The RPG Scrollbars: Not Being Announced At E3

It’s a great time for RPGs at the moment, with huge AAA successes on one side and just about every classic name getting a shot at new life. Hopefully this E3 will see many cool announcements. There may have been some already. Don’t ask me, I’m writing this on Sunday, and my time-machine only lets me go back and kill Hitler. (58 times so far – he’s like badly moustached bubblewrap!) But what games would it be great to see get a new, dynamic reveal? Here’s a few that come to mind…

Nethack Infinity

Roguelikes? Pffft. That’s adventuring for babies. In 2016, prepare to enter a dungeon that’s been under construction since 1987, only now with Blizzard level polish and a revolutionary new approach to modding. While you can play a base game, tested and polished by experts, or download specific mods as you’d expect, the true experience simply pulls in level tilesets, new monsters and exciting mechanics at random, ensuring every run through the game is full of unpredictable surprises. (This technology also coming soon to XCOM 3: Enemy Actually Unknown Again).

Purists may complain about the slightly simplified controls, the better to explore fluidly, and the concessions made on easy difficulties like auto-identifying items. Luckily, they’ll always have the original. For newer players however, not entirely unreasonably declaring that they’d rather poke their eyes out with sticks than play a graphical variant like Falcon’s Eye, this is the Nethack you never even knew you were waiting for. You know, like you like Roguelikes but have never, like, actually played Rogue. You know who you are. You sickening newbies. You sicken me.

Anachronox Universe

It’s been a long time since the amazing first game ended on a cliffhanger. Sorry about that. And to be honest, we’re not going to pick up on that as much as you’d think, because it probably wasn’t going to lead anywhere that cool. It’ll be a subquest though, totes. Instead, Anachronox II is Tom Hall and friends focusing on what they do best – a world-spanning RPG where every planet is a crazy new surprise and concept, where every NPC is the stuff of going on Twitter to go “Dude, my new team-mate is the Andromeda galaxy. Its HP is through the roof, though its attacks do take seven million years to hit. When they get here through… whoooo! Shit is going down!

As before, our heroes act as the stabilising force in the crazy, free-wheeling story. Grumpy detective Sly Boots returns, as does his partner Stiletto, no longer mistaking going undercover as a stripper for a reason to remain dressed as a stripper for the entire adventure. This time though, we’ve made Tom play enough Final Fantasy games to realise why they can be fun while the combat system last time was godawful. Still not sure how it’s going to work, but… yeah. Not like that. Again, sorry.

System Shock 3

That cake-promising pretender has had things her own way for too long. It’s time for the PC’s original killer AI to fight through the legal problems and return to full glory. A DOTA 2 voice pack does not count! (Though I know I’ll end up buying it, and I don’t even bloody play Dota 2…)

This sequel eschews the standard design of scripted horror games for a mix of emergent systems and Alien Isolation type tension as you play cat and mouse against the ultimate cat. The whole world is her weapon. Luckily, you know how to hack it and turn it against her as you explore her latest futuristic domain before it’s too late. Also features audiologs that aren’t boring.

All New Worlds of Ultima

Way back in the day, Origin released two Worlds of Ultima games – the Doc Savage style Savage Empire and the Victorian sci-fi Martian Dreams. Both of them suffered from one big problem: the Ultima VI engine. Now though, EA returns to the concept by giving a brand new top-down 3D engine to five different teams and having each of them create a whole new setting with a whole new vibe. Get ready for dark horror in a world that combines the vibe of underused campaign settings like Ravenloft. Return to the world of Martian Dreams as you and the Victorian era’s greatest minds team up against the unknown. Travel back through time. Experience epic pirate adventure on the high seas. Quest alongside King Arthur and his knights for the holy grail. Future settings planned for the series include the Wild West, a Xanthian style world of comedy minus some of the more embarrassing bits, superheroics, and of course, the World of Chocolate.

This series stands for what Ultima always did, without having to touch the actual world and its continuity. Also, nobody involved with the making of Ultima Forever is allowed to take part without first scourging themselves of that sin by climbing to the summit of a mighty mountain and yelling “SORRY!” until someone shouts back “IT’S OKAY, JUST DON’T DO IT AGAIN.”

