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2020: The year I noticed my taste in games is changing (and the games I played)

Content of the article: "2020: The year I noticed my taste in games is changing (and the games I played)"

On a summer's day in Australia, my first new game of 2020 was a point-and-click adventure, a genre I've barely touched since 1993's Sam & Max Hit The Road. And after another year of gaming, I notice that the types of games I gravitate towards are changing.

And it's good.

The games I ended up playing are almost completely different from what I had planned to try. I noticed that I'm having the most fun with turn-based games, or games that otherwise give me time to think, or games that require me to plan my way to victory. I seem to have moved away from shooters and hack 'n' slash. This holiday break I've pushed myself to just try a lot more types of games. There's a dearth of platformers in my list below, but a game I installed on January 1 (On Rusty Trails) has instantly got me back into platforming in a big way. I'll write something about it when I'm done with it.

So here they are, my games of 2020, roughly in the order I played them. (All on PC.)

Primordia (rating pending)

A post-apocalyptic point-and-click developed by Wormwood and published by the masters of modern point-and-click, Wadjet Eye Games. I loved what I played, and although I abandoned it early on due to work commitments, I intend to return to complete the game. Indeed, the small amount that I did experience was enthralling and I want to know the story. There's not much more you could ask of a point-and-click. There is an ingenious mechanic where your humourous sidekick can give you a hint if you're stuck, but he won't help you too often, so the game won't let you become overly reliant upon him.

J.U.L.I.A. Among The Stars ★★★★☆

Another point-and-click but with beautiful, detailed graphics in high resolution. Travelling around a solar system with some minor puzzle-solving, this game was a breath of fresh air for me. When I was busy with work, I could still find the time to relax with this game and its chilled music. No pixel hunting is required whatsoever, since you can highlight with the press of a key all the relevant points of interest on the screen. The story is simple but reflective, and told in such a way that I wanted to play to the end.

The Marvellous Miss Take ★★★★★

In a big departure from the first two games, I dove headlong into this tactical stealth game. You play as an art thief across some 20-odd levels, evading guards, sniffer dogs and alarms. Extra depth is added with two more art thieves who have different techniques, encouraging you to try different play styles. I personally feel that any game designer that can not only envisage different ways to succeed in-game but also show you how fun they can be is worth their salt. I had a lot of fun with this game, and I finished it in just a few days because I kept coming back for more.

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Duskers ★★★★☆

We have so much variety in games available to us these days. How does one define Duskers? I love genre-bending games. You remotely control drones looking for scrap, flying to derelict ships that are not-so-abandoned. I'll steal this line from their description: "What you hear comes through a remote microphone. What you see is how each drone sees the world. Motion sensors tell you something's out there, but not what. And when you issue commands, you do it through a command line interface." This is one of those games where you're always playing catch-up with resources (like so many recent games), but it's cool, and I often had that feeling of "just one more try" after every loss.

Helium Rain ★★★☆☆

I played this intensely for a few weeks. A space trading/combat game, it was the first one in decades to recapture the feeling I got from another 1993 game, Frontier: Elite II (the precursor to Elite: Dangerous). I especially loved how pretty this game is. Seriously, I took dozens of screenshots and spent half my time just floating in space with the peaceful in-game music. I spent a lot of time just playing around with the highly customisable ship colours. My only wish is that this game had more systems to explore and add depth.

Thea: The Awakening ★★★★★

What a year for games that stretch preconceived genres. Thea: The Awakening is a turn-based strategy, mixing an overworld map, text events and a card battle game. The world generates anew every time you start a new game, and you can play as different gods guiding your people but seeing through your people's eyes. The world is steeped in Slavic lore that I thoroughly enjoyed (since it's a welcome break from other mythologies that I'm more familiar with).

I loved every bit of this game. From the beautiful illustrations and lore, to the music and gameplay. It's very rare for me to immediately replay a game upon beating it—but I replayed this one and finished it a second time. It was just so good.

