It’s been another of those years where so much has happened in the world; the year kicked off rather underwhelmingly with most of the world in a state of lockdown, then the Coronavirus vaccines were rolled out and we revelled in the Euro’s football competition. In the world of gaming, things also dramatically wavered to and fro, myriad games saw release or were postponed, gamers worldwide struggled to get their twiddling thumbs on a gen-nine console like the PS5 or Xbox Series X, and the gaming community grew further with adult converts and young beginners. A whole host of games were released this year, here’s a reminder – the Electric Games awards! In no particular order, here we go!
Day-One Perfection Games
- the titles that were immaculate upon release. Oh yeah! -
Far Cry 6 and its guerrilla-style uprising went down a treat for many around the world back in early October. The island of Yara is brewing chaos, dissent metastasises from door-to-door – trouble dawns, and we get to be part of it. Subvert and overthrow the tyrannical Anton Castillo with makeshift weapons, exotic pets, classic vehicles and no shortage of explosions, Far Cry 6 is a beautifully designed game that achieves exactly what it set out to do. Ever so slight deviations from the already excellent traditional Far Cry formula were to make this game a real pleasure to play, just writing this is making me want to replay it.
It Takes Two saw release back in March and was an immediate hit with even the most unlikely of demographics. It’s a charming, emotional, and co-operative play, perfect for couples and friends. A divorcing couple, Cody and May, are miniaturised, forced to navigate the microcosmic world of their garden, a world they had for their normal size largely ignored henceforth. Playing is believing in this instance, I can tell you how wonderful this game is yet my words are futile without the full experience! Swedish studio Hazelight’s It Takes Two is up for the Game of the Year award this December, put it that way.
Forza Horizon 5 achieved 5-star reviews across the board upon publication in November, attracting 10 million players in its first week of operation – an Xbox record. The long-awaited sequel to UK-based FH4 is this time angled towards the varied biomes of Mexico, revolving around the iconic Horizon Festival central to the game’s racing spirit. Donning a map over 50% larger, 107 square kilometres to be precise, high-octane FH5 drifts through paradisiacal beaches, chasmic canyons, and the historical city of Guanajuato, peppered with notable landmarks from ancient temples to a volcano – a deserving place on our Day-One Perfection list, a masterpiece of a game with enough variety in the subtleties to set it well apart from FH4.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy gives a distinctive take on Peter Quill and his motley cosmic wrecking crew. The band follow the nomadic Star Lord in this fantasy-RPG, jumping from planet to planet and burning bridges as they go. Guardians of the Galaxy is infused with the same trademark anarchic but casual (and hilarious) approach deployed by the films and likes of the Ratchet and Clank games. The game dons an unlikely Mass Effect vibe, a JRPG-style combat system and a soundtrack plucked straight out of heaven. Eidos-Montreal ticked every box necessary here, producing a vibrant, amusing and endearing gaming experience perfect for fans of the series.
Little Nightmares II, a sequel to Bandai Namco’s 2017 Little Nightmares, is a strangely beguiling play, vivid and surprisingly frightening. Mono and Six, the two main characters, work together to endure the deadly Pale City, making some gruesome revelations along the way. Little Nightmares II was well-received by critics and the casual gamer alike, being described as ‘incredible’, ‘intriguing’, and a ‘fantastic piece of art’ that was a ‘pleasure to play’. Talk about waxing lyrical!
Metroid Dread finally surfaced after 16 years of conjecture and rumours this year to wrap up the events of the 2002 Metroid Fusion. Samus Aran is summoned back to Planet ZDR to verify some cosmic hearsay regarding the resurgence of the X-Parasite. All is not as it seems on ZDR, making for a quintessentially enthralling Metroidvania playthrough. Silky movement mechanics and intense combat with EMMI robots complete with a slew of character upgrades made for a game phenomenal from the get-go, no wonder Dread won the Nintendo Game of the Year.
Life is Strange: True Colours blew me away this year – it was that good, holding a special part of my heart. A rollercoaster of emotions and human nature is True Colours, introducing us to the laconic, protagonist of Alex, the idyllic Haven Springs, and a murder-mystery-of-sorts to be solved. It’s a truly beautiful game, True Colours, with a milieu comparable to 13 Reasons Why and a Quick-Time Event, interactive feel not far off the Dark Pictures games – it’s an unlikely but addictive combo, trust me.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart proved to be another Insomniac Games sensation released back in the Summer. We described it at the time as an ebullient interdimensional sojourn, but more than that, it was just fantastic from the moment it became available to the public; comical, rich in satisfying combat and captivating from the get-go. Ratchet, Rivet, and Clank hunt for the Dimensionator, switching seamlessly (using that PS5 SSD!) between universes and spaces in time to do so, having various skirmishes with our long-standing arch-enemy Dr Nefarious on the way. A 60-second summary does Rift Apart an injustice, but I don’t want to spoil it for you – I’ll bite my tongue.
