Looking Back at 2020, where I played a lot but couldn’t finish much

My 2020 in Gaming header image featuring screens from FF VII Remake, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, Yakuza Like a Dragon, and Animal Crossing New Horizons

Yes, let’s start this off with the cliched ‘what a year!’ when I look back at 2020. This was a weird year for me. It started off with me finishing one contract job then starting another that immediately shifted to working from home and dealing with the great pandemic of 2020. My wife and I finished the year moving into a new home and I now have a proper office to work from. 2020 wasn’t as creative a year as I wanted it to be but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

From a gaming perspective, I did a lot, both professionally and socially. I’m still at The Coalition (which I’ll talk about later below), I tried my best to write as often as I could here (but certainly could have written more). I wanted to do more streaming/video stuff but didn’t have the chance to. With my new work setup, I think I’ll be able to do more creative work which includes more videos and/or streaming.

This time last year, the blog I wrote “My 2019 in Gaming” where I highlighted some life changes and work stuff before quickly touching upon the games I enjoyed or wanted to enjoy. This time around, I’m changing it up just a bit and actually highlighting more of the games I played, enjoyed, and/or wanted to play more of. I’ve created quirky categories for each and describe their connection with me in 2020. This isn’t quite a “Top Ten” and the list is in no particular order, I just wrote about the games as they came to mind.

I originally wanted to also feature some of the games that I was most critical about. However,  I’m still playing through the mess that is Cyberpunk 2077 (which I don’t hate but really wish they simpled delayed it another year), and I don’t feel like talking more about Madden NFL 21 or NHL 21. On top of that,  most of the games I didn’t really enjoy I quickly forgot about, so there is no point in trying to remember everything both good and bad.

So let’s have it

The Game I most enjoyed but my name is in the Credits…Gears Tactics

A cutscene from the final mission in Gears Tactics

Even before I began my contract work at The Coalition, the studio behind the Gears of War franchise, I was interested in Gears Tactics. I think it’s ambitious when franchises change genres and a tactical-strategy game based on the Gears Universe is a fantastic idea. 

What I enjoyed most about Gears Tactics is that you don’t have to have any real knowledge of the lore (as this serves as a prequel to the main series), it doesn’t overwhelm you with strategy mechanics, and it’s not overly difficult in the early parts. This doesn’t stray too far from the XCOM formula that a lot of people know and love but still manages to feel fresh.

I do wish there were fewer side missions, which definitely give off the feel of merely padding the story (especially as they aren’t optional and you must complete X out of Y in order to progress the plot). I have no knowledge if a sequel is planned but it could be done, even if they use different characters and a different timeline. This game is available just about everywhere (PC, Xbox One, and Series X|S) so there shouldn’t be anything to stop people from trying it out.

The Sports Game I most enjoyed and wish I played more of…F1 2020

A landscape shot of a race track on a cloudy day, taken from F1 2020

The F1 series by Codemasters is one of those that I tend to play here and there. I played F1 2018 but skipped F1 2019, so jumping back in 2020 was an easy task. What I really enjoyed most about F1 2020 was the new career mode. The Owner Driver story mode where you’re both the owner of a new F1 team and its lead driver was really fun. You are put in the position of trying to be a solid driver on the track but also to manage the day-to-day operations of your team.

The only real downside I found to F1 2020 is its difficulty. Specifically, tweaking it to the right point that I felt where the game was challenging and rewarding. Early on, the game was too easy, then I tried tweaking it slightly then found it too unforgiving. It really feels like to get the most out of it, you have to constantly adjust the difficulty based on the tracks you’re racing on. I could probably increase the difficulty on the traditional tracks (Canada, Britain, Belgium) while lower it on ones like Vietnam or Monaco.

Also, my teammate’s progression through the first season sucked. I was investing on improving our cars but they were still finishing last or second to last every race. Even when I switched drivers at the midway point, they were getting better but still not getting us points to help our team out in the constructors’ standings.

I am curious to see what Codemasters does to improve upon the career mode in F1 2021 but they certainly have a lot to live up to after this solid outing.

The Game I binged on for nearly two months then immediately dropped…Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Looking Back at 2020, where I played a lot but couldn't finish much

All in all, out of every game that I played in 2020, I still think that I spent the most time with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This long-running Nintendo series released at the perfect time as the pandemic lockdown went into full effect. I honestly spent every day for a solid two months playing this game trying to complete as much as I could. Then I just stopped. 

Most of the seasonal content early on was pretty forgettable. I can barely remember what you could do for Easter and by the time summer hit, I lost all interest in the game.  I think the developers weren’t expecting people would have so much free time and consume so much in a short window. The progression was clearly meant to take longer but I reached the “end game” after a month and felt little reason to continue.

However, I am tempted to go back and see what has changed. Curious to see how my island looks in the winter and which of my neighbors are still around.

The game I absolutely binged over its launch weekend then stopped playing altogether…Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2

My created player performing an Impossible trick in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2

The Tony Hawk series holds a special place in my life and I was so thrilled to play the remake when it finally hit back in September. I spent a good chunk of the launch weekend playing as much as I could. But, like New Horizons, I stopped playing and never came back.

It’s not to say that the game lacked content but when there are so many other games to play, it wasn’t able to keep my interest well past the first week. I went back to grab some photos for this blog and it didn’t really feel like anything major was added. Yes, they made it so you can redo the levels as individual characters but they never bothered to add even a photo or video sharing option, something that Skate had over a decade ago.

