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The Future of RPGs: Looking Forward At Diablo 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3 And More

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Posted December 30, 2010 - By Jake Gaskill








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The Future of RPGs: Looking Forward At Diablo 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3 And More

We looked to the future as part of Epictober back in, er ... October, but suffice it to say, we're still looking forward to 2011. We've updated these posts with the games that were announced since then, and here's what you can start looking forward to in 2011 and beyond. Just as a friendly reminder, 2011 starts in less than a week. So start your anticipating right now.

As we look ahead to what lies in store for lovers of quests, booty, dialogue trees, and dozens upon dozens of hours of character progression and inventory management, the forecast for the future of role-playing games is whatever the video game equivalent of 72 degrees and sunny is.

Obviously, you have your heavy hitters like BioWare and Blizzard, who will be delivering some of the most highly sought after games of this generation (Mass Effect 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Diablo 3, etc.). However, for as much innovation as these developers are trying to cram into these titles, there is still something relatively “old-school” about them; especially when you consider what the folks at inXile entertainment are doing with their co-op focused Hunted: The Demon's Forge, or the lengths to which Eidos is going with Deus Ex: Human Revolution to create the kind of RPG-shooter experience that fans of the franchise have been dreaming about for many years.

Still, whether you’re talking about traditional RPGs or RPG hybrids, the future has never been brighter for this time-intensive yet deeply rewarding genre. And on that note, we present to you our list of the top eight RPGs on the horizon that have us +45 excited.

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim

Release Date: 11/11/11

We don't know much about The Elder Scrolls 5, except that it's finally actually coming out, and will arrive on 11/11/11. Perhaps the best news of all around the announcement of the game was the fact that it would be using an entirely new engine, rather than the beginning-to-show-its-age Gamebryo engine. Plus, when you have Max von Sydow narrating your game trailer, you don't really need that many details about your game. 

We're sure that more information will be forthcoming in the new year, but we do know that the game will feature Dragonborne characters. The name Skyrim refers to the northernmost provence in Tamriel, which is snowy and mountainous. Five of the world's highest peaks are located here, and it's been the site of many previous battles. It's not new to the Elder Scrolls universe of course, but it sounds like the conflict that's brewing there will be, dare we say, epic? Snow, mountains, dragons .... new engine? Count us in.

The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim Announcement Trailer »


Mass Effect 3

Release Date: TBA Q4 2011

The second BioWare offering on the list carries some added weight because it will (likely) be the first title in the developer’s critically acclaimed sci-fi RPG franchise to launch on the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. We honestly couldn’t be happier that PS3 owners will finally have the chance to experience the brilliance that is Mass Effect 2 when the game makes its way to Sony’s console in January, and having everyone able to share the love on day one for the highly awaited trilogy-ender would be a harmonious conclusion indeed (even if the narrative’s conclusion ends up being anything but).

We finally have to wonder about Mass Effect 3 no longer, as the recent debut trailer gave us some insight, like the fact that Shepard will be watching London burn at some point. Plus BioWare's on site had this blurb:

Earth is burning. Striking from beyond known space, a race of terrifying machines have begun their destruction of the human race. As Commander Shepard, an Alliance Marine, your only hope for saving mankind is to rally the civilizations of the galaxy and launch one final mission to take back the Earth.

We also know that players can expect an even deeper character/save file transfer system, more sophisticated enemies and combat, and, sadly, more mining, albeit via a more streamlined version of it. While it will most likely be a little less than a year before ME3 hits our disc trays, BioWare will be bridging the gap between ME2 and ME3 through DLC. The recently releasedLair of the Shadowbroker was the first of an unknown number of DLC packs in the works, so ME fans will have plenty to keep them busy until Commander Shepard’s epic journey comes to an end.

Defining Feature: Seeing how player choices from the first Mass Effect influence events in the final chapter will represent a true milestone for the genre.  