The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes, the wretched third of eight planned games, was devised from an ingenious concept: an ancient King enraged a God, subjecting a city to ashes and burying it in millennia of sand. Nothing stays a secret forever; the abomination remaining, the ashes if you will, are what we encounter in this first-person interactive horror. In typical Dark Pictures style, the game gives you numerous quick-time event choices that will determine the fate of the motley crew you find yourself part of. Granted, the same approach, the quintessential horror gambits, but Bandai Namco’s House of Ashes is a result of a tailored, experienced approach towards this genre of play - and it shows in the game’s polished nature.
Riders Republic got off to a flying start, if you pardon the pun; Ubisoft ticked every box imaginable with this game. Jetpack, wingsuit, ski, cycle, and snowboard through a map inspired by prestigious American landmarks, not a bad gig if I say so myself. Free-roam or partake in online races, take a minute to appreciate the view on skis or gain as much momentum and airtime as physically possible on a bike, how you negotiate the land and when you do so is up to you. Riders Republic moves at a million miles an hour and is better for it – an adrenaline-addicts dream that is a must play.
The Underdog Games:
- the games not given enough credit! -
Deathloop states its case on the tin; you are stuck in a loop, bound to die. The only way to have Colt and his inexorable dry and callous sense of humour rescued is to assassinate all your targets within your window of opportunity – and you can’t die. Issue is, you’re not the only assassin on the island, and your lethal counterpart is out for your blood. We didn’t quite see the weird and wonderful Deathloop given the acclaim we thought it deserved, a true one of a kind, a lucid dream of sorts where we are given a million ways to kill and maim our enemies… it’s a lot of fun.
Tales of Arise is most if not all JRPG-genre afficionado’s dream. Shionne and Alphen, Rena and Dahna, a story of social unity. Our unlikely band of warriors battle their way through Calaglia, Cyclodia and Elde Menancia in search of the truth with gameplay interrupted by cutscenes built by none other than Ufotable. We have a penchant for open-world JRPG games here at EG, we don’t think the spotlight is on them for long enough. Tales of Arise thus fits the bill for us; gorgeous water-colour inspired visuals, a compelling, team-oriented plot arc and many classic JRPG features – a game ultimately saturated with personality and quirk.
Scarlet Nexus and its New Himuka setting, an alternative dimension of 1990’s Japan, prove an enchanting blend should a fusing of JRPG and Cyberpunk styles sound up your street. The world has been infested by formidable extra-terrestrials adversaries known as the ‘Others’, a battalion has been deployed to counter the threat. The two Scarlet Nexus protagonists, Yuito and Kasane, are two such members of this close-knit battalion, and they just so happen to have psychic powers known as Psionics, allowing them to spout fire, throw cars about and freeze these monstrous aliens. Pretty neat, eh?
Lost Judgment makes an unequivocal comment aimed at the Japanese system of Justice, a potent message for a video game to make, but why not? Conjured from the same Rya Ga Gotoku minds as the Yakuza series, Lost Judgment lies on the other end of the spectrum, a crime-solver. We take the reins of a hotshot detective, the super Saiyan haired, leather jacket donning Takayuki ‘Tak’ Yagami, using his gifted fighting styles to batter anyone who stands in the way of our investigation. A gulf stream of politics, violence, corruption, death, and intrigue is Lost Judgment, an entrancing storyline with quality we aim to extol to you guys.
Metro Exodus, a game inspired by Dmitry Glukhovsky’s 2035 title, is a quietly brilliant game, an absorbing open-world shooter set in the remains of Moscow. Ravaged by nuclear warfare and the ensuing winter, Artyom and the scattered pockets of 50,000 global survivors fight to remain, scavenging and crafting, forever vigilant of the irradiated corpses of what were humans and animals. Exodus instils the brutality of post-apocalyptic life on its players, subjecting them to the classic Metro-style labyrinthine tunnel-claustrophobia, scarcity of ammo, and something to be weary of around each corner – a cultivated approach towards survival horror criminally underrated.
