THE TOP 10 VIDEO GAMES… of 2022 found me leaning away from the very expensive Playstation 5 I’d gotten late last year and opting for PC strategy games more often, likely because my DOTA 2 addition couldn’t be sustained by lowering player counts and long waits between matches. After a new PC build in recent months I can play games on modest settings and I’m finding it preferable to big budget console experiences. It is worth noting that I do not play MMO games and do not own a Nintendo Switch, so no multiplayer games and no kid’s games and few JRPGs. Also, for the record I have not completed the main story of Horizon: Forbidden West and haven’t gotten the official release of Dwarf Fortress yet. Best games I played this year that weren’t released in 2022: Dragon Age: Inquisition, Demon’s Souls (2020), and Ys: Memories of Celceta.
20. Horizon: Forbidden West [Guerrilla Games]
19. Sifu [Sloclap]
18. Norco [Geography of Robots]
17. Tunic [Andrew Shouldice/Finji]
16. Souldiers [Dear Villagers]
15. Thymesia [OverBorder Studio]
14. Neon White [Angel Matrix]
13. Elex II [Piranha Bytes]
12. Star Ocean: The Divine Force [tri-ACE]
11. Backpack Hero (Early Access) [Jaspel]
BEST OF 2022
[Shiro Games, PC]
[Note: This game is still in Early Access] WarTales is essentially a strategy RPG built around mechanics that will be familiar to folks who’ve played a fair deal of Bannerlord in terms of the overworld and party-building. Talent specializations (crafting, cooking, etc.) are deep, relationships between characters are important in terms of perks, resource management is key, and survival mechanics are unforgiving yet addictive in their general loop. Though it entered Early Access in 2021 I played as much of WarTales as I will ever play (75+ hours) during 2022 after The Great Gosenberg update added a ton of content and refinements, having felt it was too early and kind of overly difficult prior. At this point even though it is still in Early Access and they’ve yet to add co-op yet I’ve already gotten my $35 worth and have pretty much moved on but it was a complete obsession for a long while. I’ll probably wait on the official release of Shiro Games‘ other game (Dune: Spice Wars) but I’m all the more stoked for it considering the craft put into this game thus far.
[Bounding Box Software, PC]
Despite being a fairly short game retro-hybridized level-based first-person shooter (“boomer shooter”) Prodeus had been in early access since 2020, with the developer taking their time to basically hook up the early 90’s shareware Doom-alike FPS aesthetic with Unreal Tournament-tight speed, and elements you’ll find in modern solo campaigns a la the Doom reboot back in 2016. Not as replayable as Strafe but better looking/tighter controls compared to Dusk, this is some of the most fun I’ve had with this niche in a few years.
[Logic Artists, PC]
Since I’d played Expedition: Viking (2017) a year after it released and loved it I’d wanted to get in on this one so I could praise it in a timely manner and I wasn’t disappointed by the overall campaign and sheer amount of choices given in developing your character for this historical fiction tactical/strategy RPG. After spending about ~50 hours with the game I definitely felt like the story held my attention but the combat ceased to evolve in interesting ways, which is fine but it doesn’t call for another playthrough. Nonetheless, a story that holds my attention that long is worthy of tons of praise. — I am as anti-NFT as they come and have no respect for Logic Artists deciding to pursue NFT centered game development going forward, thankfully their publisher has opted out of anything even tangentially related to NFTs for further content related to this game. All of that shit is an embarrassing scam, bad for the planet and bad for people.
[Spiders, Playstation 5]
Steelrising is French developer Spiders‘ second entirely sound, relatively bug-free action RPG after many years of getting it mostly right, Greedfall being their first noteworthy game and well, I would know since back in 2021 I basically played through every game they put out from Mars: War Logs until now. Anyhow, this is technically a “Soulslike” in mechanics but I’d rather consider it a character action RPG-lite with moderate metroidvania elements to its level design. Combat style determines your starting point in terms of weaponry and base stats, etc. The draw here is the unique alternate historical fiction setting, the steampunk aesthetics, and the responsive feeling of the combat and traversal. As a complete and generally issue-free first playthrough I’d felt the contained and fairly succinct nature of this story and the fun of the combat made this one of my best gameplay + story experiences of the year. I am always rooting for smaller developers with ambitious ideas breaking into the mainstream space, so, after I’d felt Elex II let me down at every turn as a longtime Piranha Bytes fan it seems that Spiders only improve with each game they release and I appreciate that they tempered their ambitions into a focused and worthwhile game.
