Here are a few more writers from LifeisXbox with five favorites from 2021! Be sure to check the next pages for more writers! This is a long read so be prepared with some chips and coffee! Be sure to let us know what your favorites are.
Resident Evil Village
First things first, I have to mention that I’m not the hugest horror fan. Even though I’m way better at being able to watch movies/series or play games with gore/blood in them than I once was, it’s still not what attracts me in a game/movie/series. That being said, I did like Resident Evil 7, but I watched someone else play it on YouTube way before playing it so I wouldn’t be as scared if I played it myself than playing without knowing what to expect. If you’re a horror fan you’ll laugh at this, but unfortunately, this is true: I looked at the ground a lot while playing Resident Evil 7, but in Resident Evil Village I didn’t do that nearly as much, and this time I didn’t watch anyone playing it before I tried it myself. Now, let’s get to talking about the game itself because there was quite a bit of fun I had while playing it, though I did get furious while fighting Heisenberg on the Village of Shadows difficulty.
Since this is a direct sequel to Resident Evil 7 you do play as Ethan Winters again (at least most of the time), and his motivation was pretty nice for me (although it could be considered old-fashioned), going through any danger that’s in your way to save someone you love, in this case, Ethan’s daughter Rose.
The beginning of the journey is quite strong, with your wife Mia being shot right in front of you, and you and your daughter being kidnapped by none other than Chris Redfield. Of course, something goes wrong and you are free, but it’s early in the morning and you see something running away that, from its noise and speed, cannot be human, this is a Resident Evil game, so of course there would be creatures here. After this, you arrive at a village where a lot of things go wrong, you meet important characters and you arrive at a castle.
You would be forgiven for thinking that most of the game is in this castle because it was what was shown the most on trailers and pictures, alongside Lady Dimitrescu, but that’s not the case, also, Lady Dimitrescu is only present in this section of the game. It was an interesting marketing strategy that could be considered either misleading or smart for keeping most of the game a “secret”.
But why was Resident Evil Village one of my five favorite games of 2021?
Well, the first reason I want to give is that I loved the replay factor present here, so much that I finished the game on easy, medium, and hard. After I discovered the weapon and character upgrades that are kept in new playthroughs, I got excited and started upgrading what I thought were the best weapons in my first playthrough, which was on the normal difficulty. After searching the web for what were the best weapons in the game, I discovered that I was wrong, luckily, if you sell an upgraded weapon you get all the money you spent on them back. I got into my second playthrough on easy, got more money and I think that that was when I got the S.T.A.K.E. Magnum fully upgraded, which is the gun with the best damage per second (DPS) in the whole game.
There’s also the fact that I really like playing games in first person, not just shooters, but games in the first-person perspective, in general, are something that I’ve enjoyed for a long time, and this was one of the reasons why I was attracted to Resident Evil Village in the first place. The overall gameplay felt pretty good, moving around the many places available, shooting, and solving puzzles was interesting, except maybe the ball puzzle, that even though was interesting, was also a little bit annoying sometimes.
The characters were pretty interesting as well. Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters were intimidating, just like a bunch of regular enemies and other bosses were. The Duke was mysterious, but since he is the shopkeeper, you spend a lot of time with him, and he grows on you, helping you out at the end of the game. Heisenberg is the reason why I didn’t finish the game on the Village of Shadows difficulty, but he wasn’t a bad character, he was just extremely annoying to fight in this difficulty. Some characters weren’t bad, like Moreau and Angie, but either they didn’t show up a lot in the game, or they weren’t as interesting as the others were for me.
I haven’t played all Resident Evil games; I played Resident Evil with a friend helping me out by watching me play and enjoyed it. Also, played Resident Evil Revelations and did not finish it, because I got stuck in a boss and just gave up. Resident Evil Revelations 2 had an interesting story, but I did play Raid mode a lot with a friend, and that was the strongest point in the game for me. Tried Resident Evil 4 and at the time I didn’t like the controls of it, but I did play Resident Evil 5 with a friend and enjoyed it. Watched Resident Evil 2 remake on YouTube and tried playing it, but couldn’t handle the pressure Mr. X roaming around gave me, so didn’t finish this one either. I didn’t play the original games on PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2, but from the games in the series I did play, I must say that Resident Evil Village is probably my favorite one, maybe behind Resident Evil Revelations 2 since I had a great time with my friend playing it.
You can play Resident Evil Village on Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4/5, and PC.
I never finished the first Psychonauts, but apparently, I played it for ten hours on Steam, I thought it was way less than this, and I don’t remember how it was at all. As soon as I saw Psychonauts 2 being announced it got my interest, I have played other games from Double Fine like Stacking, The Cave, and Massive Chalice, and enjoyed them a lot. I also like playing 3D platformers and since Psychonauts 2 is one, it got my attention. When it was released, I thought to myself that since it looks interesting, people are praising it, and it is available on Xbox Game Pass, I might as well download it and play. I didn’t expect it to become one of the best games I’d play this year and one of my favorite 3D platformers that I’ve ever played.
The last 3D platformers I played that I can remember (other than Spyro Reignited Trilogy, which was great) were frustrating in difficulty. They were Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy and Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, the former requiring me to ask for a friend’s help, and I gave up on the latter because of how stressful it became playing it, so much that I wasn’t having fun anymore.
So, why did I like Psychonauts 2 so much?
For starters, it isn’t incredibly difficult, I didn’t stress myself much, it was mostly easy to understand what I had to do, and doing the actual platforming never felt too challenging or unfair like the games I already mentioned. Also, not playing the first game or Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, which is a VR game, is fine, since there is a recap of the most important things that happen on those games right at the start.
There’s a decent amount of psychic powers available, some examples are PSI Blast, which is a way to shoot your enemies; Pyrokinesis which burns your enemies over time; Telekinesis lets you grab and throw objects. Some enemies require you to use certain powers to defeat them more efficiently, which diversifies the combat in a pretty nice way. Powers are also important for movement, Levitation lets you roll in a “levitation ball” to move faster and also lets you float in a psychic balloon after jumping to get to harder-to-reach areas for example. These powers can all be upgraded, and to unlock them you need to rank up your intern level, which gets you Intern Credits to spend on abilities. There are also perks, these exist in the form of badges, they can be cosmetic or functional, some of them are required to get every collectible in the game.
The story here is also interesting, with Razputin (the main character) finally getting to the psychonauts headquarters, getting on a mission to help their leader and find a traitor amongst them. There are plenty of interesting things happening, you enter the minds of people to help them get themselves together psychologically along the way. Since you enter the minds of people, the developers also touched on the mental health subject a bit with enemies, which are called doubts, censors, and bad ideas for example.
These minds you enter have all kinds of crazy stuff inside them, all of which are related to past experiences they had. Compton Boole for example, had a cooking show happening in his head, you have to get the right ingredients in the right places with a bunch of obstacles between you and these places. Another example is Dr. Loboto’s mind, since he is a dentist, you’ll see lots of teeth and other dentist-related things in there. There were so many other weird things that were as creative as these, with lots of colors, obstacles, and enemies making Psychonauts 2 unique. The art style is also incredibly good, it’s not on the realistic side of things but that’s completely fine. It looks like a Tim Burton’s animation, just by looking at a character like Dr. Loboto I immediately thought of the similarity that exists between Psychonauts 2 and his animations.
Psychonauts 2 was one of the best surprises I had this year, (joining the Life is Xbox team was probably my biggest surprise), there are so many good ideas that were executed in the right way here. If you still haven’t played it, you should know that it is available on Xbox Game Pass, you can play it on Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PlayStation 4/5, and PC.
I’m gonna be honest, I never played the old Hitman games, the first one I tried playing was Hitman Blood Money, which many people think to this day is the best one in the series, but I didn’t play it a lot, not having much guidance was something I didn’t enjoy at the time. I did play Hitman Absolution and I remember enjoying it at the time, but it does deviate from the freedom Hitman games usually give you with their many options. However, the game that really got me into this series was 2016’s HITMAN, and according to my Xbox stats, I played it for around 55 hours, you’d be wrong to think that I didn’t play it more than that, because I also replayed its missions in the HITMAN 2 and HITMAN 3’s versions of it. I didn’t realize, but according to the Xbox stats, I played HITMAN 2 for more than 100 hours, which is pretty ridiculous. Since it is obvious that I’ve become a fan of the series, it’s easy to see why HITMAN 3 was one of the best games from 2021 for me.
But what makes HITMAN 3 so good?
Well, it’s one of the best stealth-focused games I’ve ever played, alongside Splinter Cell Blacklist, Batman Arkham City, and Deus Ex Mankind Divided, I’m sure many people would disagree about these being the best ones but bear with my opinion, please. There’s a lot of replayability here, there are different start and exit points in every level, disguises that let you go through specific places undetected, and a bunch of options on how to deal with your targets. Want some examples? How about sniping your target? Maybe you’d want to make wine out of your target? Or even killing a doctor who’s experimenting with homeless people through his own creation? These are just a few of the options available, there are many other interesting ones.
There are many lethal and non-lethal weapons available, blades, guns, poisons, blunt weapons, amongst others. Also, if you own HITMAN and/or HITMAN 2 you can play all the levels from those games with the upgrades HITMAN 3 offers, which makes it one of the best games available in terms of value and replayability. The story continued where HITMAN 2 left off, and it was pretty interesting. You’re after The Constant again and there are plenty of important things happening that I won’t go into too much detail on, because I don’t want to spoil it much. One of the levels reminded me of both the movies Knives Out (even though I haven’t watched it yet) and Skyfall, because there’s a murder mystery that you can solve and it’s on a mansion in the middle of nowhere. Talking about levels, I have to mention that the level design is pretty good, as I already mentioned there are multiple starting and exit points in the levels, but not just that, there are shortcuts, distractions, and environmental hazards that can be used to your advantage. The targets and people who have the disguises you want also give you opportunities to take them down in their pathing, you can take a look at what is their route and replay a mission differently because of your knowledge of it.
This time the developers chose to not add new maps, only adding new contracts on the available ones for those who bought the deluxe edition. I’m honestly fine with this decision, since IOI published HITMAN 3 themselves instead of looking for a publisher, and they’re working on other projects including a new 007 game which I can’t wait to see more of.
The soundtrack is somewhat subtle, but it still fits the game pretty well, if you play the levels from the previous games, you’ll probably get the end of mission song stuck in your head, just like I did. Most of the time you’ll be paying attention to your surroundings and what other people say, so you won’t focus much on the rest of the soundtrack, at least I didn’t.
HITMAN 3 is a great experience, with many options, and a great level design, if you like stealth games you should definitely play it, it’s available on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
The Forgotten City
I love a good mystery, be it on books, series, movies, anime, or videogames, I’m always captivated by them. There’s something about uncovering the truth that feels indescribably good, maybe I should pursue a career related to that?
Let’s get talking about the actual game now, because it was surprisingly great. It’s based on an award-winning The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim mod, you read that right, this mod was the first mod in history to win a national Writer’s Guild award with its script. Hopefully, my opinion and descriptions will let you have an idea of why this award was well-deserved, and why The Forgotten City deserves your attention.
The game already starts quite mysteriously, with you waking up next to a stranger who found you on a river and asking you to go after another stranger she also found on this river in a cave. You can choose if you’re a man or a woman, your skin tone, and one of a few different classes with different bonuses before you start your adventure. These classes are Fugitive, which lets you move 25% faster; Amnesiac, which makes you receive 50% less damage in combat; Soldier, which grants you a gun with 10 bullets; Archeologist, which gives you some more dialogue choices and lets you translate a few things present in the city. I chose the Archeologist class, since the developers do warn you that the game isn’t focused on combat before you start playing. There is a little bit of combat but not too much, and it’s not a requirement for you to finish the game. There is a warning telling you about a dialogue choice that activates a quest that gets you on a combat section with horror elements, it also says you don’t need to play that to finish the game, like I already mentioned, so that’s pretty nice.
There’s quite a bit of replayability here, there are 4 endings you can achieve, only one of them is canonical, and that is the one I managed to get in my first and only playthrough of the game (at least so far). You travel in time and replay the same day if you fail, don’t worry you learn this quite soon into the game, because you’ll have to fail in order to finish the game. Now, why can you easily fail in The Forgotten City? Well, that would be because of what the citizens in this city call The Golden Rule. What is The Golden Rule? Basically, if a single person sins, everyone is doomed, and that’s where you have to get to a portal to replay the same day now armed with the knowledge of your past tries. Things get a bit messy because there are things that should be considered as sins that don’t trigger The Golden Rule, and things that shouldn’t be considered as sins that do trigger it. That’s the basic premise of the game, but you’ll discover quite a few very interesting and surprising things in your journey, and since the game is story-oriented, I don’t want to spoil too much about what the surprises are. You can get to know where exactly you are, who is responsible for The Golden Rule, how to escape this time loop you got yourself into, how to help the people that need your help and so much more in this great journey.
The Forgotten City is great, the characters, the environments, and objects all look pretty good, you can see how much effort the developers put into the game just by looking at it. The soundtrack did fit the game pretty well, even though my attention was mostly focused on the dialogues and the narrative, it still was pretty good, they did have an original orchestral score and professional voice-acting, which is pretty insane, considering this was this studio’s first project. It’s a very polished game, in my experience with the game, there weren’t many bugs or technical issues, which nowadays, with so many buggy games releasing, is great to see.
What I’m about to tell you is very relevant and quite unbelievable, considering how good this game is, The Forgotten City is developed by a studio formed by only three people. Of course, it took them a long time to develop it, four and a half years, but it was worth it, since the final product is great.
The Forgotten City was a great surprise, with a quality that I didn’t expect, I like mysteries, so I did think I’d be interested in this one, but it surprised me with how well written the story is, how detailed the graphics were and that it was made by only three people. You can play it on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
Dragon Quest XI S
I know it was released in December of 2020, but I needed to include Dragon Quest XI S (I’m going to call it that to make it easier both on me and on you) on this list, since I only got to play it this year, and there weren’t any other games I’ve played this year that captivated me as much as the ones I’ve chosen for this list. It’s worth mentioning that this is the first JRPG to captivate me, at least the first turn-based one, and it was such a long (I played it for around 138 hours of it according to my Xbox stats), but great journey with plenty of content and surprises along the way.
What made Dragon Quest XI S such a great game for me?
For starters, there’s the art style, this game looks undeniably good, the characters, the scenery, the enemies, and everything else has personality, you look at it and you instantaneously see that personality shining through the whole game. You probably thought about the reason why that is the case, and yes, one of the artists of Dragon Quest XI S is Akira Toriyama, the guy behind Dragon Ball, and as soon as I learned that, it made sense why it looked so similar to it.
There are two soundtrack modes, symphonic and orchestral, I recommend the orchestral soundtrack, it sounded overall better than the symphonic one, there’s also the option to have the Dragon Quest VIII soundtrack in this version of the game,which is probably nostalgic to those who were fans of that game. The soundtrack is great, no matter if you’re having a battle with regular enemies, a boss, seeing a cutscene, or just walking around, it fits all situations, although the music played in regular battles can get annoying if you’re grinding or trying a battle over and over again.
This is a JRPG, so as you’d expect there is some complexity to it, like crafting; upgrading characters; upgrading gear; getting items from specific enemies; having a bunch of sidequests; having to grind to continue playing because you may be underleveled for a fight, unless you’ve been doing a lot of secondary stuff and fighting most enemies that get in your way, and a few other things. I personally didn’t mind most of the complexity present here, because I’ve seen games that are way more complex than this one, it’s not as straightforward as an adventure game or a shooter, so, some people won’t like that.
As I briefly mentioned before, the combat in Dragon Quest XI S is turn-based, and I’m usually not into turn-based RPGs, however, this one grabbed me quickly, and I just didn’t mind it being turn-based at all, so, if you’re not usually into turn-based RPGs and you have Xbox Game Pass, you should give it a try, because you may still like it, as I did. There are some special attacks that you can do when you get pepped-up (an animation happens, and the pepped-up character glows blue), all of these attacks have required characters to be pepped-up before you can execute them. You do spend a good time exploring as in any good RPG out there, and that feels good, discovering new places that have new enemies, characters and items is always enjoyable. Don’t worry, fast travel is present as well, only to discovered places, and not everywhere, but in quite a few places, so you don’t need to worry a lot about having to walk to faraway places.
The story is pretty long and has a lot of surprises in it, after watching a cutscene showing your past as a baby and what happened to you then, you learn you are the reincarnation of an ancient hero who once saved the world, and because of that, you’re invited to have an audience with Carnelian, the king of the Kingdom of Heliodor and that’s where you meet your first companion and have the first surprise of the game.
There are a bunch of interesting characters in Dragon Quest XI, but I’ll focus on talking about the playable characters, because despite the main character being The Luminary/The Hero (which you can name him however you want in-game), you can still control the other members of your party, and that’s actually a good thing to do in boss battles.
There’s Erik, who is a thief that can equip knives, one-handed swords, and boomerangs as well as steal items from enemies. Erik is a quick character with powerful attacks, low defense, and has a good amount of HP.
Veronica, who is a mage focused on offensive spells, that can equip heavy wands and whips. Veronica has low HP, low defense, and a good amount of MP, but she can also buff allies and has an ability that can heal all allies later on.
Serena, who is a mage focused on healing spells that can equip wands, shields, and spears. Serena has low physical stats but she does have plenty of spells later on in the game, it’s also worth mentioning that she is Veronica’s sister.
Sylvando, who is a circus performer that I’m not entirely sure what class he can be categorized as, since he can heal but also deal plenty of damage, he can equip whips, knives, and one-handed swords. Sylvando is a quick character with a high charm stat (he is good with charming enemies into attacking each other) who can buff allies and debuff enemies.
Jade, who is a martial artist that can use fisticuffs, and can equip claws and spears. She has high damage and high charm and can only buff herself.
Rab, who is both a martial artist and a mage, he can equip heavy wands and claws. Rab is a middle ground between Serena and Veronica, since he can have a bit of both damage and healing, of course, that depends on how you choose his skills and equipment.
All main characters have their personality, they are all charismatic in their own way, and if something bad happens to any of them you will feel sad about it, that’s how you know they’re all good characters. Also, there’s another playable character that I’m not gonna spoil who it is, and one of the characters changes his/her class quite far into the game, but I also don’t want to spoil who that is.
Dragon Quest XI S is a must for someone who wants to get into turn-based JRPGs but doesn’t know where to start, I haven’t played any other turn-based RPGs after this one yet, but I’m curious about trying them out if they’re near the same fun I had with this one. It’s worth mentioning that after the credits, you get back at the menu, but there is quite a bit of story left to play if you click continue, and it is worth playing it, because a lot happens.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC and it’s also playable on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Also Worth Mentioning
The Yakuza Remastered Collection and Yakuza 6 were both ported to Xbox One, Series X/S, and PC this year, I fell in love with this franchise, so I had to mention this, even though Yakuza 3 wasn’t as interesting as the other ones were for me.
Genesis Noir is a pretty interesting adventure game with noir looks and music that is worth taking a look at.
These games are in this section because I don’t think they have as big of a relevance as the 5 previously mentioned ones.
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