Ah, 2020: a year so bad they named it twice. In a time with plenty to worry about outside of our favorite hobby, there’s a certain comfort in knowing that video games are still coming out. In fact, a lot of games came out in 2020, so many that our collective consciousness ran out of RAM and started wiping them from memory. Not cool, brain.
The second half of the year got so packed with bangers like Hades, Death Stranding, WoW: Shadowlands, and Cyberpunk 2077 that I completely forgot a new XCOM game came out in April. Hey, remember Hyper Scape, Ubisoft’s battle royale game?! To help jog your memory of this foggy year, here are some games that for one reason or another you might've forgotten about.
Warcraft 3: Reforged - January 28
Back in January, approximately 12 years ago, Blizzard experienced a bit of backlash when fans picked up Warcraft 3: Reforged and it didn’t have as many enhancements as they’d been led to believe. Initially promising tweaks to the campaign, new cutscenes, and integrated lore from World of Warcraft, Blizzard walked back those plans mid-development.
Many fans (understandably) didn’t get that memo, and were pretty bummed to find a fairly standard remaster of classic Warcraft 3. It also didn’t help that Reforged swallowed up original Warcraft 3 and replaced its existing multiplayer systems.
Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord (Early Access) - March 30
We’d been waiting forever for a proper follow-up to Mount & Blade, and what we got was a faithful evolution of Warband, quirks and all. Fraser was over the moon about it at the time, and by all accounts, TaleWorlds has kept up with updates while working from home.
Even with modern interpretations of Mount and Blade's large-scale directional combat represented in games like Chivalry 2 and Mordhau, there's still nothing quite like TaleWorld's ambitiously janky RPG engine.
Resident Evil 3 Remake - April 3
Resident Evil 2 Remake was pretty incredible. The follow up released just one year later? Not as much, as it turns out. That's fine by me, because Resident Evil 3 Remake does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s still impressive to see a game that started life on the original PlayStation lovingly reborn with modern graphics and updated gameplay. The remake’s mixed response is mostly due to Resident Evil 3 itself. Its linear, set piece-heavy story hasn’t aged as gracefully as RE2’s fully-explorable police station.
XCOM: Chimera Squad - April 23
Part sequel and part spinoff, XCOM: Chimera Squad came out of nowhere at the beginning of the year. Instead of a world-spanning conflict, Chimera Squad hones in on a single squad of distinct characters in the human/alien integrated City 31. Ditching custom characters is a huge shift for a series that has always given the player complete control over their squad’s faces, names, and career paths. The loss in individual tinkering is redeemed by Chimera’s 11 fully-voiced members with drastically different playstyles and abilities.
Chimera Squad is a deliberately smaller, shorter game that plays a lot with the XCOM formula to see what fits. It feels more like an experiment than the start of a new franchise. This could be the direction that Firaxis takes XCOM once it finally decides to slap a 3 on a game.
Gears Tactics - April 28
By what I assume is a complete coincidence, 2020’s other major tactics game came out just five days later. Funny enough, Gears Tactics and XCOM: Chimera Squad had more in common than a genre and release window—Gears Tactics is also about a core squad of voiced, pre-made soldiers with distinct abilities. Even better, Gears had beautifully-rendered cutscenes and a story that feels right out of the main series.
This created an unexpected "XCOM vs Gears" showdown for a few days in April that was fun to watch. And then we kinda forgot about both of them, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They’re both good games that eventually end. Gears Tactics is the perfect Game Pass "rental." Check them out.
Legends of Runeterra - April 29
Riot really cranked things up a few gears in 2020. After months in open beta, Legends of Runeterra officially released in April to high praise. For CCG fans, the biggest draw of Runeterra is its comparably gracious business model to the likes of Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone. Steven said it best in his review: “I don’t think I can stomach buying another booster pack after playing Legends of Runeterra. It’s a necessary part of physical card games where cards often have real-world value, but their prevalence in digital card games is just an excuse to sell the worst kind of lootboxes. It’s enough to make anyone cynical.”
