The festive season is a wonderful time of year to indulge your RPG cravings since you typically need a massive chunk of free time to play through the likes of Mass Effect 3 or The Witcher 2 from beginning to end.
This year there’s been an excellent spread of RPGs across PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and DS – games that have once again shown just how compelling and worthwhile this genre is. If your games budget is somewhat limited then RPGs represent great value for money due to the sheer amount of content that many of them contain.
Interestingly the best RPGs of 2012 are equally balanced between Japanese and Western developers, although there are still enough differences between games from different parts of the world to hint at where they were made. For example, The Witcher 2 has plenty of nudity and graphic sex scenes which suggest that it was developed somewhere in Europe (CD Projekt RED is based in Poland).
If you’re looking for a quality RPG to play over the holidays, you can’t go wrong with any one of the games listed below:
Mass Effect 3
Casey Hudson and the team at BioWare have done an amazing job with the Mass Effect series and Commander Shepard’s epic quest to the far-flung corners of the galaxy culminates in Mass Effect 3. The graphics and gameplay are better than ever, and each mission is brilliantly constructed. Side quests are plentiful and certain squadmates are hilariously entertaining when you talk to them on the Normandy (Joker and EDI spring to mind). Also, the game’s presentation is really something to behold and Mass Effect 3’s numerous cut-scenes are expertly put together.
The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition
Earlier this year PC and Xbox 360 gamers got to experience The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition – an expanded version of the original featuring new modes, side quests, cut-scenes and gameplay tweaks. This game presents the player with interesting moral dilemmas and is one of the most mature RPGs we’ve seen in a long time in many respects. Featuring beautiful graphics and an intricate world to explore, fans of lengthy fantasy RPGs with action-orientated gameplay need look no further than The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition for a highly entertaining and rewarding experience.
Final Fantasy XIII-2
The Final Fantasy series has lost some of its lustre over the past few years but FFXIII-2 is still a decent step up from the disappointing FFXIII due to the sequel’s greater focus on player choice and wide selection of new locations to explore. The battle system is fairly similar to FFXIII’s but there are many new gameplay elements that keep things interesting such as being able to choose how to answer in certain situations. The game’s presentation is once again outstanding and the gap between the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of FFXIII-2 is far narrower than it was with FFXIII.
This year has been a significant one for Dark Souls fans as the PC version was released in August while the included Artorias of the Abyss expansion landed on consoles during October. While Dark Souls isn’t the most technically proficient RPG out there, it has a completely unique atmosphere and features gameplay systems that somehow manage to be both simple and complex. With so many games relying on cut-scenes to manufacture excitement these days, Dark Souls represents a pure yet thrilling experience that is driven by player choice and skill. I consider this fantasy RPG to be one of the finest games of the past decade!
The Last Story
Directed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, The Last Story also features music from renowned Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu and action RPG gameplay that draws inspiration from a number of genres including real-time strategy and third-person action games. The Last Story’s colourful cast of characters have a signature Japanese visual style and their dialogue is consistently entertaining thanks to near-perfect localisation. The Last Story is also one of the few Wii games to feature co-operative and competitive online modes which greatly extend its appeal once you’re done with the singleplayer campaign.
Capcom took a bit of a gamble creating new IP so late in the current console cycle but thankfully it paid off handsomely for the company. Dragon’s Dogma sold over a million units within a month of being released, prompting Capcom to begin work on a sequel to this open-world action RPG. Offering players plenty of ways to take down the game’s wonderfully designed enemies, Dragon’s Dogma features elements drawn from a wide range of sources including the Monster Hunter and Devil May Cry series, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Shadow of the Colossus.
Pokemon Black and White Version 2
I’ve never really understood the Pokemon phenomenon but the series obviously features some amazing ingredients to keep millions of fans returning to the franchise with each new game that’s released. Pokemon Black and White Version 2 is one of the last major titles for DS and is set two years after the events of Black and White. Featuring new locations and hundreds of Pokemon to collect and engage in turn-based battles with, Pokemon Black and White Version 2 provides hours of entertainment for fans of the series and newcomers alike.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
With action-orientated gameplay clearly inspired by the God of War series, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning also features enough customisation options and side quests to compete on equal terms with other quality open-world RPGs. Renowned author R. A. Salvatore created the game universe and lore while the equally famous comic book artist Todd McFarlane oversaw the character designs and visual aspect of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Once you’ve been drawn into the game’s expansive world you’ll most likely find it difficult to disengage from its addictive mix of exploration and thrilling combat.
Diablo III is one of the most anticipated PC games of all time and for good reason. Players simply can’t seem to get enough of the series’ addictive dungeon crawling gameplay that offers a variety of compelling rewards around every turn. Diablo III introduces a number of innovative elements to the series including an online auction house and various mechanisms to ensure that each playthrough provides a different experience and unique challenge. The game is also designed to be able to run on older PCs so you shouldn’t need to upgrade your hardware to enjoy this long-awaited sequel.
Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 is one of the few games that allow you to enjoy all the benefits of a MMORPG simply by purchasing it once-off. Featuring some of the best graphics yet seen in this popular genre, Guild Wars 2 presents players with a wonderfully realised world that is just begging to be explored. The game is set 250 years after the conclusion of the Eye of the North expansion for the original Guild Wars, and once again takes place in the beautiful world of Tyria. If you’ve played Guild Wars to death then this significant passage of time between the two games should result in a decidedly fresh experience due to changes in armour, clothing and weapon design along with the significant advancement of in-game technology.
If you enjoyed this feature, be sure to read the rest of El33tonline’s 2012 Buyer’s Guides (so far):