SoQ staff picks.

Aurumlamina: Crusader Kings III, Railway Empire’s Complete Collection, XCOM: Chimera Squad, Ratropolis, MMORPG Tycoon 2
Bigshot: Hades
Fnord: Vaporum: Lockdown, Shadow Empire, Fates of Ort, Crusader Kings III, Combat Mission: Shock Force 2, Nordic warriors
HotShot: DOOM Eternal, Control Ultimate Edition, Control Ultimate Edition, Borderlands 3, Hades, Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout
Hovermask: Hades, Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Justin: Monster Train
rgk: Hades, Post Void, Superliminal, Carrion, MOTHER, Rayman Redemption
RipWitch: Helheim Hassle, Rune Factory 4 Special, Welcome to Elk, Creaks, Monster Camp, No Straight Roads, Animal Crossing New Horizons, Buried Stars, Yakuza: Like a Dragon
S-1: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Sakura Wars, Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost ON, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions, Demon’s Souls Remake
Sermike: Mafia: Definitive Edition, Cloudpunk, Ghostrunner, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered
Tamaster: Deep Rock Galactic, Beautiful Desolation
texdade: Half Life: Alyx, Hades
White Shadow: Iratus: Lord of the Dead, Legend of Keepers, Othercide, Death and Taxes
Wraith_Magus: Horizon’s Gate, Möbius Front ’83

Aurumlamina: 2020 certainly had its share of disappointments inside and outside of gaming, but a few solid titles showed their heads during it. Crusader Kings III lived up to the hype and ended up being my Game of the Year as far as new releases go and I’m on the edge of my seat to see what new content is set for us over the course of the next few years. Outside of conquering medieval Europe and the surrounding lands, Railway Empire’s Complete Collection ate up plenty of my time and I’ll be raving about that one for a long time as I continue to raise up new corporations from nothing. A real surprise hit for me was XCOM: Chimera Squad, an XCOM 2 spin-off that I was sure was going to be disappointing since it wasn’t a third numbered title in the series, and yet I was so pleasantly surprised that I played it start to finish in only a couple of weeks. An impressive feat for someone with as much game-related ADD as me.

On the indie front, I was blindsided by Ratropolis, which completely blew me away with how much fun its card-based action gameplay was even though I was only semi-interested when I glanced at its store page. MMORPG Tycoon 2 also earns an honorable mention here due to the clear love going into the project and the innovation that it took to create a tycoon based around the designing an MMO world itself. It was a bit bare-bones the last time I laid hands on it, but its fresh direction has me keeping a close eye on it.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m as excited for DLC for my favorite games as I am for new releases. Without wasting too much space and going into specifics, I could go on a rant about the continued love and support that’s been going into Stellaris, Europa Universalis IV, Total Wars: Three Kingdoms and Warhammer 2, and Civilization VI with its wonderful New Frontier Pass.

Bigshot: Admittedly, I played quite a few games this year despite my life getting wildly hectic. That being said, I’d be a fool not to pick the game that’s far and away my most favourite experience of 2020: Hades

There’s just such a phenomenal combination of so many things I love in this game. The visuals are stunning, the colours are bright and eye-catching, the music is top-notch, the writing is amazing, the story progression never makes you feel like you’re wasting time, and the gameplay is smooth and intuitive. Oftentimes, in the depths of my Hades playthroughs, I would catch myself thinking about booting it up even while trying to play something else. It’s just that good, and feeds into my love of various types of mythology. Fingers crossed that Supergiant opts to go a similar style of narrative or subject route with their next game. If not, that’s cool too, though. I’ll play anything they make.

Fnord: This was a pretty good year for mid-budget games as well as more ambitious indies. I had the pleasure to play several of those games this year, and it’s not easy to pick a single best game. There were also a few games released that I did not get the chance to try, but which I think would be right up my alley, like Panzer Corps II. If it’s as good as the first one, it would be a strong contender for a game of the year spot.

