Saturday, December 30

Game of the Year Awards 2023

Game of the Year; Baldur’s Gate 3

While I’ve not posted my review for Baldur’s Gate 3 yet, I have played it, and boy-oh-boy is it fantastic! This game not only got me into the series, as I’ve gone back and since played the first game, it also got me into D&D as a whole. I now own several of the rules and lore books, I’m running a campaign for my wife and myself, and I’m writing a fan-story set within the Forgotten Realms. This game is so good it got me into a whole new fandom.

You begin the game having been captured by Mind flayers, otherwise known as Illithids. These Lovecraft inspired, squidy-bois capture people and then forcibly turn them into new Mind Flayers. This is done via the insertion of a tadpole like creature borrowing into the brain of their host. The victim then becomes a slave of the Elder Brain. The opening cutscene sees the tadpole inserted into your eye socket. You then escape the Mind flayers and hours pass but for some reason you don’t turn into an Illithid. It also appears impossible to remove the tadpole by normal means. The bulk of the game revolves around you trying to find a way to remove this tadpole in order to save your life. There is a lot more going on here than just a traditional Mind flayer invasion though and you’re caught up right in the middle of it.

You will have the option to team up with a whole bunch of interesting characters in order to uncover the truth of this mystery. Along the way you will travel through goblin infested woodlands, the strange and wonderful Underdark, the sprawling city of Baldur’s Gate itself and so many other amazing places. While there you will be able to shape the future of these areas. You have the ability to be kind, generous, and helpful to those around you. Or you can reap horrifying violence and evil upon them. The choice is yours and there is, a lot, of choices to be made.

Who you are, how or even if you fight, how you deal with conflict, social situations, and the world, people, and monsters around you are all very flexible. Each problem has more solutions than I honestly thought possible before playing this game.

In a year full of amazing games Baldur’s Gate 3 still manages to stand out above them all. This is the best RPG ever made, hands down. I honestly believe that BG3 will be the new benchmark for years and years to come. Baldur’s Gate 3 will go down in history as one of the greatest games in the genre along with Wasteland, Mass Effect, Fallout New Vegas, Skyrim, and so on.

Best Non-2023 Game of the Year; Pokémon Black and White

Since I got back into the Pokémon series with the Switch I’ve been going back and working my way through the older games. I’ve really been enjoying the experiences but one that has stood out above the others so far is Black and White on the Nintendo DS. I played this game back when it launched in 2010 but I’ve not played it again until this year. It really holds up, easily one of the best Pokémon games in my opinion. The Unova region is great, the story is the best in the entire series, the presentation pushes the DS to its limits. Honestly, the only part of the game I feel is lacking are the Pokémon designs. I mean the legendries are badass and the starters are adorable but overall, the designs of most of the new pocket monsters felt lacking to me. I didn’t fall in love with them like I did during the early or even newer generations. But this doesn’t stop Black and White from being just an exceptional game to play.

Easily one of the best that this series has to offer. I’d recommend any newer fans go back and check out this absolute classic if possible!

Worst Game of the Year; Aliens Dark Descent

While there have been some stinkers out this year, mostly all from Gamesmill, I’ve not played any of them. This means there will be at least one ‘worst game of the year award’ not going to Gollum, Kong, or The Walking Dead Destinies. Although I figure this is only because I’ve not played them. No, instead my award goes to a game I found more disappointing than out right terrible.

