, it's up to you (see the above, "but how do you know..." question).
  • Can I list a game multiple times so that it gets more votes? No. That's annoying, an asshole move cheating.
  • When does voting open? When does it close? Voting is open when this thread goes up, so: you can vote now.
    Go ahead, knock yourself out! Post your list! Voting will close on January 1st, 2021 (9am GMT+1, 3am EST, midnight PST). That should allow you to wrap up some of those late November games and/or sample whatever you might receive as a gift during the holidays.
  • Are you going to do anything really neat and special with the results? Quite likely! You can look for the traditional community's top ten list & special mentions. We'll see what happens, and it all hinges on YOUR lists too!
  • What if I change my mind after I posted my list? By all things holy and unholy, for the love of the Goodjerbot, if you do decide to change your mind (it happens!), then pretty please, be sure to put up a new post that lets me know you changed your list. It'll seriously mess with the thread-tracking if you don't.

If you are so inclined, you can check out previous years!

Remasters are excluded. Does that prohibit remakes. e.g. Final Fantasy 7 and Demon's Souls from this year?

merphle wrote:

Remasters are excluded. Does that prohibit remakes. e.g. Final Fantasy 7 and Demon's Souls from this year?

FFVII is a complete remake in the spirit of the original game. It is a brand new experience and should absolutely count for anyone that played the original.

Demon's Souls is an extremely pretty version of the exact same game released in 2009. As much as I would love to see Demon's Souls popping on on lists, it should not be eligible if you played the original.

Edit:

Eleima wrote:

Finally, and this is new and specific to 2020, but I ask that you skip any mention of "disappointments." I know that we like to mention games that we were excited about and didn't quite live up to the expectations, but... folks... this is 2020, so let's keep this a positive thread.

Thanks for doing this. I have certainly posted my share of disappointments in previous years, but it would be nice to have a thread of pure positivity for this particular topic in this particular year.

Also, thanks for doing this all in general

1) Battleborn

pretty sure this was the only game I played for the first time this year. I don't know if I've put Persona 3 on previous lists, so to be safe I'll keep it to just this game, because it deserves it!

It's really a shame this was the Go-Bots to Overwatch's Transformers. It reminds you of Overwatch at first, but you know what it is? An arcade mode of that company's other game, Borderlands. I love that game's length and loot and legends, but the short and focused play in this game allowed for a slice of the other things that make Borderlands so much fun. If Borderlands was like the campaign box of an rpg, Battleborn was like a self-contained tournament module. I'll miss it.

This is the first year that I've kept a running GOTY Word doc throughout the year, as often I feel like I'm forgetting games that I played in the first half of the year by the time December rolls around.

haha my top 10 will likely be working out how to rank the 10 new games I played...I really leant on some trusty old faves this year.

Felix Threepaper wrote:

haha my top 10 will likely be working out how to rank the 10 new games I played...I really leant on some trusty old faves this year.

That was me the last couple years.

This year I've manage to play almost twice that many! And almost half of them actually came out this year!

That's a lot of almost!

Dyni wrote:
merphle wrote:

Remasters are excluded. Does that prohibit remakes. e.g. Final Fantasy 7 and Demon's Souls from this year?

FFVII is a complete remake in the spirit of the original game. It is a brand new experience and should absolutely count for anyone that played the original.

Demon's Souls is an extremely pretty version of the exact same game released in 2009. As much as I would love to see Demon's Souls popping on on lists, it should not be eligible if you played the original.

To add to this, Final Fantasy VII Remake is a different game for all intents and purposes. Completely different code-base, completely different combat system, completely new script, so on and so forth. Demon's Souls, from my understanding, is built off of the original From Software code, so rides the line between remake and remaster in a weird way (turns out, same goes for Ocarina of Time 3D, which was also built off of the original's source code).

Those are my thoughts on the topic, though obviously we don't want to get into the technicalities of what does and does not count as a new experience again. With Final Fantasy VII Remake, though, I feel like any side-by-side comparison will reveal that it's a drastically different experience than the original (and, for all intents and purposes, was meant to be by the developers themselves).


I don't recall if it's been debated in the past, but what is the feeling towards Early Access games? Right now only two "stages" of Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth are available, with two more being added in January. Even then, it won't be a finished game. I imagine this was debated in years past, and also wouldn't be surprised if it was left to voter discretion, but I just want to be clear on whether there is or isn't an official stance on the matter.

Jonman wrote:

This is the first year that I've kept a running GOTY Word doc throughout the year, as often I feel like I'm forgetting games that I played in the first half of the year by the time December rolls around.

Another thing I've picked up; not only keeping GOTY doc where I put all the games I played, I also copy and paste any 'reviews' I do the the Finished Games thread or in the club threads into the doc, so I can just tweak and reuse my old giant blocks of text instead of coming up with it all over again. Makes putting the GOTY post together much easier.

Jonman wrote:

This is the first year that I've kept a running GOTY Word doc throughout the year, as often I feel like I'm forgetting games that I played in the first half of the year by the time December rolls around.

Pretty easy to skim my Steam purchase history for most of it. I've got a few PS4 and Switch titles that I've played, but I'm not sure there's a whole lot that contended for GOTY in there.

I started writing my list sometime around the middle of July. It may have been a mistake as I’ve been editing and expanding on it ever since. In Dying Light’s case, I was doing my write up in between co-op sessions.

I’ve had a fantastic time playing many co-op games with Shymlark this year and I may be doing those games a disservice not putting them higher on the list. Anyway here it is as it stands today.

Many thanks for embarking on another GOTY thread Eleima. You’re the best.

1. Spider-Man
Above all, no matter how many times you get hit, can you get back up? - Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/Gnh4EgS.png)

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/J7RPCFE.jpg)

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/PaeNaBk.jpg)

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/6OhKHFW.jpg)

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/VyntVbC.jpg)

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/y7To0k6.jpg)

2. The Last of Us Part 2
That woman deserves her revenge and we deserve to die - Budd, Kill Bill Volume 2

Spoiler:

IMAGE(https://media.giphy.com/media/elK9EJTjefNmfP8WKj/giphy.gif)

Who’s idea was it to make the saddest game in the world? - Shelby, Girlfriend Reviews

Whilst conveying to you the reasons I put this bleak and often violent game near the top of my list this year I’ve tried to talk in generalities but I do, at times, strayed into specifics. As a consequence I may give too clear an impression of where things are headed. I’m also going to mention certain characters that I’m confident you will have heard of by now even though they were kept secret at release.

Some women have the power to pick you up and crush you like a grape. I'm not asking you to accept that, because that is just the truth. I'm asking to admit that it's kinda hot - Jack Saint (Curio on YouTube)

Proceed with caution if you have even the slightest notion of playing the game.

Crunch

“It’s an amazing creative environment,” said one developer on The Last of Us II. “But you can’t go home.” - from Jason Schreier’s article on Kotaku

As someone who was a graphic designer for many years I understand the perverse pleasures of obsessing over every tiny detail in a project and putting in long hours with a close-knit team to meet crucial deadlines. Deciding if the kerning was right between the ‘r’ and the ‘o’ on a subhead at some ridiculous hour of the evening made me feel like the most meticulous and dedicated graphic designer who had ever lived. In the end though, the pressures and stresses of that way of working weren’t good for my health or my mental wellbeing.

The crunch I experienced pales in comparison to what people working in the game industry go through and I find it hard to imagine working that hard and having a family. I hope Naughty Dog, as a company, can find a better balance that allows them to create the games I love while minimising crunch and preventing employees from feeling trapped or pressured into working too many hours.

To travel in hope

Riley: The screen turns dark, Angel Knives’ blades begin to whirl. She pierces his body again and again until the heart flies right out of his chest. She winds back her leg and roundhouses his head clean off. A geyser of blood covers the entire playing field.

Ellie: Oooh nice!

