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Games of 2021

A few friends of mine do a Podcast called The Jump Crouch and they asked if I wanted to do a quick phone-in recording of my 2021 year in gaming.

Absolutely. I also think I can flesh out a bit more since I was compressing as much as I could for time.

I went ahead and scoured my purchases and playtimes across:

  • Steam
  • Epic Games
  • UPlay
  • Battle.net
  • Xbox
  • PSN

With that, here is the full 2021 play list:

  • Far Cry 6
  • Assassins Creed Valhalla
  • Mass Effect Legendary
  • Quake
  • Metro Exodus
  • The Sinking City
  • Resident Evil 7
  • Amnesia Rebirth
  • Mortal Shell
  • Diablo 2 Resurrected
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Detention
  • The Shore
  • The Convenience Store
  • Strangeland
  • No One Lives Under The Lighthouse
  • The Ascent
  • Unpacking
  • The Last of Us
  • Ghost of Tsushima
  • Cyberpunk2077
  • The Ascent
  • Mortal Shell

Others:

  • Demons Souls (via emulation)
  • Dark Souls 3 Convergence Mod

Indie titles

Out of 2 dozen games played, half of them were of the PS1 horror genre made popular by the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc.

Titles like No One Lives Under The Lighthouse, The Radio Station, and The Convenience Store. I look forward to more titles like these, the retro design, and low barrier to entry build short and unique experiences.

Playstation 4

I also spent a good chunk of this year squeezing the last drops out of my PS4. I was able to wrap up The Last of Us Remastered, Uncharted 4, and Ghost of Tsushima. I still plan on playing The Last of Us 2, and after that I don’t anticipate firing up the PS4 again.

Except maybe the occasional Bloodborne. I have a hard time giving that up since it is unavailable on the PC, and we cannot yet emulate PS4 games. I’ve canceled my PSN subscription, but like a true addict I’ll probably re-sub when I get the urge to play it again.

Highlights

Cyberpunk 2077

My ultimate highlights for 2021 were probably Cyberpunk 2077, The Ascent and Mortal Shell.

I know Cyberpunk has been very divisive, and I was disappointed in certain missing RPG mechanics as well as some open world aspects. For example; Cyberpsychosis. I’ve read the Pen and Paper source material, I played it when I was a kid with nerdy friends. There was an empathy stat that would decrease the more cybernetic mods you installed. However in CP2077, there is an entire quest about putting down people with Cyberspychosis but no mention of the fact that you are the psycho. There is no consequence to installing a mod in every limb, not even fallout3 style dialog changes.

Let’s quickly dive into the empathy stat, and its relation to cyberpsychosis from the original source material

What made me hopeful for this being a prominent feature in the game, was the original teaser for Cyberpunk 2077 featured the psycho-squad taking out a woman (who I originally thought was Alt based on the poster in the background) with mantis blades, surrounded by bodies, and then eventually recruiting that person.

Since weapon based modifications are important in the game, it is almost unavoidable not going to your local ripper doc and getting a mod. Something like the gorilla hands or mantis blades could be the equivalent of the “wolvers” in the above chart. 3D6+1 humanity cost at its worst could be 19 points. Well, for every 10 points of humanity cost you loose 1 point of empathy. At the end of my run, I had literally every slot filled with as many modifications as possible. I should have been closer to Adam Smasher than anyone.

I will relent a bit though, because this is why pen and paper rules are almost never directly translated into a AAA game, and that is because its too brutal and you don’t have full agency, and you cannot fully roleplay the subtle nuances. This is something Fallout did well though, if your intelligence stat was too low:

Fallout 3 with an Intelligence of 1 has interesting dialog options

Another aspect was a fake and empty “open world”. There were so many times I thought I could interact with a conversation that I overheard. But it was the equivalent of a recording. Just a static set piece

It did however deliver in building a beautiful city, and the game play varied enough that I felt I could tackle any mission they way I wanted to.

Brain Dances were also an EXCELLENT concept that I wanted to see more of. I’m hoping further DLC’s will have more of them. They were more fleshed out and engaging that The Witchers generic “Detective Mode”.

