The 29 Games I Played in 2022

I played 29 different games in 2022, which might sound like a whole lot to some of you but to me it feels positively modest. Admittedly I’ve never kept track in the past, but due to a combination of being a proud new dad, trying to stay on top of a PhD and my other hobbies too, I definitely made less time for gaming last year. However, I still really enjoyed gaming in 2022, perhaps even more than normal. I tend to enjoy games most when life is otherwise hectic and the ability to escape to other worlds is more appreciated, and last year was nothing if not hectic. 

Looking back at the full list I got to enjoy a whole lot of brilliant games, though I am slightly disheartened by how much my playtime this year was dominated by either sequels or games I have already played for hundreds of hours before. Some of these games I’ll never truly tire of and are a comforting joy to return to, but nevertheless I intend to try and be a bit more adventurous in 2023. By far my favorite game of this year was an impulsive late night purchase well outside of my normal genre comfort zones, and I’d love to be surprised like that again.

I’ve given each game a score out of 10 indicating roughly how compelling and entertaining I found my time with them to help me focus my thoughts. However, I’ve put an asterisk next to the score for anything which I think I might not have played enough of for my opinion to be fully fixed

Without further ado, here’s the full list of games and their scores :

  • Pathologic 2 – 10/10
  • Elderscrolls: Morrowind – 10/10
  • STALKER: Anomaly – 10/10
  • Elden Ring – 9/10
  • Kenshi – 9/10
  • Dwarf Fortress – 9/10
  • Kerbal Space Program – 9/10
  • Slay the Spire – 9/10
  • Warframe – 9/10
  • Elder Scrolls Online – 8/10
  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild – 8/10
  • Mass Effect 1 Remaster – 8/10
  • Nobody Saves the World – 8/10
  • OSRS – 8/10
  • Total War Warhammer 3 – 8/10
  • Vampire Survivors – 8/10
  • Forza Horizon 5 – 8/10
  • Into the Breach – 8/10
  • Risk of Rain 2 – 8/10
  • The Sims 4 – 8/10
  • Dying Light 2 – 8/10
  • Overwatch 2 – 8/10 * 
  • Cyberpunk 2077 – 7/10 *
  • Deep Rock Galactic 7/10
  • The Looker 7/10
  • Pillars of Eternity 7/10
  • Mirror’s Edge Catalyst 7/10
  • Guild Wars 6/10
  • Loop Hero 6/10 * 

That’s the scores out the way, let’s try and justify them!

Breath of the Wild 8/10

I’ll remember 2022 for many reasons, but of the surprisingly prominent ones at least on the gaming front for me, is that 2022 was the year I finally completed Breath of the Wild. It’s a game I’d bounced off so many times, and yet I kept on wanting to give it another go. It has an amazingly beautiful open world, and the way you navigate it is nearly peerless to me. The ability to climb up almost anything is such a simple core gameplay system, but it holds the whole game together and means traversing the world never got dull. 

It is the mechanical pleasure found in exploring that largely kept me going and almost everything else that held it back. The combat has lots of options but I generally found it bland and repetitive, not helped by the lack of enemy variety and by the dodgy camera controls. The writing and quest design is largely inoffensive, but the goals I was given were never as interesting as the goals I would set myself by picking a distant landmark and trying to get there. Worst of all, at least for me though, is the shrine dungeons. Finding them is your primary reward for exploring the world, and completing them is the main way that you increase your strength, but I found them almost universally rubbish. Whether it is tedious puzzles or endlessly repeated fights with the same robot, the weakness of the shrines was enough to put me off wanting to explore at all sometimes. 

However this year I persevered and I am glad I did. There ended up being more non shrine stuff to find in the overworld than I expected which kept me interested, and the variety of different biomes to explore and the ways they connect kept me consistently entertained. I did not love this game half as much as its fans do, but I also totally understand the love. 

Cyberpunk 2077 7/10 *

This would have been a risky one to have an opinion two years ago, but now the dust has settled and its main detractors and defenders have moved on. I stayed away at the time of release, partly due to the backlash it received but mainly because I was pretty sure my PC wouldn’t be able to run it. I was always curious about it though, and in 2022 after a PC upgrade and it going on sale it finally felt like time. And after all that build up and furore how was it?

Pretty ok? Ish?

I don’t love having such a bland opinion of it, but I had a pretty average time overall with this one. Which is a real shame because it has elements of absolute brilliance. The visuals are the star of the show. Night City and its surroundings are truly awesome to look at. My personal highlight was the bit of the map absolutely covered in trash, and any game that can make literal mounds of rubbish this compelling to look at deserves some kind of praise.

For every other element of the game though it’s a much more mixed bag. Your time in the game is broadly spent on either traveling, talking or fighting. Of these three traveling is the weakest, never terrible but never good. Whether on foot or in a vehicle, travel always felt floaty and not super pleasant to control. Also, while the city is great to look at, there’s very little to do in it to bring it to life. Just endlessly respawning squads of cyber-goons to murder. The combat is better and allows for a degree of expressivity in its character build decisions, but still never felt entertaining moment to moment. I started out as a melee focused character which turned out to be a terrible decision. Close combat feels and looks rubbish, with clunky animations and hit detection. I switched to a sneaky shooty person after, which felt better but was still a bit of a chore. 