Riley: Angel Knives throws her fists in the air. You win!

Ellie: F*ck yeah I win.

From the end of an imaginary game on a broken arcade cabinet. The Last of Us: Left Behind

I was, to indulge for a moment in monumental understatement, quite looking forward to The Last of Us Part 2. Early glimpses of the game had me beside myself with excitement but, as we chased the ever retreating launch date deeper into the year 2020, my enthusiasm started to waver. The increased focus on graphic violence, the reports of awful working conditions at Naughty Dog, the leaks of crucial plot details (that I thankfully managed to avoid) and some unprecedented events in the real world, all had me in turmoil for the majority of the build up to the game.

During that time I searched out fellow The Last of Us and Naughty Dog fans. What I found wasn’t the ravening mob who had been sent into a tailspin by story leaks but people who were busy creating paintings and drawings of their favourite characters, getting tattoos based on Ellie’s tattoo (a bold move before the release of the game but it’s a very classy tattoo) or showing off their stunning cosplay.

Witnessing other people’s love and appreciation for the first game and their barely contained excitement for the second was a morale boosting delight.

There will be blood

So. When I started playing it I loved it and then about, a little bit in, I hated it and then about, a little bit in, I loved it again and a little bit in I hated it again and I was like, wait why, why, why are we doing this? Why? And then, by the end of it, I absolutely fell in love with it. - Steve Saylor, Blind Gamer.

Revenge movies generally fall somewhere between two extremes. At one end are the ‘revenge fantasies’ including such films as Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 and John Wick. These movies are satisfying tales of vengeance where terrible people meet fates they richly deserve at the hands of a main character who remains largely sympathetic throughout. At the other extreme are the ‘cautionary tales,’ epitomised by Blue Ruin and Unforgiven. These more grounded tales are less clear cut. The main character is ofen morally compromised (and not in a cool, highly trained assassin kind of a way) and innocents or, at least, people who are less guilty, tend to get caught up in the killing. Protagonists at this end of the revenge movie spectrum usually to discover that, no matter their crimes, the act of hunting down and killing people in cold blood is an awful, dehumanising business.

Much like the first game that, on the surface, appeared to be a derivative tale involving a cure for a zombie-like apocalypse, The Last of Us Part 2 can be viewed as an innovative but familiar entry in the second, darker style of revenge story but, also like the first game, beneath the apparently straightforward plot, the game tackles themes of love, redemption and, in Part 2’s case, empathy and forgiveness.

Murderous acts of revenge, on a par with the movies that likely influenced The Last of Us Part 2, do occur and they can be hard to witness but, in each case, there has been a clear effort to communicate the brutality of those events without revelling in them or lingering on them in a gratuitous manner. There is an exception to this that I nearly quit the game over. It isn’t a torture scene and it isn’t any more violent than what has proceeded it. Naughty Dog’s notable accomplishment is that it’s something I wouldn’t have had a problem with at the start of the game.

(All of the movies that I mentioned above are violent to one extent or another but Kill Bill and Unforgiven both have violence towards women as their starting points. Kill Bill is many times more egregious in that regard than Unforgiven which is, over all, a much more thoughtful film.)

The game’s afoot

I love opening a good drawer - Janet Garcia, Gameonysis and IGN

Gameplay in the original game, resource gathering, limited exploration, combat, environmental puzzles and action set pieces, served as a backdrop for sedate yet seismic character development culminating in a shocking and emotionally devastating ending. Part 2 is, in large part, that same formula but with a willingness to subvert all expectations and to put the player through the emotional wringer, present from the start.

The over arching plot of the game is Neil Druckmann’s but narrative lead Halley Gross wrote the majority of the scenes and dialogue including some of it’s most brutal encounters. Alongside her readily confessed talent for writing unflinching violence she has brought a naturalism and restraint to the dialogue in the game’s quieter moments. A good example of this is Ellie and Dina’s fledgling relationship where both women are trying to act naturally, teasing each other and laughing, as they cautiously working to uncover each other’s true feelings.

It’s a credit to the writing and exceptional performances from Ashley Johnson, Laura Bailey (who also plays Mary Jane in Spider-Man), Shannon Woodward, Troy Baker and the rest of the cast that, as I played the game, I was touched by glances and smiles shared between characters and moved to tears by single lines of dialogue; some scenes make me emotional when I think about them even to this day. Kudos to the animators through whom the subtlety and truth of those performances was, with the aid of sophisticated motion capture, ultimately preserved.

The melee combat and stealth kills in the game have been made much more bloody and disturbing. It’s been mentioned in interviews that the heightened gore in Part 2 was intended to resensitise players to the violence that permeates many modern games. Making the act of murder an appropriately ugly activity is an idea not without merit but not one that benefited an already dark and protracted experience. If you’re going to make the player feel the weight of every death you need to then offer, during gameplay, the option of avoiding combat altogether or a means to incapacitate rather than kill opponents (I often felt, naively or not, that I was incapacitating enemies in the original game.) Stealth could have filled that role but it felt more a part of the combat loop rather than a purposefully crafted, reliable way to traverse levels without killing people.

Lev

I don’t need to make Lev more important than he is. I can see him as a step on a path to something better - Riley Macleod, Kotaku.

I want to tell you about Lev, his sister Yara and the time they spend with Abby as it’s a big part of why I enjoyed this game so much. After reading articles about Lev’s inclusion in the game I understand that his presence and the way he is treated, aren’t necessarily a net good. It took me a while to appreciate that, even though Lev’s story means a lot to me, it doesn’t follow that he isn’t a token gesture aimed at pleasing me rather than the people he represents and equally it doesn’t mean that some of the things that happen to him aren’t problematic.

In the early days of their relationship Abby sees the sibling’s safety as a duty and a burden. During that time Abby and Lev find themselves making their was across Seattle in order to retrieve medical supplies for a wounded Yara. On the way they are attacked by Seraphites, members of the community Yara and Lev have fled from. Some of the Seraphites recognise Lev and call him by his dead name. After the encounter Lev cautiously asks Abby, “Those men were calling me by another name. Do you want to ask me about it?” After a pause Abby responds, “Do you want me to ask you about it?” Lev says he doesn’t and they move on. Abby never raises the subject with him again.

Strong attachments to characters in this game world have a tendency, appropriately enough, to sneak up on you. In the first game my love for Ellie as a character grew through the course of the game without me realising it. Similarly, in the sequel, Abby, Yara and Lev’s relationship, which starts with a mercy offered to an enemy, progresses through struggle and heartbreak and culminates in friendship full of compassion, understanding and love, became, almost without me noticing, the emotional core of the game for me.

Lev himself is calm, measured in his responses and unshakeably devout. Often concerned for others, offering prayers or words of encouragement, he is a moral compass for those around him and is one of the few, truly honourable human beings in the entire game.

What fresh horror is this?

I never want to leave The Last of Us having not been destroyed - Janet Garcia, Gameonysus and IGN

There are horrors in this game that we’ve encountered before. The horror of things that move unseen in the darkness and some that shamble sickeningly into the light. The horror of being hunted by people with brutal intent or fighting and killing those who, in another time or place, might have been allies and friends but the games keenest horrors are internal: the pain of past events we cannot alter, the seductive nature of tribalism and the hell it can lead to, the harm and hurt we might inflict on those around us through our own shortcomings and the possibility that, through pain, grief or obsession, we might become detached from the things that keep us human.

Ellie is battling powerful but wrongly perceived expectations and untreated PTSD as she hunts down the people who committed a devastating act of violence near Jackson. Despite knowing of her inner turmoil I found myself increasingly at odds with her actions and the vengeful person she was becoming. The funny, crude, spirited character from the first game was increasingly absent, replaced by an individual who seemed grim and hostile. As someone who’d probably have reached the massive, depowered gate in Seattle and, realising that the power cable didn’t reach the socket, would have declared, “Well. That’s it. They got away,” Ellie’s determination to exact revenge at any cost was too unwavering, her fall into darkness too far.

