Let's start with my absolutely favorite game from last year:
Return of the Obra Dinn
Screenshots don't really do the game justice (it looks way better in motion and the aesthetics fit the game quite well). And who'd have thought it would be fun playing an insurance investigator 🙃.
You are trying to figure out what the hell happened to 60 crew members through a whole lot of flashbacks through the story of the Obra Dinn. There'll be a lot of surprises along the way.
Uhm... we're going to find out how well Mastodon's account migration works.
This account is going to be continued at @BubuGames
Why? Because apparently the instance moderator of mastodonten.de is refusing act on tranphobic content, see (De): https://chaos.social/@ordnung/105895044645375879
(And well, there was never much point in being here in the first place)
- VALHEIM -
Like pretty much everyone else right now, I've been sucked into this.
I've always leaned towards the exploration side in Minecraft and Valheim fills that same niche pretty much perfectly.
Yes, you can build huge structures in this game and people are certainly doing that. But you can also just run around, exploring the wilderness, fighting bigger monsters, gathering better loot, upgrade your gear and repeat :).
Oh and you can build boats and sail the sea!
- A SHORT HIKE -
Picked this up randomly because the title sounded interesting and I wasn't disappointed at all :).
It's a short game as the title hints, but for it's size there's a surprising amount of fun mechanics packed into the game. The core climb/fly/glide mechanic is pretty good and you go fishing, motorboating or search for a lot of secrets inside the park.
(You can set the graphics to be non-pixely, which I very much preferred)
- ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS -
I never made it beyond the tutorial in the first game (Ori and the Blind Forest) but the second one worked really well for me. The game is stunningly beautiful, relaxing but very captive platformer.
- MACHINARIUM -
An adventure game around helping a cute robot accomplish it's goals. It's been a long time since I played this game but someone reminded me of it today :-). And it's definitely still a great game to play.
There's a very old version of a Magic the Gathering PC game  which had a singleplayer mode, which is what Thronebreaker reminded me of.
That game was both amazing and a completely broken mess. 😅
I'm very happy that Thronebreaker delivers (parts of) what that game promised but never really could live up to.
- THRONEBREAKER -
This is a single player RPG-campaign spinoff of Gwent, the collectible card game spinoff from The Witcher 3.
It's surprisingly good. Like, *really* good. There's an almost insane amount of polish that went into the game.
I think the story here can even stand on it's own, though it probably helps to be somewhat familiar with the Witcher stories.
The actual card game deck-building single-player experience is one of the best I've seen so far.
- A NORMAL LOST PHONE -
You find a phone and explore the story of the original owner of that phone. I didn't know anything abut this game before starting to play it and was very positively surprised by the story. :)
I actually played this on Android (which makes a lot of sense) as I got this from a Humble Bundle a while back. Unfortunately you can't actually buy the Android version outside of google play normally :(.
- THE JOURNEY DOWN -
I think this was my favourite adventure game of the last few years.
The very first interaction between the main characters is already brilliant:
"You sure this is a good idea?" - "Nope!" - "Me neither..." - "Let's do it!"
I also very much recommend just listening to the soundtrack: https://souzamusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-journey-down-chapter-one
- THEA: THE AWAKENING -
Thea is hard to describe. It somewhat captures the gameplay of the very early rounds Civ. You have one village the whole game and can send people to explore the map. There's also a card-based combat (and other challenge) system as well as an overarching storyline.
Additionally it has some rouge-like elements, you unlock stuff after completing each game. The individual rounds are very long for that though. They can very well take 10+ hours.
Combat here is done through third-person real-time 3D fighting, which isn't the best part of the game but actually works quite well together with the card game mechanics. (Where you'll gather your equipment and which will influence your life and skills, etc.)
I'm a big fan of the mechanics in this game, the storylines as card unlocks just feels so great. (There are also cards which need to go into your deck as soon as you unlock them. Which is how the game represents "bad things happened and they'll keep happening until you solve the mess").
The other thing that feels great is how cards are used to form a physical world by arranging them on a game board.
- HAND OF FATE -
The core of this game is a card game you play against the mysterious Dealer character, who will comment your every action (or inaction) and is brilliantly played and voice-acted.
You'll construct the deck of cards (making it more or less risky and rewarding) and the dealer will add their traps and challenges to it.
Most cards have a condition which will unlock more cards for the following games, which is how storylines and quests work in this game.
- CALL OF CTHULHU (2018)-
For once not an indie game, but it *is* a bit of a budget title. I mostly enjoyed this because I think it captures the essence of Lovecraft's stories pretty well. It's mostly an exploration/detective game which is does quite well. There is one sequence where you shoot zombies(?!) and some other weird (game-play wise) things in there but overall we had a great time with this.
And we saw Cthulhu in the end, so all was well... 😀.
The source code to this game was published not too long ago: https://github.com/TerryCavanagh/vvvvvv
Not under a free license but it's actually still being worked on there, with community involvement.
11 years after initial release that is quite impressive. (For any software project really, but especially for an indie game.)
Next version should be out soon it ssems: https://github.com/TerryCavanagh/VVVVVV/issues/267
- VVVVVV -
I normally don't like hard platformers but this worked for some reason. The instant retry loop definitely helps. As probably does the soundtrack :).
There's an infamous section called Veni, Vedi, Vici which felt really great when finally getting right: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CtiY5D6HCs
I did mostly enjoy exploring the landscapes though.
It probably works better when you know about the randomly generated story for each playthrough. Maybe I'll try it again at some point to see how different it'll be.
- DEAR ESTHER -
This was a strange game. I'm not actually sure I enjoyed playing it (I did finish it though, it only take 2 hours or so).
There's nothing to do but walking along the one path forward and listening to the story.
The story itself wasn't all that great but I did miss one key thing before starting this game: The story is (semi-)randomly generated each playthrough. Which was a fun and surprising discovery when starting again to try something. 😃
- THE TALOS PRINCIPLE -
You play a robot solving puzzles in futuristic versions of ancient roman, egytian, etc. ruins. You can also discover a hidden backstory by finding story fragments scattered around the world. The puzzles are great but I was sometimes frustrated that I need to solve them because I wanted to know how the story progresses 😅. The story is quite unusual, it goes really deep into philosophy/religious topics :).
Oh and the soundtrack is *really* good!
- DEFENDER'S QUEST -
This is IMO one of the best tower defence games I've ever played. The original version is from 2012 but it got remastered in 2016.
Apart from really decent TD mechanics, Defender's Quest actually features a great story. All of your different "towers" are character from your party who all have quirky and lovable personalities. Your characters also level up and you can buy equipment for them etc.