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serryl

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serryl

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#1  Edited By serryl

TOP 10 GAMES I PLAYED IN 2021

1. Hitman 3This was my entry point into the Hitman series; I believe I chose well. Within 30 minutes of playing the free tutorial, I knew I was hooked on Hitman's blend of espionage, absurd comedy and top-tier sandbox design. Hitman 3 (along with the other two games in the recent trilogy) is now my most-played game ever. When I finally set it aside, it wasn't from boredom but to allow time for playing anything else on my backlog. This was an addicting, near bottomless pit of delight, and I can't wait to hop back in someday. If you haven't played yet, I recommend you try the free starter edition as soon as possible.
2. NieR:AutomataMy biggest regret with Nier:Automata was that I spoiled the "final" ending for myself years back during Giant Bomb's GOTY talks. This story (and the eventual payoff of that ending) is perfect and moving in a way that can only be achieved in video games. Sure, it does all the things a good video game should: tight combat, good platforming, awesome music (I own the OST). However, the story is what makes this unforgettable. My game save may be gone now, but I look forward to doing it all over again in the future. Bravo!
3. Psychonauts 2The original Psychonauts is one of my all-time favorites, and I've sung its praises to anyone who'll listen. While Psychonauts 2 doesn't surpass the first game, it's still an incredible work of art. What I love most is how each "level" offers unique visuals and gameplay mechanics all while reinforcing the story. It's a masterful example of what interactive storytelling is capable of. I didn't enjoy Doublefine's changes to the combat, but everything else was flawless.
4. SpiritfarerThe first line of this game's official description reads, "Spiritfarer is a cozy management game about dying". I don't think I've ever seen such a short summary for a game, but it's accurate. The impressive thing about Spiritfarer isn't the art style or sound design or animation or story. Those are fantastic, but what impressed me most is that the game's structure reinforces what it says about how some of us manage heavy emotions like grief and regret. I was so preoccupied harvesting my crops and sheering sheep that I didn't stop to dwell on who my passengers were and where we were all heading. I just enjoyed my little moments with each of them, and (as in real life) that was a lovely gift all by itself.
5. Ori and the Will of the WispsI think Brad mentioned on the Quick Look that Ori and the Will of the Wisps looks as good as you remember the first game looking--until you view them side by side. I didn't think 2D artwork could get prettier than the first game, but Moon Studios have handily outdone themselves while proving that they can successfully experiment with new ideas. I can't wait for what they do next.
6. EastshadeWhat I appreciate most about Eastshade is that it offers a rich, first-person, open-world experience completely without combat. I like shooting things, as the next game on my list shows, but I also like variety. There was a point in Eastshade where things were a bit spooky, and I found myself moving very slowly through the environment and checking all around me for a surprise attack. Then I remembered it wasn't that kind of game. This game offers a safe space, where you can adventure, explore, learn, paint, and ultimately let go of apprehension. Let's just say I needed that in 2021. If you haven't yet, I recommend you check out the developer's postmortem of the game on their devblog (https://www.eastshade.com/postmortem-eastshade). It's a fascinating look at the business of indie development.
7. Halo InfiniteOn one hand, I'm not surprised that the latest installment of my all-time favorite shooting series is on this list. On the other hand, 343 Industries have been unsteady caretakers of the series, and I wasn't sure what their long-term roadmap was. With Halo 5, it seemed like they wanted to experiment and escape the long shadow cast by Master Chief. I had fun with that game, but it didn't "feel" like Halo to me. Halo Infinite is an incredible return to form, and I love it. The story is weak, largely amounting to a grand reset for pieces on the board, but the gameplay is the evolved combat I've been waiting for. I almost never bother with PvP multiplayer, but Halo Infinite's combat is so fun I didn't want to stop after the campaign ended and the map was nearly cleared. Against all odds, 343 Industries have gotten me interested in online Slayer matches, and I applaud that achievement.
8. State of Decay: Year-One Survival EditionLast year, two things happened that gave me a taste for zombie horror (so to speak): 1) I finished the TellTale Walking Dead series (#stillnotbitten), and 2) I got hyped by the teaser trailer for State of Decay 3. I don't know how I missed this when it was released for XBLA, but I can't recommend it enough if you want that gripping, post-apocalyptic, survival experience. It was also funny playing this shortly after Watch Dogs: Legion and realizing the whole "play as anyone" idea wasn't as new as I had assumed. As with Watch Dogs, State of Decay is as fun as you make it. Losing certain characters in this game felt more brutal and memorable than in any other I played all year.
9. Streets of Rage 4I have to be in the right mood for side-scrolling beat'em ups, but Streets of Rage 4 kept me coming back. It looks gorgeous, and I like how varied the playable characters feel. My only frustration was in realizing very late that the default character, Axel, is not good for beginners--especially with the difficulty as high as it is. Thankfully, the accessibly options can be used at any time, so I was able to tap those to get Axel past the final boss. Now that I've unlocked all the modes, I look forward to jumping back in with Cherry and her sweet guitar.
10. Yakuza: Like a DragonThis was my first Yakuza game, and I quit playing 40hrs in after reaching a difficulty spike in chapter 12. Most reviews I read had prepared me for the spike, but it was even worse than I anticipated. This game still ranks on my list, because I loved most of what I played in the first 11 chapters. The turn-based combat is as silly as the trailers imply, but it's also satisfying. Yes, there are a huge number of cutscenes, but the story and characters are great; the mini-games are too. Everything the game threw at me prior to chapter 12, generally felt fair and well checkpointed. While I was really bummed by the difficulty spike (and didn't feel like grinding to overcome it), Yakuza: Like a Dragon was a ton fun, and I don't regret my time with it.
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serryl

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@brian_ said:

... Did Bobby Kotick write that thing himself? You're a corporation that appears to have hurt real people. Doesn't matter whether you've change or not. You still have to pay the repercussions.