Vaporum: Lockdown is probably the best game I played this year. It’s a tile-based first person RPG, similar to Legend of Grimrock or Eye of the Beholder, but with some of the best puzzles I’ve ever encountered in an RPG. And for a game made by such a small team, it also looked great.

Shadow Empire is another strong contender for game of the year. It’s a deep and complex, but still surprisingly approachable 4X strategy game with a ton of replay value. It’s a bit like Dwarf Fortress in some regards, as you can really tailor your start and make it as tough as you want, and with a ton of details, but it’s not nearly as obtuse as that game is.

Fates of Ort was also an outstanding game. It’s an RPG where time only moves when you do, which made for some surprisingly tense and tactical combat. It’s also a game that lets you make mistakes and still continue with the game, which felt surprisingly refreshing.

Crusader Kings III is a game that could take the top spot. I’ve sadly not played it enough to feel confident in giving it my game of the year, but it will in all likelihood be the game released this year that I’ll end up spending the most time in in the future.

A few games also deserve honourable mentions. They might not quite be GOTY material for me, but they did something that deserves recognition.

Combat Mission: Shock Force 2 was a really deep tactics game, with a staggering amount of content. Fans of more slow-paced tactics games that deal with modern warfare will likely find a lot to love with this one, even if it’s a bit on the pricey side.

Nordic warriors did what I never thought any game would do: It brought back the gameplay of the Myth series, and modernized it in some subtle ways. It was, if nothing else, one of the most satisfying tactics games I’ve played in a long time.

HotShot: 2020 wasn’t an easy year for anyone so while I took most of my free time playing games, it was mostly playing catch-up to the endless cascade of titles that plagued my library with 0hrs. That being said, I’ve had quite a few 2020 titles I was very glad to play and some I can confidently scream praise out of my lungs. I’m going to cheat a bit and count some games according to their steam release date.

GOTY 2020: DOOM Eternal: Not one can agree with due to a shift of gameplay from the more traditional (and arguably more mindless) DOOM games, Eternal manages to add a much needed change for the series. I wasn’t completely fond of 2016 and Eternal is id Software’s Magnum Opus as far as modern titles are concerned – it is fast, caked in skill-based gameplay and strategic combat that, paired with formidable replayability and a surprisingly great combination of store and lore, make for one of the best titles of recent memory.

Control Ultimate Edition: Brilliant from the very first cutscene to the last. Remedy’s return to form – fantastic gameplay, formidable level design and a marvellously rich universe make it the best game Remedy put out since Alan Wake and it’s one of my favorite games in a very long time.

Borderlands 3: Sometimes we don’t need a story, just mindless fun. Borderlands 3 stole a lot of my time when the pandemic hit so it’s an easy recommendation due to how polished the gameplay is – it’s so good and fun that it makes me forget it’s average story and boring “Borderlands-esque” humor I never appreciated.

Hades: I’d be a dick to not mention Hades at least one. One of my favorite soundtracks of all time paired with great gameplay, visuals and stunning amounts of lore and great pacing make it Supergiant’s best game yet.

Fall Guys Ultimate Knockout: A living meme – an adorably cute multiplayer battle royale wrapped in a game show contest theme – it was some of the most fun I’ve had all year.

Honorable (More Unknown) Mentions: biped, Phasmophobia (Early Access), Quantum League

Hovermask: I actually haven’t played that many games in 2020 outside the ones that I reviewed. I was stuck in Asia due to the whole covid situation. This results in me losing access to good internet which severely limits my ability to play games with online functionality and fighting games, my favorite genre, in general. I also have no access to my trusty PS4 as I have left it back home in the state due to the general pain in the arse to travel overseas with a full-sized console. Anyway, that’s enough about me. Let’s get straight to my 2020 GOTY.

Game of the Year: Hades: My game of the year for 2020 is none other than Hades, the roguelite extraordinaire. I purchased the game last year when it was still in Early Access and it was already fantastic even back then. Hades shines bright even amidst the roguelike/lite saturation that we have been experiencing. Other games of the genre would have stopped once they have the main gameplay loop down leaving elements like the story in scraps. That is not the case here. Hades has addicting gameplay with different weapons and variations that encourage diverse build and playstyles but it doesn’t stop there. The game also puts an emphasis on the story with fully-voiced characters and careful attention to the extraneous details that further flesh out its setting. Supergiant Games has crafted something truly impeccable and simultaneously set a goal that many other developers should strive for.

