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Games of the Year

RPGFan Games of the Year 2020 ~ Editors’ Awards: Pete Leavitt

RPGFan Games of the Year 2020 Editors Awards Header

As strange as it may sound, I felt I was effectively coping with the many challenges 2020 threw my way on a day-to-day basis. However, upon any degree of reflection during rare quiet moments, I often realized the cumulative personal toll I was paying. Throughout it all, I had to continue working, which was a burden that helped distract from the chaos. The increased time together generally caused my family to become more unified, but internally I’ve noted behaviors I’ve adopted that I don’t believe I  would typically adopt.

Namely, getting batshit obsessed with a free to play gacha game that I insist to anyone who will listen is the best game I’ve played in at least five years regardless of genre or platform. Every day since release, I’ve relished in Genshin Impact to a degree that’s as worrying as it is exhilarating. I haven’t felt this way about a game in a long time, and it’s nice to know that games can still have this effect on me. 

Genshin Impact ventures beyond the typical construction of free-to-play games, which almost universally lack any ability for the player to express themselves or intervene in the outcome of a given scenario without paying money or grinding an unreasonable amount. Here, the combat is exquisite, rewarding tactics, creativity, and use of the environment in a way that’s rarely seen even in “premium” titles. All the while, the combat is visually fun and flashy.

Screenshot from Genshin Impact featuring a large dragon, jaw agape, coming at the heroes.

Combine that with mostly good voice acting (even the characters who seem annoying eventually expertly subvert your idea of them in a way that suggests the writers and localizers were always in complete control), the stunning music, and the fun story, this is a rare experience. 

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Instead of the public perception of this game — about how it’s a historical moneymaker, it’s superficial and tenuous similarities to other popular games, or how to optimize your build — I wish the narrative of the game was as follows: Here is a complete RPG of superlative quality which sports a stratospheric level of craft. There are many valid criticisms surrounding this game, like the eventual, inevitable requirement to grind in the late game, but the grinding requires you to engage in excellent mechanics, so for me, it’s a reason to have more fun.

Style and substance have rarely enjoyed such a beautiful, tender relationship together. Nearly every dopamine surge this game gives you justifies itself with great characters, relentlessly engaging gameplay, and a worthwhile plot. In short, my game of the year, emphatically and unapologetically, is Genshin Impact.

Best RPG couple is Diluc and Kaeya.

Pete Leavitt

Pete Leavitt

Pete Leavitt is a features writer and reviewer for RPGFan. He is hopelessly obsessed with BattleTech, so unless the topic has to do with that, don't listen to a word he says. He also loves tactics. The game genre and the word. Tactics, tactics, tactics.