2021 Quarterlies! Vote for Qt3’s Best Game of 2021: “All these worlds are yours. Except Europa. Attempt no landing there.”

Both are excellent. I replayed Kingmaker last month and it holds up great - it’s also slightly better, though I’m probably in the minority, there.

I think the biggest improvement in Wrath are the UI improvements that help explain the Pathfinder mechanics which were mostly absent in Kingmaker.

So as to your question, I’d lean to Kingmaker as it’s fully baked at this point.

  1. Ys IX: Monstrum Nox
    The most confident (and existential) entry in the Ys series to date. Rivals Zelda at its best in its design, striving towards a majestic scope all of its own.
  2. Balan Wonderworld
    You heard me.
  3. Chivalry II
    At its very best with 64-player nonsense. Flailing limbs. Weirdly the best fighting game I played all year? There’s a button just for screaming!
  4. Adios
    I wanted to tell my family and my partner I loved them after playing this. Best voice performances of any game I have played.
  5. Earth Defence Force: World Brothers
    Playing EDF with my partner is one of our mainstays. This is a great little pivot! Streamlined, Legos-esque EDF with a boatload of personality in its presentation and huggable script.

Worth mentioning I also liked:
Dungeon Encounters
Mon Amour
Samurai Warriors 5

  1. Demon Roots - Didn’t think a random Doujin game would rank this high but the story and writing was top notch. The random H-scenes are actually more of a distraction than anything else but they can be turned off entirely if desired. An impressive feat for a RPGMaker game
  2. Legion TD 2 - What can I say? I’m addicted to the standalone version of a 15+ year old WC3 mod
  3. The Riftbreaker - I burned out on the game near the end but the first 20 hours or so was amazing
  4. Halo Infinite - The story is non-sensical but the gunplay is great
  5. Forgotten City
  1. Hitman 3 - Basically the only game from 2021 I played, but also a great, great game that’s part of a great, great trilogy.

I knew it! I knew it!

It wasn’t long ago that I feeling bummed, thinking that PC gaming and I were headed in different directions, that today’s gaming trends ran counter to my tastes in entertainment. Then just as the real world seemed to fall apart, 2021 brings me safe harbor from the real world in the form of three of my favorite games ever. Old World was fascinating and brilliant, and, to be honest, had an impact on my life roughly equivalent to making good friends with an addictive street drug. First I played it as an “experience” and then Velociryx turned me towards a harder core approach to dealing with the details. I was obsessed. Until one day I ran across a reference to this weird-sounding update to Master of Magic, and I figured I’d take a quick peek. Never mind methadone, an afternoon with Caster of Magic, and I was totally off my Old World addiction. Unfortunately, this cure also cured me of the desire to see friends or family. So I guess that, as great as I think Old World is, I have to rate Caster of Magic for Windows even higher. Despite its in-your-face “we don’t care about sales” title. Given my obsession, I was almost sad to see that Gloomhaven had finally released their main campaign. A year ago, I had played their EA stuff, but I set it aside not wanting to spoil the real release. But now I was not in the mood for any non-Caster activity. But as luck would have it, one evening I had a spare few minutes and decided to have a quick look-see. I have not played Caster since, so I guess that makes Gloomhaven my #1. Although it seems absurd that games as stupendous and life-destroying as Caster and Old World could be anything other than #1s.

  1. Gloomhaven
    A superb but somewhat impractical board game which turned out to be far more playable as a digital game. I suspect that I sit right in the sweet spot: I played enough TT to have a feel for a lot of inner workings that are not all that clear to first-time digital players. But I did not play enough TT to spoil most of the missions. And as a retiree, I have time to sit and ponder each mission (and each meta-game decision) at length. In any case, months after release, I still daydream about my current mission as I do chores, and my dreams play out on Gloomhaven-like tiles. It’s an illness. The thing with Gloomhaven is that they have nailed all the areas: tactical battles are gripping, the meta-game is deep and immersive, and the atmosphere, particularly the narration and voice acting are way, way better than I am used to in video games. On the other hand, I know that my love of the game has something to do with my growing distaste for the direction of computer role playing games. The more you are in love with the recent crpgs, the less I would recommend the game to you. It looks like a dungeon crawler, but it plays more like chess. With chess pieces hungry for gold and hoping to retire early.

  2. Caster of Magic for Windows
    One of the the classics, rewritten so as to provide fierce AI opponents. Yeah, the graphics are what they are, but what a deep and challenging game. It’s a crying shame how little attention this game got, but I suppose a game with these visuals is going to have a limited audience. Yet, I love 4X and there has never before been a 4X that came close to providing this kind of resistance from the AI, nor as many truly useful tools at your disposal to deal with your enemies. Gone are the MoM days where you pretty much won the game during setup and character creation; no matter what combination of magics and abilities, you will face enemies who possess counters to your plan, and you better make sure you have counters to their plans! The game is far more magic focused than the original, which seems fitting. And it can be played on a much larger map against far more opponents.

