Another year, another list of video games!
I’ve played a lot of games in 2022. The threat of Covid-19 was still very present at the start of the year, and… I am sad to say, still is at the end of the year. I came down with Covid just this week.
So lots of games. Most of them are not releases of this year but are new to me (and two that aren’t even that, haha) so enjoy this wee summary of games and consider giving them a go. I rarely play games that I don’t expect to enjoy; so these aren’t listed in any meaningful way (it is chronological, if anything) and if they sound appealing, I recommend you try them out!
Hollow Knight (Steam) (Completed – 98%)
One of two colossal games that 2022 was dedicated to finishing. Hollow Knight draws you in with its beautiful art style and rather cute hero, and you stay for the challenging combat and morose story.
Often considered the Dark Souls of 2D side-scrollers, there were certainly moments that infuriated, but dedicated playing and trying out everything in your toolbox solves the puzzles. Indeed, as much as it is reaction-based combat, there are solutions to discover while you explore the beautiful biomes of the world.
The characters are all adorable too, despite how heart-breaking the story can be. The story is very underplayed, and yet through the environments and brief dialogues, you discover a vast and rich history and back story to the world and characters.
If you enjoy challenging combat and Metroid-vania style exploration, this is extremely recommended.
Babble Royale (Steam)
Battle Royales sure are popular, eh? How about… Scrabble Battle Royale??
Babble Royale is a multiplayer game where you place letters down on the battlefield with the intent on making words, interact with another player’s word and you eliminate them. Example, if someone has just written “royale”, you might have the letters “eah”, you can complete “yeah” with their letter, defeating them.
The game is quite difficult to get into at first; adapting to the speed that other players play at, not to mention finding games can take a long time. Also, the dictionary used is absurd. Being defeated by the word “Ae”, is infuriating.
Looking into F-Zero-style games (c’mon, Nintendo, please, we’ve waited soooooo long…) lead many to Redout on Steam.
Redout is a challenging racer, but maybe not for the reasons you might expect. A sci-fi racer that has weapons and abilities to best your opponents. The tracks are wide, with the sense of speed more of a reward for driving well, than a persistent sensation.
The vehicles themselves, though, are quite large, as in they take up a large percentage of the track’s space. The turning controls are very vulnerable to oversteer, giving the game a WipeOut feel rather than the sharp reactions required for F-Zero.
Super Pilot (Steam)
Looking at more F-Zero-style games (and thanks to YouTuber Luke Westaway of OutsideExtra) drew attention to indie title Super Pilot. The game is in Early Access, and heavily under development. But it is almost a carbon-copy of Nintendo’s F-Zero X on the Nintendo 64.
The controls are snappy, the tracks are elevated tracks with health-restoring panels and boost pads. There are dozens of opponents that you race against (literally up to 47) as well as a custom track designer. It is so close to the Nintendo product, almost too close, legally speaking.
At the time of playing, Super Pilot was exactly what an F-Zero player was looking for, although it is a carbon-copy of X and not the more recent F-Zero GX. The game lacks the character and flair of the Nintendo game; the vehicles are just numbered, there are no pilots or characters involved. Hopefully, this is added later in development! It still has a lot of polish required, the UI design is simplistic, and the track design is haphazard for the speeds available.
Quake (Steam) (Completed)
Quake, the seminal 3D first-person shooter of the 1990s, by DOOM developer Id Software, was given a fresh remaster by publisher/developer Bethesda. Delightfully, those who had Quake already purchased on Steam, received the remaster for free!
One of Quake‘s strongest elements is its atmosphere. Unlike its predecessor, Quake is a haunted house filled with fierce enemies and nail guns. A mash of dimension-jumping sci-fi and medieval fantasy. The combat is fast and furious when it wants to be, or when the player has mastered the speed available to them. Quake’s multiplayer mode was massively influential, and is still popular today.
The remastered Quake has two expansion packs made by Id, Scourge of Armagon and The Dissolution of Eternity. It also has a fan-made campaign as well, which was refreshing and exciting to play.
The Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt (PlayStation 4)
Allow me to talk personally for a moment. This isn’t the first time I’ve played the hugely acclaimed The Witcher 3. Unfortunately, the first time I rushed the game and was punished with the worst ending. Honestly, it was the worst ending imaginable. This was three years ago. So, I return to the game with the intent to do everything and see Geralt’s story a happy ending.
The Witcher 3 is a massive, massive game. There is so much content here, a huge story involving dozens of characters who each have their own agency and influence on the narrative. Hundreds of side quests, with not one of them being derivative. A combat system that allows great levels of customization, allowing you to develop your own style of play. It isn’t quantity over quality either; the game is beautifully rendered, and there is Skyrim-levels of lore.
Playing this game in its entirety, as well as its expansions Hearts of Stone and (the required) Blood and Wine, takes hundreds of hours. But never did those hours of gameplay feel wasted. Like Hollow Knight, the game is well realized; you become engrossed in the world and the character you play in it.
If you were to do everything, there are time-wasting elements. The map is littered with question marks, which are inevitably just junk items to sell. You don’t need to do all of these, and their inclusion is welcome as it fills out the massive map, but showing them all is a completionist’s nightmare.
It may be a third in a series, but the game allows you the option to simulate choices from the previous entries or not. So no need to necessarily play the (substantially older) games.
No Man’s Sky (Steam)
Made by independent developer Hello Games, No Man’s Sky had a rocky start, to put it lightly. Promising a literal universe of explorable planets, your own ship to pilot in real time between them. To land on diverse worlds and collect materials, find hidden artefacts, meet strange aliens, learn new languages, as well as first-person combat?
Originally released in 2016, and being generally panned for failing to reach any of its ambitions, the developers did not give up on it. They continued to polish and improve, and the game now is far more refined than it was before.
Certainly, No Man’s Sky delivers in being a massive explorable universe, and a real multiplayer mode adds to the fun factor. The building and manufacturing and upgrading systems are all there, and really make the meat of the game, ultimately.
But it feels very… rigid, as a single player experience. It offers the massive expanse, yet all the planets are basically the same. The player just remains on a planet, building a base to be proud of, while the game delivers very strict objectives to build and fuel important things that are so nuanced and specific that they are quickly forgotten. Hyperdrive fuel needs you to make antimatter, which needs these things, but for that you need an antimatter container, which needs these things. One of these finished items allows you to jump to hyperspace once. So… have fun doing all of this micromanaging again just to get back home.
Superliminal (Steam) (Completed?)
If you enjoyed The Stanley Parable, you will definitely want to try Superliminal. A “walking simulator” but with head-spinning puzzles involving object size manipulation using perspective.
The gimmick is weird enough to carry the entire game, which is short but very engrossing with its puzzles. Calming, yet also surrealist. With an Inception style backstory that you are involved in some sort of sleep therapy experience that has gone wrong, seeing you go deeper and deeper into a dream state.
You will be lifting objects, like an alarm clock, lifting it into the air until it appears by your eye to fill most of the room. When you release it, it literally fills the room, becoming massive. This is Superliminal.
If you want something weird to distract you for a bit, Superliminal is recommended.
I might be addicted to this game.
Turns out, in the search for an F-Zero-style game, I already had one in my Steam library that I never played. A sci-fi racer with plenty of neon, it also has a story mode?
But don’t get distracted by that. Distance is a surprisingly skill-based racer. Having played the Arcade mode almost exclusively, it is a gravity-defying time-attack game. You compete against other users’ times, with their ghosts present on the track. The tracks are suitably weird, but only one so far has proven to be badly designed.
Your vehicle must traverse these tracks by the abilities to jump, wall-run, airbrake, and fly. The combinations of these abilities allow for your car to do flips and twists in mid-air, allowing the ability (with precision-based skill) transition across a sudden 90 degree (sometimes 180 degree) shift in the track’s orientation. The thrill of getting these sorts of tricks correct, or being able to fly and successfully bypass parts of the track, is immense.