Best of Indie Games
the games developed by smaller, lesser known (but still great) studios
Hades, a rogue-like dungeon crawler depicting the politics of Underworld in Ancient Greece, hauled numerous awards ranging from Best of Game Writing and Narrative to Artistic Achievement and Best Independent Game. Suffice to say, Hades is magnificent. A bewitching soundtrack accompanies us through the randomly generated levels, scrapping bosses, familiar characters who remember who we are and some seriously sophisticated visuals for a roguelike. The game follows the maturing Zagreus, Son of Hades, in his pursuit of Mount Olympus, an escape – but fighting your way through Hell is no easy feat. Hades is a humble, genre-topping title with much the same ingredients as a Triple-A game – I could not fault the game if I tried. Despite its small file size, Hades is worth every byte of data it uses.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits dominated the Indie categories at this year's gaming awards for good reason. Ember Labs ethereal action-adventure title details Kena, a counselling spirit guide on a mission to help the deceased travel safely from the physical world tainted by corruption and restless spirits to the safer haven of the spiritual realm. Much stands in her way The task of facilitating a healthy death is also plagued by dying many, many times, but the game's rich, charismatic art-style more than placates any frustration caused by failure. Kena: Bridge of Spirits deploys an animation style reminiscent of Disney film Moana; peaceful, placid - warm. It's a game that captures the heart of most who play it, evincing the power of a truly fantastic gaming.
Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba - The Hinokami Chronicles was given another media adaptation to augment and diversify the revered series, the notable previous being the Mugen Train film. Set in 1920’s Japan, JRPG Demon Slayer follows protective big brother Tanjiro Kamado in his quest to emancipate his little sister, Nezuko, from demonic possession. Donning a rapid, chaotic but at the same time fluid and cogent combat system, Demon Slayer should be a JRPG staple, particularly if you’ve watched the anime series or film in the past – it was a game written as a TV show, I mean come on!
Aragami 2 took me immediately by surprise with how elegant the battle mechanics were; players take control of an ancient umbral Aragami warrior, skilled in stealth and spilling blood. The Akatuschi Empire of Fire has invaded the holy lands of Rashomon, the home of the Aragami, it is our job to eradicate their forces before they progress. Absurdly satisfying executions, intelligent AI, and ergonomic area designs, Aragami 2 is a short but captivating title – not in any way pretentious – it’s a must play for those who can appreciate the obvious astuteness of smaller developer teams like Linceworks.
Hell Let Loose – raw, unforgiving, atmospheric, and hardened, this WWII Milsim is a real virtual taste of warfare, attaining that realistic combat feel with its one-shot kills, crackling of gun-fire, and lack of any significant HUD to be spoken about. Communication is king in Hell Let Loose; soldiers must band together to perform tactical manoeuvres lest an enemy squadron overruns their position. If conventional shooters such as Battlefield and Call of Duty have become too artificial for your liking, Hell Let Loose waits organically in the wings.HellHel The whistling of bullets, the wails of fallen soldiers nearby, and the absence of a scoreboard or hit-markers – gameplay is tense and leaves little to be imagined, a stimulation of the atavistic senses.
Carrion contributes a misanthropic Metroidvania side-scroller to a fairly barren genre of games: reverse horror. Here, you are the monster, a hideous, amorphous, tentacled mutant, experimented on and caged by scientists – looking to enact some revenge. Carrion allows users to let off a bit of steam, executing your previous captors in the most barbaric, ragdoll way possible, ripping doors off their hinges and flinging them at enemies, eventually crawling out of the quarantined laboratory and wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting outside world. The speedy three hours of gameplay Carrion offers includes myriad upgrades and changes in the shape and power of the monster, all perfectly weighted to keep play balanced and challenging.
- older games revamped in the best way possible -
Alan Wake Remastered returns after a decade or so to contemporary gaming screens, instilling a sense of nostalgia in the many seasoned gamers who became enamoured with Bright Falls back in the day. Remedy Entertainment’s fever-dream psychological thriller comes now including all Alan Wake DLC content, The Signal and The Writer, crisp graphics running in 4k and 60FPS, and a polished physics system. Players can anxiously re-live the beguiling, Twin Peaks-style tale of Alan Wake, in the cradle of ninth-gen tech, surviving the wrath of the Taken in a way that does absolute justice to the original game.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, a remake of the 2007 Diamond and Pearl, takes users back to Sinnoh to conquer Mount Coronet and stick the fight to Team Galactic. Come face-to-face with Legendary Pokémon, explore the many biomes and towns Sinnoh hides between the undergrowth, engage in the classic Pokémon turn-based battles and reinforce the quality of your roster – BD and SP are not ninth-gen games, they are older games in an arcade-now-Animal-Crossing style given sundry quality of life and user experience updates. Pokemon doesn’t do away with the old and bring in the new, it retains the best facets of the game, the evergreen nature and chirpy soundtrack, for example, and ushers in the necessary qualities of present-day gaming – a good mix.
