Best Of 2020
Every year the same dream. Kentucky Route Zero has been top of my list every year for the last 7 years. It's not just the best game of 2020, it's the best game.
I obsessively played the original Last Of Us - it was everything I wanted from a game; compelling narrative, great characters, cinematic set-pieces that seamlessly merged into the gameplay, gripping atmosphere and subtle worldbuilding that allowed a player to explore and learn about their environment at their own speed rather than serving up the history through exposition-heavy cut-scenes. I was counting down the days to the sequel for years, and while it's not flawless (and arguably runs far too long) The Last Of Us 2 shares the flaws that, in my opinion at least, make the original game so endearing. This is a game about broken, damaged people struggling to figure out how to survive in a landscape that's both beautiful and unforgiving. They make emotional, nonsensical mistakes as they desperately try to cling to some form of humanity in a world which grows more surreal and nightmarish by the day. It's absolutely fair that can be interpreted as bad writing, and I know a lot of people are frustrated with how obtuse the characters can be; the writing frequently crosses the line into thoroughly overbearing and pretentious territory. But ultimately those are the discussions I want be having about videogames in 2020. I really liked this one, and even Neil Druckman being a bellboy on twitter can't ruin it for me.
If any game embodies the desperate positive escapism that many of us absolutely needed for our mental health in 2020, New Horizons is that game. It provided a sense of structure, exploration, and even the passage of time while I was locked away in my apartment watching friends and family around the world sink into various forms of despair. Animal Crossing allowed me to connect with my friends online in a way which felt constructive and positive, with emphasis on sharing and cooperating rather than competing. If "possessions are an extension of self" then Driftwood Island really grew to embody something that I was not only invested in but proud of.
Warzone seems to have been excluded from many lists this year, but it remains probably my most played game of 2020. I was lucky enough to have a solid group of discord friends who would routinely jump on to play in the evenings, and Warzone quickly replaced PUBG as our game of choice. Beyond that, it allowed me to feel social at a time when I was not legally allowed to leave my house, which counts for a lot.
Not enough has been said about the mechanics that Warzone introduced to the BR space, with a gulag and buyback system that let players feel invested in the entire match rather than disconnected one they had been killed. These mechanics fundamentally altered the way players navigate the various zones, and enforced the need for different tactics which discouraged camping and other stale styles of gameplay. On top of this it was wrapped up in a package with excellent production values and weekly updates from a communicative developer which, after playing PUBG for several years, felt like a breath of fresh air.
I doubt as I was as invested in the original Final Fantasy VII game as much as many of the diehard fans that seem all too common around the internet, but I had enough memories of Midgar that it was still a pleasant surprise being able to run around the slums again. Despite that lack of nostalgia this is an excellent videogame, with a fun fight-system, great flashy visuals, and lovingly recreated characters.
I actually enjoyed this game so much I bought it twice, first on PC and then (When I realised none of my PC friends had any interest in playing) then again on PS5. There's something incredibly satisfying about the microdrifts that allow you to navigate each arena - it's the closest any Star Wars game has come to nailing the speed and excitement of flying a starfighter in a long time.
The game isn't without it's issues; some more maps would be nice, and there's far too much downtime in between games. I wish the lobby was a little more interactive, and the matchmaking is occasionally so unfair that you wonder why you even bothered jumping into the cockpit at all. But in general it's a good time, and a blast if you have a spare 20 minutes to kill.
Never played the original Demon's Souls though I've heard many people speak of it with a great deal of reverence. I had played all the Dark Souls games though, so it was a little jarring to find myself without an Estus Flask, but once I was back in the groove everything was fine. Normally I play a full Dex build, but this time I split my points between magic and dex, and fight with an enchanted Katana. I don't typically enjoy magic in these games, because it feels very powerful right up until the point it's completely useless and then you're left with absolutely nothing, but by combining it with Dex you end up fairly versatile. The great thing about a magic sword is that even without the magic it's still a fucking sword.
Anyway, game looks great, plays great, consistent 60fps HDR is incredible and a real testament to the power of the PS5.
Another one of those "Oh god the world is on fire and I can't leave my house!!!!" games that arrived just in the nick of time to give everyone the joyous fix of over-saturated madness we all needed, Fall Guys is a beautiful game that, sadly, didn't have the legs to keep anyone entertained for more than a few weeks. Once you've won a couple of games, there's too much of a gap between each cosmetic unlock to give any measured sense of progression and I found myself quickly becoming bored with the same stages over and over again.
Still, for the few weeks when it first arrived it was utterly magical.
My spooky kabuki boy arrived on the scene just as my girlfriend relocated back to America and, finding myself suddenly with plenty of free time, I jumped into Ghost Of Tsushima, despite the open world "here's a billion sidequests!" genre typically one which I would avoid. There was something soothing about slowly ticking off a checklist of silly side missions, and the fact that it looks gorgeous AND gave me Japan flashbacks is definitely to it's credit.
Pressured into rejoining the WoW community after a fairly disappointing last expansion (Battle For Azeroth, which I played for a month and then abruptly quit) I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the leveling and daily mechanics of Shadowlands. It provided me with plenty of structure, and mastering a new class (I'm currently playing a brewmaster) remains enjoyable even weeks into the new dungeons and zones. I really like the way the daily and weekly quests encourage different aspects of the game - for the first time I invested myself into learning how rated PVP works, and I'm slowly building up the confidence to tank a raid.
I don't know how long it will last, but for now it's a good fit.
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