Reviewing the 19 Games I Played in 2023

Welcome to the end of 2023! A year in which I managed to write 0 other blog posts despite my best intentions but in which I did play a good number of games. Overall I again really enjoyed my time gaming this year. This was another good but hectic year for me in which the escapism of a good game was really appreciated. This year’s list of games is shorter than last years, partly because of life getting in the way and being more focused on other hobbies, but also because some of the games I played were simply so long. Baldur’s Gate 3 alone took up all my gaming time for 2 whole months (though I have no regrets at all about that as we shall see!). 

As a game player, this was a really good year for games. There are so many things that released this year that looked brilliant that I have not been able to make time for yet. This excitement is completely undermined by what a rubbish year it’s been for the people who make games, with the numerous mass layoffs, the failed corporate acquisitions, as well as proliferation of generative AI use even where it directly leads to worsening conditions for workers. In 2024 I’m hoping to see some kind of course correction on some of this, though I am not holding my breath.

Of what I played I’ve filtered it down to games which I either completed or played enough of to form a very strong opinion about, and which I first finished this year. This gives me my 19 games, nine 2023 releases and ten from prior years to share some thoughts on here. As I did last year I’ve scored each game out of 10, but this year I thought I’d try and be clearer about what these scores generally mean to me:

  • 10 – All time favourite – high watermark for its genre and games as a whole
  • 9 – Brilliant – Strong recommendation to almost anyone
  • 8 – Great – Strong recommendation to genre fans
  • 7 – Decent – Genre fans will find stuff to enjoy, but you could do better
  • 6  – Meh  – Not recommended unless you have special interest in some aspect of it
  • 5 or less – Not Good -Shades of unenjoyable and not recommended (Haven’t been exposed to one of these in a while, and I’d probably stop playing before seeing enough to feel comfortable reviewing one anyway)

I think I may need to rethink this scale in future though. I tend to only play games these days that have received a high level of critical acclaim or which get strongly recommended by people I trust, so my scores are strongly skewed to the upper end. We’ll stick with this for 2023’s list though and maybe I’ll have a rethink for my 2024 list. For now though, on to the scores and the reviews! 

  • Baldur’s Gate 3 – 9/10
  • SnowRunner – 9/10
  • Neon White – 9/10
  • Sunless Skies – 9/10
  • XCOM 2 – 9/10
  • Hades – 9/10
  • Lies of P – 9/10
  • Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous – 9/10
  • Zelda – Tears of the Kingdom – 9/10
  • Hitman: Freelancer – 8/10
  • Dead Space Remake – 8/10
  • Alan Wake 2 – 8/10
  • Resident Evil 4 Remake – 8/10
  • Lunacid  – 8/10
  • Cruelty Squad – 7/10
  • Subnautica Below Zero – 7/10
  • BABBDI – 7/10
  • Assassins Creed Mirage – 6/10
  • Chess – Chess/10

Alan Wake 2 – 8/10

AW2 is probably the game from this year I am most conflicted on. This is the best presented game I have ever played. The writing and voice performances are all incredible, as is the mocap and directing to bring them to life. Aesthetically it is also peerless, with a level of graphical fidelity and environmental detail that is joyous to experience. It has plenty of jaw droppingly cool cutscenes, both in engine and live action, and simply walking around AW2’s world is consistently compelling. 

Mechanically however the game is much weaker. There are two main types of obstacles: puzzles to solve, and enemies to shoot and unfortunately neither presented much entertainment. The combat was consistently clunky and unsatisfying while also being rarely tense and never scary. The puzzling was more enjoyable due to the impeccable presentation and the way its mechanics tie into the characters and world, but it is never especially interesting or challenging. Narratively the game is also very transparent about being a middle act in a larger story, with little interest in giving pay off or closure to any of its narrative threads. It concludes on a deeply unsatisfying cliffhanger with the clear intention that you doubt whether or not anything has been achieved at all. 

Overall this is a game I appreciate and admire more than one I actually enjoy. It represents new heights on what can be achieved in games aesthetically and is recommendable on that alone. Just do not expect much mechanical enjoyment or direct narrative satisfaction unless you are deeply immersed in the Alan Wake mythos.

