I’m not going to mess about — this was a slow gaming year for me. Between moving, starting a Master’s degree, and helping my dad with renovations; I didn’t have much time for new games. On top of that, I feel like a lot of this year’s top releases were console games. Consequently, I mostly spent this year looking through my PC library for hidden gems or old classics I’d been ignoring. However, I did manage to find and play some new releases of 2022.
My Game of the Year:Terra Invicta
If I had to pick just one genre to play forever, it would be the XCOM-like. This year saw a fine addition to my collection: Terra Invicta. It’s the sort of game you get when the people behind the Long War mod for XCOM: Enemy Unknown get told there’s no limits. It’s not just about Earth anymore, it’s a solar system-wide invasion that you have to respond to, while managing extra-terrestrial mining and Earth politics. This sort of scale is both impressive and a little opaque — Terra Invicta has a pretty steep learning curve and its tutorial needs some work.
I wasn’t sure that Terra Invicta would be my pick of the year, and then something magical happened: I’d carefully ensured my agents were in powerful positions, I had the USA and Kazakhstan under my sway, thus cornering most of the space travel facilities. Then one thing led to another and suddenly all my armies were in Europe fighting alien servants, and then Paris got nuked along with most of my armies. Then the AI used those nukes in a legitimately effective defensive move, and there were effective long-term consequences for the economics and population of the region, the global environment, and the international reputation of the nuking parties (I may have panicked and nuked Paris again). It’s the brilliance of a game that can go off the rails in unexpected yet understandable ways that makes it so enjoyable. Of course, it’s also possible I just like seeing Paris burn…
Terra Invicta is still in early access, and I hope the flaws mentioned get fixed along the way. As it stands now, it’s still well worth a look.
Honourable Mention:S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
I’m cheating here, but my Honourable Pick was between this and Warhammer 40,000: Darktide. For reasons of microtransactions and marketing, I’m not wholly comfortable recommending Darktide (as much as I love 40K). So instead I’m going to break the laws of time and space to talk about some older games I played this year. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. holds up pretty damn well, considering.
The story is the sort of madness you’d expect; the Soviets stumble into the collective unconscious, call it the ‘noosphere’ and hook a bunch of people up to it, causing Ukraine to have a bad time. The actual mechanics of the series are solid — classics like equipment decay and leaning around cover make an appearance. Your carrying capacity is limited, enemies do enough damage to keep you moving, and although the environments are simple by modern standards they’re still well designed. Plus, the modding community remains alive and well (for example, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Anomaly is still being updated).
What I’m looking forward to playing in 2023:S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl and Baldur’s Gate 3
With everything going on in Ukraine, one of the biggest shocks is that GSC Game World has kept working on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2. As a series, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. has always been tied into Ukraine’s split between Europe and Russia, freedom and authority, future and past. For S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 to be scheduled for release in 2023 feels deeply appropriate. And while graphics aren’t the most important thing in a game, I’m absolutely giddy at the idea of seeing the Zone and all its madness in modern graphics.
I’m cheating a little with this, but I’m also excited for Baldur’s Gate 3 to finally get to its official release. Dungeons & Dragons has blown up in recent years, and despite the best efforts of Wizards of the Coast, it’ll still be popular well into the future. As much as I try, the older D&D games are rough (THAC0 is a maddening concept). For as much grief as D&D 5th edition gets, it’s more intuitive on paper and hopefully also in Baldur’s Gate 3.
As slow as 2022 felt for me, the lineup for 2023 looks absolutely incredible. I’m looking forward to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3, and (as gullible as it makes me feel) Dragon Age: Absolution actually got me cautiously excited for Dragon Age: Dreadwolf, too.