So, with 2021 now behind us, it’s been a really wild year for me, especially in the video game sphere. I always love writing these “year in review” blogs because I get to go into a lot more detail on the stuff that affected me the most over the last 365 days. I did a lot of writing in 2021 but there were things I wanted to cover but didn’t have the chance. 

Hands typing on a Macbook

Work Situation is changing in 2022

If you’ve followed this blog for long enough, you’ll know that I’ve been involved in the video game industry for over a decade. Most recently, I was doing Web Content Publishing at The Coalition, the studio behind the popular Gears of War series. I was a contractor and my contract ended a couple of weeks ago. 

I wish I could talk more about the stuff I did and saw, but most of my work is still for all to see. Although I can’t discuss future projects, I really loved working at the studio. It’s an easy place to recommend, especially if you’re based in Vancouver. Although I wasn’t a fan of the contract work, there are a ton of full-time opportunities that people should apply for.

Yes, I am now unemployed but only for a few more days. I actually have a new role that I start on January 4. It’s tech-related but not in the video game industry. I am so eager to start there and definitely can’t wait to jump in.

A microphone with a MacBook in the background

Does that change the blog?

At least, I don’t think it will. I’m not working in video games, so I don’t think my new role has any conflicts. In fact, I think I’ll be able to talk more about video games.

I want to write more and I still need to do other things for this blog. I have said for a long time that I want to include more video content but I still haven’t done it. Not sure if I’ll stream via Twitch. However, I’d love to start producing some video content. Just not sure what exactly.

I don’t want to go the video essay route. Video game content on YouTube is over-saturated and most video essays are so dull. There are only a few people who really do it well. One really good example is Action Button, by Tim Rogers. If you haven’t seen his stuff, I strongly recommend setting aside a few days + hours and watch his videos. The review he does for Cyberpunk 2077 is fantastic. The way he approaches reviews is really unique and I’m not sure there are many who can replicate it.

A collage featuring Halo Infinite, Voice of Cards, Forza Horizon 5, and Bowser's Fury

On to the games

Recently, I try to stay away from Top X lists. In all honesty, I can’t say I have an absolute “Game of the Year” because I can appreciate so many different games. This is my opportunity to acknowledge the ones that made an impact.

Again, this is by no means in any order, so don’t assume the first game is the one I enjoyed most.

A Victory Royale screen in Fortnite

Fortnite

Sure, Fortnite didn’t come out in 2021 but this was the year I finally took the plunge. I cannot believe how much fun I am having with it. Even after my initial fling, I am still returning to it every once in a while. 

The biggest reason is that I am winning. I’ve only played 49 matches, but I have 9 Victory Royales, with 16 Top Ten finishes. I’m by no means a “pro-player” but I think having that kind of success keeps players interested. I really hope there isn’t a code that helps newcomers. I’d like to think my success is all on me.

Another thing I like about Fortnite is that it regularly gets fresh content. They do a great job of introducing new elements every couple of months. I might stop playing it for a few weeks, but I’ll be back when they introduce something new.

The start of a Picross puzzle from Super Mario's Picross

Picross Games

This year, I played a ton of different Picross games. I really wanted to write about my love for them but couldn’t find the right angle. I might return to the topic in 2022 as it’s a genre of puzzle games that I absolutely enjoy.

It wasn’t just one game in particular, but a handful. I’ve played Picross games in the past, coming back to the genre every once in a while. For the second half of 2021, it’s been a near-daily routine of spending a few minutes completing puzzles. I’d like to thank the need to redeem some My Nintendo points before they expired as the big reason.

I went from solving puzzles in My Nintendo Picross The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess to playing Pokemon Picross. I am also playing with Super Mario Picross via the Switch’s SNES Collection. More recently, I ordered a copy of Picross 2 for the Game Boy and can’t wait to play it. I even tried Murder by Numbers, a visual novel game that incorporates Picross-type puzzles. Although it hasn’t kept my attention, I still appreciate the combining of genres.

Gameplay from Voice of Cards

Card-based Games

I did a bit of deep dive into card-based games back in March and my interest in those types of games continued through the rest of the year. Pokemon: The Trading Card Game really kicked it into gear, but a few more were worth mentioning here.

The overworld map of Voice of Cards

Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars

This RPG that incorporates cards is a SquareEnix game that I don’t think very many people heard about and even fewer played in 2021. This isn’t just a deck-building game – the entire world is made up of cards. Your characters are cards. The items you collect are cards. You even flip over cards to reveal the world as you travel around it.

It’s not a very long game, clocking in at about 15 hours to complete. It’s also not that difficult. Outside of the last battle, I never saw a “Game Over” screen. It’s perfectly suited for handheld play, and I think RPG fans who don’t necessarily like deck-building can still appreciate its combat and story. I doubt many people played it in 2021 but hopefully, more people learn about it in 2022. 

