Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday 10s: The must-play western RPGs this generation (on consoles)

Everyone likes a top-10 list. They're a bit of fun, and always good for discussion. And so each week we pull together a "top 10" list. These are here for fun and laughs - we're not pretending that we're the authority of good games taste in the world and this is purely the author's preferences. Agree with him/ her or not, it's all good. We'd love to hear your own personal preferences in the comments below the list. But please do be civil. We're all friends here.

Prior to this generation, Western-developed RPGs were rarities on consoles. They were far more common with the PS3 and Xbox 360. So now the genre is finding a whole new legion of fans. This week we're listing ten RPGs that you might want to consider for a range of reasons.

If your favourite RPG isn't here be sure to let us know in the comments below!

The Witcher 2 - We'll kick things off with one of the finest RPGs ever made. The original The Witcher was a good game, but a little limited in terms of execution. No such challenges for the sequel. From start to finish this is an adult, intelligent RPG of the kind that will delight new fans and veterans alike. It also happens to be the best example of how to adapt a novel into a video game. Given the novel is a Polish fantasy epic, you may as well just play the game.


Arcania: Gothic 4 - Possibly the most traditional western-developed game out of the lot, Arcania: Gothic 4 won't be remembered for being innovative or, well, doing anything new. What it will be remembered for is getting a traditional medieval setting right and providing a generic but epic plot. This game is like those pulp fiction fantasy novels - sure they're not going to be held up as literature, but for genre fans they're page-turners. Arcania is a page turner.


Fallout 3 - Of all the games in this list, Fallout 3 has the most memorable setting. A post apocalyptic earth? Awesome. Gameplay that is like Morrowind or Skyrim, but guns and extra gore? Sign me up. In most other ways you'll play this game the same way you play the Elder Scrolls games - you'll travel from place to place not really bothering with the main storyline because the side questing is so compelling, but for many, the different setting sells it.


Alpha Protocol - This game confused a lot of people I think. It looks like a shooter and the basic mechanics worked like one. So you can imagine how upset people were when this exciting new shooter featured RPG mechanics instead. Aiming directly at the enemy wouldn't always result in a successful shot. Having a high enough stealth score would allow players to walk right in front of enemies without being spotted... in broad daylight. It might not have worked as a shooter, but adjust your thinking to go in expecting an RPG? Yeah, it works then.


Sacred 2 - Of all the grind-heavy Diablo clones, this is my favourite. Sacred 2 features a massive (and I do mean massive) world to explore. It features a nice range of heroes, and they have the kinds of upgrades (mounts, anyone) that makes the grinding worthwhile. Every town has dozens of quests, and there are a lot of towns to visit. It's almost overwhelming at times, but that's the fun of it. Sacred 2 is like having your own personal MMO sitting there on your PlayStation 3 (though multiplayer's fun if you can get a game going too).


Mass Effect 3 - This is a controversial game, but for very silly reasons (the ending was fine, guys). The game itself is perhaps closer to a shooter than an RPG, but the narrative structure and the way it manages the characters is right up there with Bioware's finest RPGs. Shepard's final chapter is suitably epic and literally the universe is at stake; what better excuse to fly from planet to planet and forge diplomatic ties with hostile races and fight with the resistance in other places.


Skyrim - It's impossible to avoid Skyrim if you're interested in the western RPG genre. It doesn't matter that it has plenty of bugs because the overall vision of the game is so strong that it is an endlessly immersive experience nonetheless. What Skyrim does especially well is build a massive world for players, with new adventures opening up to them around literally every corner. This game manages so many stories and side distractions that it is almost impossible to see everything the game has to offer.


Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - This game wasn't quite as great as it should have been, but it is still essential for RPG fans. A large open world filled with sidequests, fast, fluid combat and a lovely art style as well as interesting plot created something that players could enjoy for weeks on end. Unfortunately it's a touch on the easy side, but aside from that this is a game that was made with the dedicated RPG fan in mind.


Dragon Age: Origins - Forget the sequel, Dragon Age: Origins is a legitimate classic RPG. Everything about it screams "the Baldur's Gate 3 that Bioware never got to make;" from intense combat that also manages to be deep and strategic, to some excellent moral questions being raised throughout the game, this is the real deal in RPG terms. Players feel like their decisions have consequences and that they're a part of the broader world and story, rather than being the centre of the game's universe. It's unfortunate that Dragon Age 2 couldn't capitalise on this start... hopefully Dragon Age 3 can steady the ship.


Two Worlds 2 - OK, this isn't the best game in the world, but what it lacks in consistency and quality is more than made up for with its sheer quantity. This game has a massive world, a massive main quest, and just when you think you've seen everything, it throws something new at you. Two Worlds 2 fixes the most brutal bugs from the first game, and is a far more playable experience for it. Yes, there are still moments when things go haywire, but for the most part this game is a time sink in a very enjoyable sense of the phrase. 
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