I saved my favorite genre for last and what a meaty article this is. There are so many RPGs set to release in 2017 that I still cannot believe it. Truth be told, many of these titles were in last year’s list and probably the year before that, but some releases have been set in stone and we might see a better year for RPGs than 2014.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Release Date: February 28, currently in Early Access
For the fans that backed this game during the Kickstarter campaign, the development of Torment: Tides of Numenera is a rollercoaster ride of love and hate. It all started with the game being developed for PC only, which turned into a simultaneous release on all platforms that got people questioning the repeated postpones. The latest controversy comes from the recent digging which surfaced the lack of a few Kickstarter goals from the final game prompting an explanation and apology from the developers. The lack of transparency is worrying, more so when a lot is riding on this game as Torment: Tides of Numenera is the spiritual successor of what is considered the best RPG of all times.
The game is set in Monte Cook’s Numenera universe, a world of magic, technology and strange creatures where death is not necessarily the end. Torment returns to the classic formula that defined RPGs for many years focusing on a choice and consequence driven story where dialogues play the most important role and combat can be avoided by using the right words. Characters with well defined personalities will join the protagonist in this journey through the Ninth World helping him if things go out of control in a tactical turn based combat system in which enemies can still be convinced to back down.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is supposed to bring back the cRPG and provide a deep and meaningful story with a ton of replay value stemming from the amount of choice and consequence and the character progression system. Let’s hope that all the bumps in the development road didn’t stop this game from achieving its goal that had so many of us backing it up.
Mass Effect Andromeda
Release Date: March 21
After the colorful ending of Mass Effect 3 Bioware is continuing the series in another galaxy with a new story and characters.
Mass Effect Andromeda takes the plot 600 years into the future after the main events in the original trilogy and has the players taking the role of Sara or Scott Ryder, pathfinders with the designated role of exploring new planets aboard the Tempest ship. Andromeda retains the cover shooting gameplay but expands on the character progression with more skills and weapons. The planetary exploration seems to be at the center of the gameplay, each planet having its own quests, resources, useful information and even bosses. For that reason the Nomad has been introduced, an exploratory vehicle with an improved navigation system designed to get rid of the annoying Mako bugs from Mass Effect. On top of the singleplayer campaign, the game comes with multiplayer mode following the popular model of Mass Effect 3.
I’m not sure how much real RPG is in Mass Effect Andromeda and the lack of actual gameplay videos keeps us quite in the dark. The game will be accessible days before release with a 10 hours trial through Origin Access, a paid demo that could unveil more information if Bioware doesn’t provide more until then.
Release Date: Q4
Paradox has bought White Wolfe and we are all on edge waiting for an announcement that the coming of Leonard Boyarsky to Obsidian Entertainment isn’t just a coincidence and a new Vampire the Masquerade is in development. But until that proves to be true, Dontnod Entertainment (Life is Strange) and Focus Home Interactive are working on a game with vampires, intuitively named Vampyr.
Vampyr is set in 1918 London during the Spanish flu pandemic and follows the story of Jonathan E. Reid, a doctor who’s also a bloodthirsty vampire. As the protagonist tries to unravel the mystery behind his transformation he’s facing the moral dilemma of having to kill to stay alive. The gameplay focuses on the need to stay alive and stalking targets, finding their habits and weakness to strike them or finding other means to feed. As it was expected from its 3rd person camera, Vampyr has an action oriented combat system which involves melee and ranged weapons as well as vampirical powers which are gained from feeding on humans. The enemies that stand in Jonathan’s way are many: hunters, his new kin and even mutated vampires will pose a deadly threat. There are plenty of gameplay options and at the end of the night it is up to the player to live with the consequences of their actions in a world where everyone is killable.
Vampyr is the game I’ve been waiting for to restore the reputation of vampires after a series of movies and TV shows turned them into love toys and I can’t wait to see the choice and consequence system Dontnod Entertainment has put into it.
Book of Demons
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access
Book of Demons is the first installment of Return 2 Games, an initiative by Thing Trunk to create a series of games inspired by the 90s classics. These games are set in the Paperverse, a book world made entirely with paper-cut graphics.
