Game of Year: Resident Evil Village, Deathloop, Psychonauts 2 and many others
Choosing the game of the year is always the hardest. Very different projects fall into this category: both genre-wise, budget-wise, and even ideological.
Seventh place - Black Book
The Morteshka studio with its "Black Book" did the same thing that the cartoon "Alyosha Popovich and Tugarin the Snake" once did: it showed that Russian folklore perfectly combines with modern mass culture — if the creators had the talent and desire to create. Of course, you can grunt as much as you like about how rich our mythology is and what great fairy tales were filmed before. But that was before. What about now? That's what "now" was just really missing.
The Black Book card combat system is tooth-shatteringly complex in a good way, but still it does not make you sit at the game continuously until the very end. Much more fascinating is the strange and mysterious world of Old Russian culture, which in Morteshka's presentation turned out to be completely unfamiliar, harsh and creepy. This is not at all the rainbow utopia that is drawn in children's cartoons. This is a world where a newborn child can be dragged away by demons, devils live in the mill, who are always not averse to strangling someone, and a whore is waiting in the bathhouse, ready to tear off your skin.
Black Book tells more than it shows — there are not so many drawn, much less animated characters and demons in the game — but the descriptions, sounds and soundtrack are worked out so well that the imagination easily completes everything else. Turn off the lights at night, start the game, and after a couple of minutes you really seem to find yourself on a narrow path in a dark forest, where not a single branch breaks without the knowledge of the devil.
Sixth place — The Forgotten City
No one expected great things from The Forgotten City. Although the precedent itself is, of course, curious: custom modifications for AAA games (in this case, it was Skyrim) do not become independent works every day. Especially when you consider that the original mod was created by a lone developer who studied the nuances of programming and game design right in the process of working on his own debut.
On the other hand, the absence of any expectations played Into The Forgotten City's hands only. A clever detective in the entourage of ancient Rome turned out to be one of the main and really unexpected discoveries of 2021. The original modification was already beyond praise, however, having developed the idea to the scale of a full-fledged game, the Modern Storyteller studio revealed its potential properly. The script, literary texts, attention to detail, visual design, sound, music — everything is done at the highest level, despite a small budget and a tiny team of developers. The lack of resources at the studio's disposal sometimes makes itself felt, but it cannot overshadow the brilliant creative vision and obvious passion invested in the project. The Forgotten City was developed with such diligence, as if the authors sincerely worried that they would not have a second chance to realize their dream, and now the entire gaming community will follow their further creativity.
Fifth Place — It Takes Two
"It's more fun together" is a principle that is well understood by both players and developers. There are a lot of cooperative games, but the best of them were always those that were designed in advance for a specific number of participants. It's one thing to gnaw on some boss whose health only increases in proportion to the number of heroes, and it's quite another to pass tests that require something from each player. For example, if an individual user has his own specialization or if some unique skills are available to him. This happened occasionally in A Way Out, the previous game of the Hazelight studio. But in her novelty It Takes Two, this concept has found its most complete and broad embodiment.
It Takes Two does not invent anything new, but successfully compiles the cooperative mechanics already familiar to everyone. A couple of heroes are always together: even when passing through the network, the screen is divided in two, and you see where your partner is running. And to solve any task, interaction is required: one places platforms — another jumps on them; one distracts the boss — another deals with him; one controls the movement horizontally, the other vertically. And every time there is something new: the locations, the skills of the heroes, and the mechanics change literally every half hour. There is literally no time to be bored!
Fourth place - Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil is the most stable and tenacious of the classic horror series. Silent Hill, Forbidden Siren and Fatal Frame have long gone the distance, but new episodes of the amazing adventures of T-virus and his friends are still being released both in movies and in video game format. However, it is hardly possible to find out in the Village the continuation of the 1996 game: it looks like the first Resident Evil even less than the seventh numbered part.
This time, Raccoon City, captured by the living dead, was replaced by an Eastern European village with snow-covered lopsided huts. The vacant position of Tyrant was occupied by the immortal gigantess Alsina Dimitrescu, who became a walking meme and a sex symbol long before the release of the game itself. And horror about zombie mutants finally gave way to natural fantasy - with dragons, vampires and giants (even if there is a completely materialistic explanation for all the local "magic" according to Arthur C. Clarke's law in the finale).
With all this, it was as a horror Village that rather failed: it is not so much frightening as entertaining. But there is a real Hollywood attraction hidden in the game, where there was a place for good shooting, hide-and-seek, and chases, and crafting, and puzzles. Well, there is even a battle with the OCR present! The main character manages to hunt in the style of Far Cry, and plunder some tombs in the best traditions of Tomb Raider, and fight armies of armed skeletons straight from Skyrim. Moreover, all this eclecticism looks great, is cheerfully played and develops into a surprisingly integral work, which undoubtedly requires continuation. And it will definitely be: Capcom, unlike Konami, does not abandon its own. The main thing is that in the ninth part there should be fewer experiments and more Resident Evil itself. And then it won't take long to lose yourself.
Third place - Deathloop
At first glance, Deathloop is easy to confuse with Dishonored, because the author's handwriting of Arkane Studios is immediately visible: both the visual design is similar, and some locations, and some of the skills… But if you dig a little deeper, you will find that the original tricks of the new game are no less than those that have already been tested by time.