Honorable mention: Yakuza: Like a Dragon. I like it a lot. I mean, I did put 82 hours into it. The shift of the main protagonist from the ever stoic Kiryu to the visibly passionate and bombastic Kasuga Ichiban is a breath of fresh air. Not unlike the genre change from beat ’em up to turn-based RPG. While the serious crime drama main story is decent, the main attraction is the wacky and funny side stories and minigames. Although I did enjoy my time with it, the game is not without a fair share of flaws. AI pathing, presentation inconsistency, DLC practices are just some issues holding it back from being my GOTY and I haven’t even mentioned PC-specific problems. Yakuza: Like a Dragon is an entertaining game for certain but it definitely could go through some more iterations to work things out.

Justin: Monster Train was a game I didn’t hear too much buzz about before release, but decided to give a try after watching a streamer play it. It ended up surprising me a lot, with addictive gameplay and a lot of variety to the decks you can build. Definitely a title that deserves more of an audience, since it still seems a bit underlooked.

rgk: This year I did not have all that much time to play, but there were also not too many games that I saw as groundbreaking. I will start with my GOTY, then this year’s highlights.

Hades is an exceedingly well polished rogue-lite game, with slick visuals, excellent sound design and variety in its combat mechanics. Unlike many similar games, this one gives a lot of agency to its player by constantly having to make choices, such as the doors to the next rooms that indicate which reward they will yield. What surprised me the most about Hades, is that I usually dislike most top-down games that are not explicitly shooters like Hotline Miami (I never got into Bastion from the same devs), but Hades shines with excellent controls and tactical possibilities. From the 2020 games that I played, this is the only one that I would clearly raise to a GOTY position.

Post Void is another rogue-lite, but it does not build on the complexity of successful titles such as Hades and Dead Cells. On the contrary, it constrains itself to the bare essentials of rogue-lite and FPS mechanics. Extremely minimalistic, there are no items to find in the levels, forcing the player to focus on moving and shooting rather than exploring. A frenetic rogue-lite FPS on acid, with an amazing flow.

Superliminal awed me with its surreal puzzles playing on perspective. If you enjoy original first-person experiences, this one is definitely worth playing.

Carrion lets you play as the monster and it feels amazing, especially with the mouse control scheme driving the tentacles. The violent action is sometimes hindered by repetitive puzzles, but Carrion was a fresh offering in the little world of platformers.

MOTHER has some rough edges, but this was my favorite horror experience in years. The story is about a mother, as the name implies, trying to protect her kids every night as something sinister lurks in the dark. This game makes the simple act of drinking tea a nerve-wracking experience.

Rayman Redemption is a fan-made project: an enhanced remaster of the original Rayman, with the same sprites but in a new engine. The redesigned adventure improves the progression even though all powers are unlocked from the start, and the new difficulty curve is now an actual curve instead of a cliff. There are lots of small details that make this labor of love a superior version to the original, although I regret that the art style of some new levels feels at odds with the original backgrounds (the new shapes are more like thin straight lines instead of the big, round and crazy shapes that are characteristic to the original’s art style). This is currently the best way to play the first Rayman.

RipWitch: Ah Game of the Year time. Where I need to remember the games I played this year, and specifically ones that released this year, and try to make a mad dash for some that I didn’t have a chance to. And well, looking at games and thinking “Wait, that released this year?!?” haha. Well anyhow, here are my (top 5, since it’s so hard to choose only 1) picks in no particular order:

Helheim Hassle: Despite some of the jokes being annoying, Helheim Hassle is such a great game and has much more content than you would think as there are secrets galore. The unique mechanic of being able to detach your limbs, which isn’t surprising this studio thought it up considering Manual Samuel, also works well alongside with how the puzzles are built.