I asked myself the same question. Their response is so tone deaf and insulting, that I can't imagine it being authored by any PR professional. My money is on Kotick or another company officer writing the anti-government and defensive bits.

One of the many MANY times where saying, "No comment," would've been better.

As for the allegations themselves, I'm happy this is out in the open. I love gaming as a hobby but not at the expense of people's well-being and safety. I hope California argues a good case and Activision Blizzard becomes a better place to work as a result.

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How in the hell does MS expect an average PC user to handle this? Or maybe they don't and they just want to push people to buy new hardware.

I doubt they expect the average PC user to handle much of anything.

Microsoft currently says they'll support Windows 10 until at least 2025, so average PC users can safely ignore the upgrade for a while. Early adopters will be expected to go to Geek Squad, MicroCenter or the like for IT service if they're unfamiliar with the requirements.

Personally, I'm dreading the upgrade, because I use Legacy BIOS, Veracrypt for disk encryption, and don't have a TPM installed. I still have to read the documentation, but my easiest option may end up being an upgrade from Home to Pro and then starting over with a clean install using Bitlocker.

....sigh....

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I'm normally willing to give any game a chance, but I do not like how Ultima Online looks.

The specific combination of an isometric view, realistic sprites, choppy animations, dithering effect, and flat lighting all turn me off.

It's the same reason I wasn't interested in the original Diablo or Baldur's Gate games when they came out.

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Shadow Warrior was my suprise favorite of the generation.

I believe I got it used as part of a "buy one, get one" sale when I bought my Xbox One. The only thing I knew was that it had the most interesting cover of all the used games sitting on the shelf.

For whatever reason, it ended up being the first Xbox One game I played when I got the new console hooked up. It was also my first game played on a 1080p TV, and it really blew me away coming from the Xbox 360. Beyond being impressed by all the next-gen wizardry, I was surprised at how fun the core gameplay and story were too.

Definitely the game that most exceeded my expectations.

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This sounds promising and fun!

I listened to episode 0 of the Nextlander podcast, and it's clear those guys are interested in making a living doing what they've been doing for years. Meanwhile OG Jeff sounded the most excited when speculating about what the future of "Games Media" looks like. I assume he and RV are interested in experimenting with new stuff and with growth.

I think both approaches can be successful, so I'm excited to see how things play out this year.

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I played as the male character, Yuito, and initially got big NieR: Automata vibes from the level design, sounds, and color palette. That impression left me feeling disappointed by the combat initially. I agree that it feels stilted. Yuito's X, X, X sword combo has these dramatic pauses, so you can't really mash it out like 2B's light attack in NieR: Automata. Those pauses make it feels more like he swinging a heavy weapon despite each attack coming out fast.

Combined with the need to charge the psychokinetic attack, combat felt weirdly incongruous at first: everything looks fast but feels slow and deliberate. Eventually, I focused on chaining the follow-up attacks, which worked better with the fast-slow rhythm than button mashing. I also I loved when the game introduced the special object attacks on left trigger.

I agree that the camera is too close, the lock-on is clunky, and the teammate ability cooldowns are tad too short. Maybe the durations of the latter can be improved in the skill tree? I also don't like how much augmented reality stuff there is cluttering the screen.

Changing how I approached the combat made my time with the demo a lot more enjoyable. I appreciate what they're going for, but I'm not compelled to pay full price for it based on what I've played.

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I usually feel like game environments are much bigger than they are in reality, which I consider a testament to the skilled designers making them. My memory of playing Halo CE was that the maps stretched out forever; it really felt like the entire Halo ring had been modelled, and I was just seeing slices of it. I'm even more impressed by how convincing the illusion feels in open-world games like Cyberpunk 2077, given how aware I become of the dimensions after criss-crossing the map for hours.

Home of the best Kai
Home of the best Kai

As bigsocrates said, when it's done well I get a world that feels vast without wasting my time or causing friction--absolutely magical.

That said, my favorite game environment from the last few years is in The Outer Wilds, which kinda does the opposite. The scale of the star system looked normal to me at first glance, and then I realized the planets were all DBZ-sized. If anything they feel smaller than they really are, which delights me for reasons I can't explain.

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I feel like there are 3 paths forward for the site:

  1. Stay the course: keep the same content, same platform, same monetization strategy, and same audience.
  2. Focus on prestige: lean into Jeff's position as a respected elder statesmans of games journalism and turn this into an incubator or fellowship for the up-and-coming voices in the industry.
  3. Focus on growth: cut operational costs and chase new audiences.

The first path won't happen, given all the folks who've left and Jeff's remarks.

The second path could be cool and isn't much of a reach. People have moved onto great things from Giant Bomb, and the site has clout. However, it depends entirely on whether Jeff wants to transition out of the spotlight and into that sort of role (and if Red Ventures wants the same!)

The third path seems the most likely. They get lean by moving from full-time staff to contracted talent. They scrap the website or reduce it to a simple blog. They go all-in on YouTube or Twitch (or both) and focus on appeasing the almighty alogrithm to grow viewership on those platforms.

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#10  Edited By serryl

@khessed: like kalos, I had no clue Brad had such a good singing voice! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm gonna miss him, Vinny, and Alex.

Edit: I forget to add that my favorite thing on GiantBomb was Quick Look: Left Alive. It's a perfect example of how talented folks can make something very funny from even a mediocre game without needing to get hyperbolic or rip it to shreds.