The talky bits are the highlight of the three pillars. Voice acting, and the mo-capped physical acting is all great. But so much of the content that I experienced, even the main quest stuff just felt flat pretty bland. A good chunk of the plot felt very predictable, and even the enjoyable scenes with fun characters often felt like they were dragging. However, there were more than a few flashes of brilliance and incredibly compelling scenes, especially one which completely subverted what seemed like a boring set up in a digital brothel, and had me on the edge of my seat. 

I’ve not rolled credits on this one, hence the asterisks next to the score there. I played 30 hours and I get the impression that I have not seen a fraction of the game. However I’ve not played it in months and I cannot say I’ve felt drawn back to it at all. I doubt I’m done with the game forever, and maybe I’ll have a new score this time next year. Next time though, I’m ignoring all side content, heading straight through the main quest and hoping that the bits of dramatic brilliance I saw before were not flukes.

Deep Rock Galactic 7/10

I feel bad about this one. Anyone who has spent even half an hour in this first person co-op focused mine-em-up will know it’s got so much to recommend it. It looks and sounds great, with loads of personality to its presentation. It controls smoothly and the combat while not anything to write home about, is perfectly functional and can be pretty fun. It’s also clearly a labor of love, with so much attention to detail evident throughout its design. 

The problem for me is primarily that it gets too dull too quickly. DRG clearly wants to be a regular part of your gaming diet, with lots of season passes and time locked offers to keep you logging in regularly. It’s clearly working for some, and there are people whose opinion I respect for whom it’s become their regular Friday night social hang out game. For me though it gets very samey very quickly. Partly this is because as a co-op game I’m not sure it does enough to incentivise or force active cooperation. Each of the four classes has distinct skills but they never felt like they synergised in especially interesting ways. With the two different co-op partners I’ve done prolonged stints with, it felt like we were playing in parallel rather than together for much of the time. 

DRG has also become one of my go to examples for how good procedural content generation (PCG) cannot carry an experience. All of DRGs cavern and cave systems are procedurally generated and the results are undeniably impressive. They’re far from just functional, they are typically varied and gorgeous. And yet it’s not enough to stop the game feeling samey. Maybe it’s because so much of your kit exists to ignore and trivialize navigation difficulties that could arise from the terrain, I’m not sure. All I know is that it wasn’t enough. I have some fond memories of it, but I doubt I’ll be back.

Dwarf Fortress – 9/10

Dwarf Fortress finally getting a full release after 20 years of development, largely by just two people, the brothers Tarn and Zach Adams, was one of the really heartwarming stories from gaming in 2022. The outpouring of love from the wider game dev community who had been inspired by the game, and the inpouring of new fans enticed in by the new and improved steam version was incredibly heartening and very well deserved. Dwarf Fortress has more than earned its cult classic reputation and seeing it finally get its flowers so publicly was brilliant. 

I clocked up all of my hours in 2022 before the steam release, but this was merely the latest dozen or so hours into a game that has consumed thousands over the past years. I can’t remember exactly when I first played Dwarf Fortress, but it was over a decade ago and probably significantly longer. In some ways it has never gotten old. The base building is always compelling and deeply expressive, and the depth of its simulation is still awe inspiring. Every new world you generate has its own idiosyncratic and deep history for all its civilisations, and having that knowledge while also being able to zoom in down to inspect each of the new thoughts of the dwarfs in your fort, or the minor injuries they have sustained and the stories behind them is a level of simulation depth no other game has even attempted.

The problem with DF is mainly that it is more fun to talk about than it is to actually play. If you are paying attention, the procedural stories that emerge in it can be incredibly compelling (shout out to Kruggsmash who is a master of telling these stories). However, you have to be really paying attention to draw thes stories out, spending a lot of time digging through menus to investigate your dwarfs feelings and relationships. 

More typically in DF, you will be playing it as a management/base building game, where it’s a bit more of a mixed bag. The level of expressivity possible is huge, but it is very slow and time consuming. Once you are familiar with the game, there is often not much tension either. You know what you need to do to set up a happy functional fortress and how to do it, it’s just the execution that takes a while. My last fort I spent a good 8 hours of playtime over a few days setting everything up and it was almost entirely without incident. There’s good reason why self imposed challenge becomes the focus of fortress building for most enfranchised players.

Furthermore, when death and failure does come to your fort, it’s often so quick and brutal that it can feel almost anticlimactic. You can have dozens of hours of successful fort construction under your belt, but if you mess up and let the wrong monster from the depths in it can all be over in minutes without really having a chance to salvage the situation.

Whatever deficiencies DF might have as a strategy game though are more than made up for by its undeniable strengths. It is the unquestioned high watermark of deep and impactful procedural generation and if you let it get its hooks (or picks?) into you be prepared to lose hundreds of hours down under the earth. No matter how overfamiliar I am with it I doubt I’ll ever uninstall it for long, and I’ll never be immune to the siren call of starting a new fort. Maybe this time I’ll finally pull off the lava fortress I’ve been dreaming of.

