Alex’s Review Corner’s 2022 Official Game of the Year Award!

It’s been another year, and that means another game of the year award is due. Now, the way this works is that I’ll be ranking the games I have reviewed on this site from worst to best. The number one game will be my game of the year. I have chosen to do it this way because, as I’ve got older, I’ve not found as much interest in modern AAA big releases and finding smaller realses that are of game of the year quality can be hard, if very rewarding. Last year we did get a game that released in 2021 that was game of the year. What will we get this year, do you think? Well let’s find out.

This year we have fifteen games to get through. Starting with…

15. Halo Infinite
I’m a big Halo fan, believe it or not, it just so happens the only Halo games I’ve reviewed here are ones I am not a fan of. Halo 3, I’d say, is one of my favourite games. Reach is brilliant, as is ODST. But Infinite is… eh. In typical AAA fashion they released a broken, unfinished mess. But what was particularly offensive about this one is making the player pay full price for half of the game, the other half being free but full of predatory monetisation, and the development of this game being so slow and clunky that it still feels as unfinished now as it did at launch. It’s taken a year for them to get… Nowhere. Yes. Nowhere, because I’m not crediting them for getting the game into half a state every other game has been in at it’s own launch a year late. My thoughts on this game haven’t changed. It’s still blimey-awful. Of all the games I reviewed this year, this is the only one I can say I genuinely dislike and regret giving any money to. It’s the type of game that doesn’t deserve support.

14. SCP Containment Breach
This game was never going to rank that highly. It’s a very out-dated game even by the standards of those contemporary to it. But it’s not bad. Playing solo it can still scare and provide a challenge. But it’s also janky as hell and often frustrating. It’s biggest strength – the procedural generation – also proving it’s biggest weakness in that regard. But the multiplayer version on Steam is a blast – I got a solid 20 hours out of it with friends, if you can believe that. And for it’s price, 20 hours isn’t nothing. Mostly for being a mixed bag, it gets put at the low end, here.

13. A Legionary’s Life
This game isn’t bad at all. It’s so simplistic that diving deep into it’s flaws is pointless; contextually this game was made by one guy for a game contest under tight time constraints. And with that in mind, it’s as close to being perfect as it can be. But it’s also because of those reasons that it is ranked so low. There’s only so far it can compete with the other games here. I do still feel bad having to leave it this far down the list though, so would encourage you buy it. Even if you grab it for 2 hours and then refund it, just experience it. It’s impressive what was done under it’s circumstances.

12. Cookie Clicker
Though it’s still low on the list, you might be surprised still to see it where it is. That’s because that yes, it is a dumb game about clicking a cookie, but one so self-aware, humorous, surprisingly deep and delving into cosmic horror, that it goes above and beyond what it reasonably needs to do to be a good idle game. It doesn’t need to be as good as it is. But it does it anyway. It’s the perfect idle game in every way. And though it cannot compete with more complex titles, it deserves a spot here in recognition of what it does so well.

11. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Narrowly missing out on being in the top 10 is Oblivion because it’s ambition run amok often deprives it of reaching the greatness I think it’s so close to. It’s got some excellent stories to tell and quest design that might be the peak of The Elder Scrolls franchise, but is just executed so poorly. It’s quite vague with how it’s stats work, outright tedious to level through, has atrocious UI design and voice acting, and takes place in a landscape that feels painfully samey and generic. For one reason or another the greatness many see in this game never clicks with me and I just want to turn it off. Hence it’s placement here.

10. Chroma Squad
Beating out Oblivion for the number 10 spot is Chroma Squad! I love the Power Rangers. I love action RPG’s and isometric RPG’s. So the bizarre, anime inspired premise of making my own Power Rangers TV show into that genre of game just clicks. There’s plenty of strategy in the gameplay, satisfying progression and just the right type of quirky writing that makes me enjoy it a hell of a lot. I think it also serves as a good entry point into this genre of game because of how chilled-out it is.