Rune Factory 4 Special: Wow, it does not feel like this one came out this year. This was my first Rune Factory game and I couldn’t have made a better decision. It absolutely sucked me in as I was pretty much obsessed with it as a whole day will pass without me realizing it (which isn’t helped since this is part farming sim).

Welcome to Elk: This is still a game like no other as you go through 11 true stories (which you’ll at least connect to one of them), as you move to an island named Elk. The developers did not stray away from tough topics, how they depict the stories are just heartbreaking and touching, and the the art direction and music brings everything together.

Creaks: This one is such a wonderful puzzle game. The art is beautiful as you’re traveling through, I love the collectible paintings that are their own minigame, the mystery on what’s happening reels you in, and the game does a wonderful job on telling you how the puzzle mechanics works with the puzzle difficulty being just right.

Monster Camp: I absolutely loved Monster Prom when it came out and well, I unsurprisingly love the sequel. While this focuses on different characters, it still keeps up with the wonderful writing, fun gameplay as you’re trying to get a date, and new implementations like how your stats/love interest are now determined, the campfire gossip, and getting some mixed drinks. I can’t wait until the other sequel games come out.

Honorable Mentions:

No Straight Roads: Despite being rough around the edges, well at least on launch when I played through it, I can’t help but love NSR. I still had a lot of fun playing through it, a lot of elements come together to make it a great experience despite the roughness, and getting exposed to Malaysian culture. I really recommend picking this up when you can and I really hope we’ll be getting more games from Metronomik.

Animal Crossing New Horizons: While I don’t personally see this as GOTY material – since there are a lot of improvements/QoL updates that could be made and some changes that were made just pushing players to play a specific way (like lowering interest rate, taking away hybrid flower island, and lowering spawn rates of certain bugs), and no transparency on the changes made (leaving it to those that dive into the game’s code to tell the community) – I can’t deny how important this game is for myself (as Animal Crossing has been in my life ever since Wild World) and many people that picked this up, especially since it happened to come out right before lockdown started.

Buried Stars: I wouldn’t be surprised if barely anyone knows about Buried Stars as, as far as I know, there was little to no advertisement in the West. Which is such a shame. I myself only knew about it because I was browsing the upcoming games for the Switch a month-ish before the game’s release date. Buried Stars is a Korean visual novel where five contestants, and the Floor Director, of a survival audition TV show called Buried Stars gets buried after their stage suddenly collapses during a live broadcast. It takes a while to build everything up, but the plot is interesting, it even managed to catch me off-guard with the murder mystery plot despite knowing going in, the characters are well written, and it’s interesting how the game includes social media and the way you communicate with the other characters as Do-yoon.

This is a VN where you need to play multiple times to get the full picture and as I only achieved one ending so far, I’ll have to put this as an honorable mention despite this being a great VN so far (well, except the option to skip read text only).

Yakuza: Like a Dragon: While I haven’t gotten the chance to complete Like a Dragon, I’m enjoying it so much so far, that it deserves an honorable mention, especially since it feels like it would be in my GOTY if I did get to the end. It’s not an easy gig to introduce a whole new protagonist to a series that followed Kiryu through seven games over about 12 years, but, in my opinion, it does a great job trying to get you invested in Ichiban Kasuga. It still has the melodrama plot, main character that is just too sweet/wholesome for their own good (though Ichiban is much more expressive than Kiryu), the turn-based combat feels great, and I do like how this is notable more lighthearted than the previous games.

Though, I’m sure it helps that I only played through two Yakuza games before as I just got into the series late last year and like turn-based combat.

S-1: This year has been a complete rollercoaster ride but many amazing and even historic releases have happened in the Video Games space. So there will be special mentions for these specific titles. The quality hasn’t dropped at all so it wasn’t easy to make a choice. Keep in mind that quite a few of them are from the console space (PS4 in particular) because of exclusivity.