The game is an homage to Diablo with an extremely similar narrative following a hero as he arrives to a troubled town to venture into the cursed cathedral and slay the evil that dwells beneath. But it’s all done in good fun with presentations delivered through rhymes and a comedic feel for the whole story. The gameplay retains the Hack & Slash elements of its inspiration but uses cards instead of items and a deck system to create builds for the three classes. The characters move on predetermined paths and have to fence off waves of enemies that get increasingly more powerful and dangerous. The combat is pretty limited but has an appeal to it and works well with the cards system providing some good mindless fun.
Book of Demons is getting closer to release with each new update. The content is mostly complete and two out of three classes have been released so far. I’ve played through the first difficulty in Early Access and I did get enough entertainment value out of it to be tempted for another playthrough when the game is fully released.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Release Date: TBA, currently in Early Access
Larian’s sequel to the acclaimed RPG that mesmerized everyone with its turn based tactical combat has been financed again through Kickstarter and has Chris Avellone on board to right some of the wrongs from Divinity: Original Sin.
The Divine is dead so prepare to embark on an adventure into a fantasy world where the gods are no more. Choose between 5 unique races including Lizard and Undead, each with their own traits, and set an origin story that will prompt different reactions and provide new dialogue options. Explore the world through an isometric camera and engage into a turn based combat featuring an expanded combo system between spells and abilities to destroy the outnumbering enemies. Unfold a deeper and darker story as the Void is coming. And if you feel competitive, test your skills in the new PvP arena.
I can’t say that Divinity: Original Sin wasn’t a bit disappointing. The writing didn’t rise up to the expectations of a classic style RPG and there were other problems that stopped the game from achieving greatness. But the developers seem to have taken notes and are trying to improve on those exact problems. With a much detailed character progression, a story that feels more interesting and which has the creative touch of Chris Avellone and many improvements all over the place, Divinity: Original Sin 2 it’s on the right path.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar
Release Date: TBA
Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a RPG developed by Airship Syndicate, a studio formed by ex-Vigil Games veterans including the old studio’s co-founders. The game was funded through Kickstarter luring backers with a charming art style resembling Darksiders and a JPRG combat system. Battle Chasers is based on an acclaimed fantasy comic book launched in April 1998 which stopped after only 9 issues. As part of the promises made in the crowdfunding campaign, new issues will continue the comic book story from where it was left in 2001.
The gameplay follows the concept of Japanese RPGs with free movement during exploration and changing to a different perspective during the turn based combat sessions. The world is rich in content allowing players to freely explore in order to discover quests, find rare bosses and uncover secret dungeons filled with puzzles, traps and potentially good loot. Mechanics like: a two-tiered mana system, initiative bar, random buffs or debuffs and super attacks will give the combat system a strategic flavor.
The artistic direction and gameplay behind Battle Chasers: Nightwar nail the feeling of a comic book world with just a slight of Vigil’s artistic direction to get the Darksiders fans intrigued.
Children of Morta
Release Date: TBA
Children of Morta is a narrative driven Hack & Slash RPG with roguelike elements by Dead Mage which was financed through a Kickstarter campaign.
The players can choose between 6 members from the Bergson family, the guardians of Mount Morta, and fight against the spreading corruption. Each of the characters is unique having its own backgrounds story, quests and fighting styles. The action unfolds in a procedurally generated world composed of different landscapes filled with lore and powerful monsters.
With an action gameplay driven by a narrative that’s centered on a family instead of one hero and painted-like retro graphics, Children of Morta is an appealing indie game.
Release Date: TBA
It’s almost becoming a fashion to have Metroidvania games with Souls-like elements and after Salt and Sanctuary comes Death’s Gambit.
As Death’s emissary on an alien planet with a medieval look and inhabited by knights, beasts and horrors, the players attempt to find the source of immortality and put an end to it. Featuring a precise combat system which requires calculated moves and timing, Death’s Gambit promises to be a difficult game where players will die a lot learning the gameplay mechanics and mastering the boss fights. A varied arsenal and a wide set of spells alongside shady characters and creatures of the land will help seeing this quest through.
I enjoyed Salt and Sanctuary tremendously, more than I thought I will, so seeing another game following a similar approach can only be good. Hopefully the developers at White Rabbit will strike the balance between combat, challenge and fairness so that we can have a true Souls-like experience.
Release Date: TBA
After Salt and Sanctuary has pulled off an amazing Soul-esque sidescrolling adventure, EITR is coming to do the same but from an isometric perspective.