Ellie don’t do this. Don’t do it. Ellie don’t do this - Allie Bee (alliebeemac) from her Twitch play through.

Saving grace

There was a single sentence, uttered late in the game, that reminded me of the Ellie I’d followed through the first game and the Left Behind DLC. As opposed to the course of action she was pursuing as I was, those words renewed my resolve to follow her story to the end, no matter how heartbreaking that end might be.

Ellie had been caught by the leg in a weighted noose trap and hauled into the air. After hanging there for a time, baking in the sun, two men arrived to see what they’d snared. One was a huge bull of a man and the other comparatively scrawny.
They drop her unceremoniously to the ground where, after a cry of pain, she lay completely still. Looping the cable off her leg, comparatively scrawny backed away and managed to get too close to a clicker hanging in another trap. It grabbed him for a second before he pulled away and frantically checked himself for cuts or bite marks. Suddenly the pair (who Ellie soon outwits) heard laughter from the ground behind them. Turning comparatively scrawny asked, “Something funny?” Ellie, her face still on the dusty ground, replied, “Looks like you sh*t your pants.”

That scene, where Ellie is in the theatre and Dina comes to heal her wounds and we see her back just mangled and scars and injuries. That felt so quietly revolutionary for me because women don’t get the opportunity to do that. If we’re fighting and doing really badass things it’s always a Wonder Woman-esque ... thing where we’re elevated into a state of grace and to the sort of image where people still find us desirable in spite of the violence we’re enacting but Ellie is not like that. Abby is not like that either. Abby is out there with buff arms just bashing the sh*t out of people - Natalie Flores, on the Gameonysis drunk spoilercast.

The sum of it’s parts

Despite the proudly gritty image the marketing of this game has presented, it’s The Last of Us Part II’s quiet moments, always accompanied by a spectacular soundtrack, I can’t stop thinking about.

It’s Dina listening to Ellie play her guitar; Joel’s lingering glances filled with regret towards Ellie in the dead of the night; Abby being told she’s a good person despite living in a world that has broken the illusion of good and bad people as much as it has been broken itself. It’s the normalized celebration of queerness; the validation of fury and how we wield it in our yearning for justice; and the exploration of women who are, in many ways, beyond redemption — and how they are so molded by tragedy that they might be deserving of it anyway - Natalie Flores, from her review on Paste.

Having read favourable reviews and, after summoning up my courage, reviews where people had a bad time with the game, I found myself able see, when the criticisms or praise were laid out without extremely misleading hyperbole, where both camps were coming from. I can see why this isn’t the story many fans of the first game wanted. I can understand if you didn’t connect with certain characters over Ellie and Joel. I can fully understand if the game seems too violent or grim for you. I have zero patience for anyone who thinks that it’s acceptable to harass and threaten developers or actors over events that occur in a video game or, come to think of it, for any other reason.

To a certain extent we can’t choose the stories that work for us. Some people see a game like this as adding unnecessary grimness to their lives others, like me, find a game that acknowledges how difficult and painful life can be to be deeply cathartic. I’m thankful that other people share my taste in intense and gritty games and I’ll always be grateful to the talented people who dedicate their boundless skill and creativity to creating the gaming experiences that enrich my life.

The Last of Us Part 2 wasn’t as cohesive as the first game. It felt more like an amalgam of closely related storylines and moments. Some are astoundingly beautiful, full of warmth and humanity, some horrifying in the truest sense of the word. It’s a story and a game that has become richer the more I’ve thought and written about it. It’s just a shame that the character journey I connected with the least was the one I’d been looking forward to the most.

I beat this game, The Last of Us Part 2 and I have been basically thinking about it non-stop for the last ten days. I wrote a whole essay on it just to get the thoughts out of my brain and somewhere else. I wrote an essay for fun bro. What? I never wrote an essay that I was not forced to write - Nathan Zed from his video asking whether some of the characters in the game find a kind of peace.

To anyone who has read this far and to my fellow The Last of Us fans whether you liked the sequel or not:

IMAGE( https://media.giphy.com/media/a4wpT0SN0EltRgcfoa/giphy.gif)

It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away everything he's got and everything he's ever gonna have - William Munny, Unforgiven

3. Dying Light
We take Pete's car, go round Mum's, go in, deal with Philip, grab Mum, go to Liz's, pick her up, bring her back here, have a cup of tea and wait for this whole thing to blow over - Shaun, Shaun of the dead

Spoiler:

Maaz ~ Recon Report

Day 64 - 13.00 hrs
After surviving on the streets of Harran for two months, the tower, with it’s ramshackle defences, desperate supply shortages and intermittent utilities, feels like a luxury hotel. I was nervous that Brecken wasn’t going to let me stay but, thankfully, he seems to value my recon skills.

Day 67 - 09.54 hrs
There are two new recruits Brecken thinks might be spies for Rais. He’s asked me to shadow them. I seriously doubt Rias would give these two the time of day. They have the parkour flow of Harold Lloyd and the innate combat abilities of my aunty Esh (she was a warrior in her day but these days she has to rest after taking the top off a boiled egg.)

Day 67 - 15:09 hrs
One of them just emerged from the tower dressed as a ninja. He’s not a ninja.

Day 67 - 14: 23 hrs
It seems their names are Shymlark and Higgledy. Weird, weird names. Shymlark is ninja suit guy. Higgledy gets very excited when he finds string. Wait until I show him duct tape. It’ll blow his mind.

Day 67 - 14: 47 hrs
The ninja, Shymlark, keeps complaining about his knees after a hard landing.

Day 67 - 17: 29 hrs
Brecken may be onto something. I caught them today talking to someone on a walkie. It was an encrypted frequency. I just don’t know who inside Harran would have the means to encrypt a channel like that.

Day 67 - 19: 58 hrs
After a bit of judicious scavenging they’re now better armed. Shymlark has a large frying pan which makes a satisfying ‘Thooong!’ when he hits zombies. Higgledy has a golf club. I believe it’s a driver. Basic weapons but they’ll get the job done as long as they don’t meet any of the more extreme zombie types.

Day 67 - 21: 12 hrs
The new recruits went on a late evening airdrop run to retrieve Antizin and other supplies parachuted into the quarantine zone by the GRE. When I caught up with them it was nearly dark and they had just reported another pair of empty crates. Rias’s men must have reached the supplies first. I saw boxes of Antizin burning in a barrel. Typical Rias, take all you can, deny anyone else the rest. Apparently no one had told the boys about the volatiles that come out at night. It came as a shock when they realised that they were suddenly surrounded by fast, agile and hyper-aggressive creatures.

The boys and I high tailed it back to the tower. Their parkour skills suddenly improved by a factor of ten. Necessity is the mother of invention; terror is the mother of running like hell across rooftops. A couple of volatiles nearly caught them but they miraculously struggled free and made it to a small safe house not too far from the tower. After taking a moment to recover, they ran on. The rest of the journey was done without being spotted. No volatiles alerted at all. Have to admit, as much as it pains me, I was impressed.

Day 68 - 08: 30 hrs
They now have the means to make Molotov cocktails. I expect them to have burnt themselves to a crisp by the end of the week. They’ve already set each other on fire several times.

Day 68 - 10: 34 hrs
This morning Higgledy discovered explosive shuriken and fragmentation grenades. I didn’t have to follow them for the rest of the day. I could just listen to and watch the large and small explosions as they worked their way across the city.

Day 72 - 11: 45 hrs
The pair climbed their first comm tower this morning. I’ve never laughed so much in my entire life. The squeals of terror, the long, long pauses before attempting the next part of the climb. Lots of swearing and shouts of, “Just don’t look down!” So funny. They’ll soon be racing up them like a pair of squirrels.

