Choosing the game of the year is always the hardest part. Very different projects fall into this category: genre, budgetary, and even ideological. There are no restrictions here, so it is almost impossible to guess who will be the winner this time. Well, all the more fun!
Seventh place – Black Book
Studio Morteshka, with its Black Book, did the same thing that once did the cartoon Alyosha Popovich and Tugarin the Serpent : it showed that Russian folklore is perfectly combined with modern mass culture – the creators would have had the talent and desire to create. Of course, you can grunt as much as you like about how rich our mythology is and what excellent fairy tales have previously been filmed. But that was before. What now? It was this “now” that was just sorely lacking.
The Black Book card combat system is brutally complex in an amicable way, but still it doesn’t make you sit at the game incessantly until the very end. It is the strange and mysterious world of Old Russian culture, which, in Morteshka’s exposition, turned out to be absolutely unfamiliar, harsh and eerie, is much more fascinating. This is not at all the rainbow utopia that is drawn in children’s cartoons. This is a world where a newborn child can be dragged away by demons, devils live in the mill, who are always not averse to strangling someone, and in the bathhouse a rip-off awaits, ready to flay your skin.
The Black Book tells more than it shows – there are not so many drawn, and even more so, animated characters and demons in the game – but the descriptions, sounds and soundtrack are worked out so well that the imagination can easily finish the rest. Turn off the lights at night, start the game, and after a couple of minutes you really find yourself on a narrow path in a dark forest, where not a single branch breaks without the knowledge of the devil.
Sixth place – The Forgotten City
No one expected great things from The Forgotten City . Although the precedent itself is, of course, curious: custom modifications for AAA games (in this case, it was Skyrim ) do not become independent works every day. Especially when you consider that the original mod was created by a lone developer who learned the nuances of programming and game design right in the process of working on his own debut.
On the other hand, the absence of any expectations played into the hands of The Forgotten City. A cunning detective in the entourage of ancient Rome turned out to be one of the main and truly unexpected discoveries of 2021. The original modification was already beyond praise, however, having developed the idea to the scale of a full-fledged game, Modern Storytellerunlocked its potential as it should. The script, literary texts, attention to detail, visual design, sound, music – everything is done at the highest level, despite a small budget and a tiny development team.
The lack of resources at the disposal of the studio sometimes makes itself felt, but it cannot overshadow the brilliant creative vision and the obvious passion put into the project. The Forgotten City was developed with such diligence, as if the authors sincerely worried that they would not have a second chance to make their dream come true – and now the entire gaming community will follow their further work.
Fifth Place – It Takes Two
“More fun together” is a principle that is well understood by both players and developers. There are many cooperative games, but the best of them have always turned out to be those that were designed in advance for a specific number of participants. It’s one thing to gnaw at some boss, whose health only increases in proportion to the number of heroes, and quite another thing to go through trials that require something from each player.
For example, if an individual user has his own specialization or if some unique skills are available to him. A similar thing happened sporadically in A Way Out , the previous game of the studio Hazelight . But in its novelty It Takes Two this concept has found its fullest and widest embodiment.
It Takes Two does not invent anything new, but it successfully compiles the cooperative mechanics already familiar to everyone. A couple of heroes are always together: even when passing through the network, the screen is split in two, and you can see where your partner is running.
And to solve any problem, interaction is required: one sets up platforms – the other jumps on them; one distracts the boss – the other deals with him; one controls horizontal movement, the other controls vertical movement. And every time there is something new: the locations, the skills of the heroes, and the mechanics change literally every half hour. There is literally no time to be bored!
4th place – Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil is the most stable and tenacious of the classic horror series. Silent Hill , Forbidden Siren and Fatal Frame have long gone out of the way, but new episodes of the amazing adventures of the T-virus and his friends are still being released in films and in video games. True, it is hardly possible to recognize the continuation of the 1996 game in the Village : it is similar to the first Resident Evil even less than the seventh number partç
This time, captured by the living dead, Raccoon City was replaced by an Eastern European village with snow-covered, crooked huts. The vacant position of Tyrant was taken by the immortal giant Alsina Dimitrescu, who became a walking meme and sex symbol long before the game itself was released. And the horror about mutant zombies finally gave way to natural fantasy – with dragons, vampires and giants (even if all the local “magic” according to the law of Arthur Clarke in the final there is a completely materialistic explanation).
For all that, it is precisely as a horror that Village was rather a failure: it is not so much scary as it is entertaining. But in the game is hidden a real Hollywood attraction, where there was a place for good shooting, and hide and seek, and chases, and craft, and puzzles. What’s really there, even the battle with the OBCHR is present!
The main character manages to hunt in the Far Cry style , plunder some tombs in the best traditions of Tomb Raider , and fight armies of armed skeletons straight from Skyrim . Moreover, all this eclecticism looks great, is played cheerfully and forms a surprisingly integral work, which undoubtedly requires continuation. And it will definitely be: Capcom , unlike Konami, does not abandon his own. The main thing is that in the ninth part there were less experiments and more Resident Evil itself. And it’s not so long to lose yourself.
