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2020 BlueGartr Staff Picks -- How Did You Survive Quarantine?

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Here we are at the end of 2020. I think everyone can agree that this past year has been a strange one. As activities in the world and social gatherings were canceled, more and more people embraced gaming as a refuge from the challenges and difficulties of the world. I can personally attest to nearly a dozen individuals who either bought their first systems or returned to gaming after many years. And while there have definitely been some standout games this year, there is no doubt that the ongoing global pandemic has impacted gaming as a lot of games were delayed or fell short of expectations. In the past, the BlueGartr staff have not hesitated to pick older games that captivated our attention, and this year, with all the delays and extra time to spend gaming, it was older games that made the biggest impact this year for many of us. So here are the BlueGartr staff’s games of 2020.

BaneTheBrawler
The only new game I've played this year, that I can think of, is Among Us. Fun whodunnit party-game, best with 7-10 people. PC version is only $5, mobile version is free, cross-play enabled. Great for socially-distanced hangout sessions with your friends. Other than that, I've been on my usual rotation of Civ 6, Stellaris, and FFXIV. If Cyberpunk makes it to release this year, that might be a strong contender. I'm pretty excited for it. Will make a new post if that's the case.
Edit: It did, but I didn't pick it up. So yeah.

My wife's pick would definitely be Animal Crossing: New Horizons.


Byrthnoth
My gaming has been largely retro this year. I broke out a bunch of RPGs that I did not finish (or finish to my satisfaction) in my childhood and did battle with them in 2020. Suikoden III, Xenogears, Xenosaga, Legends of Dragoon, FFXI, FFXII, etc.

The two modern games I played were FFXV and Hades.

Hades was fucking fantastic. For years I have suspected that devs would get a lot more immersion bang for their buck if they paid more attention to story and a lot less attention to graphics. Hades was that game. They saved on graphical asset budget by making it roguelike and invested the extra capital in scripting 20 slightly different greetings for a fan in the one stadium level. The game was fun and the story / intricacy of character interactions was orders of magnitude better than I would have ever guessed.

FFXV went the other route and I would consider it mediocre at best. I played a lot of it (did everything afaik) but the characters were more 2D than Hades, the battle system was not challenging, and it reeked of design by committee. Honestly, if it wasn't a pandemic there is no chance I would have completed it.

So yeah, Hades.


Gredival
Given that I'm perpetually on a backlog, my pick is also old. I finally got around to playing my copy of Xenoblade 2 because I bought and finished the remastered Xenoblade 1 for Switch (a constant Dolphin to-do that never happened).

Hoping for an experience on the level of Xenogears, I came out a tad disappointed. The story is driven by a lot of big themes on the level, or past the level, of Xenogears -- identity vs. memory, survivor's guilt, resource wars, refugees, nihilism and purpose... but it is all ancillary back-drop for the main cast who never justify being the center of the universe. If they were just caught up in events beyond their control that would be one thing, but in most instances it is their journey that pushes the backdrop conflict forward. On their own, three of the five main cast members have compelling stories. Unfortunately, the protagonist is not one of them. Rex dips too far into being the everyman that we are supposed to read ourselves into and as a result he ends up being a boring one-dimensional Gary Stu whose sole motivation is a promise he makes to a girl. And his ties of companionship to the rest of the cast never feel totally justified or completely established. Rex never earns the loyalty of those around him unlike all the other "guy who can unite the world" narratives. The other odd man out is the amusing (in a slapstick anime sense) Tora and his maidbot. However clever and meta the humor is though, they (and the rest of the Nopon) seem to be distractingly out-of-place in the narrative. Maybe it's the rose colored glasses, but I was able to forget about Chuchu in Xenogears; Xenoblade will not let me forget about the Nopon.

However despite all this disappointment with the narrative, the game still held my attention and ate my time as a game itself. The open world exploration is wonderful, the Monolith team having been the same crew that was tapped to handle Breath of the Wild (i.e. Assassin's Creed: Hyrule). The combat is addictive, but with a steep learning curve that includes learning a lot about optimization compelling you to adhere to some semblance of min-maxing to progress (although you can of course just over-level yourself and brute force). The random rare blade resonation mechanic can take care of any gacha game withdrawal you might have.

Perhaps I missed out on the true gem of the new series by not having a Wii U for Xenoblade X which actually prominently featured mecha.


Sonomaa
I played FFXIV a ton, the only games I played on the regular were Modern Warfare and Animal Crossing. I enjoyed Doom Eternal and Hades and a little bit of Genshin.

Satisfactory though, I binged that game a hell of a lot, 105 hours according to steam. I am actually excited that the next patch in early access breaks saves because I want to start again and experience it all over except with eyes unclouded by lulz.

Among Us is fine I just hate being mean.


Ragns
My unoriginal entry would be Doom Eternal but it's pretty hard to hate when you enjoyed the previous one.

Considering how high I put Breath of the Wild the previous years I pretty much have to put Genshin Impact on top of my list for 2020.

Otherwise, I would probably put Half-Life: Alyx somewhere but my Valve Index is still in the mail.
Last minute edit: I got it right before Christmas and I was so not ready for this. I rarely felt so tensed up playing a videogame.

I guess we could also count Among Us for when I'm in my chaotic neutral moods.


6souls
Primarily Destiny & Surviving Mars w/mods. I tried a number of other games throughout the year and out of those, Genshin Impact held my interest for the longest at a months time.

New for me this year:
  • PC
    • C&C Remastered
    • Halo MCC
    • Phantasy Star Online 2
    • Ragnorium
    • Stardew Valley
  • PS4
    • Destiny 2: Beyond Light
    • Dragon Quest Builders 2
    • Fall Guys
    • Far Cry 3 Classic
    • Genshin Impact

Pretty much kept it to games that I could sink a lot of time into.


Serra
Back when I reviewed Pokémon Sword and Shield in January, I had finished the campaign and played enough ranked to reach the max rank in both the singles and doubles playlists and place somewhere around the top one-hundred-thousand. Having never devoted a lot of time to competitive Pokémon I was pretty happy with that accomplishment and my time with Pokémon started to wane. And then the pandemic struck and we started quarantining. With nothing better to do, I set a goal to reach the top one-thousand in the doubles playlist. I have talked about my love for ranked playlists and the introduction of a ranked playlist in this generation drove my interest and playtime throughout the year. Between playing around two-hundred (or more) matches a month, diving deeper into the complexity of the Pokémon games, reexamining my matches and striving to improve, work-shopping teams, learning from top-tier players, metas that changed every few months, two expansions which introduced new Pokémon and strategies, competitive Pokémon has dominated my gaming year. A few months after my review, I placed in the top twenty-thousand. And then top ten-thousand. I spent most of the year bouncing somewhere between the top two to five-thousand and finally reached my goal in November. Although my playtime has declined significantly since then, there is no doubt that Pokémon Shield (and Sword, by extension) has been the most impactful game for me this year.


So those are the games that helped the BlueGartr staff get through 2020. What about yourselves? What games helped you survive 2020? Feel free to let us know below.

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s to the end of 2020 and the start of 2021. It has got to get better from here, right?

Updated 2020-12-31 at 18:43 by 6souls

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