It’s that time of the year again! The 2021 Manatees Game of the Year podcast is live on Make Me A Gamer, which means it’s time for the written section where I list out my top 10 games of the year! No more preamble, it’s time to buckle up and hear about some games!!
On July 16th, 2021 I capitulated to friends, random internet strangers, and the will of Yoshi-P and downloaded the free trial of Final Fantasy XIV Online, which goes up to level 60 and includes the award-winning blah blah blah you know that spiel and joke since I already did my Realm Reborn Roundup.
This summer was rough for me for a myriad of personal reasons. I was going through a lot and while all those personal details are a discussion for another time, what is important is that Final Fantasy XIV was an outlet that probably saved my sanity and kept me grounded. Shortly after my Realm Reborn roundup I subscribed to an MMO for the first time in my life because of how much time I was spending in the world and how much I was enjoying myself exploring Eorzea.
On November 18, 2021, almost exactly four months from when I started playing (and the day before the original Early Access for Endwalker was supposed to start) I rolled credits on the final main story quest of the Shadowbringers expansion – thus “completing” the main story of Final Fantasy XIV that’s currently out. It was a weird sensation – my sole drive in the realm of gaming for the past four months had slowly morphed into completing the story in time for Endwalker’s release. And I was ultimately left with that empty feeling of “now what?”
So clearly the next step is I’m gonna write about it.
So I’ve been playing FFXIV for about two weeks now. Yes, I’m one of those people who is playing the free trial, let’s just get that out of the way. I’m not an MMORPG kind of person. I’ve never been. Previous to this, the only MMO games I’ve played have been Guild Wars (that I played through the entirety of with an almost-girlfriend) and The Old Republic (that I played about 2 hours of and then never touched again).
I’ve now clocked at least 50 hours into FFXIV over two weeks. Maybe 60 or 70? I don’t really know and I’m glad there’s no way to tell how much time I’ve spent on it so far (and don’t tell me if there is). Hands-down it’s the MMORPG I’ve spent the most time playing. So after finishing the main storyline of A Realm Reborn – FFXIV’s 2.0 base game rework after it’s initial shitty launch – I decided I’d formally put together my thoughts on the game.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s also amazing. But it also sucks. But no, it’s great. Actually, it’s kinda terrible. No, really, it’s awesome. But it stinks. But you should play. But never play it.
Okay, so I guess I’m conflicted.
Shadow of the Colossus
Release Date: October 18, 2005
Platform Played On: PS2
2018 Placement: #75 (-19)
What It Is:
Shadow of the Colossus is a revolutionary game that took the idea “what if only boss battles?” and made it artistic and compelling. It’s you and your horse Agro versus sixteen colossi and each one a different puzzle. You have a sword and a bow and your climbing ability and that’s basically it – there’s no skill trees or RPG elements. Each colossus has a weak point and it’s up to you to figure out how to tackle each fight.
The world itself is empty except for the colossi, so the time between battles is mostly spent enjoying the vistas as you ride Agro to your next destination. There are occasional map puzzles forcing you to figure out how to get to the next colossus, and there are lizards to find and kill to add to your stamina, but not much beyond that. The simplicity of the game’s objective is deliberate and intended to be part of the appeal.
Why It’s Important to Me:
I remember sitting down with my friends and us taking turns at tackling different colossi. Collaboration was a huge part of my experience with this game, as some of the colossal battles made us scratch our heads until we all collectively went “oh!” after somebody cracked the code. It was exhilarating to take down a colossus with an audience who collectively breathed a sigh of relief when the final hit took the giant down.
It’s such an elegant game that existed before the time of “systems” and “skill trees” and turning every game into a numbers-go-up simulator to get the endorphin shots from EXP bars completing. The art style is beautiful and each colossus is designed so well – from the environments you fight them in to how they move to what you have to do to defeat them. And they feel like majestic creatures – I remember coming up to the first colossus and just watching it move for a while before even attempting to go after it. It was just such an impressive game when it released – it stood out from what was being made at the time and even now no game really comes close to evoking the same feelings.
My Strongest Memory:
The fifth colossus was when the game went from good to holy shit god-tier for me. The battle takes place in this large lake area that is filled with ruins. You swim inside the ruins and climb up part of them, only to see a giant bird-like colossus fly past you. It’s breathtaking and shocking at the same time – up until this point the colossi have all been walking around and getting on them has taken some form of climbing up their limbs. But this creature is flying! How are you supposed to tackle this?!
