Welcome back for part 2 of what I loved in video games this year! While 2020 has been one of the toughest years many of us have ever been through, I have to admit that the video games were some of the best in years (despite many delays). Here is Part 1 of what I loved in 2020’s games — and now for the rest, from both my husband and myself. =)
Favorite Alter Ego: Eivor in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Is it weird that I’ve always wanted to run around and raid as a Viking? Don’t worry — I’m not normally a violent person. But Viking culture and lore has always fascinated me, perhaps never more so than this year when my husband and I got into the show The Vikings (a few years late, I know). Between the show, God of War that came out a couple of years ago, and the fact that my DNA results suggest I have Viking ancestry, I’ve been looking forward to actually stepping into the boots of a Viking in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. And the game does not disappoint.
In Valhalla, you play as Eivor, a Viking raider who sails to England, establishes a settlement, and raids to her heart’s content. You can play Eivor as either a male or female; as usual, I chose female. You can also customize Eivor’s hair color and style; I went with a red braid, to make her feel closer to my own look. From there, you get to deck her out in armor and tattoos, which you find throughout the world. Between those customization options and the occasional in-game decision I get to make as Eivor, I have gotten to know her over time. Valhalla may not boast the most in-depth role-playing experience out there, but I’ve loved playing my badass Viking alter ego. As a female raider who’s also becoming a leader of her people, Eivor has definitely won my heart.
Most Stylish Game: Othercide
My husband played a unique tactical game this year called Othercide. What stood out most about it, both to him and to me as I watched him play, was its gorgeous art style. The game’s color palette is entirely black, white, and red — some of my husband’s favorite colors. On PlayStation 4, the graphics are crisp with clean lines and flashy character designs. You play as a series of “daughters” in the game, each with a slightly different build and dress. It’s different than anything I’ve seen before, and I have to give it props for pure style.
Favorite Character: Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077
Currently I’m about waist-deep in Cyberpunk 2077, the long-awaited and almost overhyped new RPG from CD Projekt, the studio behind the Witcher series. The studio has yet again accomplished what they do best: created a huge game packed with first-rate storytelling, meaningful choices, and unforgettable characters. And perhaps the game’s most fascinating character is Johnny Silverhand, a dead rockstar (and occasional anti-corporation terrorist) who lives as a construct inside the main character’s tech-filled head.
Silverhand is played by actor Keanu Reeves, which at first I thought was gimmicky; however, now that I’m 35 hours into the game and deep in the middle of Silverhand’s side quests, I love the way Reeves plays this badass character. Part of what makes him so interesting is that you never know whether to trust him or not. He’s sarcastic, adding humor to many of your missions; he also voices his opinion on things, which might influence your choices. I love how ambiguous he is, and although he’s technically dead, his personality is very much alive.
I won’t give away story spoilers here, but if you play Cyberpunk, I’m curious to know what you make of him. He’s certainly the most unique character I’ve seen in a video game in a long time.
Best Photo Mode: Ghost of Tsushima
In my last post, I gushed about how gorgeous and immersive the world of Ghost of Tsushima is, and the game’s Photo Mode takes full advantage of that. Ghost has the most impressive Photo Mode I’ve ever seen in a game — and I’m obsessed with Photo Modes in games, so that’s saying something. What sets Ghost‘s Photo Mode apart is the sheer number of things you can play with to tweak every photo to your specifications. For instance, you can change the weather from rain to fog to clear skies; play with filters that pay homage to samurai films; add elements like falling leaves or flower petals to the sky; change the direction of the wind; and even adjust the facial expression of your character so he’s smiling or grimacing, to name just a few.
Plus, you don’t have to stick to static photos. You can capture short videos with the full force of the weather and elements in play, and even choose background music for the moment, as though you are creating your own samurai film clip. The colors and settings in Ghost are so vivid, I kept stopping to capture the moment in Photo Mode and ended up spending as much time snapping photos as playing through the game.
Favorite Setting: London in Watch Dogs Legion
Although I’ve already written about how innovative the recruitment mechanic is in Watch Dogs Legion, the other reason I wanted to play this game was for its setting: London, England. I lived there for three years attending a college called Goldsmiths, which I tried to find in the game but sadly couldn’t; the game only includes the most central districts of London. Still, I had a blast exploring the neighborhoods of London, which were often so accurate I remembered walking those exact same streets when I lived there. Every borough has its own distinct personality, with punks in Camden and people in business suits elsewhere. The detail is impressive, and the nostalgia factor for me made Legion’s London my favorite setting in any game this year.
Personal Game of the Year: Cyberpunk 2077
It may come as no surprise that Cyberpunk 2077 is my game of the year. I’ve been a Witcher fan for a long time, and RPGs are my jam. Although Cyberpunk‘s launch has unfortunately been riddled with bugs, I have been lucky enough not to experience any game-breaking problems on my PS4 in my first 35 hours with the game. Other than about three crashes and a few funny bugs — like being stuck inside the character Panam’s hair at one point — I’ve had a pretty smooth and immersive experience.
I’ll write more about Cyberpunk in the coming weeks to share what I’m enjoying most about the game. For now, I’ll just say that Cyberpunk is, to me, a perfectly-balanced open-world RPG, with one of the best stories I’ve seen in a game. It’s truly unique. I’m not the biggest fan of the setting, Night City, but I can’t deny that’s it’s vibrant and incredibly detailed, a place with a personality all to itself. It’s also an apt spot for a mercenary like V, the main character, to explore not only a few dark alleys and missions, but also the dark places in her own mind. I’ve had a blast exploring the streets of Night City, making friends with nomads in the Badlands, and learning more about the corrupt corporations that run the show. Even my husband, who normally does not play RPGs, gave Cyberpunk a try and today told me it might be his game of the year, too.
I’d love to hear what your favorite games were this year. What did you play, and is there anything I missed that I should go back to? And finally, I wish everyone a happy new year, hopefully filled with more incredible games!