The main focus on which both the gameplay and the narrative are focused is the time loop where the main character, tormented by a hangover and amnesia, got into. Time after time he wakes up on the cold rocky beach of the strange island of Black Reef to pick up the machine gun again and break the vicious circle ... and time after time fails. Because the only way to get out is to destroy those who arranged all this. And in one day, otherwise all the dead will be resurrected, and everything will have to start over. It seems to be nothing complicated, because we have an infinite number of attempts, a solid arsenal and magical abilities in stock. But the targets don't want to die in any way. Especially Julianne, the local agent of chaos and our personal nemesis.
Unlike other ideologists of the loop, she is not tied to the daily schedule, knows perfectly well what we want, and does everything to prevent it. More than once or twice, the sudden appearance of this devil will spoil seemingly flawless plans — however, this is not the most interesting thing. The role of Julianna can be played not only by a dim-witted AI, but also by a living person: intrusions into other people's sessions are organized almost like in Bloodborne. Who would have thought that all these years the genre lacked precisely asymmetric multiplayer!
However, you can also enjoy Deathloop alone. She has everything that a cool immersive sim needs: cheerful shooting, without exaggeration, brilliant level design and freedom to achieve goals, which is limited only by the imagination of the player himself. Stylish looks and a charming soundtrack are a bonus. Deathloop was not enough except for technical stability at launch - otherwise there would have been a game of the year, no less.
Second place - Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy is much more lucky to have worthy incarnations in games and movies than other superhero teams. At first, James Gunn's dilogy turned out to be among the most successful MCU films. Now the interactive adventures of the hapless saviors of the universe suddenly hit the podium of the best games of 2021. Thanks to Eidos Montreal, which developed Tomb Raider, Thief and Deus Ex restarts!
Thanks to the efforts of the developers, even the usually frivolous "Guardians" have gained an unexpected depth of characters and relationships… Fortunately, without ceasing to be yourself: dashing, even if not too lucky, adventurers. They cheerfully quarrel with each other and constantly make jokes in perfectly written dialogues. Solve puzzles and participate in crazy mini-games. They fight on starfighters and spectacularly take out whole crowds of enemies to the accompaniment of rock hits of the 80s. In general, everything is like in the movies - only better.
And it doesn't even matter that the scenario is, in fact, completely linear and does not involve any amateur activity of the Guardians of the Galaxy player. She doesn't need to. After all, in front of us is already a very solid, carefully crafted and just extremely soulful thing without loot boxes, microtransactions and other garbage that Square Enix guessed to leave in the failed "Avengers". Finally, Spider-Man has its friendly neighbor - the second decent Marvel igroization in recent years.
First place - Psychonauts 2
The game of the year according to Gambling Mania often becomes the winner in the categories "Best Indie" or "Best AAA game", but this time the champion definitely does not fall into any of these categories. Double Fine is a fairly large studio, and the development was probably completed with Microsoft's money. But it started with a crowdfunding campaign, and Psychonauts 2's ambitions are not cosmic at all. She is not trying to make a revolution — but, on the other hand, in 2021, as if no one is trying. And in the absence of breakthrough innovations, it's not a sin to reward the one who could shake the old days the best, and in this regard Psychonauts 2, the perfect sequel to one of the most outstanding games of 2005, has no equal.
As there is no equal to it among modern releases. Big games in their trends have gone very far from what was the norm in the mid-noughties: now we are sincerely glad that Guardians of the Galaxy is a normal single—player game without a service component. Indie projects often cannot develop to a decent scale, and outstanding narrative works are forced to rely primarily on text. Against their background, Psychonauts 2 looks amazing, bright, extensive, diverse and presenting the plot with all possible visual means.
And the first Psychonauts was atypical at the time of release: it is a three-dimensional platformer with the soul of a classic adventure game in the best traditions of LucasArts. Her hero traveled through the subconscious of different people, literally fighting cockroaches in their heads and clearing emotional baggage. The idea of diving into someone else's inner world is often used in horror films, but Psychonauts was primarily a comedy that treated the injuries of its characters with a slight irony.
Psychonauts 2 has retained all the components of the original - except, perhaps, the inventory characteristic of old adventure games. Here, each level gives a test of action and platforming, and some new gameplay mechanics, and narration through the environment, and a lot of jokes, and a completely unique art design. Like It Takes Two, the game never tires of surprising — but, unlike Hazelight's work, Psychonauts 2 offers a solid scenario, skillfully continuing the first part and intriguing until the very end.
Psychonauts 2 is an exemplary game of the "middle class", not constrained by huge budgets and expectations of the AAA segment and at the same time free from the strict restrictions of typical indie projects. It combines the best of both worlds: extensive handmade locations and bold design solutions, outstanding staging of scenes and unusual themes. For all this, she receives from Gambling the title of the best game of 2021.
The "Magnificent Seven" turned out to be extremely diverse this year. There is a post-Orthodox RPG, and a purely multiplayer project for two players, and the long-awaited continuation of the hit of sixteen years ago. In general, the set is at least interesting. And which game of 2021 was the best in your opinion? Tell us in the comments!