January 12, 2021

A few words about most of the games I played in 2020

I guess the only thing not different about 2020 was that I still played a lot of video games. Mostly on PS4 again and, toward the end of the year, on PS5. It looks like last year I started with the most recent games I played, but this time I'm going to go all the way back and try to remember what I was doing in January 2020, 250 years ago. Like many people, I have a feeling I'll be surprised there are games I played 12 months ago that it feels like I played years ago.

Blasphemous

Last played January 10. Pretty fun, kind of gruesome metroidvania. I fell off after a few hours because the difficulty spiked and I couldn't handle it. I know they released a big, free update late last year, so I might revisit it at some point.

Resident Evil 2

Last played January 18. I've never been too into the RE games, apart from a short, intense love affair with the coop mode in Resident Evil 5. After playing this, I think I finally understand why people love these games. It's hectic and stressful, and so even more satisfying when you make progress.

The Outer Wilds

Last played January 22. I might feel like a bad person for not liking this more. It got rave reviews all over the place, and I did enjoy it for a few hours but then bounced off pretty quick. The exploration is really well done, but the controls are frustrating and there's not much in the way of gameplay beyond that sense of exploration, which wasn't enough to keep me playing to the end.

The Evil Within 2

Last played January 27. Great game, if I remember correctly I segued over into this because I had such a good time with RE2. Really solid story and atmosphere, satisfying combat. I skipped the first game because I kept seeing people say the second was better, but I need to go back and at least try it.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne

Last played February 6. From my post last year:

Shit, I really need to go back and finish this. I'm to the point where I honestly just need to start over, because I don't remember what the fuck I'm doing.

Well, I DID go back and finish it, and I DIDN'T have to start over. God, MHW is such a great game. I finished playing through Iceborne's story and spent a little time in the Guiding Lands, but didn't keep up with it. I can't believe how much post-launch support MHW and Iceborne have gotten, it's insane. I think it's the game I most wish I had played more, like, I wish I had the knowledge, patience, and time to get really into MHW.

Low key super disappointed we're getting Rise on the Switch and not MHW2 or something on the PS5... But I assume with the success of MHW it's coming eventually.

The Messenger

Last played February 7. Had a great time with this. Classic platformer switches to a kind of metroidvania halfway through. Gameplay is great and the whole thing has a sense of humor you don't see in games often enough. After this, really looking forward to Sabotage's Sea of Stars.

Okami HD

Last played February 17. I don't know why it took me so long to play this game. If I look at my trophy history, I actually started playing it on the PS3 in 2013. Don't even remember what prompted me to drop it, or for that matter, come back to it in 2020. But I'm glad I did. Closest thing to a Zelda game you can play on a Sony machine, I think. Probably a little longer than it needs to be, but I can forgive it. I decided to go for the platinum and ended up playing another 5 hours into a new game because I missed a single monster in the bestiary.

Dragon Quest XI

Last played March 11. Yes, I came back to this to finish off the last dozen or so trophies I had for the platinum. I think I fell off my initial playthrough because I had to do a bunch of level grinding, which required a lot of setup, and I was ready to move on. Glad I came back for the platinum though, reminded me how great the game is.

Rage 2

Last played March 15. I had such high hopes for Rage 2 after seeing the initial trailers. The end result is a mixed bag. The gunplay is great, the world has a neat atmosphere. But outside of the shooting, the game is just so fucking boring. Story is really bad. I'm pretty sure I finished it but I couldn't tell you anything that happens.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Last played March 26. Similar thoughts to Rage 2. Decent fun for a time but so very forgettable.

Doom Eternal

Last played April 2. Feels weird I don't have stronger feelings about this one, since I thought the 2016 entry was excellent. Eternal has these weird online components bolted onto it, weekly challenges, lots of cosmetic stuff to unlock. I tried the multiplayer a few times and didn't find it fun. The campaign was fun but I don't think I buy into any of the lore or the world building they're trying to do.

Donut County

Last played April 3. Cute game, had fun playing through this with Mel. Just moving holes around and watching stuff fall in.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Last played April 30. The Final Fantasy franchise has been such a rollercoaster over the past few years. Pretty mixed feelings on this. Feels like they did a good job translating the original turn-based combat system into more of an ARPG. But they stretched six hours of plot over like 30 hours, and the game suffers for it.

Yakuza 0

Last played May 17. My first foray into the Yakuza franchise. I finished it, and overall I think I liked it? The core storyline is good, lots of melodrama. Side quests inject some much needed silliness. I don't think any other games like Yakuza out there, there's so many systems at work and ways you can play. But I ran out of stamina with a few hours left in the main story and ended up skipping most of the remaining cutscenes, and after that lost my enthusiasm to finish any more of the side quests.

Just Cause 4

Last played May 24. They haven't yet recaptured the magic of Just Cause 2. Navigating the world with the wingsuit will always be amazing, but the rest of the game is subpar.

Fallout 4

Last played June 4. I only had five trophies left for the platinum so I played through the whole game again. Still a lot of fun, and I would have played more of the DLC if it hadn't start crashing and running so poorly on my PS4. I'm still very interested in Fallout 76, despite all the negative impressions, and I would probably be playing it right now if they released a performance patch for PS5.

Bioshock Remastered & Bioshock Infinite

Last played June 15. Felt like revisiting the Bioshock universe, so finished both of these again. Started playing through 2 for the first time as well, but got burned out. I love these games, the original more than Infinite, and I'm really curious to see what comes next from Ken Levine.

I'd never played through the Burial at Sea DLC, and I found out I wasn't missing anything. The first part at least was cool to revisit Rapture with better graphics and the gameplay from Infinite. But part two was so bad on every front, gameplay, story... I just don't know how they ended up with that.

The Last of Us Part II

Last played July 16. It's impossible for me to think about TLOU2 without remembering the extremely vocal detractors. I feel like the alt-right really latched on to the public reaction to the game's leaks, and turned it into this wave of anti-SJW, story-hating madness.

As someone who really enjoyed the game, and think the story is one of the strongest I've seen in the medium, it's really difficult to relate to the criticisms. A lot of detractors seems to be conflating 'bad story' with 'things I don't like.'

I don't know. I don't want to get into it too much. I'll just say TLOU2 provoked really strong emotions from me, thanks to quality writing, acting, and storytelling. And that emotional response was backed up by very solid, nothing revolutionary, third-person shooting gameplay. I played through the game twice in a row, going for all the collectibles, and still watched through all the cutscenes and everything.

Remnant: From the Ashes

Last played August 22. Maybe not the BEST game I played last year, but easily in the top 5. Big time sleeper hit. I only regret I don't have friends to play it with haha.

I see people describing it as a third-person shooter version of Dark Souls, and yeah, that's not crazy off base. A few of the reasons I love this game:

  • Huge variety of guns and skills for different play styles, plus armor sets with different bonuses. Just a lot of great tools for build diversity.
  • I LOVE the way you earn new weapons, skills, and loot. Yes, there's RNG in the game because the world's are somewhat randomly generated, you will run into different combinations of bosses and encounters. But the rewards are very intentional, you know if you kill a certain boss in a certain way, you'll get a specific weapon or skill. I like this so much than a bunch of random loot with random stats.
  • Leveling, progression system is so cool. Earn experience as you play to put into perks that are, like loot, earned in very intentional ways.

Yeah, I love Remnant. Had a blast for about 50 hours with this game, would definitely be more if I had more friends playing on PS4. Dying for a sequel.

Control

Last played August 28. Played through the two DLCs to my favorite game of 2019. Overall the DLC was fine, more Control which was good, just didn't expand the world or story in any big ways. AWE is really setting up a sequel to Alan Wake, which is great, but I think at this point I'm more excited for a sequel to Control.

I think I took more screenshots in this game than any other I've played? Just going to include some of those because I'm still obsessed with this game's look.

Also, I did go into the free Expeditions content and finally cleared tier 3. Cool mode, I just wish they had added some trophies to go along with it.

Okay, one thing that irritates me about this game. There's tools for generating new mods and stuff from resources, but not really any good ways to actually farm those resources?

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Last played September 1. Great title, feels like the epitome of a B game? Solid story, pretty simple stealth/puzzle mechanics, good length that doesn't overstay its welcome.

Marvel's Avengers

Last Played September 10. I'm glad I did not buy this game, got it free through a Verizon promotion. Honestly it's a solid campaign with great brawler gameplay, just totally falls flat once you beat the story and get into all the endgame GaaS bullshit.

I haven't revisited it since they released the new Kate Bishop character, but impressions are good. Watching to see how much they can salvage this. They supposedly have plenty of other content like game modes and characters (Spider-Man, Black Panther) in the pipeline, but I'm assuming COVID-19 and the tepid reception, plus a shitload of bugs to fix, pushed the timeline for everything way back.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

Last played September 24. I had fond memories of this, and was excited for the remaster, but it just feels so soulless. Combat system is great, but everything surrounding it is a drag.

The Surge 2

Last played October 2. I don't remember why I decided to play The Surge 2. I put only a few hours into the first one and never finished it. I think I had a Souls itch to scratch and saw some recommendations.

I had a blast with it, even if it wasn't super memorable? I ended up beating it and going after the platinum in NG+. But I don't remember much about it? The story's pretty dumb, but the gameplay's really fun.

Ashen

Last played October 8. I was still in the mood for a Souls-like after Surge, and I'd been eyeballing Ashen for a long time. Decent fun, feels light because the options for weapons and different builds are very limited. I'm still a big fan of the aesthetics though, and the music has some really chill vibes, especially at your home base.