Dying Light 2 – 8/10

This one is a bit of a bummer to me. Dying Light 2 is a perfectly good game, in fact one of the better new games I played this year. Robust in most ways you’d want a modern AAA game to be, and I had a good enough time for the 30 odd hours I spent in it. And yet it was my biggest disappointment of 2022.

Dying Light 1 is an all time favorite of mine. It’s got some major deficiencies, most of all the incredibly lackluster plot which manages to be both boring and intensely depressing which is no mean feat. However, mechanically it is peerless. I am a sucker for both first person platforming and first person melee combat and DL1 does both so well. It also had a brilliantly consistent and grim visual design, and always looked plausibly what a zombie apocalypse in a south american city might look like (admittedly, to someone who has never been to south america).

What’s more, DL1 has one of the most satisfying mechanical arcs of any game I’ve played. At the start of the game individual zombies are a significant threat and moving from one roof to another feels like a significant undertaking. But by the end of the game, you are an ultra fit martial arts master with an implausible but incredibly fun grappling hook, capable of clearing 3 story buildings in seconds and dispatching hoards of zombies in any one of a number of entertaining ways. This arc from terrified civilian to implausibly powerful man-machine and how satisfying it is means I’m always happy to replay it. 

Unfortunately DL2 feels like a step back. We’re now in a post-post apocalypse with steam-punk windmills and a lot more greenery and to be it just looks like a bit of a mess. Not bad, but just way less consistent than the first game’s visuals. It’s the mechanical arc that has taken the biggest hit for me though. Between hour 1 and hour 30 I’d acquired a few new skills but it felt very flat by comparison to the first. I really dislike how all enemies in the game now have visible levels. Firstly it just feels silly, the concept of a level 5 zombie feels goofy in a way that the first game never did outside of cutscenes. It also contributes to the lack of a satisfying mechanical arc. I might go from fighting level 1 zombies at hour 1 to level 8 zombies at hour 30, but all that really changes is the numbers. Compared to DL1 where you go from running scared from individual zombies at hour 1 to casually decapitating them while you sprint by at hour 30, it’s just no contest.

DL2 is far from a bad game, but if I want to spend some time scrambling up buildings and drop kicking zombies, I’ll probably just play the first game again.

Elden Ring – 9/10

It’s the big one, top of many game of the year lists and with good reason. Like so many of you, FROM Software have made many of my favorite games of the past decade. Dark Souls 1 is the game that reinvigorated my love of gaming in general and is still probably my favorite game of all time. One of the few games that could also fight for that top spot is Bloodborne, another FROM game in a similar mold except with werewolves and eldritch horror in place of zombies and decay. Elden Ring was my most anticipated game of the past few years, let alone 2022, so seeing it finally release, seeing it be largely as great as hoped and get so much praise was a highlight of the year. 

It’s easy to skim over the positives here because they are largely the same positives that have made all of FROM’s games so good. The combat is consistently thrilling; the build variety means that there are hundreds of relatively distinct playstyles supported; the visual design of the world and enemies is so inventive and compelling; and the overall vibe is just brilliant. First arriving at Altus Plateau and the first descent into Sofira River are the two best moments I had in gaming this year and it’s not even close. 

Unfortunately, I seem to enjoy each new FROM game ever so slightly less than the last (with the exception of Bloodborne), and ER has not broken that trend. While I admire it, I do not think the open world experiment in ER was that successful. The amount of repetition in the over world, the amount the openness trivializes avoiding most encounters, and the extent to which it messes with FROMs ability to control how the players power level progresses are all negatives to me. A core part of the experience of these games to me is being stuck up against a seemingly impossible boss and having no choice but to try and fail, try and fail until you have mastered it. In ER this basically never happens unless by choice. 

There are always numerous places you could explore to gain more power, or more likely, ways of avoiding the boss entirely. A surprisingly tiny amount of content in ER is mandatory, and the vast majority of it has to be actively sought out and is often not worth the effort. All you’ll get from many of the often bland dungeons in the game is a new item that is completely irrelevant for your build. My first ER playthrough I was trying to be somewhat completionist, which unfortunately made ER the first FROM software game I’ve got bored of before the end. I still finished it and enjoyed doing so, but I would have happily been done a dozen hours earlier. 

The highs of ER are still dizzying, and it still is deserving of its praise. I’d just be a lot more excited for a Bloodborne or Sekiro sequel than I will be for the inevitable Elden Ring 2.

Elder Scrolls Online – 8/10

It had been years since I played a traditional MMO, but a friend of mine nudged me into getting into it and inevitably I got sucked in and had a good time. I’ve actually got very little to say about this one, it’s just very solid. It’s got everything I’d look for in a World of Warcraft style MMO, and thanks to having been around for a long old time, it’s stuffed full of content. ESO has a ‘play anywhere’ system, which basically means all content in the game is scaled to your level and will give appropriate rewards. This can be a bit overwhelming as there is no clear direction on where to go, but there’s always the option of looking up the actual release order and playing it through like that.

Nothing really makes ESO stand out above other MMOs I’ve played, apart from every quest having voice over and having put slightly more thought into its plots for even minor side content, which is a nice touch. Almost all of the main content is incredibly easy, but the lovely environments and decent enough writing and voice over kept it from feeling like a slog. I had a good time with it for a good hundred hours or so, and I could easily see myself going back if I just wanted to vibe and wander around a super pretty world chock full of distractions.