Mass Effect 3 Earth Announcement Trailer »

 

 

Diablo 3

Release Date: TBA 2011

No one knows how to jerk around with PC gamers’ emotions like Blizzard, and now that StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is out, and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm is coming in December, all eyes, ears, and index fingers are focused entirely on the uber-awaited threequel Diablo 3. This year’s BlizzCon is expected to the “biggest yet” in terms of Diablo 3 news, which leads me to believe we’ll finally hear a release date and the last class will be revealed. Fingers crossed. When they aren't clicking the left mouse button.

Until then though, visions of the game’s countless new features including the Artisan system, which gives you access to traveling craftsmen (blacksmith, mystic, or a jeweler), or the new Skill Runes system, which lets you fundamentally change skills in a variety of ways depending on the rune you use (i.e. acid-spewing poison Hydra heads vs. chain lighting powered Hydra heads). In short, Diablo fans are in for an experience that should feel simultaneously familiar yet fresh and exciting. If you know a better combination, I’d love to hear it.

Defining Feature: The Artisan system adds logical depth to character development and class management, and means more time spent battling and less time traveling to towns. 

Diablo III Artisan Crating Gamescom 2010 Trailer »


 

Guild Wars 2

Release Date: TBA 2011

ArenaNet has every intention of giving fans of its hit MMORPG franchise everything they’ve come to expect from the series (an expansive, co-op focused, subscription-less, graphically impressive MMO experience ) while also providing many compelling reasons for newcomers to the genre to finally take the plunge. Consider the Mad Libs-inspired character creation system, which lets players not only select a race for their character but also establish a rich back story that factors into the events of the game. It's a lot more intimate than just rolling up a Fighter with a blank slate.

Or the fact that the events in the game unfold dynamically based on your actions in the world. You’ll still encounter NPCs who will provide you with quests, but the system is designed to make the process feel much more natural than in typical RPGs. Players can also, like some of the other games on this list, mix and match class attributes to make the hero that fits your personal style. Want to be a run and gunner, or a ranged attacker? You can combine talents and attributes to make that work. And really, in the end, isn’t that what a great RPG should be all about?

Defining Feature: Character bios that influence the narrative and dynamic event chains create unique experiences for every player. 

Guild Wars 2 Manifesto Trailer »


 

Dragon Age 2

Release Date: March 8, 2011

BioWare came right out and asked gamers, “What didn’t work?” in Dragon Age: Origins when it started development on Dragon Age II, and the feedback the team received from this question directly influenced how they approached every aspect of the sequel. For starters, the game sports an improved graphics engine and art style that will give the game a much grittier tone. The controls for consoles have been reworked to take full advantage of the controller. Combat will be more fluid and put a premium on thinking tactically during battles.

Your character is fully voiced this time around as well, which will help to flesh out the new 10-year timeframe that serves as the backdrop for the overall narrative. Toss in a Mass Effect-inspired dialogue system just for good measure, and you have a recipe for one meaty sequel that should provide PC and console players alike with a fantasy RPG experience that’s shaping up to be second to none.

Defining Feature: Setting the narrative over 10 years means player actions and decisions will have far reaching implications over the course of the game. 

Dragon Age 2 "Destiny" Director's Cut Trailer »


 

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Release Date: TBA 2011

A fully-voiced MMORPG is something that might have seemed damn near impossible a few years back, but leave it up to BioWare to actually make this absurdly ambitious prospect a reality. This also happens to be the first Star Wars-based title from the developer since it unleashed one of the greatest games of all time, RPG or otherwise, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, so it has that going for it, which is nice.

Throw in branching storylines for each character and the fact that you get your own spacecraft (which can then be used to blast space fools out of their space-fool rides), and it’s easy to understand why gamers are chomping at their bantha bits to get their hands on this game. Also, as we recently learned, Smugglers get their own personal Wookie, which just sounds so badass. Guard your arm sockets, suckers. Me and my Wookie don't take no guff.