Symmetry ★☆☆☆☆

I've never abandoned a game harder or faster than this one in my entire life. You're supposed to help crash survivors on some icy planet. It's a survival management game, and from the start I did not like the controls and I couldn't understand what the game was trying to tell me. I don't think I'll ever play this again. I won't say I regret spending money on it, I just wish it hadn't irritated me so much. The interface was just awful for me. I try to like every game for what it is, but I couldn't find anything to like about this.

Caves of Qud ★★★★★

And with a wonderful smack to the face, just like that I was back on top of the world with Caves of Qud. This game broke all of my rules and it makes me happy. I bought this at only 10% discount while still in development. (It started in 2015 and is being created by just two guys, so am I really being an impatient gamer?)

This is the role-playing game that oozes unique style. From the variety of place names (e.g. Ekuemekkiye, Moghra'yi, Ibul, Yawningmoon, K4K5) to the wild possibilities:

  • genetic mutations or cybernetic enhancements;
  • melt a wall or dig through it or explode it;
  • mentally control a spider and lay eggs;
  • wear your own severed face on your face;
  • work at becoming a friend to mollusks, or dogs, or flowers—yes, there are sentient plants.
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Caves of Qud is brutally hard. I die. A lot. Deaths are permanent. But you can always roll a new character. I could play as a priest with night vision, or a consul with metal hand bones, or a beastly humanoid with burrowing claws, thick fur and clairvoyance, who can steal energy from other psychics, and with the unfortunate habit of uncontrollably teleporting about.

You can even have an evil twin from a parallel universe who might show up randomly and attempt to destroy you.

The graphics are extremely basic, but the music is top notch, perfectly setting the atmosphere. And the game is still being developed even more than this! I love this game. It's cool.

Kerbal Space Program ★★★★☆

I've had this game in my catalogue since 2015. My friend recently got back into it, so I decided to finally fire it up. We would share our ideas, successes and designs, which immensely added to my enjoyment of the game. It's a sandbox game where you play as the cutesy people from the planet Kerbin, and you design various crafts to visit places in the solar system (an analogue of our own solar system). I trailed off this game after struggling to reach Eve, which is similar to Venus in real life. I will probably get back to it, but from what I played, I really enjoyed trying out different ideas and seeing them work. I wish a little more of the mechanics were explained.

Druidstone: The Secret of the Menhir Forest ★★★★★

Easily 5/5 stars from me. From co-creators of Legend of Grimrock 2, the game balance and level design featured the same attention to detail as that other game. A tactical battle game with a few puzzles thrown in, there are different ways to build your characters using abilities and items in order to win. I played this on Normal mode, and that was plenty enough challenge for me. Saturated with colour and gorgeous graphics and models, everything in this game is pretty. I couldn't get enough of it, and after 75 hours and two weeks of gameplay, I had finally beaten it just one day shy of the end of 2020.

Superhot ★★★★☆

Sneaking in at the very end of 2020 was Superhot, a truly incomparable game. Time moves only when you move. Most of us probably know about the game: it's a sort of first-person perspective bullet-time. You can even play it in VR.

From this one mechanic, Superhot evolves its gameplay to include various weapons. It could almost be too cool, but I don't quite think it reached that height. I didn't get that visceral feeling of punching an enemy in the face, stealing his handgun and shooting him dead, even though that's exactly what I was doing. It was almost more of a puzzle to solve for me than that ultra cool feeling of being the one who decimates the enemy.

The game itself is a meta-game, breaking the fourth wall, talking directly to you as though you are the one in the game killing the enemies. That aspect almost became a bit laborious, since you have to sit there and talk with the other side, but thankfully these moments didn't drag out for too long. It took me just 4½ hours to beat, but it's a really well done game, and for that they get four stars.

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Looking forward to 2021

There are so many games out there, and I will never get to them all, even if I'm interested in them. We live in a special time, spoilt for choice. I have maybe around 300 unplayed games in my catalogue. There are so many partly because I'm interested in all of them, but also because of my habit of retreating into games I already know for long periods of time.

For 2021, I will play more games, and more types of games. I've found that there are gems everywhere, but I won't know until I install them. I just have to play more to discover them.

Thanks for reading, and a Happy New Year to you all.


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