With hundreds of tracks, both developer and community created, Arcade mode alone will keep you busy for hours. Mastery of the tricks is key, though, and it can be frustrating at first. It is recommended that you start with the story mode, at least until you have learned air-braking.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 (PlayStation 4)
A colourful, hand-holding, Minecraft for dummies. The perfect game after months and months of playing Witcher 3.
As a Builder, a near mythical being who has the ability to create anything, the player is Most Wanted by the Children of Hargon and the lord of destruction. Travel the different islands and liberate the populations on each from the Children’s teachings, while learning new crafting recipes and meeting colourful characters.
Dragon Quest Builders 2, for the vast majority of its playthrough, is extremely handholding. It isn’t even limiting this to tutorials, but the dialogue from characters is perhaps 70% explaining what you have to do, repetitively so.
But, the game has a blissful silliness. The dialogue is perhaps the strongest aspect; there is no voice-over, but the text is superbly characterful.
The islands you visit are very distinct, with different tasks to complete on each to progress the story. While these are quite railroaded, they allow for a little bit of exploration too, and the game’s “Isle of Awakening” becomes a hotbed for the player to go wild and create whatever they want.
With a little bit of online connectivity, allowing players to travel to other players’ Isles of Awakening to see what sort of creations are possible, Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a simple man’s Minecraft. Not to be mocked as such, but just right for those who want a little more structure to their building/farming simulators.
Despite seeing a lot of this single-player experience played out years ago through various YouTube channels… I have fallen in love with it even now.
Subnautica is a base-building survival game set deep in the oceans of an alien world, were you are dropped with meagre supplies but must brave dangerous depths to escape. The game is quite straight-forward; explore, collect resources, build better equipment to explore further. All the while trying to not get eaten by horrific sea monsters.
It is a beautiful game, immersive, if you forgive the pun. Unlike No Man Sky, Subnautica has a very streamlined UI and a more intuitive structure to its base-building mechanics and material usage. The game is more forgiving; sparing you getting lost in minutiae so that you can enjoy the exploration, the genuine fear of the unknown, and a pretty decent storyline to tide you along (pun not intended).
Genuinely, one of my favourite games. I wish it could have lasted longer. I was a little sad at the end.
Sometimes life is too stressful, with too much going on and your brain feels full to bursting. A game like Islanders (developed by Grizzly Games) is a much required chilled out experience in times like these.
The game’s audio is minimal; with pleasing sounds of affirmation and gentle, relaxing music. The game’s UI is minimal; letting you enjoy the pleasingly harmonious colours and visuals.
What do you do in Islanders? Besides relaxing. Well, the main game’s objective is to increase your score and move on to new islands. To do that, you must place buildings on procedurally generated (random) islands, but each building has score modifiers attached to them that are affected by other nearby buildings. For example, putting houses near a city centre is good and grants more points, while putting houses next to walls gives less points.
There is an ebb and flow to the game which slowly gets you learning what is possible. While the score is the challenge, there is no time limit, and while losing may reset your score, you still want to play some more.
The game doesn’t harass you at all. It demands nothing of you. You just place buildings and empty your mind of busy thoughts.
Vermintide 2 / Warhammer 40,000: Darktide (Steam)
It is a bit of a cheat to have these two games in one entry, but they are arguably the same game. But boy, do I enjoy the more recent entry, Darktide, a whole lot more.
Developed by Fat Shark, the games are based within the Games Workshop universes of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 respectively. One is a dark fantasy setting, where you team up to fight through hordes and hordes of humanoid ratmen, fulfilling objectives and levelling up your gear, the other is a dark sci-fi setting, where you team up to fight through hordes and hordes of zombies, fulfilling objectives and levelling up your gear.
Warhammer 40,000 is an old favourite setting of mine, so getting a shiny new game that really feels like it was made by people who understand the material is quite special. Sure, these games are basically gear-grinds: play to get new weapons, play more to improve those weapons. Go up in difficulty. Repeat. But the dialogue between characters is fun (and alters depending on character creation choices) and the weapons themselves are punchy and very satisfying. From the ridiculously powerful boltgun, to the eviscerating chainsword (yes, it predates Gears of War) fans of the universe need apply.