Day 72 - 15: 41 hrs
Turns out Shymlark is a master lockpicker. He credits his skill to some extensive training programme he went on. I couldn’t hear it clearly but it was something like keyring? Spy gym? Skyrim? Something like that.

Day 73 - 13: 47 hrs
I thought we’d lost them today. There were on a mission to restore the gas supply to the tower and surrounding areas. They went into a road tunnel packed with zombies then, through a door in the tunnel wall, into what I know to be a series of very small rooms. Unfortunately their movement drew at least twenty zombies into the rooms behind them. I did what I could to stop anymore going in but I could hear a desperate fight for survival going on in those cramped spaces. After a time everything fell silent and both men emerged; exhausted, drenched in blood but alive.

Day 75 - 16: 59 hrs
Brecken must be seeing something in my reports that I’m not because he’s given them both access to grappling hooks. They are now hurtling around the rooftops like low rent Spider-Men.

Day 80 - 22: 07 hrs
The pair raided Rias’s base this afternoon in an attempt to rescue Dr Zere. I followed their path a few hours later. There were arrows in walls and in the bodies of Rias’s men alongside a random assortment of throwing axes, knives and shuriken. It looked like a tsunami of ranged weaponry had swept through the building. There were also patterns of explosive damage that suggested they’d been using explosive arrows in close quarters. That must have been a wild time.

Day 82 - 14:56 hrs
I just saw the two of them in the tower and asked if they’d used explosive arrows in the raid a couple of days ago. They did. I could have worked that out without them telling me. Neither man had eyebrows worth a damn and they were both having trouble hearing me over the ringing in their ears.

Day 83 - 11: 27 hrs
It’s my last day watching them. I still haven’t learnt who their other contacts are but I no longer think it matters. This city, as ravaged as it is, as ruined and choked with the living dead as it is, gets under your skin. You grow to love it; to want to save it. That, I’m positive, has happened with these two boys. They might yet have what it takes to survive our perilous life on the rooftops and, more importantly, could well be the difference between the tower and the people who call it home, surviving or not.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/oNryjUb.png)

Update: Day 97 - 07:08 hrs
The boys have left Harran to explore an area of countryside to the north. They are following a lead that suggested there are a group of people out there unaffected by the virus. From the one, hand written report that made it’s way back to us it seems like they are now careening about the countryside in modified dune buggies.

It’s said that, if you climb to the top of Harran bridge while the wind is blowing in the right direction and the zombies on the bridge are calm, you can hear the sound of distant car engines, the whoops and cheers as buggies race across open fields, screams as they fly over blind jumps and the odd thunk as one, or both of them, repeatedly run into a tree.

Hop in the car, Evel Knievel. Let’s go ride the rollercoaster - Tallahassee, Zombieland

4. The Forest
I dunno what the hell's in there but it's weird and pissed off whatever it is - Clark, The Thing

Spoiler:

I was keen to play The Forest but knew I’d need a co-op partner to stand any chance of getting into it, having dropped off every other survival game I’d tried. Fortunately, Shymlark and I had just finished being inept snipers in WW2 and were starting to cast about for a new game to play together. I suggested The Forest but explained, sheepishly, that it was a survival game. “I play survival games,” he responded.

Our first camp was on a cannibal patrol route. We were killed by patrolling cannibals. Our second had a significant crocodile infestation, our third was in, what YouTubers encouragingly referred to as, ‘The Fertile Lands.’ We built water catchers, meat drying racks, and a garden where we’d plant things and let them die. We made spears and tried to spear animals for food. I couldn’t hit the broadside of a deer if my life depended on it; which it did. I made a bow and was lethal if you were a rabbit or a lizard or a small bird.

We raided the camps of hostile cannibals while they were out (by far, the best time to raid the camps of hostile cannibals.) We stole all their rope, cloth, sticks and skulls. Let’s see you hang things up, wipe things and put skulls on sticks now you bastards!

We built a zip line into camp. It didn’t work. We built another, better planned, zip line across the river. It worked. We sent ourselves down the zip line. We sent logs from trees we felled down the zip line. We sent ourselves down the zip line again. We built a log cabin and a defensive wall made of pointy logs. It was fifteen feet high. It was somewhat ostentatious.

We made water carriers out of rabbit skins (presumably plugging up the arrow holes) so we could carry water. We made fires to warm ourselves after it rained. Shymlark would sometimes put the arms and legs of cannibals we’d killed on the fire. When I asked him why he was putting the arms and legs of cannibals we’d killed on the fire. He said, “I need the bones.”

We learnt how to make skull lamps. Our zip line was decorated with skull lamps. At the end of our pointy and ostentatious defensive wall we made two opposing deadfall traps out of tree trunks. When our camp was attacked by leggy flesh monsters we would run between the traps until the leggy flesh monsters set them off. Consistent result: one slight squished and definitely dead, leggy flesh monster.

We built a houseboat on the coast. We built a jetty to moor our house boat to. We decorated our jetty with skull lamps. We put drying racks, water catchers, shelves and a bed, in and around the house boat. We put rock stores, stick stores and an enormous catapult on the flat roof of the house boat. We put one, tastefully positioned, skull lamp on the roof of the house boat (wouldn’t want to over do it.)

With the house boat we sailed the high seas, pulling into shore and building jetties and/or zip lines and/or skull lamps wherever we wanted. We found fewer deer and lizards so we killed sea turtles with katanas (we found katanas in a cave. It’s amazing what you can find in caves) and I shot seagulls, and the occasional beach rabbit, with my bow. We bombarded leggy flesh monsters from off shore. We called out range corrections and cheering direct hits. It felt like we owned the coast. It felt like a different game. It felt like far more than surviving.

Through the terrifying/hilarious co-op adventures I’ve had with Shymlark (what I’ve related here is only the above ground, better lit, less dank and much less scary portion of the game) I learnt to appreciate survival games and I even learnt to appreciate building games and I even learnt to appreciate, without ever playing it, Sea of Thieves.

You and me, trekking through the jungle, on our way to do something that we don't quite understand. Good times. - Hugo ‘Hurley’ Reyes, LOST

5. SuperHOT MIND CONTROL DELETE
Dodge this - Trinity, The Matrix

Spoiler:

[Brief static]

A room, high windows, a boardroom table and chairs

all white

the objects on the table pencils, cups, folders

faceted black

a gun, out of reach, falling slowly

to your right a figure made of red crystal arches backwards

crystaline fragments spilling into the air.

The thrown katana travels onward.

Beyond the table, another red figure,

head and body covered, unevenly, with spikes,

holds a shotgun

a cluster of pellets expand slowly

to the point where you used to be.

A retaliatory cup travels, spinning like a satellite,

towards the spiked head.

To your left a third figure made of red crystal

is carrying a laser rifle and moving through a doorway

into the room.

The katana hits the wall

Thoooinnnnng

Deeply embedded, it is out of reach.

Raising a hand you activate one of your new abilities

/RECALL

In one fluid movement the katana unsheathes itself from the wall

and flies back to your hand

landing, handle first, neatly in your palm.

The cup hits the spike adorned head

knocking it backwards

the shotgun lifts out of the hands that held it

as if taking flight.

You throw the katana

at the spot where the figure entering the room will shortly be

the katana and the red crystalline figure slowly converge.

You pick up a pencil and throw it

along the same trajectory as the cup.

Katana and red figure meet

in an expanding Kaleidoscope of crystal.

The body arches back it’s arms raising

balletic.

The laser rifle turns in the air.

The thrown Katana travels onward.

The pencil arrives at a spiky head recovering

from being hit by a cup.

Head and body explode throwing out lethal spines in all directions

[Brief static]

Super _ HOT

Super _ HOT

Super _ HOT

—— &*#/ _As a The Last of Us Part 2 and Red Dead Redemption fan, I enjoyed very much the complex yet succinct tale, full of sudden violence and morally ambiguity, that nestles at the heart of ‘Westdude.’

