There’s a lot of good games out there, but gamers are often searching for things that are just downright great. A game that doesn’t just tick along like a happy clock, but hums like a content engine and can build up to a roar. When you have that kind of game, it can grip you entirely, luring you into lengthy game sessions – “Just one more go?” you’ll think to stall your bed time – and occupying your idle mind when you’re not playing.
That’s the kind of game we’re talking about for our Best Gameplay award, and it’s got a more than worthy winner.
Midnight Suns had a lot to live up to as it emerged from the shadow of the modern XCOM series. Firaxis were more than up to the task of matching the building hype, delivering a truly stunning tactical experience that, even after more than 150 hours, I’m still finding new and inventive ways to destroy my enemies.
With thirteen heroes to choose from, the team’s compositions are seemingly endless, and then there’s the fun of building the right deck of cards that present you options and possibilities for each turn. Want Hulk to SMASH? Fine, you can do that, but he can also play defensively as well – the choice is fantastic. Gameplay this engaging is criminal and should come with a health warning that you might not leave the house for days at a time. It’s the whole Civilization series “one more turn” malarkey all over again and I’m here for it. Hook Midnight Suns into my veins!
– Nick P
Vampire Survivors – Runner Up
Vampire Survivors is a simple game, but there’s so much satisfaction in that simplicity. The unique combo of roguelike elements, horde-destroying projectile combat and dripfed unlockables isn’t entirely groundbreaking, but it’s fresh and rewarding enough that it’s inspiring the next big genre of indie games. There isn’t exactly a genre title quite nailed down yet – some say reverse bullet hell, others say Vampsurvlike – but the message is clear. People love Vampire Survivors enough that they’re desperate for more experiences like it, and one afternoon spent playing the breakout action roguelike hit makes it clear why.
Vampire Survivors is a machine of constant dopamine delivery. The simple objective of surviving as long as you can is engaging enough, but the steady progression of collecting gems to level up and collecting coins for permanent unlocks is instantly addictive. With each run you learn enough to survive a bit longer the next time, and with each upgrade you gain enough power to last even longer than that. Every now and then, a treasure chest drops and fills you with glee as flashing colours and blast-processed sound effects play. By the time you feel like you might be getting sick of the same old survival grind, you’ll begin unlocking new stages, new characters, new weapons, and whole new gameplay mechanics. Vampire Survivors delivers constantly and consistently, and now dozens of other games are clamoring to follow the example it’s set.
– Miguel M
Marvel Snap – Runner Up
Being a fan of card-based games, it’s easy to find yourself drowning in complexity, with layers upon layers of rules interaction and combat damage can make the genre seem intimidating at best. Marvel Snap goes in the opposite direction.
In what is usually such a complicated genre, simplicity is a beautiful thing, and this is something that Marvel Snap has in spades. You play a 6-round game with a 12-card deck and try to win two of your three zones. Rounds take as little as two minutes — a far cry from the 15+ minutes of Magic — and are a great way to occupy the time spent waiting for the bus, when you’re stuck on hold, or otherwise just want to get a well-designed game in in a couple of minutes. Despite this, there are multiple gameplay styles and tactics you can build your deck around. Think you have a winning hand and want to double down? Click the Snap button and go for broke.
Marvel Snap is a beautifully simple game with a surprising amount of complexity and replayability, and is well worthy of being Runner Up for Best Gameplay of the Year award.
– Nic B
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
There’s been so many great games out in the past year, all with developers taking different approaches to designing their gameplay. Which games have just felt great to you?