9. Tyranny
Oh Tyranny, how I love you so. This game has absorbed me more than it had a right to. I love the story, atmosphere, combat, choices and characters. I love all of it, especially it’s approach to roleplaying and providing the player with a backstory that we simultaneously have control of forging, while also allowing it to fit into the game’s lore without any mental gymnastics. I guess it feels good to lean into the roleplaying part of roleplaying games when I put this one on. The only thing holding it back is that lengthy intro that is genuinely painful on repeat playthroughs, and the fact that the ending feels like a setup that will never receive a payoff for all out years on Earth.

8. Elder Scrolls Online
For being an MMO that somehow caters to it’s committed RPG fanbase without feeling like an awkward meshing of the two respected genre’s, I think the Elder Scrolls Online deserves relatively high praise. Though it’s quest and combat structure is repetitive and deserving of scrutiny, I think it found as good a compromise as it could and rolled with it. Perhaps too much, because the game can get stale, but as far as games attempting to appease all types of players go, this is the only one I can name that even comes close to succeeding. And that, as impossible as it sounds to do, might be why it’s so worthy of this number eight spot, alongside the fact it is genuinely fun to play.

7. 7 Days to Die
Appropriately (and entirely coincidentally) in the number seven spot is 7 Days to Die. The game is plagued by all the faults and jankyness that comes with early access titles and will likely live with them for a very long time, possibly through to beta and full release (should they happen in our life time). But for all that, it is more fun than a lot of complete and fully functional survival games I’ve played, and more compelling than most generic zombie shooters. The sense of progression is more real and tangible, and the RPG levelling doesn’t feel as tacked on as in other games that use similar systems. Something about 7 Days clicks just right. It’s the perfect storm of jank and intentional game design. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a fun and unique thing to experience.

6. Burnout 3 Takedown
Burnout 3’s fast paced relentlessness is unlike anything I’ve seen in an arcade racing game. The only think I can think of coming close would be playing Mario Kart with 12 people on the highest CC setting and watching them try not to erupt into violence. It’s simplistic in it’s arcade design, with most vehicles within a class generally handling and playing a bit too closely, but is so ludicrously accessible and responsive for it’s time that it still holds up today in terms of gameplay. There’s never not fun to be had in this one, and it’s hard not to recommend it to anyone. I don’t even like most racing games, so the fact this reached number 6 should speak for itself.

5. Shadow of Rome
The story might be a dragged-out rip off of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. But the gameplay lets you cut off a man’s arm, beat him to death with it and then throw what’s left into a crowd of spectators, who will reward you with an axe that you can use to cut a man in half while the words red volcano splatter on screen, blood red. Shadow of Rome is ruthless, vicious fun. It’s other half of undercooked, but lovingly crafted, stealth and narrative gameplay unfortunately hold it back quite a bit. But it’s clear by how increasingly side-lined these sections are by the end of the game what the true focus is. Shadow of Rome is a gem. One that doesn’t get much attention at that, so go and buy it.

4. Crusader Kings 2
This is simultaneously one of the best grand strategy games I’ve played, and one of the best RPG games I’ve played. And that both get full attention without compromising the gameplay of the other, seamlessly blending into this whacky Medieval simulator is truly brilliant. It’s a game so diverse that you can play according to history, play according to how you want history to go, or just say screw it and create a scenario where half of Europe is ruled by sentient polar bears at war with sentient hedgehogs, and the hedgehogs somehow win, while humanity resides in India attempting to reconcile a conflict with the Russian elephants. And that all the wackiness is somehow equally as fun and gripping as real, more simulated political intrigue is astounding. It’s a brilliant game, what more needs to be said?

3. Total War: Warhammer 2
As the game that bought me back to the Total War franchise after years of disillusion with the new direction, I have a lot of personal praise for the game as well as objective merits to list. It has all the impact and brutality I remember from the earlier titles, but irons out some of the previously unrefined mechanics that came with the later Total War games, like provinces, factions divided into races, and more distinct playstyles. The variety and RPG elements lead it feeling like a modern AAA interpretation of Heroes 3, with how insane min maxing stats on units and lords can get, and that I love. But there’s no doubt if you’re not a fan of modern Total War, you’re likely not going to be a fan of this.

