Best of 2021 – Day Six: Expansion, Developer, Most Disappointing, Worst Game

Over the next eight days, Hardcore Gamer will be revealing its Best of 2021 Awards leading up to our Game of the Year. Today we present you with the Best Expansion, Best Developer, Most Disappointing Game and Worst Game.

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker

Just when you thought Square Enix knocked it out of the park with Shadowbringers, they released Endwalker. The long-awaited conclusion of the saga that has been going on since 1.0 over the last decade, Endwalker not only is the best expansion, but one of the best stories ever told in the Final Fantasy ethos. With the amount of emotions the story invokes, from horror to sadness, there were few spots throughout this 45-hour adventure that didn’t have us emotionally involved. Sure, there’s padding and a lot of exposition, but all of it amounts to an epic conclusion that feels like a fever dream. On top of that, the soundtrack is one of the best Soken has come up with, hitting all the right notes on the original new tracks and the remixes. From storytelling and character development to the fantastical new settings, Endwalker is an experience like no other. There’s so much hype around Final Fantasy XIV right now, and somehow the developers were able to deliver in creating one of the best expansions of all time.

Runner-Ups
Ghost of Tsushima: Iki Island Outer Worlds: Echoes of the Eye Dead Cells: Fatal Falls Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare

Insomniac Games

Insomniac Games’s penchant for developing great games has spanned two decades and five console generations. From lovable dragons to alien shooters to lombaxes, the studio’s output has been nothing short of legendary. It’s no surprise that Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is an excellent game, but Insomniac’s work takes it above and beyond simply being excellent. Like any great game, Rift Apart features beautiful visuals, fun gameplay and an entertaining story. As Insomniac’s first PS5 title, however, the studio pulled out all the stops to deliver a true ninth-generation showcase. Ray-tracing is used to great effect across reflective surfaces, the speed of the SSD allowed for the neat Rift Tethering mechanic and the DualSense was appropriately used. Going beyond the technical achievements, Rift Apart is filled with little details like fun idle animations, loving callbacks to previous games, and some of the more inventive weapons in the series. Insomniac Games delivered a love letter to fans, a truly fun game to play, and a true ‘next-gen’ experience. It’s a trifecta that makes Insomniac Games the Best Developer of 2021.

Runner-Ups
MercurySteam Playground Games Eidos-Montreal Double Fine

Cyberpunk 2077

On paper Cyberpunk 2077 should be a contender for game of the year. The studio behind the acclaimed Witcher 3 makes an action RPG set in the Cyberpunk universe starring Keanu Reeves. Cyberpunk 2077 is actually a strong game if it’s played on PC and that particular PC actually runs it how it was meant to be played. Even though post-release patches have addressed many of the bugs that were present at launch, that wasn’t enough to address the myriad problems many users experienced. Some PC users were lucky enough to have the game run fine and likely thought this is a great game. Many other players ran into a ton of technical problems that reduced a great game to an unplayable dumpster fire. Results on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were more consistent, as in the game was consistently a disaster on those consoles. Some had held out hope for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S versions that were supposed be released last March, but nine months later there’s still no release date in sight. There was a lot of hype surrounding Cyberpunk 2077, but thanks a plethora of technical problems it can only be enjoyed by a small fraction of its consumers which earned Cyberpunk 2077 this year’s biggest disappointment.

Runner-Ups
Balan Wonderworld GTA: The Trilogy – Definitive Edition Battlefield 2042 Ninja Gaiden: Master Collection

Balan Wonderworld

2021 honestly didn’t seem to have as many games that were absolute garbage, which was fortunate for us, but not so much for Yuji Naka and Balan Wonderworld, which stood out as one the year’s biggest dumpster fires without any others to truly compare it to. Still, it can at least be said that Balan Wonderworld is an interesting and flavor of bad, as opposed to previous recent “winners” like The Quiet Man or Left Alive (Square can’t seem to catch a break here, it seems). But even if Balan Wonderworld tried to be ambitious in certain areas, it ended up fumbling the execution rather spectacularly, be it through its non-existent story, half-baked costume-based platforming, poorly-explained jumble of other gameplay elements, and the kicker, the incredibly broken Switch version, which alone arguably would have landed the game here. Wonderworld showed a lot of promise, but it sadly looks like its opening night performance is its closing one as well.

Runner-Ups
DreamWorks Spirit Lucky’s Big Adventure eFootball 2022 Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood Of Bird and Cage

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