As 2022 draws to a close, the TA news team have looked back over the last 12 months of gaming goodness to offer their picks of some of the best Xbox had to offer this year. Here are the games they have chosen to champion.
To help make things interesting, we decided to pick out two games each, with the idea being that this would allow us to use that second choice to highlight something perhaps a little less obvious. It has led to a suitably varied list with a fair few surprises both in terms of inclusions and omissions, so check out the team’s selections below and let us know what you think!
Heidi — Cult of the Lamb
I absolutely loved my time with Cult of the Lamb. That oddly effective mashup of cute visuals with creepy story elements grabbed my attention straightaway, and when the TrueAchievements team got to try it out at the WASD gaming event earlier in the year, it cemented itself on the “must-have” list. What I really appreciated is that Cult of the Lamb lived up to all this build-up; it was just as fun, if not more so, as I’d come to hope. I found the gameplay loop — switching your time between building and decorating your base and dungeon runs to defeat enemies, recruit new followers, and gather resources — completely irresistible, and there was always something to do. Once you’ve gotten over the weirdness of adorably-animated creatures batting their eyes innocently as they ask their cult leader to murder their friends or let them battle to resolve their differences, you’ll find that those followers of yours won’t let you rest — you need to perform rituals and sermons, see to their requests, keep them happy and fed, pick up their poop, and, more ominously, keep them in line. If they start to dissent, they’ll try to turn your cult against you and you could come back from dungeon runs to find angry followers threatening to leave. Nor can you neglect venturing out into the world — you’ll always need more followers, and someone’s got to see about those rival cults scattered across the land. Cult of the Lamb is just plain fun, and I enjoyed every bizarre minute of it, so this one has to go on my Games of the Year list for 2022!
Cult of the Lamb
Cult of the Lamb casts players in the role of a possessed lamb saved from annihilation by an ominous stranger and must repay their debt by building a loyal following in his name. Start your own cult in a land of false prophets, venturing out into diverse and mysterious regions to build a loyal community of woodland worshippers and spread your Word to become the one true cult.
BUILD YOUR FLOCK
Collect and use resources to build new structures, perform dark rituals to appease the gods, and give sermons to reinforce the faith of your flock.
DESTROY THE NON-BELIEVERS
Explore a sprawling, randomly generated world, fight off hordes of enemies and defeat rival cult leaders in order to absorb their power and assert your cult’s dominance.
SPREAD YOUR WORD
Train your flock and embark on a quest to explore and discover the secrets of four mysterious regions. Cleanse the non-believers, spread enlightenment, and perform mystical rituals on the journey to become the mighty lamb god.
Heidi — The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
It counts! It does count! The Xbox Series X|S upgrade for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt gave us all the excuse we needed to head back to the Continent — or start our first adventure there — and find that the game is every bit as wonderful as we remembered. Even more so, thanks to all the polishing and upgrading and adding new content we got with the update. True, I forgot how much Geralt is, as a Witcher, hated by just about everyone — seriously, I take out the wild dogs just a field away from their village and they have the gall to complain about him?! They are one step away from breaking into song about how weird he is, à la Beauty and the Beast — but, comments on his appearance aside, there’s something magical about setting out on a new adventure across the Continent. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt offers us a true epic with a massive world, a huge cast of intriguing characters, teeth-gnashing choices with far-reaching consequences, and a world-altering prophecy, all wrapped up in a messy tangle of monsters and rulers and magic. What’s not to love?
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
You are Geralt of Rivia, mercenary monster slayer. Before you stands a war-torn, monster-infested continent you can explore at will. Your current contract? Tracking down Ciri — the Child of Prophecy, a living weapon that can alter the shape of the world.
Luke — Pentiment
I have to give a quick shoutout to Marvel’s Midnight Suns here, as I think if I’d had a chance to play more, it could quite easily have stolen this spot — it’s way better than I expected, and it’s a real shame to see it fall flat despite being up to Firaxis’ typically high standards. I blame Marvel’s Avengers, but then I blame Marvel’s Avengers for most things. Honourable mention aside, let’s head to 16th century Bavaria and join Andreas Maler for the main event. Pentiment is the rare kind of narrative adventure that shows exactly how the genre should work and feel, absolutely loaded with choices and influencing factors great and small so that everything you pick feels like it matters to at least some degree. In an era where so many games feel designed by committee, a true labour of love like Pentiment just stands out even more, with Josh Sawyer of Fallout: New Vegas fame and his small subteam at Obsidian absolutely nailing it with this masterful passion project. Attention to detail is top notch, presentation is practically perfect, and the writing is genuinely exceptional, with an often subtle dry, dark humour to take the edge off some otherwise quite heavy story beats. Pentiment is one of the best games on Game Pass and a wonderful adventure where you really do feel like you’re not only shaping Andreas based on your decisions, but the world itself based on your Andreas. The sedate pace and small scale may not be to everyone’s tastes, but if it does get its hooks in, you’ll be glued to the game until the credits roll… and then likely want to jump back in and start over to see how differently things can play out, and/or grab a few more Pentiment achievements, as the completion will take multiple playthroughs.