Vampire: The Masquerade: Alpha Protocol

Two great tastes that go great together! Return to the dark streets of your nightmares, now in a world where every dialogue option, every decision, every accidental glance down when chatting to a sexy vampire can count. The single city scope allows for both sides to come into their own and create a glorious melting pot of choice and consequence, while still offering the scope to be a badass creature of the night. This time though, the game is actually finished… pinky swear… and designed with one principle in mind – whoever designs the next Ocean House gets cake, whoever designs the next sewer level gets flayed alive with a whip soaked in salt. You’ll also be able to get through the whole thing without firing a single shot and dealing with your enemies through stealth and careful machinations to have others do your dirty work without you so much as breaking a single perfectly manicured nail. Every copy comes with a personalised apology from CEO Hilmar Veigar PĂ©tursson for raising everyone’s hopes with World of Darkness, only to smash them into rocks.

Dink Smallwood Lives

On second thoughts, who cares?

Honourable Mentions: The Magic Candle, because it’s feeling left out of all the remakes, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, redesigned to accept the world that a game with the subtitle ‘Of Steamworks And Magick Obscura’ may as well announce ‘Free smallpox inside!’, Darklands, because even semi-realistic RPGs are a rarity, Escape From Hell because it could have been great but wasn’t, and Planescape Torment because of course, even though there is a new game trying to fly its flag on the way. Any others you’d add to the list that aren’t already being revived?

37 Comments

  1. Umberto Bongo says:

    I care about Dink Smallwood.

    • Tacroy says:

      Dink Smallwood was one of the two PC games I ever paid for before I had a credit card (the other one being Escape Velocity: Nova).

      Totally worth it. No regrets.

    • HidingCat says:

      Ah, Dink Smallwood. I played Seth Robinson’s LORD games on BBSes back in the day, and even through the limited medium you can see his quirky style already. I’m surprised people still remember it, given how low key it was.

    • Didero says:

      Dink Smallwood made me feel incredibly uncomfortable when I played it as a kid, and I still don’t know why.
      I don’t really want to replay it to find out either, even the screenshot makes me feel a bit weird.

  2. CallMeIshmael says:

    It took me a moment for my sleep-deprived brain to realize that these aren’t actually things that exist somewhere under the radar. Hooray, PST.
    For the record, I’d totally play a game that just pulled random tilesets from whatever. Probably not on my main PC, though, just to be safe.

  3. swiftshlock says:

    Jade Empire 2. Not your typical western-RPG cookie cutter scenario for a change. Might even come with loads of over the top martial arts moves… one can dream, I guess.

  4. Skeletor68 says:

    What I wouldn’t pledge for a Bloodlines or Alpha Protocol sequel :(

  5. swiftshlock says:

    Is there a decent sci-fi dungeon crawler? Something in the vein of ye olde ? My robot-upgrading and alien-vanquishing needs can’t be sated by Legend of Grimrock, sadly…

    • swiftshlock says:

      Me being unable to build a decent link again =D The game in question is Captive.

    • Notelpats says:

      StarCrawlers (Early Access game)?

      • swiftshlock says:

        This does look promising indeed. Went right under my radar… Thank you!

    • phlebas says:

      Tony Crowther made an RPG with spaceships and robots? I did not know of this!

  6. Guvornator says:

    Where’s the alt text? It says Richard Cobbett as the top, but it can’t be a Richard Cobbett article, because there’s no alt text. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO THE REAL RICHARD COBBETT YOU MONSTERS???!!!

  7. BenAttenborough says:

    Eye of the Beholder?

  8. GameCat says:

    System Shock 3

    There are infinite ammo crates, regenerating health and it comes with pre-order DLC that gives you 3000 nanites, 20 cyber modules, 4 unique starting perks and 2 indestructible weapons. There’s also a funny sidekick, turret sections and cutscenes packed with QTE.

    • gunny1993 says:

      Don’t forget the innovative, dynamic, emotional story, with branching moral choices

  9. LogicalDash says:

    I have some nostalgia for Realmz, which was really more of an engine, like RPG Maker, than a regular game–though it did come with some good in-built scenarios. But where RPG Maker and friends use JRPG style combat where the world around you dissolves, Realmz magnified the world map and drew a combat grid on top. Like a strategy RPG, Final Fantasy Tactics-ish, though it didn’t have a height map. I’d love to see the stupid shit the modding world would come up with in a modernized form of that engine.

    • drinniol says:

      Oh my, Realmz. Was that ever on Windows? I had it as a young ‘un on the Mac.

      • LogicalDash says:

        It was actually ported to Windows eventually! I don’t think the scenario creator ever was, though.

