Ah, 2016. As far as RPGs are concerned, a lot of critics agree that it isn’t one of the greatest years for releases. Big projects decided to extend their development, and things have been on the down low for the most part of last year. But alas, 2017 has come, and it is already proving to be more promising than the last with some amazing stuff already released (and slated to launch). Below are some of our top picks for the best new RPG games of 2017.
Guerilla Games definitely surprised its fans by releasing Horizon Zero Dawn, a straightforward game that revolves around hunting robotic monstrous creatures, what with the company’s dedication in producing its sci-fi shooter series, Killzone. In contrast to the primarily moody theme of the latter, this newest offering from Guerilla Games gives a refreshing change by creating a post-apocalyptic world where humans hunt with bows and spears to survive against machines that resemble animals and dinosaurs.
What makes the game so interesting is that it does a superb job in carving its own identity in the saturated action-roleplaying genre. The game combines profound themes, a strong storyline, and a flexible combat gameplay that makes it so hard to quit. The storyline shoots to ambitious levels, but boy, does it deliver. Aloy, the main protagonist of the game, does a good job in making the player probe more and her wry wit and occasional sarcasm makes her such an interesting and relatable character.
But it is the game’s combat that is definitely its strongest feature, with Horizon having 26 distinct animal-like machines grazing its expansive, open environment. The player is equipped with a tool that scans the animals’ weak points and is tasked with the challenge of hitting a particular area, the success of which plays a role in affecting the turn out of the game.
Horizon’s strength, moreover, is that it gives the player a sense of realism by keeping a good balance between the animals and Aloy’s capabilities. Even the 'herbivores’ can immediately launch an attack, lending the game a sense of excitement that keeps it from giving the character a god-like quality.
Nier: Automata, published by Square Enix for Microsoft Windows and Playstation 4, is a spin-off to the Drakengard series and a sequel to 2010’s Nier. The story is set on a universe where there is a raging war between machines and the surviving members of humanity, particularly a combat android and a fugitive prototype. The Gameplay mixes action-based combat with role-playing elements similar to its first installment.
Automata’s art style, with its vivid colors and improved shading, is definitely one of the things that makes the game appealing even to the most discerning of RPG fans. With a decent storyline that mainly unfolds during the characters’ adventuring between Earth and the Moon, the theme of the game touches on interesting existential themes that leave the player thinking over the ideas it presents. Its action also deserves recognition, thanks mostly to the flawless camera work and ultra-fluid controls that gives the player a good view of the gameplay experience.
While the game is primarily described as an action RPG, it does offer more than its general description. There are scenes where you can brawl against some of the characters, read some text, or just mindlessly hack into automaton mainframes for example. Its gameplay is radical, but Automata does a good job in exploring other themes without exactly presenting a disconnect to its players.
Set after the happenings of its predecessor, Elite 4 continues its World War Two premise with covert agent and skilled marksman Karl Faiburne. The game is set on locations across the Italian peninsula designed and inspired after Monte Cassino. Faiburne teams with members of the Italian Resistance for a mission that aims to free their country from Fascism.
Sniper Elite 4 gives a different dimension to the usually exhausted concept of shooting games. While it is so easy to just blast away the bad guys, what we love the most about its gameplay is that it triggers the player to stop, think, and strategize through an arsenal of weapons that can be used from stalking to intimidating. For example, while setting up traps isn’t really necessary during the easier modes, players feel inclined to do it just because the game makes the process rewarding. To put it simply: You do things because you want to, and not because you had to.
Elite 4 also elevates the experience of something as simple as pulling the trigger. Players are required to navigate maps, search for kill opportunities, and even meticulously handle details such as adjusting distance, elevation, and gravity when aiming. The game perfectly crosses the mid-section of RPG games that provide the thrill of shooting and crossing off your enemies while also encouraging strategic, proactive thinking from its players.
Similar to its predecessor, The Tides of Numenera is a story-driven RPG game which uses Monte Cook’s Numenera as its rule mechanic. The current story is set on the Ninth World, and the player is cast on the shoes of the Last Castoff, an amnesiac host of a once powerful being. The Kickstarter crowd-funded game had set the record for the highest funded game in the website after collecting over US$4M pledges.
With that much anticipation set on the game, we can’t help but be curious if Numera holds up to the hype. True enough, it does have enough footing to actually be acknowledged as one of the best RPG games of 2017. On the get go, the plot strays from the usual, cliche stories of heroes with the main player quite literally being just an empty shell of a more important figure. The challenge of Numenera is that it challenges the character to actually be 'someone’ throughout the gameplay.
