So, what was your favourite game you played in 2021? (Gaming)

by Korny @, Dalton, Ga. US. Earth, Sol System, Tuesday, January 04, 2022, 02:14 (929 days ago) @ CyberKN
edited by Korny, Tuesday, January 04, 2022, 02:22

2021 was a bit of a slow year for me in terms of Gaming. While I do make a habit of trying most new games on Gamepass or PS+, the extremely limited space on the new gen of consoles has kept me from wanting to go through the hassle of space management.
That, and it was a pretty slow year for gaming as well, without any notable exclusives for any platform that pulled my attention. And though I started many interesting games, I almost didn't finish any of them. I think I even gave up on the latest season of Destiny (or maybe I finished it? Didn't feel like anything happened, though.). Anyway, here are the games that stood out to me this past year:

Genshin Impact
Anime was a mistake.

While my intro might seem awful negative, the truth is that I've been having a lot of fun in the latter half of the year, with this game that came out of left field for me, and has definitely been my favorite (or favourite) of the year.

I generally don't like games with an anime style for a number of reasons, and I've managed to avoid gacha games due to their inherently predatory nature (gacha games are games built around using currency, premium or otherwise, to buy a randomized loot box that can contain goods/weapons/characters/etc, and the games are usually designed in such as way as to make you hit roadblocks and barely-veiled paywalls that push you to pull that monetized lever so you can make progress.

But much like Warframe launched at the time where Free-to-play was a cursed term, only to redefine what the F2P concept could be, Genshin Impact takes the monetization of a gacha game and removes almost all of the shady/unethical manipulations in such an impactful way (while simultaneously delivering a complete, polished, and visually gorgeous experience), that I was hooked almost from the get-go.

So what is Genshin? It's an action RPG where you build four-man teams to tackle escalating challenges across a vast open world. On the surface, it's a game that sells you on a more lighthearted romp with a bunch of fun character archetypes, and while that is the case for the most part, the game has a surprising amount of depth to the characters that you meet, the politics of the regions that you visit, and the relationships between groups big and small, often getting a bit dark and mature in its themes, but never to the point where things are grim. I think we all need a bit of optimism these days, and the game emphasizes people rising above low points rather than relishing in their suffering or dragging you through the bleakness of their backstories (looking at you, Last of Us 2; I love you, but sweet Jesus). This approach makes for almost universally-likeable characters who focus on building a positive relationship with you, and that caught my jaded and cynical heart off guard (though you might want to set the voice-acting language to Korean, as the English VOs are a bit too cartoony for my taste, and I grew up with FUNimation dubs, so that's saying something).

As for the gameplay itself, the game does a fantastic job of guiding you along the progression of all its systems (something certain other games have a lot of trouble with). You start out mainly using your basic attacks and abilities, until you progress enough to where you are using your team's different abilities to provide buffs/debuffs and elemental combos, and eventually you'll find yourself engaging with gear (called Artifacts) to create specific builds that can completely change and shape a character's role in your specialized team comp.
And the best part is that the game gives you the power to set the parameters of your own progression through a fairly simple but genius Adventure Rank + World Tier combo.

So where does the gacha part come in? While the game will give you enough characters and weapons to build a couple of different team comps, there are a few dozen or so characters to recruit (each with six tiers of perk upgrades), and dozens more weapons that all have different perks for your builds, and the loot boxes (dubbed "Wishes") are how you acquire the majority of these characters and weapons. The game is actually fairly generous with how often you can pull for Wishes, though, to the point where you don't ever feel like you have to pay real money even if you play somewhat casually (in fact, you have to dig through several menus to even find the premium currency tab).

And speaking of playing casually, the game's content drops are usually in three-week rotations, which is kind of insane. Every three weeks there's some new activity, time-limited gameplay event, or story quest. Often all three at once, and they almost always have premium currency as a reward to some degree. And yet, rather than requiring you to grind the same activity over and over and over (Bungie...), the premium currency is almost always front-loaded as your first tier of rewards, so you can just check in once, collect all your loot, and bounce if you don't have the time to delve into the deeper levels of rewards or challenges. It really respects your time in such a way that many other games these days deliberately don't.

Anyway, there's a lot more to praise, but I feel like I've Warframed this game enough... for now. I'll just throw in that the latest update dropping tomorrow looks to have more content in a single free event than Bungie's entire paid Anniversary pack... so, ya know...


No Straight Roads
"Red Light!" "Green Light!"

One of the only games that I actually finished this past year, NSR is a beat-based third-person... Hack and Slash? -- More like Drum and Shred. It's mainly a boss-rush type game with some platforming and exploration thrown in as you fight against the different musical styles that EDM has sunk its tendrils into, from classical music to boy band pop. The catch is that the bosses attack to the rhythm of music, so you have to learn to match that rhythm in your counterattacks, while navigating the battlefield to build up combos or use the environment to your advantage (some light RPG elements help you in this regard).

