The Digital Fix Gaming's 2020 HighlightsPlatforms: All
2020 is nearly over and while you, the reader, have had your say on the gaming highlights of the year with our GOTY Awards - a few of our writers want to share some of the gaming moments of this year that made a difference to them. From great games to great memories, we had a lot to choose from this year, but here are just a few of the highlights.
Supergiant turned one of the key elements of the roguelike genre, permadeath, and turned it on its head in Hades. Instead of each new run being separate from your last, the entire game feels like one long journey, as each time you rise from the Pool of Styx there are new conversations to start, one more chance to pet Cerberus. The moments that let you take a breath before jumping out of your window for one more escape run have set a new benchmark for the genre, while the combat itself is up there with the best action games of the year.
The beauty of Hades is that the difficulty curve seems really steep, but without quite realising it, you find yourself getting better, learning patterns and trying out new boons and strategies to defeat your foes. The game feels so well balanced, with each of the weapons offering different playstyles, with certain aspects working better with particular boons, synergising differently. Add in some fantastic voice acting and the chance to pursue romantic relationships with certain denizens of the underworld, and it’s not hard to see why Hades was nominated in eight categories at The Game Awards.
2020 was a year when conditions at some AAA studios were laid bare, Supergiant produced a Game of the Year contender while looking after their employees, creating a working environment that helps people thrive. Let’s hope it’s an example that’s followed as we move into 2021.
Gaming conferences have been and always will be my favourite ‘event’ in Gaming. There is an extensive back catalogue of hilarious moments, intentional or not, from the likes of E3, The Game Awards, Playstation and Microsoft Console reveals that you simply cannot find anywhere else. The experience of watching these with my friends, riffing on them as much as possible and revelling in the shared emotion of ‘what the fuck is this?’ or ‘I can’t believe they thought this was a good idea’ is so immensely therapeutic for some strange reason.
This year especially has been fantastic due to the new console reveals, giving us a new layer of excitement – one that goes beyond the irony or playful jabs at companies – the reveal of a new generation always sparks an unadulterated glee and wonder at what heights this new generation will reach. What games will be brought back? What will be the next heavy-hitter? Most of all though, the conferences have kept a strong sense of community between me and my friends, ensuring we’re social and keeping in touch with one another throughout this stressful period. The conferences give us a chance to forget about the pandemic, the lockdown and just enjoy the cringy meme-marketing and the gasps of witnessing a new generation and new games for us to enjoy.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
This year Moon Studios graced us with a sequel to 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest and it was pretty much everything I was hoping for and more. The original game’s aesthetic, gameplay and soundtrack were all impeccable, so all they had to do was give us more of the same. They did that, then went above and beyond to improve upon the formula that made the original such an instant classic.
The fluid gameplay is as elegant as the beautiful, intricate environments, and the story is even stronger than the original with a wider cast of fascinating creatures to meet and emotional twists and turns that’ll tug at your heartstrings. The levels are more varied, Ori’s moveset is more creative and there’s more to unlock and work towards. It’s a superb sequel that takes a well-established new series and elevates it to even greater heights.
When Politics and Video Games Came Together
It was genuinely hard to pick out some positive news stories from this year, with so many studios finding themselves in the spotlight for a variety of different reasons, so I turned my attention to those who play games and specifically, one stream that came out of nowhere and took Twitch by storm. When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez asked her Twitter followers if any of them fancied playing some Among Us to help get out the vote, several high-profile streamers got together and the next day the congresswoman had amassed over 200,000 followers on her newly created channel before the stream began.
During her three-hour stream, Ocasio-Cortez quickly learned the ropes of the party game, before amassing a high of 439,000 viewers, making it the third most-watched live stream on Twitch. Joined by fellow US politician Rep. Ilhan Omar, as well as Pokimane, Alanah Pearce and others, the whole thing was pretty light on politics, barring some reminders to ‘get out and vote’ in the elections in the US in November, as well AOC learning how the NHS works.
The wholesome stream showed that politics and video games do work together – so many games are already political anyway – and with the follow-up stream in November raising over $200,000 for charity, I don’t think this will be the last we see of AOC on Twitch.
Legends of Runeterra
Riot Games perfected the digital card game genre with their League of Legends spin-off, Legends of Runeterra. Rather than forcing their players to spend money on card packs for a chance to compete, you can build any and all of the countless deck archetypes for free and if you play enough you can unlock every single card in the game without even being tempted to open your wallet. It’s so refreshing to see a game like this in 2020 and I was addicted to it for a large portion of this year.
Of course, without good gameplay, none of this would really matter, but everything you could want is here. There’s a playstyle to suit everyone, a brilliant deck-building system with distinct regions to explore, hundreds of cards to collect each with their own amazing artwork, bonus game-modes and a super-generous vault system that gives you free stuff every week just for playing. I can’t see myself diving into any other card games on the market right now because Runeterra has truly spoiled me, and it’s only going to get better as more expansions come out.
Ghost of Tsushima
I usually take solace in my avid love affair with video games but this year it took on a whole new meaning. Being stuck at home, video games filled many in-between moments. With all things considered I’m truly grateful for having spent most of the year at home.
To speak of games that filled time this year like playing endless rounds of Fall Guys with my wife, Hades on the Switch, or playing through The Last Of Us: Part II, which I still have PTSD over. There was one that stood out, Ghost of Tsushima. This was the game I always wanted but never had, as I’m infatuated with Japanese culture and samurai.
A good concept is what gets me into a game, and that’s why Ghost of Tsushima was my happy place. By telling the story of a proud samurai gripped by ruin, has to question every tenant he knows to become the hero that Tsushima needs, despite the personal cost. It was a concept that made sense and gave purpose and believability in the retelling of all the open-world tropes. Also, Ghost of Tsushima may be the most beautiful game you’ll ever play. I don’t usually spend much time in a games photo mode but with Ghost, I was constantly pausing to take shots. It wasn’t hard to find a gorgeous angle and now I have a collection of pictures I use as my background for my PS4 interface. There’s no other game this year that offered the same level of escape than Ghost of Tsushima.
Bringing people together
2020 was a year that tore people apart. Suddenly the prospect of seeing friends, family, or co-workers came with great risks. We were asked, sometimes even told to isolate ourselves from the people who made up our day to day life and for many that meant being alone. Suddenly one of the most viable ways to keep in contact and socialise with people was through games.
The wholesome sense of community created by Animal Crossing kept a lot of people going during the initial lockdown period; few games this year caught the zeitgeist in such a way. Fall Guys came out of nowhere for dozens of people to clumsily compete for gold, big MMOs like GTA Online and World of Warcraft saw big booms in their player base this year. Among Us gave us all a chance to be a backstabbing bastard from a safe distance.
I have made new friends this year through GTA Online, people I will proudly call my friend's for the rest of my life.
Whatever game brought you together with your friends, they did something special for us during an unprecedented moment in our lives. In 2020, games kept us all connected when we have rarely felt further apart.