A scenario in Fights in Tight Spaces with my character surrounded by foes

Fights in Tight Spaces

I caught wind of Fights in Tight Spaces earlier in the year when it was an Early Access title. I liked the concept: a hitman put into different close-combat scenarios where they’ll need to use their set of skills to defeat enemies to advance. When it finally hit version 1.0 in December, I immediately bought it and have spent hours playing.

The cards here let you play out certain moves. Use your momentum points on all your attacks but risk leaving yourself open for the foes to attack. Like Voice of Cards, this also blends multiple genres. You have the rogue-like aspect of randomly generated levels, strategy elements with how you attempt to clear a room, then the card unlocking and modifying in the hopes of having the right cards to take on the many enemies you’ll face.

Although I haven’t managed to reach the end of a complete run, they offer a lot of different difficulties. Even the easiest one still offers a challenge. The foes are still tough but you’re able to try a level over until you get it right. A must play and probably another game that most will miss in 2021 but should grow in popularity in 2022.

The start of a run in Inscrpytion

Inscryption

To be honest, I’m still not sure how feel about Inscryption. I spent a good eight hours attempting to finish the game’s first act. It was frustrating. I was constantly dying and unlike most rogue-likes, I wasn’t getting better.

But I endured the frustration and have made some notable progression. I still have a lot of its secrets to discover. I’ve done a good enough job avoiding spoilers and I won’t mention anything here. Hopefully, I can stick with this and get it done early enough in 2022 so that I’m not completed ruined.

The game board for The Solitaire Conspiracy

The Solitaire Conspiracy

This one has been out for a few years now, but I got it on the Switch and really enjoyed myself. This card game is an interesting take on solitaire with some narrative elements tossed in. The story mode wasn’t incredibly memorable, I was having more fun solving the puzzles. I think you can get this really cheap on both PC and Switch, and shouldn’t take more than a few hours to reach the end.

Two enemies talking near Otto's Workshop

Deathloop

Had you asked me back in September, I would have said easily said that Deathloop was my favorite game of 2021. I was absolutely engrossed with the game from start to finish. Trying out different things, uncovering its secrets, and ultimately finishing the game. Its impact stayed with me long after I finished it. So, I’m a bit surprised at how quickly it came and went. It’s especially surprising that so many people have said they never bothered to finish it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a game that I will yearn to play again in two or three years. I had my enjoyment. Sure, if Akane does a follow-up, I will want to play it. Deathloop is a game worth playing, even if it’s not as memorable as some may have hoped for.

Part of the business area of town in The Forgotten City

The Forgotten City

Another loop game that surprised me was The Forgotten City. Unlike Deathloop, it’s a much shorter experience, able to reach an ending in about 4-5 hours. Like Deathloop, it has plenty of secrets to unlock and stuff to uncover. When I reached my first ending and realized it wasn’t the “proper” ending, I wanted to go back and see the game to its obvious conclusion.

One thing I must preface with The Forgotten City, it suffers from some obvious performance issues. I played it on my Xbox One X and it had plenty of problems. Ranging from audio glitches to weird texture pop-ins, this is clearly a game developed by a small team. Thankfully, the game only once crashed. It auto-saves frequently enough that I didn’t lose any serious progress.

A rally car in Forza Horizon 5 riding through some muddy terrain

Forza Horizon 5

I love racing games. What I love the most is driving. Put me in a car and let me explore. For me, Forza Horizon 5 shines brightest when you’re out on an adventure. Sure, there is some fun racing, but it’s clear they are secondary. The game wants you to travel around its world and find new things.

I couldn’t stand the story. Most of the time, I while listening to a podcast or something on YouTube and skipping the story beats. Early on, I knew not to expect too much of a narrative, I just wanted to drive around and try as many cars as possible.

There is still a lot for me to do, especially with regards to discovery. Like the earlier Forza games, I can see myself coming back every once in a while just to have some fun.

A cutscene from F1 2021's Braking Point story mode. Our character reacting while walking on to the podium after a race

F1 2021

I thought I would certainly skip F1 2021, even after thoroughly enjoying last year’s game. I got this one on discount then quickly proceeded to play the single-player story mode, Braking Point. While not remarkable, it was still a lot of fun. The default difficulty was still a bit too easy for me and certain elements of the plot didn’t seem plausible, it’s a nice effort.

The biggest question for the F1 series is now that CodeMasters is a part of the EA family, how will the series adjust to more resources? The look and feel of the last two games are nearly identical, so a new approach towards most of the game’s elements is necessary. Pre and post-race content need improving. Plus, with the new rules to Formula 1 coming in 2022, they’ll have to make some pretty hefty adjustments to the game’s different career modes.

