The year is coming to an end and as we lament over time passing so quickly, let’s take an opportunity to take a look at Playstation as a brand and highlights of the year for the Playstation community. This article will be taking a look at some of the memorable games released this year in different genres along with performance of Playstation exclusives(Timed or otherwise) as well as focus on Playstation related events like acquisitions, sales and PS5 as a platform.
Games define a platform when it comes to consoles, Playstation is known for its narrative based, story driven third-person games that have captured everyone’s imagination and have earned a special place in our hearts but there are non-exclusive blockbuster games as well on the Playstation. Here, the games will be separated into specific genres but keep in mind that this is not a best of the year thing and instead would look at some of the games which graced the Playstation with either their breathtaking visuals, gameplay or music.
We will start off with some lovely Indie games with inputs from our resident Indie goddess, Velvet.
It Takes Two:
It Takes Two is not just one of the best indie games but one of the best games of this year and most recently the winner of Game of the Year award along with being The Best Multiplayer game and Best Family game at The Game Awards 2021. An exemplary combination of beautiful visuals and a story with dark adult undertones that would make a child giggle, but had the grown ups nervously laughing wondering if this is actually ok. The sound design is pristine, the soundtrack is beautiful, the gameplay is clean, and the game overall is one of the most memorable experiences you will ever have the pleasure to play. This co-op game released on 26 March 2021 and is developed by Hazelight Studios.
Lost in Random:
Lost in Random is a morbidly dark adventure accompanied by charming visuals and a catchy soundtrack, offering a unique take on the general turn based combat system that we’re all used to. It didn’t overstay its welcome and was a lot shorter than expected, but even within those few hours, you have an endless supply of things to enjoy, from the graphics, to the dialogue, to the very story itself. While it was overlooked due to the timing of the release, it’s a title that all indie gamers will certainly enjoy.
Just as the year was coming to an end and you thought we can’t get anymore good games, Solar Ash comes in like a wrecking ball ready to shatter your expectations. This gorgeous looking platformer with a quirky traversal system and a story rich gameplay will leave you wanting for more. You slay these giant monsters reminiscent of the colossuses from the Shadow of Colossus and clear abnormalities from the world, all in a bid to save your planet from destruction by a black hole.
Hades will wow you with its incredible gameplay, mechanics, art and its fabulous soundtrack. This rogue-like dungeon crawler is an experience no one should miss out with its fantastic replayability value, even if you die a lot.
Now, we move on to RPGs:
Tales of Arise:
Ending an almost five year wait, Tales of Arise released in September to quench the thirsts of the fans of the Tales series as well as rope in new players by offering one of the best rpg experiences in 2021. The game took off at a fantastic pace and will have you hooked from the beginning, aside from some minor issues with the story in the second half it will, most likely, your favourite Tales game. Content wise it had the perfect amount of quests and dungeons to offer and of course, its mesmerising visuals are just the cherry on top of the proverbial tasty cake. Winner of the Best Role-Playing Game at The Game Awards 2021.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition:
This trilogy breathes a new life back into Mass Effect 1,2 and 3 and let’s you experience these classics, either for the first time for some users or again for the fans of the series. The stories narrated in these games will have the players on the edge of their seats, wanting to know more about what the games have to offer. Visual, technical and gameplay enhancements amplified the experience even more and helped shape it into something memorable.
One thing that Scarlet Nexus did better than others is the combat, the way it combined telekinesis and melee combat along with typical jrpg party combat mechanics is a sight to behold. This action-rpg focuses on its story, world-building as much as it focuses on delivering a great gameplay and action experience. This, along with a lovely soundtrack and great visuals is a treat that no one should miss out on.
Guardians of The Galaxy:
Guardians of the Galaxy has a really interesting and fun story with hilarious, enjoyable characters and an awesome array of weapon abilities. This game is a distant cry from a disaster that was Marvel’s Avengers and it really surprised the hell out of all the skeptics. It was buggy here and there and sometimes there is no audio but it is still an enjoyable experience. Winner of the Best Narrative award at The Game Awards 2021.
Pew-Pew, let’s shift our gaze to the shooter genre:
This timed PS5 exclusive is also a nominee for The Game of The Year awards and rightly so. Set in a time loop, this investigative first person shooter is one of the best experiences in 2021 with its punchy shooting mechanics, the unique time loop system, the pvp element which just brings an extra dimension to the gameplay and makes the game even more exciting. Winner of Best Game Direction and Best Art Design at The Game Awards 2021
Far Cry 6:
Far Cry 6 is a super fun experience with loads of mission variety and locations to explore, where you can meet different characters and revolution groups along the way. It has an amazing soundtrack and the game is just beautiful and enjoyable to play from start to end. Sometimes, the gun selection mechanics got a bit annoying but overall, the gunplay was superb and the companions like Chicharron provide some fun moments.
