RPG is the most democratic genre, because it can compete on equal terms with multimillion blockbusters and dream projects made by a team of several people on the bare enthusiasm. If there is a prescribed world, fascinating quests and intelligently realized pumping, the graphic delights are not so important. Therefore, the final top we have role-playing games of all sizes, budgets and subgenres. In addition to the creations FromSoftware – after fierce disputes with inclusions self-mutilation editors agreed that they are more appropriate to be classified as action.
Tenth place, The Outer Worlds.
The game, which was called “New Fallout”, suddenly turned out to be a completely independent and complete product for everyone. Of course, the heritage of New Vegas by the same Obsidian team looks out of all gaps and slots, but the developers cherished and nurtured the most suitable ideas of the predecessor, added some new developments, and then woven them together, getting something unique, incredibly beautiful, but at the same time, painfully familiar.
The Outer Worlds had no huge budgets, no technical possibilities and, more importantly, no carriages of empty promises. Instead, it just showed up and showed us everything we love about Obsidian games: life-changing dilemmas, a vast field of research, detailed characters and worlds, and vivid dialogues that don’t get bored.
In addition, The Outer Worlds is an exemplary RPG. In addition to all the purely mechanical signs of the genre, there is freedom of choice and does not let go of the feeling that all the player’s actions directly affect the main character and the world around him.
Ninth place – Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Finding a full role-playing game in a realistic setting without the elements of fantasy and science fiction is extremely difficult. And if the setting is not just “realistic”, and natural history? Until February 2018, this could only be divorced by hand. Fortunately, it turned out that in the Czech Republic can do not only GTA-clones about gangsters.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance can be blindly mistaken for a randomly turned on History Channel: we even devoted a separate material to analyze the credibility of what is happening. Bohemia of the beginning of the XV century with all its knights and robbers, castles and villages, forests and fields looks so alive that you want to settle in it yourself. But it is also not bad to live the life of the main character with the name Jindřich, which is unusual for the Russian ear. Warhorse Studios managed to keep a perfect balance between realism (Indro’s needs are that of your tamagotchi!) and playfulness, so the project looks more like a good adventure novel like “Ivango” or “Black Arrow” than a history textbook. It turns out that in the Middle Ages you could have a good time without any sorcery. Today we dump dung on the neighbor’s house, and tomorrow we storm the stronghold of the local feudal lord; the day after tomorrow we take part in the orgy of the village priest, and a day later, having embraced hallucinogens, we call Satan together with “witches”…
The place in this rating Kingdom Comes: Deliverance deserves at least for what it clearly demonstrates: an ordinary, unthinkable Earth is no worse for role-playing than the next worlds of sword and magic or the dark post-nuclear future.
Eighth place – Disco Elysium.
It’s great that the Disco Elysium shot. The audience accepted the debut work of the Estonian studio ZA/UM very warmly, and critics literally failed to win awards. But the question arises: isn’t it a little early to call it one of the most important RPG decades? Suddenly the guys are just lucky, or have we become so impressionable?
In our opinion, no, it’s not too early. Yeah, it’s just the studio’s first job. Yeah, maybe the stars just got together at the right angle. But is it so important? It’s already clear that Disco Elysium will age like a fine wine; it’s absolutely nothing to be confused with. Although ZA/UM has taken on a lot of RPGs from Planescape: Torment to Shadowrun, the result of her work is 100% original.
Disco Elysium refuses to get out of her head even months after it passed. She seems strangely familiar, even native; like a city that you know from postcards but where you’ve never been. And that’s because the developers created the RPG, where everything really revolves around characters. Around the tragicomic, but somehow painful, real situations that they constantly get into. No fighting, sewn to the chic scenario just “to be”, no manchinism and rush – only endless melancholy.
And the glassware collection, of course. You have to buy cigarettes for some money to smoke them in the pouring rain.
Seventh place, Persona 5.
