Best Games 2022
I didn't play as many games this year because Elden Ring took me three months. However, I still have opinions.
5. River City Girls, WayForward
This game was almost perfect for my daughter (age 11) and me to play together. There was enough depth and strategy that we had something to talk about, but it isn’t so tricky that she had to rely on me. We had a blast and are looking forward to the sequel.
4. 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, Vanillaware
This game looks like a Lucas Arts-style adventure game, but its structure is closer to a visual novel with a strategy game bolted on. The strategy game is clever. I had a lot of fun with it despite it being a combination of easy and chaotic. However, it can’t help but be overshadowed by the lunatic story.
Vanillaware has crafted a tale that hammers the player (or is it the reader) with twist after twist. As the Japanese high schoolers at the center of the story try to understand their predicament no explanation last for more than a few chapters. Twists and revelations come in wave after wave building ever wilder scenarios. It was a real treat.
3. Puzzle Strike 2, Sirlin Games
Sirlin Games has released a number of great games, but Puzzle Strike 2 is Sirlin's best entry for a classic game night. It has a perfect mix of skill and chaos which means the best players will win out most of the time, but every dog has their day. The rhythm of the game is very exciting. The stakes for each player keep increasing until somebody chokes and the winner is selected. You watch your opponent start their turn and think "I think the game is over" and as soon as they avoid disaster groan because it is probably game over for you.
2. A Plague Tale: Requiem, Asobo Studio
What continues to set the Plague Tale games apart is how the story and mechanics portray kids in the adult world. This is a story framework that appears in books and movies but isn’t a big focus in games. Requiem muddles that formula slightly, but not enough to harm the game, it is still a blast. Also, I think there need to be a few more articles on what makes Amicia de Rune such a unique video game heroine.
1. Elden Ring, FromSoftware Inc.
“Um, Elding Ring is my game of the year” is perhaps the most basic thing anybody can say at this point. But hey I’m not going to disagree with the people when they are right. This game has been so completely covered, I don’t know if there is anything original I can say. However, I might as well try. Therefore, here are the four things that jumped out at me while playing.
Keep the Surprises Coming
As I made my way around the Lands Between there was always one more surprise to be had. A chance to encounter something weird, spectacular, or surprising. Giants pulling massive crypt carts, a crazy elevator in the woods, ambulatory mausoleums, a man in an egg, and a land of frozen giants. You never knew what kind of wildness you would encounter.
Always Doing Something Different
Elden Ring reuses assets a lot. However, they work very hard to inject as much variety as they can. There are only a few tree models, but different regions have different colors to still ensure a unique visual signature. Catacombs are made of a small palette of walls and level gimmicks, but each catacomb is built around a different theme that the player learns while defeating them. Speaking from experience it takes a lot of discipline for a team to pull that off.
Early on the game gives an impression that the core structure is: travel to a dungeon, kill a boss, get their rune, take the rune to a tower and energize the rune. However, the game never repeats this pattern exactly. Other regions have dungeons, bosses, runes, and towers. But the flow is never exactly the same twice. For example, the second rune I got was from a boss in a dungeon, but I didn’t need to take it to a tower. The tower is still there but serves a different purpose in that case. Giving the player a formula and then deviating from it enhances the sense of mystery and wonder.
Rani the Witch
There are lots of fun story elements in Elden Ring, but the way the Rani the Witch story played out felt like one of the most interesting narratives I have seen in a game in years. Rani's tale used a collection of tricks to invert the relationship between the player and the NPC. It made me feel like she was the protagonist and I was the sidekick. Whether this was intentional or lucky I can’t say, but it reminded me of some of the tricks that Gene Wolfe used to manipulate his own readers.