5) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3/360/PC)
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In a year in which Bethesda's juggernaut was supposed to destroy all competition, I find myself oddly conflicted about Skyrim. I love the exploration, the world, and the freedom that Bethesda has given players, but I don't feel the same tug that I do when I played Morrowind, Fallout 3, or New Vegas. Combat is sometimes frustrating, but I still find myself going back and plugging along at this part of Tamriel. There's a lot of content here; I just wish it was much more focused.
4) Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PS3/360/PC)
Adam Jensen isn't JC Denton, and that's OK. Bringing a modern style to the Deus Ex franchise, Eidos Montreal was able to successfully blend frenetic gunplay with dialogue options, stealth, and a fantastic skill system into a complete title. Play Deus Ex how you want to play it – though the boss battles were frustrating if you didn't build yourself around combat. Still, I hope to see more of this from Eidos Montreal and Square Enix – if this is their first try, their second run should be one of the best RPGs in years.
3) Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (PSP)
While our PSP Strategy RPG of the year was indeed a remake, the original wasn't nearly as widespread as its cousin, Final Fantasy Tactics. Supposedly plagued with the same type of awkward translation, I was glad to see a brand new localization placed on top of an amazingly deep class system. Fans of Final Fantasy Tactics should eat this game up, and it's easy to sink hour after hour into this gem.
2) Radiant Historia (DS)
There are very few times that a handheld game truly grabs me. I look at the games that I've reviewed on the PSP and DS, and I've only ever given a game a score of 90 or above once on either of those platforms. That game was Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, which, while being a top-quality title, wasn't groundbreaking. That's why I wish I'd reviewed Radiant Historia. A classically-styled JRPG with a quality battle system, intriguing story setup and game systems, and good, modern-sounding dialogue – there's not much for an RPG fan to complain about here. It's just more proof that Atlus understands the hardcore RPG player more than anyone.
1) The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (PC)
CD Projekt RED did it. It's been many a year since I first saw The Witcher in the bowels of Kentia Hall at E3 as they espoused the fact that they were using the vaunted BioWare Aurora Engine for their first game. They've blown their initial title out of the water with Assassins of Kings, a game with top-quality combat, story, dialogue, and sound running on top of a custom game engine that was developed in-house. It's tough, yes, but it's one of PC gaming's finest titles, and one that Xbox 360 fans should be clamoring to get in 2012. Geralt is easily the Witcheriest hero out there, and his game follows suit. If you haven't played this game, you need to as soon as you can.