Been a long while since I have done one of these. My year-end posts tend to accumulate them, so Citizen Sleeper, Pentiment, Signalis, Dwarf Fortress, Vampire Survivors, Tunic, and Rogue Legacy 2 have all been covered elsewhere.
Every year to eighteen months I get the itch to go back, and when I was between jobs last year I got the itch. Then I realized how awful the drop rates for necramech parts are on those vault raids and that killed my enthusiasm really quickly. What a fucking grind.
An okay metroidvania, which unfortunately just isn't enough in such a crowded field. Low enemy variety and repetitive combat make for an experience that loses steam pretty quickly. It does look very nice, which is a point in its favor (I do love a good cell animation style), but it has trouble sustaining itself. A big upgrade tree where most of the features are incremental number boosts.
This is an extremely OSR point and click adventure game. Simple mechanically but complex in content, with a rich setting, good writing, and atmospheric music. Lots of nifty things to swipe for games (riding lizards, goblins are a type of ape, mists that cause undeath) Simple but consistent graphics get the stage set and let your imagination do the rest. The kind of game it's worth keeping notes for.
At its best, its a thoughtful, heartfelt, beautiful game that deals with death with a care and empathy rarely seen in the medium. The art direction is great, so is the music, and when the flow gets going you can lose yourself on the sea of the afterlife.
Unfortunately, all of that good is attached to a lumpy, tiresome, grind-based gameplay loop. In order to get to those great moments, you need X. But in order to get X you need Y and Z, and to get Y you need A, B, and Q, and you don't even know where the hell to start looking for Z. It turns itself into a chore list with a lot of dead time, and that's a great shame. A bit of tweaking of where resources are located, a map you can open at any time instead of just the map room, a better way of organizing your to-do list, and some means of helping you find which of the identical shades are quest important, that would all be improvements.
Sometimes the loop works all right, sometimes gears churn into place and you can make progress, but the early game and mid game slumps are rough.
Vigil: The Longest Night
Sometimes you just know a game's not going to work out, just from the way movement and jumping and the basic combat feels. Refunded this after half an hour and bought Blasphemous instead.
Gorgeous game, amazing soundtrack, plays like a dream. Lot of stuff to dig into underneath the hood with all the different spells, rosary beads, sword hearts and whatnot. And then there's the Vibes - impeccable. You arrive in the village of Albero and meet the Brotherhood of the Kissers of Wounds and that is such a specific, obtuse, weird, and very Catholic idea that it can only be the result of people who Get It, which the devs do, what with making the entire game about Spanish folk Catholicism on steroids. It's good shit, play it if you haven't, the sequel's out later this summer and my timing was perfect.
If you like JRPGs at all, pick this up. "Love letter to X" is a cliche in review circles but this time I think it qualifies. It's made by mostly one guy who not only loves JRPGs, but knows exactly why people love them. There's great pixel art, good music, some webs of connected subsystems to play with, lots of quality of life and anti-frustration measures, solid writing, fun jokes, interesting world that's flavorful but light, and pacing like you wouldn't believe. Starts you off swift and keeps things going, not too fast not too slow. No grinding for experience (you level up from beating bosses), trash mobs give you items to sell (which gives you money and unlocks special items at merchants), the bounty board gives you upgrade items and skill boosts, on and on.
It's the sort of game where, after you finish Act 1 about twelve hours in, the game goes "Well that was fun. Let's expand the scope and add more stuff. Would you like to see how the mech combat works?"