Returnal is a 3rd person shooter rougelike with buttery smooth gameplay which is fast and frantic. The graphics are beautiful with a dark sci-fi vibe to the surroundings and the bosses have been perfectly designed which makes the fights feel fair. Sound track is full of deep moody synths which is apt for a game like Returnal. This PS5 exclusive boasts several large unique biomes and there is a strong focus on the story and your quest to unlock the mysteries surrounding the game. Last but not least, there is decent weapon variety and firing weapons feel so satisfying due to the haptics of the superbly crafted dualsense controller which adds another layer of depth to the combat, making it even more enjoyable. Don’t forget about the adaptive triggers which add a realistic touch to the combat. Winner of Best Action Game at The Game Awards 2021.
Back 4 Blood:
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where Ridden(zombies) reign supreme, you are part of a community of survivors trying to fend for themselves in such a scenario. Play in a group of four, either with friends or with bots and with a diverse cast of characters to spice up your gameplay. The card system sound ridiculous at first but it will quickly become your favourite as each runs can drastically change depends the cards that you have selected. The gunplay feels satisfying, the guns sound fantastic and it feels even better with dualsense enhancements. There are a few chaotic moments wherein friendly fire becomes a problem due to the number of zombies but all in all, it is a must play with friends or otherwise.
It is time to get physical as we focus on the sports genre:
F1 2021 is a whole new experience in the racing genre. EA have taken what made the franchise a success in the past and added that additional content that was required to stop the game going stale. The graphics feature some ingenious upgrades compared to previous years, and the variety of game modes will keep you coming back for more. This racing sim has all 21 official tracks included this year, with Qatar & Saudi Arabia being featured for the first time. The cars, as expected are very similar to last year, however the slight tweeks with the graphics and UI within the cockpit do add to the overall realism.
The only game that is likely to satiate the adrenaline junkie inside you with high voltage races involving bicycles, skis, a wingsuit and a snowboard. Gorgeous open-world setting exuding Forza Horizon or The Crew vibes makes this game a perfect combination of high octane gameplay combined with jaw dropping visuals. There are plethora of game modes to catch your attention and keep you busy for a long time.
Don’t be deceived by its looks as underneath the simple game of dodgeball there is a much more complex web of strategies and precise coordination to decide who will be the victor. You can team up with your friends or join a crew and dominate the streets in Knockout city. With a decent variety of modes as well as ball types including a mechanic wherein a player can turn into a ball, the gameplay remains fresh and fun.
Time to get spooky as we explore the Horror genre:
Little Nightmares II:
The atmosphere this game manages to create via its carefully crafted gameplay gives off a creepy as well as scary vibe and combining this with the phenomenal sound design will keep you on your toes throughout the entire game. The core gameplay Is same as Little Nightmares 1, we have to run, jump, hide from enemies and also solve puzzles which are more uniquely designed compared to 1’s but the fact that we can also hold hands makes it so much better. This title deserves its place as one of the top horror experiences of 2021.
Resident Evil Village:
Resident Evil Village is a first person survival-horror game, with first person shooter elements. You traverse the titular “Village” as you try to find out what happened to the residents, and to try and save your daughter. There is a heavy emphasis on exploring and some light puzzle elements intertwined into the game as well. The vibe is dark and perfectly suits the atmosphere of the game and don’t forget Lady Dimitrescu who serves as on unofficial mascot of the game.
The Dark Pictures Anthology – House of Ashes:
There are so many layers and storytelling in House of Ashes that you just thirst for more until the end. The character development and relationships, notes and pieces of information from past knowledge seekers; it’s so interesting and thought provoking that it will keep you thinking about what happened that started all the chaos even after you have finished the game. The gameplay is smooth and seamless throughout and the graphics are crisp and full of amazing details that enables you to fully experience this incredible game.
That covers most of the outstanding titles released in 2021 on Playstation but the list is incomplete if we don’t focus on the remaining 2 playstation console exclusives.
Ratchet and Clank – Rift Apart:
Ratchet and Clank was touted as the perfect showcase for what the ps5 can do with all its power under the hood as well as highlight the nifty dualsense and its adaptive triggers and haptics. The verdict is that Ratchet and Clank really did all of the above along with being a great gameplay experience and a visual treat. However, all is not rosy as the game was pretty short when compared to previous entries, only being as long as 6-7 hours and carrying a hefty price tag of $70 dollars.
Kena – Bridge of Spirits:
The trailers, the clips, the marketing, and everything included under that umbrella will tell you that Kena is adorable, which of course, it very much is. The soundtrack is very fitting and some of the boss themes are some of the most memorable pieces you’ll hear in a while. Even though you’ll feel at times that your skill level is no where near what it needed to be to progress forward, it’s up to you to learn what you need to do to get by and there’s something special about that. Looks may be deceiving in this case, but it is a memorable game not only for the beautiful story, but for the sense of accomplishment it provides once you’re all done. Winner of the Best Indie Game and Best Debut Indie at The Game Awards 2021.