    • FriendGaru says:

      Oh geez, Realmz. I had that on the Mac way back in the day. I don’t remember much about it, beyond it being extremely permissive about letting you save and import party members freely. My youthful self quickly realized you could give all your wealth to a party member, then save and import that character over and over again to rapidly duplicate wealth. I was a cheater in those days, I was.

      Oh, and I remember it would let you recruit monsters you charmed in battle, or something. I have vague memories of having a huge army of random critters following me around.

      • LogicalDash says:

        Yeah, it let you Charm, and Turn Undead, and hire mercenaries, and if you summoned a monster it would keep following you around until it died or you told it to piss off. But then it didn’t let you control any of them. They got themselves killed a lot. And there was some silly arbitrary limit on the number of companions, though I think that might’ve varied per-scenario.

        The way combat was done, scattering the required enemies about a slice of the world map, meant scenario designers didn’t need to do much work to set up combat encounters, and instead you got a lot of strange byzantine adventure scripts where you’d crawl all over the map to find every scripted encounter and piece of loot. Also: hidden passages fucking everywhere.

        One of the inbuilt scenarios contained a cursed item called Sir Robin’s Shield that made the character run from combat.

    • malkav11 says:

      Realmz was a real blessing to a cash-strapped teenage Mac gamer, let me tell you. I never actually registered it, I don’t think, but that and the Exile games were the majority of the RPG-ing I got to do until I acquired a PC in late highschool. (Well, that and MUDs and a few BBS door games, but those were a whole different category of thing). That and something called Jewels of Arabia: Dreamer, or something like that. With djinnis and monkeys and cobras and things. Good times.

      I did also have an SSI Gold Box set but it either didn’t come with the code wheel for Pool of Radiance or I’d lost it, so that kind of put most of those out of my reach, and the remaining one was Dark Queen of Krynn. Not either of the two previous Krynn games. just the last one. I died to a big fight with blue dragons about 5 minutes in every time I tried that one, so that didn’t work out either.

  10. Jockie says:

    What about Wizardry, or are we pretending those Japanese portable games that bear its name are anything to do with the original series?

  11. aircool says:

    We need more Victorian Martian Mamazonians.

    Steampunk doesn’t count; that’s just Victorian clothes with bits of a smashed up clockwork watch stuck on them.

  12. phlebas says:

    Albion? I never played it beyond the demo, but it looked like an interesting combination of gameplay styles and a well-developed world to explore.

  13. karthink says:

    Oh, I like this game.

    A Jade Empire 2 by Obsidian, because I want to see where they’d go with it.

    An open-world first person Arcanum, the child of Fallout New Vegas and Dishonored.

    A sequel to Mass Effect that’s actually a sequel to Mass Effect.

    Van Buren.

    And this one’s not an RPG, but while I’m dreaming: A proper sequel to F.E.A.R, this time with destructible environments and AI that adapts to them.

  14. Maxheadroom says:

    Rules of Engagement 2 – Stupidly indepth fleet based spaceship tactical combat with the ability to disable and board other ships at which point it became a Lasersquad-esque squad based tactical thingie (providing you had the Breach 2 addon anyway).

    Psi-5 Trading Company

    Buck Rogers (the SSI strategy one)

    • SgtStens says:

      @Maxheadroom:

      I would kickstart the shite out of a Countdown to Doomsday remake or, heaven forbid the final chapter of the trilogy. The Buck Rogers pen and paper RPG and the games were great.

      It would be really neat if there was some kind of RPG-maker like to construct Gold-Box games. Hmmm…..(ideas churning)

  15. jrodman says:

    Part of my brain knows this article is supposed to be nonsense, the other part is unable to process it entirely.

  16. Jason Moyer says:

    E3 is already nothing but sequels that didn’t really need to be made.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Andy_Panthro says:

    Ah, how many times have I wished for more Ultima games? I’m pinning my hopes on Underworld: Ascendant at the moment, but I would dearly love for someone to make an Ultima VII-like game.

  18. malkav11 says:

    The World of Darkness MMO never raised my hopes because it was never going to be anything remotely like Bloodlines, or indeed probably anything I would want to play, because it would almost certainly have been a player-driven world with heavy PvP elements like Eve, and I frigging hate Eve. But of course, now it won’t be anything at all.

    I would love to see more Worlds of Ultima style games, though. Man.

  19. Zafman says:

    Faery Tale Adventure, Legend Of Faerghail, Betrayal At Krondor and Arx Fatalis. And no, I don’t count Return To Krondor as a worthy successor. Don’t get me started on Antara! *shakes fist*