The game I wish didn’t give me motion sickness…Half Life: Alyx

Half Life: Alyx - Chapter 2

Boy, I was so excited to play a new Half Life game in 2020. I have been on the VR bandwagon for years and even got the necessary cables so I could play this on my Oculus Quest. While the game is fine, I just could not play for very long before feeling queasy. I only managed to get to the third chapter before stopping. I could go back but I would have to play in short bursts.

Outside of this and Tetris Effect, my time with VR in 2020 was very limited. I did get Fez Infinite recently but just didn’t get around to playing it. Also, I was looking forward to the Medal of Honor game but the limited chit-chat around it makes it seem like it’s one to pass on, or the very least, wait for it to get heavily discounted.

The game that I hope I can eventually beat…Hades

a section from the game Hades

While I love Roguelike games, I’m clearly not good at them. Hades is no different. I’ve died a lot in that game, but I still keep going. But Hades isn’t really a roguelike in the sense of other games I’ve played in the past. I loved playing Diablo many decades ago and Hades fits that mold more so. 

Early on, I had no idea there was a ‘God Mode’, so I never made it very far. But, after turning it on, I’ve gone much further but still not close to finishing the game. I love the challenge and trying to learn from my mistakes. I also love the characters, it never feels like a character is there just for the sake of adding more to the mythology. 

I’ve been playing Hades on my Switch and it was my go-to-game before bed. Yes, that’s a weird choice to play before falling asleep but I’ve always enjoyed playing Switch games before bed (that was even the case for Animal Crossing earlier in the year).

I think the more I play, that I will eventually beat the game at least once. However, from what I’ve read online, finishing it once isn’t enough. I hope I can get past the first ‘end game’ then can proceed after that with more confidence.

The game I think was the best looking, even with the launch of the new consoles…Final Fantasy VII Remake

Cloud talking to Tifa in a cutscene from Final Fantasy VII Remake

I don’t have a lot to say about FF VII Remake, I’m only three chapters through, but my goodness it’s a great looking game. It’s kind of unfair considering SquareEnix is almost always so good with the look of their games. In any case, I’m stunned by just how beautiful it is looking and admiring the different areas of Midgar and its citizens. 

The game itself isn’t hitting all the marks I want. I’m early enough and it still feels like it’s holding my hand a bit too much. I just wrapped up my first time in the slums and have done the few jobs available to Cloud but I want to progress the story. I haven’t played through a FF game in a while (I even wrote about my relationship with the series earlier in the year) and this continues to have the problem where they are funneling and not giving you any sort of opportunity to explore on your own terms. I get that you’re trying to make it accessible to a wider audience but after a handful of hours, you need to let the user finally explore. If you’re tutorializing the experience after four hours, you’re either not valuing the player’s time or you don’t trust that they can grasp your mechanics in a reasonable timeframe.

I can’t wait to see how SquareEnix games look on the latest consoles and I’m seriously tempted to download this on my PlayStation 5 just to see how good it looks there.

The series I spent a lot of time playing this year and want to play more of…The Yakuza Universe.

Ichiban holding a camera that he just saved by beating up an enemy

In 2020 I played through Judgment and Yakuza Kiwami 2, played a bit of Yakuza 0, and started playing Yakuza Like a Dragon. I’ve been long interested in this franchise and this year saw me spend the most time with it. I don’t think Yakuza will ever grab the mainstream like other open-world series and I’m fine with that. It has its audience and I expect it will be around for a long time.

I’m glad that the entire franchise is coming to Xbox in 2021 (except for Judgment, but I suspect it will eventually make its way there). I’d like to get through Like a Dragon early in the year then to go back and finish Yakuza 0 and start Yakuza 6.

Like a lot of the games on this list, I haven’t actually finished Like a Dragon and still very much in the early stages of it. While this also slowly introduces new mechanics like Final Fantasy VII Remake they don’t hold your hand in the same way. I got to the Yokohama homeless camp and there are new things to do but I can still wander around and do a few things before progressing the story. I know that this is going to be a long one but I think I’ll have a lot of fund discovering new things.

The Games I bought and wish I got around to playing but never did…Star Wars Squadrons, The Last of Us Part II, Marvel’s The Avengers, Persona 5 Royal, DIRT 5, Immortals Fenyx Rising 

The Star Wars Squadrons title screen

Yup, I bought a lot of games and never started them. In the case of nearly every game I’ve mentioned in the subheading, I bought on discount but just have not found the time to play. I’m the most disappointed that I didn’t start Squadrons as it was one of the games I featured in my most wanted blog back in September, downloaded it on my computer but just didn’t find the time to play it. 

I was hoping that this short break at the end of December would afford me some time to sample these games, even for a few hours but that just didn’t happen. There were others, including Watch Dogs Legion and Ghost of Tsushima, that I wanted to buy but held off because I just knew I couldn’t (I am still tempted to buy Legion as it’s 50% digitally and probably looks great on Series X and PS5).

On to 2021!

I’m hopeful that 2021 is a better year for me personally and professionally. I want to lose a bit of weight, improve my content creation skills, and hopefully land a permanent position at a studio in Vancouver. I will try to play as often as I can and will definitely try to update this blog on a more regular cadence (once again aiming to post at least once a week). I’d also like to read more in 2021. While I did read a bit in 2020, I want to do more this year.

For whoever is reading my content, thank you! I don’t think a lot of people come across my content (I should consider marketing myself a bit more in 2021) but for those who do, I really appreciate it. Hopefully, you enjoy what I write. Once again, thanks!