2020 has been an insane time for all of us, but gaming has really helped shine a light in what’s been such a drag of a year. While many development teams had to slow down a bit, that didn’t stop a few key launches from gracing players all over.
5. Legends of Runeterra
I’ve never been any good at card games. As much as I love Shadowverse, I’m pretty awful at it. Suddenly, Riot Games turned what we knew about CCG’s on our heads and made one of the most accessible card games ever with Legends of Runeterra.
They were touting how you could make a significant number of competitive decks without having to pay a cent, and they definitely lived up to that promise. Legends of Runeterra‘s progression system basically allows you to earn many great cards and in-game currency through normal gameplay to make powerful decks. I only paid for cosmetics, and I’ve been able to climb a fair amount on the infamous Riot ranked ladder without having to buy cards. I was a massive fan because each card had a very simple and straightforward explanation of what the card did. It wasn’t a four-paragraph essay to figure out how to activate a healing skill on a card like in other CCGs. Mix that with an existing League of Legends aesthetic and world, and you’ll have an immediately huge CCG hit.
4. Persona 5 Royal
Persona has always been an enigma to me and also quite intimidating, to be honest. Getting my hands on Persona 5 Royal was still an intimidating experience, but it’s the most engaging and captivating RPG I’ve played this year. (Yes, even over Final Fantasy VII Remake).
I knew the turn-based RPG, monster collecting, and school life elements of the game were challenging and entertaining. I wasn’t expecting this fantastic storytelling surrounding a new way of combatting ideals in society, the killer soundtrack, and the admittedly great dubbed voice acting. It opened my eyes and many others worldwide to Atlus’s capabilities when it came to RPGs and broke boundaries of what I expect from the genre in the future. There was something so real about the connection between all the characters and even enemies you don’t see in the industry. Even the theme surrounding how each main character had a persona based on a “thief” of sorts from history was just so enticing, and having it fit so well with the overall narrative. Connecting small elements to the overarching plot is almost hard to come by in today’s video game storytelling.
3. Everything About The Oculus Quest 2
Yes, this isn’t a game, but everything about the Oculus Quest 2‘s launch is worthy of being on a top video game list. Virtual reality tech has been hard to come by for most folks. Creating a PC rig strong enough to handle VR headsets and games usually flies over most heads.
The Oculus Quest 2 came to help change all that as one of the more accessible VR headsets on the market, even more so than its first iteration. Now literally anyone can afford a premiere VR experience at a small fraction of the price that would typically have to be paid for. With games like Population: One all the way to VR Chat, there’s nothing you won’t enjoy about the experience – unless you’re concerned about the Facebook login issue. Other than that, I have to praise the Oculus Quest 2 for having top-notch hardware and a whole host of games that anyone can enjoy.
Sticking with the theme of accessibility, Riot Games makes another accessible game in the form of a CS:GO style shooter in Valorant. Don’t get me wrong; the game is still insanely hard, just like CS:GO. You still have to be fully aware when checking corners, not rush in, and not aim wildly. The main difference between these two titles is the vastly different personalities – Valorant being the more appealing personality of the two.
CS:GO is a gritty militaristic style shooter. But that’s honestly it. Beyond the excitement of the fast-paced strategic shooter, there’s not much else. Valorant brought new life into what was frankly a monopolized shooter. Instead of generic-looking cops and bad guys, you play as stylized agents with a specific theme. Take my favorite agent, Phoenix, for example. A hot-headed flashy guy hailing from the UK, Phoenix takes the role literally by having abilities that allow him to quickly duel with the enemy team. Instead of general equipment, agents buy specific abilities. For example, Phoenix has a curving flashbang ball that you can throw from weird angles to get an edge on an enemy waiting around the corner. Killjoy, a German inventor, uses turrets and robots that can alert enemies coming from the flank. Each character has abilities that act as replacements for general equipment. There’s a relatable and amazingly designed character that you can pick up as your main agent in true Riot Games fashion. While I still get bodied in games and go 2-20, I still have an insane amount of fun with Valorant.
1. Genshin Impact
When it comes to my number one game, I’m looking at this ongoing theme of accessibility and gaming impact (no pun intended). Genshin Impact gave an overall Western market an authentic look at what a triple-A gacha game could look like. You have to give credit where credit is due, especially when it comes to the beautifully crafted world of Genshin Impact, the unique characters who can join on the way. Based on my knowledge and what I’ve played in miHoYo’s previous title, Honkai Impact 3rd, there’s going to be a ton of content for a good while, which is excellent. I’ve been looking for a gacha game that offers a true non-auto experience. I could run around this world and kill monsters and still be mesmerized by it for hours.
The amazing success in the first two weeks of Genshin Impact was still met with some criticism. In the game’s defense, players new (and even seasoned) to the gacha genre complained about a stamina system that’s been in every single gacha game ever. It was more so surrounding how long it took to refill the stamina that prevented you from doing certain bosses or dungeons. I’m not here to tell you how to play a video game, let alone how much you want to spend on it. I am here to tell you that there’s still plenty to do in the game from exploration, missions, side missions, and more. Nothing has ever prevented me, let alone the countless amount of other people who have enjoyed what Genshin Impact provides. I fully expect developers in the future to take the good (and bad) inspiration from the title moving forward as Genshin Impact has definitely set a new standard that no one was expecting in 2020.
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