Assassin’s Creed Mirage – 6/10

As a huge fan of the original run of AC games the Mirage marketing which promised a return to the simplicity and the focus of the original games sold me immediately, but unfortunately the first impressions were poor and they never really improved. AC’s core gameplay revolves around parkour, stealth and combat and all three never rose above middling and were often actively rubbish. The parkour is glitchy and awkward, with much of my early hours spent failing to jump off railings. The combat is the same old attack, parry, dodge formula that has been the staple of the last 15 years of 3rd person action games but it is very poorly presented with a floaty feeling to the hits and often broken animations. Stealth is at least functional, but also just comes down to the same old crouch walking up behind isolated guards that we’ve done in hundreds of other games, with little emphasis on the ‘social stealth’ (i.e hiding in plain sight and blending into crowds) of traditional AC games. 

Over time the mechanical flaws got easier to ignore and I did find aspects to enjoy. The historical recreation of Baghdad is intricate, beautiful and just generally a nice place to exist and enjoy the vibes in. Narratively the game is fairly bland but not charmless, with some memorable side characters. It also has a surprisingly gripping ending sequence that really helped with the sour taste the game was otherwise leaving. Still, I would find this a hard game to recommend to anyone, whether you are a fan of the series or a newcomer to it.

BABBDI – 7/10

For starters this game is both free and very short so I definitely recommend you check it out for yourself more than the score would suggest. BABBDI is a first person exploration game in which you traverse a small but dense brutalist cityscape, with the primary goal of trying to find a way to leave. Mechanically there is little to do apart from having stilted but often compelling conversations with BABBDI’s strange inhabitants, though there are also items to find to help with traversing the world such as a motorbike or a climbing axe, all of which are both janky in their execution but also pleasantly empowering. 

Being a sucker as I am for brutalist misery I definitely enjoyed my brief time with BABBDI but it just didn’t leave much of an impression after I was done. It felt like it lacked either enough interesting or memorable vignettes to make the exploration feel worthwhile, or enough writing for its characters to make them and their world feel like a real location. It is a unique and stark experience though, and with a non-existent price tag it is an easy recommendation if you are looking for something novel.

Baldur’s Gate 3 – 9/10

BG3 is my favourite new game of 2023, which is not much of a surprise given the volume of praise it has received. In most ways it is completely deserving of all it. It is the most reactive and flexible RPG world we have ever seen in games, with an awe inspiring capacity to accommodate and react to both your mechanical and narrative choices in ways that are satisfying and entertaining. It has the best companions of any CRPG, and I defy you to not grow incredibly fond of at least some of them during a playthrough. The turn-based combat can be a bit slow and repetitive, but I found it consistently enjoyable, especially when punting big bads into bottomless pits. 

I do think it has weaknesses which hold it back though. Most of the side quests are bland and have little interest in presenting you with interesting narrative or roleplaying choices. The villains of the game, while all charismatic, tend to feel flat and cartoonishly evil (though with some notable exceptions). The final act of the game is notably weak, feeling like it’s both in a rush to wrap things up and also like a combat heavy slog. The game world also does a poor job of giving the impression that it exists in a larger universe, at least partly due to such a high proportion of characters you meet being connected to each other or the main plot. These issues can at times compound to make BG3 feel like a sandbox for experimenting with its mechanics rather than a world to be immersed in. However, even when it feels like a sandbox than a world, it is such a reactive and entertaining sandbox that you’ll likely hardly care. This is 2023’s game of the year and it is a remarkable achievement.

Chess – Chess/10

I barely feel up to the task of reviewing Chess and certainly do not feel up to scoring it. Reviewing it feels like reviewing something like running or playing catch. But I felt like it had to be here because this is the game I not only played the most of in 2023, it is also the game I thought about the most, that produced the strongest feelings in me (positive and negative!). I haven’t found a game this compelling in years, in fact I am currently writing this section 2 hours later than I intended because ‘one game’ turned into dozens without me really noticing. 

In many ways it feels like the perfect game. Easy to learn yet impossible to master. Simple in its set up and rules but mind blowing complex in how these mechanics can play out. I just adore that no matter your skill level you are always using the same small set of pieces with the same simple rules underpinning their movement. The ideal moves are always there right in front of you if only you could see them. I play on and the ability to analyse my games after the fact with a super human Chess AI elevates the experience so much too, providing you with perfect hindsight about how you should have played and how you could improve. If you’ve ever been tempted to give it a go I do recommend it. The online community is thriving and it has never been easier to learn and improve. Just know it might steal more of your life than you are comfortable with as it has with me.