SoQ Reviewed GOTY: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV: There were a few funky games (Fight of Animals, Fight Crab) and surprises (Banner of the Maid) along the way. There’s also the conclusion of the The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel Saga. In the end, this particular GOTY was a tight race between Banner of the Maid and Trails of Cold Steel IV with the latter making the GOTY. Despite the shortcomings in the story, it retains its strength in the other areas. I recommend looking into the The Legend of Heroes Trails Saga with the predecessor Saga Trails in the Sky and the just-finished Trails of Cold Steel as both are available on Steam.

The GOTY: 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim: Guns Blazing is how I would describe the releases of 2020. Sony finally released Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us 2, and Demon’s Souls is now finally available on a modern console with a smooth 60 FPS option. Fall Guys and Among Us made their splash in multiplayer. The game Hades is getting a ton of love. Rune Factory and got Story of Seasons their Remaster/Remake out on Switch, the latter even becoming one of the publisher’s fastest-selling game.
I haven’t expected two SEGA games to vie for the top spot of 2020. Yakuza: Like a Dragon was an extremely welcome change to classic Turn-based Gameplay, while keeping many of Yakuza’s strength and adding more with a new protagonist and a team that leads to new dynamics.
My personal GOTY comes from a smaller Studio called Vanillaware and their game this time was 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim exclusively for the PlayStation 4. It took them 6 years to put the game together and it was worth it. Those who know Vanillaware can expect the same style of beautiful artworks they are known for.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is an Adventure Game that splits the story into multiple characters and therefore perspectives. All of them are intertwined but also partially vastly different. There’s a second separate gameplay part that consists of a light RTS based around cooldowns so it partially functions like a turn-based strategy game if you put everything in context. It’s simple but also surprisingly engaging. It does what it sets out to do extremely well.
The Writer and Director George Kamitani explained that the story is the culmination of many things in his life so far and you will very likely recognize what he meant by it because there are so many ideas mixed.
It’s not a coincidence that it’s nominated this year for Best Narrative at The Game Awards.

Runner Up: Yakuza: Like a Dragon: In a time where many have forsaken the Turn-Based-Combat System, Yakuza has done the unthinkable and changed to it from Brawler-Beat’em Up. It manages to keep mostly everything that Yakuza is known for and adds new things. There’s also an interesting story to accompany it. According to an interview the Turn-Based-Combat was actually just an April Fools joke but eventually the developers found it to be so interesting that they decided to switch to it and that was a year before its release.
Aside from the subgenre change, the new main character Kasuga proves to be the biggest shake up. He’s a free spirit and works together with others as a team. This opens him up to all the known Yakuza wackiness without the slight conflict when it comes to substories unlike Kiryu. Not everything is perfect but the fun the developers had making the game is palpable and it is without a doubt a welcome refresh for a Series that has run for over a decade with continuous slight changes.

Historical Releases

Calling them historic is no exaggeration because these are games from Series that were never localized.

Sakura Wars (Shin Sakura Wars in Japan, PS4 exclusive)
Sakura Wars also known as Shin Sakura Wars in Japan (exclusively for PlayStation 4) is the first time that SEGA brought this series to the west by themselves. While Sakura Wars 5 did get a release on PS2 and Wii, it was done by a NISA and from the stories told it was a very arduous process. While it was a sensible decision it came at the end of the PS2’s lifecycle and many fans were also calling it the least favorite game in the series and it’s also the last game before the Series went dormant from 2005 until the current release.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost ON (PS4 exclusive)
Not many know of it but the Gundam VS series runs as long as nearly 20 years. It celebrated its 15th anniversary with a PS4 exclusive game called Gundam Versus but it just wasn’t the same. The very first game Federation vs. Zeon did get a release on the PS2 but the localization of these arcade games soon stopped.
After over 10 years, Bandai Namco finally decided to release Mobile Suit Gundam: Extreme Vs. Maxi Boost ON in the west.

Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions
While less known in the US, this Manga/Anime IP made its splash across the world and supposedly influenced major Football/Soccer players to get into the sport here are a few known ones: Hidetoshi Nakata, Alessandro Del Piero, Fernando Torres, Zinedine Zidane, Lionel Messi, Alexis Sánchez, and Andrés Iniesta.
Captain Tsubasa already has video game adaptions for 32 years though it took a 10-year hibernation until Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions.
None of the games were localized despite its popularity. 2020 marks the first time that a Captain Tsubasa game made it across the pond.
Unfortunately it had a rocky launch on PC so be sure to check out the updates!

Demon’s Souls Remake (PS5 exclusive, link to DF Special)
One of the younger games but it doesn’t make it less impactful. Demon’s Souls was the progenitor of the Soulslike subgenre and it was locked onto PS3 until now. I’m not pulling any punches when I say that Demon’s Souls was a technical mess when it comes to performance but its design helped it to punch it above its weight.
Demon’s Souls success was a major grassroots phenomenon that came from word of mouth and surprisingly streaming. Keep in mind that was the time of and Twitch didn’t exist back then. It might even be one of the first games to ever boost its popularity by streaming. That was because there was never a plan to localize the game but as destiny demanded there was an English Asian Version. As you can infer from the name, it wasn’t your typical English but understandable. Having English voice actors also helped.
Imagine, there was a chance that the Souls Games were never made past Demon’s Souls. It was thanks to all the trailblazers that imported the game and shared their impressions that it became a runaway success and ultimately lead to one of the most beloved series in modern times.

Sermike: Haven’t really played that many 2020 games but the few I did play were actually very good. There were some Remasters and Remakes of which I don’t know if they could be considered GOTY titles simply because they existed in previous years but I decided to include all of the games.

Mafia: Definitive Edition, is the Remake of the legendary Mafia 1 game released in 2002. It’s an Open-World story focused game that combines the usual Mafia shootings of the 1930s and the deep driving mechanics. Visually the game was a huge success as well the new gameplay mechanics that do make the game more user friendly. Lastly the Story got some additions that actually do take care of some questionable plot-holes that occured in the original release. The only real letdown for me was the fact that some memorable aspects of the game got removed, for example the Train / tram that were legit options to go from A to B. In the Remake they only serve for the cinematic purpose and nothing more.

Cloudpunk, is an Indie game that might not look like the most interesting game of the year but the more you play it the more you will love the dynamics and characters of this world. As mentioned in my review, this is the Cyberpunk before Cyberpunk, the world feels extremely alive, almost every random character you can communicate with has a different voice-actor and everyone has a different story ranging from sad to amazing. Simply said, Cloudpunk is a game about the story, the visuals do have their charm and the gameplay isn’t that amazing but for someone that enjoys a good story this will put a smile in your face.

(Honorable Mention) Ghostrunner, is once again another cyberpunk game. This one was a huge blast to play as well mainly because of the smooth gameplay. This game is basically Mirror’s Edge all over again but with much much cooler combat that actually hyped me up. The visuals are top notch as well, it even supports Ray Tracing and DLSS. Obviously the game shines in the gameplay and visuals department but it does lack an amazing story and memorable characters. Outside of that I should mention that the game is rather short and I was able to finish the game in just 6,5 hours. Still an amazing release.

(Honorable Mention) Need for Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered, for me personally this was a huge release, Hot Pursuit was basically the last legendary game that EA published back in 2010 and it easily got the most unique gameplay out of every NFS game. Now the remaster does add improved lighting and better textures when it comes to objects around, more saturation and a much more improved damage model. Online feels alive as well and the new crossplay addition really makes this game one of the best playing games of 2020. Still some flaws are present on the technical side as well as the pricing.

Tamaster: 2020 has been a year with several good games, but very few really exceptional ones. Still, there are some mentions I’d like to make.

GOTY 2020: Deep Rock Galactic: DRG is probably one of the best co-op oriented shooters to come out in the last decade. With innovative gameplay based on 100% destructible environments, solid overall variety and a wide selection of difficulties to suit all kinds of players, this game is one of this year’s highlights. Constant updates by the developers adding new content and a metric ton of achievements for completionists complete the circle, to deliver a truly magnificent experience with very few flaws.

