End of Year 2022: Favorite Game

After 2020, many of our lives had been changed dramatically. The foundation of our daily lives changed indefinitely, and those changes persisted and transformed throughout 2022. While we continued to adjust and persevere throughout the year, a constant remained: video games were always there.

Every year brings a plethora of new games and, by extension, new favorites. 2022 was no different. We explored and created worlds together in the games we loved. Whether we’re taking down giant corporations or conquering gods and befriending demons, video games have provided us with a much-needed escape and even more ways to connect. So on that note, please join us and discuss all your favorite games you played in 2022!

The nomination period will be going from December 25th to December 31st.

[Hub Thread]

It can’t be anything other than Elden Ring for me. It is A Flawed Masterpiece.

I didn’t complete that much new stuff this year. Horizon: Forbidden West, Immortality, and Stray from this year having started a dozen games loved by the Waypoint community that I know I’ll love - Norco, Citizen Sleeper, Hardspace Shipbreaker, Pentiment, Tunic and the two open world Pokemons.

Immortality is a marvel. The annoying thing about the "games are art "people is that they’re correct but they’re focusing on the wrong titles! It’s not the latest Sony prestige clout chase, it’s games like Immortality or Pentiment which speak directly to a form or feel fully unique within their form. I’m looking forward to reading much more about the former and finishing the latter to dive into the conversation. Citizen Sleeper, Norco, and Hardspace Shipbreaker are surely going to become some of the most potent anti-capitalist texts for the next few years as everything I’ve read and my limited time spent with them feel like they really get our current moment.

Loads of words on Elden Ring and tons of spoilers

Leaving all that aside though I just can’t look past Elden Ring. I wasn’t even going to buy it until my, then, manager convinced me to! I had ignored all the hype because I couldn’t get any traction in any of the previous Soulsbornes. I tried and tried (I even made it my goal of 2021 on this very forum (and failed)). So there it was February 25th 2022 sitting in my PS5 library. I booted it up and so very gingerly stepped into the Lands Between.

That first month was brutal. I very slowly and painfully made my mark on Limgrave and Stormveil. I read dozens and dozens of articles and probably thousands of posts. I abandoned any care for the spoilers as I needed to be embedded in this world so I could figure it out. I eventually conquered Stormveil after sneaking through to Liurnia to find another (relative) oasis of calm after running in terror from the outskirts of Caelid. I eventually got Godrick to kneel after 25 attempts in a morning where I was supposed to be working.

Raya Lucaria was supposed to be a breeze after I watched Limmy smash his way past Rennala with a minimum of fuss. Not for me. Days it took, I kept thinking it was my build but the truth was I just sucked and didn’t fully get the systems. Eventually I hightailed it back and found the path to my glory: Moonveil. From there the entire game opened up to me like a slice of Transient Moonlight. Rennala fell immediately. Radahn fell once the initial shock and awe wore off. All the greatest and best of the Golden Order fell without fuss and even quicker when I found the unfortunately titled Rivers of Blood.

I still have my Malenia video saved on my phone. I probably treasure that clip as much as I treasure any of the numerous clips of concerts and club nights I have. I did that. She’s talking about me to Miquella.

I may not have bested the Elden Beast myself but the fact that the honour goes to a bald summon called Jason Statham is, if anything, even better. Wherever you are, Jason, you are my Let Me Solo Her. I only hit the Beast once!

Trying to summarise why 2022 was the year of Elden Ring is tough. I think it’s because no other game for a long time (not Persona 5 Royal, Red Dead Redemption 2, or any of the Final Fantasies) so overwhelmingly occupied my headspace for months. I was reading about it every day, I was watching the Vaati Vidya lore videos. I was actually thinking about the roleplay aspects of my characters the way that Ren and Austin discussed on the recent spoiler cast. I was all in on this world and I finally understood the hold the previous games had on people.

I still can’t get into the older games. I’m trying and getting further but Elden Ring in being more accessible while still remaining weird, mysterious, and almost unique in the open world space has retained that high barrier of entry but equally high reward. It feels lived in and I have loved living in it. To do that while it was fresh and everyone was working together to uncover the world and its mysteries made it even more enjoyable.