Luke — Temtem
Sitting pretty on my #MyYearOnXbox summary with almost 300 hours played since it launched in the summer, Temtem was everything I hoped it would be. It had been in early access on other platforms for ages, but I wanted to wait until it was finished to dive in and experience what is effectively a Pokémon MMO for myself, and I’m glad I did. Temtem is massive, and unlike Nintendo’s series, it also doesn’t hold back — tamer battles can be properly challenging, especially when you get into the endgame and opponents who know what they are doing throw around fully trained teams in battles that use actual competitive rule sets. The whole game is built around 2v2 battles, so team composition and strategy prove important throughout. Fortunately, this isn’t like Pokémon where most of the early creatures quickly get outclassed — base stat values across all final forms are more or less comparable to one another, meaning that so long as you invest in the right stats and moves, that scrappy little Saipat you bagged in the first area should be able to hold its own against any of the late-game Tems. Given that competitive play is where the long-term appeal of the game comes from, this keeps the meta from growing stale and prevents the same one or two monsters from dominating, but there’s also the Tamer’s Paradise endgame resort if you’d rather stick to solo and co-op play once you’re done with the story. Temtem is hands down one of the best games like Pokémon on Xbox, if not the very best, so if you’re a fan, I highly recommend you give it a go.
Temtem is a massively multiplayer creature-collection adventure. Journey across the lovely Airborne Archipelago alongside your Temtem squad. Catch every Temtem, battle other tamers, customize your house, join a friend’s adventure or explore the dynamic online world.
Sean — Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II
Elden Ring, Vampire Survivors, A Plague Tale: Requiem — there have been so many great games this year, and I’ve struggled to pick a favourite. If you’d asked me a month ago, I would have picked Elden Ring even though I suck at it, and I’m nowhere close to finishing FromSoftware’s latest epic. As far as triple-A titles are concerned, my Game of the Year is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, and while I can already feel the judgement brewing in the comments section for my somewhat pedestrian choice, let me explain myself. This year’s Call of Duty, compounded with Warzone 2.0, is excellent. The campaign is your typical, flashy Call of Duty thrill ride with no expense spared and plenty of gruff, macho men with over-the-top accents, shooting and blowing things up in some pretty epic set pieces. Sure, the overall narrative is a load of old cobblers and a bit of a letdown, but the story in Call of Duty has never really interested me — it’s all about the missions, which MWII has plenty of greats (see Recon by Fire). The multiplayer has also captivated me for the first time in years. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve been invested in a Call of Duty’s multiplayer, but there is something about MWII’s that’s really hooked me, and I just can’t stop playing Invasion, good old Team Deathmatch, and tinkering away with my guns in the Gunsmith. I know Warzone 2.0, with its thrilling DMZ mode, is technically its own game with a shared progression system linking the two, but Warzone 2.0 is an absolute blast with new features such as swimming (I know, can you believe it? Swimming in this day and age), the hilarious proximity chat, and changes to how the safe zone works keeping gameplay fresh and exciting. While MWII’s campaign and multiplayer have played a part in the decision to name it my GotY, the main reason is that it’s brought all of my friends together again. We are all back online most evenings, picking up wins and crying with laughter (sometimes anger) at each other down headsets, which hasn’t happened in a long, long time. Most of my best mates are casuals when it comes to gaming; they’re all in their mid-30s with kids and other commitments, so getting everyone online together for a good multiplayer session in a game that everyone is interested in has been hard, but the universal appeal of a blockbuster Call of Duty: Modern Warfare title has pulled them all back in — not many games can do that — and this precious time shared with my friends, that now feels so scarce, is why MWII is my Game of the Year.
Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® II – Cross-Gen Bundle
– Cross Gen Bundle of Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare® II
— Includes Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S versions of the game
You also get access to Call of Duty®: Warzone™ 2.0, the all-new Battle Royale experience.