It's a lot more straightforward than it sounds, and each boss has a scoreboard and several alternate tracks that you can unlock and battle to (and challenges that often unlock stuff like lore items and deeper insights into the bosses). It a lot of fun, and I found myself replaying boss fights over and over to achieve different goals. There's clearly a ton of heart that went into making this game, and while the humor doesn't always land, the music is just one banger after another, which keeps you going. It's not a super long game, but it's one that'll stick with you.


Exo One
One giant leap for mankind.

I saw this on Gamepass one day, and noticed that it was released alongside their cloud streaming feature. Figuring I'd test the latency with a simple game like this, I booted up the cloud and... proceeded to play through the whole thing in a few hours. The game is simple in design, and while there is a story told to you in sparse flashes of images and subtitles, for the most part it's just you, physics, and the distant beam of light that you're headed towards.

This game manages to capture the essence of the distant lifeless rocks in our galaxy so well, that despite the simple, relaxing nature of the gameplay, for me there was always a sense of anxiety, and a palpable fear of the unknown, as you explore some really alien terrains and the weirdness of space.
There are a couple of bumps along the way, as the devs were clearly trying to stretch what mileage they could get out of the game's basic mechanics, but ultimately, I came away really impressed with what they did accomplish, and I'll remember the experience of rolling on an icy planet and bouncing towards a Pulsar as one that I never knew I wanted.

Oh yeah, and the Xbox streaming worked like a dream... except for the couple of times that it lost connection and I had to restart the planets that I was on.


Generation Zero
Robots have taken over the world! Our world!

If you're not familiar with the works of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, you should definitely google him. His art (and "Tales From The Loop" works) captures the quiet moments of everyday Cold-War era folks in the country-side, with touches of mechanical curiosity... and horror. There is always something out of place. Something that the everyday people in his images have simply grown accustomed to as it looms prominently against the backdrop.

Generation Zero captures those peaceful moments, and gives you the violence that seems inevitably tied to them. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this small Swedish coast was besieged by an army of machines. You wake up as the only survivor of a boat that was trying to leave the island, and as you wander through the recently abandoned fields and farmhouses to try to meet up with the villagers who banded together with help of from the local military, you find that a lot of machines still lie between you and the people putting up a solid fight against them.

This is a game that has apparently been out for a while, but the first I heard of it was when it popped up on Gamepass. Recognizing the clear influences, I decided to give it a whirl. Figuring it would be a DayZ style game with robots in place of zombies. And... it kind of is, but it's more than just that. Gameplay-wise, it's mainly an exploration-based game, with a storyline told by notes, recordings, voice mails, and the environment itself. You'll find yourself crawling through fields to avoid patrolling robo dogs, using simple tools and supplies such as propane tanks and boom boxes to lure groups of machines into traps, and slowly building an arsenal to take the fight to them as you pick up the supplies left behind by the locals that refuse to go quietly into the night.
It's funny that despite having four-player co-op, I found myself wanting to tackle the game solo. There's an inherent loss of dread and gravitas when you've got a friend at your side, and the game teeters a fine line with its tone, just itching to become campy and fun, but choosing to play it dead straight and tense. I kind of prefer the latter in this case, which is a rarity in the current stage of my life where I'm itching to jump into any co-op game I can find.
I only played this game for a week or so, but I've already got enough anxiety-inducing memories and triumphs to carry me for a long while before I hop back in. But you definitely should, unless you've got a weak heart (seriously, I think this game broke me, as I used to be fairly immune to jump scares, but after this game, I'm almost at streamer levels of jumping at any shadow (just ask the guys I ran the new Destiny dungeon with; my heart was at its limit).


Aliens: Fireteam Elite
Not to study, not to bring back, but to wipe them out.

Skill-Up puts it better than I can in the above video. Fireteam Elite is all we've wanted in an Aliens game, loaded with fanservice for every level of Alien fan (even you Prometheus-enjoying weirdos have several bones thrown your way). It's just crazy fun in co-op, and we have several videos where Sammy, my brother, and I are screaming incessantly as the alien horde swarms out of the walls, ceilings, and vents. We haven't finished it, but where we stopped playing was a truly magical sequence of terror that not enough co-op games deliver (see my above post on Generation Zero for more info). I don't want to spoil it, but my brother was so stunned, that he couldn't even scream, a problem I clearly didn't have when he succumbed to the horror.

All in all, a slow but successful year, though I could talk about Warframe's great "The New War" quest if y'all want. :P

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