Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Citizen Sleeper

Citizen Sleeper may be my favorite cyberpunk story ever.  I loved this game.

Citizen Sleeper is an interactive storytelling game.  It has some visual novel elements, but it also has dice rolling, and also some resource management.  I've never been able to click with actual visual novels because there's not enough interaction for me.  This game hits the sweet spot of having some gameplay mechanics to grapple with to get you to the next story beat while still being primarily about the story.

And the story is truly what makes Citizen Sleeper land for me.  I don't have the space here to talk through everything that happens... and I wouldn't want to spoil it anyway.  But, I will say that Citizen Sleeper deals with deep thoughts about what makes a person a person.  It delves into whether you are you mind or your body while also tackling themes of chronic conditions through the cyberpunk lens.

I hope this one turns into an indie darling in game of the year discussions at the major gaming outlets.  I would love to hear Citizen Sleeper getting debated in GOTY talks.

This one is ranking really high for me.  I need some more time for it to fully sink in, but it's in the running for my favorite cyberpunk story of all time.  That's why Citizen Sleeper is coming in hot at number three:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Citizen Sleeper
  4. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  5. Horizon Forbidden West
  6. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  7. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  8. Halo Infinite
  9. Vampire Survivors
  10. Triangle Strategy
  11. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  12. Nobody Saves the World
  13. Unpacking
  14. Total War: Warhammer 3
  15. Tunic
I'm always so happy when an indie comes out of nowhere and grabs me like this one did.  And, as an extra bonus, it's on Xbox Game Pass so there's not much barrier to entry to check it out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe


The Stanley Parable is a game I missed out on when it originally came out.  I played something like 10 minutes of it, didn't get what it was trying to do, and set it down.

Last week, a newly updated "Ultra Deluxe" version of the game came out on basically all the consoles.  People were finally talking about it more openly instead of being cagey around the core premise and I quickly realized the game is very meta and very much about exploring different choices over and over again in the same game.  I decided to give it another shot and am glad I did.

I kind of love this game.  I also now see why it was so hard for people to talk about.  To give any concrete examples from the game is inherently to spoil some of the core fun.

But, I can talk a little bit about what this game is.  At it's core, it could be reduced to a "walking simulator" but that doesn't do it justice.  It's also a choose your own adventure... and an examination of what makes a game a game.  On top of that, it's a re-examination of itself over time.

But maybe the best way to give a feel for it is to talk about the first real choice (of many, many choices).  You come into a room with two doors and the narrator says that Stanley goes into the left door.  But... you don't have to.  You can go against what the narrator says.  And that, in itself, is core to what the game is about.

I was incredibly surprised by how much I liked The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe.  It's landing fairly high on my list, currently coming in at number 3:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  4. Horizon Forbidden West
  5. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  6. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  7. Halo Infinite
  8. Vampire Survivors
  9. Triangle Strategy
  10. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  11. Nobody Saves the World
  12. Unpacking
  13. Total War: Warhammer 3
  14. Tunic

We'll see how it holds up over time but I suspect this is a game I'll be thinking about for a long time.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Chrono Cross the Radical Dreamers Edition


Chrono Cross The Radical Dreamers Edition is a remaster of the original PS1 game that just released a few weeks ago.  I played the original Chrono Cross when it first came out so I wanted to dip back into it to see if it held up to my memories.

I'm honestly kind of surprised that I stuck with it, finished the whole game, and generally enjoyed the experience.  There's some roughness around the edges and there are a lot of things that wouldn't fly in modern games from a quality of life features perspective, but all of that is because it was a PS1 game and this is just a remaster.

They did end up adding a few things that help if you feel like enabling them.  There's a battle boost, a no encounter mode, an autobattle mode, and (my favorite) the speed up mode.  Speed up mode in particular went a long way towards making this game more acceptable through a modern gaming lens.  I basically had the speed up enabled in every battle and every time I was exploring the overworld.  It helped keep the pace of the game snappy instead of dragging.

For the game itself, it's still Chrono Cross.  I remember liking it when it first came out but most of the details had blurred in my memory with time.  I'm glad I got a chance to revisit it and re-experience all the things I had forgotten.

This is actually ranking fairly high for me and cracked the top five in my running rankings since it resonated in a nostalgic way.  Here's where it landed:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  6. Halo Infinite
  7. Vampire Survivors
  8. Triangle Strategy
  9. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  10. Nobody Saves the World
  11. Unpacking
  12. Total War: Warhammer 3
  13. Tunic

I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone who hasn't already played the original, but can easily recommend it if you have good memories of the original and want to walk down memory lane.

As an added bonus, I listened to the Minnmax deepest dive on the game as I played through and having that feeling of others to play alongside was great!

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga


LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a game I almost didn't even pick up.  My history with LEGO games has been extremely hit and miss, but I feel like there have been more misses than hits over the years.

When this game came out, I heard nothing but good things about it.  Even that didn't convince me until I had a friend play the game and tell me that they had fixed most of my main complaints about past LEGO games.  Namely, the levels are no longer straightforward corridors and the combat has actual mechanics.  The game is still easy but that was never the problem.  Now it has just a little bit more depth and that makes a huge difference.

