Role Playing Games remain the backbone of the software release schedule, and despite the fact that the Japanese development scene has been waning for a number of years, they’re still the masters of this particular genre. Both of our two finalists were developed in the Japan, with each of them sequels in a hugely popular franchise. They couldn’t be more different though, especially in terms of combat, with the exacting action of the Souls series going head to head with an all-new action-orientated take on the Final Fantasy framework.
Dark Souls III
Dark Souls III represents the culmination of just how far From Software and Hidetaki Miyazaki have come. Lessons have been learned from all games, resulting in the finest controls, most visually stunning entry in the series. One look at the snow covered areas is enough to show just how wonderful it looks. Enemy designs vary from area to area, with intimidating warriors that can harass you from rooftops, or monsters guarding bridges that must be toppled to progress.
We also have some of the best designed boss battles in the franchises history, and yet Dark Souls III manages to have the smoothest difficulty curve. This could of course be due to experience, but no encounter felt truly unfair in the early stages.
And then there’s the overarching lore, which is hidden among item descriptions, that perhaps gave me more of an incentive to take down a particularly hard boss later on. If this is how Dark Souls ends, it’s a terrific send off.
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV really had no right to be as good as it turned out to be. The subject of one the the most tumultuous development cycles in modern gaming, the disparate parts somehow pulled together to bring us a fresh re-imagining of the Final Fantasy franchise that was just referential enough to the games that had come before it.
What marks it out as being particularly revolutionary was the way in which it handled the RPG party system, and the resulting narrative strands that came from their interactions. Prince Noctis and his retainers, Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto, aren’t just cookie-cutter genre stereotypes, and nor do they simply play a game of follow the leader as happens in so many other RPGs. By the end of your playthrough you’ll know so many small details about each of them, and you’ll discover that they’re quietly amongst the most well-written and well-rounded characters in a modern RPG. The details may not be life-changing, or even that interesting, but there are few games that make you want to spend an extended amount of time with the cast.
Besides the unexpected successes, Final Fantasy XV continued the series’ penchant for generation-leading visuals, and it looks simply stunning, with a huge open-world that stretches out in front of you for miles. The fact that you can either traverse them by Chocobo, or take a more relaxed drive while the scenery zips by makes the whole thing all the more enjoyable.
In the end, our 2016 award for Best Role Playing Game goes to:
Runners up in alphabetical order
- Bravely Second: End Layer
- Final Fantasy XV
- Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright
- I Am Setsuna
- The Witcher III: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine