Games I've Beaten In 2021

List items

  • 8/10

    I'm very conflicted about Last of Us Part II. There's lots of good stuff: visually it's a masterpiece, the music is minimal but incredibly effective, great sound design in general to be honest. The gameplay loop is very well designed and I loved how easy it was to slip in and out of stealth, it did it better than most traditional stealth games honestly. Even the story is filled with memorable characters and moments. Despite all these great things though, two major complaints stick out in my mind that prevent me from loving it wholeheartedly, despite being a big fan.

    Even though I think the gameplay loop is incredibly well designed, I do think there's far too much of it in general. You spend way too much time scavenging in this game. It doesn't need to be 25 - 30 hours at all. The environments you scavenge are incredibly detailed and the actual scavenging itself is good at world building, I do like it in general because it toes a good line of making you feel like every bullet counts and does provide extra context to the world, but boy do you spend like 60 - 70 percent of this game just picking up bottles and rags. It's basically community service and it wore on me the longer I played, even though I did enjoy the story moments that were interspersed in the gameplay.

    The second thing I had a problem with was those very story moments though. And again, I came to really respect and like what the game is going for by the end. I do think it can be a bit heavy handed at times. I was kinda able to see what the game was going for about 2 hours in and the rest of the 25 hours or so felt like being bludgeoned over the head with that message at some points. I think it makes a lot of sense for people who came away from the first game with the wrong kinda message, but if you already understand that Joel's decision was a selfish and ultimately wrong decision then there's really not much more to that than seeing the characters in Part II grapple with the consequences of that decision. Which I'm all for! I'm down to explore that question, but like I said, I felt like they maybe leaned a little too hard where sometimes it felt like the game was going "Do you get it? That's the dog from before!" or "See look, there good too! Everyone's good if you give em a shot!". By the 3 or fourth time moments like that happen I just remember thinking "Okay, yeah I get it, you're not wrong but I don't need another reminder".

    It's a pretty bummer story overall on that note, but in Last of Us 1 fashion, I do think it is a deeply human story. At the end of the day, it's all about what you'd do for love and understanding that that mentality applies to everyone. Everyone has people they care about, people they'd kill for. It comes across to me very much as a lesson on empathy and understanding, and about breaking the cycle and valuing what you have. Part of me does wish it was just a wholesome, hard adventure with Ellie and Joel, but that feeling is also part of what I feel like Naughty Dog wanted us to feel because it mirrors what Ellie wanted. And what Abby wanted for her little family. So yeah, I have problems with Part II, but I still think it's a really good game overall.

  • 6/10

    I so wanted to love this game. I loved it as a kid but could never get past a certain level. I still like the style, I still like the music., and some of the levels can be pretty fun. Unfortunately, there's too many levels that are laughably easy or boring, there's a buuuunch of reused bosses, there's a real lack of control sometimes both with and without flood where it feels so easy to slide of clip off of things sometimes. There's some legit perspective issues that make it really easy to jump off of platforms. There was two instances in the final boss fight where I just glitched through the floor. It's moments like those that made it super frustrating to play this game sometimes.

    At it's best, it recaptured those moments from my childhood where I had a ton of fun sliding around and enjoying the game, and at its worst it was broken and frustrating. I don't hate Sunshine, but I don't love it the way I used to either.

  • 9/10

    The best thing I can say about Outer Wilds is that it's best to experience it without reading anything about it. Just like Breath of the Wild, it's best to discover everything for yourself. There are so many moments in that game that made me feel a huge range of emotion. Whether it was dread, happiness, sadness, or terror, it's very rare for any game to get such a range of emotions out of me and I really didn't expect that going in.

    Figuring out what's going on with the Nomai, exploring each of the planets and trying to figure out and stop the time loop your stuck in ended up being one of my favorite experiences in a long time. The game gives you the tools to explore anywhere you want at the beginning of the game. Once you explore the starter village you technically have the knowledge to navigate every system the game has in play and that's an incredibly powerful feeling, again just like BotW. So many moments stick out for throughout the game but especially at the beginning, like the first time the cycle ends, or bursting through the atmosphere on Giant's Deep for the first time and trying to navigate the storms at an incredibly fast speed since I hadn't mastered flight controls yet. I could go on and on about memorable moments and that just reinforces for me how good the story is, but also how good the world and systems are for enabling so many moments that feel so unique.

    I think everyone should try Outer Wilds. It's not an expensive game, not a super graphically demanding game, and even if you only put in a couple hours I think you'd get a legitimately unique, good time and if it doesn't suck you in, hey, at least you tried. It's just a really unique, good experience.

  • 5/10

    It has more modern controls than I expected which makes it easy to go back to from a shooting perspective at least. I think it's a pretty weak horror game, and there's really not even a lot of tension. Most of the horror elements are just Alma running up to you and grabbing you every once in a while which can be surprising but was mostly just not effective at doing anything. The rest of the game is shooting. So much shooting and running from point A to point B.

    It's very average. It's not bad, but there's not a lot of reason to go back to this game in 2021.

  • 8/10

    I'm not really a huge Metroidvania guy. The games in that genre I have gotten into have definitely been lighter on the mechanics that define that genre so in a lot of ways, Hollow Knight was a foray into something I didn't think I'd like. It managed to draw me in pretty quickly though. At first it was just how tight the movement and combat felt, and then everything else started to fall into place as I got farther in.

    The way it plays is definitely its biggest draw I'd say. From the start, the movement feels precise, and although at the beginning all you can do is jump and walk I found it pretty satisfying to jump between platforms and dodge enemies thanks to the tight movement. Same things applies to the combat. Attacks come out immediately after you press the button without any windup and there isn't any animation priority so it's really easy to bang out attacks and dodge or move as well, especially later on in the game. It does what Dark Souls does, that being ramping up the difficulty and adding more complicated combat scenarios to create an increasingly challenging but satisfying experience. I didn't really like that a lot of later bosses involved having to dodge random enemies floating in the air, or trip mines, however. I would have rather they added extra moves to the bosses than increase the difficulty by having me keep track of things randomly floating around. It does tie in well with the fact that platforming is a huge part of this game though. One particular area near the endgame reminded me vividly of Super Meat Boy and I feel pretty comfortable saying it was one of the hardest platforming sequences I've ever played.

    Another similarity Hollow Knight bears to Dark Souls is the way the story is conveyed. Most exposition is gained from encountering NPC's in the wild and talking to them. The rest is conveyed in the occasional cutscene, but mostly in the journal, which is a substitute for Dark Souls item descriptions basically. I did find myself wanting for a little more context by the end. I felt like I had a pretty good idea of what was going on, but it would've been nice to encounter someone a little more like Kingseeker Frampt who just acts as somewhat of an exposition machine. Don't get me wrong, there are characters who do similar roles like Horney or the Elder Bug, but I felt like I was still missing a couple pieces, or at least wanted additional confirmation on some things by the end of the game. It's a cool story and a cool setting though.

    I really like the character designs also. A lot of characters have pretty simple designs, but they have their own distinct charm to them which I really appreciate. I think there are some cool looking areas too, like the White Palace, Greenpath, the Abyss, and also the Deepnest gets an honorable mention for being the fucking worst cause I hated being in there cause of how dark and oppressing the atmosphere was. I did think a lot of other areas blend together in my mind. Areas like the Howling Wastes, or Kingdom's Edge, or Forgotten Pathways all look fine, but they're very muted colors and though they have sections that are very unique and cool looking, overall they felt kind of samey to me. Still, overall I like the games style. Also worth nothing is the music. There are a few great tracks in the game and everything else is very fitting music for the areas or the fights and lent itself well to the atmosphere they were trying to create.

    I didn't expect to like Hollow Knight as much as I did. Like I said at the start, I kinda wrote off more hardcore Metroidvania experiences and maybe it's because this one does borrow so much from Dark Souls, but it drew me in enough that I really wanna go back to Symphony of the Night now and dive in.

  • 7/10

    I don't think I had the ideal experience playing this game. I'm usually a pretty big fan of games in this style, like Gone Home or Firewatch. Both of those games also have unique atmosphere's they drawn you in to and once you start to care about the two girls in Gone Home, or the relationship you form with the lady in the other firewatch tower, you start to get really invested in the story the game is telling. I just didn't end up getting that from this game.

    It has all the same trappings: a solitary experience exploring an umfamiliar landscape in a stylish location figuring out what has happened or going along for the ride as the story unfolds in Firewatch's case. The difference for me ultimately came down to me not really being as interested in the premise. From the get go I never believed that the family was actually cursed or that monsters existed, partially because Gone Home pulled a similar bait and switch, so at the end of the game when they built so that realization with Edith I had kinda already made it myself much earlier on. And then having her die too? I get it, bad things just happen sometimes and it's not a curse, and we have to value the time we have and accept that, but it just felt like doubling down on a point I already understood. They even try to imply that the "curse" didn't take its toll on the latest generation of Finch's and that Lewis and Milton commit suicide and left as a way of unconsciously fulfilling with they believed, but then they kill Edith anyway which to me is just like "Nah, they're still cursed with bad luck at the very least." I dunno, I just didn't need that at the end to understand the message.

    Despite my criticisms, I do like the game, it just didn't impact me like similar games in its genre have before. I like the insane Weasley esque house with all its secret passageways, I like the uniqueness of each character and how you can explore their rooms and see their personality seep out of every corner. I like the different ways each persons life plays and it kept me engaged for the entire two hour playtime which I wasn't expectring. The soundtrack is minimal but fitting as well and lends itself great to the atmosphere they're trying to create.

    All that being said, I can't help but feel disappointed. I was ready to go on more of an emotional rollercoaster but it felt kinda like the ride stopped at the top rather then drop down and fulfill the thrill I was hoping for. Still good, but yeah.