Thursday, June 30, 2022

Geek to Geek Finale

The Geek to Geek podcast had our finale a few weeks ago.  We wrapped it up after about 7 years of episodes.  We covered everything in the episode and I can't do it justice here but it feels like I should acknowledge it on the blog.

So, if you want more information, the link to the episode is here.

Also, I've embedded it below:



Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge

 


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is extremely fun for what it is.  It's a brawler in the old 90s arcade style of beat em up games.

Don't get me wrong, it has some modern conveniences and additions as well.  You can mix and match local co-op play, online co-op play, and online matchmaking.  It makes it super easy to get a lot of co-op players on screen quickly.  You can go all the way up to six players instead of just four.  There's a whole story mode with some meta-progression and unlockables.  There are difficulty modes and minor differences in character stats.

But all of that is secondary to the fact that this is a TMNT beat em up at its core.  If you liked the old TMNT games in this style (like I do) then you'll probably like this one too.

My son and I played through the entire main game the first night we checked it out on Game Pass.  Most of that time was with a full crew of six co-op players.  We had an amazing time and it only took about 2 hours all-in.  Since then, my kids and I have been randomly picking up the game and playing a few levels at a time just for fun.

This is one of the more enjoyable multiplayer experiences I've had this year so it lands surprisingly high in my rankings coming in just below the top five:

  1. Elden Ring
  2. FFXIV Endwalker
  3. Citizen Sleeper
  4. The Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe
  5. Horizon Forbidden West
  6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
  7. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  8. Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition
  9. Halo Infinite
  10. Vampire Survivors
  11. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  12. Cyberpunk 2077
  13. Triangle Strategy
  14. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  15. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  16. Nobody Saves the World
  17. Unpacking
  18. Total War: Warhammer 3
  19. Tunic

I love easily accessible multiplayer games with some depth to them that my kids and I can play together.  This one definitely hit the mark for my family.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Mario Strikers: Battle League

 


Mario Strikers: Battle League was a mixed bag of a game for me.  The single player experience leaves a lot to be desired but the multiplayer experience was a lot more fun.

The single player modes and options are very shallow.  There's not much in terms of progression, direction, or really much to do outside of the core gameplay loop.  It's like the made the gameplay and then forgot to build everything else around it.  There are a few cups you can participate in but, beyond that, not much else.  It honestly reminds me of Mario Kart in that way, except even more shallow.

Where the game actually comes to life is the multiplayer.  I've now played this game with two, three, and four players locally and every player we added only added to the fun.  Compared to how lifeless and dull the CPU controlled teammates are in single player modes, having everyone on your team independently controlled by a human player was so much more fun.  We played through a couple of the cups this way and had a great time!

But after experiencing both sides of it, I think this is a game I would only pick up in situations with 3+ players.  It will stay on my Switch but essentially just slot into the same play space as games like Mario Kart and Mario Party.  Something to break out when you have the right people around but not something you pour hours into on your own.

Mario Strikers: Battle League ends up in the bottom third on my running list but not all the way at the bottom:

  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. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  11. Cyberpunk 2077
  12. Triangle Strategy
  13. Mario Strikers: Battle League
  14. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  15. Nobody Saves the World
  16. Unpacking
  17. Total War: Warhammer 3
  18. Tunic

It's possible games could come in under it, but I honestly think most games worth writing about between here and the end of the year will come in above it and push it down further.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Games of the Year 2022: Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin


Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin has a wild and non-descriptive name that you almost instantly forget as soon as you here it.  Which is kind of fitting for a series with spin offs that are extremely hit or miss.

This one is no exception.  In a lot of ways, this game is extremely rough around the edges.  So many things aren't up to modern standards including the graphics, voice acting, story, script, level design, and more.  But, despite all that, there's something here that hooked me and kept me playing until the end.