2. Total War: Warhammer 3
For building upon the diversity of the already ludicrous Warhammer 2, as well as the replayability and scale, Warhammer 3 definitely deserves the number 2 spot. It’s been one of my most played games of the year and I don’t regret a second of it. It’s (mostly) a step up that builds upon the predecessor in all the right ways. But because of it’s nature of being a AAA game in today’s environment – in that it released unfinished, with one of the two campaigns still feeling that way, and the biggest draw of the game currently being in Beta for the foreseeable future – I can’t in good conscience give it the number one spot. It might be Warhammer 2 but more, but it still doesn’t feel like a sequel because of it’s unfinished state. It’s got a ways to go, and the only reason it is above the complete Warhammer 2 is that the developers have demonstrated communication and responsiveness with the community that has led to fixes and repairs in all the right areas of the game so far. Far from perfect, but it’s definitely one of my favourites of this year without question.

1. Wildermyth
My personal game of the year this time around goes to Wildermyth which, while didn’t release in 2022, at least did release in 2021. So it’s close.

Wildermyth is a procedurally generated action RPG with the option to engage in stories of that nature, or pre-written ones. The big draw to Wildermyth, that makes me favour it over other RPG’s on this list, is the element of time. Heroes age. They marry, make friends, enemies and retire. They have kids and new members of the company come in to replace them. The passage of time effects the whole world and your objectives. It’s a game where every second counts, but that doesn’t mean you have to rush it to be successful – just appreciate the moments with the characters you have. A character may die and everyone shall grieve. One may retire and pass on their experience to the new generation. There’s a sort of poetry to the relationships in the game in that they normally all share a similar through-line in common, but the way the characters get through them is always different thanks to the procedural generation.

Since my review of it, the game has been updated a bit. There are new items, new skills, a new campaign and new (desperately needed) events, allowing for more roleplay and storytelling opportunities.

Roleplay. So many roleplaying games now aren’t about roleplay. They’re about going from level 1 bozo to level 100 death lord. And while that is a part of an RPG, what is also part of an RPG is playing a role. Not just as a combat piece, but as a person with wants and personal aspirations. Like Tyranny, Wildermyth refocuses itself on roleplay by making all of it’s stories and events inherently character driven so that bad choices yield rewards in the same way good ones do, encouraging the use of characters that don’t just be good all the time because it’s optimal – a trap many AAA game fall into, where the rewards for being evil are often either so comically over the top that the punishments for having done the evil thing don’t outweigh the reward, or so minor that there’s no reason to ever roleplay an evil character..

The roleplay aspect does outshine high budget contemporaries to an astounding degree, to an extent I almost find embarrassing considering how simplistic this game is. All of the complex choices in the world of games like Fallout 4 couldn’t have the depth of this games simple choice to let the player do what they want. Because do what you want isn’t just a choice of exploring the world left, right or sideways and making a good or evil choice every now and again. Letting the player do what they want might mean comforting someone or not – not because choosing not to would be evil, but because the character might be awkward, and inadvertently start a rivalry. It might mean choosing to cook with onions or not, deciding how well fed you are and if you’re guy becomes a good camp cook.

Wildermyth understands good characterisation doesn’t always happen in the big decisions, but that what characters choose to do when the big decisions come is often a result of the smaller moments that precede it. People aren’t just people when shit hits the fan; people are people all of the time. And 90% of Wildermyth’s roleplaying resides in those small moments, which I love. You don’t start this game with a predetermined backstory or idea for your character, you start this game and get to know who your character is on a personal level. And to me that’s what roleplaying in an RPG should be about.

Wrap Up
That’s the end of this monumental event, that I’m sure will be widely reported on by journalists world wide; ‘Alex gives Wildermyth (2021) the 2022 game of the year award’. I can see the headlines now.

Gaming is a great little (expensive) hobby. I hope you readers had a good a gaming year as I. I may have got through less games this year, but the number of games I enjoyed was higher. I hope 2023 follows in this regard, and does for all of you guys too.

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