Forgive me for tacking on the Mayan humbo jumbo, I just can't help myself at times. But I do believe there's a point buried behind my popular culture posturing. While perusing the upcoming releases for 2012, I noticed quite a number of excellent RPGs. One could rightly argue that this past year saw an abundance of quality in the genre: we had Skyrim, Darksouls, and Deus Ex. About ten or so people enjoyed the Witcher 2. And too many of us slogged through Dragon Age 2 since our choices will (purportedly) matter in DA3.
But this year promises an even greater plethora of RPG goodness. If 2011 was the Year of 3's, then I have a mind to predict that 2012 will be the Year of the RPG (Where the Fate of the World/Universe Hangs in the Balance). Well, you might argue, pretty much every RPG deals with the protagonist confronting an ancient evil and saving the world. Well, I'll respond, could it be just a coincidence that 2012, the year of the apocalypse, will have gamers defending virtual realms at a record pace? I think not. Itís a sign.
But as to why 2012 will be the year of the RPG, this is a list, in the order that I'm most excited, with a few choice reasons to qualify my unadulterated glee:
And yeah, -SPOILERS
1. Mass Effect 3
A little over four years. Countless moral choices and hours spent vacillating within a conversation wheel. The endless war between Tali and Liara and Miranda. It all culminates with Mass Effect 3 and weíll finally reap (I know, Iím funny like that) the seeds of being the galaxyís biggest douche. I mean seriously, how can anyone resist those Renegade prompts?
Iím predicting a tremendous achievement for Bioware. Never before have gamers experienced such an interconnected series where our actions have so profoundly affected the proceeding game. Our Shepards have grown close to our hearts, uniquely catered to our personal preference from playstyle to lover to intergalactic government policy. And the supporting cast, comprised of rich, layered personalities, is no slouch. Whenever I think about how it will all end, I simply get this tingling anticipation. And the unquenchable desire to see Wrex in my party.
But at this point, we all know the backdrop. Reapers are threatening to harvest biological lifeforms, wiping out galactic civilization. The entire universe is at stake. Itís the finale where all the sentient squishys are on the line. Iím trusting Bioware to deliver a fitting conclusion.
2. Bioshock Infinite
Look, Ken Levine seems like a really nice guy. Modest, down to Earth, someone you wouldnít be ashamed to bring home to your parents. But you really wouldnít know it from his narrative predilections.
From Sandar Cohenís photography demands to ďWould you kindlyĒ golf club my face, thereís a certain graphic flare that accompanies Levineís work. The manís talented and his resume includes Thief, System Shock 2, and Freedom Force. Heís good at that whole storytelling aspect and I remember the first Bioshock as a heart-wrenching tale. And of course, gut-wrenching too in the sense that your mouth was agape as Jack explored a deeply atmospheric and exceedingly disturbed world.
So Iím fairly certain that Iíll adore Elizabeth and whatever trials our protagonist faces. From the brief trailers, weíve already seen that the gal has spunk; sheíd rather be strangled to death than be a prisoner.
In terms of ending the world type possibilities, I think the previous Bioshocks touched upon the ramifications of self-serving power. If you went down the evil path in the first game, thereís the threat of a nuclear holocaust. In Bioshock 2, (yeah yeah, Irrational wasnít at the helm there) Eleanor sadistically claims sheís going to change the world.
So with Infinite being set on a floating city, I think thereís a good chance that the world is in danger. Whateverís powering the place is likely extremely dangerous. Elizabeth being able to warp time and space seems dangerous. And American Exceptionalism seems like the most dangerous of all. I mean, thereís a chance Rick Santorum is going to be president of this country.
I kid. (Not really).
3. Diablo 3
Blizzard, why canít I quit you? No other developer has consumed so many of my waking hours. They have smooth, crisp gameplay tied to addictive multiplayer (ladder points and loot). They depict broken, struggling heroes and relatable villains. And by God, the whole notion of making money from playing a game is seductively appealing to the hardcore crowd.
From the beta and some quick glimpses at Blizzcon, it simply feels good. I could spend days clicking away happily as I slash/burn/impale hordes of demonic enemies while salivating over the next upgrade or elite loot drop. Itís a very powerful formula that will result in the disappearance of my time, especially when I ask myself, ďCould I possibly pay for the purchase of this game by playing
And the world of Sanctuary, despite the happy unicorn and rainbow artwork, is grim indeed. There was this prevailing sense of dread and insurmountable odds in Diablo 2. You were always a few steps behind your foe, every city appeared to be in terrible peril, and they even killed off poor Wirt. After all, you were combating the progenitors of evil itself and Hell didnít appear content to dawdle within their fiery domain. Though the Prime Evils are ostensibly defeated, Blizzcon artwork hints at a feminine version of Diablo. The titular (I crack myself honestly) character is likely to return and sheís definitely on the level of world ending catastrophe.
4. Borderlands 2
Numbers. Thatís what I mostly remember from Borderlands: a constant stream of multi-colored numbers sprouting above the heads of my unfortunate foes while I anxiously waited for my ability to recharge. Played with a college buddy through split-screen, it was a lengthy journey that scratched my loot-collecting itch.
So Iím hoping for a return of weapons with an insane number of permutations, perhaps a few more rocket-launching vehicle segments, and more of those stylized graphics. Enemy AI looks to receive an upgrade though, as they switch from blinding charging forward to blinding charging forward while occasionally sidestepping. Hostiles will reportedly work in some synergistic fashion and even utilize cover to a greater extent. But most of all, Iím interested in the new classes and leveling me up some abilities. Unlocking that next, tantalizing skill has kept me up into the wee hours fairly often and itís an idiosyncrasy I struggle against daily.
The first game concluded with the defeat of the ďDestroyer,Ē a monster that threatened the universe and had to be locked up by aliens. A sequel canít possibly lower the stakes, could it?
5. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
The combat looks fun and smooth. Iím imagining it to be like Dark Souls except without the rage, all-consuming depression, and alcoholism. Thatís quite enough to entice me, but Iíll admit I donít have nearly enough information to make any real statement.
6. Final Fantasy XIII-2
XIII wasnít exactly spectacular. The fighting system was certainly innovative and the CG sequences were dazzling, but the story was fairly muddled and most of the characters were difficult to love. You can only take petulant sulkiness or oblivious, grating optimism so far. But thereís hope for the sequel.
Square-Enix listened very carefully to their fans and XIII-2 will have towns. And shops! Though those are the two biggest additions, there are some promising, minor changes. A hefty complaint against XIII involved the lack of choice for the player; it was linear and the cramped maps didnít help. XIII-2, with the ability to time-travel and choose your own adventure, emphasizes player choice instead. Weíve even been promised different dialogue options and more areas that allow for exploration. It certainly seems like a gracious nod to the fans and perhaps this is when Final Fantasy rights the ship. Ha.
At least thereís a very good chance of catastrophic consequences as Final Fantasy dangles the threat of world destruction fairly often. Maybe itís a gigantic meteor. Maybe itís a psychotic clown who gains enough magical prowess to shoot death beams. Maybe itís a race of self-hating demi-Gods that are trying to revive their Maker by smashing a moon-sized object into the planet below. Donít quote me on that last one, I really couldnít tell what was going on in FF13. But Iíll give good odds that Final Fantasy XIII-2, with its altered timeline and an adversary that can summon purple doom vortexes, will once again place Pulseís fate in lady Cloudís hands.
So there are a lot of excellent, forthcoming RPGs and quite a few of them are likely to deal with a possible End of Everything. Could this simply be chance, some trick of fate for 2012? HrmÖ read