As I write today’s episode, it looks like Silent Hill outside my window. Nevertheless, it’s a great atmosphere to discuss some awesome games!
I’m making significant progress with my annual GOTY series. I’m nearly ready to announce my Top 10, but I’ve got my honorable mentions before we get to that. These are games that barely missed the cut, and holy damn, it’s been a challenge this year. So far, we’ve covered my favourite Early Access games and some hidden gems. I immensely enjoyed these games, but they missed my Top 10 cut. I wish I could cover more today, but these articles would be longer. Nobody has patience for that!
I spent a while deciding how many honorable mentions to be covered today. At one stage during the process, I had 20 games in this category alone. I will show you my spreadsheet in the final episode to highlight how difficult this has been. After a long debate, I narrowed it down to five choices. This will be a long one, so grab some hot chocolate and snacks and enjoy the rambles of a weird 32-year-old British guy who plays too many games!
Urbek City Builder
No joke: I had Urbek in my Top 10 list until the very end. There are so many city-builders on the market that it takes more work to sort out the diamonds in the rough. After a successful demo, Urbek City Builder launched this summer, blowing me away. It’s one of those games that takes simple ideas, then packs them together in a nicely wrapped Christmas present that’s a delight to open. I discussed Urbek in Episode 15 of my Indie Corner series, which you can read by checking out the link down below:
With its voxel graphics, tonnes of content to devour, and focus on layout management to get the best economy possible, Urbek City Builder differs from its competitors on the market and plays excellent to boot. One thing that helped set it apart from others was its development cycle: no Early Access to speak of; what you see is what you get. Of course, having a complete game to explore from beginning to end is how things should work, but obviously, Early Access exists for a good reason. Urbek grabbed me initially, and the developer’s activity in patching bugs and adding new content is always a bonus.
What impressed me the most about playing Urbek was how organic it felt to play. I only had a few extensive research menus to dig through. Everything usually unlocks while playing the game, and the great tutorial helped ease me into Urbek better than many other games. One problem city builders can have is a poor tutorial, but I understood everything I was doing in Urbek even as the challenges increased. That’s how it should be done!
A mark of a great city-builder is options; Urbek City Builder doesn’t disappoint. There are several different maps with challenges and many ways to tweak difficulty. If something is proving too challenging for you, there is no harm in turning off some of the settings! Conversely, Urbek has some pretty gnarly difficulty settings if things are too easy. After getting my ass beat a few times, I comfortably stuck with the easier difficulties, but it’s nice to have these different modifiers. With sandbox mode and mod support, Urbek is a refreshing and well-made city-building game, and it’s worth the money.
Terror of Hermasaurus
Nearly making my Top 10 on nostalgia alone, Terror of Hermasaurus grew out of my rose-tinted child goggles into a fantastic experience of its own right. I loved the Rampage series as a kid. Who am I kidding? I still play it now. Playing as giant mutated monsters to blow up cities and destroy people? No wonder people loved those games. Well, Terror of Hermasaurus satisfied my Rampage days, evolving the design into a tremendous beat-em-up murder simulator.
Okay, I might have a little problem. Ignore the colony of prisoners in Rimworld in the background, there. Ahem. I covered Terror of Hermasaurus in Episode 25, which you can check out down below:
What I loved about Terror of Hermasaurus, besides the retro graphics and throwback to old times, is that everything just feels so robust to play. The narrative and dialogue are hilarious. The premise is simple: the world has global warming, and an evil science cult resurrects giant, mutated monsters and teaches them how to destroy people. It’s goofy and wacky, and it made me smile. The work of a single guy in Loren Lemcke, it’s one of the most unique games I’ve played this year. I’m not usually one to play old-school, beat-em-up games, but Terror combines physics-based destruction with enjoyable combat for an addictive experience.
While the Story mode is excellent, I liked the Endless Mode, a great feature for a game like Terror. It’s always frustrating when cool games end too soon, but this extra game mode gives the player more time with their cute, giant monsters of destruction, and it’s more content to devour. In addition, there are plenty of things to unlock, like more enemies to kill, power-ups, and different modifiers, so there’s always a reason to play.
The only minor problem with Terror was that the keyboard controls felt more smooth than playing with a controller. Both are fully supported, but Terror of Hermasaurus plays best with a controller setup or on the Steam Deck. There’s nothing wrong with the keyboard controls. Just the controller felt more natural. Overall, this is a brilliant game if you’re in the mood to return to the classics, and with its hilarious story and generous Endless mode, it’s a great purchase.
The Strategy publisher giant Microprose has continued their slow return to the gaming industry in 2022. Highfleet made my Honorable Mentions list last year, a unique strategy game that deserves another glance. While it impressed me with its strategic depth and focus on logistics, the brutal difficulty spikes eventually caused me to turn Highfleet down. Regiments launched earlier this year to solid reviews, and it’s my favorite Microprose published game to date. Yes, I’ve only played two, but I enjoy Regiments more than Highfleet, and it’s nice to see a solid RTS come out.
We haven’t got many of them these days. It’s even rarer to see one that focuses on solo play. That might be disappointing to many people, but one of those people prefers to play single-player. It would be nice to see multiplayer in Regiments, though.
I had the opportunity to interview the developer, which you can read by checking out the link below:
One of the significant drawbacks to serious military simulators is the rough level curve, but I found Regiments easy to get into. Players from all backgrounds can play; learning how to play Regiments is simple at first, and even if there are plenty of different mechanics, there’s a solid tutorial to teach players the ropes. It’s a challenging game to master, but it’s not as complex as others on the market. The interface was rough at times, as there are many different things on the screen and all sorts of buttons/stats to click, but it’s better than other similar games. As well as the tutorial, there’s a tremendous in-game codex if you get stuck.
Combat is built around fast-paced, arcade-style gameplay, relying on limited resources, terrain, and formations to get the jump on enemy forces. It’s designed to test players’ reflexes, and the slightest mistake will doom an army. With games not taking hours to complete, it made things easier for me if I did fail. After that, it’s just a matter of clicking back in and trying different things. Few things hurt more than investing hours into a mission only to fail, so I thank Regiments for this.
There’s a lot of content for the price, and strategy fans will enjoy this. However, I wish it was better optimized: I’d recommend a beefy system to get the most out of Regiments. Also, I want the performance to be better with its archaic visuals. There’s also a time limit on missions which some people will find frustrating, but besides these two nitpicks, I’ve had a great time with Regiments. It’s well worth an honorable mention.
This was a weird one. Weird West could have been in a better state when it launched in March. While I appreciated the game’s design choices and all the little interactions with the world, several bugs and poor balance soured the experience for me. As a result, this might be the only game I’ll write about this year that I refunded. Back in March, I wasn’t thrilled with it, though I saw the potential. This horror-filled, Western world is filled with exciting mechanics and lore, but I struggled the first time round.
This summer, I bought Weird West again to give it another chance. This time, it finally grabbed me. Developed by a team of past RPG veterans, Wolfeye Studios released several patches improving the game, providing bug fixes, adding more features to the world, overhauling the perk system, and even adding mod support. They’ve even offered the first character story, “Bounty Hunter,” free of charge. That great demo can last for several hours if people take their time. It’s more than enough to test things. This is a partial review, as I’m only in the Bounty Hunter phase of the game, but I’m having a great time with it.
So many different systems work together, making Weird West a unique immersive sim, and the setting sells it. A western open world with demons? Sign me up! People remember who you are, and actions have consequences. That family you butchered before? You might end up regretting that, and the worldbuilding is impressive. Combat encounters are fast, brutal affairs. The player can die quickly, but so can enemies. Go in guns blazing? Hell yes. Stealth it up? You can try that too. Excellent sound design only improves the experience.
It still needs patches; I wasn’t a fan of the limited inventory system, and I wish the enemy AI was better. It’s easy to break enemy AI and let them bundle into traps, but I’m happy I gave Weird West a second chance. While there are few mods, there are already some cool ones, including an expanded inventory, better visuals, and an experimental first-person mode. The future is bright for Weird West, which sounds weird, given how dark and screwed up the world is in the game!
Dying Light 2
Lastly is Techlands’ long-awaited sequel to the Dying Light series. After a painful and brutal development cycle, Dying Light 2 finally launched this year. The hype for this game was pretty intense, though their ‘500 hours to complete’ boast before launch raised some question marks. That didn’t bother me, but I understand why others felt concerned. When somebody boasts about giant playtimes, it generally comes at the cost of an intriguing story and an open world full of collectible crap. Sure, we don’t have to finish everything on these maps, but it would be nice for open-world games to put more thought into their world design. I’d rather have a more miniature world with exciting things to explore than a giant map filled with copy-paste objectives.
I’ll admit it: Dying Light 2 is the weakest game in my Honorable Mentions list. Despite all that, I enjoyed my time with Dying Light 2. With all the concerns surrounding it, I expected a disaster. That didn’t end up being the case.
The beginning didn’t alleviate my worries. It’s a long, annoying prologue, railroaded without much freedom to do anything else. Although it was a decent tutorial, I liked the opening only a few hours. Once you get through that painful beginning, the open world finally opens up, and you can do more. Even so, I wasn’t impressed by the prologue, and I know several people who uninstalled it based on that alone.
Despite these issues, I do enjoy this game. However, the story and writing could be better. AAA titles don’t take many risks with their narrative, and Dying Light 2 is no exception: humans are evil, everyone betrays each other, you know the design. Sadly to fully unlock things like fast travel and the entire map, you have to toil through the story. It’s not terrible by any means, but I haven’t been able to get into Dying Light 2’s narrative in the same way other games do, like Cyberpunk 2077, Disco Elysium, Citizen Sleeper, or Outer Wilds.
I’ve been neglecting the story for exploration and parkour, and while it still feels like the original game, I’ve found great enjoyment in just running around and exploring the map. Even if the world design is copy-pasted, there’s some love for the worldbuilding and lore surrounding the city. There are loads of little interactions and people around the world doing their own thing, and while the repetition catches up, it adds some life to the world. I have yet to get to the central portion of the world, but I’m taking my time.
It’s been a rocky year for Dying Light 2, but this is something for the long haul. It wasn’t my first surprise of 2022, and it’s not the last. However, this is one of those surprises I appreciated, and I’m excited about how Techland will improve.
That’s it for today’s episode! Next time, we’ll be moving onto the Top 10 itself. I originally had seven games for today’s article, but I decided to move two into the Awards episode that’ll be published before I announce the Top 5. It’s been a long, dramatic, and pretty remarkable year for gaming, and it’s not over yet.