Ghost of Tsushima

Last played October 23. Way up there in my favorite games of the year, what a treasure. Especially after the insane post-launch free content we got with the multiplayer Legends mode, which somehow has better gameplay and a more satisfying loot system than games built around loot from the ground up. Crazy, just crazy.

Also unbelievable: I played this on a base model, launch day PS4 and it looked amazing, ran like a dream. Still need to replay it on the PS5 for that sweet 60fps.

At its core, plays like an Ubisoft open world with better combat, story, and exploration. Not a new formula at all, but the old formula elevated. Like, I was still feeling some open world fatigue 2/3 of the way through the story, but it's a damn good game, with a photo mode that just doesn't quit.

Shadow of the Colossus

Last played November 5. I was in a weird place when I played this, finally, almost 20 years after release. Mid-move, stressed, using the game as a kind of outlet for everything I had going on.

It deserves the legendary status it has, for sure. Maybe not totally because it's a good game, but because it feels a little like a religious experience. For me, it was a combination of the desolate quiet of the world and the zen mindset I got in going for the platinum, killing the same beasts over and over, learning it like a choreographed dance.

Maybe I'll play The Last Guardian this year.

Bugsnax

Last played November 20. It's a real earworm:

Bugsnax, what a weird launch title for the PS5. And I think the game I was most looking forward to when it came out? Yeah, Bugsnax is pretty great. Gameplay is nothing crazy, just using simple traps and gadgets to catch the snax, but it's perfectly serviceable, and the characters + weirdness of the world elevate the whole package. Had a lot of fun with it, long enough to be satisfying, not so long I got bored.

Astro's Playroom

Last played December 7. Look, just give me a full Mario-style Astro platformer. This tiny little thing pre-installed on the machine is so fucking polished, and delightful, I want to see what they can do with a full game.

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Last played December 7. I spent a lot of time with this but I'm not sure I actually enjoyed it. I don't know, it's fine.

Going back the last few years, I liked Origins a lot. Egypt is beautiful, Bayek was a great character, and the combat was a big step up for AC. Odyssey was more of the same, just bigger and with a bunch of boat stuff. Story felt more fragmented across the game systems.

Valhalla just feels boring in comparison, toned down? England and the other environments are very graphically impressive, but the aesthetic just feels so dreary compared to the last few installments. Systems like the settlement and rune slots feel half-baked.

Immortals Fenyx Rising

Last played January 7. Great in all the ways Valhalla is not. Crazy colorful, fun world. Really satisfying combat system. Streamlined systems for loot that still offer a lot of options for gameplay, but also remove barriers to fun. It's a great size, even if you want to do everything and go for the platinum it won't take more than 50 hours, unlike Valhalla which will be at least double that.

Like a lot of people are saying, it shares a lot of ideas with Breath of Wild, but I think still establishes its own strong identity.

Cyberpunk 2077

Last played January 12. Uggghhhhhhhhhh. Years of hype, waiting for this.

It's just such a bummer. I'm close to the end, been playing through some more side quests, but I think I'm going to just finish the story soon and put it away.

I'm playing on PS5 so the performance is great, minus a bunch of weird little bugs and glitches. But this game feels like a husk compared to what I hoped it would be.

I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do with patches over the next year or two, but I think I've already moved on. I hate the itemization, skills and progression are barebones and feel broken in some cases, the world feels dead and isn't fun to explore. I have so many "quests" to buy vehicles right now. Why would I care to buy more vehicles when the driving feels so bad?

I don't know. Credit to the music, the animations, and some of the story. The rest is a bummer.

Destiny 2

Still playing. The performance patch for D2 on PS5 is amazing. I know, I know, I could have just switched to PC, but it's going to be a while before I build a new machine with how hard it is to get a new video card right now.

Right now, Beyond Light is fantastic and offers plenty of fun, even if the current season isn't anything great. Honestly, I'll probably be bored with Destiny again after a few weeks unless the new season is really cool, but I'll come back to it eventually. It just feels too good to play.

Looks like that's the rundown from my time in the Sony ecosystem, anyway. The two really memorable games I played on PC were Disco Elysium and Hades. Both amazing. Hades is just like, the ultimate evolution of roguelikes. And Disco Elysium is more like reading a really good, really strange book than playing a game.

Oh, and I played a shitload of Animal Crossing when it came out in March (March, right?) but got super burned out after about a month. Turns out I can't make my own fun, I need the game to give me more of a structure.

Okay, I think that's it. This was exhausting to write. I should do a better job of jotting down my thoughts on games while I'm actually playing them, or immediately after. Then I won't have to do this post again in a year.

After the massive letdown of Cyberpunk, I'm optimistic about games going into 2021, as long as the country/world/planet all stay intact (50/50 odds?). I'm really pleased with the PS5 hardware so far, and I'm looking forward to seeing what developers can do with that power.