So, I completely forgot that yesterday was the start of the spring season here in the northern hemisphere. In my defense, two things spurred my ignorance. First, there’s the fact that the weather here in North Carolina was decidedly bleak yesterday; grey skies and near-freezing. I went for a walk nevertheless, because that’s just classic me, but never did it occur to me that winter had ended. More embarrassingly, perhaps, I was fixated on the twelfth anniversary of the series finale of the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, or as I like to call it, the most emotionally turbulent piece of fiction involving a flock of flamingos that’s ever been put to television. (It also had a rather nice little tribute to the 1957 epic war film The Bridge on the River Kwai. So that’s cool.)
By now, you’re all accustomed to the fact that my first paragraphs in this weekly column don’t always reference RPGs. It’s somewhere around the start of the second paragraph that I remember why we’re all here. Sometimes I can blame slow release weeks for that strangeness. Not so this week! We’ve got a couple of heavy-hitters en route, plus an operatic spinoff, a 1981 quasi-remaster, some 17th-century alchemy, an eerie noir, and a game starring a literal campfire spirit named Willow Wisp, and more. You can’t get much more eclectic than this.
In the words of Strife, “let’s mosey.”
Realms of Antiquity: The Shattered Crown – March 22nd (Windows)
It’s not often we see games that appear this old on modern hardware, let alone games that have nothing to do with the roots of famous Italian plumbers. Realms of Antiquity: The Shattered Crown was originally released—in 2020—for the TI-99/4a computer, a machine old enough that I had to go back and double-check that I had that computer’s name right because I’m not sure I’d ever even heard of it. A farce and a sin to some, I’m sure, and I dutifully apologize; but my first PC had Windows 98 installed, and I label that “ancient enough.” Realms of Antiquity takes place in a sprawling world filled with forests, deserts, oceans… you know, stock fantasy fare that just so happens to reflect reality. Sages, warriors, peasants, and sovereigns await you, and if the chatty blacksmith who is shown on the game’s Steam page is the rule and not the exception, they’ve got a lot more to say to you than any early Final Fantasy fare. Honestly, the whole thing seems rather impressive. It’s humbling to be reminded that games as old as the classic Ultima series had a lot more going on in the dialogue department than many of the younger JRPG outings I grew up with. While Realms of Antiquity looks and sounds like a retro game, that’s by design: Quixotic Software intentionally developed the game to run on actual TI-99/4a hardware in addition to Windows. Available in both digital and limited edition floppy disks when it released at the end of 2020, this week marks the game’s release on Steam. Your turn, Doobieus Rexus.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town – March 23rd (Switch)
Maybe we should go ahead and forget that other game. You know. The one with the old series title. The old series title that has been wounded by misuse. The misuse that kind of hurts the hearts of the fans who grew up with the aforementioned old series. Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is here, which means we finally have a fresh new Harvest Moon. In the latest adventure from this spiritual farm-life successor franchise, fate has taken you to a sleepy, titular town founded by your trailblazing grandfather. You’ll till soil, plant crops, nurture crops, harvest crops, and more. But it’s the “more” that has fans like me abuzz about these games. It’s the exploration. The forged friendships and memorable relationships. The surprising community events. There’s an emotional pulse at the heart of Story of Seasons, the pulse that passes time and triggers a far more contemplative and zen-like sensation in my brain than I ever would have expected just from reading a back-of-the-box description. If Pioneers of Olive Town hits those heights, we’ll have another fun romp on our hands.
Tales from the Borderlands – March 23rd (Switch)
There was a very real fear that games like Tales from the Borderlands would be left to linger in digital purgatory several years ago when Telltale Games imploded. Thankfully, The Walking Dead games found their way back to availability thanks to Skybound Games, and Borderlands‘ lauded-by-many-and-yes-also-us graphic adventure game is on modern platforms (courtesy of Take-Two), and comes to the Switch this week. Given the sheer volume of graphic adventure and visual novel titles available on Nintendo’s console, TftB is in good company. Give Bob’s reviews of the full five-episode title a read—and be thankful that the game is now simply sold in a single comprehensive package.
Arkham Horror: Mother’s Embrace – March 23rd (PS4, XB1, XBX, Switch, Windows)
Announced back in October, Asmodee Digital is bringing Arkham Horror: Mother’s Embrace to just about every platform this week. Originally titled Mansions of Madness: Mother’s Embrace, Asmodee shifted the game to tie in to the popular Arkham Horror tabletop game. Part interactive board game, part tactical RPG, you’ll be investigating a mysterious death with a squad built from 12 of the Arkham Horror universe’s most iconic protagonists across a variety of locales. And because you can’t have Lovecraftian influences without a sanity check, yes, you will have to ensure your team stays sane… or at least sane enough to see things through to the end.
Octopath Traveler – March 25th (XB1, XBX, Windows)
While Octopath Traveler is but one high-profile RPG landing on Xbox Game Pass in March, it is a doozy. Being part of Game Pass is notable, but what really has the community buzzing is how, almost three years after its Switch debut, this is only the second console that the HD-2D RPG is landing on. It has PlayStation fans wondering if the PS4/PS5 is still a possible home for Tressa, Therion, Primrose, and gang. In any case, Octopath Traveler on Xbox Game Pass opens up the beloved RPG to yet more players, and that’s only a good thing.
