There's certainly no shortage of promising RPGs on the horizon this year, but which ones have us most interested? The RPGFan staff discussed this at length, and while we can't include every 2011 release here, came up with a final list consistting of the following nine titles, presented below in no particular order. Enjoy, and let us know what you think of our choices, and what RPGs you're most excited about.
It's worth mentioning that some of us wanted to include the PlayStation 3 version of Mass Effect 2 on here, but well, it's already out! So we're giving it an honorable mention instead.
Atlus is known for bringing us niche RPGs that ultimately change how we view the role-playing genre. This time, they're giving us Radiant Historia – a game featuring developers from the staffs of Shin Megami Tensei and Radiata Stories. It's reminiscent of the Chrono games in that you travel through history righting wrongs, but Radiant Historia promises to carve its own identity with a more serious story and better dialogue. Everything hinges on your choices – the game features multiple endings, both good and bad, depending on the paths you choose. Also, Radiant Historia isn't afraid to twist the traditional battle system; players must manipulate enemies on a 3x3 grid to provide more effective attacks. This system also focuses on implementing combos as much as possible, because they change the enemies' positions. Will Radiant Historia be another standout title from Atlus? It's shaping up to be everything we know and love about Atlus' games. This is definitely one of those times where we wish we could travel to the future to experience Radiant Historia. For now, we'll just have to hope it's worth all of our anticipation.
The long-awaited third entry in Square Enix's Parasite Eve series makes its way to the PSP some ten years after Parasite Eve II was released, back in the PSX era. Like the original games, The 3rd Birthday follows Aya Brea and her weapon cache full of guns into battle, this time against the Twisted, who are wreaking havoc through New York City. Now she possesses a new mind-control ability called Overdive, which she can use on soldiers helping her in battle or on enemies to overwhelm and kill them from within. The game opens with Aya's wedding to Kyle, but how does this tie into the Twisted and the infamous Eve? We don't know exactly when we'll find out, but the soundtrack, gameplay and amount of customization all seem very promising.
Many fans of the Deus Ex series revere its first entry, but loathe the second, so here's hoping that the third installment will make them forget that second game, Invisible War, quickly. As its predecessors were, Human Revolution was created entirely at the Eidos Montreal studios, although Square Enix did pitch in on the graphics front. This time, players assume the role of Adam Jensen of Sarif Industries, initially a bodyguard amidst political strife before his body is augmented into something more. The newly-rebuilt Adam then has to shoot, stab, threaten and fight his way – mostly in first person – through lies and conspiracies. Eidos has pushed its release past the end of this March to put on finishing touches, but this game looks like it'll be well worth the wait.
Commander Shepard's story resonates in the hearts and souls of millions. For them, it's personal, and Shepard's story only looks to be getting more personal with the final installment in the Mass Effect trilogy. The debut trailer reveals that the Reapers have brought the fight home. To Earth. Thank the intergalactic gods that Commander Shepherd survived his last mission. Humanity needs him again. We need him. The last shot in the trailer, of Shepard standing in what must be the Normandy, is enough to send chills down the spine of anyone who knows that there is only one story that cannot be missed this winter: our own.
For fans of the series, a new Zelda title is like the World Cup for soccer fans. It's not something we get every year, and we're always left yearning for more when the game ends. Sometimes (in both cases) we get what we want; other times we're left with disappointment. In Skyward Sword, players swap between the world on the ground and the world in the sky, providing two clearly distinct environments. This is the first Zelda game developed from the ground up for for the Wii, so we're keenly interested to see just what Skyward Sword will offer us. But with the addition of Wii Motion Plus, will this be the true Wii Zelda experience that we've all been waiting for: swinging your Wiimote as a sword and using the Nunchuk as your shield? Either way, we can't wait to see if this game is a worthy experience for the Wii, or if we'll dread its memory like that of the 2010 World Cup's vuvuzelas.
Dragon Age: Origins was one of Bioware's most endearing games; full of heart despite its ugly graphics and rougher console versions. Critics nitpicked, but in the end, Origins demanded to be played again, an experience that could be completely new. Thus, we await the continuation of the series with anxious excitement. Concerned that the drastic changes may not be for the better. Worried that there will be no Oghren. But, nevertheless, we're pretty confident that whatever Bioware throws at us will be delectable. Thedas is a place that begs to be lived in, and we can't wait to return.
Three and a half years ago, Polish developer CD Projekt introduced us to The Witcher, and no one knew quite what to think. The game had numerous problems, and no single aspect stood out as fantastic, yet by the end, some of us still wanted more. After the Enhanced Edition righted many of the original's wrongs, even more gamers awaited the return of The Witcher. Something about the unusually quirky and unique RPG made any news of a sequel exciting, and that something was probably Geralt of Rivia, witcher. The milky-haired protagonist stands as one of the best anti-heroes in video game history. Do we want the sequel? Abso -f'n-lutely. And we want it now.
Eight years after its inception, Nippon Ichi's flagship Disgaea series is still at the top of the strategy RPG food chain. The fourth installment is sure to capture the spirit of the previous games, with quirky quasi-evil characters and slapstick humor. And hardcore gamers will still come for the epic leveling and ridiculous customization. Disgaea 4 will be one of those rare games that you can spend 20 or 2000 hours playing, but unlike its predecessors, this offering should have graphics that meet current-gen standards. Expect hordes of cameo characters, 15-digit HP amounts, and an all-new cast of demon denizens. Hell was never so much fun.
The Elder Scrolls series has long held a reputation for producing some of the most open-ended and expansive RPGs around, and its expansion to consoles with the third (Morrowind) and fourth (Oblivion) entries only served to broaden the audience and catapult the series into the spotlight. Featuring sprawling, meticulously detailed worlds and backstories, hundreds of quests to complete, wildly variable and viable styles of play, as well as some exceedingly beautiful graphics, this series is able to immerse a player like few others. The newest entry in the series, Skyrim, takes players into the titular snow-capped region in the world of Tamriel with a number of new gameplay tweaks and refinements to tighten up the experience and make it more engrossing than ever. They even intend to fix the scary conversation animations from Oblivion! The pieces are in place for the Elder Scrolls to continue captivating players everywhere – but only time will tell if those pieces come together or fall apart.
These games have yet to be announced for North America, but all of us desperately hope they will be. A couple may be a given, but some are still total mysteries. Come on publishers, bring us these titles!
The Last Story (Wii)
Persona 2: Innocent Sin (PSP)
Valkyria Chronicles 3 (PSP)
Ni No Kuni (PS3, DS)