6. Subsurface Circular
I find that answer vague and unconvincing - K-2SO, Rogue One: A Star Wars story

Spoiler:

Script (third draft)

Title: DEMO

Interior: A plain room with no windows. An automatic door slides open. HL 83, a humanoid robot, enters. His body is grey with turquoise arms and legs. He is holding a laser spanner. 77P7, also a humanoid robot, is seated at a table with a tablet in front of her. She is the colour of newly mown grass in a Kentish meadow with an orange head. Behind her a sign reads: ‘Try Subsurface Circular here.’

77P7: Welcome

HL 83: Hello

HL 83 scans the room

77P7: Would you like to play a game?

HL 83 scans 77P7

HL 83: Does it involve nuclear weapons, oxyacetylene torches or timed platforming sequences?

77P7: No. It’s a Mike Bithell game.

HL 83: The well known hairy human and game developer.

77P7: Who created ‘Thomas Was Alone’ amongst other games.

HL 83: What happens in this game? No spoilers.

77P7 lifts her tablet. HL 83 scans the tablet

77P7: It’s called Subsurface circular. It’s a science fiction game. There are robots like you and me in it. There is quite a lot of talking and sitting.

HL 83: Is it mostly sitting with a bit of talking or mostly talking with the occasional sit?

77P7: Both activities are present in equal measure.

HL 83: Does it resemble any game I may have experienced?

77P7: What kind of games have you interacted with previously?

HL 83: Mass Effect. The game with the planet scanning.

77P7: I’ll describe it in terms a Mass Effect player would understand. Imagine that the Geth have a futuristic subway system that allows them to traverse a large city.

HL 83: Are you fighting Geth like beings on subway trains and platforms and scanning trains as they go by to see if they have rare minerals on them?

77P7: No. There is no combat. No scanning either in the normal sense of the word.

HL 83: My level of interest has significantly decreased.

77P7: You find enjoyment in scanning.

HL 83: I find it... engaging.

77P7: When you consider it, a conversation is a form of scanning. You are sending out words to provoke a response and analysing words you receive in return in order to create a clearer picture of the robot or human you are talking to.

HL 83: I had not considered a conversation in those terms before.

77P7: In the game you are a robot who gets onto a train in a subway system that strongly resembles, but isn’t, the London underground. Once seated you need to talk to other robots as they get on and off at different stops.

HL 83 scans 77P7 again

HL 83: Why?

77P7: You, the main character, are a detective.

HL 83: And I need to scan other robots with words to discover things about them.

77P7: In order to solve a crime. Yes.

HL 83: I like that. Can I ask you something not related to your game?

77P7: I will allow it.

HL 83: Is this Unit 563?

77P7: No. This is Unit 560. The signage is wrong.

HL 83: I should be in Unit 563

77P7: It’s three units further down.

HL 83: I should go. That sounds like a good robot game.

HL 83 scans the room again then leaves

77P7: It is. It’s a very good robot game.

77P7 waits for the door to close then tears away a thin layer of orange plastic from her head revealing that it is actually the colour of the layer of lemon custard in a lemon meringue pie. There is an embossed symbol on her forehead that denotes law enforcement. Before speaking she tilts her head to the right and, as tradition dictates, places two fingers, one above the other, on the spot were, if she had ears, her right ear would be.

77P7: Had a visitor. It’s likely the saboteur. He was carrying the same make of laser spanner and is overly fond of scanning things. He’s on his way to you. His body is the colour of Welsh slate, arms and legs the colour of the Mediterranean sea viewed from Mykonos on a hot day in August.

Over in unit 563 three detention robots wait in the darkness.

D0236: What did she say?

D0054: He’s on his way

D0236: I mean what colour is he?

D0054: Sounds like grey and turquoise

D0012: Yeah. Grey and turquoise

END

7. What the Golf?
How are we going to hit our balls back to my house from here? - Spongebob Squarepants, A friendly game

As I watched a trailer for What the Golf? I rapidly concluded that it was a silly, one joke game that, if I ever tried to play it, would likely keep me mildly entertained for the five minutes it took that singular joke to wear thin and then I’d move on to something more substantial. I seriously doubted, however, that I’d ever see the need to download it in the first place.

In the last few days of 2019 I realised that it was drawing close to the time when my ice climbing buddhist cousin would arrive for his short, yearly visit (I also stay with him for a few days most years at his home on the Cumbrian coast) and I needed a game take over from Monument Valley as the game we could take turns in playing on the iPad. During my quest for such a game I subscribed to Apple Arcade and tried out a few of it’s offerings, including What the Golf?

Beyond (Beyond!*) the first few holes What the Golf? reveals itself to be game chock full of exquisite little ‘golf’ puzzles, homages to other games and at least one moment of mind blowing genius that I’ll resist spoiling. It becomes exponentially cleverer, more creative and entertaining with each hole. Needless to say, I was wrong in my initial, hasty assessment and the game is well worth playing. More importantly, it was a hit with my cousin who thoroughly enjoyed his few glorious days of gaming for the year.

*One for the folks who listen to IGN’s fantastic Playstation podcast.

8. Sniper Elite 4
This is an excellent mission, sir, with an extremely valuable objective, sir, worthy of my best efforts, sir! - Captain Miller, Saving Private Ryan

My amateur dramatics group in Kent put on a murder mystery based on a script someone had downloaded from the internet. It wasn’t very well written. There was one scene where several characters tried to establish the medical condition of a person slumped on a settee. My line in that particular scene was, “It’s worse than that. He’s dead.” Unfortunately, for reasons I still don’t completely understand, I found the line to be irresistibly funny. Throughout our rehearsals I dreaded that scene arriving because, much to the annoyance of the play’s director, I could not get through that seemingly inoffensive line without laughing. The fact that I definitely shouldn’t be laughing in that moment made it all the more potent. In the end I had to curl up my toes in my shoes until they hurt so I could get through the scene during a performance. Even then it was on a knife edge as to whether I could maintain my composure or not.

Sniper Elite is full of similar moments. Dispatching German soldiers with the murderous precision through the scope of a sniper rifle is representative of the cold brutality of a world war that brought tragedy and misery to countless lives, simultaneously, when the enemy in you sights is a mere facsimile of a human being woven out of pixels and given limited life by an AI script, a wayward sniper shot to the testicles can be quite amusing.

At the start of one level Shymlark and I, navigating by moonlight, had pulled a rowboat onto a shingle beach close to a sizeable industrial complex. Shymlark gave me cover from the shadows as I scouted ahead. There was a lone German guard sat on a wall by a camp fire. Beyond the wall an was endless, star strewn night sky. To the left a rough track leading down in a wooded area. Several guards patrolled amongst the trees. I saw too many to risk leaving the guard on the wall alive, so I crept towards him, planning to sneak close enough that my primitive silenced pistol would be effective. The guard dropped down from the wall and walked to the fire to warm his hands. I froze in place. If he looked up he’d see me. I waited a few tense moments but the guard continued to stare into the fire. As I slowly moved forwards again there was a muffled shot from the darkness behind me then a loud ‘TING!’ as a bullet hit the guard’s helmet. The helmet tumbled away into the darkness and the guard’s body cartwheeled into the wall. “Sorry,” Shymlark said, “couldn’t resist.” I may have laughed.

9. The Outer Wilds
Let’s work the problem people. Let’s not make it worse by guessing - Gene Kranz, Apollo 13

I feel like I’ve let The Outer Wilds down. I know many people love this game and I can see pieces of what could be (and by all accounts is) a fantastic story but I stalled out of it a number of hours in. I had considerable problems with the controls, more specifically, I had trouble landing on planets that would slip away from under me over and over again. That lead to a frustrating gameplay loop where I’d spend an age trying to land somewhere then, once landed, I’d head out for explore. After a little time spent traversing a small planet I’d often discovery something incredibly intriguing but just out of reach. I’d start to see hints of some greater mystery then, invariably, I’d die in some unforeseen accident or event and find myself back at square one facing the annoying trek back to the planet I’d just been or some other planet where I’d have a similar and seemingly unconnected experience.

