RPGs tend to feature quite well in Game of the Year awards, with their absorbing gameplay and length lending themselves well to world building and story telling. This year has a number of very strong contenders, with only those that truly excelled able to rise to the top. Some took us through fantasy lands where nothing was as it seems, while others explored the inner psyche, or a search for a new home.
Our winner is a long, long awaited sequel in a niche but critically acclaimed series.
No RPG was as cool, calm, and collected as Persona 5 this year. The long wait for the sequel to the PS2’s Persona 4 was torture at times, but for the game to be as good as it was, complete with a localisation that was the best we could have ever hoped for, is nothing short of a miracle.
Persona 5 takes inspiration from prior games in the series, and while it fundamentally has a lot in common with Persona 3 and 4 with its gameplay, bringing back the demon negotiations from the first two Persona games – a feature omitted from the more upbeat and popular entries in the series – was a masterstroke. The game’s tone was a lot darker from the outset, with a main protagonist that’s judged and hated for a crime that isn’t what it seems, how the Phantom Thieves are formed out of desperation, and indeed the motivations of each dungeon boss.
By taking and adapting what made Persona an iconic franchise to begin with, the team at Atlus showed us once more how to make a masterfully crafted JRPG experience that is great to play, even if managing Social Links can be stressful at times. It’s the best in the series for some, and easily our winner of Best Role Playing Game of 2017.
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Divinity: Original Sin 2– Runner Up
Of all the RPGs this year, none have grown in scope quite like Divinity: Original Sin 2 – the sequel to Larian’s ambitious CRPG revival. How could they possibly top what was already an incredible game? By adding more than a metric ton of content into the sequel that not only fleshes out the universe it’s set in, but also shows that a little bit of effort can go a long way. Having tags that are assigned to a player’s character that prompt different, fully voiced responses from NPCs is the stuff of dreams.
Larian also went the extra mile in not only providing a campaign that can easily top 100 hours of play time to get through, but enough replay value to warrant a second, or even third playthrough as different classes. As if that wasn’t enough, it also features the most robust GM Mode since Neverwinter Nights, that with the right group of friends can be a hilarious time. For the asking price on Steam, it’s a steal.
What did keep Divinity: Original Sin 2 from the top spot is that the team at Larian hold no punches when it comes to difficulty, which will be a barrier to entry for some. With such a lavish world to explore full of detail, battles shouldn’t need to force you to manage limited resources and take eons to complete. With that said, everything in Divinity: Original Sin 2 is still a joy to play and if you’ve got a half-decent PC, you may wish to invest in the game – especially if you want to craft dungeons for friends!
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 – Runner Up
The Switch has had an embarrassment of riches since it’s arrival early in 2017, and its latest big release was a fitting farewell to its rookie year. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 builds on the template set out in both the original game and the Wii U’s Xenoblade Chronicles X, delivering a wonderfully imaginative world populated by huge creatures upon which civilisations have sprung up.
Developer Monolith Soft actually assisted with building The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s huge open world, and they’ve constructed another sprawling landscape here. Chronicles 2 is even more spectacular, with some jaw-dropping visual designs set atop, and within, the gigantic Titans. It’s the setting for a similarly epic story, though instead of being a po-faced, humourless affair, Chronicles 2 offers quips a-plenty, and more heart than you’ll expect, thanks in part to the wonderful UK-centric voice acting.
On top of that, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 offers a cavalcade of levelling systems, with a combat system that builds over the first fifteen hours into something truly enthralling, while you can get lost enveloping yourself in everything your team is capable of. Sure, there are a few missteps, but ultimately they make the game feel like even more of an achievement.
Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
- Hand of Fate 2
- Pokémon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon
- Tales of Berseria
As great as the RPGs we’ve mentioned are, we’re sure that you have your own opinions. Why not sound off in the comments to let us know what your favourites of the year have been?