2011 was one of the biggest, blockbuster-packed years for gaming ever, but you shall get no break. Looking over the list of games heading to consoles in 2012 is the perfect way to make your bank account burst into uncontrollable fits of weeping and curl up in a little ball in the corner. But in a good way.
While RPG players will no doubt still be bumming around Skyrim for a good part of the year, 2012 is bringing its own slate of varied role-playing experiences for you to enjoy. Let's level up, shall we, and check out the best RPGs of 2012.
Mass Effect 3
Release Date: March 6, 2012
In spite of some recent stumbles, BioWare is damn good at making RPGs, and this third edition of its ongoing space-opera franchise will be the first title in the Mass Effect series to launch on the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 at the same time, as well as the first to feature multiplayer. We honestly couldn’t be happier that PS3 owners will have the chance to play the game when it comes out, and not have to wait forever, and having everyone able to share the love on day one for the highly awaited trilogy-ender would be a harmonious conclusion.
BioWare describes the RPG like this:
"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."
Which sounds pretty great to me.
In Mass Effect 3's multiplayer co-op mode, called "Galaxy at War," players will play alongside up to three other players in unique missions that can impact the outcome of the single player campaign. Each mission was designed specifically for multiplayer, and will involve taking over enemy strongholds. By completing these missions, players will give themselves a better chance of attaining a "perfect" ending in the single player campaign. Mass Effect 3's multiplayer will allow you to play as asari, drell, krogans, salarians, and turians, and each race will have unique powers
While many of the most hardcore RPG fans balk at multiplayer being added to a beloved series, this may be just the thing to kickstart the series and add something uniquely current to the mix. We think ME 3 will be one of the best RPGs of 2012.
Release Date: Unknown
No one knows how to play with PC gamers’ emotions like Activision-Blizzard, but now that StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm are both playable, it's time to turn our attention to the uber-awaited threequel Diablo 3.
We still don't have a release date for this game, beyond "when its finished," but we imagine it will be finished in 2012. Gamers imaginations are already fired up with visions of D3's countless new features, including the Artisan system, which gives you access to traveling craftsmen (blacksmith, mystic, or a jeweler), and 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), and even a real-currency auction house system that straddles the line between the video game and the "real" worlds. In short, Diablo fans and all gamers 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.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
Release Date: February 7, 2012
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is probably the most ambitious game on our list of future RPGs -- more ambitious than even Mass Effect 3. Based on brand new ideas from some of the heaviest names in gaming -- Ken Rolston, the lead designer of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, is the game's executive designer, fantasy author R.A. Salvatore created the game universe and lore, and Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, created the artwork -- Amalur is the only game on the list that isn't a sequel or based on existing property, making it a bigger gamble than any other title here. Reckoning has star power both from its creators and the head of its development house 38 Studios. 38 was founded by former Red Sox star pitcher Curt Shilling.
Kingdoms of Amalur may be a new property, but the plan is to start big, not small. It will feature five distinct regions, four playable races, and three class trees with 22 abilities per tree, and a more action-oriented combat system than many RPGs. The game will utilize a "destiny" system: Player invest in a skill-tree system to unlock various destinies, which act as the class system for the game. Combat is action-RPG style, and works based on the timing of button presses and the occasional quick-time event. Overall, the vision of the game is a marriage between God of War and Oblivion. Which sounds like the perfect combination for a game, no?
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Japanese role-playing games differ from the Western version in more respects than just the elaborate haircuts. While the vibe for American RPGs runs toward moral ambiquity and gritty violence, JRPGs like Final Fantasy 13 tend to be much more colorful. The characters and stories are much more mythic than the narratives in games like Skyrim, and Final Fantasy 13-2 will likely continue this trend, and bring fans of the genre and the series great joy. After the massive hundred-plus hours of gameplay featured in FF 13, look for more of the same. And you won't have to wait too long either. FF 13-2 will be out at the end of January. It's already out in Japan, where it has met with great praise.
The game takes place three years after the events of Final Fantasy XIII. Lightning, the protagonist of the original game, has disappeared into an unknown world. Her younger sister Serah Farron, a returning character, and a boy named Noel Kreiss attempt to find Lightning.
Release Date: April 2, 2012
Speaking of Japanese RPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles made a tremendous splash upon its release in Japan, so much so that an American release was assured. This game killed in Japan, with average aggregate scores of 94% at GameRankings, 92 out of 100 at Metacritic, and 9.3 out of 10 at GameStats. As of December 2011, it is listed at GameRankings as the fifth highest-rated game of 2011, and the fifth highest-rated RPG of all time. As of December 2011, it is also listed as the seventh highest-rated Wii game of all time at Metacritic.
If you're unfamilliar, Xenoblade Chronicles is best known for its expansive, huge open-world. It has been described as the size of an MMO, but designed for a single player, and features varied landscapes, and the interesting "Bonds" system of questing, in which characters can partake in many optional sidequests with non-player characters. Completing such quests can alter perception of the character in the towns, and open up additional story sequences.
The game also features an "Affinity" system, where each member has an Affinity stat that indicates how they feel about another party member, ranging from indifference to love. These affinities can be altered by having characters participate in battle together, giving gifts, or using the "Heart-to Heart" system. These "Heart-to-Hearts" are intimate moments between two characters that can show more of a character's personality, history, or thoughts, all of which seem like very Japanese, almost dating-sim elements in an RPG.
When this game comes out in April, we predict it will make hardcore RPG gamers very, very happy.
Risen 2: Dark Water
Release Date: April 22, 2012
While the original Risen has a loyal fanbase among PC players, the 360 version is generally regarded as a less-than-stellar game. Luckily, the tech problems that plagued Risen have been acknowledged and the devs promise they will be solved. Still, a stable game isn't enough to be listed among the top RPGs of the year, but the subject matter is. One word: Pirates. It's a Pirate RPG. It's a bit of a wildcard, but pirates alone shoud be enough to put this title on every RPG fans watch-list.