Also, and this is a personal taste thing, I found the whimsical elements in the game, especially on the home world, to be off putting. Every time I saw and alien reclining in a rocking chair or heard a harmonica being played or was given the opportunity to toast a marshmallow it felt like the game wasn’t particularly interested in making me feel like I was part of a truly alien civilisation heading out to exploring it’s solar system. That also tended to lessen my interest.

In the end I was starting to acclimatise to the hokier aspects in the game. I could turn a blind eye to the fact that just about everything on my home planet, including parts of my spaceship, were made of roughly hewn wood and I’d actually learnt how to stop spending most of my time chasing and failing to land on planets but, by then, I’d run out of steam. I’m confident I’ll return to the game, perhaps in a less curmudgeonly frame of mind, and love it as I did with Spider-Man (which is a game that, if judged where I left it at the beginning of the year, would have landed in roughly the same position on this list that The Outer Wilds now languishes.)

10. Vermintide 2
Make a mistake up ‘ere an’ it’s ‘alf a day out wi’ undertaker - Fred Dibnah MBE, Steeplejack

Vermintide 2 being in the number 10 slot belies the fun I had playing with friends. It’s Left 4 Dead with dwarves, elves and the like and features numerous regional British accents that fill me with as much delight as they do when I encounter them in real life.

That’s all, folks! - Spider-Ham, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse

My goodness Higgledy, I know I'm biased but that whole list was something else. The Spiderman comic with you & Flynn....did you actually draw all that? Absolutely brilliant nonetheless.

Your thoughts & dissection of The Last Of Us: Part 2 are so good to an almost incomprehensible degree, my own write up by comparison will probably look something like 'TLOU part 2 waz gud, graphix on Ellie's face amazin lol'

Seriously though you must have spent so many hours on that over the last few months. Well done, I enjoyed every bit of that.

Jonman wrote:

This is the first year that I've kept a running GOTY Word doc throughout the year, as often I feel like I'm forgetting games that I played in the first half of the year by the time December rolls around.

I did the same thing this year and I ended up barely playing anything. What a waste of a spreadsheet.

I've got a couple games I'm would like to play before the end of the year but as is I might be able to put together a top 5.

Higgledy wrote:

1. Spider-Man

With respect:

IMAGE(https://static1.srcdn.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Spider-Man-and-Hulk-from-Marvel-Comics.jpg?q=50&fit=crop&w=960&h=500)

Already? Weird. 2020 felt so long, yet it feels like just yesterday that I never got around to voting in the 2019 thread.

The no disappointments thing is kind of a bummer. I mean, I guess I understand why (though how nice must it be to be someone for whom 'person doesn't like a game' even rates in this disaster of a year), but I've also found those parts of the lists in years past to be really valuable because people here tend to do a good job articulating why a game didn't live up to their expectations and that can be useful when it comes to adding games to my own wishlist.

ccesarano wrote:
Dyni wrote:
merphle wrote:

Remasters are excluded. Does that prohibit remakes. e.g. Final Fantasy 7 and Demon's Souls from this year?

FFVII is a complete remake in the spirit of the original game. It is a brand new experience and should absolutely count for anyone that played the original.

Demon's Souls is an extremely pretty version of the exact same game released in 2009. As much as I would love to see Demon's Souls popping on on lists, it should not be eligible if you played the original.

To add to this, Final Fantasy VII Remake is a different game for all intents and purposes. Completely different code-base, completely different combat system, completely new script, so on and so forth. Demon's Souls, from my understanding, is built off of the original From Software code, so rides the line between remake and remaster in a weird way (turns out, same goes for Ocarina of Time 3D, which was also built off of the original's source code).

Those are my thoughts on the topic, though obviously we don't want to get into the technicalities of what does and does not count as a new experience again. With Final Fantasy VII Remake, though, I feel like any side-by-side comparison will reveal that it's a drastically different experience than the original (and, for all intents and purposes, was meant to be by the developers themselves).


I don't recall if it's been debated in the past, but what is the feeling towards Early Access games? Right now only two "stages" of Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth are available, with two more being added in January. Even then, it won't be a finished game. I imagine this was debated in years past, and also wouldn't be surprised if it was left to voter discretion, but I just want to be clear on whether there is or isn't an official stance on the matter.

Blah. Folks let's get a move on with writeups, not postulation.

I thing the entire idea here was to treat everyone like an adult and let them make their own decisions? Don't sweat it. Do what you think is best and if it turns out that putting a game 7th on your list this year wasted its spot because next year the final three episodes release and hot damn they're even better, well, sometimes that's how things play out. Or you can talk yourself into putting it on both lists. I don't think anyone is gonna call swat on ya for that.

Yeah, I've done EA games before. For me it works out because if I play the game that much in EA, I'm generally done with it by the time it "comes out." Off the top of my head, both Kerbel Space Program and Rimworld made my list in the years I first encountered them, and by the time they'd actually reached 1.0 I'd long since stopped playing them.

Edit: All of which is to say that the general expectation is that if you play a bunch of an EA game, that's the 'new to you' year, not whenever 1.0 comes out, but it's unlikely anyone is going to check. BUT, this being an internet forum, if someone does check expect to be called out on it loudly.

kazooka wrote:
Jonman wrote:

This is the first year that I've kept a running GOTY Word doc throughout the year, as often I feel like I'm forgetting games that I played in the first half of the year by the time December rolls around.

Pretty easy to skim my Steam purchase history for most of it. I've got a few PS4 and Switch titles that I've played, but I'm not sure there's a whole lot that contended for GOTY in there.

Steam, Epic, Game Pass, Humble bundle, Switch.... It got too fragmented for me to keep track of.

Oh the thread is here! Noice! Will work on it once I'm up and awake, I have my bullet point list of games I've completed this year at the ready!

Spikeout wrote:

My goodness Higgledy, I know I'm biased but that whole list was something else. The Spiderman comic with you & Flynn....did you actually draw all that? Absolutely brilliant nonetheless.

I drew it on the iPad. I’m still learning which is why my style changes throughout! It started out as just three ‘pages’ then expanded to five when I realised the bloomin’ game was number one on my list.

Spikeout wrote:

Your thoughts & dissection of The Last Of Us: Part 2 are so good to an almost incomprehensible degree, my own write up by comparison will probably look something like 'TLOU part 2 waz gud, graphix on Ellie's face amazin lol'

And that’s the shortened version! I started writing it in the summer and spent many happy days at the bottom of the garden wrestling sentences and paragraphs to the ground with a little black cat on one side of me and a cup of tea on the other.

Spikeout wrote:

Seriously though you must have spent so many hours on that over the last few months. Well done, I enjoyed every bit of that.

Thanks mate.

merphle wrote:
Higgledy wrote:

1. Spider-Man

With respect:

IMAGE(https://static1.srcdn.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Spider-Man-and-Hulk-from-Marvel-Comics.jpg?q=50&fit=crop&w=960&h=500)

IMAGE(https://i.redd.it/kekknk1jvcg31.jpg)

Is Spider-Man Miles Morales a unique game, or an expansion to the original game?

I can only really think of three games that I played this year that were new to me, and of these, I'm only choosing one.

1. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020
It is absolutely incredible what they were able to do with this title. Accurate imagery for the entire world matched with incredible clouds and lighting and it runs well on moderate-spec PCs. I've been (virtually) all over the world and I still have so much more to see.

It has surpassed my expectations and I expect it to only get better with continued development and 3rd party additions.

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/DRfL8Qp.jpg)

ok...here we go! It's been a strange year...

