Most years here at Reticule Towers we do some sort of review of the last year in games, or celebrate the games of the The Reticule years. While we took a break last year, this year we’re back with a mixture of Our Year in Games where we review our gaming stories of the last year, and we’ll also take a look at what we consider to be our Games of the Year. Here we have Ross talk about how his 2020 in games has shaped up.
We might have ticked over to a new year, but we still have thoughts to share on the games from 2020. We have talked about Our 2020 Year in Games, a joyful tale of our adventures in gaming through that topsy-turvy year. This time we’re taking a look at our Games of the Year. Some of us might have multiple Games of the Year, others might just have one, but there is one simple rule, the game must have been released in 2020. Here we have Ross sharing thoughts on his top games from 2020.
There are a few titles that deserve to be here. Röki. DOOM: Eternal. Wasteland 3. In the end, though, I decided to settle for just one—and if you told me in 2019 that it would have “Half-Life” in the title I’d have laughed you out of the room.
“We plan to give people a sense of freedom and a prosperous world. In practical, historical terms, that’s about as good as it gets.”
There’s really nothing all that cool about cyberpunk visions of the future. They are dystopian nightmares of relentless technological progress at the expense of the human condition and the accumulation of vast wealth by a small, unaccountable few as billions live in squalor. It’s hell, and we can say that with even greater confidence than the genre’s pioneers: we’re living it now.
A few months ago I reacquired my boxed copy of IO Interactive’s Freedom Fighters, which had been languishing at my mother’s for close to a decade. The game had a huge impact on me back in 2003 (inspiring the game idea that eventually became A Place in the West, which is a Half-Life comic I write for) and I longed to revisit it. Unfortunately, but also predictably, Freedom Fighters was no longer compatible with my machine.
So it was something of a delight when IO unexpectedly dropped the game on digital stores last week. I had a bunch of other titles lined up to play, but I just couldn’t stop myself from diving back in to see if the game I’d fell so in love with as a kid was just as I remembered it.
For the most part the answer is a pretty decisive “yes”.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Shadows of New York weaves a familiar tale. Yet it is not a tale familiar out of triteness, but rather in its bleak and despairing contemporaneity. Shadows of New York artfully depicts our 2020 hell-scape, holds it up as a mirror and doesn’t so much ask whether or not we’re fucked as yell it in our faces.
It is a tale of a debauched, grotesquely wealthy elite presiding over a city of broken, desperate people, haunted by an impending apocalypse—climate-induced, technological, viral, pick your horror—precious few seem inclined to curtail, let alone prevent.
And this apocalypse cares not a whit for whether you’re human or vampire; after all, Kindred were once human themselves, and its ruling body, the Camarilla—so intent on maintaining the status quo at all costs—a potent metaphor for a global system that refuses to change, adapt, or evolve.
Even when everything is at stake (soz).
After successfully kickstarting development on Wasteland 2 in 2012, InXile Entertainment are back with a third, similarly crowd-funded instalment of the iconic CRPG series, swapping the dusty wastes of Arizona for a Colorado blanketed in irradiated snow.
It’s fair to say that Wasteland 3 and I did not get off to the best of starts. After investing three hours in the game, which was spent acclimatising to turn-based combat and learning the ins-and-outs of its stats system, I returned to find my save files had been erased. I’m still not sure what went wrong. For a game that develops piecemeal, this was upsetting.
I briefly considered whether the snafu had dealt a fatal blow to my objectivity, but reasoning that it had not I resolved to start afresh and move quickly through the opening sections. Unlike my first play-through I was able to save a young Ranger – Pvt. Jodie Bell – from the murderous goon who had taken her hostage, setting me on an altogether different path to the one I had previously embarked upon.
It’s a path that has proven to be one of the richest gaming experiences I’ve had in some time. Which is to say, folks, that Wasteland 3 is very good indeed.
Röki had me from the moment Tove, our protagonist, and her little brother, Lars, arrive home at the beginning of the game’s extended prologue. Home being a quaint cabin near the lake, surrounded by layers of dense trees and, beyond them, snow-capped mountains. The place is beautiful, but look past the halcyon visage and you’ll start to notice the cracks.
The lonely wind chimes. The crumpled well. The depleted snowman. The two grave stones. Each one has a story to tell, each one painting a picture of a fragmented family with a big, mum-sized hole in the centre.
Home brings a new depth to Tove’s vocal expressions (the characters express themselves with aural gestures that evoke context-dependent emotions). There’s a hint of sadness and longing, but also of a strength and resilience that’s a result of that pain. This sense of living with and surviving loss hangs over the entire game, lending Röki real poignancy and emotional complexity.
It’s not something I expected from a game that looked like a fun combination of cute and scary built around Scandinavian folklore, but that’s exactly what Polygon Treehouse have done. It’s what makes Röki one of the best games I’ve played all year.
Here’s a bit of news I don’t think any of us were expecting: Ubisoft’s Beyond Good and Evil has been picked up by Netflix and is set to receive the film treatment.
☠️☠️☠️ Some good news for Beyond Good & Evil fans ☠️☠️☠️
— NX (@NXOnNetflix) July 31, 2020