As a Shield Maiden whose destiny was shattered by Loki’s interference engulfing Yggdrasil in darkness using Eitr and altering her path, the players have to venture into the nine worlds of Norse mythology and find her true fate.
First and foremost, EITR impresses through an artistic design merging retro style graphics with an isometric camera into a feast for the eyes. But the game’s main feature is the complex combat system using a variety of melee weapons and viable ranged weapons into tactical dance between fast and powerful attacks meant to deal with challenging encounters. The character progression is about taking chances as the players can choose to play safe and permanently level the character or invest into powerful boons that last until death.
After experiencing a sidescrolling Souls-like game, I’m quite excited to stick to solid ground and fight challenging enemies without the constant risk of falling off the cliff.
Release Date: TBA
Piranha Bytes has returned, not with Gothic or Risen, but with a new RPG entitled ELEX made in the studio’s unique style that was propagated throughout their entire portofolio.
The planet Magalan was following the path of evolution with billions of inhabitants and advanced technology, but the meteor hit and the post apocalyptic aftermath left a battle for survival centered on Elex. This new limited resource brought by the meteor can power up machines, grant magical powers and shape life into new forms changing the planet forever. What’s quite visible from the gameplay videos is that the spirit of Gothic lives on through this game, yet, in many ways ELEX feels like an evolution. Piranha Bytes are departing even farther from the fantasy setting that made them known in the industry, taking risks with concepts that are rarely used in higher quality games.
ELEX takes full advantage of its seamless science-fantasy open world providing a vertical sense of exploration with the addition of jetpacks. But the jetpack is much more than a mean for exploration, it’s a multifunctional tool that can prove to be a valuable tactical option in combat allowing for strikes from above and a way to escape when needed. The combat system combines futuristic gadgets and guns with spells and swords to face droids, mages and other creatures empowered by Elex with the clunkiness that has become a studio trademark. The developers promised interconnected quests with choice and consequence that hopefully involves characters with the charm of Diego or Gorn.
I can’t lie, ELEX looks rough around the edges with slightly dated visuals and stiff animations, but this is a budget game and knowing Piranha Bytes, it will surely shine in other ways.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Release Date: TBA
This medieval action RPG has been on all the upcoming lists I’ve put together since I started this blog. Partially funded through Kickstarter, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a game set in the medieval kingdom of Bohemia and it’s aiming to be as historically accurate as possible. Players won’t be the chosen one or even a royal blood, instead they will play as the son of a blacksmith whose family has been killed by an invading army. The story will take the protagonist on the road of vengeance, but will ultimately lead him in a battle to restore the rightful heir to the throne. Kingdom Come will feature a character progression and gameplay mechanics that stay true to the authentic setting. Players can engage in activities of the era, shady or not, and gather materials, craft or steal from others. A reputation system and complex dialogues will have a serious impact on how certain situations unfold and a never before seen medieval combat will require time and skill to master. The authenticity goes as far as having a needs system which requires that players to sleep and eat in order to stay healthy.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is just the first act in a historical trilogy set on capturing the look and feel of the time and presenting everything with a detailed accuracy from story to gameplay. The wait has been long enough and it’s almost the time to see how this ambitious project has turned out.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
Release Date: TBA
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord is a medival RPG announced by TaleWorlds Entertainment in 2012 as a prequel to Warband.
The game is set 200 years before the events in Warband, during the decline of the Calradian Empire and the formation of the Kingdoms. During these times of civil war players will armor up and join the fight on the battlefields of Calradia. Bannelord’s gameplay features an improved medieval combat system and historically authentic siege weapons. Crafting, diplomacy and a sandbox economy will also play a huge role in the game’s world. But as compelling and immersive the world of Mount & Blade can be, it wouldn’t be so successful without mod support and Bannelord won’t skip on this highly praised feature.
As an indie game, Mount & Blade II: Bannelord is not shooting for the production value of a AAA, but aims for a scale, complexity and scope that most AAA games tend to miss and that’s why it is one of my most anticipated game in 2017.
Release Date: TBA
Every title from Supergiant Games shares a similarity in artistic direction, but turns out unique without trying hard to be so and the first look the same seems to be the case with Pyre.
