Welcome to our Gameluster Top 10 of 2021! After our deliberations on the Game Busters Podcast, we’ve settled on an unranked list of the top 10 best games of the year. Each of these will be a short write-up on why our team is so passionate about these games, so stay tuned!

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Let’s just get this out in the open – if you know me, you probably know that Arkane Studios is my favorite game studio in the world. Their previous titles since joining Bethesda (Dishonored, Dishonored 2, Death of the Outsider and Prey) are all 10/10s to me. So yes, you could say that I was excited about DEATHLOOP. While innovative, DEATHLOOP doesn't really do much that Arkane Studios hasn't done before. The stealth and magic from Dishonored, the weaponry and exploration from Prey, the roguelite time loop mechanic from Mooncrash, and even the invasion mechanic from Arkane’s canceled game, The Crossing, are neatly packaged together to make a game that no other studio on Earth could have pulled off. And yes, the kicking is extremely good.

Probably the most ingenious part of DEATHLOOP, the glue that holds it together, is the invasion mechanic. At any time while you are playing the campaign as Colt, you can be invaded by another human player who is controlling Julianna. She invades your game, equipped with a much better arsenal of spells and guns than you (at least at the start), and if she’s able to kill you three times your run ends and must restart the next day. However, if you’re able to kill her, you can pick up whatever spells and weapons she drops and get extra lives for the duration of that zone. When she invades your game, the doors to escape the zone lock and must be unlocked by hacking a satellite across the map. You can also use the so called hackamajig to hack turrets to aid you and spotlights to ignore you, as well as machines to cause distractions and doors to open. All these factors usually force a confrontation between Colt and Julianna, and one of them won’t walk out of that zone alive.

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The invasion stuff mostly works the way that Arkane intended – as colt, I had three or four firefights where I was on a perfect run for my objective and Julianna threw a wrench into my plans. I was hunched over, sweat pooling on my brow, and a few of those times my run ended there when she stabbed me in the back or shot me through the skull. Dishonored and Prey are built around that core tenet of immersive sim: testing your resourcefulness. They present options upon options, so many that you may feel it impossible to choose what to try - and that's what I love about them. Outside of the few times Julianna had me cornered, however, I did not feel the need to be resourceful. The reason I've put over 300 hours into the Dishonored series is that there are a hundred ways to approach each situation and each are equally viable. In DEATHLOOP, while you have some room to experiment, you largely don’t feel a push to. The game doesn’t reward continuous experimentation; rather, it rewards finding your playstyle and mastering it and using it for the rest of the game. In that way, it is absolutely the most accessible of Arkane’s games. I am not surprised it is the most popular of them.

Although Deathloop didn’t give me quite what I wanted from an Arkane Studios game, it’s still pretty fantastic. It has some of the best feeling gun play since Destiny 2, it’s exhilarating action, thorough and rewarding detective work, and an excellent intro to the world of immersive sims. I didn’t get the satisfaction of carefully planning a heist and seeing things go exactly the way I wanted, because they always went the way I wanted no matter what I did. DEATHLOOP is a fantastic game, and even with it not quite matching what I wanted from my favorite studio it is sitll indispudably one of the best games of the year.  All that being said, it's going to be a wild ride different from the other AAA offerings this year, and for that reason alone you should make sure to pick it up.

-Nirav