Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Upcoming RPGs in 2016

                Following on the articles about upcoming games in 2016 I’m now going through the upcoming titles of my favorite genre. I’m happy to say that there are a huge amount of RPGs coming this year covering a wide variety of styles and even if delays get in the way as they did before, 2016 still won’t feel dry in this matter.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Release Date: January 15

                Dragon’s Dogma is an action RPG released for old-gen consoles in 2012. Due to its positive reception a Steam version was announced last year.
                Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen’s action takes place in a vast open world in which a hero embarks on a journey to find and kill the dragon that stole his heart. In this journey the hero will be accompanied by various companions to help him overcome the challenging encounters that he will have to go through. The pawns system, as it’s called, is one of the most appealing feature as the AI controlled companion are capable of holding their own in combat, but also have interesting things to say in the fashion of old school RPGs. But the game’s main attraction still stands in the dynamic action combat and the epic boss fights which range from chimeras and hydras to gigantic dragons.
The PC version has all the previously released DLCs included and uncompressed textures for a higher graphical fidelity. Considering the age of the game and the initial release platforms the graphics won’t be holding up to anywhere near today’s standards.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen is a good way to start off this year which is going to be extremely rich in RPG releases.

Darkest Dungeon
Release Date: January 19

                Darkest Dungeon is a roguelike dungeon crawler RPG which was received on a very positive note after its Early Access release in January 2015.
                The players have to manage a team of flawed heroes and venture into dark dungeons and twisted forests filled with evil creatures that will test the team’s limits.
The game uses a turn-based combat that works in a somewhat different way than what one would expect and it’s fitting for the sidescrolling graphics. There is a lot of room for tactical decisions but the combat doesn’t resume to fighting the monsters but the hero’s flaws as well.  Stress can take its toll on the group and the heroes become subject to fear, paranoia, irrationality and other terrible afflictions that will affect their combat performance and threaten the group survival chances.
                There is a lot of RNG in Darkest Dungeon to the point of frustration and this might be the game’s biggest issue. But getting past the frustration it’s part of the experience and there are a lot of good features in this game which has been almost completed for quite a while and now is ready to be fully released.

Release Date: January 29

                Bombshell is an isometric action RPG with a female protagonist. Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison is a bomb disposal technician now turned into a mercenary for hire which embarks on a mission to save the president and the humanity.
The plot sounds ridiculous but Bombshell is not a game to be taken seriously. The action packed gameplay, the cheesy dialogues and the gore are fun factors of a game designed to be relaxing and entertaining.
                Bombshell might not be a true RPG at its core, but surely looks like a fun game to play and that’s a good distraction from the serious titles that this year holds.

Pillars of Eternity – The White March Part II
Release Date: February 16

                The second part of the self-contained expansion to the popular RPG it’s going to take the group of heroes to new locations like the Abbey and the Fallen Moon in a quest to solve the mystery behind the White Forge and the Durgan’s Steel.
Since release Pillars of Eternity has received a ton of improvements making the original experience much better. The most notable patch came with the release of The White March Part I. The patch 3.0 should launch early this year and will bring a better Stronghold system and other quality of life improvements. With the completion of The White March expansion and the consistent updates, many of the problems that Pillars of Eternity had at launch will be gone increasing the game’s value for new playthroughs. 

Release Date: February

                Balrum is at the crossroads between RPG and Survival. Looking at the hybrid turn-based combat, the quests and the progression system old school RPGs come to mind. But the base building, farming, fishing, hunting and other elements come straight from the guide book of the established trend of survival games.
                The combination of the two genres in a story driven open world environment sounds very appealing and while the 2D isometric graphics and artistic direction might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I see great potential in this game. Hopefully the last postpone gave the developers enough time to polish the game for its February release.

