The year of 2014 was a great one for gamers. While it lacked the grandiose releases of a Grand Theft Auto and two new consoles, it was a solid year overall. Gamers around the world hacked into Chicago, tried to survive against impossible odds, joined each other online to take down raid bosses, replayed remastered versions of older games, and collectively wondered how many triple A titles could launch with broken parts. Join us as we begin to rank the top games genre by genre, leading up to the overall game of the year. Twice a week we will release a list of the top five shooters, RPGs, handheld games, and so on. Today’s feature is the top five RPG games of 2014.
Diablo III Reaper of Souls (PC/PS4/X1)
When Diablo III launched it split the community. Many loved the pure loot hunt gameplay, while others could not forgive Blizzard for the always online connectivity and auction house inclusion. Since its release, Blizzard has been changing Diablo III based off of feedback. Now with the expansion Reaper of Souls, they have changed Diablo III into a different game from the one that launched in 2012. Reaper of Souls adds an entirely new act, a new character class, additional level cap, an adventure mode for endless loot hunting, tweaked drops, new vendors, and reworked the crafting system. They built immensely upon the foundation set beforehand, delivering a game that has taken countless hours from players worldwide.
South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC/PS3/X360)
South Park The Stick of Truth proved two points: that Obsidian is great at crafting RPGs, and that licensed games don’t always have to suck. The latter point was probably helped by the fact that Matt Stone and Trey Parker worked on the game extensively since its conception in 2009. Together they wrote the script, advised the design, and voiced many of the characters. The game looks just like the show, and even has a myriad of references to the series. Fortunately the game isn’t entirely comprised of fan service and instead had a good combat system with a overarching plot full of humor. Obviously those who watch South Park will enjoy The Stick of Truth greatly, but you don’t have to be a viewer to appreciate the love that went into creating this adaptation.
Dark Souls II
It is hard to deny the popularity of Dark Souls II. Highly divisive, you either love the challenges the Souls’ series throws at you or dismiss them as simply another title. For those who can overcome the combat system that requires finesse and patience, you’ll be awarded with a world that evokes feelings of despair and dark fantasy not often seen in games. For some, the love of Dark Souls stems not from the difficulty, but from the lore that requires you to hunt down pieces of information. The background mythology is deep, and has even spurred users to create videos attempting to formulate a more digestible plot. Enemy variety and creativity is another high point of Dark Souls II, especially when it comes to the bosses. Large creatures of such grotesque design, I still don’t quite understand how these beasts are slain. Additionally, the game has been supported by consistent expansions bringing in new experimentation with the familiar gameplay and adding new enemy types.
Not only beautiful to watch, Transistor also features a great soundtrack, interesting combat, and a plot that requires the player to think. Transistor is all around one of the best titles to be released this year. Combat is split between real time and turn based. Real time animations take some time to accomplish, and the quick speed of enemies pushes you to use Turn(). Here you’ll stop everything and be able to plan out attacks. Your attacks are called functions and each function can serve three purposes, active, upgrade and passive. With sixteen functions total, this allows for a lot of creativity with combinations. Functions are also your gateway to unlocking details about the world you are exploring, giving you more pieces of the puzzle that forms the grander picture of Transistor. The soundtrack is also stellar, and you can have Red hum along to it at anytime. Every aspect of the game work together great, like a symphony performance, everything knows its place in a greater plan.
Dragon Age Inquisition
Most games require the developer to sacrifice quality over quantity, or the reverse. Not so with Dragon Age Inquisition. Not only does it look better than many open world games, but that quality and polish transfers over to Inquisition’s characters and their relationships. Bioware continues to perfect its romance options, and combat has been crafted to allow both real time and forward thinking strategies to be implemented. All of this is applied throughout a large overworld, split between various biomes you are free to explore. Side quests will stack quickly, and you’ll often have to consult the codex to remember who a particular character is due to the size of Bioware’s most recent fantasy epic. The storyline is refreshing, giving you command of a new world order, able to carry out judgement as you see fit. It fulfills the power fantasy we often use games to achieve. Because of this, Dragon Age Inquisition gets my seal as RPG Game of the Year.
And those are the top five RPG games of 2014! You can always voice your own opinion in the comments about what your favorite RPG was, whether it was Bravely Default, Persona Q Shadow of the Labyrinth, Divinity Original Sin or something different. And continue to check back for more Top Five lists as the month goes on, with overall game of the year premiering in the first week of January. Next will be the Top Five Shooters of 2014.