Cameron Abbott 2022 Game of the Year

HEY! Here’s what’s been goin’ on! 2022 was a BANGER of a year for games, and to celebrate it, I’m writing some things about the best games that came out this year.

It’s not that I wear compression gloves to look cringe, it’s because I am cringe that I wear compression gloves. And my arthritis.

Honorary Selection: PowerWash Simulator

There is a game that comes along once in a while that does something so right it’s almost perfect. PowerWash Simulator does that. There isn’t much to say about PowerWash Simulator that you don’t get from the name. It is everything it says it is on the box. You are running a cleaning business specializing in power washing. The only thing that could improve this is if I could recreate myself with some cheap gas station sunglasses in a sleeveless band tee, cut-off jean shorts, some old grey junk New Era sneakers, and knee-high socks while loudly cranking midwestern emo pop punk. 

Best simulator that doesn’t star a goat.

10. Pokemon Legends Arceus

Pokemon Legends Arceus is the first, of what I hope to see many more of, in an experimental series from PokeFreak. Not since the introduction of the Mystery Dungeon series has Pokemon taken such a bold approach to its license. And its direction is really marvelous, even if the substance of the story is pretty uninteresting. 

Taking a departure to showcase a time when Pokemon and People weren’t a singular society, you play a modern-day Pokemon enthusiast who is thrust through space and time to the ancient past of the Sinnoh Region, becoming an unlikely hero in a land in a crisis caused by the very portal that sent you. The mystery isn’t too deep but is a convenient enough plot to take you across the land as you rescue these brilliant artistic renditions of existing Pokemon. 

But while the concept and even execution are quite phenomenal, there just isn’t enough compelling content to overshadow the rest of the games that came out this year. 

9. Gundam Evolution

In High School, I would tell anyone who asked the three things that guided my life: 

  1. My faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
  2. Chuck Norris (I’m sorry, it was the mid-2000’s)
  3. Giant Robots

Gundams, by virtue of being giant robots, were DEFINITELY included. Growing up during the Toonami anime afternoon block meant I was exposed to Gundam Wing, which would evolve into a love of all things Gundam. So Gundam taking an Overwatch-style approach to an arena shooter was an extremely brilliant concept that I was immensely excited for. But one I was equally trepidacious over. Gundam as a franchise has not had the best transition into the shooter genre. In fact, the gaming landscape is filled to the brim with failed Gundam projects, most of which never made it stateside. 

But I am pleased to say Gundam Evolution is not only a break in the mold. None of its issues or problems have to do with the game itself. Not in its choices of Mobile Suits, I actually praise its decisions to include full melee units like Gundam Barbatos and ZAKU II Melee, but in its classification of unit types that vary, and each unit has a unique kit. 

The only thing this game doesn’t do is what Gundam does best. Its story is nonexistent, and instead of being able to select pilots that the franchise is famous for, we’re left with generic voices and personalities. That, a lack of variety in game modes, and some gripes about shot feedback keep this from breaking through to the Top 5 of my GOTY.

8. Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising

Full Disclosure: I kickstarted the original Eiyuden Chronicle: 100 Heroes on Kickstarter, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. But holy shit, I can’t wait for 100 Heroes after beating Rising. The ever-present joy I had in traversal, combat, and the wonderfully realized story and characters was a spectacular taste of what I hope is still to come. But this brief taste of this vast world was the perfect reminder of the promise the team over Rabbit & Bear Studios has made and a great proof of concept everyone can enjoy. 

7. Overwatch 2

Blizzard-Activision is still, to me, a frustrating and challenging subject to talk about. If you’re curious if my interest in Overwatch as a property has dwindled, the place Overwatch 2 has on my list should answer this. I’ve talked about it when Overwatch 2 came out that you wouldn’t see much from us as far as professional coverage of the game.  But the game itself, if missing the entire PVE content, is still a brilliant game that continues to improve.  