A word of warning though, if you’re the type of RPG player who likes fast-paced action, then you might find this title dull and long-winding with its text-heavy design and long-narrative style. It may take hours before you actually get the chance to draw your weapon, though it gains five stars for its genius storytelling which can be hugely attributed to its creative and well-placed dialogues.
Numera, moreover, encourages the use of non-violent strategies to resolve conflict, so the player gets to test their intelligence by choosing the right dialogue that can spare them from a skirmish. The game balances this well with plot-relevant battles though, as well as some situations that require a combination of combat and tactical skills. For RPG fans who want the perfect balance of both, they can find Numera the perfect game that combines action and tactical prowess.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon is set on the gritty and expansive South American country of Bolivia. The player is a member of an Elite American Special Operations team called The Ghosts, who are tasked to go against the notorious Santa Blanca Mexican drug Cartel that is currently using the country as their very own narco-state.
If there’s something Ubisoft can be proud if, it’s their dedication and mastery to creating large-scale and open-world games. Ghost Recon renders the landscape of Bolivia so beautifully that playing alone is a feast for the eyes. You get to explore different ecosystems, and when we say different, we’re talking about jungles, military bases, shanty towns, even lakeside resorts. There is something satisfying about exploring the environment it has conjured and the hard, straight to the point action is also sure to satiate the most hardcore of action gamers. Case in point, you can utilize a drone to mark your enemies and program your shots. The game also presents a variety of vehicles you can use for that compulsory adrenaline-pumped chase, from SUVs to motor boats.
A flaw of this installment is that its concept may already seem too overused for those who’ve had their run with straightforward, mindless action games. Some reviews note that the enemies seem too cliched, while the heroes are too equipped. On the other hand, it can be a pretty good buy for those that are more after the “how” rather than the “why”. With the expansive list of mechanical and tactical options provided to the player, the shaky consistency and messaging of the story can be drowned by the thrill of the hunt.
Mass Effect: Andromeda puts you on a journey of being the PathFinder during the 22nd century, a time where humanity is finally planning to settle on new home worlds within the Andromeda Galaxy. The player can choose to play as Sara or Scott Ryder, a military recruit. The game is powered by the Frostbite engine, which promises to bring the visuals of the Mass Effect universe into a whole new different level.
With Mass Effect having released a strong trilogy over the years, the primary question to answer on their fourth installment is whether or not it catches up with the reputation of the first three. The game, after surprisingly breaking free from the original plot of the trilogy, actually delivers this by providing its players the chance on trying third-person combat and tactical interspecies politics in a more open setting than its game predecessors. The character of Sara and Scott are relatable with their dilemmas and can carry the story on their backs. The combat gameplay, moreover, is also an improved version from the last installments. Players, for example, get a fancy auto-cover system for their shooting as well as new weapons/accessories like the jetpack and a biotic charge.
Probably the most glaring flaw of the game is its rather flat dialogue, especially if you contrast it with such quality visuals and good combat gameplay. The lines can tend to be underwhelming, almost labored especially for a Bioware game. The storyline also sort of fizzles out from its exciting start. On the other hand, the game does earn pretty good points on its on point combat changes. While other games give off the feeling of being too mechanical, Mass Effect: Andromeda’s added layer of versatility gives the player a sense of capability, especially as they go along finding more weapons.
Set a thousand years after the happenings of the first game, Divinity: Original Sin II explores a darker theme from its predecessor. It completely upturns the plot the game for one. From being Source Hunters looking for the forbidden magic dubbed as Source, the second game puts the players in the shoes of the Sourcerers, powerful entities that can summon creatures from the Void.
Now here’s a personal opinion. Though past Divinity games must be given the recognition for following their own goals game-wise, we particularly found its limited core RPG features a little bit disappointing. Thankfully, the Original Sin II installment (which is slated to be released in Microsoft Windows first, followed by consoles this year) exactly addresses this concern with its expanded RPG features.
Though it lacks the same punch as the Divinity: Original Sin installment in 2014, Larian has beefed up the features from character customization (you can now create custom characters with blank slates or choose among the preset origin stories) to the actual gameplay. The multiplayer format, for example, allows players to either work together or compete with each other. The same goes for the single-player setting with you as the player pitching or teaming up against the computer. The goal of this design is to make sure that dynamic encounters are created, so that you can never really know which you can trust. Exciting, isn’t it?
We’re almost half-way through the year, and 2017 seems to be looking bright and promising for RPG fans so far. With a strong set of games already released during the first and second quarter, we can only hope that the trend continues its strong theme on the later part of the year. What games are you planning to check off this list soon? Do you have any games in your pipeline that are not mentioned here? Share it with us by commenting on this post!