As usual, here’s my year-end recap of what I played this year. Notably missing are mobile games; while I spent a lot of time on these, it’s hard to say which were this year and which were earlier!
While I’ve always played a lot of turn-based, puzzle, or other slow paced games, halfway through the year we had a baby, which meant that real-time games, games that needed a real keyboard and mouse, and most multiplayer games were put on hold in favor of things I could play with a trackpad and a baby on my lap.
Completed (at least mostly or if applicable)
These are the games that are either “done”, or have no end but are still being enjoyed.
- Life is Strange
- I finished the rest of this early in the year, and enjoyed it very much. Even if it’s a basically linear story with some light puzzle solving, the story is engaging, and the characters (particularly the friendship at the center) are well drawn.
- I wrote a whole post about this, and my desktop background is still a wallpaper from it; yes, I enjoyed it.
- XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
- I replayed through XCOM 2 with the new DLC. Once again I enjoyed it, and the new systems, characters, missions, and abilities from the DLC make it a varied and interesting tactical game.
- Stardew Valley
- I reached my self-defined endpoint for this (most farm buildings, most of the house, marriage, most of the community center done). Definitely a great experience; I might go back and try another map if I’m in the mood sometime.
- A really tightly crafted experience; I hear it’s even better in VR. The wrapping story is forgettable, but the feeling of nailing a complex series of dodges, takedowns, etc is great and makes you feel like a ninja.
- As a software engineer, I lost a lot of time to this. The scope for optimization and creativity is wonderful, and if you turn off enemies it’s not stressful either. I’ve launched one rocket in this, and have wanted to go back to try again from the beginning and different constraints, but the backlog, man.
- Endless Space 2
- I’ve only done one playthrough of this so far, but it seems like a worthy successor to Endless Legend. Space 4x meets the Endless series gameplay and design elements, in a universe with very cool asymmetrical races.
- Into the Breach
- Both as good as everyone says, but at the same time not as engaging over the long term as FTL, I feel. The core gameplay is excellent, but I don’t feel the same compulsion to keep playing it with new squads that I did with the different ships in FTL. Partly that may be because the overall structure is more fixed, unlike the sector exploration in FTL; it’s harder to get excited about saving the museum island, or the terraforming island, over and over again.
- Invisible Inc
- Somewhat disappointing. I never felt like I either needed or got to use most of the tactical toys my agents had access to, and similarly to Into the Breach, I have no compulsion to try it again with different starting agents.
- I started playing a CCG again. This one has a great original fantasy magic/gunslinger world, very fair monetization, and restores a lot of the interaction and design space from Magic that Hearthstone is missing without bringing too much complexity (for example, responding during your opponents turn and mana in the deck). Watching the development of Hearthstone, I’m glad I didn’t start that again; this feels much nicer. Obviously this is never “completed”, but I’ve played enough to feel comfortable recommending it.
Still in progress
These are still in progress, although not actively, and I’m planning to return to them.
- Banner Saga
- This is exactly catnip for me: cool Norse lore, turn-based combat, character-based stories. However, I started it at the same time as a couple other games, and it fell by the wayside. I might restart it, since I’d like to play through the whole trilogy.
- Opus Magnum
- I’m pretty far in this, but haven’t finished all the puzzles yet. It appeals to my software engineer skills even more than Infinifactory, but it’s much less annoying to re-do things in a 2D top-down world than a 3D world you have to fly around in. The story layer is also quite enjoyable this time around. I’ve even found myself going back to optimize some of the solutions.
- Bridge Constructor Portal
- My first Bridge Constructor, and a lot of fun. The puzzles haven’t gotten super hard yet, but I’m assuming they will.
- This fell by the wayside when real-time games mostly did, but I want to pick it back up. The art style is great, and the mechanic is interesting; plus, it’s good for your typing!
- This similarly fell by the wayside, since it’s better with keyboard and mouse. Super good though. I used a wiki and a minorly spoiled map to make the resource collection less painful, but if you have more time to game there’s a good argument that this is a great game to finish spoiler-free.
These are ones that didn’t click with me, for whatever reason.
- ME: Shadow of Mordor
- The performance on my computer wasn’t amazing, the combat and story failed to grab me, and the modern open-world crowded map is a bit ridiculous.
- Sunless Sea
- I felt like I really should like this. In practice, the interface was really bad, and the gameplay was really slow.
My Steam Link didn’t get much use this year once I finished Life is Strange and Pyre. Partly this is because I don’t tend to play many games that are better with a controller (although I do still like the convertible laptop plus a Steam Controller as a travel solution), but partly this is because without a desktop, it’s just a pain to use. By the time I’ve gone upstairs to plug my laptop into the ethernet, then gone back down to the basement, and then optionally had to go back up if something crashes and needs to be rebooted, I’ve lost 5-15 minutes of my gaming time. Plus, taking the laptop upstairs to plug in to the ethernet also means plugging it in to the nice 24″ monitor, mechanical keyboard, and gaming mouse, at which point I could just play there (and the controller also works just fine in that setting too, which is a lot of how I played Pyre).