The core of what kept me interested was a combination of the story and the job system.  The story isn't well told but it does function as a true prequel to Final Fantasy I.  There are almost no spin-off games that tie directly into mainline games.  Because I'm so invested in the mainline Final Fantasy games, just knowing that this tied into the very first one of the series had me intrigued.

The other piece that held my interest in the moment to moment of gameplay was the job system.  This game has a ton of jobs and they all pull from series history.  At any point you can have two different jobs equipped and swap between them with a push of a button.  It encouraged me to change things up and experiment with different jobs while always working on leveling into new, more advanced, jobs as well.  It scratched the same kind of itch that  previous Final Fantasy job systems did.

With Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin being such a mixed bag, it ends up in the middle of the pack for me, slotting in right underneath Vampire Survivors and above Cyberpunk 2077.

  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. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
  11. Cyberpunk 2077
  12. Triangle Strategy
  13. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  14. Nobody Saves the World
  15. Unpacking
  16. Total War: Warhammer 3
  17. Tunic
This feels like a very middle of the pack game and I expect it to stay fairly middle-ish as this list continues to build out in the back half of the year (we're almost half way through the year already!).

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Cyberpunk 2077


Cyberpunk 2077 finally released the current gen version of the game this year alongside patches that fixed a lot of the bugs and major complaints from early reviews.  I had been waiting for it to hit that point so I grabbed it on sale and ended up liking it enough to play through the whole game.

That being said, this game is mostly... fine.  It's a fine game.  It's not amazing but not horrible either.

The fidelity of the world they've created is a huge achievement.  Night City feels well realized.  I was impressed by the overall look and feel of the game.

But the gameplay wasn't great.  It felt like so many first person western RPGs that I've played before.  If you've ever played an Elder Scrolls or Fallout game, this is very similar.  The combat is serviceable but not actually very fun moment to moment.  There's a lot of side content but ultimately not much reason to engage with it.  The main story is what kept me interested enough to finish the game but I didn't get a huge feeling of satisfaction for finishing that either.

Cyberpunk 2077 falls firmly into the middle of the pack for me compared to other games I've played this year.  The production values and the world building are what puts it above a handful of others on my list.  Here's where it lands in my ongoing Game of the Year rankings:

  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. Cyberpunk 2077
  11. Triangle Strategy
  12. LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  13. Nobody Saves the World
  14. Unpacking
  15. Total War: Warhammer 3
  16. Tunic

I feel like there's lots of potential for this one to get pushed further down the list as the year goes on.

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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Tunic

This is the first game that really made me think hard about what to include in this running list.  I've already decided not to include everything, but this made me define things further.  The place I landed is that I want to include anything I play that is either good, interesting, or both.

Tunic is an interesting game.  It's a mash up of classic Zelda gameplay, an isometric action game, Fez, and has some Dark Souls DNA in it too.  You get to adventure around this isometric world exploring and defeating enemies while uncovering the core functions of the game.

As you explore, you slowly find pieces of the game manual that have some illustrators on them but mostly are covered in symbols that don't (as of me writing this) map to a language we understand.  That's where some of the Fez elements come in.  It feels like a game that wants the community to come together to solve its mysteries.  If you're into that kind of community solving, this game might be for you.

Did I mention you're an adorable fox and that the art style is incredible?  I feel like that's more important to this game than most people realize.  The cutest makes the game feel more approachable at first glance than it actually is but I think that cuteness is also what has drawn a lot of people into giving the game a shot in the first place.

Ultimately, this was an interesting game that just didn't click with me.  I've heard other people loving the slow reveal of how the gameplay works through the manual pieces you find but for me that just led to frustration.  I really wouldn't be surprised to see high up on other people's lists at the end of the year but it's going to be low on mine.

