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!