THE PCG Q&A
Find all previous editions of the PCG Q&A here. Some highlights:
- Has Half-Life: Alyx made you want to buy a VR headset?
- What's a game that handles politics well?
- What game's end credits are worth watching?
The holidays are traditionally the time when we promise to make a dent in the backlog, then get a new game as a present or in the sales and just play that instead. But after 2019 rolled to an end what did you play? Did you carry on with your holiday games or decide a new year was time for a new game? Did you take a break from gaming altogether, and if so what was the first thing to drag you back?
What was the first game you played in 2020? Here are our answers, let us know yours in the comments.
Phil Savage: The Witcher 3
The inevitable happened: watching the Netflix show gave me an irresistible desire to return to The Witcher 3. It's one of a handful of open world games that I've never finished—one that I happily return to every eight months or so in order to take another big bite from. This latest visit has been particularly productive though: I've finished my Gwent collection, I've started work on crafting the superior version of the Wolf armour set, I've progressed a story that I only remember the occasional snippet of, I've killed a vampire that only drinks the blood of drunks, I've remembered to use oil and bombs and potions and parries instead of just spamming fast strike and Quen. Will I actually finish the game this time? Probably not. But it's nice to be back for however long it lasts.
Andy Kelly: Total War: Shogun 2
I've been trying to get into the Total War games for years, but for whatever reason they never click. I usually get overwhelmed by the complexity of the campaign and check out. But I decided to kick 2020 off with Shogun 2, feeling a sudden, inexplicable urge to indulge in some Japanese history. And, well, I think I finally get Total War now. The campaign is still baffling in many ways and I suck badly at it, but the battles are engaging, the units are interesting, and I love the presentation: the music, UI, and everything else are so good. It really draws you into the setting. I'm looking forward to a year of enjoying Total War games, and I already have Three Kingdoms and Warhammer lined up, which I hear are particularly good. So here's to a year of war on a massive scale. And I might even get more than five hours into a campaign before giving up.
Rachel Watts: Astroneer
I still have a list of games from 2019 that I need to play (a continued list from 2018 that seems to never end) and one that caught my eye was the space exploration adventure Astroneer by System Era Softworks. I need another reason to launch into space after playing Outer Wilds and, although I've only sunk a couple of hours into it, I already know that Astroneer is going to be my game for January. Collecting weird alien resources, exploring the bright neon landscape, and expanding my vast industrial space base is fun, relaxing and sets the perfect pace for 2020.
Lauren Morton: Almost Tyranny but actually RDR2 Online
I promised myself I'd play Tyranny during the holidays. I have two save files that are at a similar 16 hours into the game and I really do want to finish it. So I very intelligently started a third save on the 27th. And I had fun! I'm actually retaining the story this time around I think. But when dawn broke on January 1st I immediately jumped back into Red Dead Online to play cowboys with my friends. This moonshine isn't going to brew itself, folks! I'm only level 10 out of 20 in the illicit booze business and I've got to sell some product to afford a snazzy country band to play in my basement bar. Plus there's gold to be earned so that I can buy the Outlaw Pass (battle pass) without spending any real cash and I want a fancier tent for my camp and—how do I always let online games do this to me?
James Davenport: Outer Wilds
I played a good five hours of this last year, but my save got corrupted and I couldn't find the drive to go back. But after all the GotY praise from a few outlets I like, I figure I should finish it. The clockwork universe is as fascinating as ever and I've headed off in a completely different direction than last time, so nearly everything I've seen has been new, but I'm not as enthralled with it as most. The time loop is frustrating more than anything, even if it's a necessary framework. I just have a difficult time focusing on anything as it is, so when I'm suddenly sucked into the sun right when I'm about to read critical info that took an hour of bumping around in space to find, I lose momentum and head somewhere else on the next run. I'm still digging it overall though, if only to chase down all campfires for some nice tunes and a few marshmallows. It's easy to see where the accolades are coming from.
Jarred Walton: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
I'm a Star Wars fan, though I'm fully aware of its many (many!) flaws. I watched Rise of Skywalker this past week, and it was fine. Now I'm trying to finish up Jedi: Fallen Order, which is also fine. I'm not into it for the challenge, however, and with the large pile of games I haven't finished leering at me in Steam, Epic, Origin, Uplay, etc. I don't want to get stuck repeating battles ad nauseum. Which is why I appreciate the Story Mode that basically makes it very difficult to lose any battles. I've got force pull and double jump now, so I just need to collect all the chests and secrets and make my way to the ending.
The other game I've been playing lately is Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries, which has an at times terrible story, but the mech battles are pretty fun and I've now got a couple of assault class mechs in my hangar. Things get pretty repetitive with the five or so different mission types, but the real joy comes from having my two boys sit and watch me. They're way more into the big robots now than I am, and I was delighted when the youngest (he's 7) built an Awesome mech out of Legos. Do I win a parenting award?
Joanna Nelius: The Sims 4
Surprise, surprise, right? I mean, I've been playing The Sims for the last 20 years, so why stop now? I finally picked up Seasons and Parenthood over the break, but I've been focused on trying to get in with a secret society at my university before I graduate. I don't want to spoil anything just yet, but it's been an interesting time. And the fact that my character is a spellcaster makes it even more interesting. And by interesting I mean I'm causing chaos on purpose and making a lot of enemies. (Insert evil laugh here.) I'm also still slowly playing through The Outer Worlds, with a personal goal to finish it before the end of the month.