1 - Hades
I mean...this is going to end up being near the top of a lot of people’s lists. I usually don’t stick with many rogue-lites (although, see also another game on this list). But Hades is just amazing. Apart from the fact it plays beautifully and has a very cleverly implemented ‘god mode’ for those of us with little patience for roguelites, it has amazing voice acting, music and the dialogue between and during missions is impeccable. Even now I still chip away at it knowing that I've barely even scratched the surface of the little extras available (I only have one of the support ‘pet’ items which I didn't even know WERE A THING after many hours of playing already).

Favourite Crush: Megera (OBVIOUSLY) but i do have a soft spot for the adorable Dusa

2 - Heaven’s Vault
Not going to lie, this one took me a few attempts to get into. The strange drifty movement of the characters and the, pretty annoying travel minigame between locations was a little off putting. But once I dove into the meat of it (translating an ancient language to find out the secrets of why the world is the way it is) I was hooked. It supports multiple playthroughs and i’ve heard doing at least a second run is worth it, so there’s a good chance i’ll return to this at some point. Inkle continue to knock it out of the park, and one of their next games is apparently set in the Scottish Highlands which I'm super excited about.

Favourite Crush: Archaeology!

3 - A Plague Tale: Innocence
I can’t believe I ignored this one for so long. Such a creepy, amazingly realised world with one of the best creature swarm mechanics i’ve seen. The rat plague is genuinely terrifyingly alien in a very unsettling way, I love it! (And it’s given me lots of ideas for dealing with similar things in a D&D/tabletop context. The story is great too, with a couple of really badass young women, including the main protagonist, and the world they present - while grim - avoids the horrible tropes usually associated with such women in these sorts of settings. The ending goes to some totally gonzo weirdness which I won't spoil but let's just say any pretence at realism is thrown to the rats by the end, but i love it all the same!

Favourite Crush: The amazing costumes and period clothes, if i'm totally honest. Totes jelly.

4 - Eastshade
What a lovely, peaceful little game. An open world adventure where nobody is trying to kill you and you can explore a lovely island filled with anthropomorphic animal people and just find pretty things to paint. It has a few ‘metroidvania’ elements to lock off certain areas, some light crafting elements and some not particularly difficult puzzles to solve but mostly it’s just about wandering around and looking at the environment with the eye of an artist. The most fun is had by joining the local art gallery and just taking requests from people who want you to ‘paint’ certain things and then hunting down those things. This was a refreshing palette (heh) cleanser to a lot of the more violence focused games i’ve played this year.

Favourite Crush: The Lesbian bears who are too shy to talk to each other! <3

5 - Children of Morta.
Oh hey! Another roguelite. I played this early in the year (which being 2020 was approximately 10 years ago) but I remember not being able to put it down obsessively until I had it beat. It has some of the most gorgeous pixel art i’ve seen in a game and the focus on this one family of adventurers was just a delight. Especially all the little in-between vignettes showing their homelife between chaotic runs. There’s a bunch of extra DLC i need to get back to since i last played, so chances are i’ll be doing a NG+ through this at some point.

Favourite Crush: ooo...i’m going to say Apan, the Clan Mother, a DLC character. I’ve not actually PLAYED the game with her yet but she’s a cool staff wielding monk/healer type character with blue hair, and I'm a sucker for blue hair.

6 - Mo: Astray.
This was a WEIRD one. And came completely out of the blue when i was just randomly browsing my steam library for something to try between bigger games. What a frickin’ delight this game is. On the surface it looks like a cutesy side scrolling game with an adorable little blob creature but...but then there are zombies which you have to rip the heads off of after reading their last thoughts, alien creatures that you end up gunning down in the cockpit of a giant gun-mech and murderous sentient AI. It’s not quite metroidvania (there’s not a lot of backtracking) more like a more puzzle and story oriented (and sedately paced) Ori , and again - amazing pixel art. One best to go into as blind as possible as there are some amazing (and grisly) set pieces.

Favourite Crush: The aliens. When I stomped them flat in the giant mech. *smashy smashy*

7 - Amnesia: Rebirth
I’ve gone back and forth on including this on the list or not because while i DID really enjoy a lot of it the ending left a very bitter, bad taste in my mouth. Which...is what it was supposed to do? I think? But it just felt like a massive downer at a time when everything in the real world is terrible so...might not have been the best experience for me at that time. HOWEVER. Everything up to that point I loved a lot, even if i could only play it in small chunks at a time because of the tension involved. It is definitely a weaker game than SOMA which is still the high watermark of Frictional’s work, but as a “lore” person i loved the expansion of the little snippets and clues that you got in the first Amnesia game and how those hints are explained as you jump between the desert and the alien world that connects to it. (which is phenomenally realised graphically - i’m a big fan of exploring dead alien worlds and this was a very cool one of those). Would i replay it though? Maybe not. Its an extremely bleak game, and if you are someone who doesn’t like to have media involving the death of a child/children it is absolutely a game to avoid, as that’s basically the central theme throughout.

Favourite Crush: Anastasie "Tasi" Trianon does the ‘determined to survive at any cost’ heroine trope justice, she’s going to survive this horror, no matter what...and i can respect that.

8 - XCOM: Chimera Squad
Not what i was expecting from another Xcom game. And i can totally understand why it was a bit of a marmite game for a lot of people. I’m still not a huge fan of having a fixed cast of characters rather than getting to customise your squad, (especially in a game where the story elements are fairly wafer thin anyway) but the minute to minute gameplay and almost puzzle-like aspect to the various infiltration missions was very addictive. If i had to choose an xcom game to replay, it would obviously be Xcom2 with the DLC, but i had fun with this while it lasted.

Favourite Crush: Torque, OBVIOUSLY. Love my snarky sassy snake lady.

9 - Dark Nights with Poe and Munro
I love me some cheesy FMV, and this is basically just a straight up choose your own adventure branching path FMV fest across a series of bizarre supernatural(?) events with two late night radio hosts. It’s short, but filmed well and a lot of fun, with some nice tie-ins to some other games by the same developer.

Favourite Crush: Leah Cunard is a delight. Munro is adorable and I spent the entire game trying to get her to leave that loser Poe. You deserve better!

10 - Code Vein
Chalk this one up as a guilty pleasure. It’s a Dark Souls-like game with booby vampires jiggling their way through some very generic post apocalyptic wastelands and fairly abstracted environments that don’t have anything like the care of detail that From Software put into their games. But the combat was addictive enough for me to enjoy battling my way through to the end, even though I got the bad ending which I'm still super mad about. Also I skipped the DLC because I heard it was pretty rubbish.

Favourite Crush: The character creation system! It’s amazing and I wish it was in every other game going forward.

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Honourable Mention : Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.
I can’t include this on my list because i didn’t start playing it this year and i think i’ve mentioned it a couple of times on lists in the past. Despite that it is by FAR the game i have played the most this year. I even uninstalled it recently and had to immediately reinstall it a few days later because I missed it, and more accurately, missed playing as Kassandra so much. (It also let me to realise i most definitely have a ‘type’ and that type is very tall powerful women, of which this game has PLENTY in its atlantis DLC

Right now i am using this as my chill-out game, moving from island to island just mopping up side quests and map markers. It’s great!

Favourite Crush: Seriously? Have you not seen like 90% of my posts about this game? Malaka!

UpToIsomorphism wrote:

Is Spider-Man Miles Morales a unique game, or an expansion to the original game?

Unique

pyxistyx wrote:

2 - Heaven’s Vault

I thought I had my list pretty well settled, and then two days ago I foolishly started Heaven's Vault. Now I have to play enough to figure out where to rank it. It could be fairly high.

pyxistyx wrote:

Favourite Crush: The aliens. When I stomped them flat in the giant mech. *smashy smashy*

I see what you did there. I also loved MO: Astray! And Heaven's Vault is really high on my "I really need to get around to playing this" list.