For years I’ve wanted a game similar to X-Com but set in the Alien universe. Low and behold I finally got my wish this year. As the monkey paw curled its finger, I began to realise how tainted my wish had become. While Dark Descent has a lot of positives it’s ultimately just a buggy mess of a game with a story that left a really sour taste in my mouth. The final part of the final mission introduces the universe to a whole new Alien species. This new species of giants were above even the Engineers in terms of their technology. This opens up the universe and the story to so many questions and plot holes that Dark Descent doesn’t even seem interested in trying to answer. I want to remind you that this is a series with fantastic stories across almost every medium. We have classic films such as Alien, and Prometheus. Classic books like Alien Into Charybdis and, River of Pain. Amazing comics like Earth War. We even have amazing video games like Alien Isolation. But the story in Dark Descent is an embarrassing mess with zero interesting characters. The bulk of the story is based around uncovering the secrets of a Xenomorph worshipping cult while trying to find a way off of the planet you’ve been marooned on. This could have been an interesting chance to retell the story of Earth War in a way that fits into the modern canon. Instead, it’s a lazy and uninspired story where things we know and understand are contradicted all the time just so the plot can try and surprise you. Characters are idiots that take actions that completely contradict their own goals and motivations just so that the story can happen. The villains are almost non-existent and about as exciting and memorable as the details on your taxes.

Strangely enough for my Worst Game of the Year the gameplay is actually fun in Dark Descent. I really enjoyed playing it but the story, and the end most of all just rip a hole in the Alien universe’s lore and history. It’s a mess of a plot with lazy cliché characters, buggy, dated graphics, and a campaign that falls short of its amazing potential.

Final Notes

Outside of gaming not that much has changed in my life. It’s been another wonderful year living with my wife who is the love of my life. I know during last year’s notes I said I was starting university in the new year but I ended up delaying that so I could work on myself in therapy. Turns out it’s hard to manage Uni and PTSD at the same time. I’ve made a lot of progress in therapy, I’m honestly really proud of myself. I couldn’t have done it without my amazing wife by my side, so she also deserves praise. Ultimately, I regret putting Uni off, but that ship has sailed so I’ll just have to start in October 2024. I will make sure to make the most of it when it gets here. Now let’s move on to gaming!

2023 might have been the best year for gaming since perhaps 2007 which made picking just a single game to give this award to even more of a challenge than normal. We’ve had Marvel’s Spider-man 2, The Legend of Zelda Tears of the Kingdom, Resident Evil 4 Remake, Baldur’s Gate 3, Dredge, the System Shock Remake, and so many more great games. I’ve not even gotten around to playing all the games I’ve listed. I still need to play Dredge and the System Shock remake. Then you have amazing games in genres that I’m not a fan of such as, Lies of P, Super Mario Bros Wonder, Hi-Fi Rush, and so on. Then of course we’ve had some amazing DLC this year such as Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero, Cyberpunk 2077’s Phantom Liberty, Resident Evil 4 Remake’s Separate Ways, and so on. I haven’t even gotten around to playing Phantom Liberty yet, so I need to do that soon. Let’s not forget about the amazing mods that have dropped this year as well such as Fallout 4’s Sim Settlements 2. This year has been just so amazing.

While Baldur’s Gate 3 deserves the GOTY because it’s a genre defining masterpiece, I think the game I personally enjoyed the most this year was Resident Evil 4’s remake. Before it dropped, I was saying to anyone that would listen that RE4 classic was already perfect, and a remake was pointless when games such as RE Code Veronica needed a remake much more. Then I played it, and I can happily say that I was wrong. Capcom took the original game and did the impossible, they improved on perfection. Everything in the game is there for a reason. All the fat was trimmed away. All the controls were polished to a mirror shine. The story was tied into the wider series lore better than the original. Characters were rounded out and made to feel more three dimensional. The dialogue was improved without losing the charm or energy from the original. I’m a massive Resident Evil fan and as such I’ve been in heaven since 2017. We’ve had near flawless games one after one another for almost 6 years now. RE7 in 2017, RE2 remake in 2019, RE3 remake in 2020, RE8 and RE4 classic VR in 2021, and now RE4 remake in 2023.

Then we have Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s DLC, The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero. I got so addicted to this DLC that I’ve put over 100 more hours into the games. Part 1 in September was a little disappointing, but Part 2 really made up for it! So much to do! I’m currently flicking between shiny hunting and collecting the legendary Pokémon.

Overall, 2023 has been a pretty decent year. I would normally say that I hope 2024 is just as good but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learnt to have a healthy amount of fear for the new year. As long as it’s not another 2020 I will be happy.
So, here’s to the new year!


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