Elderscrolls: Morrowind – 10/10

So this is another big one for me, another contender for my all time favorite game and one of my go to reinstalls when I fancy a return to comforting familiarity, or am just in between other games. 

Every year or so I return back to Morrowind and I never regret it. I could ramble for hours about the stuff I love in this game (and often do). Its world is so inventive and varied, but in a way that feels so effortless and cohesive. It’s a world in which people farm giant airborne jellyfish; peppered with steampunk automaton filled ruins, shrines to otherworldly entities, and with horrifying rotting creatures being psychically controlled by an insane god who lives in a volcano, and somehow it all works so well together and feels natural. It has deep interconnected factions, each with their own interlocking goals and relationships. It all just feels so fresh in a way the sequels never did in the same way to me. It’s also another game which consistently delivers a visceral feeling of powering up over the course of a game. You’ll start off barely able to duel a rat, and end the game a near unstoppable warrior, or wizard (or some unholy combination of the two).

There undeniably a lot of issues ready to be pointed out. Lots of the quests are pretty bland, a lot of go here, kill some people, come back quests even in the major faction content. Cliff racers are maybe the worst enemy from any game ever. There are tons of poorly explained but fairly essential mechanics which can make it a pretty hostile experience for newcomers. But none if it even comes close to offsetting all of the beautiful, immersive stuff in this game.

It also has one of the best main menu themes of all time:

Forza Horizon 5 – 8/10

Another fun one which I don’t have much to say about. The legendary Noah Gervais recommended it in one of his video essays and even though it had been a good half decade since I played a driving game, I thought I’d check it out. It’s a perfectly charming open world drive em up with a shitzillion activities to do and cars to acquire. I’m far from a driving game expert, but it feels very arcadey in its driving model. This is most obvious when you’re off-road, when it’s perfectly possible to do a steady 200mph in an over-tuned sports car while casually driving through trees and nailing 10 story jumps, when I’m pretty sure in real life most of them couldn’t handle your average speed bump. Next time I try a racing game I think I’ll opt for something a bit more towards the simulation end of the arcade-sim scale, but I still had my fun with this one. 

Guild Wars 6/10

This was a foundational game for me back in the day and I decided to revisit it while on holiday with only an underpowered laptop for gaming. It was a lovely dose of nostalgia, and in many ways I think it holds up pretty well, but it was downright unsettling seeing all of the towns and villages that In my memory were full of players now completely empty. The game is still perfectly playable solo with its NPC henchman system, and it works well enough as a single player action RPG. I cannot say I’d recommend it to anyone new, but I had my fun revisiting my old haunts for a few hours.

Into the Breach – 8/10

This indie gem is a few years old now but it still shines brightly. Ostensibly it’s a turn-based micro-strategy game, but really it’s one of the best puzzle games out there. Each round of combat is another interesting knot to untangle, and despite each scenario being procedurally generated, it often feels like each turn is near handcrafted. It feels like there is always a perfect move, it’s just a question of finding it.

My issues with the game such as they are are firstly: each run takes me too long. I definitely overthink my turns, but a full run can take me a good 2 to 3 hours, and there is just not enough variety to keep me engaged for that long. I think it’s seared into my brain that a rogue-like run should take under an hour unless you’re into some crazy end game stuff. My other issue is that I just don’t like the aesthetic or the vibe of the game all that much, which is a shame because the studio’s previous game FTL was one of the most atmospheric games out there despite having way simpler graphics. Something about the mechs vs giant bugs setting just is not super evocative to me, meaning I tend to be solely focused on the puzzles themselves, which can get a wee bit repetitive. This is still a great game, but I would recommend FTL over it.

Kenshi – 9/10

This is the game on my list that I’d guess that you’re the least likely to have heard of, which is a shame because Kenshi is brilliant. Part isometric RPG, part squad management game, part base building game, all in one of the weirdest and most compelling post-post-post apocalyptic settings I’ve ever been in. Unfortunately it’s also one of the most inaccessible and hostile new player experiences out there. Surviving is hard enough, but even trying to work out what you’re meant to do can be even harder. It’s definitely an RPG, with gear to find, levels to get and so on, but there are no quests or any guidance on what to do for the most part. Just a large, mostly empty wasteland to try and find your way in. 

It’s undeniably fairly janky, with a fair number of bugs and partially implemented mechanics (I spent dozens of hours terrified of drowning while swimming because a loading screen told me to be, only to find out drowning was never implemented). But given Kenshi is largely the work of one man working for over a decade the results are still incredible. It’s the sort of game where once you’ve worked out how to survive you need to set your own goals, but trying to execute them can be brilliant.

For my most recent playthrough I decided to forgo all of the party management and base building side of Kenshi and instead roleplay as a martial arts focused robot with a deep hatred of slavery and slavers. Working my way up from nothing to my personal endgame of fist fighting the leaders of the main slaver faction was such a brilliant RPG experience, and the fact that it was happening in the same game where my previous run ended with me establishing a thriving base with dozens of citizens in the middle of cannibal ridden plains half a world away just highlights the crazy scope of this project. 

