When I started thinking about this list earlier this year, I was certain that Old World would be at the top. With the amount of time I had spent playing it and the fun I had, even without winning a single game (yes, I am that bad…), I knew it would end up as number 1 – but two games sneaked their way into this list that I hadn’t expected to! However, let’s get to that in a bit… I included all the games I bought this year in my list, even if they were released before 2020 or haven’t officially been released yet. It’s my personal list, after all!
5) Project Hospital (released on October 30, 2018)
It took me a while to buy this game. I stayed away in the beginning because the game looked too serious for me. I like Two Point Hospital and its quirky atmosphere. Still, I did get Project Hospital in May (I think I was bored and it was on sale) and I do not regret the purchase at all. I know it’s not ideal to compare it to Two Point Hospital because these games – other than the setting of being hospital simulation games in the broadest sense – don’t have that much in common. For quite some time, however, I figured that since I had Two Point Hospital, I wouldn’t need Project Hospital. But since buying the latter, I haven’t been playing the former much at all anymore. True, it is quirkier and a lot more light-hearted, but Project Hospital feels like a really good simulation. The only downside is that I regularly get lost in my own hospital and don’t find the rooms I need or forget which ones are required for what. I also never get a lot of patients sent to my hospital, so in other words, I haven’t gotten that far yet. I keep starting over with a new hospital because after a break, I forget the layout of my current hospital and decide it’s easier to start over. I also think it’s a weird feature that only some health insurances work together with your hospital and send over a maximum amount of patients per day. It feels so very artificial. But other than that, I enjoy playing the game a lot and for some time, I even had it run while I played Old World – because both games are really slow and it made sense to me to have both running.
4) Suzerain (released on December 4, 2020)
I was certain that Suzerain was on my list of demos I played during Steam’s Game Festivals this year, but I actually didn’t write about it at all. The developers may have released the demo before the festivals then. Still, in my mind it placed between Sovereign’s Will (not yet released, but I can’t wait to get my hands on it!) and For the People (released, but it sadly did not make it on this list, even though I bought it). It is something like a visual novel paired with a political simulation. Most of the time, I’m reading news bits or descriptions about towns in the country I am (supposed to be) ruling. In between I am talking to ministers or to my family and I can choose how to reply to them. Just like your typical visual novel. It feels broader, however, because you don’t just have some text with a background image, but you’ve got a whole map to look at – as well as text. Sometimes, you are also asked to make a decision which will have consequences later on. I don’t know how many endings the game has, but I can imagine playing through it a second time once I am through with my first game. I really like the setting and that it feels like a more “complex” visual novel.
3) Not For Broadcast (Early Access on Steam)
This is a wonderfully weird game! I love the actors and I really enjoyed the stories so far. The gameplay mechanic is something I haven’t seen before, so it felt really fresh and I’m eagerly anticipating the next content patch! From this list, this is the one game I would recommend if somebody asked me for a new game to try. It only ended up on number 3, because I spent so much more time playing the other two games and these also have a lot of replay value. But other than that, Not for Broadcast belongs on the throne as well! So let’s just say, Not for Broadcast gets my “Special Snowflake” award! It is a full motion video parody game simulating the control room of a news broadcasting studio. I wrote about it before, so I am not going to repeat myself here. Just trust me: It is something special!
1) Old World (Early Access on the Epic store)
I seriously do not even want to look at the amount of hours I’ve been playing this game. As I wrote above, I have not won a single game yet. This is partly because I am too impatient to think several steps ahead for each decision. And partly because the game is still in development and I start new games every week or every two weeks when a new built has been released. I wouldn’t need to, I just like to do it. But it’s fun because it feels like a Civilization game with an added soap opera. Your leader has characteristics that give advantages and disadvantages and when events pop up, certain attributes or having a stat at a minimum level will give you different options to react. Also, you won’t live forever and once you die, your heir will take over who may have different stats and characteristics. I like the added randomness of events and it makes me bond a lot more with my empire! The main difference to Civ (there are a lot of similarities as well as differences, of course) is that you can’t just build a city anywhere on the map. There are certain spots where you can do so and you’re either lucky and find them early on or other civilizations are faster and snatch them up leaving you with a small empire (which you can also grow by eliminating barbarians or smaller tribes who occupy such a spot as well as going into war with a rival nation and capture one of their spots). Altogether, the differences to Civ is mostly what I love about Old World: The random events, the family tree with leaders and heirs etc.
1) Crusader Kings 3 (released on September 3, 2020)
I decided that I cannot decide between Old World and Crusader Kings 3. In my opinion, both games do what they do really well. In my Steam activity list of all games, Crusader Kings 3 has surpassed all Tropico games, Two Point Hospital, Parkasaurus and Civilization V (but not Civ VI and Prison Architect) in playtime. And it’s only been out for a little more than three months! By the way, I just remembered that you can see your playtime in the Epic store as well. Old World surpassed all my non-MMOs including Civ VI and Prison Architect. But playtime alone doesn’t make a good game (Star Trek Timelines is no. 2 when looking at Playtime and I don’t even know why I spent so much time in that game, even though, at least, a good chunk comes from waiting and leaving the game open in the background). I love the drama and the unpredictability of events. Never has it been more fun to “lose” in a game. Thankfully, losing here usually means losing a title and thus, land, but it’s not the end of the game and you can work and scheme on getting back what is rightfully yours! The only thing that confuses me in the game is the vast amount of titles and claims and what they come with which is why I actually play the game in German, to have a bit less cognitive load… Thankfully, the tutorial of this game is actually useful and prepares you well enough to start your first game knowing at least the basics of what you’re doing. I still found myself looking for tips and guides online more often than not, though.
I bought a lot more than just these games this year, but they’re the ones that left a strong lasting impression.