I can understand all the flaws, they are correct. Too many repeating bosses, the world is opaque to the point of frustration if you don’t Google and it’s a chore to play with other people to name three but I don’t care. I don’t think any game is perfect and the work they’ve created here is so colossally huge but intimate that I don’t know if it can or should be replicated

What a game! I might fire back up my Strength/ Faith Golden Order acolyte who’s going to be seduced by the Dragon Church and Frenzied Flame. The lure is too strong.

8 Likes

Hard for me to pick between Pentiment and Citizen Sleeper. The latter hits so many themes close to me – from the sci-fi/cyberpunk setting to the way the whole thing is a metaphor for living with disability – but I think Pentiment wound up being a more cohesive single narrative and just about pulled ahead in my end of year rankings. Maybe it’s recency bias!

I don’t think I could in good conscience choose God of War: Ragnarok over either of the above, but I’d be remiss in not at least shouting it out as the cream of the triple-A crop. Despite some lingering contemplations over whether it should have been a trilogy given more room to breathe, I did really love the next stage of Kratos and Atreus’ journey.

Last but not least: a quick nod to OlliOlli World for making me fall in love with skateboarding and having one of the best art directions this year (in a year with Pentiment! and more)

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I did not play many games this year. A whole host of reasons contributed to that, including but not limited to the thesis year of my MFA program, a couple months of COVID and COVID fatigue, and checks notes depression. There is a huge list of games I’m hopefully going to get into next year — NORCO, Citizen Sleeper, Immortality, Pentiment, Neon White, Tunic, God of War: Ragnarok, etc. I’m looking forward to this year of narrative bangers sustaining me for quite a while.

However, the games I did play this year, I played a lot of. All my ~150 hours on my Switch were split relatively evenly between the two open-world Pokémons. (And, while I’m here, in any other year Pokémon: Legends Arceus would have had a fighting chance.) And I knew roughly what my PlayStation wrap-up would look like, but it was still a little shocking to see that, of the ~550 hours I spent on my PS5 in 2022, 96% of those were in Souls games. Three guesses why.

Anyway, it’s Elden Ring. I haven’t been this excited for a game since Breath of the Wild — and I don’t think I’ve loved a game like this since BOTW either. Souls mechanics are my comfort zone at this point; put simply, being in that combat system feels like going home. What ER did was fill that home with endless moments of wonder, discovery, and joy — so many that I can barely remember them all. In a sense, it’s a greatest hits album, but it’s also more than that. Souls games are, to me, about the the relationship between belief and power. A player can kill a god and still cast their miracles because the god never mattered — their belief in its power did. What Elden Ring added to that was a sense of pathos that felt at best fleeting in its… relatives? Siblings? The moments I remember clearest in ER are characters like Millicent, Ranni, Boc, Melina, Alexander, and others. Souls games are notorious for tragedy, but the tragedies in ER are different than those of say Siegmeyer or Lucatiel. Many of these characters die, but their storylines are about the quest to find meaning in a dying world… and, with the right help, most of them actually do find it.

Anyway, finding meaning in a dying world is something that occupies a permanent space in my brain. It’s at the core of basically all of my work, and at this point it’s the thing that pushes me to continue trying to make art. It so commands my thoughts that I wrote a whole MA essay on it… which was also an essay about community and Dark Souls III. And while Elden Ring may not be the best ever vehicle for that idea, it wraps that idea in all the things I love about video games. The 300 hours I spent on two full playthroughs and an NG+ run made up, conservatively, 40% of the time I spent playing video games this year. I don’t think a game has dominated my experience of a year like that before, and I don’t think another one ever will. So, yeah. No contest. GOTY.

7 Likes

I didn’t play that many games in the past year - compared to last year when I noted down 31 games (including 7 games I hadn’t played for the first time that year) - this year I only have 16 on the list, of which 2 return from previous years (3 if we’re counting Into the Breach Advanced Edition as really IthB “again”).

Of that, there were only 5 games or collections of games published this year - Last Call BBS, Into the Breach: Advanced Edition, Return to Monkey Island, Terra Invicta and Pentiment. (Technically, I’ve not finished Pentiment, and Terra Invicta is very much still Early Access and I’ve not come close to completing a playthrough, which probably makes both of them ineligible for me to nominate if I wanted to).