Cruelty Squad – 7/10

Cruelty Squad is first and foremost a fantastic joke. It is maybe the ugliest game in existence, from its eye searing textures to your health bar that sits like a cancerous blob right in your field of view at all times. The reveal that beneath these aesthetics is an extremely robust and well written game is such a fun twist on its own that it really carries the experience. The aesthetic choices even feel justified by the game once you’re into it. This is a pitch black game about assassinating people who do not necessarily deserve it just so you can pay rent in a grimy near future dystopia, and the truly hideous visuals end up feeling like they really enhance the absurdity and the horror of it all.

Some people whose opinions I respect rate this as one of their all time favourite games, but that feels like a step way too far to me. There’s a lot of fun to be had, especially when trying to complete its short levels as fast as possible, and there is a good amount of flexibility in your approach thanks to the often expansive levels. But the combat definitely got dull for me before the credits, in large part due to the extremely basic enemy AI. This was in spite of the game’s very short run time, having only 13 main missions which take at most a few minutes each to complete even without rushing. Still, for fans of immersive sims or first person shooters looking for a very different experience it’s definitely worth a look, even if just for the novelty of its presentation.

Dead Space Remake – 9/10

DS Remake is the first of two 3rd person survival horror remakes I played this year, the other being the Resident Evil 4 Remake, and my thoughts on both are basically identical. Both are incredibly polished and mechanically engaging experiences, with satisfying and tense combat in beautifully grim settings. Both have engaging progression systems tied in with simple but still enjoyable survival mechanics that push you to scrounge around its environments for ammo and other necessary kit. 

The problem is that both are good in basically identical ways to the games they are remaking, and neither has much interest in changing anything about the originals beyond the graphical fidelity. Of the two DSR does more to justify the upgrade; the often expansive interiors and large machinery of the spaceship Ishimura that the game is mostly set on feel like they benefit more from the graphical upgrade than RE4’s spanish villages and castles. But it still ended up feeling redundant and forgettable for me. In some ways I wish I had just replayed the original instead. This is still a solid recommendation for those who never played the original, and a cautious one to those who did. It is an excellently made survival horror. I just personally wish the time and energy to make it had gone elsewhere.

Hades – 9/10

This much lauded rouge-like from a couple of years ago initially left me confused and unimpressed. It is beautifully presented, with great voice acting, gorgeous hand drawn visuals and responsive controls. But it initially seemed like a very modest offering mechanically compared to its roguelike peers, with a very limited variety of weapons, powerups and enemies, and with a story that was not justifying all the time and energy spent telling it. 

However the game massively improves after the first time you beat it, so much so that I almost think it was a mistake to hold so much back. The plot reveals itself to be much more interesting than it first seemed, and the number of options you have for your builds for each run also expands significantly. An especially neat system is the Pact of Punishment, which lets you design exactly how you want the game to get more difficult from buffing enemy speed, reducing your own health etc, effectively providing a whole new axis on which to design your runs through the game. It still has nowhere near the mechanical variety or complexity of many other roguelikes, but its presentation and narrative depth and breadth really elevates it to the top of the genre. 

Hitman: Freelancer – 8/10

In case you missed it, this free update to the excellent Hitman trilogy (a 10/10 game series in my book in spite of some dubious monetisation) repurposed the base games’ levels into a roguelike and a pretty great one at that. Hitman’s levels were already designed to be extremely replayable with their wide open sandbox design and plethora of murder opportunities, so the work that was needed to use them as the basis for a roguelike was actually pretty slight. The biggest addition is a safe house in which to stash your acquired weapons and select which series of missions you’ll take on next. That plus the addition of some loot containers, merchants and enemy assassins to the base game’s levels is all that’s really needed to make Freelancer tick. Freelancer’s levels are basically identical to the base game but that’s no bad thing as Hitman’s levels were already some of the best in all of gaming. 

Despite having sunk far too many hours into the original games I found Freelancer incredibly moreish, at least for a while. The cracks did start to show after a dozen-ish hours of runs though. Though each level is huge and intricate they do start to become very familiar, especially when you are incentivised to speed through them quickly. The limited gear pool also constrains Freelancer’s replayability. While you can acquire weapons and gear and then choose what to take on missions, this never felt like a very interesting choice. Knowing the levels well means that gear can feel a bit redundant, as each level is packed with equipment and weapons so long as you know where to look. I still loved my time with Freelancer, but by the end of my time with it what I was wondering most is how great something like it could be if it was built from the ground up to be a roguelike rather than retrofitted. 

