It's a good time to be a fan of single-player RPGs, as remastered versions of Baldur's Gate and Dragon Quest are looking dapper (having been cleaned up for modern systems), a sequel to The Surge saw release on Tuesday (expect a review very soon) and a new IP from Bandai Namco, the Souls-like Code Vein, will be with us in time for the weekend. With so many differently styled RPGs out there, both old and new, it's hard to choose a favourite, but we've done just that.
In a situation like this, survival is often the best one can hope for.
Sam | Dark Souls
It’ll likely come as no surprise to anybody that FromSoftware’s unforgiving Dark Souls is my choice this week. Not only my favourite RPG but quite possibly my favourite game of all time, it’s such an entirely cherishable experience in every which way.
That even includes every crushing defeat, because without the comparative lows the game would never reach its intoxicating highs. The in-depth systems, lore, setting and combat are all outstanding on an unparalleled level in my mind; frankly, it’s just a damn special experience.
That being said, and I’ll make this transition in part because I’ve gushed over Dark Souls here several times before, BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins gives it a good run for its money. Launching back before EA got their mitts on the RPG-specialist studio, there were none of the compromises synonymous with BioWare today.
Origins’ tactical combat, lore, systems and setting were also great in their own right, but where the game far exceeds Dark Souls is in its cast of characters. Allies comprising protagonist The Warden’s party were particularly memorable, with my personal favourites being Alistair and Morrigan for all their endearing squabbling. They were honestly more like real-world friends than fictional characters in a game and I can only hope we’re reunited in the upcoming Dragon Age 4.
Dark Souls' cast may pale in comparison but it doesn't take away from the series.
Liam | The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
All Zelda games are an easy sell, but there’s something extra special about The Wind Waker. Even the ridiculously catchy opening bars of the title music are enough to let you know you’re in for a treat.
Stepping out into Hyrule Field for the first time in Ocarina of Time might be regarded by many as a defining moment in the series but, for me, The Wind Waker’s sprawling seas offered a much greater sense of adventure.
I loved heading into uncharted waters, watching shadows on the horizon grow steadily larger until they transformed into a new island, ripe for exploring. Rare encounters with spectral ships and kraken-like sea monsters just added to the sense of wonder.
This was the first Zelda game I finished on my own, without help from older siblings, friends, or guides. The only assistance I needed was Link himself, who would use his gargantuan cartoon eyes to give hints as to what to do next, almost as if he were pondering the situation as much as I was.
The Wind Waker sets a personal standard by which other RPGs are judged. It’s got everything; adventure, action, great storytelling and characters, plus a superb soundtrack. It even has a magic pear that lets you control seagulls. What more do you need?
Now that's a catchy opener.
James | Mass Effect
Mass Effect is not only a series I enjoyed thoroughly, but one I actually finished (and regular readers will know how much of a rare occurrence that is) and was possibly the first time I lost myself in the story of an RPG. Shepard's quest to save the Milky Way started off (and, some would say, ended) clunky and awkward but found its feet thanks to BioWare's mastery in creating compelling characters and an interesting, Star Trek-esque future society where humanity wasn't the leader of the Federation, but a race that was constantly trying to prove itself.
The gameplay is solid, and gets even better as the series progresses. You've got a lot of variety to play with in your character too, equipping your version of Shepard with Force-inspired superpowers or technical skills to use in combat. The real game-changer is the branching dialogue trees and Paragon and Renegade system, which sees your Shep change as you play, even opening up dastardly or pious actions depending on which side of the line you tread.
Who can forget moments with well-rounded characters like Mordin Solus singing Gilbert and Sullivan, the impossible choice about the fate of the Krogans on Virmire and the epic final dash through the Omega 3 mass effect relay as you tightly clutch every beloved character you can get your hands on. I'm not Commander Shepard, but this is my favourite RPG on the Citadel.
Bioware get top marks for storytelling, right until the very end.
Let us know which RPG you would recommend above any other.