Lastly, they’ll need to build on the sudden popularity of the sport in North America. With the 2021 season being so fun and the success of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, I expect a lot of people will want to play F1 2022 next summer.

Agent 47 posing as a photographer from Hitman 3

Hitman 3

I really enjoyed Hitman 3 when it came out earlier in the year. It was the first Hitman game I actually completed from start to finish. Of the new era of Agent 47 games (so, this latest trilogy), I played the previous two for a bit but then fell off to other things. This time though, I managed to go through each mission once and reach the credits roll.

Perhaps had I played the first two to completion, I wouldn’t feel that way, but I still had a good time. The only downside to Hitman 3 was that I didn’t go back and try the missions again. One of the biggest selling points of the series lately is that replayability. Trying out different approaches and seeing just how crazy it can go.

With IO Interactive moving to develop something around James Bond, I don’t know if we’ll get much more of Agent 47 for a long time. Hopefully, there is some DLC content planned in 2022 and I can go back and play some more.

Giant Cat Mario engaged in a battle against Giant Bowser

Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury – primarily Bowser’s Fury

Honestly, Bowser’s Fury is probably my top gaming experience in 2021. It was the Mario adventure I wanted in a game. While Super Mario Odyssey was fun it also felt way too long, with some padded areas that didn’t really impress me. This was a game that wasn’t too long but still had enough content, including its fair share of cool surprises. 

Since we typically average a Mario game every year (we did get a Paper Mario game in 2020), we should expect another Mario adventure in 2022. Instead of a deep game like Odyssey, I’m hoping Nintendo takes an approach similar to Bowser’s Fury.

My created Monster Hunter character with his mount

Monster Hunter Rise

My interest in the Monster Hunter series is pretty recent. Monster Hunter World was fun for the 15-20 hours I spent playing it but I found its crafting and gear improvements a bit hard to enjoy. That didn’t stop me from getting into Monster Hunter Rise and enjoying myself much more.

In all, I’ve spent about 20 hours playing the game and I’m still not finished. I’m in the 4-star missions, but considering there are 7-star missions, I have no idea if I’ll ever reach the end-game content. The biggest knock against MHR for me is that I don’t have any friends to play with, so I’m stuck grinding the solo content. I wonder just how much more fun I’d have if I had others to hunt with?

With new content coming in 2022, I’ll try my hardest to get as much done so that I have the incentive to buy and play more Monster Hunter in 2022.

A cutscene from Halo Infinite, featuring Master Chief holding a weapon

Halo Infinite

In all honestly, I’ve lost interest in the Halo series for a while now. I stopped playing after Halo: Reach and had no real interest to go back. So, Halo Infinite was a surprise inclusion here, but only for its multiplayer…thus far.

Multiplayer isn’t my go-to mode in any game, but when Infinite’s free MP mode launched in mid-November, I was having a lot of fun. I think what I like the most were the variety in weaponry and the early content with promises of what lies ahead in the next 6-12 months. 

As for the game’s single-player, I’m undecided. I actually love the semi-open-world nature of the game. It’s not true open-world, but the areas that allow you to explore and play at your pace are a lot of fun. But, the combat is frustrating at times. 

For someone who hasn’t played Halo in over a decade, I find some of the firefights downright unbalanced. I get that you’re an Army of One, with the odds stacked against you. But so many times I was dying because enemies were magically appearing or getting me from ‘unrealistic’ angles. Too many times an enemy would spawn in an area I was certain was clear, only for them to get an easy shot and kill.

There is still a lot more to the single-player for me to experience. I definitely want to spend more time before saying I loved Halo Infinite or only just liked it.

Rivet talking to Ratchet

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

To be honest, I almost forgot to include this here but this was another game I consumed over the course of a weekend and absolutely adored. This was the first R&C game that I played through completion and its look and feel were both so amazing. I can’t wait for the next games from Insomniac, especially their Wolverine game that probably is 2-3 years away.

The Rest

I played a lot of different games in 2021. In all honestly, I spent far too much with FIFA 21 and FIFA 22 but haven’t touched the franchise in weeks. Of the games I featured in My Most Wanted Games for the end of 2021, I didn’t manage to play any Lost Judgment (but I did buy it). Also, I didn’t put in enough time in Metroid Dread to consider it here (less than three hours of total playtime). There were many more games I sampled but few are worth mentioning too much about them. 

Some examples include Age of Empire IV (played the tutorial section but didn’t go much past that). I started Ghost of Tsushima but it didn’t grip me as much I had hoped. I made some progress with the Final Fantasy VII Remake, specifically the PS5 edition, but I still need to find the time to finish it. There were a ton of different games via Xbox Game Pass that I downloaded but none stood out that I haven’t already written about in this blog post or on the site (eg. Sable was a nice experience).

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