Lies of P – 9/10

This was the surprise hit of 2023 for me. All its marketing made it look like a derivative Bloodborne clone, and after Elden Ring last year left me feeling slightly lukewarm towards the whole Soulslike genre this definitely not a game on my radar. But it turned out amazingly, and achingly close to being a masterpiece, and it’s all down to the strength of its combat. LoP has the best combat system of any Soulslike out there, including all of FROM Software’s catalogue. It is so fast paced, kinetic and well animated, while also being amazingly flexible in how you approach encounters. The brilliant combat system is twinned with some of the best boss encounters the genre has ever seen. It’s a largely linear experience, breaking with the genre expectation for a branching interconnected world, but this does not feel like it harms the experience at all. In fact it let the designers ensure a very satisfying difficulty curve, something Elden Ring struggled so much with. 

The only significant weakness which holds it back for me is its extreme level of self seriousness which harms my attempts to get immersed in its world. This is a Pinocchio reimagining of all things, involving a puppet apocalypse, fights with large robots dressed as 40s UK policemen and giant mutants that use professional wrestling moves and yet the game never winks, or allows itself to have fun with its premise. It treats its setting and plot with such po-faced seriousness that it just feels silly in a way that undermines the experience. This is still one of the best games of the year and achingly close to all time great status. I just wish they’d been able to nail a more fitting tone.

Lunacid – 8/10

This deeply charming first person dungeon crawler really stole my heart during its <10 hour run time. It definitely will not be for everyone. Visually it’s obviously a throwback to several decades and console generations in the past. Mechanically it’s functional but basic. You have some character build flexibility and can focus on either archery, melee combat, magic or a combination of all of them, but regardless you’ll likely be spending your time in combat either frantically backpedalling or stun locking enemies with powerful attacks, which can be satisfying but is not all that engaging on its own. 

Instead, the star of the show is Lunacids’ environments, its enemies, and the completely varied moods the game can conjure. There is so much creativity crammed into its short run time that you will be excited to progress just to find out what the next area looks and feels like, and some of its locales are now seared into my brain. Unfortunately this also relates to Lunacids biggest weakness, which is the inconsistency of its levels. Often it knocks it out of the park, with areas which are a visual feast with a perfectly executed mood and engaging combat encounters, but several are blander affairs. A few, especially towards the end of the game, are such duds that they feel almost half finished. Lunacid is still absolutely a game I’d recommend, just go in expecting some variability in its quality during the run. 

Neon White – 9/10

Even though this was the first new game I played this year I thought I might have immediately found my GOTY. NW is best described as a first person platforming/speed running game. There are guns and enemies, but they are never the focus. Instead they are there to complicate the central goal which is to get to the level exit as fast as possible. NW pulls off the brilliant trick of making you feel skilful and acrobatic right from the off, while also presenting a high enough skill ceiling that mastering the game’s mechanics is entertaining and challenging. The game is beautifully presented, with a clean aesthetic which is part Mirror’s Edge, part 90s graphics tech demo that is both readable and always easy on the eyes. The quip heavy writing came in for some flack on release, focusing as it does on a group of sassy young criminals in the afterlife grappling with their inter personal drama on one hand, and a cosmic scale apocalypse on the other, but for me it was so earnest that it won me over. 

The only big weakness that holds the game back is the linearity of its levels. NWs central gimmick is that every weapon can also be discarded for a movement based powerup, like its basic pistol which can be discarded for a double jump. This central flexibility feels like it could be used to give the player lots of autonomy and options when navigating its levels, but this potential feels a bit squandered. Sequence breaks are possible, but NWs levels mostly feel like simon-says style sequences where the challenge is to perfectly execute a series of obvious actions rather than to innovate your own solutions. This is still an easy recommendation, but I would love to see a DLC or sequel that really experiments with the kind of levels that could be used to explore its mechanics.

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous – 9/10

Before Baldur’s Gate 3, this was the game that made me fall back in love with CRPGs this year. WotR is a huge and incredibly ambitious game, with a sprawling multi-act narrative, extensive overworld to freely explore, and dozens of side quests and optional areas. The overarching narrative focused on a demonic invasion is not especially interesting, but it is well told and often well acted, and there were plenty of interesting side stories. The combat, which is how the majority of game time will be spent, is relatively standard CRPG fare, though with the welcome option to switch between either turn-based or real time with pause. 

Where WotR truly excels is in its character building. There are so many options of classes, sub-classes and ways to build each which have such a transformative effect both on how combat plays and on your roleplaying options outside of combat. The number of options can be a bit overwhelming, but its flexibility makes it a joy to explore and discover your own unique builds. I also adore WotR’s mythic path system, which gives you the option of choosing a supernatural being to slowly transform into, adding yet more options to both the narrative roleplaying and your characters build in combat.

There are some weaknesses to the game undoubtedly. The army combat system in which you control troops to repel the demonic invasion is both incredibly dull but also unavoidable to progress in the game. There are some bizarre difficulty spikes which can be quite frustrating, and not all of the games 5 acts are as compelling as the games best. Still, this is an easy game to recommend to CRPG fans, and I hope to make time for a second playthrough. 

Resident Evil 4 Remake – 8/10

Unlike the other recent RE remakes, the RE4 remake has little interest in making significant changes to the source material, especially mechanically. There have been redesigns for several levels, an added durability system for the players knives and some other tweaks, but it all amounts to a pretty direct copy of the original RE4. However RE4 is one of the greatest games of all time, making this game fairly easy to recommend in the main, especially to series newcomers. The combat still feels so fresh. The interconnected design of RE4s combat arenas, twined with the inability of the player to move and shoot at the same time still works perfectly to force constant repositioning, crowd control and spatial planning which feels both tense but also so satisfying to master. The game has a fantastic amount of variation in its encounters, environments and enemies throughout its runtime while still managing to remain cohesive. 

RE4 remake is generally great in all the same ways as the original, just with a shiny coat of current gen graphical paint. However I do find it incredibly frustrating that the remake feels embarrassed by the wackier elements of the original so many of which have been removed or neutered. It was in large part the mix between genuine horror and comic absurdity in the original that gave it its magical tone and sanding these elements down feels like a major misstep. I wanted to give a lower score here for the lack of originality and for this apparent embarrassment in the source material but that would feel churlish. I had a great time with this game and it is great, often in ways wholly unique to itself.

SnowRunner – 9/10

Never thought one of my favourite games of 2023 would be something as far out of my normal genre haunts as an off road trucking simulator, but SnowRunner really stole my heart. SR is a traversal game masquerading as a driving game. The tasks you are given in SR are largely simple variations of ‘get cargo from point A to point B’. However, trying to execute these tasks without running out of fuel, rolling your truck over or getting hopelessly stuck in mud proved to be some of the most suspenseful and satisfying gaming I did this year. Deciding how exactly to overcome something as pedestrian as a large patch of mud can present the player with a challenging choice of options. Do I take it at speed? Switch to fixed gear and methodically crawl? Try to find a path through the adjacent woodland? Successfully executing any one of these can be joyous and failing can be heart-breaking. 

SR also has many layers of satisfying progression to keep your interest. Learning the intricacies of each map and your vehicle fleet is extremely engaging, but there is also more tangible mechanical progression in the form of constructing shortcuts, and in its levelling system which unlocks new options of vehicles and equipment. The SR package is completed for me by its visuals and vibes. With its day night cycle and variety of impressive vistas it’s simply a lovely game world to hang out in. There is a significant issue with how difficult the early game is when you have few unlocks and less understanding of its systems. The first few hours were pretty frustrating when even finding a single task that I could complete was a challenge. If you can get over that bump though this game is a joy, and I’m not sure I can recommend it enough.

Subnautica Below Zero – 7/10

This was sadly one of my less enjoyable gaming experiences this year. The original Subnautica is a classic, seamlessly combining survival and crafting mechanics with extremely tense deep sea exploration on an alien world, and SBZ seemed to be providing the same formula just in a new, chillier location. Unfortunately it is far too much of a retread of the original without providing enough to mix it up.  So much of the enjoyment of Subnautica was in facing and overcoming daunting novel challenges, and placing such a similar set of challenges in an aesthetically different but mechanically nearly identical environment just does not recapture the magic. Whether it’s your first sighting of a hostile leviathan, or receiving a task to descend deeper than you have ever gone so far, experiences that were so memorable the first time in the original just feel rote in SBZ. 

The feeling of familiarity with the worlds and the goals is not helped at all by how much slighter the game feels. The world feels smaller, and the roster of alien fauna certainly is, and it is also dominated by repeats or reskins. While far more effort was put into the story presentation in SBZ, including a fully voiced player, it also feels more predictable. The original did a great job of repeatedly disrupting both the status quo and your understanding of the situation in interesting ways during its progression. Whereas in SBZ the goals you have a couple of hours in basically remain your goals for the entire game, with barely any major reveals along the way. There is still fun to be had in SBZ. Some of the new biomes are gorgeous, and the core systems can still be enjoyable, especially the base building. This is a perfectly robust 7/10 game for me, I just can’t really think of who I would recommend this to given that the original is still available.

Sunless Skies – 9/10

I originally bounced off SS a few years ago but I decided to revisit it and I am so glad I did. This is by far the most mechanically bizarre game I played this year. Half of it is a narrative game, based around reading text walls and making decisions. The other half is a 2D ship piloting game with rudimentary survival mechanics and controls that feel like they belong to a early 2000s mid tier flash game. This sounds rude, but it works so brilliantly that I still cannot really believe it. The key to its success is in its flawless presentation and endlessly captivating writing. SS’s world is truly strange in the best possible way. At its most basic it’s Victorian London but in space, but that hardly does it justice. It is a world of sentient mechanical suns, mind controlling fungi, and in which time itself is a tradeable resource. And that’s barely scratching the surface of what you will discover. 

Exploring the bizarre world of SS, meeting its inhabitants and progressing through its numerous questlines is completely absorbing, and the survival elements and basic combat do enough to make this progression feel hard won and rewarding. The only major complaint I have is that there can be a big gap between efficient play and play that is most enjoyable. Advancing the narrative threads is by far the most satisfying content, but often it makes far more sense to play conservatively and revisit routes and ports you are already familiar with to conserve resources and ensure you and your crew will live to see another day. The way disadvantages can compound makes a degree of conservatism mandatory and even satisfying, but it can further slow down an already slow game. However, so long as you don’t mind a slow burn and you can get over the basic but clunky combat, this is a gem of a game that you should not miss.

XCOM 2 – 9/10

I’d bounced off XCOM 2 in the past, but this year I gave it another go, and it completely absorbed me until I saw credits at the end of one of its lengthy campaigns. For anyone not familiar, XCOM2 is mechanically split in two. In one half you are managing your base, researching upgrades, constructing facilities and acquiring equipment to use in the much meatier other half of the game, the turn-based small squad combat. The first half is pretty lightweight, but it still does a good job of punctuating and contextualising the missions. 

Ground combat is where you will spend the majority of in-game time and it’s generally very enjoyable. It is beautifully presented with a chunky but charming sci-fi aesthetic that is both readable and sometimes actively pretty. Manoeuvring your squad into the best positions to support each other and deliver maximum damage while minimising any opportunity for the enemy to respond is consistently engaging. XCOM2 also does a great job of keeping interest during the campaign, with the steady introduction of new equipment to use against an ever expanding roster of enemies. 

The only significant flaw is that it is at its most fun when you are neither dominating the enemy or being dominated by them, but the game is not very good at producing this state. You are encouraged into methodical and risk averse play where possible, but the game is most fun when failure or poor luck means you are forced to improvise a new plan mid combat to salvage an encounter gone wrong. However, most of the time, any mistakes or unlucky dice rolls either change little tactically, or they lead to such a rapid failure cascade that salvaging the situation is impossible. This does not prevent this being one of the most brilliant tactics games around, and an easy recommendation, especially to fans of turn-based tactical combat.

Zelda – Tears of the Kingdom – 9/10

I finished and reviewed Zelda Breath of the Wild last year and had mixed feelings about it. I loved the experience and mechanics of exploring its world, but did not enjoy much else, with the weak, repetitive combat and dull shrine dungeons being the most significant lowlights. Zelda TotK is in many ways such a similar game. It has the same map, many of the same characters, a very similar structure and the same core combat and traversal mechanics. It has been derided by some as a mere expansion pack for this reason, but for me it actually solved so many of my problems with BotW and improved in so many ways that this was almost my game of the year.

It has the same joyful exploration, except the addition of sky islands above and massive cave systems below adds so much variety that it stays interesting for far longer. The story was also significantly more engaging to me, and felt like it had real stakes and weight at points, something BotW completely lacked. The new mechanics based around constructing structures and vehicles are so entertaining to play around with, and also lead to more interesting options for both combat and exploration. 

The biggest improvement though is to the shrines, which have gone from being dull and repetitive in the original to some of my favourite content in TotK. The flexibility of your new powers, especially the construction ones, means the puzzles and encounters are able to be so much more interesting and I found myself actively looking forward to the next. There are still weaknesses carried over, such as the still clunky and poorly balanced combat, but this is such a brilliant game overall. I feel like I am finally having the experience everyone else had with BotW, and for that I am very grateful.

Wrap Up

So that was my year in gaming. I had a good time writing this all up and I hope you got some good recommendations out of it. If you’d like to discuss any of these games more or if you have any feedback on the write ups feel free to hit me up, and thank you for reading! 






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