Observer System Redux set the bar when it came to graphical remasters; this title is a joy to look at, especially compared to the 2017-released original. The four-year evolution of this game is just insane. Described as ‘where George Orwell meets Blade Runner’, late Rutger Hauer’s protagonist Daniel Lazarski must negotiate 2084 Krakow, a dystopian Cyberpunk future where a mega-corporation named Chiron have generated a surveillance society plagued by a Nanophage, savaging the brains of the half-human-half-machine residents. Observer sports an intricate twist-and-bend storyline able to terrify the wits out of the most experienced horror gamer, marrying several genres of games in one memorable culmination. This unembellished redux was anything but perfunctory, the heart and soul of the Bloober team was obvious to us from the outset. Outstanding!
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD makes a welcome comeback 10 years later, reappearing to avail itself of gen-nine Switch technology. Some masterful piece of writing buttresses an evocative Legend of Zelda title, embracing some of the most iconic aspects of the cherished series. Zelda is abducted from Skyloft, the community suspended in the clouds, by a demon lord named Ghirahim. Link, his Master Sword, and his immaterial sidekick, Fi, set out to rescue Zelda. A slew of lifestyle improvements are brought to the game, expediting and bolstering gameplay to suit the conveniences of the modern gamer. Skyward Sword HD does a superb job of bringing back to life a classic Zelda game preceding the Breath of the Wild saga – an enchanting title well worth the time to play.
Games To Keep An Eye On
- the titles that didn’t get off to the best start but still have potential -
Battlefield 2042 got off to an unequivocally disastrous start, following the pattern of DICE games as of late. More people are playing online on Day Z than Battlefield 2042, a game meant to be one of 2021’s gargantuan titles. The finer detail of the dystopian future 2042 are currently deficient, issues raised after the game’s successful Open Beta don’t seem to have been given the light of day – a great shame. Much of what makes Battlefield such a venerated series remains, but it is severely marred by bugs and glitches. The good news is that DICE have a history of efficient repair upon a game’s release, and if CDPR can salvage Cyberpunk 2077, let’s hope Battlefield 2042 follows suit.
Call of Duty Vanguard dominated gaming news channel for several months before its release, but with poor anti-cheat software, disruptive bugs and a ‘cut and paste’ feeling reported by fans, the game did not get off to the best start at all. That said, endless possibilities still surround the WWII-oriented game; an innovative approach to warfare gaming in the multi-character single-player campaign, the next iteration of the Dark Aether Zombies storyline and the quintessential COD multiplayer experience. Many players got on well with Vanguard, but it has still been spoken ill of – a few large update patches for the new year to smooth over the rough spots and who knows where we will be?
GTA: The Trilogy was yet another triple-AAA game or collection that sunk like a lead balloon as it saw release, again spoiled by the minutiae. Games cannot afford not to sweat the small stuff, it matters. The remastering of a trio of seminal games, Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City, and San Andreas, is a sizeable task; these titles are of a completely speciated era of gaming, but it wasn’t impossible, hence why it was attempted in the first place. Unplayable missions, bizarre glitches and the collapse of visuals or frame rate performance render the games incomplete, attracting scathing scrutiny from both the critics and the casual gamer. The Trilogy has so far done the stories of Tommy Vercetti, Carl ‘CJ” Johnson, and Claude an injustice, yet with patch 1.03, a pragmatic approach to fan criticism and backlash, much of the issue plaguing The Trilogy have been placed under a microscope and surgically repaired – a commendable reaction to a crisis. More is to come on this front.
All in all, 2021 has been a fantastic year for gaming, opening with Cyberpunk 2077 and Halo Infinite as coda, complete with triumph and despair, compliments and criticism – 2021 has been a year to remember. The gaming sector has persevered resolutely through worldwide pandemonium; all involved are to thank for that, the companies, characters, and you, the player. Whether you’ve spent your days exploring Psychonauts 2, Pokémon or Paw Patrol, we hope you had a ball doing so. If 2022’s gaming releases are already catching your eye, keep your ears up for an article releasing next week giving you all the anticipatory knowledge you could ever need.
And because it’s December now – Happy Christmas!