By Pezen 2 Comments
Edited to add a game I completely forgot despite loving.
Despite a global pandemic and it's ramifications on 2020, it was a crazy year for me that had very little to do with a pandemic. In fact, my life hardly changed at all. I work with production at a poultry plant, there's no working from home for me. In fact, being in the food industry I was apparently seen as essential worker. As someone not having kids, that meant very little to me as that information was more about the city offering more services for those that can't stay home with their kids. For me it just meant, things went on as usual. I don't have an overly social spare time either so for some of the pandemic (and especially since here in Sweden, government took a different approach for a lot of it) it all felt like I was living in some weird bizarro universe. Everyone (even here) was talking about how unprecedented it all was, how this 'new normal' was hard to adjust to. What new normal? I got out of bed, went to work, got home and did my shit. Nothing changed at all. And the longer it lasted, the more out of place I felt.
But life had other plans for me. Around the start of the summer by a combination of personal finances, poor life organization and mounting responsibilities in various areas of life I had a stress induced panic attack at work. It felt like the world was vibrating, I couldn't breathe properly, my hands were shaking and I felt trapped. As though in a cage that is slightly too small. I never saw myself as an easily stressed individual, in fact most people would probably say I seem pretty relaxed and easy going. I left work in the middle of the day and drove out by myself to a lake. It was quiet, sunny with a nice breeze. Birds were taking turns having a bath. One in particular was especially thougrough. But my leg wouldn't stop bouncing.
It took me a week to calm down and I realized I was on the verge of burning out. I had to make changes. I will however be eternally greatful to my fiancée for taking care of me and the house that week. She has her own struggles to deal with but despite that handled it all like a pro. Through work I got in touch with a coach that really asked me some hard hitting questions and poked a lot of holes in my own inner narrative. One of the best things she told me was; "You say you can't fool yourself into doing the boring constructive things, but you're fooling yourself into doing the frivolous and potentially destructive. Either you can fool yourself or you can't. You obviously can. This isn't about your ability to fool yourself. It's about your self-image. I think you're self-harming. You're not physically harming yourself, but you're not doing what's good for you. Why is that? Would you avoid doing what's good for those close to you? Of course not. But you act like you don't deserve to be handled with respect. You don't respect yourself enough to do the things that are good for you. So in a way, by not doing something good for you, you're harming yourself a little bit at a time. And all those bad choices eventually catch up to you. And here we are." -- I was stunned. Never thought about it that way, but it was so entirely spot on.
So I started to make a monthly budget (we live on my pay check, so it's not rich living), I started planning my weeks (including days for hobbies specifically). And I started bit by bit find my rythm again. Life has not changed much, but I have found new energy again when life isn't a disorganized mess that I keep putting off. When it's all said and done, 2020 will go down as the year that while everyone was dealing with an external threat I was dealing with an internal. It's still much left to do, but I'm at a better place now.
Myself and my struggles aside; I truly hope you and yours are all safe and that you have been spared the worst of the pandemic. I hope 2021 will be a year in which we'll continue to strive for social equality for marginalized groups and better representation in our entertainment. And lastly, while it doesn't directly affect me much I was very happy to see the results of the presidental election in the US. But even more than that, I was happy to see how many people got out there and voted. Let's hope we're all turning this ship around for a better tomorrow, I feel like large parts of the west (including Sweden) have now for a few years been far too close to sniffing the authoritharian right wing glue. There are better solutions to the world's problems than fascism.
Now that we have the heavy handed navel gazing and big picture stuff out of the way, let's get to talking about some frivolous games. Because let's face it, this is why you're here. To read what I thought about some games. Apologized for having forced that novel at the top down your throat to get here.
Red Dead Redemption 2
This was the year I finally finished it. Well, the Arhtur Morgan story anyway. Not since the Assassin's Creed franchise has it taken me this long between starting a game and finally finishing it with a big window in the middle when I didn't play it at all. It was satisfying though to finally put this game behind me, it had a lot of highs but at the same time it was long and took it's time with evertything. I didn't finish everything, and despite playing a couple of hours of the epilogue I doubt I'll ever finish that.
Jedi: Fallen Order
I played most of it at the tail end of last year but found myself getting back into it a bit during this year. Still not finished because the game just felt increasingly less interesting as I progressed. I had some fun times with it this year though and parts of that game looks and sounds fantastic. But it's also a strong reminder that I was never that big on Star Wars.
I didn't think this game was for me, I tried the demo a long time ago and got some real Bioshock vibes and my history with Bioshock isn't the best. But having it on PSnow I figured it was worth to just give it a try. Found the world and the game surprisingly engaging. It didn't carry me through the entire game though and other games took it's time away. Still glad I gave it a fair shake.
A gam on PSnow you say? Spyder's games all have the same feel to them. They seem made by people who thought Ultima 4 was the pinnacle and no need to progress anything. The game is basically what if monsters and colonializm had a baby. The game was up to a point pretty fun despite that, but I can only be in a game that feels stuck in the 90s for so long.
Another game I have been wanting to try without having to buy unless very cheap. Found it's way to PSnow so that was my chance. As a "let's play Darryl"-simulator the game had some fun moments. Being surprised by a walking horde as I was driving around aimlessly at night was very exciting. But the open world being overall pretty dull and the story not really pulling me along made it so I eventually put it down. Also, being stranded without gas wasn't ideal either.
A point and click adventure game found on PSnow filled with moments of "what the hell am I supposed to do now?!". It had a cozy feel to it though and I enjoyed my time with it even if I never did finish it.
That may or may not have been released in 2020, and I give no guarantee that I finished anything on this list)
It's just Monopoly. But it was one of the few games me and my fiancée played together this year. Playing Monopoly on two people is weird, especially when it comes to auctions, but it was fun times anyway. That being said, I'm also extremely convinced the game's internal RNG is rigged. Because the games always had the same flow. I would get a little bit ahead, it would seem like I had this in the bag and suddenly my rolls kept fucking me over and my fiancées rolls were magically just avoiding my streets and giving her benefits. Suddenly I was taking out loans on my streets (or selling them to my fiancée) to pay my debts until I eventually got bankrupt. What do you got against me, Monopoly?
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
I loved the first Pillars of Eternity, it's one of my highlights of my time living alone before I met my fiancée. I would spend hours soaking in that game. So I was very excited to see POEII released on the PS4. For a lot of the time in the game I was having a similar feeling, but not to the same extent. I found myself not really at ease with the structure and flow of the story and I was at times feeing like I was going about the game very aimlessly. I had some very good times with the game, but it may just be one of those games I'll come back to later when it fits in better. It feels like I am being negative, but I think I was just not in the right head space for a game like this at the time and it's on this list because the moments of spark I experienced with it is enough to make me feel confident I'll be enjoying it a lot at a later date.
Mafia III: Definitive Edition
I did finish Mafia III when it came out, but during my search for things to play during the vacuum left at the start of the year by the lack of a Cyberpunk release, I got back into it. I had not played the DLCs for it so I figured I could give those a twirl. The upside for me was more Mafia III. I loved the way this game plays, from driving to shooting it's all very rewarding. Even though I know a lot of you will probably disagree, especially on the driving. The stories of the DLC were pretty good and it was almost like comfort food getting into this game again. My only gripe was that certain aspects of the DLC took more time to develop (such as the weed farm) that I found myself with little to do except drive around and wait or some internal timer and even at that point I had no use for money that the weed farm generated because there was nothing to spend it on in the world. That place would have been good at the start of the game if anything.
I didn't know I loved interior decoration. Redecor is a free to play iOS game in which you are tasked with picking everything from materials and fabrics to posters and wall paper in a given room. Once you're done, other people will rate you versus other players and within a group of 10 you're then ranked accordingly. It was very relaxing, but I also found myself getting very invested in getting those first place spots. Because first place was not only glory to my divine sense of taste, but it unlocked new items and gave you more currency to unlock whatever you felt you needed. I eventually did drop some money into the game, but at that point it wasn't to get myself ahead as much as just tipping the developers after hours of good time with the game.
Would you believe me if I said this was the first Pokémon game I ever played despite playing (with some exceptions) Nintendo games since the NES? Because that's the very case. To be perfectly honest, Pokémon has always eluded me in it's appeal. I am not sure if even as a kid in the 90s I still looked at Pokémon as a 'kids game' and that's what made me avoid it or if I was just lacking the means or interest to seek out RPGs in general until much later that did it. Despite all that, the only reason I ended up actually giving this a go was because of Jan on the site talking about and showing it off and something about it just caught my eye. And you know what, I dig Pokémon. There's something addictive in a positive way trying to catch and build a good team and practice having a fluid team based on opponents weakness and strengths. I got through most of the trainers before the game fell by the wayside of other games, but it was a great time while it lasted and I would give it some extra credit to actually get me in the door in the first place.
11-11 Memories Retold
Maybe it's because of history class in school or maybe it's because of fiction in general, but I have always had some kind of nostalgia for time and places I was never a part of. World War I&II central Europe being two of them. The game have you follow two people from opposite sides of the war, a german father searching for his son and a british war photographer. The game has a water color like aesthetic that initially felt very blurry mostly but as time went on I found it fitting, as paintings sometimes feel like like a mirror to the past. The story was very engaging and touching and I found myself getting very immersed in the world it presented.
Ghost of Tsushima
People were not lying when they called this an old school Assassin's Creed type game. But that is really to the game's benefit. There's something very refreshing about an open world game that doesn't have a map that look like someone asked Jackson Pollock to throw icons all over. It gives you a chance to focus on the story rather than a billion side activities. Sure, the game has some collectibles and stat boost stuff but they are short and the game even gives you the option to have it guide you to them directly. The combat when it flows is super satisfying, making you feel like a demon posessed samurai/ninja. Story has some real high points but at times also feels like an excuse just to fuck some folks up. Also, I didn't mention the game's visuals are just beautiful to look at and play around with in photo mode. But at the end of the day the game just feels like a real palette cleanser to a the general trend of open world map vomit and for that I'm very greatful.
