Thanks to high definition TV’s and the enhancements in gaming technology, people are able to experience new fantasy worlds, filled with lively characters and adventurous stories like never before. Many of the most anticipated role-playing titles take developers years of hard work, engineering advanced AI and breaking new ground with additions like multiplayer and visual explosiveness. To help RPG fans find what will provide the next generation of interactive fantasy experiences, we’ve compiled a quick list of the best titles coming in 2011 and beyond.
Everything from Square Enix’s highly anticipated PlayStation 3 exclusive Final Fantasy Versus XIII to the dragon lairs of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, we cover all your RPG needs.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Developed by Bethesda Softworks, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim takes players on an adventure to the mountainous northern regions of Tamriel. Home to the Nords, a race of frost resistant men and women, these people find that not just orks and wizards prove threat to their lands, but also thick-scaled, brimstone and fire breathing dragons.
The technology turning the gears behind the colorful landscapes and intelligent AI is impressive, utilizing Bethesda’s proprietary Creation Engine the new engine renders vast draw distances, realistic dynamic shadows and dynamic snowfall on the terrain. Speaking with Game Informer in the February 2011 issue, developers described how wind even effects small details like the flow of water in river and streams. Revamping Radiant AI into Radiant Story, Bethesda Softworks stepped NPC interactions and living up a notch, giving new animations and various tasks to computer players to conduct on a daily basis from working at bar or mine to building armor and cooking.
While the game is around the same size as Oblivion, Skyrim features over 120 unique dungeons, five tremendous size cities, and nine settlements. To travel the lands, game director Todd Howard confirmed that players will be able to traverse by boat, however using horses and other mounts are still being tested.
“There are boats but you don’t sail them around,” said Howard.
“As far as mounts and horses it is something we’d really like to have but we’re still messing with it. We’re definitely not ruling it out. We want to make sure it’s a gameplay addition. Horses have come a long way in games. We want to make sure we’re paying off on that. It’s looking good right now but we’ll yank the feature if we think it makes the game better.”
As far as quests, NPCs will be able to spawn random side-quests depending on your characters class or reputation outside of the main storyline. The number of skills has been lowered to 18, giving players a more refined and specialized path for their play style. Also, outside of being able to smith your own battle axes, Bethesda promises that players will be able to dual wield them. Beware though of what happens within the kingdom, as an example, a harvest being burned will ripple into trade prices being higher and food becoming a shortage.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is set to release November 11, 2011 for Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3. Expect Bethesda to reveal more this June at the E3 2011 convention in L.A.
Mass Effect 3
In a last hope scenario, Shepard must unite alien races from across the galaxy to bring a massive counter-attack to Earth and stop the Reaper onslaught. This is Bioware’s third entry to the Mass Effect series, bringing the epic space triology to a climatic finish.
Among some of the new gameplay changes, weapons are no longer restricted to class and can be customized to fit different ammo load outs, scopes, and barrels. Some of the locations detailed so far in the game include a mining facility on Mars and a mega city representing a futuristic vision of Seattle and Vancouver. Player will also have the chance to traverse to homeworlds such as Salarian, Asari, and Quarian.
Heroes such as Garrus, Liara, Kaidan, Ashley are all playable characters as long as they’ve survived the previous games. Also, newly added Tali will be a character in the game. For gamers who weren’t faithful in previous relationships in Mass Effect 1 & 2, the developers have stated this may come back to haunt them in Mass Effect 3.
Bioware’s executive producer Casey Hudson confirmed that the game has been delayed until 2012 to ensure that it “exceeds everyone’s expectations.”
Final Fantasy Versus XIII
Unveiled in 2006 by Square Enix, Final Fantasy Versus XIII is seen as the darkest entry to the Fabula Nova Crystallis Final Fantasy series or any Final Fantasy title for that matter, telling the story a young prince by the name of Noctis Lucis Caelum, air to the Caelum Dynasty and his fight to protect the last Crystals of the kingdom from invading heretics. Unfolding separately as it’s own story from other Final Fantasy titles, Versus XIII is neither a sequel or prequel, complete with unique characters, visual design, fashion, and gameplay.
While players will be able to take the wheel of advanced and stylish vehicles and airships, game designer Tetsuya Nomura stated that the game will not be completely open world. Players will be able to use a world map, exploring vast cities and landscapes, witnessing beautiful day cycles from morning to dusk, but some areas will be more linear and scripted. Such detail has gone into the game, that Square Enix even locked a deal with Japanese label ROEN to design clothing based on the fashion and wears of some of the game’s characters.
