Last week was a bit light on RPGs. Maybe the industry wanted to make room for us to fill our plates with stuffing instead. Which, fair? But there’s nothing better to sink our teeth into than a meaty and well-done role-playing tour de force. Maybe the industry realized that as well; this week is poppin’ off with great-looking games. Eight RPGs join the ranks between December 1st and December 4th, leaving me quite thankful that I limited my Black Friday spending to just a few select things. (Including a brand new console. OK, fine, maybe I did spend a ton.)
Whether you’re a Sony swain, a Nintendo nut, an Xbox extraordinaire, a PC patron, or some spiffy mix of all four, 2020 is — for all its obvious faults — at least going out with a video gaming bang. And to think, we’re not even getting Cyberpunk 2077 until next week. (Knock on wood?)
Chronos: Before the Ashes – December 1st (PS4, Switch, XB1, Windows, Stadia)
This is a bit random, but my favorite thing about Dragon Quest V is that it’s a generational game. Time passes and so does your protagonist. That’s why the number one most intriguing aspect of Chronos: Before the Ashes, to me, is how it chronicles the hero’s lifelong quest. Now bear in mind, this is something of a roguelike. It defies the rules in a cool fashion; each time your character dies, they lose a year of their lives. Players are required to adapt to their aging avatar as they steadily lose their evasion and alacrity. It’s not a complete downer, however—your character will also grow wiser with age. You’ll be more capable of the magical arts. I hope this means Chronos‘ endgame involves a literal Gandalf stand-in informing their archenemy that none shall pass. We won’t have to wait long to find out.
Empire of Sin – December 1st (PS4, Switch, XB1, Windows)
Who else here remembers L.A. Noire? Surely, I’m not the only one. While it reviewed decently (albeit unspectacularly) and the tech which was utilized to deliver terrific facial animations remains praised to this day, the fact that it never spawned any sequels rather speaks for itself. It wasn’t a huge hit. I should be clear: Empire of Sin may have that L.A. Noire sheen to it but it’s unique from Rockstar Games’ 2011 detective drama in some substantial ways. In Empire of Sin, there’s not only some deft turn-based combat (always a happy thing for us here at RPGFan) but strategic empire management as well. As you build your seedy lifestyle, you’ll want to expand and protect it against rival gangsters and those tricky law enforcement officials. It’s 1933 Chicago. You’re a crime boss. And there are plenty of genuine role-playing opportunities over the course of a terrific amount of dialogue. I’m keepin’ my eye on this one, pal.
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate – December 2nd (Switch, Windows)
While I have your full attention for this paragraph, let me go ahead and link you Robert Steinman’s 2016 review of Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate. Robert kindly called it one of the best games on the PlayStation Vita. And, since Vita means “life”, you can rest assured that’s high praise. Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate isn’t exactly a spring chicken. Originally a Japan-only Nintendo DS release all the way back in 2010, it later made its worldwide debut for the Vita in 2016. At last, it has arrived for Switch and Steam, and with these newest ports comes three brand new dungeons. For a beloved roguelike series like Shiren the Wanderer (a subset of the much larger Mystery Dungeon franchise), there is perhaps no better add-on than hot new places to test your mettle against hordes of monsters. Or, uh, in accordance with the above screenshot, a “monster house.”
Haven – December 3rd (XB1, XSX, Windows)
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” When singer-songwriter Jackie DeShannon sang those words way back in 1965, our world was in a bad way. 55 years later, I think 2020 is as fitting a place for such lyrics as ever. Maybe that’s why The Game Bakers, the developers behind Haven, has decided to pen a story involving two young lovers who escape to a long-lost planet just to be together. They’ll glide across a fragmented world doing whatever they must do to stand united against all those who would seek to tear them apart. Along the way, they’ll need to locate parts and materials to fix their starship and turn its sterile environs into a warm and cozy home. Love, freedom, rebellion… Haven has it all. If it successfully marries its beautiful setting to an equally poignant human relationship, this could be a real tearjerker. Look for more coverage on Haven in the near future!
Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack – December 3rd (Switch)
They say pictures speak a thousand words. If the saying applies to the above image, Taiko no Tatsujin: Rhythmic Adventure Pack is going places. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to team up with a character named Don-chan as he sets off to transcend time and space to save our souls from annihilation. What a nice guy. Have I mentioned he’s the anthropomorphic taiko drum at the image’s far-left? Yeah. Don-chan is the ever-present protagonist of the entire Taiko no Tatsujin series, a suite of rhythm games from Bandai Namco, and if you’re thinking that surely there can only be a few video games with such a setup then I welcome you to scope out the franchise’s Wikipedia page. By my count, there have been no fewer than 27 entries, including installments with color-coordinated delineations such as Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow. (Pokémon had better watch out.) If you’ve ever considered taking up the taiko drum but thought to yourself, “Man, but I really wish I could beat the heck out of a sentient instrument for great justice all-the-while,” boy do I have a Switch eShop link for you.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes – December 3rd (PS4, Switch, XB1, Windows)
On the Steam page for Morbid: The Seven Acolytes, the official description of the game labels it “Horrorpunk.” I never knew such a subgenre existed before today. I’ve also never seen anyone use the term “Cronenbergian gore.” Still Running is the name of the development studio for Morbid: The Seven Acolytes, and fellows, if you’re reading this article I want to thank you for some darn fine wordage. In Morbid, you’re the last surviving Striver of Dibrom. In case that doesn’t ring any obvious bells for you either, what this means is that it’s your destiny to defeat the titular Seven Acolytes—cursed beings possessed by seven respective deities who just do not seem to like you at all. Further description of Morbid: The Seven Acolytes includes “isometric Souls-like.” Think Baldur’s Gate if Baldur’s Gate had a “Prepare to Die Edition.” (Then again, I was so helplessly confused when I played Baldur’s Gate that the name might very well have applied.) If gore, blood, extreme violence and, well, presumably morbidity sound like your early-December cup of tea, then you’d best get brewing.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition – December 4th (PS4, XB1, Windows)
Much has been made about the decreased graphical fidelity of Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (say that five times fast) on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. To be sure, it is unfortunate that this expanded version of Dragon Quest XI was built from the ground up for Nintendo Switch; it appears that there simply isn’t a way to turn the Definitive Edition port into the shimmering jewel that the original version was before. But if you can look past some slightly washed-out colors and grass that looks less like grass and more like something even Bob Ross would find unhappy, you’re bound to discover a phenomenal RPG with more pizazz than its shinier forerunner. Our own Audra Bowling gave the game a 96! There’s more to see, more to do, and more of that Dragon Quest whimsy to devour. Even the soundtrack is properly orchestrated now, though unfortunately there’s still the issue of the composer himself.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light – December 4th (Switch)
Yes, this is in fact the one with Marth. Available through the Nintendo eShop for an inexplicably limited time, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light follows “that guy from Super Smash Bros. Melee with the blue hair, not the red hair” through his classical quest to defend the kingdom of Talys against a mean dragon who hates fun. Joining Marth is a cast of characters which includes the fan-favorite Tiki; by the way, my cat’s name is Tiki. Although a DS remake of this first Fire Emblem adventure was released globally in 2009, this marks the first time that the 1990 original reaches our shores. Warts and all. Do yourself a favor if you aren’t already familiar with him and look up a picture of Gharnef, one of the game’s villains. No, I didn’t just spoil you on Gharnef’s role in the story. His face spoils it for him.
‘Tis the season for classical turn-based goodness, it seems; as well as some detective noir drama for good measure. This is one of those weeks when I just don’t know what to grab yet because I genuinely want almost everything on the list. I’ve made sure to preorder Fire Emblem because because Nintendo just loves needlessly-limited digital releases lately. (The low, low price doesn’t hurt.) I’m excited to check out Dragon Quest XI S for the first time. I know that much is coming out of my bank account. What else? I guess I’ll have all week to decide. I’ll see you again when the dust has settled and my checkbook lacks a few more pages!