Black Legend – March 25th (PS4, PS5, Switch, XB1, XBX, Windows)
When I think about the events of the 17th century, my mind tilts toward myriad tragedies oddly intermingled with an almost overwhelming sense of discovery. I think of Giordano Bruno burned at the stake; the extinction of the aurochs; the Dutch everything. The trials and tribulations of Galileo Galilei, and those pesky Salem Witch Trials. When developers Warcave thought about the 17th century, their minds went to the creation of a dark turn-based strategy game set in a fantastically fantasy world. And you know, upon reflection, I can see that too. With over a dozen unique classes, a ton of cross-class skills, and the chance to complete quests built around German, Belgian, and (natch) Dutch folklore, Black Legend is primed to impress. History nerds (like me) who (like me) are happy to toss reality into a blender with the paranormal should gear up for either a good time, or at least a bad time with a solid concept. Considering Black Legend is coming to so many platforms, chances are you won’t be left in the dark. Here’s hoping Warcave delivers!
MazM: Phantom of the Opera – March 25th (Switch, Windows)
Hey, speaking of history flirting most ostentatiously with fantasy! It’s the return of a thrilling love story that just won’t die, which I suppose is uniquely suitable to the subject material at hand. MazM: Phantom of the Opera is like the sequel to the original case that I’m not sure any of us knew we needed. At least, none but Growing Seeds, the studio behind, wait for it, MazM: Jekyll and Hyde. You probably want to know what exactly you do in this game, and truth be told, I’m only semi-certain I have an answer for you. From what I gather, you play the role of a detective caught up in the infamous case decades later. By collecting footnotes and investigating the game’s characters, you’ll presumably arrive at some sort of satisfying conclusion. Unless it’s somehow based on that Robert Englund time-travel gorefest flick from 1989. Trust me here, that would suck.
Genesis Noir – March 26th (XB1, Windows, macOS)
Look at that screenshot and try to tell me you don’t feel moderately disturbed. I acknowledge the distinct possibility that, in actuality, you do not feel that way at all; however, I will resort to believing this is a universal anxiousness until notified otherwise. Genesis Noir combines a few of my favorite things: black holes, snazzy jazz, stylish yet understated aesthetics and a glass of gin at the end of every hard-luck detective case. The creepy, moody, visuals feel just right for a game with a handsome figure of a protagonist named No Man with a striking silhouette intermingling with somewhat less striking silhouettes at every turn. Are you eager to prevent the Big Bang from wiping out civilization? Good! What about gardening? Do you enjoy gardening? Great! Are you alone at night with all the lights off and in dire need of an interactive fever dream? Perfect. Genesis Noir is unlike any other game I’ve seen in quite some time, and when you helm a gig like this one, that’s pretty eye-opening. Here’s looking at you, game.
Heart of Enya – March 26th (Windows, macOS)
Who can say where the road goes? Where the day flows? Only time. And who can say if your love grows? As your heart chose? Only time. Heart of Enya chronicles the life of an award-winning Irish singer/songwriter as she braves the music industry. At least, that’s what I would have made this video game about. Perhaps it is for the best, then, that I am not in charge. [Editor’s Note: Hey, I’d play it, especially if Enya has her full set of powers.]
In truth, Heart of Enya is a 2D narrative-centric strategy RPG with heaps of visual novel flair. Enter the life of Willow Wisp, whose name has shockingly not yet been applied to either Marvel or DC Comics. (There is, however, a Will o’ the Wisp. I’m glad I looked this up. I’d hate to reveal just how little I know about comic book superheroes.) I bet you’re curious how Willow Wisp and her friendly band fend off the villainous Frost. Or maybe you aren’t, but I’ll tell you anyway. They’ll tap into the power of self-love. If the fighting gets rough, rush back to the campfire and heat up some much-needed soup. And then you’re off again, self-loving the ever-loving heck outta yourselves until Frost is well and truly thawed. Wrecked.
Monster Hunter Rise – March 26th (Switch)
Like the man Dave Grohl himself, I’ve got another confession to make: I’ve never played even a minute of Monster Hunter. It’s not from complete lack of interest. Not really! Admittedly, it used to be. I recall, somewhere around the turn of the last decade, a couple of well-meaning acquaintances trying to goad me into playing by hyping up the franchise’s grindy nature and challenging action-oriented combat. To be frank, that pitch was a total turnoff to me at the time. It wasn’t until several years later that I watched a friend dabble in Monster Hunter: World and things started to click. There’s a pulse-pounding thrill to the series, combined with an oddly charming tackiness and weapon designs that are almost as wild as the monsters themselves. There’s a rhythm to it, too, and a rhythm that my friend had seemingly mastered. Also, cats. There are cats.
Alas, several more years have come and gone and I’ve still not dabbled. Perhaps Monster Hunter Rise, out this week, will finally break me in. Prior preview articles from excellent colleagues like Des Miller have highlighted how Capcom is showcasing the full technical capabilities of the Nintendo Switch with another groundbreaking entry. If there’s one thing about Monster Hunter that seriously threatens to rope me in, it’s that Capcom does a fabulous job showing off believable ecosystems chock full of unbelievably cool creatures. Will I finally become a monster hunter? We’ll see! Either way, RPGFan will most assuredly have a review up for this latest titan in a fan-favorite franchise.
There’s real warmth upon me right now as I wrap things up at a coffeehouse, bright rays from the setting sun shining into the dining area. It feels nice. I love colder weather, but there’s something special about nature’s first reminder that renewal is upon us. At least, that’s how I’ve felt most of the time. Spend a few years in Florida and you’ll shake your head at what I just said something fierce, believe you me.
If your local weather’s as pleasant as mine, this a great time to carry a Switch in your backpack and set off on a journey around your neighborhood, stopping at a bench for a bit to spare a few moments with a fun new RPG. Get some exercise, level up your motley band, and remember to stay hydrated. That’s basically three of the Ten Commandments, right there.