Hardware, Sales and Aquisitions:
2021 has proven to be a glorious year for Playstation not just in software sales but in hardware sales as well due to the PS5 becoming the fastest selling playstation console with strong sales even during a time where chip shortages have prevented consoles from being easily available. As of second quarter of Fiscal Year(FY) 2021, Sony has managed to sell 13.4 million PS5 units, overall, which puts it easily ahead of its competitor Microsoft. Games and Network Service segment which includes physical and digital games, add on content like micro-transactions and network services like Playstation Plus and Playstation Now have shown better quarter on quarter growth(Q1 plus Q2 sales in FY 2021 are better than Q1 plus Q2 sales in FY 2020) with a revenue of more than $11 billion in Q1 plus Q2 of 2021 with most revenue coming from Add-on content and then Digital Software sales. You can take a more detailed look here, this contains the full nitty-gritty of how Sony has fared so far i.e. up to Q2 FY 2021.
When it comes to acquisitions, Sony displayed proactive behaviour in response to moves made by Microsoft and their acquisition of ZeniMax Media Inc. (Parent company of most notably Bethesda Softworks and several more studios) by acquiring 4 studios: Bluepoint Games, Nixxes Software, Housemarque, Firesprite and Valkyrie Entertainment. Bluepoint Games known for remakes and remasters, most notably Demon Souls remake exclusively for the PS5, The Nathan Drake Collection etc. which have dsiplayed tremendous success. Nixxes Software is a dutch developer who are known for making ports to PC like Shadow of The Tomb Raider. Housemarque studios are the ones behind the remarkable PS5 exclusive Returnal which surprised players with its story, solid gameplay and great showcase of what the PS5 and dualsense can do. Firesprite is the studio behind Star Citizen (A massive multiplayer space combat game), Persistence (A Horror FPS) and worked with Team Asobi on the beloved Astro’s Playroom. Its most recent acquisition, Valkyrie is known for their co-development facilities and they have assisted in high profile games like Halo Infinite, God of War(2018) and is currently assisting in the development of God of War: Ragnarok. Also, Team Asobi has been reorganised into its own studio.
Hardware wise, there have been minor revisions in the PS5’s hardware in form of CFI-1100 which houses a smaller heatsink, reducing the weight of the unit by 300 or so grams along with a newer, quieter and more powerful fan. This raised some concerns over the heat handling capability as well as performance of the newer model due to a smaller heatsink but Digital Foundry’s Richard Leadbetter found nothing of this sort in his testing and has stated the temperatures are within its specified limits. This new model was quieter than the original one and performed the same as the original unit.
PS5 UI’s new features and missing components:
PS5 sports a completely new UI and much has been said about, mostly good stuff. 2021 brought some new features to the UI which most people believe should have been there from Day 1. Some of the notable features added have been the option of using an M.2 SSD expandable storage to play games off of, 3D Audio support for built-in speakers, better trophy tracking, PS5 and PS4 installed game versions are now shown separately plus changes to the store to add deals, new releases etc.
These changes are all welcome but the issue that most of these features should have been present since day 1. The fact that you couldn’t easily differentiate between a PS4 version of a game from the PS5 version is simply terrible when knowing that Microsoft and its smart delivery system makes it so much easier. Other features that are still missing on the PS5 are:
- Absence of Folders
- No themes
- No 1440p support
- No Variable Refresh Rate support
These are just some of the major ones, other things like lack of customisation when it comes to icons, some activity cards not working properly are some of the other persistent issues.
The Dualsense controller has been a favourite of players ever since they started using it. It has earned unanimous praise across the gaming industry for its haptics and adaptive triggers. The good part is that developers are actively making use of the features packed in the dualsense and it is great to see that it is not being treated as just a gimmick. There have been some complaints about the lacklustre battery life as many thought the battery life would get a boost since the dualsense is a bigger controller.
The road ahead for the PS5
The future holds much promise for the future of Playstation and its growth. There are a multitude of console and full exclusives lined up for release in 2022 from Horizon Forbidden West to Forspoken, possibly even God of War: Ragnarok as well as announcements for other exciting games like Hogwarts Legacy, Final Fantasy XVI, Ghostwire Tokyo and several more. There also have been reports of Sony introducing a competitor to gamepass, with a subscription system which is divided into tiers and would offer access to a vast selection of modern as well as classic games. This seems quite exciting if true and it remains to be seen as to what kind of offerings Sony will give to the players as well as on the number of regions it introduces this service to.
There is also the hardware supply chain issue as even now, at the time of publication of this article, it is difficult for many to buy a PS5 and the problems pertaining to scalpers are also present. Though, 13.4 million units sound like a lot but Sony would have sold more units if the pandemic hadn’t created such circumstances and supply chain issues. Issues like chip shortages, parts acquisition, labour issues that have led to a dip in supply and has led Sony to reduce their sales forecasts. This is likely to stabilise sometime by mid to late 2022 judging by the statements from companies like AMD who provide the crucial internals for the PS5. It is still commendable that Sony, even after facing such issues has managed to meet a good part of the demand and is striving to provide more units to meet the increasing demand.
Here’s to hoping for more memorable moments from Playstation and as exciting as 2021 was, 2022 seems to be an even bigger blockbuster year for the gaming community as a whole.
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Game Images Credits – MobyGames