The Award for Mainstreaming That One Previously Niche Kink: Resident Evil: Village.
The Award for Best Proof We’re Living in a Simulation: The GTA “Definitive Editions,” which are obvious satires of corporate greed and laziness embedded in the main simulation we call “life” as a mini-game.
The Chernobyl Award for Game Best Able to Induce Real-World Existential Dread: Amazon’s New World. Just think about this at three o’clock in the morning: the same company that OK’d the network and systems architecture for this game also OK’d the architecture of systems on which countless companies and individuals depend for their day-to-day livelihood.
The Award for Best Exemplifying the Difference Between Intent and Achievement: Normally this would go to some game that aimed high but fell miserably short. But this year it goes to Valheim.
Why? Because Valheim took the funnest parts of Minecraft and Terraria, polished them a bit, and gave them a new coat of slightly-less pixelated paint to make a fun, satisfying game.
Doing that may seem simple and straightforward. Except that the entire game industry had been trying to do it for a decade. But none of the would-be clones or refinements came anywhere near to being as fun or satisfying as their models. All of those clone developers, from the humblest indy devs in garages to vast corporations with unlimited cash, wanted to make something as good as Valheim. But only the Valheim devs actually did (for which they were quite justly rewarded.)
The Award for Game that Would Be Better If You Cut Half of It. Solasta: Crown of the Magister had a great, polished turn-based combat system with well-thought out battles. It also had a full story, a whole bunch of NPCs, a city, etc. These were … less-polished. I for one would have been happier to eliminate most of that and instead have an X-Com-like series of dungeons or tactical set-piece battles that concentrated on the good stuff and were connected with nothing more than some menus and text. Agile development is great and all, but sometimes it’s better to cut features entirely rather than shipping the minimal shippable version. Less can be more and all that. Speaking of which …
The Salt and Jelly Award. Unlike Solasta, Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous had the full cRPG package, with polished NPCs, cities, storytelling, etc. In addition to all that, it also had the Crusade system. This aimed to add an entire Heroes of Might And Magic-style grand strategy game on top of the Baldur’s Gate-style cRPG.
Two great tastes that taste great together right? Yes in theory, no in practice. The Crusade system was hard to get into it, as you kept disappearing in the the cRPG layer for long sections of time (sometimes dozens of hours, e.g. Alushinyrra); when you came back to the strategic layer, you had forgotten what was going on and how things work. The strategic layer seemed unpolished - understandably, as the devs had a full cRPG to polish at the same time. And the strategic layer also never felt strategic - the enemy AI basically just seemed to materialize armies out of the air and throw them at you at random, while you just levelled up a stack of doom until it was so powerful it could crush everything.
The kicker is that the Crusade layer used super-abstract HOMM style battles. These battles were fine for HOMM, which aimed to condense a sprawling magical world war into something light and fluffy that took a handful of hours to play start to finish. But in addition to these super-abstract battles, in the cRPG layer Wrath also had massively detailed set-piece battles that took hours to resolve in turn-based mode. These set pieces more than adequately captured the feeling of of a large war taking place. The Crusade battles, by contrast, felt very abstract and small.
Bottom line: if you’re making a cRPG on the same sprawling scale as Baldur’s Gate, there’s really no reason to weld a whole other game on top of it.