So, the yearly Game Awards took place last night, and in a year where Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom scored a 96 Metacritic rating, it seemed like Nintendo, and the Zelda Series had locked another global GotY win. This would have been the third time the series would have won it – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time won it in 1998 (back when D.I.C.E was the biggest award), and Breath of the Wild did it in 2017.
Given that Final Fantasy XVI (87 Metacritic) failed to break the series’ curse – of breaking into the 90s range on Metacritic – Tears of the Kingdom seemed destined for sure fire GotY glory. Then, out of nowhere (well I am not into Baldur’s Gate, so to me it was surprising), came Larian with Baldur’s Gate 3…and suddenly we had another 96 rated game.
Why I Knew Baldur’s Gate Would Win, and Why it Deserved It
We can discount Final Fantasy XVI here. It wasn’t even nominated. The game never had a shot, it was an improvement – storytelling wise – over Square Enix’s post Final Fantasy X efforts, but that did not make it a great game, and let alone a Game of the Year winner in a year where Nintendo released a Zelda, and Baldur’s Gate 3 was lauded, as perhaps, the best turn-based RPG ever made.
What’s most interesting here is how BG3 got the award over TotK, being that both were equally received by critics. Well, for starters, while Tears of the Kingdom revolutionized gaming with its expanded take on its own physics system, and argument can be made that the “Ultra hand” mechanic was an extension, and an improvement of BotW’s own revolutionary system.
The above paragraph is not a bad thing, but the game was a direct sequel to the aforementioned BotW (which had been awarded the GotY honors in 2017), and just like Majora’s Mask in 2000, while it improved upon some of the mechanics of Ocarina of Time (which had won the award in 1998), critics don’t tend to reward direct sequels that are built on the same engine, while recycling assets of its predecessor, as much as they tend to reward “brand new” experiences.
By the way, in 2000 there was no consensus winner, publications were split between The Sims, Diablo II, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. But D.I.C.E gave it to Diablo II. In short, Majora’s Mask, despite its excellence (95 Metacritic), was rarely on the GotY Awards’ radar 23 years ago.
So yes, given the amazing reception, and community love (even by JRPG fans) of BG3, it was easy to see that Larian’s Masterpiece would win it all this year.
Now, I haven’t played BG3 yet, I was never into D&D, and the older I get, the more I like Action-RPGs, and Adventures over turn-based games, but everything I have read, and heard about the game told me that it deserved the win.
The Biggest Loser of the Night….Was Not Final Fantasy XVI, But Sony’s Darling, Spider-Man 2
Both Tears of the Kingdom (Action-Adventure Game of the Year Award), and Final Fantasy XVI (Best Score and Music Award) won an award. Spider-Man 2, despite having multiple nominations (7?), won absolutely nothing. Sony shouldn’t feel too bad, Microsoft’s own Starfield, didn’t win anything either. It was a tough year.
While Spider-Man 2 was a stunning looking game, it lost in many categories to BG3, Alan Wake, Tears of the Kingdom, and Final Fantasy XVI (music). For all the things that Final Fantasy XVI did okay, it was its music that was extraordinarily good. So, the award is well deserved.
Sea of Stars Wins Best Indie Game Award
I will be reviewing the game soon enough, but it seems that a soft spot remains within critics’ hearts for Chrono Trigger – Sea of Stars has 10 tracks composed by the legendary Yasunori Mitsuda – inspired 16-bit throwbacks.
Oddly enough, it seems that western developers can now make a traditional JRPG better than the Japanese can, apparently. How times have changed!
I Will Now Lick My Wounds (My Poor Zelda) During the Weekend
Tears of the Kingdom was my favorite game of the year, and it lost. But hey, we can’t win them all! I will now retreat into to my man cave to play Ocarina of Time for a few hours – while praying for an Ocarina of Time 3D remaster on Switch (Nintendo should have done this for its 25th anniversary) – as I find comfort in my soul with the knowledge that Ocarina still holds that 99 rating on Metacritic, and that I am not a Spider-Man fan.
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