Beautiful Desolation: Manages to bring the largely forgotten genre of Isometric Point And Click up to speed with 2020 standards, and makes so almost flawlessly. Sporting a completely original post-apocalyptic sci-fi world unlike anything else, deep narrative and clever side content to cut through an otherwise one-sided gameplay loop – BD is one of the best narrative-focused titles I have ever played in 20 years. The highly detailed hand-made visuals show everyone what “art” really means in gaming.

texdade: Easily Half Life: Alyx. This year I did it and bought an Oculus Quest 2, which resulted in me also buying more than a 100€ worth of VR games. Alyx is just another way to play an fps and, when you’re having fun just by picking up random trash from the ground, the rest of the game can only be even more awesome.

Hades is a close second position: its representation of hell is just stunning and characters are really well written. Add a phenomenal gameplay to the mix and there you have Hades.

White Shadow: Many of the games I played this year were from last year or two, but also managed to try out some impressive titles from this year too. Some of them certainly stood out.

Iratus: Lord of the Dead: This is the game I sunk the most hours into this year (90+ hrs). Seeing how it looked so much like Darkest Dungeon (one of my favourite games no doubt), I simply had to try it out, and it did not disappoint. Managing to borrow the good elements that made DD work and its combat system so satisfying, Iratus also adds some of its own new twists to the combat and impresses with its large variety of roster of undead creatures to choose from, allowing for a varied approach to battles. In October of this year, the game’s first DLC came out which added a bit of everything to the base game.

Legend of Keepers: Another turn-based tactical game. This one has come out in Early Access this year and new content has been added to it regularly. It’s got an interesting and creative premise of you being in charge of fantasy dungeons and needing to set up traps and monsters in order to stop heroes from getting to the treasure. It executes this concept in a fun and tactically deep manner, providing a big variety of monsters, traps, and in-game events, all of which are important for building a successful career as a dungeon master. I’m looking forward to its final release for sure.

Othercide: Yet another tactical turn-based game to add to the list (I’m a sucker for this genre). This one I’ve only picked up recently and have been having a blast with. It uses the isometric grid style of XCOM but in a dark, gothic setting and a unique visual style. It is challenging and requires patience, especially in light of setbacks, such as losing a valuable unit, but despite its difficulty, it offers a lot of tactical depth that makes it so fun to overcome its challenges.

Death and Taxes: And now perhaps the only game on this list that is not a turn-based tactics, but which stood out to me with its style, theme, and personality. In Death and Taxes, we work as one of the grim reapers in a corporate office, and our job is to look at profiles of people and decide who should live and who should die. This of course has repercussions on the world, and at times hard decisions need to be made where the quotas given by our boss are at odds with what’s good for the world out there.

Wraith_Magus: Digging through indies is always hit-or-miss, and this year had a lot of miss as usual, but in a year where I was disappointed by the newest entry of one of my favorite series of seafaring trading games, I managed to stumble upon an indie game that fed my itch for not just a naval trading and exploration game, but one of the most clever and deep tactical RPGs I’d played in years, as well.

Horizon’s Gate is an odd mash-up of genres, effectively having a fully-built tactical RPG series as a starting point, and then stapling the naval trading gameplay on top of this other genre. Whereas most multi-gameplay style games suffer from spreading developer attention across each style, resulting in each style being shallow, porting in a complete RPG wholecloth means the RPG gameplay is very solid and all the focus could go into the exploration and sailing gameplay. The only real letdown is that naval sections and RPG sections feel very distinct, with you having little reason to care about building up any characters beyond your 5-man landing party.

Möbius Front ’83 is another strong contender, and something different from cult hit developer Zachtronics whose MOLEK-SYNTEZ was my GOTY last year. Turning the formula of many hex-based strategy games like Advance Wars and Panzer Corps on their head, Möbius Front is a game that rewards patience and defensive planning over ludicrous aggression, and while sometimes swingy in its RNG, teaches you to rethink your tactics and accept that losses happen.

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