The lights are on
As many know, I love my role-playing games. Every year, I look at what's on the horizon, and I find there's more awaiting me than I initially realized. This year a variety of RPGs are scheduled; Final Fantasy is closing out Lightning’s story in Lightning Returns, the team behind Disgaea are bringing their creativity to The Witch and the Hundred Knight, and the long-awaited, South Park: The Stick of Truth promises plenty of hilarity. Throw in some awesome HD collections, such as Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix, and Tales of Symphonia Chronicles, and RPG fans are going to have their work cut out for themselves. As such, I decided to narrow down the list to those you shouldn’t let get lost in shuffle.
Order is by release date
Bravely Default: Flying Fairy (3DS)
Release: February 7
Fans campaigned hard for this spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light to come to our shores after it received plenty of accolades in Japan. RPG diehards will be happy, as there are plenty of nods to past Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games, with jobs, a big sprawling world, and a traditional battle system. Battles play out quickly, but are about more than just spamming the attack command. Every time you complete an action, a brave point is spent, but if you select default, you stockpile the turn. You can even spend more BP than you have, going into the negative, if you decide it’s worth losing a few turns to heal up your party or unleash a succession of attacks. I played the prologue and boss battles were already an intense affair. Sounds like a good nostalgic challenge awaits.
Release: March 11 for 360 and PS3, TBA for PC
Dark Souls fans just can’t get enough of its punishing world, and the next entry isn’t changing anything about that. When we got hands-on time this past fall, it was clear that From Software was listening to all the complaints from the first game and making things more balanced this time around. Don’t expect to find a loophole to get away from the madness and prepare for an even more revved up difficulty. Players can invade your world at any time and From Software also added penalties that affect your maximum health, so your chance to see the infamous "You Died" screen just increased tenfold. Dark Souls doesn’t hand out victories easily, and that’s part of the thrill, so stepping inside once again to prove you have the chops to succeed is just as appetizing as before. Who knows what crazy story you’ll have about your survival... or death.
Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky - PlayStation 3
Release: March 11
Coming-of-age stories with plenty of alchemy? You bet. The Atelier games are plenty charming, with characters growing through relatable issues and improving their alchemical skills. Atelier has classically centered on a single female protagonist, but the latest changes it up by letting you choose between two protagonists: One female named Escha and one male named Logy. Both are government officials assigned to work together: Escha is full of cheer and Logy is more serious. Escha’s story is lighthearted with a focus on daily events and more in line with what seasoned fans expect. Logy’s journey focuses on world exploration and packs more drama. Not only will you get different perspectives on events depending who you choose, but even the endings are different. Sounds just like the change this longstanding series needs.
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars (Vita, 3DS)
I never thought a Conception game would come to North America, but I’m glad Atlus is making it happen. Sometimes you just want a game that doesn’t take itself seriously, embracing the absurd. That’s certainly Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars, where you must procreate “Star Children” to help save the world. Your main character “classmates” with other females to produce these mini combatants, but it’s not as simple as it looks. You should aspire to have strong relationships with your potential mates, as a child’s available classes are based on the bond’s statistics, so don’t limit your child’s potential by only putting in minimal effort. Setting your tot up for dungeons is simple: Equip them with weaponry and armor, and send them into battle using a traditional battle system centered on exploiting enemy weaknesses. With plenty of dungeons, relationship management, and guaranteed quirkiness, Children of the Seven Stars shouldn’t be like anything else you play this year.
Dragon Age: Inquisition (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, XboxOne, PlayStation 4)
Dragon Age: Inquisition has a lot to prove after BioWare received plenty of feedback from disappointed fans about Dragon Age II. However, if our cover trip was any indication, BioWare is up for the challenge. Listening to fan feedback and using the Frostbite 3 engine, the team is crafting one massive world for exploration, complete with diverse settings from eerie marshes to snowy mountaintops. The best part though? BioWare is putting you right in the middle of the conflict by casting you in the role of the Inquisitor, putting the choice in your hands on how you shape the world. And you’ll have your hands full; the Templar and Mage war continues to heat up alongside other threats, like a tear opening in the sky allowing even more sinister forces to enter the world. With returning faces like Varric and Cassandra as party members and Morrigan having a big role in the plot, fans have plenty to look forward to, as they watch the ripple effect from the decisions they must make for the fate of the world. .
Tales of Xillia 2 (PlayStation 3)
Tales of Xillia gave fans plenty to love last August, and 2014 brings its exciting sequel. Tales of Xillia 2 takes place a year after the events of the first game so you can expect returning characters, but the protagonist you control, Ludger Will Kresnik, is brand new. He’s not only a great cook, but he can also destroy alternate timelines. Namco Bandai also emphasized choice for this sequel. Time will tell its true impact on the plot, but I did play the import version and encountered plenty of small dialogue decisions. Xillia fans should also remember the high-tech world of Elympios, which is where you start Xillia 2. Getting more insight into the other world Jude and company uncovered at the end of first game is exciting in its own right.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
Geralt, the definition of a morally gray character, is back again. This time, CD Projekt RED is going out all out for his finale. With a multi-region open world complete with living ecosystems and a mature story featuring difficult choices and consequences, Wild Hunt promises to give you more than just combat to think about. How do you choose between different evils? What will be uncovered in such a vast world where you need horses and boats to traverse it? We’ll find out how and what demons will come our way soon enough. One thing is certain though; the choices won’t be for the faint of heart.
X (Wii U)
Monolith Soft developed one of the best RPGs of last generation, Xenoblade Chronicles, and now it’s set to top it with its new project: X. Nintendo and Monolith Soft still haven’t revealed much, except for teasing mech combat and a vast world to explore. The open world looks gorgeous, and anything connected to the Xeno family has my interest. So with Xeno director Tetsuya Takahashi and Xenogears character designer Kunihiko Tanaka on board, it’s hard not to feel like RPG fans are in good hands. This just may be the game we’ve been waiting for on the Wii U.
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