The 7 best RPGs of this generation
7th Jan 2011 | 17:50
All together now: When the day is long... and the night... the night is yours alone... When you're sure you've had enough... of this life... erm, you can always slink away to an RPG where your only problems are ghouls with guns or giant sea monsters.
We all like to role play every now and then, especially on our PCs, consoles and handhelds. It's the ultimate drug-free escapism trip - but there are a few titles that do it better than any others.
When the CVG walls feel like they're closing in (every day) these are the RPG's we escape to. Don't forget to give us yours in the comments.
It might not be the prettiest, but there's something awe-inspiring about the world of Fallout. The sheer vastness of the Capital Wastelands in Fallout 3 is just one of the reasons why it holds a special place in our RPG hearts. Okay, so it didn't have a whole lot in it in terms of bricks and motor (it's a wasteland after all) but it just felt so thick with character all the way through.
The depth of Fallout 3's RPG experience was equally rich. Whether you were keeping your beady eyes open for rad-scorpions as you walked through the wilderness at night, repairing one of the 40-odd weapons strapped somewhere to your person, managing both your karma and radiation levels or making an enemy of a ghoul with a gun because your speech ability didn't get you out of a sticky situation, Fallout sucked you into a world that was really hard to leave.
That's the sign of a great RPG, being so involved in every minute decision and action of a fictional character and the world he lives in that coming back to reality feels like a punishment.
Quite simply put Demon's Souls is a cult classic, so much so in fact that until it was released in Europe last year, PS3 players were importing it from Japan through fear that it would never leave the land of the rising sun.
The fact that we were still feverishly excited about the western release of Demon's Souls even though most of us already owned a copy we'd shipped in from the other side of the globe just goes to show how much love this one commands.
Why is Demon's Souls so loved? Mainly because, aside from all it's RPG goodness, it doesn't talk down to us, it doesn't give us any breaks, in fact it shouts in our face and kicks us around the room. For some reason we love it. Finally a real challenge.
Even the most basic enemies can get the jump on you and if you find your back to the wall there's no combination of buttons that will activate some burst of energy, there's no Spell of Arrubica (we made that up) to help you out. You should've been more careful in the fist place bub.
Dragon Age Origins
Humans? Check. Elves? Yep. Dwarves? Present. Mages? Has anyone seen the Mages? Oh there they are.
Dragon Age Origins is on classic RPG territory in terms of its premise and make-up, as all of the above combine to take on a common evil with players using both their wits in conversation and their skills in combat to contribute to the cause.
To assume that a conventional set-up means a middle of the road, seen-it-all-before-game, however, would be dead wrong since Dragon Age Origins was applauded for its strength of personality, which was found not only in characters you met along the way, like the wonderfully sarcastic Grey Warden Alistair for example, but in every facet of the game itself.
Like most of the games on this list the success of Dragon Age was about creating a world so deep and detailed that it felt real and alive sucking you into a world so deep that you actually felt like a part of it.
Part of that came from the game allowing for anywhere around eighty hours of play (there are bound to be some mental side effects after that length of time) but it was also thanks to the depth of the communities in the game world, their religions, histories and cultures being so complete you started to believe in them just as much as the characters themselves.
Dragon Quest IX
You could say Dragon Quest spawned the modern RPG. The likes of XP, battle menus and turn-based encounters all came to the fore thanks to the series and the fourth in the DS franchise is arguably the best one thanks to its wit and epic presence.
Starting as a guardian angel with only a handful of items to your name, you set off into the big wide world to see what you can gather together. It's the classic Dragon Quest story.
On your journey you'll wander through every kind of territory from open sea to green fields to bustling towns, all of which are typically hosting the odd monster or two for you to have a go at to gain that all important experience.
With every town sporting its own little conflict, quibble or melodrama spanning every subject from time-travel to lost loves to get involved in. There's a wealth of sumptuous sub-plot to get involved in and it's all been crammed on to that little DS. How do they do it?
Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Ah Oblivion, it's a real veteran of the RPG clan, console and indeed genre leading in its day but slightly wrinkled now. The thing about the old timers though, is that you can't dismiss them too soon. In our eyes, the fourth in the Elder Scrolls series could still give some of these young 'uns a run for their money.
Oblivion was a rare kind of game that served up a number starkly different gaming ideas and mechanics, where most would only focus on one or two, and managed to do all of them well.
Customising your character was more than deep, touching on everything from your weapon to your race and activities ranged from flower-picking to robbing a shop-keeper at sword point to owning a shop yourself (praying you don't get robbed at sword point).
Combat alone was a multitude of different killing ideas. You could poison weapons, shoot people, stun people, slash people, scare people all as part of an amazing quest that sees you rise from a dingy prison cell to a demon slaying heir to an Emperor called Patrick Stewart...
The biggest tick for Oblivion though is that we could delve back into the disc today, get lost in the world simply by wandering round and be quite happy thank you very much. Elder Scrolls IV really has stood the test of time.
Monster Hunter Tri
Monster Hunter, as its title suggests, is based around hunting, gathering and slicing up a monster every now and then.
Same old story then. One of the biggest additions to the series with Tri, however, was Moga island, a free-roaming world allowing you to gather herbs, fish, swim, explore caves, help civilians and taunt monsters at your own pace.
Generally, Tri was a success because it required both brains and brawn and asked for a bit of both in return - although it was far more accessible than previous iterations - and it did all this in an absolutely beautiful world with sweeping vistas, glistening seas and a swelling orchestral soundtrack to guarantee at least one spine shiver.
Put simply, it's one of the most sprawling games on the Wii, that demands a healthy amount of ability, offers an immensely satisfying amount of freedom and puts all that on a stunning backdrop.
This is the big one, the one that gets compared to Star Wars. Mass Effect is one of the greatest RPG experiences ever etched on to a disc, one that its sequel didn't quite match.
With Mass Effect not only did you get a whole world to explore, you got a whole galaxy to rummage around in. But it was more Mass Effect was most impressive because of what went on right in front of your face, rather than thousands of light years away.
It was the personal relationships you formed and the danger of stretching the professional ones to breaking point. It was the subtle mechanics of the conversation system and the fluidity of dialogue coming from the perfectly defined characters.
The biggest triumph of Bioware's epic, genre giant, however, was its willingness and ability to place a phenomenal amount of control over a fantastic linear story into the players' hands.
Mass Effect 2 upped the action of the series and was roundly praised for almost every aspect of its experience. As far as role-playing was concerned, however, it did lose out a little bit in the sequel and so, for now, there's only really one true way to quench a thirst for some intergalactic RPGing.