Another Persona was a real gift for fans of Japanese role-playing games. It is difficult to call it innovative: the fifth part successfully continues to use the elements introduced in the third. But each of them is complemented and polished to a dazzling shine, so the combination of turn-based fights, puzzles, stealth, visual novella and original magic system plays with new colors.
Persona 5 is also a real eye candy. And not only because of the new engine, allowing you to finally see the heroes, persons and demons in detail. The designers dashingly mixed anime and comic book aesthetics, fertilized it with noir and references to pop culture and got a damn stylish picture, which also looks stunning in dynamics.
But, most importantly, the series, as always, does not smell playful to raise sharp topics and ask uncomfortable questions, turning to psychology, mythology and philosophy. Themes of Persona 5 can be enumerated for a long time: there is the struggle against social injustice, and the search for a place in the world, and the price of freedom, and responsibility to other people, and much more. And, unlike the tragic stories about the discrimination of magicians or robots, the plot of the game is depressingly topical.
Sixth place – Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The original Deus Ex was an outstanding game: diverse, multi-layered and really mature – and today you can count them on your fingers. To get a new hit, Eidos Montreal did not even need to come up with something new, because since the masterpiece Ion Storm nothing like it never appeared. In fact, in many ways that’s why the young team had not even so much prequel, but a remake of the game in 2000 – timid attempts to add something from themselves can not be taken into account – and it was quite enough.
The principle of “kill, steal, persuade” in this immersive sim works even better than most of the “purebred” RPG, and a flexible role-playing system allows you to turn the hero into a reinforced concrete bully, a silent assassin, a cunning hacker, even in all at once. And the main thing that almost any build will be viable – you just need to choose the right tactics. And crawling through the ventilation and sewers and hacking computers behind the back of the guards is no less fun than busting into a crowd of enemies with a machine gun naked. What is it: even reading notes and digging into someone else’s e-mail for some time does not look like a game-designer’s crutch, but really tells about the world of not so distant future and help to immerse yourself in it even deeper. That Deus Ex: Human Revolution can be passed without killing anyone, except three bosses, and it’s not worth talking about.
Not only one of the best RPGs, but definitely the main cyberpunk of the decade: smart, sophisticated and versatile.
Fifth place – Divinity: Original Sin 2
Divinity: Original Sin spread all over the world and overnight made Larian Studios a prominent player in the market. So it was hard to imagine that the planned sequel would be even better, that the authors would be able to jump over the head – but they succeeded. Divinity: Original Sin 2 was, perhaps, the only time in history when the game funded by Kickstarter not only failed to meet expectations, but surpassed them in many ways.
It is an RPG, where you can sit for more than ten hours in prologue and even wonder if it didn’t last longer. It’s an RPG so big and ambitious that in the hands of any other developer it would be a disaster – but Larian Studios knew what it was doing. Divinity: Original Sin 2 is not a desktop-inspired RPG, but the other way around. It’s a game in D&D or Pathfinder, put on digital rails, where the master is very loyal to the players and loves it when they experiment. Do you want to put a barrel of resin in your inventory? Well, why not, it’ll come in handy. Two characters in the cooperative decided to act against each other? Great, I’ve got a story twist on that one. Can you drain a puddle and then electrify a cloud of steam to stun enemies? Yeah, yeah, and again, yeah, but don’t go into that cloud yourself.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 amazes from the first minutes and never stops throwing surprises down to the credits, all hundred (!) hours of gameplay. It’s a modern classic: in ten years’ time it will be as much appreciated as Baldur’s Gate.
Fourth place, Mass Effect 2.
Mass Effect 2 was one of the latest games from BioWare, which managed to win almost unanimous approval among RPG fans. And there were reasons for that. It boasted a host of vivid characters with well-developed stories – from veterans of the previous part like good old friend Garrus to newcomers like outwardly tough and rude mercenary Jack or the mysterious Phantom. Tasks were not just interesting and varied, but also beautifully staged – from a battle on a spaceship flying in the middle of an endless storm to a battle with a huge, terminator-like reaper. Thanks to the refined combat system it is finally pleasant to shoot, and with any weapon. The Canadians managed to raise the quality bar even higher. Perhaps Mass Effect 2 had only one significant drawback – the main plot of the trilogy was not too advanced after the first part.