Few games in recent memory has made me completely question the intentions of my own character. This game in particular plays around with expectations of genre and perspective a handful of times to the point where I sometimes feard for the other character's due to my actions while at some other point fear for my own character due to other characters. It plays around with who might be the antagonist if any. The game has such a dense atmosphere (and that's not a space joke) that I found myself completely sucked into the mystery of it's story. While it goes some crazy places, it plays around with a type of narrative I'm very much into, ideas of time and space and a narrator's reliability and the reliability of your own perspective. I don't know why I completely spaced on adding this game when I posted, but it's here now, thank the stars.
I have historically had a hard time with survival games, because what I want to get out of them vs the reality of them doesn't always square up. To put it in other terms, what I want is to be a survival architecht and explorer but what I don't want is actually having to deal with the maintenance of survival and scarcity of resources. But the visual appeal of stranded tropical islands just felt like something I had to explore. It's ironic in a way that during my week of stress relief from almst burning out, I started a survival game. But through some happy accient, the game became a vacation from stress despite being a survival game. The setting itself was relaxing, but more than that, the survival mechanics gave me a sense of control and structure. I drew a physical map of the locations of islands and their resources. I planned trips to and from islands by storage room to make sure I could bring tools, tool repair resources, food but enough storage to be able to bring resources back to my main island. I was living my best Cast Away fantasy and it was like lotion for the soul.
Assassin's Creed: Valhalla
My history with Assassin's Creed is like a rocky relationship that still has some promise. At the beginning things was all bliss and I couldn't keep my eyes off of them. But as time went on, things became routine. At one point they were finding themselves and I felt like we were growing apart and I didn't really recognize them anymore. We got seperate apartments, but stayed in touch in the hopes that maybe it's temporary. We both had some soul searching to do. We had a brief spark with Origins, but the novelty wore off and we took a break over Odyssey. And this year they came back, all dolled up in Norse history and mythology and I could barely contain my excitement. It's a piece of history near and dear to my heritage and interests. I was weary though, this could backfire just as well as it could strike gold. Engaging with the game though it soon became clear to me that I had to give the game some slack in historical accuracy and soak in the parts that meant something to me. But oh do I soak. It's living my own norse fantasy in so many ways. It may not do everything perfect and it may at it's core just be a reskinned Assassin's Creed. But it explores things so close to home for me that there's no other feeling than true love for it. I'm about 50 hours into it and possibly less than half way through and I forsee this to be the first Assassin's Creed I'll finish since Unity.
This year I was convinced the universe did its best to make sure I would never get to play this game. From delay after delay to an eventual pull from PSN. The conversation around the game made it seem like it had been a wait in vain. But I was curious, I needed to know. So, I bought a physical PS4 copy. Having read and seen that the Pro version was 'fine' I felt at least confident I would survive playing it from a performance level. But the universe wasn't quite ready to stop messing with me. After installing the game from disc and downloaded and installed the 1.05 patch (I thought), I tried to boot it up. But, to my surprise they had just released Hotfix patch 1.06 and by some weird universal fuckery the game refuses to boot if it's downloading a patch. Most games will ask if you want to boot the game anyway. Looking at the patch size though and reading up on 1.06 I was downloading the big version. Meaning, the system treated this like the most updated day 1 patch. And lo and behold, my game install said 1.0. Which got me thinking, if I was playing offline and installed from disc, would I even be able to launch it seeing as the game seems to refuse to launch before the patch was downloaded.
Anyway, eventually I did get into the game. And people were right, the game is buggy, performance is acceptable but not great. But technical aspects aside, I was blown away. The look and feel of the world, the combat, even the driving was all appealing to me. And I realize I might be the only one liking the driving because it has a real Mafia III feel. I was instantly invested in V and their story. It feels like an open world Deus Ex in the whole "let's find the path suited for your playstyle". My Nomad Netrunner feels exactly like I had envisioned them. There's choice but there's also a sense of wonder about what you could do that you're not doing. At one point I considered if I could shoot someone in a conversation that was dead weight to the character I was on a mission to save. And I could! With conversation to support it after it was done. Nowhere was I given a promt to, I just gave it a try. Which leads me to wonder if I could kill important characters as well given they have similar profiles to other people that isn't just civilians. But in general, while it may all be a lot of smoke and mirrors as far as choice go, I feel like the game balances it very well as I find myself considering my options on how to approach things and often times find that the way I had planned it is accounted for and very satisfying. I still have a long way to go with this game and I'm just savoring it and taking my time. Because while it may never live up to my head cannon of what Cyberpunk 2077 would become, taken for what it is it's still a game I am having a fantastic time with despite bugs and crashes.
Lastly I would like to shout out the band Slaughter to Prevail and their song Demolisher as one of the reasons I stayed sane this year. Which was evident when my Spotify end of year results were in and it basically told me no one else listened as much to that song as I did.
And thank you if you read this whole thing and didn't set your computer on fire, it's very appreciated.