Sean — Citizen Sleeper
I could have slept on Citizen Sleeper as it’s not really my type of game, but thanks to good ol’ Game Pass, I gave it a shot and ended up discovering my indie Game of the Year. Citizen Sleeper is an RPG where you play as a digitised human consciousness in an artificial body who is on the run from a corporation that wants your precious android body back. After escaping to a crumbling space station known as Erlin’s Eye, your job is to survive and build a life for yourself as a refugee amongst thousands of people while uncovering dark secrets and finding a way to permanently break free from your previous owners so you’re no longer labelled as ‘property.’ Its story is modern, with themes of capitalism and refugeeism running throughout — a commentary on the state of the world today — and it gripped me from the off, thanks to some top-tier writing. Erlin’s Eye is a cold and unforgiving place that forces you into precarious and often dangerous positions. The choice is yours in what you decide to do to survive, but there is a huge risk/reward factor, with the outcome of your decisions decided by the fate of a dice roll. Do you try stealing a shipment from a freight hub for a big payoff, leaving the potentially deadly outcome to the roll of a dice? Maybe you want to play it relatively safe and take a shift at a bar for a small but liveable wage so you can eat the next day? Whatever you decide, a clock signalling the arrival of bounty hunters who want you back is ticking, adding tension and urgency to your actions. While it all sounds very bleak, there is incredible warmth and understanding stretched throughout each multi-stage quest from the characters developer Jump Over The Age has created. For a game that is relatively short, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better-written characters in games released this year. I was aching to find out more about the sentient program hiding within a vending machine and what would happen to Lem and his adopted daughter Mina. These characters and their stories had me hooked, and I would spend as much time as possible trying to further their arcs before my dice rolls were up. Citizen Sleeper should not be slept on. If you can get past the text-heavy nature of the game, you’re in for one of the best gaming experiences of the year, and once you finally reach one of the game’s multiple endings, you’ll be in the same boat as me, begging Jump Over The Age for more.
Roleplaying in the ruins of interplanetary capitalism. Live the life of an escaped worker, washed-up on a lawless station at the edge of an interstellar society. Inspired by the flexibility and freedom of TTRPGs, explore the station, choose your friends, escape your past and change your future.
Tom — Dying Light 2: Stay Human
Nothing quite embodies the spirit of the holidays like a rotting corpse attempting to take a bite out of your warm flesh, so in keeping with that notion, my first Game of the Year pick is Dying Light 2: Stay Human. Obvious heartfelt festive cheer aside, I’ve picked Techland’s end-of-days zombie slaughterer due to its beautiful yet decaying open world, exciting combat, and satisfying traversal systems. I love RPGs and their offerings of generally stunning worlds and character customisation, and while Dying Light 2 is very light on contemporary RPG elements, such as its use of stat-based armour and weapons, it excels at delivering a large explorable world. Whether you’re attempting to clear a dimly lit metro station filled with biters or soaring through the air on a paraglider, Dying Light 2 is beautifully built. The attention to detail of Techland’s world is wonderful, and it’s an attention that has gone into the game’s combat and traversal mechanics. There is nothing quite as satisfying as jumping off of the roof of a skyscraper and paragliding down towards the ground, letting go just before you land so you can smash a zombie’s face into the pavement as you gracefully roll onto your feet ready to continue on foot. The carnage you can cause is extensive, much like the Dying Light 2 achievements… but that just means you have more time to find more imaginative ways to slay the dead.
Dying Light 2 Stay Human
The virus won and civilization has fallen back to the Dark Ages. The City, one of the last human settlements, is on the brink of collapse. Use your agility and combat skills to survive, and reshape the world. Your choices matter.
Tom — Blacktail
Blacktail was a very late entry for me, having only launched halfway through December, but it blew me away; vastly exceeding all expectations I had. For one, I said that Dying Light 2’s world was stunning to explore, well, Blacktail takes it to a whole new level. The game takes place in four areas, each themed around a different season, and by golly has The Parasight created a visually impressive world. Colours pop everywhere you look in this game, and the use of seasonal themes gives each area a distinct nuance and fresh experience. The story follows a young Baba Yaga, when she was just known as Yaga, as she searches for her missing sister. As you work your way through the story you meet a host of entertaining characters, such as knightly mushrooms and cursed fungi, as well as a wealth of forest fauna that you can help or hinder to affect your morality. It took me around 35 hours to earn all 32 Blacktail achievements, and not one minute of it was spent un-entertained. I highly recommend you pick up this game, especially if you enjoy using a bow and arrow as weaponry, living out a life in the wilderness where humans are nothing more than a mention.
Forge the legend of Baba Yaga, a girl accused of witchcraft and expelled from her home. Live out the origins of the Slavic myth in this one-of-a-kind blend of intense archery combat and dark storytelling set in a vibrant fairy tale world.
Any of these resonate with you, or already on your backlog? Don’t forget to have your say in our ongoing Game of the Year 2022 event!