1. Crosscode
Platform: PC
A retro-styled throwback to an era of SNES / PS1 graphics wrapped in a fake-MMO world spanning story. Gameplay is action oriented, with melee and ranged combat, an equipment system, monster drops, item collection, quests, timed puzzles, dungeons and overworld exploration, etc. Has one of those “game within a game” stories.

I didn’t finish it, but really liked what I played. The main character cannot speak (due to game mechanics) but still manages to communicate with folks and make friends. There’s a demo available, and if the art appeals at all, I’d recommend giving it a try. I found it charming, if a touch difficult in places (there are some difficulty sliders for both combat AND puzzle timing… a welcome addition!).

It was recently released on consoles, but I hadn’t played the full version until this year (thanks GamePass!).

2. Ghost of Tsushima
Platform: PS4
I gambled on this and preordered about 3 days before launch. Really ended up enjoying it (enough to go for the platinum trophy, a rare occurrence for me!). Open-world(ish, some areas and content are gated behind story progress beats) w/ a familiar trapping of icon scatters, a minimal HUD, and an interesting “follow the wind” gameplay compass. Combat was fun, if repetitive. Fashion Ghost was in full effect, as you collect dyes and different looks for the armor sets, swords, and bows you carry. The armors and weapons can be upgraded at any corresponding vendor, and the world is FULL of lootables. Add to this a set of equipable “charms” which are tokens granting modest gameplay boosts (mostly passive effects). There are a number of unique ones to seek out, and the majority are granted via shrine “puzzles” which are basically terrain traversal exercises (how do I get from point a to point b). The story is a bit railroady, as there are places where you’re given no ability to make choices and instead forced into courses of action. The overall cycle begins to wear thin by the third act, enough that I was driven to just crisscross the map to complete all the side quests, hoover up sufficient numbers of the icons to get trophies, and finish out the main story.

3. Astro’s Playroom
Platform: PS5
I did not expect to spend much time with this free “throwaway” pack-in title that came with the PS5. I was wrong! Astro is a cute little platformer title designed as a homage to Sony’s gaming evolution. It’s clearly intended to showcase the various next-gen functions offered in the Dualsense controller, and it succeeds fairly admirably! Subtle uses of the in-controller speaker for things like differing noises for rain, walking on surfaces of different materials, etc. The haptic feedback didn’t particularly wow me, but the trigger sensitivity was a new one (I’ve not used an Elite controller). The art and music were surprisingly detailed, and I loved all the little easter-egg depictions of other former Playstation platform games. The SSD Speedway song is a damn earworm, and I can’t get rid of it. Modest level of challenge, but no real “penalty” for dying. Definitely recommend spending some time with this if you manage to pick up a PS5!

4. ReCore
Platform: PC
3rd person 3D action platfomer / exploration type game. I missed this when it came out, but recently played it thanks to GamePass! Sci-fi story set on a faraway planet where the player awakes to find themselves alone in a sea of broken or malfunctioning machines, with a mystery to determine what exactly happened. Combat is 3d shootery, and you also have a companion of some flavor. You start with one, but unlock others as the game progresses. Each has some in-game mechanic needed to traverse or interact with world mechanisms (sort of a pseudo metroidvania aspect here). You also collect parts / loot from monsters to assemble new gear based on blueprints you discover, and infuse them with colored “cores” that are dropped by monsters of the same hue (including mixed shades).

I enjoyed this quite a bit, but ended up using some.. ah… external tools to turn off some of the gameplay ‘features’ I found a bit onerous (specifically timers for dungeons).

5. Undermine
Platform: PC
Simple 2D top down (3/4s perspective) roguelite. Uses a post-game Rogue Legacy style upgrade mechanic, where some percentage of currency collected on the failed run is bequeathed to the new sacrifice, I mean player. Bombs, keys, potions, weapons, and a slew of “relics” the player can find while delving (all picked up items are lost upon death). Secrets can be hidden on every screen, and every level has certain fixtures (altar, shop, couple of other things), but the player has to decide if continuing to explore is worth the risk. Defeating bosses opens shortcuts, but skipping levels means missing out on chances for loot. Decisions, decisions!

6. Gemcraft: Frostborn Wrath
Platform: PC
The most recent entry in the long-running tower defense game series that started out on sites like armorgames and newgrounds. There’s a long running narrative about a society of wizards that unleashed something they didn’t expect, monsters crawl along paths, and you build defenses to keep them from reaching your orb/base. Each area has a journey (story) mode, an endurance mode (that get longer for each endurance mode you successfully complete), and a trial mode (which removes all perks and upgrades earned to force you to step through a sort of perfect game to complete). As you journey through the various stages, you’ll open up new sections of map and new areas to explore. Levels will sometimes have locked caches that you can open to obtain new skills. Killing monsters awards XP which awards skill points to spend on said acquisitions. Unspent skillpoints are converted to starting mana, so there’s a balance to be struck between passive boosts to abilities and how much mana you have to build your initial defense. If you like tower defense at all, it’s worth a look. Now that we’re about a year out from release, sale prices tend to run deep.

7. West of Dead
Platform: PC
Ron Perlman lends his voice to the player character, which definitely helps with the atmosphere of this one. The art style reminds me a lot of Mike Mignolia’s work. I found it almost Hellboy-esque? Modest roguelite style game with weapon unlockables, some upgrades, and a level-skip/shortcut style system. Game does the “oops, now play again but do THIS on your next playthrough” trope, (ala ghosts n goblins?) but it’s not too complex. There’s a story, but it’s not going to blow anyone’s mind. Music and dialog repeat fairly regularly, and combat is a mix of real-time / cover mechanics. There’s also a room lighting system that plays into accuracy (as in, you will almost certainly miss if you are firing at things in the dark).

8. Children of Morta
Platform: PC
This is yet another roguelike, with an interesting story backdrop. A family of characters with differing abilities, you play as one each time. Meta resources are collected as part of the journey and seem to build towards unlockables in the house as well as new things to experience. I liked what I played, but had trouble with the more melee focused characters (which may have soured me on continuing to play long term).
Top down - ¾ perspective with pixel art directions.

9. Remnant: From the Ashes
Platform: PC
Grabbed this when it was free on Epic Game Store. It’s interesting, but I found it a bit obtuse, and mildly repetitive. It’s competently put together, but I never found it engaging enough to keep going. I also never bothered with multiplayer in any capacity, so that might have impacted my enjoyment.

A 3D/3rd person adventure shooter w/ melee and gunplay. Upgrades, loot, perks, etc. Souls-like in that enemies return if you rest at the bonfire-equivalent.

10. Demon’s Souls (Remake)
Platform: PS5
I first played this on the PS3 many many moons ago (2009!) so I leave it up to our judges as to whether to include it in the totals. While this is effectively the same game, sometimes it feels totally new. Mechanically, the developer did a LOT to remain faithful to the original, but still added some new features (8 directional rolling, quality of life improvements in climbing and teleporting, new gameplay items, etc). The PS5 launch title is absolutely gorgeous, and really shows off the capabilities of the new console. My favorite detail was noting that the raindrops in one of the levels are actually blocked when a boss monster flies over the character. Further, there’s a weapon you find in that area that sends out a massive pressure wave when swung, and the force of the wave causes the rain to scatter in its path. Really cool attention to detail!

My top 10 list is:

1. Jedi Fallen Order
2.Ghost of Tsushima
3.Outerworlds
4. Xcom chimera
5. Gears Tactics
6. Othercide
7. Halo Master Chief Collection ( ok yes this is a remaster but I never played half of the games before this collection came out. If you really want a specific Halo game I would say ODST was the best "new" one)
8. Gears 5
9. Control
10. Satisfactory

Outer Wilds

A perfect marriage of gameplay and story with a terrific soundtrack. It is so good that it is the only game I want to nominate despite having played other great games.

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