If I could give a negative vote to any of these games, to prevent it getting an award, it would be Return To Monkey Island, as I’ve noted in other threads. Whilst it builds up some kind of interest over the majority of the run, it’s both far too easy (even on “Hard” mode), far too reliant on nostalgia, and also throws away all of the interesting threads it develops for a meta ending which is much less clever (narratively, emotionally and philosophically) than the writers think it is.

This puts me in a bit of a bind: of the remaining two items, I really want to nominate Last Call BBS - it’s a beautiful collection of games reflecting Zachtronics Games’ interests over the years, a commentary on nostalgia and a particular period of computing, and also a pretty relaxing opportunity to spend time building virtual model Gundams if you’re not interested in the more brain-taxing games in the set.

But! Last Call BBS also, in some ways, feels like a weirdly “safe” pick here. There’s games I played this year that are narratively more interesting (both Pentiment released this year, and Heaven Will Be Mine, released a few years back), games trying to push boundaries more (arguably Cruelty Squad, even if I ultimately think it’s trying too hard to be inaccessible), and games which have survived and continue to maintain a community of creatives 25 years after they were first released (Quake).

That said, of those above the only thing that would also have been eligible is Pentiment, and that’s already been nominated, so I feel better in putting forward Zachtronics Games’ swansong here (even if I doubt it will win amongst the community).

There were a lot of fantastic games this year, but I’ll highlight the two that had the biggest impact on me.

Elden Ring

Elden Ring is the most impressive open world I’ve ever explored in a video game.

As a huge fan of Bloodborne and the Souls series, that style of game set in an open world sounds like an automatic recipe for success. But that ignores the fact that open world design has become increasingly rote over the years. What was once an impressive display of ambition has become a buzzworthy back-of-the-box bullet point for large AAA productions. Repetitive environments, uninspired quests, and overbearing map icons are commonplace in a lot of open world games. It would have been easy for developer FromSoftware to fall into the same trap. Instead, Elden Ring feels like a group of designers feverishly jotting down a breadth of captivating ideas, locations, characters, and bosses, and somehow managing to include them ALL in the final product. Every corner of its massive world has something noteworthy to explore, fight, talk to, or simply marvel at.

In fact, massive might be an understatement when describing the scope of the “Lands Between.” The first time you get teleported to a new location only to open the map and find that it’s zoomed out is a jaw-dropping moment. When it happens again, you can’t help but find the nearest person - whether they care about Elden Ring or not - and excitedly blather about how impressive its open world is. I didn’t feel fatigue at any point; instead, I lost myself in its world. Few game developers establish a sense of place like FromSoftware, and Elden Ring showcases the company at the top of its game. Somehow From’s attention to detail doesn’t falter in the face of Elden Ring’s larger size and scope. Even after playing 80+ hours and getting every achievement, I’m sure there are entire areas or questlines I missed along the way. And somehow after all those hours, I’m excited to dive back in and make new discoveries.

Tunic

Tunic is a game in which I spent just as much time thinking about it and looking up community theories as I did play it. It completely consumed me for the 2-3 weeks I spent with it after its release back in March. On the surface it seems like a competent, isometric Zelda-inspired adventure with challenging combat. That’s true… to a degree. When you peel back the layers, you find a mind-bending Rubik’s cube of a game that requires pen/paper and a nimble brain.

A lot of Tunic’s wonder and discovery is fueled by the incredibly clever, cute, and highly detailed in-game manual. When I say highly detailed I don’t mean highly informative though. The manual pages are mysterious and cryptic, with subtle visual clues and unknown symbols. It’s the player’s job to piece things together like a mental jigsaw puzzle. I was fully on board the whole time, uncovering all its mysteries while I frantically scribbled in my notebook. The pinnacle of the Tunic experience was when I wrote on pieces of paper, cut them out, and rearranged and assembled them on the floor of my office. When a game inspires that kind of behavior, you know it’s special.

3 Likes

There were some phenomenal gameplay experiences this year, undoubtedly, between Neon White and Card Shark and Elden Ring (which I haven’t played but can’t deny looks like it’ll rank alongside Breath of the Wild as an open-world experience). But the plentiful narrative games were the highlight of the year for me, and it’s what I’ll remember about the year in a decade.

So I am also in the camp of rotating Citizen Sleeper and Pentiment and NORCO around in my head, trying to choose a GOTY. Narrative games with a leftist bend, all with different tones and presentations and to different ends. From peasant revolts to capitalist dystopias.

Pentiment is historical fiction about the process of history, historical figures reflecting on the history of a town built on Roman ruins built on an older history before it. Aware that they, themselves, are to be looked back on by the people of the future, by the player. It’s reading about the people in the margins of society in the margins of an illuminated manuscript. Citizen Sleeper is an uncompromising look at community at the end of the world - or at least, a ruined space station, a cyberpunk dystopia. Very human, perhaps especially because you are playing a character in an artificial body. And NORCO feels like a near future, both a capitalist dystopia and, perhaps, just shining a light on the fact that we’re already in one. The things that plague this Louisiana are largely the things that plague it now. Oil refineries, alienation, capitalism. It feels timeless, both disconcertingly imminent despite the advanced robots that populate the world and also nostalgic, for a place I’ve never lived yet feels like home.

Picking between them is going to be the arbitrary, so today - Christmas - I pick NORCO. But if I’m voting in the poll on New Year’s, I might pick Pentiment.

2 Likes

When picking a GOTY I usually go with what I can remember being the most emotionally…connected? Involved? Invested? …and work from there.

This year was Citizen Sleeper, a game which I think a lot of ground has been covered already.

skipping the storytelling which I’ve already talked about sufficed to say it’s the best I’ve read all year including books.

Mechanically it does a very good job of conveying the sense of of dwindling and limited resources. At first, you feel overwhelmed and anxious. There’s a good chance a random dice roll will fuck everything up and things will get more dire.

As the game progresses and you get more comfortable on the eye, the mechanics get much easier as well until most of them are almost negligible, and this is by design. Citizen Sleeper is about making a home, becoming comfortable with yourself and finding a niche to survive in. There are many endings where you leave the Eye but I’ve come to believe the “true” ending is experiencing them all and choosing to stay.

Side note I can see things getting very rough for the Eye in the DLC to the point where there is no choice but to leave…but who knows.

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Still trying to work out the exact answer to this question, currently down to about three candidates:

  1. Live a Live - An incredible buffet of classic 90s JRPG tastes. I love the sense that the game designers could had an infinite canvas to go to any genre, tell any kind of story, be anything, and somehow it all works. By the time it wraps around to classic fantasy RPG spaces, it’s brutally subverting them.

  2. Pentiment - What I’ve said already about this game. Love the sense of history, the questions of defining events and revolutions and the changes of eras without easy answers. I just think this is the kind of game I always pick for GOTY lately so, I dunno.

  3. Tunic - I’ve been starving for a top down Zelda for awhile. This is a great one. It was the game I was most anticipating this year and it was everything I wanted - and more. Actually did not need the puzzle secret ending and didn’t do them at all.

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With the usual caveat that I’m up to my eyeballs even in 2022 backlog games (I see you Pentiment et. al.) and there are some great games that came out this year that I’m just never going to play because I haven’t the time/patience/blood pressure (nods respectfully at Elden Ring), at the time of me sitting down to type this, it’s God of War: Ragnarok.

The combat’s generally a lot of fun and it’s gorgeous to look at, but so much of what anchors this game is the story/writing/performing. Sometimes the characters will be in the middle of a conversation when I arrive at a destination and I’ll just put the controller down and let them finish up. Without getting into spoiler territory, there are circumstances in which the same side quest can have completely different dialogue to go with it. They made Macbeth canonical lol. The game has a lot of writing and it’s basically winners all the way down.

A lot of this is made possible by the game having the Sony money faucet and presumably a whole raft of outside help (no “OMG CRUNCH” story out of Jason Schreier yet, though, so I’m hoping it was relatively smooth). But I’m still the kind of person who is really impressed when a big, expensive game takes the time to really polish the detail work, which blesses us with Atreus asking Kratos and Mimir how they think his (completely non-existent) facial hair is coming in.