Kerbal Space Program – 9/10

The indie darling space rocket construction and flight game is still around getting updates, and still as brilliant as ever. Managing to make a game that so accurately models orbital mechanics while still being so charming, welcoming and downright fun is such an achievement. With its campaign mode it works brilliantly, keeping you in an engaging loop of mastering the mechanics to make discoveries in space to unlock better equipment to further your exploration, opening up new mechanical possibilities, and so on and so on. The fact that the systems and mechanics you are learning so closely mirror real life rocket construction and spaceflight concerns is just icing on the cake. The sense of scale in space is just brilliant too. Long before No Man’s Sky trailers were blowing minds by letting you go from planet ‘s surface into orbit without a cut or a loading screen, Kerbal was doing the same in a way that still impresses today. There’s a long awaited sequel just out into early access at time of writing, but even if it’s a letdown, the original will always be brilliant. 

Loop Hero 6/10 *

I feel like a bit of a dick for this one. On paper I should love it. It’s got great art, music and a cool setting. It’s a deck building game, and I’ve never met a deck building game I did not like in the past, and the core gimmick sounded so good to me. The central idea of Loop Hero is that the game basically plays itself. You are in charge of an RPG hero who walks an endless loop around a fixed track, hence the name. Where the player comes in is deciding on and placing what enemy or reward encounters they will find on this path. The main challenge is in balancing the right level of difficulty for your hero. Too little, and they won’t level and gear up fast enough and won’t survive, too much difficulty and they will fall even sooner. Sounds simple right?

Well it was not for me. I have no idea why the game just did not click, but I played a good 20 hours of it and I could not get my head around it. There are loads of interesting synergies, and encounters you can combine together for interesting effects, but it all comes down to the central balance of keeping the difficulty as high as you can for the hero without killing them, and I just never felt like I had enough information to do that effectively. Annoyingly I know I am just not great at this game. There are Steam achievements for both dying 10 times, and for killing the first boss, and when I was playing I could see that many more people had the first boss achievement than had the 10 deaths one. Not so for me, in fact I suspect I saw well over 20 before I killed the first boss, and when I did I wasn’t even sure what I had done right that time.

Enough people whose opinion I respect say great things about this game, so at some point I might well return. Despite my chunky playtime I still feel like I’ve not seen enough of the game, hence the asterisks with the score. I still have to be honest that this was the game I enjoyed least this year. With my favorite rogue-likes, each early run feels like it teaches you so much, lessons that you can then apply and progress further. Not so with Loop Hero, after each run I just got more confused and frustrated about what I was meant to do. 

Mass Effect 1 Remaster – 8/10

This was a pleasant trip down memory lane. I loved Mass Effect on its original release and the remaster seemed like a good excuse to go back. The first game has always been praised for its story and presentation, but even on release I remember it being dragged a bit for its boring combat. I was actually pleasantly entertained by the combat this time around, though they may have tuned it up for the remaster. It’s still a cool and inventive sci-fi world to get lost in, though the writing and plotting was slightly blander than I remembered. The most heartbreaking aspect of my playthrough was the Mako, your bouncy space truck that you use to explore planets when you aren’t on foot. I remember loving it, and I’ve defended it from all the haters for the past decade, but wow, the haters were so right and I was so wrong. It’s just at best boring and at worst miserable to control, not helped by how bland and featureless most of the planets to explore are. 

I also find the remaster as a whole perplexing in terms of its priorities. It looks gorgeous, and I can now see all of the pores on everyone’s faces, but almost every side mission still takes place in one of two copy and pasted structures. Couldn’t they have added some more building templates to the side content? Or is seeing that one warehouse building several dozen times in a playthrough an integral part of the Mass Effect experience in a way that invisible pores never was? 

Overall I still had a good time with it though blasting through the campaign, and I expect I’ll check out ME2 and maybe even have a first ever playthrough of 3 later this year.

Mirror’s Edge Catalyst 7/10

This is another sad one to write about for me. Mirror’s Edge 1 was one of the most exciting build ups to a release ever for me (I watched its original trailer probably hundreds of times, and unlike many reviewers I thought it was brilliant. I spoke in my Dying Light 2 about how much I love first person platforming, well Mirror’s Edge is where that love was born and I think it still holds up. Yeah the combat was bad and the writing was eh, but it was just so unique and fun when not doing either. It did not sell well though and it took over 8 years to get a sequel in Catalyst, and when it did it got even more middling reviews and less fanfare than before. I cannot remember why I did not get it on release, but I recently joined Game Pass and there was Catalyst on the opening screen so I took that as a sign I should finally give it a go.

First impressions were unfortunately not great. There are so many design decisions that even 6 years on feel impossibly dated and of their time, even though that time was so recent (2016). From the thin open world, large number of filler feeling sidequests and collectables, a completely tacked on feeling skill tree that largely exists to give you skills you had to start within the first game, and the constant cajoling to leave tracks and compete for scores with your friends online. One of the sidequest types exists entirely so that your gamertag will be displayed in your friends worlds, which is such a bizarre way of trying to promote persistent online play that it almost makes it through being annoying back to being charming. 

