The State of RPGs in 2016
Last year was huge for the RPG scene with such releases as The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4. The year of 2016, on the other hand, has really only one AAA title worth talking about -- but there are plenty of smaller games that kept the fans of the genre glued to their computers.
There also have also been some solid expansions for some of 2015's titles coming out this year and just as many remastered versions of even older cult classics. What's more, the future of RPG gaming looks super exciting, as there are some huge releases coming up at the end of the year and the first half of 2017.
So it looks like there is much territory that needs to be covered here, and without any further ado, let’s begin the analysis.
The Biggest RPG Releases of 2016
Dark Souls 3
Undoubtedly, the best and the biggest RPG game of the year is Dark Souls 3 -- the last installment in a series of games that enriched the genre with precise mechanics, multifaceted progression system and hardcore bosses. And all this was encapsulated in a world of ever-growing gloom and doom.
Undoubtedly, the best and the biggest RPG game of the year is Dark Souls 3.
From Software is not scared to pull out a series of games that has no clear story and that makes new players run away from their PCs or consoles after a few miserable deaths. You can't do anything but respect such a developer in the current state of the gaming industry. Hopefully, Hidetaka Miyazaki and co. will deliver some more goodness in the future, albeit perhaps not in the Souls series.
Deus Ex: Mankind Evolved
Another game worth mentioning here is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The game has delivered exactly what it promised and there is really nothing to complain about. It builds upon every aspect of its predecessor, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and adds greater scale, more freedom, infinitely interesting quests, weapons, stealth mechanics, and of course, better graphics.
But before we move on, there is one more AAA title that cannot be ignored -- The Technomancer. It wasn’t received too well by the community, and understandably so. It was presented as a grandiose AAA project -- with the corresponding price tag too! -- but the final result was mediocre at best. Spiders Studios tried really hard this time, but the game just didn’t do it for many gamers, either in terms of story and gameplay or graphics and animation.
The Remastered RPG Releases of 2016
Skyrim: Special Edition
Talking about graphics -- here are some of the finest remasters of the year. This section must be launched with a discussion on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Special Edition, which has been both praised and cursed by fans, with many critics saying the game doesn’t need a remastered version on PC and that it already has tons of cosmetic mods available for free.
However, console players have been more than happy to lay their hands on this gem. And to be honest, Bethesda planned this version mostly as a present for owners of current-gen consoles, anyway.
JRPGs to the Remastered Rescue
A few classic JRPGs, such as Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen and Disgaea, have also been remastered and ported to PC for the rest of the world this year, with the latter having significantly improved textures and UI.
On top of that, all Final Fantasy fans could once again experience Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster on their computers. The FF port was released on May 12, and finally implemented an auto-save feature, five game boosters, three parameter changes and the option to skip FMVs and Cinematics.
The Biggest RPG Sequels of 2016
Final Fantasy XV
It took ten years for Square Enix to deliver one of the most anticipated sequels in the history of gaming -- Final Fantasy XV. Finally, on Nov. 29, Final Fantasy XV will be available worldwide. (However, some gamers have reported that it is already possible to find a copy in a few countries of the world, such as Peru. So beware of spoilers!)
The Witcher 3: Blood and Wine
Although technically not a sequel, the “Blood and Wine” DLC for The Witcher 3 can easily be called a sequel because of its scope, secrets, quests and new NPCs, some of which are arguably the most diverse and interesting in the series. More than that, the developers have updated the game's UI and skill tree system.
The Banner Saga 2
If you haven’t played the original Banner Saga from 2014 -- a small indie project started by the three former BioWare developers -- then you should halt before playing its sequel, Banner Saga 2, as they are tightly interconnected. The first game has already become a classic and the only thing that needs to be done is to finish the third one in the series – which will close the grand trilogy of the Vikings’ adventures.
Baldur's Gate -- Siege of Dragonspear
Last but not least, we have to mention the brand new expansion for Baldur's Gate -- Siege of Dragonspear. It unveils the mysteries behind the fight with Sarevok and the escape from the Irenicus Dungeon from the very first Baldur's Gate, released in 1998.
Siege of Dragonspear is a sort of bridge between the first two games, which is a really cool way of serving the old fans of the series, but completely confusing the new ones, thus evoking lots of unnecessary negative comments from the community -- that could’ve been easily avoided. Hopefully, the developers from BeamDog will try to redeem themselves next time with a completely new story that will satisfy both new and old players.
