Let me be honest with you upfront. I only played a couple of new games this year. Why you may ask? Because I have been obsessed with Pokemon Go. I finally decided to download and play the evil mobile game back in February, and have played it almost constantly since. I finally understand why the game has millions of players and Niantic Games has made billions off it.
I did manage to play one of the year’s biggest games, Resident Evil Village, and one of the most anticipated by nerds like me, Age of Empires 4.
Of the two, Resident Evil Village is my main pick for Game of the Year. I love Resident Evil games, generally, but I was rather disappointed in the last outing. I am not saying Resident Evil 7 was bad, just that it really wasn’t my cup of tea. Village, on the other hand, is a damn good game.
I liked the storyline, even though it is a bit convoluted like most Resident Evil games. The lore behind the Eastern European village and its inhabitants is explained rather well, so again while a bit convoluted, the story is a satisfying one.
As far as gameplay, I was pretty pleased. After playing Resident Evil 7, I was used to the change to first-person perspective - even though I prefer the series’ third-person perspective - and I have to admit it does make the game a bit more intense. This is especially true when fighting Lycans, the smaller bosses, and the main antagonists. It also gives you a sense of dread when walking around the creepy village and a feeling of complete urgency while being pursued by Lady Dimitrescu’s daughters in Castle Dimitrescu.
I did find some of the smaller bosses and minions, for lack of a better term, to be a bit easy, but larger enemies such as Urias and his massive hammer along with Heisenberg were a welcome challenge. The battle with our favorite vampire lady was also challenging as it took me multiple tries to cause enough damage. I get frazzled sometimes during tense battle situations, so my aim was off a bit when trying to dole out my own brand of justice properly. I prevailed though.
A couple of other things worth noting. I was pleased with Capcom for bringing back typewriters as your save option as I wasn’t a big fan of the tape recorders in Resident Evil 7. I also liked the ability to skip cutscenes, and the inventory management system is similar to Resident Evil 4’s, and it’s a rather great management mechanic.
In short, Resident Evil Village is cracking good, and if you haven’t given it a try you really should whether you are a fan of the franchise or not. If you aren’t into survival horror, you still might enjoy it as it is really more action-oriented than anything. I personally didn’t find it to be as scary as some of the older titles, but it has a genuinely creepy feel to it, and there were enough “run away, run away!” moments to get the heart pumping.
As I mentioned in the preamble, my honorable mention for the year is real-time strategy game Age of Empires 4.
I had been looking forward to playing the game since it was first announced in summer 2017. It was a long wait - four years - and the fact Microsoft, Relic, and World’s Edge skipped a number of industry shows, made the wait even harder. But we were finally given a proper look at it in April of this year ahead of its release in October.
If you haven’t played an Age of Empires game before, you are basically tasked with choosing a civilization in which to build your own empire, protect it, and “win” the game by eventually invading another players’ village and sacking it. Or, you could just build a Wonder before the other player, depending on if that is the ultimate goal.
Starting off in the Dark Ages, in order to advance through the ages, you will need to explore the world around you to locate essential resources such as food (sheep and berries), gold, rocks, and wood. Using these resources, you will construct buildings, produce villagers, military units, and build your economy through trade. You will do this all while fighting off enemy raids and attacks.
I haven’t been able to play it as much as I like, as life keeps getting in the way, but from what I have played so far, I am really digging the French civilization.
Their strength lies in their armies which are knight-based, siege weapons that use gunpowder, and they have a nice advantage when it comes to trade. French traders will not only help build your economy, but also help out immensely when you are running low on resources.
Calvary charges will bring you bonus damage, and units have several upgrade options - some are available only to this civilization, and the French also have a unique Influence system where units from Archery Ranges and Stables cost less. This comes in handy when you are trying to ration your gold for something pressing. So playing the French definitely has its advantages.
I have only played two of the four single-player campaigns so far: the Hundred Years War and the Norman Campaign. But there is also The Rise of Moscow and a campaign based around the Mongol Empire. I will probably give those a try over the holidays.
Other things to take note of are the five different difficulty settings that take you from being a basic beginner to an all-out expert, there are Skirmishes, the ability to create a custom level, an option to complete daily quests, earn achievements, and eventually, take advantage of mods to shake things up a bit.
Honestly, I can wax lyrical all day about how this is a really good game, and explain to you why I love playing the French so much, but you really need to give it a try for yourself to understand my adoration for the franchise as a whole. And if you have never played a real-time strategy game before, this is a great series in which to get your toes wet.
If you are just jumping into RTS, I suggest you try either this outing or Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition first. Grab a couple of friends to play with, or just make your own game against the AI and set up your game to make it a bit easier for you to start off on your path to dominating your enemies.
For more words on what we reckon are the best games of 2021, check out what the rest of the VG247 staff think on our 2021 GOTY archive page.