But in comparison with the failed end in Mass Effect 3 and mostly unsuccessful “Andromeda” it’s not an essential little thing.
Third place – The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
It really hurts to look at Skyrim today. And not because it’s so visually outdated despite all the reissues, but because it remained Bethesda’s best creation in the 2010s. Eight years have passed, and the studio has never released anything bigger or richer. But let’s give the developers credit – the bar is really high.
Skyrim led the player by the handle only once – at the very beginning, when you had to save yourself from the dragon that came from somewhere you don’t understand. But as soon as you get out of the spider cave, the whole hard snowy world lies before your feet. All roads are open to you, just some harder than others, but otherwise – absolute freedom. You can follow the story, master the dragon screams and follow the instructions of the yarl, or you can just scrambling through the mountains, running from giants, fishing, cleaning dungeons, turning to a vampire, stealing food, etc., etc., etc. It was fascinating in 2011 and it is fascinating now.
Second place, Fallout: New Vegas.
Perhaps no series of classic RPGs have gone through such deep transformations as Fallout. That in technical, that in gameplay, that in the plot between number two and third parts lies the whole Grand Canyon. And the main problem is not even that the step-by-step isometry suddenly turned into a shooter with role-playing elements: God-forsaken Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel managed to spit at the canon back in 2004. The problem is that FPS from Fallout 3 came out rather mediocre, the “role-playing elements” worked as if, and the central story with the epic final battle for the water pump caused only irritation among fans who were waiting for Van Buren, but got what they got. Obsidian Entertainment was entrusted to save the series – the people who, under the sign of Black Isle Studios, once created the world of Fallout as such. And they didn’t let it down.
Formally New Vegas is not so much attracted to the full part of the series, as to the big mod, but the specialists from Obsidian on the old engine made the completely new game. Greenish as a beer bottle, the Capital Wasteland was replaced by the vastness of post-core Nevada, shown through a warm orange light filter. There was a distinct firearm, a full-fledged fly-size aiming (yes, in Fallout 3 even that wasn’t there!) and more or less competent shooting. The city of vice New Vegas and its environs were populated by colorful heroes like a robot prostitute with a talking name Fisto or a supermutant who considers himself a caring grandmother. They were tied up in a crazy quest with quite real, unpredictable and far-reaching consequences that affect the fate of individuals, towns and the world as a whole. What can we say about the trifles like the test of skills in dialogue, which again made the system S.P.E.C.I.A.L. useful, grab plot, the famous perk “Wilderness” or hot atmosphere of radioactive westerns.
In general, even if you move New Vegas to the engine of the first parts of Fallout, it will still be interesting to play it. And that’s the best recommendation you can give an RPG.
First place, “Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.”
According to all the laws of the game industry, the CD Projekt Red just could not get the “Wild Hunting” as we know it. Yes, Kingslayer Kings came out pretty breakthrough for regional development, but they still felt like an Eastern European game that was pretending to be a blockbuster. Well, the swing at a full open world should have turned into something like the Risen Trilogy or the recent Greedfall at best. But a real miracle happened: at the price of hellish reworking, bordering on human rights violations, Polish masters created a hit by the standards of not only Eastern Europe, but also the whole world.
The beauty of the third “Witch” is that it was created really for everyone. Do you appreciate the non-linear quests and bright characters? There’ll be plenty of both in Vronitsa already. Do you like a nice fight? The local bandugs are smartly cut into pieces. Interested in variable pumping? The local skill tree is branchy enough for Heralt to tune in. And if you twist the level of difficulty to the limit, then alchemy and blacksmithing become a really important part of the gameplay, not just additional items on the menu. “Wild Hunting” didn’t invent anything, but borrowed the best of the genre and mixed it in such proportions that it can be enjoyed by both casualists and hardcore workers. Among the RPG “for everyone”, she is still the best almost five years later.