Welcome, everyone, to the annual GameRVW Writers’ Game Of The Year Awards. We asked some of our brightest and best to give their personal choice for the coveted Game of the Year title and why, with the different selections covering a number of genre’s and platforms. 2020 may have been a difficult year for just about everyone, but these games should bring some joy to your lives in the year to come.
*SOME SPOILERS AHEAD*
James Lynch – Crusader Kings III
Paradox Interactive had a lot to do to improve upon Crusader Kings II, a game, which despite being released more than a decade ago, maintains a considerable loyal player base. Not only did it manage to meet all the expectations of a discerning audience in the genre, it actually exceeded them in almost every aspect.
If you’re looking for a game that offers replayability, you would be hard pressed to find one which offers branching gameplay in greater abundance than CKIII. The grand strategy has been vastly different for me on every playthrough to this point, even from some very similar starting scenarios, offering mystery, intrigue, cruelty and insanity in equal measure. Want to become an incestuous Lord in the shoddiest bog in Ireland, hoarding wives and wealth in equal measure? Go for it. Or how about sacrificing untold numbers of people to a long redundant set of polytheistic Gods? Why not. It is literally the game that has it all, so go out there and be as mad as you want. It’s great.
Honorable mentions go to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Hades and Warcraft III: Reforged (I might have been kidding on that last one)
Peter Sallale – The Outer Wilds
The Outer Wilds is the type of game that isn’t made often. Instead of environments being placed all on one plane, Outer Wilds instead simulates an entire solar system, with each planet being its own handcrafted sphere with realistic (albeit simplified) physics. Instead of skills, combat, or levels, the game simply throws you into this sandbox to figure out for yourself. And instead of a linear story, you explore and put the pieces of the puzzle together at your own pace. Its for this reason that Outer Wilds is so magical.
Just you, your ship, and a beautiful solar system that you are unleashed in to solve a mystery as you see fit. It is my Game of the Year for 2020.
Eli Gonzalez – Final Fantasy VII Remake
With the Final Fantasy VII Remake Square Enix did the improbable, breathing life into a beloved classic whilst simultaneously paving the way for a new story. Although it only adapts the opening hours of the original, Remake expands on the lives of its characters in ways that feel essential. Giving us a glimpse into a society crushed by monopolistic greed, we see why the members of Avalanche fight back against the all-consuming Shinra Power Company, their motivations made real through a series of humanizing detours. It also helps that this tale’s high-level themes of ecological doom and corporate dystopia have only become more relevant with time, and despite the Chocobos and improbably large swords, this world is one uncomfortably like our own.
By its conclusion, Remake fully reconciles with its nature as a retelling, flirting with the meta-textual until the seams of reality begin to tear. While part of me worries that these divergences will somehow taint my thoughts on the original, this also represents the revolutionary heart of this story. It’s unclear if these changes will be unilaterally successful, but that doesn’t mean the risk isn’t well worth it. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the game part is also quite good, reimagining the somewhat numbing turn-based combat of the original into a well-balanced challenge that adds a layer of satisfying action while maintaining the intended cerebral decision making. It may be a little rough around the edges, but my time with Final Fantasy VII Remake was a deeply cathartic experience in this hellish year.
Alyx Salfiti – The Last of Us II
Now like many others I chose The Last Of Us II because I believe it’s divisiveness and controversy is what makes it one of the most impactful video games in years. Some of you may say “how can you think it is the best with such poor literary choices?” but let me iterate that this wasn’t mine, or your, story to tell. It was a meticulously crafted narrative by the people who created and loved those characters. Not only that, but killing someone off is the single greatest motivator in any medium. Just look at Game of Thrones (before the last season, of course).
Not only all of that but with stunning graphical capabilities, fluid animations, smart AI and gorgeous environments, it was easy to overlook the original mechanics because, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
It may have not been what you wanted, but it was the best narrative experience I have had this year in gaming.
Honorable mention goes to Ghost Of Tsushima though, because that was such a close second I’d love to give the award to both.
I said that wasn’t allowed – Ed
Ben Gibson – Blazing Sails
Blazing Sails hit early access in 2020, and I found it to be a bit of a hidden gem of the year. It’s technically a battle royale game, which have been done to death at this point, but it’s different enough to stand out as a rather unique title. It’s essentially a cross between Sea of Thieves, Blackwake and a battle royale game but with an emphasis on sinking rival ships rather than killing enemy players. You have a few different tactics you can adopt to try and take down your rivals, and there is a nice balance between resource management and combat that you have to master to keep your ship afloat. To top it off, it has a low price point, so you don’t have a great deal to lose.
Thanks for taking the time to check out our personal choices for Game of the Year, and make sure to let us know your thoughts below or via our social media platforms.