Once you get over all of that though, there is still a good Mirror’s Edge game in here. The main missions are fine, but I especially liked the tower climbing side quests which turn the gameplay into a more thoughtful, puzzle solving kind of parkour rather than the frenetic speedrunning promoted elsewhere. Being almost as good as the first game, and even then only when you ignore all of the side content that’s being thrown at you, after a 8 year interlude between the two is hard to excuse though. I wish we would get more of these games, but after Catalyst I can see why we haven’t.

Nobody Saves the World – 8/10

Nobody Saves is a great little game, which handily shows how much mileage you can get out of questioning old norms of game design. In this case, what would happen if you removed loot from Diablo? It turns out that though endlessly complex loot systems and endless pursuit of trousers with bigger numbers are completely the norm for action RPGs, you can strip out all of that and still have a great time.

In its place Nobody Saves introduces a fun system in which you are constantly switching between different animal and monster forms, each with their own unique skills. Later on you can combine different aspects of these forms to create your own custom build for some old fashioned dungeon crawling, and it all comes together to make a really compelling package. The cartoony art style took me some time to acclimatize to, but by the end of the game I was actively into its aesthetic. Recommend this one highly, I’m even talking myself round to it being a 9, though I don’t think the combat system is quite deep enough to justify that. It’s fun, but rarely tactical. Still, check it out if you fancy some action RPG fun without a lot of the play forever nonsense.

Old School Runescape – 8/10

You’ve found it, my guilty pleasure. The only game so boring that even my completely non-gaming wife noticed how stupid and repetitive what I was doing was and started making fun of me for it. The only game where you can set yourself the task of clicking on the same rock over and over again for 8 hours and ironically think of it as being a ‘short grind’ in the context of the game it’s set in. And yet it’s clearly doing something right, with its estimated daily player count of over 1.5 million and a steady stream of new things to click on repeatedly. 

Honestly I find it so hard to explain the appeal of OSRS. There is no interaction ingame that is fun to do. I think the visuals are pretty charming, but you could hardly call it nice to look at. There is loot to get excited about, but this is the exception rather than the rule of time spent in the game. Most of what you do is repeat the same activity, over and over again, to watch a number slowly go up. Whether you are fishing, mining, thieving and so on, training them all comes down to repeating the same few clicks over and over again, for hours and hours, until you have unlocked a slightly different thing to click on. 

And yet it is just so compelling! Slowly progressing a character through the game and its various repetitive skills is not only fun to do, it’s even fun to watch. There is an entire cottage industry of youtubers and streamers progressing their accounts. It is simply deeply satisfying, and no amount of me pointing out to myself how much more moment to moment fun we could have elsewhere changes that. In the modern era of game design where it feels like every interaction is meant to feel like a big deal, every kill or successful game is accompanied by a dozen audio stings, particle effects and outfit unlocks to reassure you that you are spending your time well, there is something so refreshing about the unflashiness of OSRS and reveling in the simple pleasure of number go up. 

Overwatch 2 – 8/10 *

It’s Overwatch 1 again, but Overwatch 1 was fun, so I’m happy enough. I only got to play a few hours before British Telecom ruined my internet again and made it unplayable, but I had a good time while it lasted. As before all of the heroes are distinctive and all of their unique skills feel generally great to use. Unfortunately I have no interest in the grind it would take to ever get good at it, which is basically the goal of the game in the medium term beyond collecting outfits, so I doubt I’ll play much more. Casual low level play is fun enough but gets repetitive quickly. There’s only so many maps and heroes so if you aren’t very invested in winning and getting better at winning I’m not sure there’s much here for you in the medium term. 

Pathologic 2 – 10/10

My favorite game I played all year, and it wasn’t even especially close. It describes itself as an ‘open-world horror RPG’, but that doesn’t feel like it does the uniqueness of it justice. It’s one of those rare games to me with so many excellent aspects, and yet it still manages to feel like so much more than the sum of its parts. It is beautifully written with a large cast of memorable and compelling characters. It looks and sounds brilliant. It doesn’t have the most detailed environments or highest poly characters, but it’s all so cohesive and beautifully composed that I found myself taking more screenshots in this game than anything else I played this year. It’s also a mechanically deep and challenging survival game experience. Narrative and dialogue are a big focus, but this is far from a walking simulator. Surviving a whole day, let alone achieving your goals within it constantly feels like a hard earned achievement. 

In some ways it’s a hard game to recommend however. Firstly you have to fit within a fairly specific venn diagram of people who are interested in weird and unconventionally told narratives as well as punishing survival games. Maybe more importantly though, you have to be ok with spending your leisure time very stressed, and even miserable. Pathologic 2 is simply a game that explicitly wants to make you feel bad. Both mechanically and narratively it is typically bleak and punishing. Without spoiling anything it has the most punishing death mechanics I’ve ever encountered in a single player game, and that’s only the beginning of how it grinds you down with its mechanics. Success of a kind is possible, and there is plenty of hope to be found in its world and story, but you’ll have to earn both with a lot of anxiety, endurance and well executed strategy. 

