2021 is half over and my how things have changed since it began from uncertainty and unhappiness at work to starting a new permanent role that I am enjoying quite a lot. Anyway that is not what I am going to talk about today; I want to share the best games that I have played so far this year.
Final Fantasy XIV
I started playing Final Fantasy XIV at the end of 2020 and I only finished all of the mani story quests up to the end of the post Shadowbringers content at the end of June. This is, in my opinion, the perfect MMO and the benchmark that I will use to judge other MMOs going forward. It did take the story a while to really get going but when it did, boy did it ever get going. The combat is fun and its systems are more deep than they seem at first, the NPCs you meet along the way are interesting and well written, the dungeons are very well designed and a lot of fun, and there is so much content you can do. Great game that everyone should at least give a chance to.
This game just gets better and better. This year they have improved the visuals massively, gave each character class much improved animations, overhauled the Monolith of Fate (end game content) and released the rogue class. That last one really surprised me in how much I have enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure the rogue style was for me since I normally like a tank melee play style but the synergies between skills makes for a fun class to build. The game is still in early access and there is still a lot of content to come but there is already plenty there to justify the cost and my 500+ hours in the game.
Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 4
The fourth and final installment in the Erebonia arc of the Trails franchise, and what a satisfying conclusion it was. I have said it many times but there is no game franchise out there that does world building, story and character development better. It was extremely satisfying to follow the development of each member of class 7 from their first day at Thors Military Academy through the 4 games to where they end up at the end. I cannot recommend this game highly enough, just like I can’t stop trying to recommend the game highly enough.
Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky FC, SC and Third
After I finished Cold Steel 4, I wasn’t quite ready to leave the Trails world yet so I binged the three Trails in the Sky game and I am glad I did. While Cold Steel is set in Erebonia, Trails in the Sky is set a few years before Cold Steel in Liberl. After playing these games some of the references in Cold Steel now make much more sense. The first two games in this trilogy are simply outstanding and I actually think I love them even more than the Cold Steel games. Storywise they follow Estelle and Joshua Bright, children of the legendary Cassius Bright on their quest to become A rank bracers. I think the reason I love these games even more than Cold Steel is that their story is much more focused on the characters while Cold Steel was more focused on the world tying the Liberl, Crossbell and Erebonia arcs together. The third game, while far from being a bad game, was the weakest of the Sky trilogy. It has more of a dungeon crawler feel and the perspective shifts from Estelle and Joshua as the main protagonists to following Kevin Graham of the Septian Church. The story, while still very enjoyable, also has a fan fiction feel to it. That does not mean it is a bad story and/or badly written. It is still a very good game and well worth playing.
Tales of Zestiria
We all know that I loved Tales of Berseria last year and so once I left the Trails world I decided to play another game in the Tales franchise, this time Tales of Zestiria. Honestly, while I really loved the story and the characters in this game, I did not love the combat. It never really made sense to me and it was definitely the story that carried me through the game. I would not have made it to the end had the story not been great. If you can get past the combat and want a great story, then this will not disappoint.
This is another game where the story kept me going. The combat and level/dungeon design is very repetitive so if that is not something you can look past then skip this one. I did really love the story and sound track though. The story begins with a young girl getting pulled into Purgatory where she kills her sister thanks to a hallucination by the game’s main antagonist. She is then offered and accepts a deal from the demon supervisors of Purgatory where she must travel through Purgatory in order to obtain a revival for her her sister. Along the way she must stop other monsters from stealing the souls of the dead to steal a revival for themselves. It is quite an emotional and well written story I thought, and well worth picking up on sale if you can get past the repetitive combat and level design.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Ys is my 2nd favourite jrpg series and Ys VIII is just an outstanding game. Wonderful story that starts with Adol and friends being ship wrecked on a mysterious island where they build a little community so they can try to find a way home. It then takes a turn when they discover links to a character from the past and two worlds then start to collide. A very well written story with a satisfying conclusion, and combat that is extremely fluid and a lot of fun. Honestly just going around killing monsters and exploring the nooks and crannies of the island is a fun game by itself, add in a well written story and interesting characters and you have one hell of a game.