Here's what our running Games of the Year list looks like now:

  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. Tunic
This is the first time I've added a game to the bottom of the list instead of somewhere in the middle or high up.  Tunic is really interesting and it looks like it would be great for certain types of players.  I just happen to not be one of them.  But, in the end, I wanted it on this list to acknowledge that it's doing new and interesting things.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Elden Ring

I had an interesting journey with Elden Ring.  I almost bounced off the game a number of times in the first four to six hours.  Then, it got it's hooks into me and I kept coming back even though I wasn't sure if I was actually having fun but I was having an interesting time and that made me continually return.  Sometime between hour 20 and 30 I fell in love with this game and felt that way almost all the way until the end... until the last boss caused massive amounts of frustration.

After all that, where did I land?  Well... I think this may end up being my game of the year.

The exploration and world building in this game is simply incredible.  I can't even begin to quantify the amount of times I saw something new and novel while exploring the world.  Elden Ring takes the sense of open world exploration wonder that Breath of the Wild gave me... but then ramps it up by constantly rewarding me with new and unique interactions.  Every time I saw something that looked vaguely interesting, my curiosity was immensely rewarded.

The game world doesn't explain itself to you and that's a huge strength.  It gives you an entire new world to discover with new things around every corner.

The downside is that the gameplay, UI, and UX don't really explain themselves either.  That's the reason I almost bounced off this game initially.  It feels like FromSoftware could hook even more players on their games if they dedicated some more resources to onboarding, UI, UX, and just general usability of their games.  What I found is that it's not actually the difficulty of the combat or boss fights that negatively impacted my experience, it was the difficulty of understanding the core systems of the game.

That was the primary hurdle I needed to jump over to come around to embracing the rest of the game.  Because everything else on offer is incredible.  I think this will be a game that is held up as a new type of open-world standard for years.

Some of my favorite parts of Elden Ring were also around the launch weeks when the game was entirely unknown.  I felt like I was uncovering new things alongside the community.  Throwing things into slack chat with my friends and hearing what they were finding was part of the magic.

As I write this, it's mid-March and I've just beaten the game.  This post will go into the next slot in my current Tuesday/Thursday schedule so I'm guessing it won't get posted until April.  That being said, I'm already a little tempted to dive back in and experiment in New Game Plus mode.  I did a melee with shield build for this initial playthrough but I've heard amazing things about magic builds.  I'm very interested in experiencing the gameplay through that lens at some point.

This post is already long but I feel like I could go down so many rabbit holes about this game.  If you want to hear more off the cuff thoughts, I'm sure I'll cover them on the Geek to Geek podcast.

For now... I'm surprised to say it, but here's my current games of the year ranking:

  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
I'm amazed that FFXIV Endwalker was unseated, but I have to be honest with myself.  I'll be thinking about Elden Ring for years.  I think it may end up hanging up there at the top of the list as my game of the year.

We'll see, we still have a lot of the year to go.  But this game is kind of amazing.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Horizon Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West is a pretty showcase for the PS5 and a really solid open world game.  But mostly, at it's core, it's a game that lets you fight giant robot animals and dinosaurs.  That alone pushes it up my list.

I actually had a hit and miss relationship with the first game in this series, Horizon Zero Dawn.  I played it a little when it came out but stalled out on it and set it down.  I came back much later and found a lot of enjoyment once I set my expectations correctly.

Horizon Forbidden West picks up right where that game left off, except it does a lot of things better.  There are quality of life improvements throughout and it's a gorgeous showcase of the PS5.  But my favorite improvements come down to the story and the characters.

The sci-fi aspect of the story is what drew me in and hooked me.  In the first game that is buried much later in the game but in Horizon Forbidden West it is core to the story from the start.  This game also made me actually care about the companion characters.  I felt like I was building a relationship with them as I got to encounter them every time I revisited my home base during the main story.  It even made me care about characters I had completely written off in the first game.

This is the most fun I've had in an open world game in awhile and the extremely high production values plus a great story actually put this one above Pokémon Legends: Arceus for me.  That means it gets slotted in right under Endwalker.