Steven Messner: Rayman Legends
Most of my time spent playing games recently has been with my partner, Courtney, and we've been chewing through every single co-op platformer we can find. Thankfully, the Switch is full of them so recently we bought Rayman Legends and have been having a blast with it. Since Courtney isn't much of a gamer, it's easy for her to get frustrated by the extreme difficulty of games like Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, but I really appreciate how forgiving Rayman is. Unlike most platformers, you don't have to worry about running out of lives and being forced to start a level from the beginning. There's a super generous checkpoint system that keeps the focus on having fun rather than arbitrary punishments for not being good enough at the game. That accessibility even extends to simple things like underwater levels not having an O2 meter you have to manage, so you're free to explore at your leisure without feeling the pressure of running out of air and dying. Couple that with Rayman Legends' stellar level design (I love the music levels so damn much) and inventive platforming, and what you get is a game that is just so damn fun to play.
Playing games with someone who has never really played games before has been really eye-opening for how inaccessible games can be without meaning to. Sure, there's the visual language stuff that you have to learn—the way an inconspicuous light might actually be pointing out a secret route—but also all the unnecessary friction that can make games so frustrating to newcomers. Rayman does a remarkable job of shaving a lot of those frustrations away so we can just focus on having a great time together, and I'm super grateful for it.
Robin Valentine: Cardpocalypse
I knew I wanted to start the year with something new, and this card battler RPG seemed like it had some good vibes to kick off 2020 with. You play a kid joining a new school where everyone's obsessed with playing the card game 'Power Pets', and there's a lovely nostalgia to going around the playground trading and battling with your classmates. It's not super original—the fights are basically Hearthstone-lite as it stands, and even the Pokemon-aping monsters are more than a little reminiscent of that one South Park episode—but I love its earnest, positive attitude. Apparently later on you get to customise battles by literally scribbling new stuff onto your cards and even changing the rules of the game, which sounds intriguing—I definitely plan to stick with it at least long enough to see how that system works.
Evan Lahti: Slay the Spire
I ended the year how I started it. I reviewed Slay the Spire in January and it turned out to be my highest-scoring game in 11 years at PC Gamer, neat. 100 hours in at the end of 2019, I discovered a new (albeit incredibly obvious) combo I liked: pairing All for One with a bunch of Claws, Streamline, and other 0-cost cards along with Seek and a relic like Shuriken. Working on Defect - Ascension 6 now.
Tyler Wilde: Rocket League
I began the new year with a few rounds of the only recent game I've put over 1,000 hours into, because of course I did. Nothing has changed: I still play Snow Day—Rocket League's obviously superior puck-based mode—and my goals are still often as stupid as the one above.
Christopher Livingston: Red Dead Online
Same as the last game I played in 2019: Red Dead Online, where I must admit I'm getting a little tired of the festive snow by now. I don't want to buy any new cold-weather clothing because I'm saving up cash for moonshiner and trader upgrades, so I'm usually freezing my butt off in there. Plus, it's already often so foggy in RDO that I don't need even more vision-obscuring weather like blizzards making it hard to see the deer and elk I'm trying to stalk. I hope spring comes quickly.
Morgan Park: Quadrilateral Cowboy
I started my 2020 as a groggy mess. Since I definitely lacked the mental fortitude to brave the wilds of Rainbow Six Siege, I cozied up with Quadrilateral Cowboy, a 2016 hacky puzzle game that I should have played a long time ago. Its specific blend of '80s-era analog hacking and immersive sim qualities is exactly what I wanted while my brain was cardboard. Everything feels so perfectly tactile. The keyboard clacks, lever pulls, and knob turns trigger the pleasure centers of my brain. Plus, I have a programmable rifle that neatly deploys from its briefcase disguise. It's badass.
Andy Chalk: Inside
I started the new year in the grip of some hideous plague, debilitating enough that my current mainstream game—Metro Exodus—had to be put on hold. In its place, I needed something simple, that I had no particular investment in, and that I would not regret leaving unfinished if I happened to die at the keyboard. Then, through my sticky fugue, inspiration struck: I owned, but had never actually played, Inside. So I did! And it was really good. Very weird, and I strongly suspect that the metaphorical depth some players see in it is mainly good lighting and clever level design, but as a spooky, surreal puzzle platformer that doesn't require magic thumbs and the reflexes of a ten-year-old child to get through, it's great. And the ending! Sure can't say I saw that one coming.
Jody Macgregor: You Are a Wizard
According to its itch.io page, You Are a Wizard is "a Commodore 64-esque fever dream about one of those wizards you see airbrushed on the sides of vans." You play a pixel mage who is basically just a nose in a robe, platforming around the mystical forest collecting orbs and unlocking teleporters. As someone who used to own a Commodore 64 I appreciate how playfully retro it is, replicating an era when every 2D platformer had a floaty-feeling jump by letting you literally float to the ground after each one.
It's short and funny, which are also things I like. There's a riddle fox who keeps trying to get you to care about riddles and a soundtrack played entirely on the human mouth and nose that's both silly and actually kind of evocative, especially when you set off under the stars toward a glowing constellation deer. It was one of the games of 2019 I meant to play earlier, but I'm glad I finally got around to it.