Pyre steps even further from the legacy of Bastion as a party-based RPG in which a band of exiles partake in competitions in a mystical purgatory world. Travel through mysterious lands, meet colorful characters fighting for their freedom and take fate changing decisions in a gameplay that combines storytelling with an action-packed combat system. And if that’s not enough, challenge other players in 1v1 battles of skill and wits.
Supergiant has managed to deliver magical looking games each time and Pyre seems to make no exception. Playing multiple times through all the studio’s games I’m almost certain that Pyre’s soundtrack will be as great as the artistic direction, leaving just this new world to impress and I sincerely hope it will.
Release Date: TBA
A game set in the Nier universe finally makes it to the PC market. After the controversial cancellation of Scalebound by Microsoft, NieR: Automata is the only title from PlatinumGames coming out this year.
NieR: Automata is an action JRPG taking place in a post-apocalyptic Earth during the war between the remains of humanity and machines created by otherworldly invaders following the story of a combat android and her companion. The gameplay stays true to the series using a combo based action combat in a weird mix of 3rd person, isometric and sidescrolling cameras. The melee weapons will be the primary focus of the combat system but the game does have shooting elements as well as stories attached to the weapons themselves.
As a first entry on PC, the story of NieR: Automata might not be as enjoyable for the PC players, but the responsive fast paced combat and the unique setting might make up for it. The game is set to release on PS4 on March with the PC version coming later this year.
South Park: The Fractured but Whole
Release Date: Early 2017
Despite The Stick of Truth being an overwhelming success, South Park: The Fractured but Whole isn’t made by Obsidian Entertainment. This sequel powered by the Snowdrop engine is now made by Ubisoft San Francisco working together with the two co-creators of the South Park TV show.
The Fractured but Whole is a sequel to 2014’s game in which the players will once again assume the role of the New Kid and join the 4 now legendary characters of the series in another RPG adventure. This time the characters will become superheroes to fight the crime spree in South Park but due to difference of opinions they will split into two clashing groups. Fitting for the game’s new thematic, players will be able to choose between multiple superhero classes as well as the gender for their characters and enjoy a turn based combat system in similar style with the predecessor.
I’m not a fan of South Park but the series as well as the RPG inspired by it have been a huge success and fans will be happy to continue their adventures in this city of never-ending irony.
Release Date: TBA
The Surge is one of the many Souls inspired games coming out this year and it’s created by Deck13 Interactive, the studio behind Lords of the Fallen.
The action takes place in a dystopian future during the ending days of planet Earth when society is facing a degradation prompted by the advancement in AI technology, aging population and environmental diseases. With the job market plummeting over the years, people are forced into labor in the suburbs using exoskeleton suits to improve their efficiency. The players will take the role of a human equipped with an exoskeleton suit fighting AI controlled robots in visceral melee encounters. The combat system will have a faster pace than Lords of the Fallen and will be complemented by an in depth upgrading system tied to the exoskeleton suit.
Lords of the Fallen wasn’t all that well received, short and buggy the game needed a lot more development. Deck13 Interactive might have learned from their mistakes and The Surge could be a big step up for the studio.
Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr
Release Date: TBA
The number of games set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 is growing almost by the quarter and it was only a matter of time until somebody was going to make a Hack & Slash style RPG in the universe of eternal war. This overwhelming task has fallen on the shoulders of NeocoreGames, a studio known for the Van Helsing series.
In Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitior – Martyr players will take the role of an Inquisitor choosing between three available classes to purge the unclean from the Caligari Sector. The game features an interesting concept of an open ended gameplay that has players going through a story as well as an Inquisitorial Campaign which is a colossal sandbox with persistent elements influenced by the player’s actions. The combat is far slower paced than any Hack & Slash I’ve played and has a bit of tactical focus to it with destructible cover and enemies with advanced damage model which allows for dismemberment.
Inquisitor- Martyr is an intriguing Hack & Slash to say the least. It might not have the best animations, but the combat approach seems fitting for the universe and the Inquisitorial Campaign will be supported by a gradual development which could provide years of entertainment solo and in multiplayer. Now let’s hope the unannounced class is a Grey Knight!
I’m at the end of a long series of articles showcasing an extremely promising year. This kind of articles has been misleading in the past, games get postponed or turn out disappointing, but the sheer amount of potentially good games cannot be neglected. We’ll have to wait and see how all these games turn out, but my wishlist hasn’t been this big in a long time.