6. Horizon Forbidden West

I love seeing games tackle the American Southwest. Fallout New Vegas is my favorite example; as a kid who visited Las Vegas once a year to visit family. There is an inherent beauty in  Horizon Forbidden West that is breathtaking in its execution. Iterating on every aspect of Zero Dawn, Forbidden West uses its established hero and fully embraces its deep sci-fi elements, As Aloy fully embraces her role as a savior figure and navigates the diverse and eclectic groups that make up the west and beyond. 

5. Neon White

I’m not a big-speed run guy. I’m not a big leaderboard person. But something about Neon White brings out a side of me I’ve never indulged. A dazzling combination of that “just one more run” itch, a pulse-pounding soundtrack that keeps your nerves and synapses on edge, and smooth high speed gameplay that is so tight, you can pull off moves you’d never thought possible. And the constant back and forth with your friend’s high scores is an incredible combination of thrilling and frustrating as you try and figure out how they shaved time off their run. Combine that with a goofy story about a group of assassins vying to be the one damned soul lucky enough to get a place in Heaven, and it’s an absolute romp of a banger. 

4. God of War Ragnarok 

The game that should probably be higher on my list, it stands to reason that the only thing holding God of War Ragnarok back was that it didn’t do anything new for me. My biggest fear wasn’t that God of War Ragnarok would be good, I knew it would be fantastic. But I was worried that it would be just more God of War. That it wouldn’t take the gambles and risks God of War (2018) did when it decided to bank on the worst part of the franchise up to that point: Kratos himself as a character. Getting me to empathize and root for Kratos was a big ask, and one I ultimately feel is well executed. 

But God of War Ragnarok never did that for me. Instead of using Ragnarok and the revelations at the end of God of War (2018) to elevate the story and use them to say something more about Kratos and Atreus’s journey, it falls into McGuffin and mystery box storytelling. Great McGuffin/mystery box storytelling, but McGuffin/mystery box nonetheless. 

I’m certainly not disappointed and am pretty enthused about what we received from the incredible team that put it together. It’s a game that whelmed me, and honestly, there’s nothing terrible about that. I expected great and got great. 

3. Vampire Survivors

Vampire Survivors deserves to be Game of the Year. It’ll probably be that for a whole lot of people out there. Vampire Survivors is a gift that will not stop giving, no matter how many times you politely decline. It won’t take no from you, and it will try its very best to make your life better. To bring you more happiness, to get you to take risks and make fun choices. For thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, it will outright murder you. Did you get a revive? Nah, it’s over. The party is over. 

And then you’re left looking at the results screen, and you feel something. Something maybe some of you out there knows, but some others have yet to feel. Ladies, Gentlemen, and Non-Binary folks, this feeling? This feeling is called The Itch. The Craving. Addiction. I haven’t had a game get me in so many late nights of “just one more” moments in a long time, and maybe never as strong as this. 

Vampire Survivors is a simple game on paper. The world is bad, and the night is dark and full of terror. Survivorss got to be surviving. One has a whip, one has a cross boomerang, and one even has some garlic. You get upgrades as you kill more things and level up. You have to survive for thirty minutes, and then, the Grim Reaper does what he does best and ganks you. And then the whole cycle starts all over again. You take another hit, and you chase a brightly colored high when you have full upgrades and are just feeling invincible. 

There’s nothing like it. But it’s not the best game I played this year. And after a complex process of elimination, it’s the third-best game. So what beat it?

2. Citizen Sleeper

When a narrative is great and truly phenomenal, it can take you to places you’ve never been. You can meet people who you feel are just as real as the people you know and interact with every day. You feel fully immersed in this world, not just on a surface or mechanical level, but a part of the story on a deeper, more intimate level.

Citizen Sleeper is a game about a distant future where you’ve decided to have yourself put into cryogenic stasis for a large sum of money. In the meantime, a reconstruction of you called a “Sleeper” is created by a corporation that paid you for your, well, likeness for lack of a more suitable term. Except you didn’t get put to sleep, those are memories of the real you. At least, legally, the frozen flesh popsicle is considered the real you. You’re not you. You’re your Sleeper. A digitized brain in a robot body.

