The recent years were something of an RPG Renaissance, with high-profile launches like Pillars of Eternity, Divinity: Original Sin or The Witcher 3, to smaller ones, like Tyranny or Undertale.
This year was particularly interesting, RPG-wise, and gave us some titles which may be fondly recalled years from now the same way older gamers reminisce about Infinity Engine-era productions which became a golden standard for years to come.
This is a Top 7 RPGs released this year. Why seven? Because RPGs are prime entertainment and Top 5 would be too restrictive.
7. Assassin’s Creed: Origins
Make or Bayek
Yes, we’re stretching the definition here a bit, and ten years ago nobody would even dream that AC would be called an RPG. And yet here we are. While not exactly forthcoming as far as story choices are concerned, there are enough gameplay similarities to what passes for an RPG these days, to make it worth putting on this list, despite shenanigans typical of 2017.
Open world? Check. A protagonist with some measure of humanity and personality? Check. Loot to find? On boy, yeah. XP-bound progression and skill trees? Sure.
Interestingly enough, Assassin’s Creed: Origins even dumps discrete missions in favour of quests you can wander away from at any point, if it’s your preference. They can even be interesting! What a time to be alive.
6. Persona 5
Jung vs. Old
Once again, we’re cheating a little bit, but we are allowed to, because it wasn’t until this year that Persona 5 launched worldwide. It is a story about a group of teenagers (it is, after all, a Japanese RPG), who in order to right wrongs use their odd mystic abilities to enter the mindscapes of corrupt adults. In a way it’s a weirder, darker (albeit not humourless) take on Tim Schafer’s Psychonauts, only with more turn-based combat and less jumping around to get a floating memory-neon.
It’s not often that games let you play out epic battles against manifestations of other people’s psyche among the corridors twisted like their own minds. It’s like a tribute to Jungian psychology.
Persona 5 also lets you navigate the meandering lives of teenagers, including budding and wilting relationships, doing part-time jobs, playing minigames. Although it’s currently only available on PlayStation 3 and 4, if you own either and feel starved of a worthwhile, insightful, and playfully quirky RPG, Persona 5 is your best bet.
ELEX is a weird game, just like its spiritual ancestor Gothic (and immediate predecessor, Risen). Piranha Bytes has a knack for making games with incredible atmosphere and NPCs who actually react to what you are doing, but marred by somewhat unwieldy combat and admittedly unconvincing character models. ELEX stays true to pretty much all of Piranha Bytes’ traditions, but serves them in an interesting, if seemingly disjointed setting.
Magalan is a place where humanity (split into several tribes) has been nearly wiped out by a crashing comet. For better or worse, the calamity brought with it a unique mineral, called Elex, which can be used in many different ways. ELEX is probably PB at its finest, with compelling and rewarding exploration, meaningful faction system, surprising replayability and reactivity, and a certain lack of technical polish everyone expects of them by now.
4. South Park: The Fractured But Whole
South Park Excrementic Universe
It’s been coming, and coming, and coming, with some delays, but it’s finally here, launched not too long ago. Depending on your personal preference, you might find it hilarious or pointlessly foul, but this is beside the point. South Park: The Fractured But Whole, a direct sequel to Obsidian-made Stick of Truth, takes a lot of piss out of the current boom on superhero… everything.
The kids have split into two teams due to an argument over who gets their own movie franchise, satirizing both cinematic Marvel Civil War and the conflict between the fans of Marvel and DC movies. Mechanics have been expanded in comparison to the previous game, too, with more classes (of course inspired by comic book archetypes), proper loot, more exploration. It’s a lot of fun if you enjoy or can flat out ignore the crass humour which made South Park famous.
3. NieR: Automata
Androids dream of organic moose
A game, which briefly took the gaming world by storm in Q3, and with some decent reasons. Yoko Taro and Platinum’s creation is possibly one of the weirdest, and most captivating stories in gaming, although you’ll need to play the game multiple times to find out why. Literally. NieR changes every time you finish and replay it, with multiple playthroughs required to get the full picture from all available perspectives.
The game itself has 27 different endings of varying degrees of complexity, too. If you’re into philosophy, NieR: Automata is going to be as much of a treat, as Persona 5 can be to psychologists, too. Who said games can’t deal with heavier topics in a fun way or sneak in a fancy reference?
2. Torment: Tides of Numenera
In the footsteps of giants
InXile Entertainment’s Torment: Tides of Numenera may have set a nigh-impossible goal for itself, trying to style itself as a spiritual successor to the greatest cRPG in history: Planescape: Torment. Did it succeed? Well, it’s nowhere near as phenomenal and may end up forgotten within the next year or two, but is a pretty damned good game on its own right nonetheless.
Set in Monte Cook’s Numenera setting, it puts the players millions of years in the Earth’s future.
It was apparently a long enough time for multiple grand civilisations to rise and fall, and for the technology to beat the dead horse of Clarke’s third law to a bloody paste. Much like its predecessor, TToN has elaborate dialogue trees, a fluid morality system changing your gameplay and interactions, and a bizarre world you learn about at the same time your character does.
Thankfully it’s not an amnesia plot. Instead, your character is a being whose sentience was born as it was falling from the orbit, after the previous occupant of the body’s consciousness vacated the premises. And for once some RPG allows us to talk to people who fight us, even if it can cost us a turn if we use advanced manipulation (Intimidation, using the Tides to influence others etc.). Check it out. It’s no Planescape: Torment, but it brought back a good piece of the weirdness and centuries-old problems which were parts of the original’s appeal.
1. Divinity: Original Sin 2
Divinitive role-playing experience
I mean, really, what else would be here? After 15 years of making games set in the Rivellon setting, Larian Studios struck gold and gave us a game that’s very likely to go down in the annals of RPGs as one the best RPGs to date, at least as far as video games are concerned. Original Sin 2 is a confusingly titled sequel to 2015 Original Sin, which while excellent was a mere proof of concept in comparison to its successor.
Now we get expanded character creation/selection, with proper support for both pre-made characters and the player’s own creations, expansive, story-heavy, fully dubbed singleplayer campaign capable of handling 4-player competitive co-op, a massive Game Master mode for people who want to create their own stories and share them with others online… The list of features goes on.
From a technical standpoint, DOS2 stuns with its beauty and amazes with the flexibility of the mechanics.
Short after the launch players started to discover devastating ability combos and clever workarounds using the abilities’ inherent features instead of exploits. Divinity: Original Sin 2 has no betters in capturing the freedom and joy of tabletop role-playing games in a video game form. Whether in singleplayer or co-op, it stands as a shining beacon of what can be achieved in the genre.
You all got XP
All things considered, 2017 wasn’t a bad year for RPGs, after all, with just enough fun for the fans of classic western RPGs, jRPG, even action RPGs and open-world immersive pieces. Now to find the time and money to play through all of them fast enough to have time for Pillars of Eternity 2 when it launches sometime in 2018.
What are your picks for the best RPG of 2017?