It’s been a while since video games have been addressed in The Indy. Considering that we spent most of the year confined within our homes, video games were a bountiful source of entertainment and artistry, and 2020 might have been one of the best years for the medium in a while. Now that 2020 has concluded, I wanted to take the time and mention a few titles that left a sizable impression on me.
The Last of Us Part II
The original The Last of Us was my favorite game of all time. Although brutal and somber, it ultimately was a beautiful tale about the ability to love again in a world in shambles and ruin. For a long time, I believed its conclusion to be so brutally poignant and perfect that a sequel would be not only a bad idea but a disservice to the first game’s story. I was wrong––The Last of Us Part II is an essential chapter in the post-apocalyptic tale of Joel and Ellie.
Prior to the sequel’s release, Game Director Neil Druckman stated that the original, while harrowing, was ultimately about love and that its sequel would be rooted in hate. After playing through the sequel, this is a perfect summarization of the thematic spines of the two games. The sequel’s story displays the universal truth that violence always perpetuates more violence. Moreover, Part II tells its story in a way only a video game can, weaponizing player agency to communicate its message. The sheer brutality the player inflicts on enemies leaves them pondering the inhumanity of their actions. Additionally, the further decay visible in the sequels’ design of post-apocalyptic America, combined with the mournful soundtrack, serves to tell its greater story of violence and revenge. The comparisons between the game and contemporary life go far beyond parallels between our pandemic and the game’s zombie apocalypse. 2020 was a constant reminder of the violence and hate that continues to plague our society, and the game’s message, while harrowing, remains a call for peace, love, and understanding. The Last of Us Part II is a masterpiece and my new favorite game, and I implore anyone to play both it and the original as they are the pinnacle of what video games have to offer right now.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
I am a huge Final Fantasy fan. From 6 to 7, from 9 to 14, I have always loved the consistently earnest, heartfelt, and campy JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Games) series. The notion of remaking the seventh installment in the series––the game that more or less broke JRPGs into the Western mainstream––is something that fans have been wanting for the better part of twenty years. For a long time, the possibility of a remake felt like nothing more than a pipe dream but lo and behold, it finally happened. Well, part of it anyway. “Remake” actually only remakes the opening Midgar portion of the original game, as Square Enix has opted for an episodic approach to reimagining and modernizing the original masterwork.
The game is by no means a rip-off; it is a fully fleshed-out and engaging JRPG with overhauled mechanics. I had a wonderful and memorable time exploring the gorgeous dystopia of Midgar with the fully voiced and animated characters that were once lovable, silent sprites. Everything in the game, from the level and world design to the score, is an amazing reimagining of what made the original so fantastic. The combat is especially great; Square Enix has finally merged the strategy of turn-based combat with the flashiness of action-based combat. It's never looked or felt so good to swing Cloud’s comically large Buster Sword.
The most intriguing and controversial change made in the game comes with its reinterpretation of the original's story. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that Square Enix has left us wondering what exactly is going to happen in future installments of this “remake” project. All this being said, even if you have never played the original, Remake is a wonderful game that is worth your time.
As a person who has failed to be captivated by battle royale games, a sub-genre dominated with shooters that I find more stressful than fun, Fall Guys is fantastic. If you have ever watched Legends of the Hidden Temple or Wipeout as a kid and thought, “they should make a video game like this,” Fall Guys is for you. You play as a blob person who competes against 59 other blob people in a gauntlet of obstacle-style courses and races to survive. The game’s pastel color palette and overall joyous design just radiate fun for the player. It's simple, it's fun. Play it.
Michael Oross is a junior in the College studying English and Film and Media Studies.