The Best Indie RPGs of 2016
Many people have treated Tyranny from Obsidian Entertainment as an intermediate game that would fill the gap between Pillars of Eternity and Pillars of Eternity 2. However, little did they know that it turned out to be a truly great game. As a result, we now have an original title that allows you to turn to evil means in order to finish the campaign successfully It's refreshing to not have to save the world for the millionth time!
Grim Dawn -- A Kickstarter Success Story
Early this year we could experience the results of another Kickstarter project success story -- Grim Dawn, a game that clearly nods to the times of Diablo 2 and pays all respects to it. The classical RPG gameplay is supported by large locations full of secrets and dangerous traps. Give it a go and you will thank us later.
2016 has been a fantastic year for the RPG scene, and the future seems to be just as bright as ever.
No mention of Darkest Dungeon yet? Yes, of course, we couldn’t forget about this little masterpiece – a game with a perfectly dark atmosphere and visual style. The game is full of unexpected events and the gameplay is at times so hardcore that you can't but gasp in frustration. Darkest Dungeon is a unique product on the market, so if you never had the chance to play it -- now is the time.
But enough with the dark and broody games -- let’s talk about Stardew Valley instead. Imagine that this little farming simulator with RPG elements competed against such giants like The Division and XCOM 2. But two months later, the game had over a million sales on Steam, which is mind-boggling for an indie project that had been developed by one person -- Eric Barone. Stardew Valley definitely has the bright future with all the upcoming updates and fan-made modifications.
Looking Ahead: The Future of the RPG Genre
Two big games are currently nominated for the most anticipated RPGs of the year at The Game Awards 2016 -- Mass Effect: Andromeda and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Let's look at Mass Effect first, undoubtedly the most recognizable brand here, since the other title is a brand new IP from the developers of the Killzone series.
Those who had the chance to play Mass Effect: Andromeda say that it is the best game in the series. That’s a pretty bold statement, but it probably would be wise not to jump aboard the hype train too soon, and instead just wait for another 4-5 months before the game is officially out.
But what about Horizon: Zero Dawn? This game is totally new territory for Guerilla Games. The developers have stated that they always wanted to make a game in an open world, but they never considered it as an RPG title. However, after a long period of testing, it turned out that all their ideas worked best exactly within the action RPG genre, and that’s what we all should expect from this new title… oh, and giant dinosaur robots, too.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
What other RPG games can’t do, Divinity: Original Sin 2 can. It’s the game that is proclaimed to be “the last hope of the RPG genre,” which may be a bit of an overstatement, but nevertheless, Larian Studios showed that they can do no wrong after the release of the first Original Sin. The newest installment of the franchise introduces a brand new co-op system, which sounds awesome, but the developers also promise a lot will return from the original, so there’s a lot to be expected here.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole
South Park: The Fractured but Whole keeps getting delayed over and over again, and now the game that was originally planned for 2016, will only be released Spring 2017. Trey Parker and Matt Stone said that the new combat system developed for the sequel was inspired mostly by classic table-top role-playing games. Also, they said it will let you play as a girl character from now on, which is a really neat addition that, to be honest, should have been available in the first game, too.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Another highly anticipated RPG that keeps suffering from the constant delays is Kingdom Come: Deliverance -- it will be available Summer 2017. The developers promise 30 hours of gameplay for the main campaign, and an extra 100 hours for the rest of the side quests.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Lastly, the long-awaited Kickstarter project Torment: Tides of Numenera should be delivered early next year. The first mission of the game has been available at Steam Early Access since January 2016, and currently, the developers are adding a few final touches to it and some more quests, as well.
2016 has been a fantastic year for the RPG scene, and the future seems to be just as bright as ever, showing that indie games can be just as good AAA titles. And apart from single-player RPGs, next year will be full of excellent massively-multiplayer releases, too, so don’t miss on those.
The only thing left is to find out what other projects we can expect from Hidetaka Miyazaki -- the definitive king of the RPG gaming. If one of them is going to be at least half as good as the Dark Souls series, then it will prove that he is a true master of his craft.
Other than that, let us know what RPG releases should have been mentioned in this article, and what games do you expect to see in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments section.