So, this is the last RPG Monthly of 2016. It’s been quite a journey this year, with many great RPGs getting a chance in the spotlight. I’m sure next year will bring just as many great games for us to look at, be it new or old (I’m looking at you Nioh). I had quite a difficult choice to make for this month. What RPG is good enough to end the year off with? What game could be worthy of such a podium to stand on? Well, I chickened out of picking one and decided that for the final RPG Monthly of the year, I would do my personal top ten list of my favourite RPGs of all time. This is all my own opinion, so let’s not burn me at the stake please. This also isn’t in any particular order, merely my favourites above all the others. Let’s get stuck in.
1. Mass Effect 2. This takes the first entry on the list, and it’s well-deserved. Mass Effect is a stunning trilogy full of emotional rinsing and epic sci-fi adventures, but Mass Effect 2 is my favourite of the three. This is because, as referenced in my article on it, it had a darker undertone to the story; a mysterious threat is taking human colonies by the millions, and you’re working on the wrong side of the law in order to stop it. I personally love dark stories, full of death and disaster, so this takes the spot out of the three.
2. Dragon Age Inquisition. Yes, before you say it, I know I’ve said many times that I didn’t enjoy the story of DAI. I felt some parts were lacklustre and couldn’t bring myself to play through again. However, there were many things I did enjoy; how pretty it was, how well written the romances were (I’m not a fan of romance genres, but they were much more realistic than previous ones, and that’s what I loved about them), the fact that there was multiplayer, finally allowing me to play a game such as Dragon Age with friends, and DRAGONS! If I could only say one good thing about it, it would be the dragon fights. They were absolutely amazing, and I’m a sucker for dragons, so this takes my number two spot.
3. Star Wars Knights Of The Old Republic. The crown jewel of Bioware’s games. Perhaps the greatest Star Wars game ever made. Despite it being over 10 years old, I still play it to this day. As a big Star Wars nerd, I always wanted to make my own Jedi/Sith and run around the galaxy, lightsaber and force powers in hand. Unfortunately, the only game I had that could do that was Lego Star Wars. Until I heard of KOTOR, and decided to buy it and see what it was like. I wasn’t prepared for such a masterpiece. The story was gripping at every stop, the and vistas were beautiful for its age, the characters were interesting, and the combat was technical but satisfying, in its true RPG style. Not to mention that massive plot-twist halfway through. This is my favourite Bioware game ever made, and definitely led to Bioware’s Mass Effect.
4. Dark Souls. You didn’t expect me to make a top ten list of my favourite RPGs of all time and not put Dark Souls on here did you? I don’t know what more I can say about this game that I haven’t already said several times, so I’ll say it all again. Dark Souls was my first open-world RPG as it were, and by God was it worth it. The graphics were sublime, the story was hidden and required you to dig through it. The combat felt fluid and great to play, and the PvP/PvE elements to the game were a breath of fresh air. But two things make me love this game, one of which I don’t think I’ve covered before. One reason being the difficulty. How it feels so satisfying and rewarding when you finally beat that boss that’s been causing you misery for the past hour, and you get that addictive rush of ecstasy from accomplishing it. The second being the way the multiplayer is designed. I’ve always thought of Dark Souls as being a mini MMO; you can see other players as you go through on your journey. You can see how they died and prepare yourself for what comes next, or leave each other messages to warn others about danger ahead or treasure. The covenants system pits you against each other if you enter the wrong area at the wrong time, and you can both help and hinder each other via summoning and invasions. It’s obviously not classed as an MMO, but I’ve always seen it that way; a dangerous, miserable world that you’re both alone, yet not alone at the same time. And that is why this has a place in my top ten (if it was in order, this would go at the top)
5. Bloodborne. Similar to Dark Souls, except it perfects places that Dark Souls did well, but not quite on this level. Bloodborne is a much more aggressive style of game to Dark Souls; no shields, no defence – just full of attack at every moment. It’s much faster than Dark Souls combat, and Bloodborne definitely gets the crown for best combat and PvE out of the Soulsborne games. The story is amazing, graphics are beautiful yet dark and gritty, and the combat is just awesome. Unfortunately, the PvP wasn’t that great. Sure, the faster paced dueling focus of it was a welcome change, and when it worked it was a lot of fun. But the emphasis here is WHEN it worked. Very rarely would you get an invasion because no-one wanted to ring their invasion bell, limiting you to the two forced areas of pvp. Not only that, but when you did finally get an invasion elsewhere, 9/10 times you were outnumbered and ripped apart as they ganked you. Despite that, it was an excellent game, and had the best DLC of all time.