Developed using Square Enix’s Crystal Tools, Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been built specifically for the PlayStation 3 with Nomura reiterating several times in the past the use of Sony’s Blu-ray disc storage capacity and SPUs for providing a unique Final Fantasy experience on PS3. The gameplay has explained by developers to be much similar to past Final Fantasy titles with a mix of elements from Kingdom Hearts. Players will be able to switch from Noctis to other party members on the fly, using everything from special abilities and magic to powerful sword attacks and firearms to dispose of enemies on the open battlefield.
This is another title that will likely miss 2011, launching sometime spring next year. Square Enix has yet to provide any details regarding a solid retail date, however expect more information to be released at E3.
Dungeon Siege III
Looking for something to fill Diablo III’s shoes on console? Obsidian Entertainment’s Dungeon Siege III returns fans to the Kingdom of Ehb, where the king has been murdered and 30 years later the Legion has all but been wiped out after a genocidal rampage to take seize of the kingdom is led by adversary Jeyne Kassynder.
This is the company’s first outing with the Dungeon Siege series, however their portfolio proves that this may be something worth keeping an eye on. Other than the failure with Alpha Protocol, Obsidian Entertainment has developed such role-playing adventures as Fallout: New Vegas and Neverwinter Nights 2, each featuring fantastic worlds, characters, and in-depth skill mechanics.
The game includes online and offline co-op with all characters being balanced to fit any mix of team. Some of the characters include Lucas, a tank type character stacked for close combat with a shield bashing ability that stuns enemies and Anjali who uses different combat stances from melee to ranged spirit form attacks. Katarina is a sexy half-witch vixen in which players can use her mighty gun-wielding abilities to depose of evil undead.
Dungeon Siege III is expected to release June 21 for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.
White Knight Chronicles II
Following the story that left off in 2008, developer Level-5 further improves upon solid core gameplay aspects laid out in the original White Knight Chronicles, adding new features such as six player online co-op for both cooperative quest and free-roaming mode, giving players the opportunity to uncover the story together and use Georama to build their very own towns online.
White Knight Chronicles II incorporates a fully redesigned, dynamic new combat system, customizable to the players liking for unique strategies and combos. Those of you who have characters from the original title, you can import your equipment and guild ranks right into the sequel. In addition to the predecessors four knight avatars (White Knight, Black Knight, Dragon Knight, and Sun Knight), Level-5 has added at least one more, the Moon Princess. She is the only female knight in the group and wields a bow for ranged attacks. Also Level-5 is providing a special treat to newcomers, including the entire first game with release of White Knight Chronicles II, exclusively for the PlayStation 3.
D3 Publisher and Sony Computer Entertainment recently announced that Europe will be getting their hands on the game later this month, with North America having to wait it out until August 2. If you own a PS3, definitely add White Knight Chronicles II to your RPG playlist.
From Software has a lot of pressure on their shoulders as they are developing one of the most highly anticipated role-playing games for consoles this generation, expanding the original Demon’s Souls 30 hour game, containing only 30 enemy types to Dark Souls, which features a story campaign lasting more than 60 hours and over 100 creature and enemy variations.
According to Japanese magazine Famitsu (via andriasang), From Software has increased the game’s difficulty greatly over the original. While the story-lines between Demon Souls and Dark Souls have no connection, they share similar concepts and themes allowing players to explore and traverse online fantasy worlds together. Players will need to search for hidden items and weapons as well as interact with players journeying within their lands. The developer promises new weapons, spells, classes, and support for online in-game messaging.
In addition, players are given the ability to transform into basic objects such as brooms and forks if an enemy online player boasting higher rank is scouring the fields for young blood. The game creates some of these face to face situations that demand visiting other player’s realms, using search, recover, and destroy mission types.
“One player may be tasked with hunting down a certain item that another has in his or her possession,” said game director Hidetaka Miyazaki in an interview with EDGE. “There will be several quests or missions in the game like that. It’s usually posed a bit like a competitive version of ‘Lord of the Rings’ in which one player has the ring and the other characters must find him, attack him and attempt to claim the ring for themselves.”
Dark Souls is set to release October 2011, exclusively for PS3 in Japan, with Namco Bandai publishing for Xbox 360 and PS3 in North America and Europe.
In closing, what are your thoughts on some of these upcoming RPGs? Any amazing titles that should make an honorable mention? Post your thoughts in our comments section below.