There are certainly some nits I could pick here and there, but overall this was a captivating and haunting experience which has stuck with me for months in the best possible way. I couldn’t find a way of slipping this in naturally, but if any of this sounded good do not be put off by the ‘2’ at the end of its name. Confusingly this is more of a remake of Pathologic 1 and it works perfectly as a standalone game. If you’ve been craving a fresh experience from gaming then do check this one out, and then come talk to me about it!

Pillars of Eternity 7/10*

I’ve played far too little of this for my score to mean much, but unfortunately I did bounce off it fairly hard. Pillar’s is a throwback isometric RPG in a style of Baldur’s Gate and others of its ilk, and it does a brilliant job at aping that style. It is from Obsidian, some of my favorite developers out there, and from the few hours I saw it’s just as compellingly written as the rest of their catalog. The problem for me is all on the gameplay end. It is an old school RPG, warts and all, and when it comes to the combat it’s just too warty for me. Fights are both repetitive and slow, but also chaotic in a way that feels unfun to try and manage. I know it will get more entertaining as my character builds develop and combat becomes more of an expression of how I’ve specifically powered myself up, but not enough that I was willing to keep going. The world was compelling enough that if I find myself with more time I may well go back, especially as I’ve heard the sequel has a much more accessible combat system.  

Risk of Rain 2 – 8/10

This excellent sequel is basically a direct translation of the excellent Risk of Rain 1 into 3D, and it’s a transition that suits the game incredibly well. This is a combat focused rogue-like in which you fend off waves and waves of diverse enemies in a series of fixed but interesting locales. The main gimmick of the game is that it is forever getting harder. No matter what you are doing, as the clock ticks up the world gets more and more punishing. This on its own makes what would otherwise be a fairly dry experience very compelling. The decision to have one last look around a level for more loot is never one you can take lightly as every second really feels like it counts. This combined with its diverse roster of playable characters and powerful loot to find makes this super replayable. There’s pretty stiff competition in the rogue-like genre and I don’t think RoR2 does anything well enough that it feels truly essential but I’d still absolutely check it out if you’re a genre fan looking for a fresh experience.

STALKER: Anomaly – 10/10

It absolutely blows my mind that the best and most complete version of one of the best game series of the past decade is a mod that is completely free to download and does not require any of the base games to play, and yet here it is. Anomaly is the culmination of years of work from dedicated modding teams and it really shows in the level of polish and depth of systems that are in here. It combines the world maps of all three previous STALKER games into one massive interconnected map, and adds hundreds of new systems and mechanics to make it a deeper, more immersive and more challenging experience. There are several game modes to play, from a conventional story mode with a main questline to follow, to a zombie survival mode where the entire population of the world is coming for your tasty irradiated brains. My favorite is the conquest mode which has been brought over from STALKER: Clear Sky in which you can help one of the many factions in-game conquer and control territory.

In many ways, what makes Anomaly great are the same things that have made all STALKER titles great. They are brilliant survival games and open world shooters, but most important are just the atmosphere and vibes. STALKER’s ‘Zone’, the irradiated area around Chernobyl, is my favorite game location of all time. It’s just so stark, beautiful and scary. I’ve always loved exploring abandoned locations, and STALKER scratches that itch in the best possible way. I’ve spent thousands of hours in its world and it never gets any less compelling to be in. 

Slay the Spire – 9/10

Everyone’s favorite indie deck building game is here, and it really is as good as everyone says. I’ve been playing it for over four years now and it remains one of the most compelling roguelikes out there. Every run is so full of potential, and assembling a powerful deck never really gets less entertaining. Part of this is how much strategy and clever play is always involved. Unlike other roguelikes, you’re rarely just handed an overpowered build in StS (though it can happen). Most of the time that you end up with a strong deck it is as a result of consistently good tactical decisions over the length of its ~1 hour runs, and each decision made is an interesting part of that larger puzzle.

However, what I almost find most interesting about StS in some ways is (and I apologize in advance for being rude), how average to bad it is in so many ways. The art in the game is consistently weak, the monster designs visually are all over the place, the music is fine but It doesn’t do much for me. Most importantly for me, though, is how little of a sense of place it has. Narratively you are meant to be climbing to the top of an intimidating tower full of monsters, but this is so poorly reinforced by any of its design or visuals that it’s easy to completely forget that’s the case. And yet in spite of all this, it truly is one of my favorite games of the past decade. The fact that a game can be so average in so many ways, but still be nearly universally loved if it nails its core mechanics is a very interesting lesson, at least to me. 

The Looker 7/10

This was a lovely surprise. For anyone who missed it, The Looker is very specifically a free parody game poking gentle fun at The Witness, Johnathan Blow’s puzzle game from 2016. I have no idea what possessed someone to make a whole game that amounts to a shitpost making fun of a not especially well liked or fondly remembered indie game from 7 years ago, but I am very glad they did. If you are in the very specific camp of people who played The Witness, remember it but didn’t especially like it, then like me you will probably have some good laughs with The Looker. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and has a lot of wit in there. My main problem is only that it is a bit too much like The Witness, but it would be pretty churlish to hold that against it. 