GOD OF WAR: RAGNARÖK
[Santa Monica Studio, Playstation 5]
As of yesterday (December 10th) I’ve completed this ninth game in the God of War series at one hundred percent including all of the optional content, bosses, achievements, etc. and I can safely say it was cool, it was beautiful, occasionally emotional, and I even had a few fun moments in the mix but I am inching towards the realization that I have become less and less interested in the cinematic possibilities of video games as a medium. This is as close to a television show as I’d ever wanted a game to get and, well, I just don’t care about television. Exploration, combat customization, and artistic design don’t fully trump overworked level design and a bit of a drawn-out and pointless narrative but I was satisfied enough with my 60+ hour experience that it belongs among the best of the year. To put things into perspective Prince of Persia: Warrior Within was on my best of 2004 for similar reasons. Ragnarök won’t age as well as its predecessor in the long run as you’ll need some considerable distance from the convoluted plot and very unsatisfying conclusion before wanting to experience it again and I think because they’d packed two game’s worth of content into a small chunk of plot and drove the player through it like a theme park. Whereas God of War (2018) was worthy of a feature film this is, well, a bit like House of the Dragon, more of something we didn’t need which is a bit dead behind the eyes and trying too hard after changing hands. Again, I can’t help but dog this game but keeping things in perspective it is of a certain highest quality that most folks should experience.
[Rose-Engine Games, PC]
I wasn’t going to bother with third person psychological survival horror game Signalis after seeing it described as “retro” envisioning the tank controls-era of video games I’d fought through in my teens but the I figured PC Gamer wouldn’t call it “Silent Hill influenced” without something substantial to back that up. After playing through the game on PC (~8 hours or so) I can heartily recommend it as a challenging, often surprising take on the sub-genre with a strong art style and soundtrack. Definitely deserves another playthrough.
[Matthias Linda, PC]
Chained Echoes is a modernized and entirely charming meditation upon the possibilities of the turn-based 16-bit era influenced RPG which arrives upon currency through its absolute maturation away from the tropes of “made for children” JRPGs of the late 80’s and early 90’s. Challenging enough combat with fluid 2D animations impress to start but deep systems of character specialties and customization (action skills, passive abilities, stats) kept me engaged for the duration of the game. The political intrigue of the story isn’t overwrought, the game manages to be reasonable with its non-voiced text heavy dialogue and exposition while keeping the combat brisk and fun. If you’re big on the Lunar series’ look and the serious tone on first half of Xenogears you’ll naturally warm up to this one. Definitely could’ve used full voice acting but that’d have to have been an entirely different game. Also, the OST from Eddie Marianukroh is brilliantly varied, evocative, and never grating while sustaining the tone of the game consistently across the full playthrough. If CrossCode wasn’t fully there for you a few years back, this one might be.
MOUNT & BLADE II: BANNERLORD
[TaleWorlds, Playstation 5/PC]
In development since 2015 and in Early Access since 2020 this prequel to Mount & Blade: Warband doesn’t change the core concept of the series, keeping the janky sort of open world RPG mod community feeling to its from the ground up army-building, siege simulating blend of meta strategy gameplay and action RPG elements. The factions and their inherent specialties are a bit more sophisticated here, sieges and resource management are the major draw, the graphics are well enough improved, but I wouldn’t recommend the console version per the controller not being right for this type of game. I have both PC and Console versions and found the mouse and keyboard the best way to micromanage along with the pace with the game. If this type of game seems too complex and the tutorials are dense in preview don’t worry, it is heavily strategic but easy to learn and have fun with. Failing and starting over is part of the fun and replay value has always been the major draw of Mount & Blade, there is always a reward for the time you put into these games. If it looked/controlled as good as Chivalry II it’d probably have been my runner-up for GOTY.
[Berzerk Studio, PC/Playstation 4]
Infernax is a deceptively simple homage to NES style action-adventure games in the form of a stylized metroidvania looking a bit like something along the lines of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest or Zelda II: The Adventure of Link up front but quickly reveals a grimdark, gory edge to its style as you begin to kill off its many demonic bosses. If you know what you’re doing you could probably chop through the game in under five hours but most will take at least 10+ on their first rip through per the tough difficulty of the game. Though the 8-bit style is a bit plain to start the fantastic soundtrack from Jason Létourneau, Jules Conroy and Olivier Couillard helps to sell the retro feeling of the game off the bat. I’ve played through it three times this year (once on PC, twice on PS4) after discovering it a few months past release and much like Cyber Shadow last year I’ve found myself wanting to go back for the game and the soundtrack many times since.
[From Software, Playstation 5/PC]
After putting ~150 hours into my first playthrough of Elden Ring I went back and played it three more times, twice to get the rest of the trophies on console and then another full playthrough on PC. At that point I played through Dark Souls III again (for the eighth time), and found myself unable to enjoy anything else video game related for several months. This game set the bar so high for the type of video game experience I enjoy most that nothing else would do, not even some of my favorite games hit. There is no way I could sum up my experience with this game in just a paragraph or two, but I will say that it kept me up at night for a month either playing it well into the morning or thinking about strategies for bosses I’d been stuck on. It doesn’t have the replay value of some of the comparatively shorter “souls” games but the trade-off is basically three games worth of world to rip through. If there was a masterpiece in video games this year, this was it from my point of view.
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