Here's where that puts our updated running ranking:

  1. FFXIV Endwalker
  2. Horizon Forbidden West
  3. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  4. Halo Infinite
  5. Vampire Survivors
  6. Nobody Saves the World
  7. Unpacking
Endwalker is still going to be hard to topple but I feel like this list is starting to take shape now that we're starting to fill it out more.  The most interesting thing to me is, all of these are good games.  I still reserve the right to put an "interesting" but not good game on the list... but I just haven't run into any yet this year.  So far, this is looking very solid.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Geek to Geek Podcast S7E05 - Kirby and The Forgotten Land & More Elden Ring

The latest episode of the Geek to Geek podcast is now out in the feed.  You can listen or find links to listen in your podcast player here.

This week we discuss Kirby and the Forgotten Land as well as wrapping up some thoughts on Elden Ring.  Geekery includes match-3 games, Mario Tennis, The Emperor's New Groove, 1Q84, Iron Widow, Turning Red, and Book of Boba Fett.

You can also listen to the latest episode right here:


Thursday, March 31, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the most fun I've had in a Pokemon game since at least X and Y but maybe even further back than that.  It fundamentally rethinks the relationship between the player and catching Pokémon.

In Legends: Arceus, it's all about building your Pokedex through the observation, fighting, and catching of Pokemon.  The awesome thing about it is that you can approach the Pokedex in whatever way you want.  If you like fighting, go for it.  Would you rather observe and catch?  That works too.

The biggest change is the move to a more open world where you can catch Pokémon without needing to engage in battle.  You can just throw a Pokeball their way and try to catch them without ever fighting.  It makes the game move so much faster and the older Pokémon games feel glacially paced in comparison.

I was enjoying this one so much that I found myself constantly ignoring the main quest just to spend more time in the open world building up my Pokedex.  This feels like such a good change to the core formula of Pokémon games and I hope it carries over into their next mainline entry this Fall with Scarlet and Violet.  If they take what they've established with Legends: Arceus and add some more structure on top of it in a modern setting with gyms and more trainer fights... that would easily become my favorite Pokémon game ever.

After having fully beaten the main game and doing almost all of the post game content, I can confidently call Pokémon Legends: Arceus one of my favorites this year so far.  I'm going to slot it into my running ranking right below Endwalker for now.

For those following along, that makes my running 2022 Games of the Year ranking now look like this:

  1. FFXIV Endwalker
  2. Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  3. Halo Infinite
  4. Vampire Survivors
  5. Nobody Saves the World
  6. Unpacking
Well done Arceus.  You landed much higher than I anticipated.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Vampire Survivors


Vampire Survivors is an incredible game in its ability to have such a core focused simple game that manages to be super fun moment to moment.

This is an indie game being developed as a side hobby by one lone developer.  It shows in the art assets but not in the gameplay.  The gameplay is a tight core loop where you control a character that is trying to survivor a bunch of enemies that are vaguely vampire adjacent.

The moment to moment sees you dodging enemies while your character auto-attacks.  Defeating enemies causes them to drop experience that you need to swing back around to pick up.  Once you get enough experience, you level up and gain new abilities or more levels of your current abilities.

And that's mostly all the game is.  Sure, there are characters to unlock, abilities to figure out combos for, and gold currency to pick up that will slowly increase your characters' meta-strength over time.  But the core run always takes 30 minutes or less (most of mine have been 10-15 minutes) and provides a bunch of highly engaging fun.

The closest game I can think of to Vampire Survivors is actually Geometry wars.  It has the same kind of vibe.

I really enjoy this game.  I'm tempted to put it in the number 2 spot of my rankings but I think Halo Infinite edges it out slightly due to how much fun I had with Halo's multiplayer.  If I was purely judging Vampire Survivors against Halo Infinite's single player campaign, I would actually put Vampire Survivors above Halo.  But the multiplayer means Halo edges this one out for me.