The journey of figuring out how to climb onto this colossus is just the first part. Then there’s the absolute terror-inducing part of hanging onto its wings for dear life as it flies around the lake. You have to Spider-Man your way across its back as it soars through the air, flapping its wings, turning left, right, and upside-down, circling around while it (and you by proxy) defies gravity. All while an epic score of music is playing over your feats. It’s the stand-out colossus for me simply because of how awesome it felt to tackle the entire scenario.
Why It’s #94:
This game is so important to me I’ve bought it three times: the PS2 version, the PS3 collection of it and Ico, and the PS4 remake by Bluepoint. And yet…I’ve only played it fully through once. I made it through two or three colossi on the PS3 before stopping and one of my biggest PS4 shames is never even installing it after I bought it – I have yet to touch the remake. Am I scared that it won’t deliver the same epic, emotional beats it did my first time playing? Do I just have problems revisiting games nowadays, regardless of how I feel about them? Whatever the reason, while Shadow of the Colossus is an amazing game that’s also a work of art, I find myself unable to place it higher due to my lack of motivation in replaying it. Maybe it’s a game I relegate to fond memories. Or maybe I just need to bite the bullet and play the PS4 version and fall in love all over again.
So every year for Make Me A Gamer we do a podcast with our Game of the Year content, and every year I also do a write-up of my games of the year as a companion piece. This year we went over my top 5 of the year in the podcast itself, and here I’m gonna expand to my top 10 along with a few honorable mentions.
Nothing else to say, just good ol’ year-end summary of games content coming. Here we go!
So if you listened to yesterday’s podcast episode, you’ll know that the Countdown Cauldron has moved from the 90-81 to 80-71, which means it’s time for another update on the blog! Here’s the next ten of my favorite games of the last decade, starting with #90!
So if you haven’t been listening to the Make Me A Gamer podcast, you’ve been missing out on the fact that I’ve composed my top 100 games of the decade list – from 2010-2019. I’ve been doling out a few numbers here and there as part of our Countdown Cauldron segment and while I won’t be going over every number in the podcast, I did promise to write up companion pieces that outline all the games.
In the podcast we’re working through sets of 10. We started with 100-91 and in the most recent episode moved to the 81-90 set, which means now it’s time for me to release the first group of ten. I tried writing up my Top 100 games of All-Time a few years back and ended up burning out in the 60s, so I’m going to try and keep the descriptions a little more brief so I don’t fall into the same trap. I will note the ones that were discussed on the podcast (and link to the related episode) and keep those even briefer.
Without further ado, #100-#91 of my personal favorite games of the 2010s.
Last year I was only able to go to PAX East for two days out of the four so I wrote up each day separately. This year I was able to go all four days and used that time to go to panels, games, and meetups.
I may write about the panels and meet-ups in another post, but this one will exclusively be about the games I played. I got to 18 different games over the 4 day weekend. Is that a lot? I don’t really have a perspective, as I also watched about a dozen other ones without actually having any hands-on. I’ll try not to wax poetic too hard on each and every game as I don’t want this to take forever, but without further ado here’s all the games I played at PAX East this year!
So if you haven’t listened yet, last week myself and my partner in crime HarveyZ recorded our Game of the Year podcast where I handed out my Manatees for 2019. In that I outlined my top 5 games of the year and talked a little bit about each. Like last year, I also wanted to put up a companion blog post to add some written words about why I enjoyed each game and also flesh out the games to a full top 10 and a few Honorable Mentions.
Most of these are going to be games I’ve talked about already this year, but a few are games that I always meant to talk about but slipped through the cracks (at least on the writing and podcast side). I hope you enjoy this last blog post of 2019 and I’ll see you in the new year with all sorts of new games, posts, and ideas!
This weekend I watched The Last Jedi for only the second time – and the first since I originally saw it opening weekend in theaters. I’d stayed away from it because, well let’s face it, Star Wars discourse has gotten heavy over the last two years. I’d enjoyed the movie and for a bit was a hell-or-high water defender against the trolls. But eventually it wears you down and my enthusiasm for everything Star Wars diminished. I wrote posts on my initial feelings on The Last Jedi and about some of the harassment that Kelly Marie Tran faced last year.
But between The Mandalorian and Jedi: Fallen Order this year I’ve gotten the Star Wars bug again. So going into episode 9 I thought I’d refresh myself and rewatch The Last Jedi to see how I felt about it two years later. And I’m pleased to report that it’s still a good movie. In fact, it’s a great movie.
Let’s dig in, shall we? (Spoilers for The Last Jedi, obviously.)