But as a Sleeper, you still feel. You still think. You still have hopes and dreams, and maybe the “real” you didn’t understand, or maybe you did but just didn’t care. But the lack of legal existence, what that means both symbolically and literally, is part of the crux of Citizen Sleeper. Between a brilliant dice and stats game engine, you have to try and figure out what your life is supposed to be, what it’s supposed to mean. Citizen Sleeper isn’t just a sci-fi cyberpunk look at a dystopian future but rather a look at what it means to survive and be a part of that world. 

And sometimes, when I close my eyes, I’ve found myself wondering, once or twice, if when I open them I’ll wake up and find myself looking out over the scenic skyline of the Eye. 

1. Elden Ring

Brave Tarnished. Wretched Tarnished. Be thy worthy of being Elden Lord?

Elding Ring is my game of the year. Even if it wasn’t easy to choose, there is no denying the juggernaut game that, despite being released in February, was never leaving discussions of the best game of 2022. And for a substantial reason. Elden Ring is a true masterpiece and is the magnum opus of one of video games’ greatest directors and his incredible team. From Software delivers beyond the hype of anticipation, as the Lands Between ushers in a fully realized dream of an Open World. 

The story of Elden Ring, unlike most From Software’s previous titles, is well-plotted out and “easy” to follow. You are a member of a group called the Tarnished, a once favored people of the God Queen Marika, who bears the titular Elden Ring, until they were sent into exile. But now your people have returned from their exile, greeted to an apocalyptic land that has suffered a great calamity. And it is the duty of those who can see Grace of the Erdtree to walk its illuminated path to becoming the new Elden Lord, consort of the God Queen, and restore the Lands Between. 

Hidetaka Miyazaki often crafts stories about places that have fallen into ruin. His games are infused with European architecture, history, and folklore influences. And above all else, he loves challenging players to achieve more than they thought they could. To create moments of triumph for players who overcome great obstacles. Clearly inspired by Celtic and Nordic mythos, the Tarnished can be a number of origins, but they all have some things in common: they are weak, the world is harsh, and you cannot survive without a combination of bravery, guile, grit, and wit. And with those tools, you begin your journey of impossibility. Slay the demi-god children of the God Queen, claim their Great Runes, and lay claim to the title of consort: the title of Elden Lord. 

Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to happen. For the first time, the opportunity to skirt destiny is presented in the most ways From Software has ever done. With an open world rather than a linear concept, players can take on most bosses in any fashion or order they wish. Some may even spend their time focusing on fighting all the other boss fights. Instead of heading down the golden path laid out before you, most of the bosses are completely optional.

Systems-wise, From Software, has always had a more challenging time creating a world of fleshed-out characters you didn’t have to kill/want to kill you. The number of compatriots, allies, rivals, and those who begin as any of those three and turn into bitter enemies, are abundant in the Lands Between. You’re not the only Tarnished, and after beating some bosses, you are even invited to join the Golden Order, a group of Tarnished who act as a sort of haven where Tarnished can rest and re-equip themselves before venturing out again. 

The Lands Between offers an abundance of lore told in the Soulsborne fashion, and as you move through this world, far past the brink of ruin, the stories that are told seem to be never-ending. Even if you spend all your time on your magnificent horned steed, Torrent, and map out every corner of the game, you will always be able to find another secret. Another place, another person or people, and another story, all waiting to be discovered. 

The breadth, scope, and depth that Elden Ring provides are perhaps just the most fundamental ways Elden Ring is my game of the year. You could chalk it up to being a preexisting fan of the franchise and genre, and as being the best of both, it would be a great example of what makes a Game of the Year. But that’s not it. I can’t think of a game that not only surprised or enamored me but just left me in awe. Awe-inspiring moments of battles, of discovery, and these moments of quiet, or peace, looking over the Lands Between. Seeing this wide-open world, laid out before me in a way no game has really done before. 

Todd Howard once said, “See that mountain? You can climb it.”. Elden Ring, From Software, and Hidetaka Miyazaki took that idea, and the underlying message of Elden Ring seems to be a response to this infamous quote. 

See that mountain? Don’t just climb it. Delve into it, face its perils, and exit triumphant. 

With awe-inspiring majesty, an impossibly vast yet detailed world, and a masterclass of game design, Elden Ring is my Game of the Year for 2022.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: