Welcome, one and all, to what I believe are the 9th annual PC Invasion Alternative Awards. Yep: I’ve been doing this crap since at least 2012. I’m as stunned as you are.
For the uninitiated, we don’t really do “Bestest Game Ever, Honest” awards here at PC Invasion. Generally speaking, our line of thinking has been that awards like that are incredibly nebulous and a bit silly. Relying on voting or agreements, even amongst ourselves, is a little rubbish because niche genres and smaller games get overlooked. And putting that aside, comparing Doom Eternal and Microsoft Flight Sim is like comparing a gore-strewn FPS and a flight sim. Which is admittedly also gore-strewn, the way I play it.
So, we don’t do that. A handful of our writers offer up their own picks for games that particularly tickled them throughout the year, so you can see what stood out to any one of us as individuals. And then, we have the Alternative Awards. This is a celebration (and, frequently, a mockery) of the games and events of the year.
Here, we’ll be giving out awards based on whatever criteria we feel like. Within, you’ll discover which game won our coveted award for “Holy Shit, That’s My House”, the Best Game That Made Me Wish Voice Acting Was A Passing Fad, and a whole host of other ridiculous categories and winners.
But let’s open up by revisiting a classic award from a few years back, shall we?
Most Disappointing Lack of Giant Stone Dongs — Immortals Fenyx Rising
Back in 2018, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey welcomed us to a glorious new era of titanic statues in videogames with stone dongs. You could even climb on them. Truly, it was the best of all possible worlds.
It’s fair to say, then, that I had high hopes for Immortals Fenyx Rising. Ubisoft was once more revisiting Greece, and once more, there are giant statues! And you can climb on them! And things are mythological, giving the team an opportunity to truly push the limits of what we can expect from giant stone dongs! But it was not to be. Unless there’s a gargantuan statue tucked away somewhere that I’ve yet to find which happens to be proudly displaying its protruding genitals, there are no dongs to be seen here.
Well, unless you count Hermes, but he’s neither giant nor made of stone.
Most Absurd Number of Artificial Dongs — Cyberpunk 2077
I promise that this year’s Alternative Awards will not be themed entirely around dongs. But since we’re talking about them…
The grim streets of Night City are many things. They’re dangerous and dark, with filthy puddles streaked with the glow from the flickering neon lights above. They’re also buggy, unfinished, and visible mostly at low framerates. And they’re almost literally paved with artificial dongs.
I never thought I’d ask this question, but: why are there so many dildos in this game?
Most Unexpected Cameo — Shadow the Hedgehog (Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp)
Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp is a superb title; a weird hybrid of visual novel, multiplayer board game, and incredibly sophomoric humor. It’s also incredibly clever, diverse, and open. And… it also has some bloody weird events.
Case in point: in my first game, me and my potential love interests needed some shade so we could hang out by the lake. And in a world filled with monsters (and dozens of Shrek movies), what better way to get some shade than by summoning an entity of shadow, eh? Unexpectedly, this resulted in us summoning Shadow the Hedgehog. Yes, that Shadow the Hedgehog.
As it turned out, it was fine. We got some shade, we hung out in the lake, and we “talked shit about the sun and Sonic.” I even got some boosts to my Fun and Smarts stats.
This is one of the many, many hundreds of ridiculous events that Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp can throw your way, but it definitely caught me by surprise. Hopefully it won’t also catch Sega by surprise — although given their recent stances on things, I suspect they might just find it funny and endearing.
Most Clearly Villainous Goat — Star Seeker in: the Secret of the Sorcerous Standoff
Star Seeker in: the Secret of the Sorcerous Standoff may not be my GO(a)TY, but it was a fun as hell diversion for two hours. It’s effectively a short and simple Phoenix Wright-style case; a one-room magical murder mystery in which you present evidence to answer questions, and hopefully find the solution.
Except there are no penalties for being wrong. Indeed, as there’s unique (and funny) dialogue for every possible piece of evidence to every question, you’re arguably encouraged to be wrong. Which is why I have accused the goat in the corner of being the murderer, the murder weapon, the way the fire started, the reason for the weird hologram in the corner, and basically everything else possible.
I mean, look at its face up there when I accuse it. You can tell it’s hiding something. It’s clearly responsible for the horrors that took place in that room, and I will accuse it of everything until something sticks.
If you need a few good laughs over the course of two hours, you can do a lot worse than spending $5 USD on Star Seeker. And no, I’m not just being capra-icious with this award.
Best Wizard – Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Twice)
Yakuza: Like a Dragon has a lot going for it. Excellent writing, excellent characters, a solid JRPG foundation, and the usual Yakuza charm. It also has the two best wizards in gaming.
One thing you unlock relatively early on is the Sujidex, which is definitely not a Pokémon reference. This encyclopedia of people who make you feel Super Jittery (hence Sujidex) is effectively an enemy bestiary, and one of the first you’re likely to add to this is courtesy of a substory. This substory involves a man who keeps peeing in the river, and you need to make him stop. His name, when added to the Sujidex? Piss Wizard.
The other superb wizard of Yakuza: Like a Dragon is Nanba, one of the first party members you’ll meet. While you can customize characters as you see fit, Nanba’s exclusive job class is “Homeless Guy.” He fights with an umbrella that he holds like a cane, and he uses “magic.” Magic like flinging breadcrumbs at an enemy so a swarm of pigeons swoop down and peck the shit out of them.
That’s the sort of black magic I like to see.
Coolest Indie Horror Idea — Dread X Collection
There’s a lot of indie horror out there. Enough that it’s pretty much its own genre. Enough that, if you factor in itch.io, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of the biggest genres. So, I have a lot of praise for the three Dread X Collection games, which have done some very clever things within this bloated group.
Specifically: a carefully curated group of developers are given a game jam-style subject (“PT”, “Lovecrafting”, and “Spoopy” so far) and a short timeframe in which to assemble a game. Those games are then packaged up with a framing device — which is a game in itself — and then sold.
Now, selling a game jam might seem contentious, but for one thing the price isn’t high, and for another thing the quality is. Again, this isn’t just a random game jam. This is a set of high-quality developers (World of Horror dev panstasz has a game in Dread X Collection 2, for instance) making what are generally short, memorable experiences, which occasionally blur the lines of what horror is. There’s a Cthulhu dating game, a Harvester-like adventure, a Super Mario 64-esque platformer (that goes predictably wrong), and a game about hunting squirrels so you can staple them to a corpse. That’s just four of them. And there are weirder.
Basically, each Dread X Collection is a lot of short, unique games bundled together into a decently lengthy experience. If the deluge of mediocre horror is too much for you, I highly recommend trying one or two of these collections out. Not everything in there will be to your taste, and not everything in them is necessarily scary (especially in the “Spoopy” collection, which walks a line between horror and humor) but I can all but guarantee you’ll find something in each to tickle your fancy.
Most Unfortunately Timed Game Release — Fuser
Oh, Fuser. I had such high hopes. I still have such high hopes, in fact, because it’s one of my favorite games of the year. Anything that can make a musically inept idiot like me feel like some sort of wax-spinning legend, while actually having me create music instead of press buttons along to music, deserves acclaim. But good grief, did it release at the wrong time.
In case you missed it: earlier this year, Twitch was hit with multiple waves of DMCA takedowns, bans, and other sorts of legal troubles with regards to streaming copyrighted content. Even now, people are getting muted or receiving copyright claims or takedowns on VODs over the sound of crickets or blowing wind. As such, streaming any sort of music game is a veritable minefield that can risk your entire channel.
Which sucks, a lot, because Fuser is the perfect game for streaming. Why do a digital set in front of a screaming virtual crowd when you can do one in front of real people, albeit over the internet? Well, because you’ll almost certainly get slapped with a DMCA claim. If it had released a year earlier I suspect Fuser would’ve managed a pretty dedicated viewerbase.
Harmonix did release guidelines on how to stream it with relative safety, but those effectively come down to: “Either stick with this small selection of songs, or have zero monetization on your channel. No bits or subs or anything.” And if Twitch runs ads, as it may well do regardless? Well, that might be considered a breach.
I have serious hopes that Fuser finds a niche anyway because it’s fucking great as a music creation tool for amateurs and as a fun way to mess around with things and make stuff that sounds cool, and it has entertaining multiplayer. I want DLC. I want a sequel. I want more. And, yes, I want to stream it. But the DMCA risks are honestly too high, and I’m worried that Fuser is just going to fade into the background because it’s just too dangerous to show off to people.
I also hope that our horrendously broken copyright laws are fixed, but I feel like that’s a very thin hope. At least in the near future.
Best Game That Made Me Wish Voice Acting Was A Passing Fad — XCOM: Chimera Squad
XCOM: Chimera Squad is, by and large, a really good “light” version of XCOM. It pares down both the tactical and strategic layers, focusing on quicker upgrades and strategic decisions on the city map, and emphasizing breach tactics on the tactical maps. As a cheap testbed for new XCOM ideas, it’s a treat.
There’s just one problem: the voices. Holy shit, the voices. To be clear, this isn’t a knock against the voice actors: it’s a knock at the writing and direction. XCOM was never a particularly light-hearted game (either aliens with superior numbers and firepower are invading and you’re the only ones who can stop them in an incredibly desperate campaign, or the aliens have won and you’re the underfunded and increasingly desperate resistance). XCOM: Chimera Squad… kind of is. Every one of the unique soldiers under your command is full of wisecracks and sass, and every one is pretty much a caricature. And not in a good way.
XCOM: Chimera Squad feels like the Saturday morning cartoon version of XCOM — which the comic-style cutscenes don’t help with at all — and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The game is great as a light slice of tactical door-kicking. But the tone and writing is a weird and seriously uncomfortable shift for this series, and I’d vastly prefer the game if it had no dialogue at all.
“What Took You So Fucking Long” Game Award for 2020 — Persona 4: Golden
I was honestly beginning to doubt we’d ever see a Persona game hit PC. Not because it was taking a while, but because Shin Megami Tensei games seem to stick to one console manufacturer at a time. The Persona games (including the re-releases of the earliest ones) have only turned up on PlayStation, PSP, and Vita systems. Shin Megami Tensei 4 and Apocalypse were only on 3DS. Shin Megami Tensei 5 looks like a Switch exclusive. We’d get dribs and drabs from Sega, for sure; a Bayonetta here, a Vanquish there, and eventually even Catherine.
And then the leaks happened. And then the announcement happened. Persona 4: Golden, on PC, right at the time of the announcement.
It’s not without its problems, but getting one of the best console JRPGs onto the PC (12 years later) gives me hope that we’ll eventually see more of the series transition across. And if the last few years have shown anything, it’s that more and more publishers — especially in Japan — are beginning to take the PC as a very serious platform. Here’s hoping Sega continues its trend and pushes for more of Atlus’ JRPGs (Persona and beyond) to make a move to the PC. The company has certainly indicated as such, stating that after Persona 4 Golden‘s “sales were much stronger than expected” it would consider PC to be more of a priority in future.
“What Took You So Fucking Long” Game Award for 2021 — Yakuza 3, 4, 5, 6
Speaking of games coming to PC after far too bloody long: Yakuza! Honestly, this one felt kind of inevitable considering we (eventually) got Yakuza 0, Kiwami, and Kiwami 2, plus Like a Dragon from the new series. But as of next year we’ll actually be able to finish Kiryu’s tale with Yakuza 3, 4, 5, and 6.
I’m not expecting great things from the middle trilogy considering the aging engine the remastered ones use (and 4 and 5 are… honestly a little weak and poorly paced), but the excellent Yakuza 6 might have some shiny bells and whistles. And at a minimum I’d expect the lot to fly along at 60+ fps. We’ll find out in 2021.
Best Game That Didn’t Come Out This Year But Is In Every Game Awards List Anyway — Among Us
I get the sense that a lot of people kinda forgot that Among Us is actually two years old, but it wasn’t until this year that it took off like a rocket (filled with horrible murderous imposters). I’m giving it a pass here because we’re not just covering games of this year, but events and event games of this year, and its sheer popularity certainly makes it an event game.
Thanks to a combination of streamers discovering it, and lockdown propelling more people towards social online games, Among Us‘ popularity soared. And you know what? With friends, it’s a really good fun game of social deduction, arguing, and outright lying.
Award for “Holy Shit, That’s My House” — Microsoft Flight Simulator
If there’s one thing about Microsoft Flight Simulator that I think intrigued basically everyone (including people like me who pass out at the sight of too many dials), it was the photogrammetry. And even putting that aside, it manages to draw enough from aerial photography to make most regions look just about right, assuming you don’t bump into one of the weird vortices of horror that occur when things go a bit wrong.
As such, I think just about anyone who has access to it (for example, via Xbox Game Pass PC for Windows Ultra Hyper Fighting Edition or whatever they’re calling it now) has probably fired it up at least once to see if they can find their house. If you’re in one of the major areas that’s been rendered super accurately, you might just succeed. And if not… well, you’ll probably still be able to find something that approximates it. That is, honestly, quite an achievement.
Best Method of Establishing Dominance — Microsoft Flight Simulator
So, what do you do after you find your house? Find the houses of your friends! And then crash a plane into them. And then send them screenshots of this calamitous event.
Bonus points if they have no idea what Microsoft Flight Simulator is. They may think you’re a sorcerer.
Award for “Holy Shit, That’s My House” (Rural Edition) — TT Isle of Man Ride on the Edge 2
If, like me, you don’t actually live anywhere where Microsoft Flight Simulator‘s photogrammetry works, there are some alternatives. I mean, Microsoft Flight Simulator does a pretty good job of drawing from photography to make any region at all playable and pretty accurate, but you’re not going to get to see super accurate buildings or terrain.
Praise be to TT Isle of Man Ride on the Edge 2, which does a damned good job of converting the Isle of Man’s TT course (which is a motorbike race on public roads) into digital format. Which means those of us who live on the Isle of Man — large swathes of which can accurately described as “the rural side of rural” — can actually see surprisingly good representations of familiar buildings. Including houses. Any that are in the distance are a bit off, but a fair few that are along the course are fairly well realized, even if some of the old Victorian townhouses have lost a story or two.
And I’ll say this: it’s surprisingly eerie to play a video game and drive down streets you know, pubs you’ve visited, and see houses you used to live in. Almost as eerie as the fact that one of the playable riders is an old friend of mine.
Best Sisyphean Task In A Game That Actually Contains Sisyphus — Hades
Most roguelikes and roguelites can be described as a Sisyphean task, albeit without the implications of being unrewarding (unless they’re shit). They’re definitely damn near unending, though, as you go through the same steps again and again before the rock that is your life bar plummets to zero and you return to the start.
Hades definitely isn’t shit. It’s also definitely not unending, but you will die, die, and die some more before you help Zagreus make his escape. So, a Sisyphean task. Sort of. Look, shut up; I know it’s not really a Sispyhean task.
Anyway, the point is that Hades also… actually contains Sisyphus. And he’s actually a fairly cheery guy, for someone whose punishment was to roll a boulder uphill for all eternity because it keeps falling down just as he nears the summit. Maybe he just sees a kindred spirit in Zagreus and, by extension, you: repeatedly performing a nearly fruitless task, over and over and over again.
Funniest Patch Notes That Somehow Relate to Child Murder and Incest — Crusader Kings III
There are generally two sorts of games that have hilarious patch notes. The first are games that are broken beyond belief (“Andrea will no longer glide in place after being stunned by a moth” and “Jennifer no longer has the ability to attack after she has been killed” — thanks, Remothered: Broken Porcelain). The second are games with ludicrously complicated systems that often interlink in unforeseen ways.
Step right up, Crusader Kings III. It’s hard to cherry-pick particular ones from these baffling and hilarious fixes, if only because you can effectively lob a dart in the general direction of those patch notes and find something that’ll send your eyebrows into your hairline. (Note: PC Invasion does not condone or recommend lobbing darts at your monitor.)
So here’s a quick selection. Mostly focused on children, admittedly.
- Head of Faith looks at incest as a divorce reason based on faith’s doctrines.
- You can no longer mistake your infant child for a serial killer.
- You will no longer refer to yourself as your wife’s ex-husband if you marry her when she’s your concubine.
- It’s now easier to divorce openly incestuous spouses.
- Told the AI that considering the threat of enemies when you’re at sea makes some sense even if they can’t get to you while you remain at sea.
- Gave the AI dancing lessons.
- Children who reincarnate as an ancestor with sinful traits now acknowledge that isn’t actually a good thing.
- Children are no longer encouraged to pick up more spouses.
- Children can no longer be granted a bishopric as they are too young to handle both managerial tasks and religious duties.
- Children can no longer start a literalist debate.
- Infertile spouses will now no longer wish each other ‘a long life and many children’.
One of these days I might finally be able to play one of these games. Alas, the last time I tried playing Europa Universalis II I blacked out and woke up in a field 12 hours later, naked and covered in blood. So maybe it’s for the best that I don’t.
Probably the Best Game of the Year Even Though I Haven’t Played It Yet — Calico
I don’t actually have much to say about Calico, because I haven’t played it yet, but I’m damn well going to as soon as I get time. It’s a game about rebuilding and managing a cat café! And hanging out with NPCs, and rescuing cats, and making potions and stuff!
I’m honestly expecting it to be a bit buggy and flawed and maybe not the best game of the year, but I don’t care. It’s like someone turned my brain into a game. Not sure I want to address the ethics of running a cat café in a world that appears to be full of anthropomorphic animals, though.
Best/Worst Spiders of 2020 — Kill It With Fire
Kill It With Fire worried the hell out of me on announcement. As an arachnophobe, it simultaneously seemed like the perfect game for me (remove spiders from existence through ridiculous means!) and also the absolute worst thing imaginable (remove spiders...)
For a fearer of the Nightmare Beasts With Eight Legs, though, it actually turned out to be mostly okay for me. Okay, yes, it has invisible spiders, and jumping spiders, and all sorts of other creepy shit. It even has jumpscare chords when they suddenly appear. On the other hand, you rarely have to get up close and personal with them because you have a slew of weapons at your disposal, ranging from frying pans all the way up to aerosol flamethrowers, C4, and rocket launchers. Does your spider scanner detect spiders in that shelf? No problem. Fire a rocket at it.
It also helped that the spiders aren’t actually aggressive. Kill It With Fire isn’t a game where spiders can hurt you; the worst they’ll do is web you to block your vision and then run away. But that’s obviously still too much for some, and thankfully, the devs added in a number of arachnophobe-friendly options. You can turn the spiders into colored blobs, completely disable their sounds, and disable the jump scare chords.
And then blast the scuttling nightmare horrors into hell with C4.
Absolutely the Worst Spiders of 2020 — Grounded
I haven’t played Grounded because my general reaction to even small spiders is along the lines of “No no no NO NO NO FUCK OFF FUCK OFF FUCKOFFFUCKOFFFUCKOFUFKCOFDFSG,” and I’m told it has some of the nastiest in the biz. As such, I’ll leave it up to our editor-in-chief, Cameron Woolsey, to explain why Grounded deserves this award. And please bear in mind that, unlike me, he doesn’t have arachnophobia. (Or at least he didn’t until he played Grounded.)
Tim, Grounded‘s spiders easily take the Worst trophy. And fucking murder it. Because they’re horrible. There are spiders in the water, Tim! In. The. Water. Nothing is safe. Nowhere is safe. It’s fucking spiders all the way down.
Cam wasn’t content to leave it there after I asked him for a few words on why Grounded deserves this. He then went on to quote his own news post on the recent-ish patch that added spiders to the water, which means we need another screenshot to break up this block of text. Unfortunately, most of the screenshots we have in our gallery are full of spiders because Cam hates me.
In Grounded, there are few dangers more horrifying than the wandering wolf spiders that hunt you down if you stray too close to their territory. Once you’re in their crosshairs, your only solace was to get to higher ground. Or, depending on where you are, you could escape by leaping into the pond. You were safe there. But after today’s Early Access update 0.4, a.k.a. the Koi Pond update, you are faced with the sickening truth: you aren’t safe from spiders anywhere. Not anymore.
Leave it to the giggling, clearly hateful developers of Obsidian to remove another vestige of safety in Grounded. The Koi Pond update completely recreates the large pond biome that lies to the north of the map. Its shores were already a part of wolf spider territory, making it a safe haven from the scurrying bastards. But do you know what’s in the pond now? That’s right, more fucking spiders.
Well, I’m convinced. I’m never playing Grounded.
I’m also never asking Cam about it again because I’ll get another 13 paragraphs of text about how awful its spiders are.
Also Somehow the Best Spiders of 2020? — Grounded
The weird thing is that… Grounded also gives really good options for making the spiders less horrifying. (Or at least far less likely to trigger arachnophobia. They’re still murderous bastards, at least according to the seven extra paragraphs of text I got from Cam when he saw this award.)
The “Arachnophobia Safe Mode” shown above lets you adjust the spiders’ visuals and audio via slider, changing them from realistic monstrosities that tower above your puny shrunken humans into, uh… a pair of untextured blobs. Presumably without spider-y sound effects. I’m not going to lie: I suspect that seeing one of these not-a-spiders would fill me with confused terror, but at least it wouldn’t set off my arachnophobia.
Bonus points, too, for the options not actually showing you what the spiders look like unless you click on a specific red warning to see them. Lots of thought has clearly been put into this. I remain unsure if it’s better or worse than Satisfactory‘s arachnophobia mode that overlays a glitchy, static sprite of a cat over the spiders, because let’s face it, that’s terrifying in its own right. But I’m always happy to see arachnophobe-friendly modes in games.
Best Update/Reimagining of a Classic — Trials of Mana, Command & Conquer Remastered Collection, The Wonderful 101: Remastered, Resident Evil 3, Streets of Rage 4, Desperados 3 (Joint winners)
Look, 2020 was full of remakes, remasters, updates, and reimaginings, and I have no idea which one of the many games I could possibly pick as a “winner.” Hell, I’m sure I’ve missed some off this list. So! They all win, and they all get a little bit of info about them.
Trials of Mana finally brought Seiken Densetsu 3 to the west, in lovely 3D form. While different to the original, it’s apparently quite good! Command & Conquer Remastered Collection is a love letter to the old real-time strategy series, not only bringing it up to date in terms of resolution and the like, but remastering the FMV cutscenes and including a lot of bonus footage and outtakes. The Wonderful 101: Remastered brings the Wii U classic to a system that more than six people own, and apparently does it really well. Resident Evil 3 changes the original heavily and removes the bastard hateful spiders, and while it has its shortcomings (like “length”), it’s still a fun return to Raccoon City.
Finally, two full-on sequels. Streets of Rage 4 and Desperados 3 are both far, far better than they have any right to be. They capture the magic of their predecessor titles but pull them kicking and screaming into the modern era.
I’m less surprised about Desperados 3 because Mimimi Games previously made the stunning Shadow Tactics, which was basically a Desperados/Commandos game anyway, so it’s not too surprising that they got that absolutely fucking spot-on. But as the countless dreadful brawlers on Steam show, it’s really easy to screw up something like Streets of Rage. Dotemu did not screw it up. It has great music, great action, lots of nods to the franchise past (including retro versions of characters), and updates the classic brawling style with new systems and mechanics that make sense and feel fitting. Which is, frankly, a success on the level of a Herculean labor.
“Definitely Not A Ubisoft Game” Award for a New Mechanic That Works First Time — Watch Dogs: Legion
Ubisoft has an… unfortunate habit. Usually, whenever a Ubisoft game tries something new and interesting, the initial game in which this shiny new thing appears is a bit crap. Normally, the first game (The Crew, Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed, arguably Assassin’s Creed Origins) is a little bit duff. It takes a sequel before Ubisoft figures out how to polish the new mechanics and also integrate it into interesting game systems, effectively creating what the first game should’ve been. I say this affectionately as I have a fondness for Ubisoft games (including some of the ones that have a bit of a rough first entry in the series, like Splinter Cell) but it’s hard not to see a huge leap in quality between, say, Assassin’s Creed and Assassin’s Creed II.
So this award honors a game with a shiny new mechanic that actually works first try — so, clearly not a Ubisoft game. And this year, it goes to Watch Dogs: Legion! Which… hang on, it’s a Ubisoft game? Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Regardless, my point stands. Watch Dogs: Legion tries to create a big living city, with people who remember your actions and are all connected to each other. And through some miracle, it actually works. If you punch out a guard, they’ll remember this and be your enemy for life, possibly even hating you enough to track down DedSec members and cause you problems in future. And your punching them will definitely skew the opinions of everyone they know, meaning you’ll have to do more work if you want to recruit one of them to your cause. But it also works in your favour: save someone who’s being harassed by Albion soldiers and anyone who knows them is going to have a higher opinion of DedSec and will be a lot easier to recruit.
I’m pretty sure the underlying systems make you more likely to bump into people who’ve got opinions of you because of actions you’ve taken, but that doesn’t stop it being really neat when you scan somebody and discover that they’re the sister of someone you helped out earlier. It’s a bit like the Shadow of Mordor/Shadow of War Nemesis mechanic, but a bit shallower as it doesn’t really impact combat mechanics. That said, it’s also a lot broader as it applies to literally every single NPC you ever see, and when it works (which is almost all of the time) it’s super fucking cool.
2020 Award for Making Your Game Stupendously Functional — Cyberpunk 2077
Whoops. Never mind.
Okay, No, Actual 2020 Award for Making Your Game Functional — Tekken 7
While there’s plenty of discussion about which fighting games still do netcode better, the general consensus among people I know is that the latest update to Tekken 7 has vastly improved online play. By “vastly improved,” it makes intercontinental matches perfectly playable, while matches to players nearer to you are, in the words of one friend of mine, “almost like couch play.”
I can’t speak to this myself what with not playing Tekken 7, but it’s a conversation that’s popped up a lot in a number of the circles I’m in. So, kudos to Bandai Namco’s Tekken team for updating this 2017 game with netcode that has, reportedly, vastly improved the experience.
Another nice revisit to a game that won an Alternative Award three years ago for the best button prompt: lobbing your child into a volcano.
Best Game Awards of 2020 — Literally anything but The Game Awards
And this year, as with almost every year, the best game awards are absolutely anything that’s not The Game Awards.
Serious time. I would love for this industry to have a genuine, serious awards show. The Game Awards is not it. The Game Awards is so far away from it that The Game Awards wouldn’t be able to see it using the Giant Magellan Telescope.
Credit where it’s due: this year was somewhat less hateful than before, with no awards given away off-screen while in the middle of advertising breaks for eBay. The Global Gaming Citizens segments were legitimately great. The few moments where people could actually talk about the awards they’d received were pleasant and deserved.
That’s about all the positives I’ve got. So, let’s look at some of the negatives, and I really do mean “some” because I could go on for paragraphs. There were 11 awards given away in the pre-show. Most awards rattled off five-in-a-row so that we have more time for trailers and reveals. The awards themselves focused largely on the biggest AAA games, with only a few smaller games (Hades and Among Us, mostly) sneaking in, and this isn’t the first time that The Game Awards have nominated games that weren’t actually released this year. Hell, in past years, nominees have included games that were cancelled before the awards began.
In short: the awards themselves are not even remotely the focus of the show. The awards were largely self-congratulatory masturbation for larger studios, but that’s fine because they weren’t the fucking point of the show.
The awards of The Game Awards are a thin veneer that I can only assume is meant to give respectability to what is actually just a slew of trailers and reveals, which I strongly suspect is where the money comes from. And at this point I’m cynical enough about the show to believe it’s very much about the money.
I am fairly certain (and I’m speaking without hyperbole here) that I spend more time thinking about the awards for this avowedly silly article than the people behind The Game Awards do thinking about the awards for what is supposedly an awards show. And this is without me talking about how badly the bloody thing needs an editor to both chop down the runtime and adjust the pacing.
Again: I’d love for a good, genuine game awards show, with a focus on the huge amount of talented people that work in the industry that I love, and the exquisite works that they produce. But The Game Awards isn’t it, and at this point it’s so far gone that I don’t think it can be rescued and turned into that. Just rename this to “E3 In December” and be done with it.
Award for Not Calling Your MMO Expansion “Shadowsomething” — The Elder Scrolls Online: Gates of Oblivion
As noted above, The Game Awards fill me with bile and misery every year. But this year, when a trailer for The Elder Scrolls Online started up, I got a different sort of creeping worry. Was this new content drop going to be yet another MMO expansion prefixed with “Shadow,” after Shadowlands and Shadowbringers and (arguably) Shadowkeep?
The Oblivion logo appeared. Was this going to be Shadow of Oblivion? Or Shadowblivion or something equally fucking daft?
No! It’s Gates of Oblivion! And I was relieved and satisfied.
Most Immersion-breaking Cameos and Absurdly Dated References — Cyberpunk 2077
I suppose I make one thing clear: I actually quite like Cyberpunk 2077, despite the fact that I’ve poked at it so much throughout these awards. Yes, it’s buggy and broken. Yes, it has a lot of flaws, like the underbaked combat and stealth and… well, lots of things. But it’s got a pretty solid atmosphere, some good writing, some good characters, and I’ve generally just been having fun with it.
However, the one thing it probably didn’t need was a lot of self-indulgent cameos and references. And I don’t mean “hidden stuff squirreled away in graffiti.”
The cameos aren’t too bad, mostly; if you don’t recognize who they are, it won’t be a big deal. It’s a little immersion-breaking to see Hideo Kojima (above) sitting in a bar talking pretentiously about turning braindances into art, but okay. Fine. If you don’t know it’s Kojima, it works. But (and I’m not going to spoil the specifics) there are others that made me cringe inwardly.
There’s one specific one I have in mind. Again, I’m not going to spoil the specifics, so let’s just say it’s a reference which is so dated and boring that people had stopped using it 10 years ago. And this isn’t tucked away in some corner where you can feel clever for finding it, or hidden in one particular dialogue choice (as with a number of other groanworthy references). It’s a fully voiced character in a fairly major sidequest. And it’s the most dreadful self-indulgent bullshit.
Weirdest Accidental Rehash of the Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines Launch — Cyberpunk 2077
Weird little thought, this, but: if there’s one thing that Cyberpunk 2077 actually reminds me of, it’s not Skyrim or Deus Ex (though both are fair comparisons). It’s Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, especially at launch. Albeit without the whole “overshadowed by being released on the same day as Half-Life 2” thing.
Hear me out: ambitious RPG with a pretty heavy focus on atmosphere, character traits, conversation, and finding alternate routes through missions. Buggy as hell with performance issues everywhere. Rather janky combat and stealth, and a “powers” system that’s more than a little iffy. Am I talking about Cyberpunk 2077, or Bloodlines?
I have this sneaking suspicion that if Cyberpunk 2077 hadn’t been hyped up for the last eight years… actually, let’s expand that. If it was an unknown game by a largely unknown studio that just kind of appeared, it’d be considered a cult classic, and over the next year or two people would be strongly encouraging you to check it out as a neat-but-flawed game that got overlooked. Even with much worse graphics and fewer celebrities. Especially.
To paraphrase Darkest Dungeon, overhype is a slow and insidious killer.
Best Game I Still Haven’t Bloody Written About For Some Insane Reason — Mythgard
Fucking hell. I have been wanting to writing about Mythgard since it was in Early Access. I’ve been wanting to write about it since last year. So, I’m going to endeavor to do a little bit of that right here, right now.
Mythgard is a digital CCG and– no, wait, please come back. Look. It’s a CCG, but it’s a tremendously good one. It’s easily my favorite of the current offerings, and it’s arguably one of the best outright.
Even in Early Access, Mythgard had plenty of features that some of the bigger digital CCGs were missing at the time, like friends lists, solid AI play, a singleplayer campaign, and more. I’m not going to go too deep into the mechanics here, but it very much has its own approach to things and some excellent little twists that remove a lot of the familiar problems. Many of which are reliant on the fact that it’s purely digital.
For instance, it’s much harder to get mana-locked. Every turn you can effectively shuffle a card from your hand back into your deck, and this permanently increases your maximum mana by one. Get a hand full of high-power cards? Well, until you can actually use them, those can effectively be used as Magic: The Gathering-style land. Throw in a Shadowrun-styled mix of cyberpunk and myths (Chinese tongs, cyber ninjas, futuristic militaries, Greek gods, corporate vampires, and Russian werewolves all make appearances), and some of the best bloody card art I’ve ever seen, and you’ve got something that anyone who appreciates a good CCG should definitely check out.
From my experience, the player base has been tremendously friendly and there’s a huge amount of variety in here. There’s a good amount of AIs to battle it out with, there are free community decks to play with each week, and accruing more cards can be done pretty steadily without needing to plonk down cash.
Mythgard is excellent, and I feel genuinely bad about not writing about it more.
Best Card Art, Because This Game Needs Another Award — Mythgard
Seriously. Just look at this card art.
Most Amusing Alternate Character Appearances — Horizon Zero Dawn
This one probably could’ve gone to Cyberpunk as well, what with tits clipping through shirts and so on, but the early bugs with Horizon Zero Dawn are a little too entertaining to pass up. I never hit these myself, but our Andrew definitely did, with his machine having some… issues… rendering hair. (And towers. And scenery.)
Or, if you want to look on the bright side: characters change their hairstyles in new and interesting ways! Sometimes, in real time!
As far as I know this was patched out a while back, so this award is in remembrance of those glorious early days, where people’s hair shriveled up into loops of dried pasta.
Obligatory Dark Souls Award for Being Dark Souls — Dark Souls, probably?
It wouldn’t be the PC Invasion Alternative Awards if I didn’t find some flimsy excuse to give an award to Dark Souls. Even though we haven’t had a FromSoft Soulsborne game come out this year.
Look, these are my awards and I’ll do what I like. Leave me alone.