Grim Dawn
Release Date: February, currently in Early Access

                As I’m writing this Grim Dawn is already content complete for almost a month. The game is now in the bug fixing and polishing process, but it can be fully enjoyed without any problems.
Grim Dawn is a Hack & Slash developed by Crate Entertainment, a studio formed by Iron Lore Entertainment veterans so there is no surprise that there is a Titan Quest vibe within this game.
                Despite being a spiritual successor of sorts to Titan Quest and borrowing many mechanics from it, Grim Dawn stands on its own with a lot of cool and slightly innovative features. The most notable one is the questing which has a choices and consequences system implemented into it, a concept generally ignored by the Hack & Slash games. The reputation system is also a great tool to add more challenge and reward in a progressive way that also gives more meaning to the mindless grinding that comes with this sub-genre.
The list of good gameplay mechanics being old or new is quite big making Grim Dawn solid game in which I’ve already spent dozens of hours while still being in Early Access. Maybe the release of this Hack & Slash will make the giants, Diablo 3 and Path of Exile, to work harder and even take some inspiration from Grim Dawn.

The Banner Saga 2
Release Date: Q1

                The Banner Saga 2 continues the epic story of the Vikings caravan travelling through frozen wastes of a Ragnarok themed world.
As a tactical RPG the combat and managing the caravan have been the primary features in the original game and that will remain unchanged in the sequel. But these features have been improved with combat having more variables to deal with and the caravan management having a much deeper choices and consequences system. And speaking about consequences, the important actions from the previous game can be carried on in the sequel deciding who is alive and who is dead.
Not only the game mechanics have been improved and refined, but so did the graphics. The hand drawn 2D graphics are as artistic and beautiful as ever but with better animations improved by special effects.
                Even if this is the second game in the series, playing the first won’t be necessary to understand the story. But considering The Banner Saga is set to be a trilogy with saves carrying over from one game to another it will be better to play the original game before venturing into The Banner Saga 2.

Path of Exile Ascendancy
Release Date: Q1

                For many gamers, including myself, Path of Exile is what Diablo 3 should have been. So every time I see some big news about this game I get a bit excited. The big news for the popular free to play Hack & Slash in 2016 is Ascendancy, a new expansion which comes after less than a year from the previous one.
                Ascendancy will expand the content of Path of Exile with a labyrinthine zone. Those who will pass the Trials of Ascendancy will be deemed worthy of unlocking new powers for their class. Ascendancy classes will add new layers of depth to the character progression and builds customization, which is already ridiculously complex. This new progression system will unlock 19 Ascendancy Classes (3 per standard class), each coming with a small tree of powerful skills to master.
                In addition to the new area and the new progression system, Ascendancy comes with new items, new skills and an enchantment system for items which is tied directly to the completion of the new zone.
                Path of Exile’s replay value is extremely high as it is but each content update and expansion piles up on that value. As usual with each big update, I’m going to get back into the game and test my skill and luck in the new areas.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine
Release Date: Q1

                The last adventure of Geralt in The Witcher 3 and probably in the entire series, Blood and Wine is going to take our favorite witcher in a quest non-related to the main story, fighting an extremely charismatic villain.
                This expansion will have at least 20 hours of gameplay in the new area of Toussaint, a land untouched by war. The narrative will be complex and twisted, similar in style to the Hearts of Stone story which many consider better than the main game.
                More details about Blood and Wine are expected soon, but the developers have already promised to deliver on the things that made The Witcher 3 great.

Dark Souls III
Release Date: April 12

This series needs no presentation as it took the gaming industry by storm exploiting the gamer’s craving for challenging games and a good combat system.
 The most notable news about the final installment in the Souls series is the return of Hidetaka Miyazaki as Director of the game. This comes with a lot of welcomed changes including a faster paced combat system but also an immense improvement in graphics which these games really needed.
The new map will feature large interconnected levels to encourage exploration. And as usual, the game will have a wide variety of weapons with distinct combat qualities and animations. In order to provide as many tactical options as possible for the players the character builder has been improved.
                For some reason I’ve never managed to truly sink in into the Souls games. While I never got to finish a game in this series, Dark Souls III features and improvements give me the feeling that this will change.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance - Act I
Release Date: Q2

                Kingdom Come: Deliverance is one of those games that I’ve lost track on delays. If I remember correctly Act I was supposed to come out in the winter of 2014, but considering the scope of the project even a 2015 release seemed unrealistic so I stopped chasing possible release dates.
                From all the RPGs of the latest years, Kingdom Come seems to be the most innovative one battling with features that most of the games just don’t bother to improve on. With its realistic and reactive combat system and an extremely detailed AI behavior, Kingdom Come attempts to take the RPG genre (and video games in general) to the next level. The innovations are many and the ambition of the Czech studio is pretty high, hopefully the money raised through crowdfunding will be enough to properly pull off the first Act of the game. After that, if the developers manage to accomplish what they aimed for the success is almost guaranteed.
                It seems like 2016 is going to be our lucky year and we might get to experience the first true next-gen RPG.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Release Date: August 23