That almost makes me want to check it out, and I haven’t touched Hearthstone since 2014. We don’t hear much about Runeterra eight months later (hence the forgetting), but it’s still getting frequent patches and expansions. It seems like a great free game to check out during the holidays from the comfort of your PC or phone.
Crucible - May 20 (R.I.P.)
You’d be forgiven for forgetting this one since it was shut down only a few months after launch. Crucible was a big deal, at least in the sense that it was Amazon’s first game to actually come out (and boy, what a way to start). The hero shooter/MOBA hybrid was a mess of ideas that didn’t work together.
Developer Relentless Studios tried its best to salvage Crucible into something people could get behind, going so far as to un-release the game back into beta and refund premium purchases. The team didn’t get much of a second chance, though. Crucible shut down permanently in October.
Hyper Scape - July 12
Around the same time that Ubisoft was reckoning with accusations of sexual misconduct and toxic work environments inside its many studios, a new team inside Ubisoft Montreal released the company’s first full-on battle royale game—Hyper Scape. With great battle royale alternatives like Apex Legends and Warzone (which had only released a few months earlier) still fresh in my mind, Hyper Scape’s urban battlegrounds and simplified loot weren’t interesting enough to hold my attention for long.
Since launch, Ubisoft has been tinkering with Hyper Scape to draw people back in. The game recently launched its Season 2 content, added crossplay, and launched on the Epic Games Store. It also has Team Deathmatch now, which the studio plans to place more emphasis on in the future.
Marvel’s Avengers - September 4
It’s a bummer, but Crystal Dynamics’ big Avengers game was pretty forgettable. While looking very pretty and sporting a pretty cool story mode, Avengers bet everything on a loot-heavy MMO-lite format that isn’t compelling. But a bad launch hardly has to be the end of a game rooted in such a beloved universe.
Crystal Dynamics plans to support the game for years, starting with the release of its first post-release hero, Kate Bishop, a few weeks ago. If we’ve learned anything from Destiny, it’s possible for Avengers to turn things around.
Torchlight 3 - October 13
The Torchlight sequel that started life as an always-online spinoff, Torchlight 3 had a surprise early access launch in June that carried into a full launch in October. Despite rebranding as a proper singleplayer RPG with multiplayer, Torchlight 3 was littered with unfinished online elements that felt like leftovers from previous iterations of the game.
Our review had plenty of nice things to say about the combat and I certainly had fun shooting goblins with my robot’s chest gun for a few hours. Even at its best, Torchlight 3 had no time to hang in our minds with so many other games dropping in October and November. Such is the way of fall. (Disclosure: A friend of mine worked on Torchlight 3.)
Amnesia: Rebirth - October 20
As all of those other big games I've mentioned were almost upon us, a brand new Amnesia game snuck onto Steam just in time for Halloween. And it’s very good! Rebirth has a different vibe than The Dark Descent or A Machine for Pigs, but sticks closer to the former’s style of puzzle-solving and monster dodging that popularized an entire genre of horror games. Amnesia indeed.
Bonus round: Five friggin Halo games
While we all spent the year dragging Norman Reedus’ bloody feet across America and complaining about Cyberpunk, 343 quietly released almost every Halo game on PC through The Master Chief Collection. Starting with Halo: Reach in late 2019, Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo: ODST, and Halo 4 all dropped at a steady pace as the team worked through the kinks of porting the native Xbox games to modern PC hardware.
It was initially a little bumpy, but in December 2020, The Master Chief Collection is an amazing package for PC gamers. In the same update that completed the collection with Halo 4, 343 also unlocked the framerate on PC, enabled crossplay with Xbox, and added themed campaign mission playlists (in case you want to jump into a mixtape of big tank battles, for instance).
This all happened under the radar as 343 also grappled with a rocky Halo Infinite gameplay demo that inspired Microsoft to delay the game an entire year. The loss of Inifinite in 2020 is a big hit to the folks picking up a Series S/X this year, but as a lapsed fan rediscovering my love of Halo multiplayer at 144fps, I have plenty of chief to play until November 2021. Since the MCC team might have a bit of time on their hands, maybe they can squeeze out a proper Halo 5 PC port in the meantime?