2022 has left me strangely tranquil in my personal life. Unfortunately it’s a tranquility born of the acceptance of a lot of changes, not all of which are positive. However, through the support of friends and family, the routine of parenting and work, and, to a much lesser but still crucial degree, good entertainment, especially games, I’ve found contentment. Here’s some of the contributors to that contentment.
The “It’s RPG enough” award – Freedom Wars (PlayStation Vita)
Why didn’t I hear more about this game before? It’s a fun but rather clunky third-person shooter with light RPG elements and an endlessly fascinating premise: you are a prisoner, known as a sinner, in a dystopian world full of large prison cities. With 999,999 years on your sentence, you must, under the creepy supervision of your android overseer called an Accessory, complete missions for the benefit of your prison to earn rights within it and shave years off of your sentence. At first, you don’t even have the right to lay down on your prison bed or use the sprint button, and doing so will tack years into your sentence until you’ve earned the corresponding rights.
That might seem frustrating, but it is awesome instead. Apart from the cool premise, the combat is varied and fun, often involving grappling large enemies to either drag them down or climb into them. There apparently was a heavy focus on online cooperative and competitive multiplayer, but we don’t need any of that since the AI is competent and the battles are neat. So far, I’m enjoying the story and characters too. This is an easy one to recommend.
Best dating sim I played this year – Middle Earth: Shadow of War (PC)
What can I say? When I learned that the Ugrāz was immune to fire, executions, and stealth attacks, I liked the cut of his jib and decided to pursue him in earnest. We all can relate to that, can’t we?
The two Middle Earth titles are amazing stealth action games that offer a very convincing, if fanciful, facsimile of guerilla warfare. As you recon your adversaries — orc captains under the command of Sauron — you learn their strengths and weaknesses, which have a more profound effect on your approach to defeating them than the enemies in nearly any other action video game do. Additionally, the fact that the game continually procedurally generates and spits out an endless supply of unique, formidable, and charismatic (in their way) captains with a dizzying array of traits, characteristics, and personality quirks, is unique among video games and very praiseworthy. Not to mention their unique appearances, voices, names, nicknames, and attire. I cannot fathom how the devs pulled this off.
I haven’t even mentioned how great this game is to play, with fun stealth mechanics and an incredibly solid take on the Arkham Asylum combat model. Its gameplay design is quite genius in and of itself.
The fact that you can create your own armies by recruiting these captains brings me back to my assertion that this isn’t only a dating sim at heart, but a most robust one with a staggering supply of completely unique potential suitors. It is a dating sim with unlimited possibilities where the captains’ traits, as well as their personality, might determine how intrepidly you pursue them.
I understand this game launched with loot box shenanigans, but that’s all gone now, so there never was a better time to play Shadow of War than now.
The only game from 2022 I played in 2022 (it’s not an RPG) – Sniper Elite V5 (PC)
I always end up with a WWII shooter on these lists, don’t I?
For fear of disappointing you, I just started Sniper Elite V5 a few weeks ago. I’ve never played one of these notorious studies in anatomy destruction, but their reputation preceded them.
The marquee feature is the tender loving care used to model the Nazis’ skeletal system, organs, and other anatomy. The point of this is to showcase the series’ gleefully gruesome kill cams, which follow the bullet from your rifle all the way into the Nazi’s lung, heart, spinal column or, yes, testicles. The camera will remove the outer layers of the enemy model so you can see, in sickening detail, the path your bullet carves through the bad guys’ various vascular, bone, and organ systems. On a purely technical level, it’s impressive. On a human level, well… they’re Nazis?
If that’s all you knew about this game, however, you would be missing out on an entertaining and fully-featured stealth action game. There is a real thrill in firing your shot while an airplane buzzes overhead, masking the sound of your rifle with its deafening engine, or hiding as an extremely well-coordinated search team looks for you with realistic search-and-kill tactics.
If the kill cam thing is too much for you, you can turn it off, and you’d still have an awesome action game.
Actually, this category is a lie: I played another current game this year, and it’s much closer to an RPG.
Vampire Survivors (Android)
This short-form Castlevania-inspired survival bullet-hell RPG Vampire Survivors came out on Android. And it’s free. I’ll catch you around, Genshin Impact.