                After several postpones and a fiasco about preorder bonuses the promising sequel to Human Revolution is set for release in August. The preorder madness has been fixed and the release date is probably final considering how much money Square Enix has lost through repeated delays. With these things in mind, it seems that Deus Ex is going to be the game that will kill the summer boredom that the gamers usually experience.
                Mankind Divided is continuing the story of Human Revolution ignoring/merging some of the outcomes of the previous game endings as Invisible War did a long time ago. Adam Jensen is back but in a world that has grown to despise those like him and it’s forced again to fight a global conspiracy but don’t worry he is equipped with new weapons and augmentations.
                Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a pretty damn good title for the series coming closer to what the original Deus Ex was. It seems that Mankind Divided follows the Deus Ex formula but with many gameplay enhancements and technological improvements to match the year 2016. Time will tell if one of the best games in history can be match by one of its pre-sequels.

Divinity: Original Sin 2
Release Date: Q4

                Divinity: Original Sin was a rather overrated game for an RPG taking a lot of credit for its great combat system to the point where it overshadowed the shallow and rather uninteresting story. That might be about to change in the successfully crowdfunded sequel which has Chris Avellone on board as one of the writers.
                Divinity: Original Sin 2 will bring a lot of goodie features to justify such an early release for a sequel.  The new features include chooseable skill trees, undead origins, romances, Strategist Mode and last but not least a better multiplayer experience now including a Game Master Mode. The graphics have been improved together with most of the existing features of the game that will carry to the sequel.
                With a crowdfunding campaign that rose over 2 million, Chris Avellone as a writer and a big list of improvements, Divinity: Original Sin 2 looks promising and a step forward from the previous title.

Mass Effect: Andromeda
Release Date: Q4

                I’m having mixed feelings with putting Mass Effect on this list as the series went from an action RPG to an almost run and gun cover shooter designed for consoles. Nevertheless, Mass Effect: Andromeda is Bioware’s latest work and the sequel to the controversial Mass Effect 3.
                Despite being a sequel Andromeda’s story doesn’t seem to relate that much with the previous titles in the series. The action will take place in the Andromeda Galaxy a long time after the events depicted in the trilogy.
The sequel will turn back to the roots featuring planetary exploration aboard a Mako vehicle and to top that off there will even be some space exploration (or so I’ve heard).
                Bioware’s biggest selling point yet for Andromeda seems to be the game’s size which isn’t a coincidence as this is something that most of the AAA titles aim for nowadays. And considering the fact that the game uses the latest version of the Frostbite engine, a high graphical fidelity is to be expected and possibly even some destructible environments.
                Lately the big budget titles have become more and more secretive and Mass Effect: Andromeda makes no exception to this rule. Despite being set to release this year we haven’t yet seen a gameplay video nor a proper list of the game’s features. Still that doesn’t stop Andromeda from being one of the most expected games of 2016.

Release Date: TBA

                Eitr’s revealing last year was a pleasant surprise as this ambitious game is set on transferring the atmosphere and gameplay of Dark Souls games into a 2D isometric RPG.
                As the great tree Yggdrasil was engulfed in darkness due to Loki’s mischievous doings a Shield Maiden has to go through the nine worlds of the Norseman in the search of her true destiny.
Eitr promises a challenging adventure riddled with dangerous monsters and great treasures. The hardcore nature of the game is reinforced through penalties received to the skills and items upon death making Eitr a game not only for the bravest but the most patient and calculated players.
                It’s great to see that the idea behind a very popular franchise like Dark Souls is expanded on through different styles. If Eitr turns out to be a success we might see more games embracing these and even improving these game mechanics to the benefit the gamers.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows
Release Date: TBA

                “Built in the vein of Baldur’s Gate and Dragon Age”, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is a tactical isometric RPG using a real time combat system with pause.
                The players will take the role of Inspettore Cicero Gavar who is returning from exile to solve a kidnapping mystery in the city of Ombre. The Venetian inspired city and the French artistic style are some of the game’s uniquely appealing qualities that make it stand out.
                Masquerada: Songs and Shadows look intriguing to say the least and the unique setting, the colorful 2D graphics and the tactical combat are good selling points for the RPG fans.

Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
Release Date: TBA

                In development since 2012 as a sequel to Mount & Blade: Warband, Bannerlord takes the action 200 years into the past during the decline of the Calradian Empire and the formation of the Kingdoms.
                In 2015 Gamecom’s video multiple features have been presented including weather and seasons, board games, siege weapons, weapon crafting and a replay system. The interface has also been updated and the AI has been enhanced for a more challenging experience. But the most significant improvement was made to the visuals as Bannerlord has higher model details and better shaders to make for a more immersive experience
                This year has a strong action RPG presence and TaleWorlds Entertainment is fortifying it with Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord.

Sunless Sea – Zubmariner
Release Date: TBA

                It’s hard to pinpoint Sunless Sea to a genre. Is it an adventure? RPG? Survival? Roguelite? Sunless Sea is a little bit of all, but I choose to put it on the RPGs list because it probably has more elements from this genre.
                Zubmariner is the first DLC/expansion for the dark roguelite adventure RPG from Failbetter Games set in the Victorian Gothic universe of Fallen London. As the name implies Zubmariner will take the players in a journey into the depths of the Unterzee presenting the horrors that lie beneath the restless waves.
                The DLC will feature new areas to explore aboard a zubmarine and also new creatures to face coming from the areas of the Unterzee untouched by the light. There aren’t many details currently available, but I think we can expect more of the delicious texts that the Failbetter Games studio got us used with.

The Technomancer
Release Date: TBA
The technomancers are magic wielding warriors who use electrical powers enhanced by their cybernetic implants. Zachariah, the protagonist, is a technomancer on the run facing threatening questions about his past.
                The Technomancer action combat will offer three different fighting styles enhanced through four different skill trees, but the game isn’t only about fighting. Technomancer will feature a complex dialogue system with choices and consequences that will change the course of the story based on the player’s decisions.
I haven’t yet to visit the Red Planet in the previous RPG from Spiders, Mars: War Logs, but The Technomancer might be interesting enough to make me do it now.

Torment: Tides of Numenera
Release Date: TBA

                The turn based RPG set in Monte Cook's Numenera universe aiming to be the spiritual successor of Planescape: Torment kept us waiting for more than two years. But with the dates set for the Beta test and Steam's Early Access it's realistic to say that Torment: Tides of Numenera will release in 2016.
                There is nothing I can say about this game that I haven't said before in the past as Torment is my most anticipated RPG and the game I'm the most excited about this year.  I'm hoping that Numenera will not only capture the essence of its spiritual predecessor, but will guide the new cRPGs to a renewed era of quality storytelling.

Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor - Martyr
Release Date: TBA

                From NeocoreGames, the studio behind The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing, comes another Hack & Slash now set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
                For the first time as I can remember the players will take the role of an Inquisitor in a Warhammer 40k video game to battle the forces of Chaos and other enemies that threaten the existence of the Imperium of Mankind.
                Inquisitior – Martyr promises two different game modes, a story mode and an open world mode. The story mode serves as a singleplayer campaign with a self-contained story. The open world mode will consist of an ongoing campaign set in a persistent sandbox sector filled with lots of quests, events and explorable area. The open world mode sector will continuously be expanded through content patches.
In comparison to Van Helsing, Inquisitor – Martyr comes with new features including vehicles, a weapon system with reload and overheating mechanics and a cover system designed to work for both the Inquisitor and his enemies
                As a Warhammer 40k enthusiast I can say that from the videos Inquisitor – Martyr seems to capture the feeling of the universe and integrate it perfectly in a Hack & Slash gameplay style. Many Warhammer licenses have been wasted over the years, but the people at NeocoreGames have a lot of experience with this genre and they have the means to pull off a game of this nature.

                The list of RPGs coming this year is overwhelming and as a big fan of the genre I’m not sure how I’m going to handle so many games. Either way, even if I won’t be able to play all of them, I’m sure I’ll find a lot of enjoyment in many of the titles above and I hope so will you.


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