  3. Old World
    Like Caster, a dramatic advance for the 4X genre. Late game slog has been much reduced. Turtling strategies have been undercut by events, such that you always have to be on your toes, there’s steady tension. Unlike Civ VI, all the pieces fit together, and, to steal from Lester Freamon, all the pieces matter. None of the game systems are just shoehorned in just for the heck of it. Families are an especially enjoyable addition, and although I know that not everyone agreed, I thought that the CK-style drama really helped the game. Barbarians and barb clans offered a fun challenge, but it often seemed like, in the end, rival nations less so.

  4. Trials of Fire
    What @moss_icon already said

#5 Guildmaster mode of Gloomhaven
Yeah, not really a vote because it’s not its own separate game. Even if it has a dramatically different feel to it. The non-campaign half of Gloomhaven strikes me as a tepid knockoff lacking the soul, style, and inspiration of the original. But it’s still an above average tactical battle game and grabs me more than my next-favorite game, Humankind. And it is a game you can play for a short time, have fun, and then set aside, which does not work so well for my top four. Just don’t use it to learn how to play the main campaign, because you will probably come away with all the wrong lessons. In Guildmaster, forget chess, just hit them with your best shot.

  1. Remnants of the Precursors – Bang for the buck here is literally infinite
  2. Gloomhaven – Now I suck at both the physical and digital versions of this game
  3. Inscryption – Haven’t peeled back the layers yet, since I only bought it a few weeks ago, but the card game is well done and the rest seems intriguing
  4. Caster of Magic – Thrilled this exists
  5. Slipways – A great supply chain puzzle

Realizing my top five cost a grand total of $35:

  • Remnants - literally free thanks to @Ray_Fowler
  • Gloomhaven $16 on a Steam sale when it was in early access in 2020
  • Inscryption – $6 with Epic coupon during sale
  • Caster of Magic – $6 on a Steam sale along with the base game
  • Slipways $7 with Epic coupon during sale

Gaming can be a very affordable hobby at times.

  1. Wildermyth
  2. Curious Expedition 2
  3. Ghosts of Tsushima Director’s Cut
  4. The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante
  5. Football Manager 2022
  1. Wildermyth - One of my favorite games of all time. This is like someone ran a project where the goal was to make a game I would love.
  2. Unpacking - I hate that boyfriend more than nearly any other character in a video game, and he never even appears.
  3. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous - Good munchkin pathfinder fun
  4. Gloomhaven - I missed playing in-person Gloomhaven, so this was nice.
  5. Tux and Fanny - This one makes the list because my 11-year-old was completely enraptured by this game for weeks. It sounds great, but I haven’t reclaimed the Switch to play it.

Psychonauts 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy are sitting on my to-play list. There’s a chance they’ll crack the top 5 by the voting deadline.

A while back I bought and then refunded Wildermyth because I couldn’t get past the artwork. I’m so shallow. I guess I need to try it again.

For whatever it’s worth, the artwork is representative of the game’s general sense of whimsy. If you find it really offputting, I don’t know what you’d think of the rest. Doesn’t hurt to try it, of course.

I really dislike the ‘whimsical indie’ thing in general, yet Wildermyth was still good enough to make my number 1. :)

I did too. So, so, terrible.

I will not be trying it again, though.

Whew, I thought me and my steely cold heart were alone in my dislike for the whimsy of Wildermyth. I want to like it and very much appreciate what it does. It just does it so much like a Skittles commercial. Still, I want to give it more tries.

I never once felt that. The game’s tone is so unique compared to what some of you assume it to be.
Try reading the text in the bubbles next to the ugly pictures next time ;)

I have to say, I don’t get the charge of “whimsy.” Do you just mean… “stylized”? I don’t see anything here that an adult player can’t take seriously–any less than watching, say, The Incredibles or Wolfwalkers or Princess Mononoke. Or is it the pop-up book effect specifically? Clearly many of you felt this way, so I’m not saying it’s not a legitimate reaction; I just have a hard time putting my finger on where the objection stems from.

Personally, I was referring to the writing style, specifically the banter between characters, as well as some of the flowery descriptions I guess. I do love the way the story and characters work, but it certainly seems ‘whimsical’ to me.

I actually quite like the art, and think it fits the game well. :)

Oh, that’s fair. Yeah, the text is stylized in its own way, too. I can appreciate that it’s at least trying to be interesting and different, though quite often I feel like it might be trying too hard.

It’s not really whimsical, per se (that’d be more, say, Adventure Time.) Wildermyth is wistfully poignant™.

Yeah, this is fair. At times while reading I was like, “Relax. Just use a simple sentence or two for a change, then we can both take a break.”

I blame a generation raised on Tycho from Penny Arcade.

I was blaming the procedural generator!