Thumbs-Up: Gaming 2020

Hades

After getting up to date with Transistor and Pyre, back in 2019, I played Supergiant Games' latest game, Hades, shortly after its release out of early access.

Despite not having earned yet the real ending of the game –still need to complete a few more runs– I'm very satisfied with the hours I spent in it.

Supergiant Games have been refining their craft over the years and each new game is a testament to that. The gameplay is pitch perfect and varied –easy to learn but difficult to master– and wonderfully accompanied by top-notch voice acting, beautiful art and superb music and audio design.

Furthermore, they managed to weave the nature of rogue-like games right into the narrative itself. This replayability makes it stand out from its predecessors, who always left me wanting more.

The fact that the game was born out of a healthy production process makes this deserve even more the title of Game of the Year.

As it stands out, Supergiant Games is one of the few bastions (pun intended) of light in this dark games industry. I cannot wait to see what they come up next.

The Last of Us 2

It took me a few months after its release to actually play this one. Yet, given the controversy surrounding its plot, I willingly spoiled myself months before playing it.

Right off the bat, this is perhaps one of the best games out there, at least in technical and craftsmanship terms. The level of details given to the animation, scenery, music and voice acting are light years away from other AAA games.

Story-wise, the first few hours are quite gruesome; it actually made me actually not want to continue playing it. It left me wondering if there was a better way to handle it.

That issue aside, my main problem with the game was just how long it was. It felt dragged out and, by the end of it, I felt like having played two games instead of one. Since both stories are played one after another, instead of being interwoven, by the end of the game I was emotionally detached from the first half. This was especially true due to the Ellie's story being much more depressing.

Sadly, the development toll it took to make it doesn't come near to justify its quality. This is the main reason why The Last of Us 2 didn't make it as my game of the year.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

For the most part of the game, I had mixed feelings about Fallen Order. By the end of it, however, the balance tipped positively and I enjoyed having spent time earning the Platinum trophy.

Actor Cameron Monaghan and the rest of the cast made a nice work with the characters, made them believable. However, I cannot stop associating him with Gotham's Joker(s), which is a shame. Still, the story was overall interesting and I'm glad the ending was not a cliché, as I thought it would be.

However, the star of the show is the lightsaber and Force combat. Despite the game's difficulty, they managed to feel empowering. It's too bad they censured the game and removed humanoid dismemberment, since that kind of broke my immersion now and then.

The game is not perfect, though. During my playthrough, I had the misfortune to encounter a few bugs and visual glitches. They didn't break the game for me but certainly made me sigh more than once.

Additionally, my main issue with the game is in its gameplay direction. Fallen Order follows the footsteps of Soul-like games too close for my liking. While I welcomed some of its challenges, at some point I had to turn down the difficulty a notch in order to actually enjoy the game.

All in all, I'm up for a sequel.

Star Wars: Squadrons

Back in the day, I loved Rogue Squadron games so much. Yet, I wasn't too familiar with some of the PC games, such as X-Wing vs TIE Fighter; in fact, I only remember having tried to play it once and not getting it.

It goes without saying it that, with the announcement of Squadrons, I instantly jumped into the hype train. Yet, I was wary of Electronic Arts EA-ing the crap out of it, just like they did with Battlefront 1 & 2.

To my surprise (and that of many others), the game is actually nice. As far as I know, the game particularly shines in VR, but I haven't had the opportunity to try that mode yet. Its audio design is great and the gameplay feels refreshing and deep.

The story mode, however, is really just a long tutorial and I couldn't wait for it to end. Also, since the game was designed with VR in mind, the interactions in-between missions feel shallow and inconsequential.

In the future, I'd like to see more players being able to play together: Squadrons only supports 5v5 matches, using bots to fill up the gap.

Ghost of Tsushima

To sum it up, I think Ghost of Tsushima is a nice game. That is, if you only focus on the main and some secondary missions.

I managed to finish the game a 100% and earn its Platinum trophy; although, in retrospective, I'm not sure if it was worth it. Once you're past the novelty phase, the monotony of the game starts to surface and it feels game-y and repetitive.

This issue is understandable, given that this was a big leap away from previous projects for Sucker Punch Productions. I don't know if I'll ever be excited to play a sequel but I'm curious to see where do they take it from what is an already great game.

Anyway, the vistas in this game are astonishing and the sense of exploration can be very engaging. Gameplay-wise, I appreciated the possibility to choose between a stealth and a direct approach.

Finally, the final boss battle of the game was on point. I didn't expect to be emotionally invested, to be honest. The feels.

Darkest Dungeon

I tried to play Darkest Dungeon a few times over the past years but 2020 was the year I spent the most time on it. However, I still haven't finished it and probably never will, I can't live with that much anxiety.

I adore the gameplay and presentation. I was one of those "just one more expedition" at 2 am.

Just as with Fallen Order, I also had to turn it down to Easy to actually enjoy the experience better. The key is to plan and choose your battles; once I learned that, I managed to make some progress. Still, the game is quite demanding and after having had an awful run (where I won but lost 3 of my best characters) I felt exhausted and stopped playing it.

I would really love to play a similar game to this with a more standard difficult and a lighter tone. I think that'd be a nice alternative to existing D&D-like videogames.

Among Us

The quintessential 2020 game. We picked it up at work on September and continued to play it daily –well, at least most days– until the end of the year. Lots of fun memories playing it.

Despite its humble presentation, this is a nice game that is especially enjoyable with friends and colleagues. I also liked that, even when dead, players can still participate (to a lesser degree) with the game; I just hope they explore it a bit more.

I'm a bit sad they cancelled a sequel in order to focus on improving it. I can understand why they did it – yet, I'd have preferred it to be done from scratch instead of building upon the existing legacy codebase.

Detroit: Become Human

I'm not too fond of the games made by Quantic Dream. However, I enjoyed Detroit a lot.

From its three plots, two of them the most (Connor's and Kara's) I found interesting, while the third one (Markus') had a few good moments here and there. Having said that, they did a nice job with the voice acting and I could relate to most characters.

I don't like these type of quick decision-making games. More than once, I made a choice in the game, only for it to backfire or force me down a particular branch of the story. Plenty of times I felt I was making uniformed decisions.

For example, in one of the later missions you're investigating an attack to a TV network. Depending on what you try to do, question some witnesses or investigate a door, the story will branch.

Also, for a game that is marketed as "every decision you make matters", it has a clear narrative that it wants to deliver. Good luck trying to deviate from it.

Despite all the negative things, Detroit managed to keep me engaged and on the edge of my seat. It is clearly a step-up over Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, both of which haven't aged that well.

Uncharted 4

To be honest, I'd prefer if they stopped making Uncharted games and just released them as animated films. I'm tired of Uncharted's gameplay: it's repetitive, and it has serious ludo-narrative problems.

Still, the story, the acting, the visual and the music are some of the best, enough to make it tip towards positive experience rather than mixed.