Defining Feature: I'll say it again: the first fully voiced MMORPG. The script is estimated to be as long as 40+ novels. Simply. Ridiculous. 

Star Wars: The Old Republic Smuggler Trailer »


 

Hunted: The Demon's Forge

Release Date: TBA 2011

The "Gears of WarCraft" descriptor that the developers at inXile Entertainmnet have applied to their fantasy RPG makes much more sense when you see the game in action. The two-player co-op-centric gameplay lets players assume the role of two distinct characters: the brutish, hack-n-slasher Caddoc, and the impulsive, bow-toting vixen of violence E’lara. Not only does the game support jump in/jump out co-op, but players can switch between both characters in single-player as well, just in case you want to mix things up.

And while you’d expect a fantasy RPG to feature spells, what has us particularly excited is to see how each character and their spells interact with each other on the battlefield, as there are going to be various ways for players to combine their skills to create devastating attacks. There will also be a fair bit of exploration and puzzle solving thrown in to vary things up even more and lead you to bigger and better weapons. Again, it's the way the two characters combine their abilities to solve problems that has us most looking forward to seeing more of what Hunted has to offer.

Defining Feature: Co-op spell casting and combat abilities will reward teamwork and add a distinct depth to the gameplay. 

E3 2010: Hunted: The Demon's Forge E3 Trailer »


 

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Release Date: February 2011

Eidos’ cyber-punky, Blade Runner-ish techno-thriller brings the acclaimed RPG-shooter series to the next generation with a visual style perfectly suited for its exploration of a world in which bionic augmentation is threatening to tear humanity apart. The Deus Ex franchise has always been known for offering players tremendous freedom in the way they played the game (focusing on stealth, action, hacking, etc.). Human Revolution takes this philosophy even further by ensuring that, not only are all playstyles supported, but those playstyles can be mixed and matched freely throughout the game.

Want to go guns blazing for a little and then do some stealth? Go for it. Hack a little here, convince someone to share a password there. It's up to you. This kind of freedom will ultimately create an experience that is different every time, which has quickly become a staple of modern RPGs. How Human Revolution will differentiate itself in this regards remains to be seen, but you can bet we're going to be there to find out when the game releases early next year.

Defining Feature: Being able to mix and match playstyles on the fly means every moment is a chance to experience something new gameplay-wise. 

Deus Ex: Human Revolution Gamescom 2010 Gameplay Trailer »


Watch Larger Version of this Video 


The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings

Release Date: TBA 2011

CD Projekt’s long-awaited sequel has us excited for a couple of reasons. For one, beneath the painfully long load screens and somewhat unsatisfying combat of the original game was an expansive and rewarding RPG that, among other things, taught us just how sleazy fantasy realms can be (should a developer decide to populate the world with an endless array of fast and loose damsels in undress). For the sequel, the developers have focused a lot of attention on the non-linearity of the experience by giving players an absurd number of ways to progress through the game. For expample, one jailbreak sequence has over 600 possible variations!

The game’s combat has also been ramped up and is now bloodier and more visceral than ever. And if you thought the first game was massive, you'll want to start getting into shape, because the game world is expected to be absurdly huge. As far as adult RPGs go, The Witcher 2 proudly asserts itself as one of the leading contenders, and we, as adults, can’t wait to embark on this dark and mature adventure.

Defining Feature: An ever branching adventure that should satisfy our craving for a mature fantasy experience. 

Witcher 2 Prison Break Trailer »


 

Looking Beyond…To The Future!

No list of this kind would be complete without some mention of the titles that we expect are in development but that have yet to be officially announced. You just know BioWare has at least a couple new epic franchises in the works, and their aspirations on the MMO front suggest many more happy years for RPG fans ahead. And if pencil and paper RPGs are more your speed, Wizards of the Coast just re-released the classic Dungeons & Dragons Red Box, giving you a completely packaged D&D experience, ready for some hot, D20-rolling action.

The Future of RPGs: Looking Forward At Diablo 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3 And More
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