Side quests remain one of my favorite aspects of the game. Violence with Lizzy Wizzy and The Hunt with River were some of my favorites. That has always been an area I think CDPR has excelled at, The Witcher 3 had so many world building side quests with incredible dialog.

The Ascent

The Ascent was a surprise, made by a relatively small team and absolutely nailed the cyberpunk aesthetics. Gameplay was great, and it is a fun couch co-op experience. I have yet to finish it though, I’m sort of waiting for another opportunity to play with someone else.

Mortal Shell

Last, I played Mortal Shell. I bought it because I was hankering for a dark fantasy (as I can’t play the Demon’s Souls remaster). It really embodies a bleak and stark environment that reminded me of my first time playing Dark Souls.

I really enjoy a fantasy setting that doesn’t really explain itself. Not everything needs a full backstory, and why your character even exists.

The audio design was great, the weightiness of hitting enemies felt nice because it paired so well with the sounds. Bosses are mostly great, except the final boss which was very unenjoyable. FromSoft always seems to get boss designs right and its something a lot of the souls like fall short.

Why did I buy these?

Finally, I have the two biggest disappointments of 2021. Far Cry6 and the Sinking City.

Far Cry 6

Since Far Cry 3, all of them have had a very similar formula. I wasn’t expecting it to be such a downgrade compared to New Dawn or Far Cry 5. I feel like every aspect of it is worse than the previous titles. I originally heavily agreed with Orinn’s statement that it was just barely good enough to continue, however, after taking a break and trying to get back into it; i discovered I just didn’t care. I continue to hate every NPC, as they all come off as shallow over the top caricatures that are just loud and obnoxious.

I mostly bought it so I could have a mindless coop shooter with Owen. Like Far Cry 5 and New Dawn, you can have a friend join your game. This is the only enjoyable feature, but again, Far Cry 5 and New Dawn are substantially better games in my opinion.

The Sinking City

As for The Stinking City… I feel the most hurt by this one.

I am a big frogware fan, I have played the majority of their titles. I also love cosmic horror. I have a HPL inspired tattoo. I’m a FAN. Frogware’s Sherlock Holmes The Awakening is also one of my favorite adventure titles. This was, however, my second biggest disappointment.

This game on paper ticks off a lot of boxes:

  • HP Lovecraft inspired
  • Open world
  • RPG Mechanics
  • Detective work

So even with its great graphics and occult undertones, where I get to fulfill my gumshoe fantasy, I was completely underwhelmed by the dead and empty open world. It was clear this was Frogwares first foray into an open world design and in hindsight I think they should have scrapped it early on. Combat was also mostly terrible, with only 4 enemy types the entire game. By the end of the game I was so bored I just stopped right at the finale.

Others

Some things I played that I didn’t really consider relevant to this main article, but wanted to mention either way.

Red Dead Redemption 2

I started playing this in 2020, but after 250 hours in I finally finished the epilouge.

Despite Rockstar’s apparent hate for humanity, and how even the mechanics of this game are cumbersome and obtuse in every way, I still loved this game. This was an open world I wished CP2077 was more like. Even the animals feel alive, let alone the VAST npc’s you can interact with.

Arthur Morgan, MY Arthur Morgan may be my favorite protagonist.

Demons Souls

As I mentioned above, I couldn’t play the remaster, but I was able to play the original PS3 game through emulation. RPCS3 has come a long way, and after upgrading to a Ryzen 5800X I could play this game at a smooth 60fps. It finally rounded off my entire From Soft play through. I enjoyed the game, bosses, harshness, and seeing repeated motifs (except DeS is the originator)

Dark Souls III - Convergence

Nothing could have made me play DS3 again. I loved it, but I’ve played it for 500 hours across different accounts and characters. It is not fresh.

Then I came across the most extensive game overhaul I’ve played. This mod has a strong focus on magic. It has new spells, weapons, enemy placements and even new bosses. I rarely do a mage build, and since this forced me to it was like playing an entirely new game.

So between Thanksgiving and Christmas I relentlessly played this mod and enjoyed it so much I went for New Game +1.

Since it is a mod, you cannot play online (or you will get banned). You can play online with a banned account, but only with other banned players using this mod. That is a very small intersection.