The reason LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is making my list is because I had a fun time playing it with my daughter.  As a single player experience I probably would have bounced off this game after a few play sessions but playing it with one of my kids made all the difference.  The local co-op works great and we made a lot of our own fun destroying things and messing around in the semi-open level design.

As a single player experience this would probably rank lower but because of how much fun the multiplayer was, this one makes it closer to the middle of my list:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Triangle Strategy
  8. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  9. Nobody Saves the World
  10. Unpacking
  11. Total War: Warhammer 3
  12. Tunic
I'm pleasantly surprised to be adding this one!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Triangle Strategy

Triangle Strategy is a game I'm feeling very mixed about.  I went into it wanting to love and but ran into a bunch of roadblocks along the way.

At its core, it is actually a really solid tactics game.  This is one of the best tactical combat and tactical character progression systems that we've gotten from Square Enix in a long time.  Every time I found myself in a battle I was having a great time and truly enjoying the systems at play.

Unfortunately, there are so many other things around the battles that don't work as well.  

The biggest of which is the way the story is delivered.  For every 20 minutes of fun tactical combat it feels like there's 40+ minutes of slow story delivery.  Characters talk and you have no direct control or interaction for long periods of time during it.  It's not even like old school RPGs where it's a true cutscene that feels like a reward.  Instead, this is more like taking most of the control away from the player but still making them manually button through every possible character dialog.

The ratio is just simply off.  This is a game in need of a good copyeditor to chop down the story segments.  It feels like the important information could have been delivered in half or even a third of the time it actually takes.

That sense of having an annoying wall thrown up in front of me every time I wanted to just get to the next battle is what led me to put the game down.  I ended up putting in about 12 hours and, based on the chapter count, I was about half way through the game.  But I just couldn't put up with the plodding dialog segments anymore.

The worst part is... the tactical battle system is so good.

Now I guess I need to figure out where to slot this into the list... I guess it'll have to go here:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Triangle Strategy
  8. Nobody Saves the World
  9. Unpacking
  10. Total War: Warhammer 3
  11. Tunic
I'm slotting it in behind Vampire Survivors and ahead of Nobody Saves the World.  Somewhere mid-list feels about right since the story delivery would be near the bottom of the list but the tactical combat would be high on the list.  On balance, it can live in the middle-ish of the list for now.

Honestly, I hope to see more tactical strategy games like this from Square Enix.  I just hope they learn from this one and tighten up the aspects of the game that are lacking.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Total War: Warhammer 3

I gave Total War: Warhammer 3 a real shot.  I wanted to like it a lot.  And, honestly, there are parts of the game that I did.  This is another one of those games that is doing something interesting but didn't end up clicking with me.

I really liked the battles in Total War: Warhammer 3.  I think I've liked the battling in most Total War games that I've tried.  I also thought that they did some interesting things with the factions in this game that were fun to explore on the battlefield.

The part that constantly tripped me up was the strategy layer.  All of the things between battles are less interesting than the battling itself.  The strategy level of the gameplay ends up feeling like busy-work in between the fun of the tactics level gameplay.  I shouldn't be surprised since this is the same reason I stalled out when I played Total War: Warhammer 2.

I think this is still a really solid strategy and tactics game, it's just not for me.  I'm sitting here wishing for a version of Total War where I can focus in on just my hero unit and one core army while ignoring all the rest of the game that feels (to me) like a distraction.

This one lands in the lower part of my list for the year.  The running games of 2022 list now looks like this:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Nobody Saves the World
  8. Unpacking
  9. Total War: Warhammer 3
  10. Tunic

It's not surprising to see a strategy game slot in lower for me.  I've always been more of a fan of tactics games rather than strategy.  Although that line can be blurry at times.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Kirby and the Forgotten Land was a quick playthrough for me.  It came out on a Friday and I had beaten the game by Saturday night.  But length isn't all that matters in a game.  This actually ended up being an excellently timed palate cleanser of a game for me.

Coming off of playing Elden Ring, this was exactly what I needed.  A quick, fun, and easy platformer that kept throwing interesting new twists my way.  I feel like Kirby platformers never reach the heights of Mario platformers but they feel like a close cousin.  I could feel a lot of the design philosophy of Mario Odyssey while I was playing through Kirby and the Forgotten Land.

Ultimately, this game was a little too easy for me.  I played on the harder difficulty mode, still cleared every level on the first try, and got almost all the secrets in my first pass through a level as well.  I never felt inspired to swing back through a level I had finished because I had already kind of picked the bones clean.

That being said, Kirby and the Forgotten Land would make for the perfect intro 3D platformer game for someone that hasn't played one before.  It's approachable, not too hard, but still interesting and with high production values.

Being great for new players but landing on the easy side for me means that Kirby lands in the bottom half of my running list for the year.  This is what the rundown looks like now:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Horizon Forbidden West
  4. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  5. Halo Infinite
  6. Vampire Survivors
  7. Kirby and the Forgotten Land
  8. Nobody Saves the World
  9. Unpacking
  10. Tunic
Kirby and the Forgotten Land slots into seventh for the moment.  I'm still going back to Vampire Survivors regularly which is why that edges it out but there's no question that Kirby was more enjoyable for me than Nobody Saves the World.  The Nintendo magic goes a long way here.