6. Witcher 3. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to either complete this yet, or write an RPG Monthly on it (expect that in the new year), but it still deserves a spot on the list. I can already hear a few people I know screaming “Witcher isn’t even that good! It only won GOTY because of the boobs!” And to you, my friends, I say; if you truly believe that, then you either didn’t play it, didn’t play it properly or didn’t play it long enough. Witcher 3 has one of the best stories of this generation. Sure, you’re locked into playing a pre-existing character with very little customisation, but it allows you to experience Geralt’s story, which doesn’t limit it at all – if anything, it enhances the storytelling capabilities. Coupled with an intricate if challenging combat system, along with hundreds of sidequests to do, and you have yourselves hours upon hours of fun ahead. I love completing the Witcher contracts and hunting down various monsters, and that’s why it holds a spot on my list.
7. Darkest Dungeon. This one is a little different from the rest so far, because whereas they’ve all been first/third-person open world, this one is a side-scrolling turn-based game. Yet, it is still an amazing game, because of a similar reason to Dark Souls; it’s dark, gripping and challenging. In case you don’t know what Darkest Dungeon is (if not you should definitely check it out), it tasks you with delving into dangerous dungeons in order to restore your inherited estate to its former glory. But this is not a simple task. You get a team of four heroes (each with different abilities and roles – which is what makes it a ROLE-playing game) and must prepare adequately with the right amount of provisions each time, but money is limited – do you buy extra food so your team doesn’t starve to death, buy extra torches so the darkness doesn’t drive them mad, or shovels so you can clear obstacles and get more treasure? No matter which you choose, the game will punish you for that decision, and it’s scary when it does. Each hero has a stress metre, and when it fills, they either gain a negative impact or positive impact. For example, I had a knight and doctor reach max stress at the same time, and whereas the Knight gained a powerful resolve, the doctor became paranoid of everyone. Positive resolves benefit the team; on the other end of the spectrum, a negative resolve can quickly send the team into a downward spiral resulting in everyone dying. And in this game, death is permanent, and you’ll never see them again. This strategic planning and dangerous consequences are why I love it and why it goes on the list.
8. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. This is my favourite in the TES series, as it is for many others. This, for me, is because the quests are better written than Skyrim, and it feels like a real RPG, whereas Skyrim was more free in your choices (remember, I only played from Oblivion onwards, so don’t say “Well Morrowind had all these”. I will get to Morrowind one day, don’t you worry my pretties). The story of Oblivion was great and a lot of fun, but the best stories were in the sidequests and factions, my favourite being the Dark Brotherhood. The Brotherhood in Oblivion was the best out of this and Skyrim – a tale of betrayal within the family, with misaccusations and paranoia abound. Skyrim tried to repeat this, and while okay, it couldn’t capture the magic of Oblivion’s, which is why the Oblivion DB will always be my favourite. The class system in Oblivion was amazing. While you weren’t forced into using certain things within the class, your choice kind of enticed you into using it. For example, my first character was a custom Spellsword class I made, and I ended up using purely the perks and abilities associated with it. The game, in my eyes, was the best TES game so far and still a tonne of fun to play.
9. Pokémon Emerald. Now, I know a lot of Pokémon fans dislike this one for various reasons, but this is on my list because it was my first Pokémon game, and introduced me to the world that I’ve come to love. Emerald, despite many fan’s negative opinions, was a great game; the storyline was interesting, the world was vibrant and happy (which for an 8 year old is something wonderful), and the Pokémon, to me, were weird and amazing all at once. I remember how I felt a real connection to my team as we travelled the world, beating gyms and evil teams bent on reshaping the world. Every step was a journey, with both highs and lows during the adventure (accidentally losing Groudon while trying to capture him will haunt me forever). By the time we beat the Elite Four, every member was like family. I unfortunately never got to play any Pokémon games that came after Emerald, so I missed out on all the new Pokémon they added in. But if I ever do get the chance to play them, you can be damn sure that I’ll have a Treecko (my first ever Pokémon and my personal favourite) on my team.
10. Borderlands. Yep, this one takes the final spot on the list, and for good reason. Borderlands was the gem of splitscreen co-op with my brother. The game was fun to play alone, but even better with someone else. The world of Borderlands is tough, and often we were murdered by various bandits that were too tough to fight alone, so we’d help each other by turning the second controller on and bringing in his Brick or my Mordecai to help. Arguments over loot happened often, as was expected; you both want that really sweet purple gun but the enemy only dropped one. So we’d duel for it, and the winner would get the gun. Borderlands represented a time where graphics didn’t matter – it certainly wasn’t the prettiest game, with its cel-shade design – where all that mattered was how much fun you could have.
Thanks to you readers for giving me the chance to do what I love. See you all next year.