Third place – Deathloop
At first glance, Deathloop can be easily confused with Dishonored , because the author’s handwriting of Arkane Studios is immediately visible: the visual design is similar, and some locations, and some of the skills … But if you dig a little deeper, you will find that the new game has no less original tricks than those that have already been tested by time.
The main focus, on which both the gameplay and the narrative are focused, is the time loop where the main character tormented by a hangover and amnesia fell. Time after time he wakes up on the cold rocky beach of the strange island of the Black Reef to pick up the machine gun again and break the vicious circle … And time after time he fails. Because the only way to get out into the wild is to destroy those who arranged all this. Moreover, in one day, otherwise all the killed will be resurrected, and everything will have to start over. It seems to be nothing complicated, because we have an infinite number of attempts in stock, a solid arsenal and magical abilities. But the goals do not want to die in any way. Especially Julianne is the local chaos agent and our personal nemesis.
Unlike other ideologues of the loop, she is not tied to the daily schedule, knows perfectly well what we want, and does everything to prevent it. More than once or twice the sudden appearance of this devil will spoil seemingly flawless plans – however, this is not the most interesting thing either. The role of Julianna can be played not only by a dull AI, but also by a living person: invasions into other people’s sessions are organized almost like in Bloodborne . Who would have thought that asymmetric multiplayer was lacking in the genre all these years!
However, you can enjoy Deathloop alone. She has everything a cool immersive sim needs: brisk shooting, without exaggeration, brilliant level design and freedom in achieving goals, which is limited only by the fantasy of the player himself. Stylish looks and charming soundtrack come as a bonus. Deathloop lacked only technical stability at launch – otherwise it would have been the game of the year, no less.
Second Place – Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy
For worthy incarnations in games and movies, “Guardians of the Galaxy” is much more fortunate than other superhero teams. At first, James Gunn’s dilogy was one of the most successful MCU films. Now here’s the interactive adventures of the hapless saviors of the universe suddenly hit the pedestal of the best games of 2021. Thanks to Eidos Montreal who designed the Tomb Raider , Thief and Deus Ex relaunches!
Thanks to the efforts of the developers, even the usually frivolous “Guardians” have acquired an unexpected depth of characters and relationships … Fortunately, without ceasing to be themselves: dashing, albeit not too lucky, adventure seekers. They cheerfully quarrel with each other and constantly joke in well-written dialogues. Solve puzzles and participate in crazy mini-games. They fight in starfighters and spectacularly take out whole crowds of enemies to the accompaniment of 80s rock hits. In general, everything is like in the movies – only better.
And it doesn’t even matter that the scenario is, in fact, completely linear and does not imply any initiative of the Guardians of the Galaxy player . She doesn’t need it. After all, we have before us an already very solid, carefully designed and simply extremely soulful thing without loot boxes, microtransactions and other garbage that Square Enix guessed to leave in the failed Avengers . Finally, Spider-Man has a friendly neighbor – the second decent gameplay of Marvel in years.
First Place – Psychonauts 2
The Game of the Year according to Igromania is often the winner in the Best Indie or Best AAA Game nominations, but this time the champion definitely does not fall into either of these categories. Double Fine is a fairly large studio, and the development was probably completed with Microsoft money . But it started with a crowdfunding campaign, and Psychonauts 2 ‘s ambitions are not at all cosmic. She is not trying to make a revolution – but, on the other hand, in 2021, as if no one is trying. And in the absence of breakthrough innovations, it is not a sin to reward the one who was the best to shake the old days, and in this regard, Psychonauts 2, the ideal sequel to one of the most outstanding games of 2005, has no equal.
There is no equal to it among modern releases. Big games in their trends have gone very far from what was the norm in the mid-2000s: now we are sincerely glad that Guardians of the Galaxy is a normal single player game without a service component. Indie projects often fail to develop to a decent scale, and outstanding narrative works are forced to rely primarily on text. Against their background, Psychonauts 2’s bright, vast, varied, and presenting storyline looks amazing in all possible pictorial means.
And the first Psychonauts was atypical at the time of its release: it is a three-dimensional platformer with the soul of a classic adventure game in the best traditions of LucasArts . Her hero traveled through the subconscious of different people, literally fighting cockroaches in their heads and clearing emotional baggage. The idea of diving into someone else’s inner world is often used in horror movies, but Psychonauts was primarily a comedy that treated the injuries of its characters with a touch of irony.
Psychonauts 2 has retained all the elements of the original – except, perhaps, the inventory typical of old adventure games. Here, each level presents a challenge with action and platforming, and some new gameplay mechanics, and storytelling through the environment, and a lot of jokes, and a completely unique art design. Like It Takes Two, the game never ceases to amaze – but unlike the work of Hazelight, Psychonauts 2 offers a solid scenario, skillfully continuing the first part and intriguing until the very end.
Psychonauts 2 is an exemplary “middle class” game that is not constrained by the huge budgets and expectations of the AAA segment, and at the same time free from the rigid constraints of typical indie projects. It combines the best of both worlds: vast handcrafted locations and bold design solutions, outstanding stage production and unusual themes. For all this, she receives the title of the best game of 2021 from Igromania.