That makes our running ranking into this:

  1. FFXIV Endwalker
  2. Halo Infinite
  3. Vampire Survivors
  4. Nobody Saves the World
  5. Unpacking
I'm not sure how much staying power Vampire Survivors has in the top 5 but it'll be at least an honorable mention from me on the Geek to Geek podcast at year end.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Nobody Saves the World


Nobody Saves the World asks the question, "Would you like to be a poison rat that can also turn into a necromancer, horse, soldier, snail, and so much more?"  Actually, the rat is just a starting place.  Maybe I should back up.

Nobody Saves the World is a top down action game with some Zelda vibes that gives you a ton of options for how you want to play.  You unlock a large variety of different forms which all control differently and have individual attacks and abilities.  You unlock the functionality to combine and customize character abilities as you get later into the game and that opens up the door to even crazier character combos.

In the end, you're a Nobody... but you're also kind of an everybody?  It's an interesting mix.

My daughter and I both had fun in this game for a good 20 hours or so.  We saw a lot of dungeons and unlocked a large portion of the map before we both eventually fell off of the game.  We liked what was there but it became a little too much grind, not enough direction, and not enough novelty in the mid to late game.

The thing is... the first 10 hours of this game were really fun.  I can easily recommend it as a Game Pass game to try if you're already paying for Game Pass.  Is it worth the dollars to straight up buy the game?  I'm not sure.  Is it worth the time to check it out on Game Pass if you're already paying for that? 100% yes.

This slots in under Halo Infinite but above Unpacking.  Here's our new running ranking:

  1. FFXIV Endwalker
  2. Halo Infinite
  3. Nobody Saves the World
  4. Unpacking
It's interesting to me that three of the four games on here so far are from Game Pass.  I'm super curious to see what that trend looks like by year-end.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite is both a hard game to assess and an easy game to assess.  It's essentially just more Halo.

But... it's a good Halo.  I've felt like the Halo games have been more "miss" than "hit" ever since Halo 3 and this is the first time I've latched onto one and truly enjoyed it since then.  I did play and finish Halo 4 and Halo 5 but I didn't think they were very good.  Plus, they felt less and less like the classic Halo I enjoyed.

Halo Infinite is a return to form.  It allows you to finally live out the fantasy that the box art from Halo 1 promised all those years ago.  "Here's an open world on a Halo ring.  Go nuts.  Have fun!"  Kind of.  The hedging here is because Halo Infinite also has more traditional Halo levels and they're just not that good.

I enjoyed most of my time in the open world but I struggled to stay engaged through the scripted corridors of the more traditional level structure.  The worst part was that the game was backloaded with those types of levels.

It's safe to say I feel mixed on the main campaign.  Although, the biggest highlight there was the grappling hook.  It alone is amazingly fun.

Multiplayer got its hooks in me for a few solid weeks when this game launched.  I was playing multiplayer and getting progress on the battle pass daily from the time I started playing Halo in December until sometime in the first half of January.  It was a pretty good run.  I could definitely see a future where I go back for more Halo Infinite multiplayer as they develop that over time.  Maybe a certain season will have something interesting that resonates with me and pulls me back in kind of like my current relationship with Fortnite.

Halo Infinite is the best Halo game I've played in years and the multiplayer bumps it up a notch too.  I feel like this one might hang out in the top ten for awhile but I'm interested to see where it lands by the end of the year.

That means our running ranking currently looks like this:

  1. FFXIV Endwalker
  2. Halo Infinite
  3. Unpacking
Congrats Halo Infinite on being the best Halo game I've touched since Halo 3!

Thursday, March 17, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Unpacking

 


Unpacking is an interesting one to add to the list.  It made me consider the question "what games make it on this list at all?".  I thought about this for a long time and ultimately landed on an answer.  I'm going to add any game that I played long enough to get a true feel for and that I think is interesting.  Unpacking fits that bill.

One thing to know about me if you only read the blog and don't listen to the podcast is that I have a tendency to try a lot of games to sample them.  I end up sampling a lot of games for only 10-30 minutes before bouncing off and mentally classifying them as "I get it, but I'm not interested".  Those games will not get included in this running list.

With all that out of the way... Unpacking is really interesting.  It's a game told through the act of moving into new locations.  Most people have moved multiple times in their lives so the act of moving is relatable.  This entire story is told through unpacking belongings as our main character grows over time.

The first time you unpack is when she is a kid moving into her own room in a new house.  By the time the game wraps up, you've seen her unpack at college, in co-living situations, in and out of relationships, and landing somewhere that feels like a good fit.

My family and I played a lot of this game together because it was so compelling even just as a bystander.  That also led to some fun fights about where you should store a yoga mat or where the main character would put her shoes.

This is an interesting and compelling indie game that you can play through if you have a couple hours.  In the end, I'm guessing it won't hang in the top ten.  But, luckily for Unpacking, I played it early in the year so it slots into the number 2 spot as a starting place.

Here's what our running ranking looks like now:

  1. FFXIV Endwalker
  2. Unpacking
Good luck staying up there Unpacking, you'll need it.  We have a lot of the year left to go.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Final Fantasy XIV Endwalker

 


We're kicking things off with Endwalker.  Remember, our calendar year here lines up with the Geek to Geek podcast which runs roughly from December to December.  This was one that I had just barely started to play when we did our Games of the Year for 2021, so it qualifies for 2022 instead.

That means our running games of the year list looks like this:

  1. Endwalker
Not a lot to it yet, but we'll build from here.

The thing is... this one is going to be hard to top.  Endwalker was the culmination of a decade of story and content in Final Fantasy XIV which gives it a bit of an unfair advantage.  I ultimately think that Shadowbringers was a stronger stand-alone expansion but Endwalker represents everything that FFXIV has done up through 2021 so it gets a big boost from that.

Endwalker manages to stick the landing on a decade of storytelling, builds on the world, was fun to play through, and it gives us a soft reset for future FFXIV expansions.  The other thing that makes Endwalker even more important for me is that it represents a bunch of time I spent with my brother playing FFXIV together leading up to and during this expansion.  That's one of my favorite gaming moments and experiences of the year.

I think Endwalker will be very high up my list by the end of the year and I would be surprised if it doesn't land in the top 5.  This will be the one to try to unseat as we add more games to the list.

Ok, we have a start and a baseline.  Time to add some more.

Friday, March 11, 2022

2022 Games of the Year: Let's Try Some Ranking


I've gotten bad at remembering to add Geek to Geek episodes on here as we release them and, as such, the blog hasn't been updated much lately.

Overall, that's ok.  This was always meant to be a release valve for creative efforts and I knew I would have periods of more or less writing over time.

Starting with this year (Season 7) of the Geek to Geek Podcast we've decided to drop down to an every-other week cadence which has freed up a bit of my creative energies for the first time in awhile.

When we do our games of the year lists we typically will do one mid-year episode and one year-end episode.  The mid-year is a great time to check in on things in the first half of the year so that we don't forget about them in the back half.

The thing I've been kicking around in my head is that it would be fun to do a running list throughout the entire year.  This would be similar to what I did with my Final Fantasy Project where I drop the games into the ranking as I go and I'm not allowed to switch up the rankings later.  That could make for an interesting list but it doesn't necessarily mean my running list will line up with my year end list.  That's ok though, I think this might be a fun exercise to do.

I've been keeping that running list in my show notes for the Geek to Geek Podcast (my personal notes, not the public facing ones) so I have the changes over time.  I have a little bit of catching up to do since we're already three months into the year but I want to get started with posts!  If I (hopefully) keep up with it, this will run from December to December since that's what we end up considering the calendar year for our games of the year shows.

All of that to say... let's give it a try!