The Sims 4 – 8/10

The Sims 4 is still the Sims and the Sims is still fun (if you like the Sims that is). I honestly cannot recall what made me want to jump in to this one but I imagine I was quite stressed and was in the mood for something incredibly relaxing to unwind with. I only spent a handful of hours on it but I had a good time and it delivered exactly what I wanted. It plays exactly like I remember the original playing, and all of the systems they have added since I last checked the series out do feel welcome. Managing your Sims lives and designing their house is as quietly entertaining as ever in a very low stakes sort of way. Unfortunately it’s just too light on challenge or intrigue to sustain my interest for long, which is exactly the experience I remember having with the prequels. Once the house is set up and my Sims are in a stable routine my interest withers away. Still, if like me you have fond memories of the earlier games and fancy a return to that vibe, I’d still recommend Sims 4. It was perfectly charming and pleasingly unbloated despite the decades of iterating on the formula.

Total War Warhammer 3 – 8/10

Creative Assembly’s ingenious combination of its total war formula with the Warhammer fantasy universe is still brilliant in many ways. Managing and expanding your empire on the world map is still interesting, albeit fairly simple, and the ground level battles themselves are still visually amazing and tactically compelling. The new stuff that TW3 brings to the table is broadly good too. The new factions that I have played in depth are great, and the new mechanics they have added to older factions are generally improvements and so on. 

The big problem with it for me is just the lack of freshness. All of the additions I can think of are good, but they just do not feel like quite enough to justify the big number 3 at the end of its title. Given the amount in common it has with the first two games, it cannot help but feel like a chunky expansion pack. There are also diminishing returns from adding new factions. Going from a roster of 4 alternative factions to 5 can feel huge, but going from the 60 ish factions from TW 1 and 2 and its expansions, to 80 ish with TW3 just does not feel all that significant. A single campaign can take 50 hours or more, so at a certain point adding more options just feels a bit redundant. It is still a very solid game, it’s just a very similar game to the one we’ve been able to play for years now.

Warframe – 9/10

Despite being a widely played free MMO with every incentive to be as mass marketable as possible, Warframe is one of the strangest games on my list, which in of itself is a pretty big achievement. It’s a 3rd person action combat game at its core, but after 12 years of updates that’s only the beginning. Warframe is absolutely bloated with content, with not only dozens upon dozens of different warframes and weapons to use which effectively constitute the games class system, but entire different games too. There are two totally distinct spaceship piloting games in here each with their own progression systems separate to the main games. There are sci-fi skateboards to ride and upgrade. There are dozens of hours of main story content to play through, all surprisingly high production and typically charmingly baffling. There is in short, a metric f*ckton of content to experiment with, all free and all slightly overwhelming in equal measure.

However, what ties it all together is how entertaining the core combat loop is. Despite all of the complexity surrounding it, you’ll still spend the majority of your time in game ninja sliding cartoonishly fast through its quick and punchy levels, shooting or slashing your way through hundreds of goons and it’s just visceral fun in a way that never really gets old. The fluid movement system is the star of the show, but the combat is no slouch either. Weapons can feel incredibly satisfying and punchy to use, especially if you have a good build for whatever you are doing to keep your damage numbers nice and high. It’s also pleasantly generous with your time and relaxing in a strange way for a game with quite such a high body count. Individual missions are often over in mere minutes and actual failure is very rare. Also, while the game is stuffed full of long grinds you can take on, these all feel very optional. Most of the upgrades in the game feel much more like sidegrades than necessary upgrades. If you want some free and cathartic shooty fun then you really cannot go wrong here.

Vampire Survivors – 8/10

One of the biggest indie hits of the year, and it will set you back less than the price of a pint of beer (at least in London. If you hail from a less barbarically price inflated part of the world it might be more like a couple of pints). Vampire Survivors is a charmingly simple roguelike. The only controls you have are basic movement with your arrow keys, and all you do is dodge enemies and pick up loot and weapons. All of your weapons automatically fire on timers, so you are only incharge of trying to get them to connect with the most relevant threats. It’s basically a bullet hell game except even simpler. In traditional bullet hell games you spend your time weaving narrow paths through mazes of instant death projectiles, trying to find windows to return fire. In Vampire Survivors you spend much of your time basically chilling at the center of the enemy horde, while your automatically firing attacks cut a swathe through them. The early game involves a lot more micromanagement and dodging, but by the mid and end game you are often at most doing a little shimmy on the spot while all around you everything explodes.

The appeal of Vampire Survivors is largely in its presentation. The enemies are so numerous and the weapon effects are so splashy that it is surprisingly compelling to dance your way through a run despite never having terribly compelling decisions to make. This is especially true with the game’s chests. Every time you open one a comically over the top animation and fanfare plays so even though you have no control over the outcome, it still feels consistently entertaining to acquire more upgrades. It’s the sort of game I found completely addictive and absorbing for my first few hours, with exactly the kind of ‘ok, just one more run before bed’ compulsion that the best roguelikes give me. It doesn’t have the staying power that mechanically deeper roguelikes have, but I still highly enjoyed my time with it. 

Wrap Up

So that was my year in gaming! Thank you so much for reading, and if you did get any recommendations from the list please do sling me a message once you’ve checked them out because I bet I’d love to talk to you about them. Here’s to another good year of gaming ahead.






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