The RPG Scrollbars: The Scrolls of Honour – 2015

As the dragons finally return to their nests to hibernate and the ghosts don their chains to help remind misers of the meaning of the season, we approach the end of another year. As is tradition, that is time for we at the guild-house to award both quests and questers the ceremonial Scrolls of Honour™. (Chorus of affordable angels)

Scribed upon only the finest vellum in ink taken from a particularly recalcitrant octopus from the Abyssal Depths, they are a testament to skill and imagination and occasional disappointments that mean exactly nothing whatsoever except that I have a column and so I can hand out whatever made-up crap takes my fancy. Lo! We begin!

The Scroll of Strength: The Witcher III

My favourite game of the year? I think so, yes. It’s amazing to think that in just two sequels, CD Projekt Red has gone from being the company responsible for the ambitious but often frustratingly flawed and (initially) barely coherent The Witcher to the absolute top-tier of AAA developers. The Witcher III is proof positive that it’s totally been earned, and then some. Certainly, this one needs no Enhanced Edition.

To be sure, it has its downsides, including a less than satisfying combat scaling curve and far too much reliance on the words “Use your Witcher Senses to…”, but I don’t want to get bogged down in that. Witcher III is the kind of labour of love that we rarely see in the AAA space, where every single person involved seemed to bring both their A-Game and a deep passion for making the best Witcher experience possible. It’s not just a question of the graphics and technology, but its sense of humanity and compassion – a game that will give both an abusive husband and an unfairly condemned young man an equal chance to tell their stories, and show that both deserve at least some measure of sympathy for their personal tragedies. Forgiveness? Perhaps not.

Geralt in particular is a triumph, with everything from the writing to the animation of his eyes underscoring how much he isn’t the stoic, cynical observer he likes to portray himself as, and the quests confident enough to show him as everything from a badass warrior to an old sot drunk-dialing wizards while in drag. The expansion, Hearts of Stone, goes so far as to spend a whole quest mocking him for being dull, in a way that’s only possible when there’s no chance of the audience agreeing.

Over the course of the series, The Witcher has been a masterclass in game evolution, in everything from game mechanics, to how well its female characters have gone from being an industry joke courtesy of the sex cards in the first games to some of the best written around. CD Projekt has said that The Witcher 3 is the end of Geralt’s story, though of late they’ve been murmuring about doing more after the second planned expansion, especially since Cyberpunk isn’t likely for a couple of years still. My bet would be on a standalone Ciri game to see if she can carry a whole sequel, and I’d totally play that. I hope they do shelve Geralt now though. She has so much potential for stories, even after her destiny is concluded, but Geralt? I just don’t think anything can happen to him now that would be bigger than already has, and I like to imagine him getting the retirement his heroics have secretly earned him.

I could rant on for hours about how much I loved The Witcher III, which is all the more impressive because nothing makes you never want to see a game again like having to mainline it for review purposes. But I won’t. I’ll just once again be grateful that it recovered from its wonky start to become something truly special.

Needless to say, I really, really can’t wait for Cyberpunk 2077.

The Scroll of Charisma: Undertale

I’d never heard even of Undertale before it came out. Had missed the Kickstarter, don’t use Tumblr. The first I heard about it was someone on Twitter saying it was worth checking out. I checked it out, and while it’s not quite my favourite game of the year, it’s certainly both up there, and the best surprise in ages.

It’s hard to encapsulate exactly why, at least without spoiling it, but at heart it’s like playing a game of Pass The Parcel where you’re always holding the box as the music stops. Every layer just builds the excitement and usually comes with a bit of candy. The way it tracks your progress between games, and calls you out on doing something like killing a friend to see what happens, then reloading so that it never did. The characters, who start out as one-note jokes and obstacles, only to be fleshed out as you play to the point that even goofy stuff like Sans the pun-loving skeleton’s laziness start to have sinister undertones. The sheer wealth of hidden gags and responses to actions and clever alternative solutions to puzzles. The… oh, but spoilers! So many potential spoilers! Few games have the comfort to undersell themselves this much, so that their secrets can surprise and shine when players stumble across them naturally.

There’s so much to like, but at heart, what sells Undertale is its deep and genuine warmth. It’s a game full of monsters that doesn’t really believe in them, not just offering the options to do things like take pacifist routes because people like no-kill paths in games, but to deconstruct how RPGs work and how we approach them. It’s a game that looks simple, but has been incredibly well and thoughtfully designed, to the point that enemy attacks typically represent their personalities rather than just being random mini-games. It’s a game designed not around gold and glory, but family and love, to the point that if this wasn’t one of my favourite games on its own merits, it would have become one just by watching people Let’s Play it on YouTube and listening to them laugh and laugh and laugh. Oh, Sans and Papyrus. I want more merch, immediately.

Also, being nice about Undertale really annoys people who deserve to be annoyed. I’ll accept that some fans have been a touch douchey about it, but if you’re midway through typing something like ‘memetale’, go stick your head in a bucket of stagnant water. I’m thrilled that it’s been as successful as it has, and had an absolute blast both playing it and generally feeling part of something special both in and outside it. If it was just a funny, parody RPG, it’d already be a winner, but that’s just the start. There’s so much more to it, and anyone who argues can – as they say – get dunked on.

The Scroll of Valour: Kickstarter Developers

Consider this one a shared achievement, and to some extent going back into last year. But I think it’s worth taking a moment to generally applaud the developers who have brought back both old franchises and classic styles over the last year or so. While some may have hit the spot better than others, just about everything from Wasteland 2 to Divinity: Original Sin to Serpent in the Staglands to Lords of Xulima to Pillars of Eternity have been at least solid, and typically excellent. This year also saw many returning for a second push, with Divinity: Original Sin getting a huge Enhanced Edition to polish it up and add a ton of new content like full voiceover and rewritten quests that don’t outright tell you what to do, but at least don’t expect you to be psychic.

Not every genre has been so fortunate, with my beloved adventure games in particular having generally done a less than great job of recreating that feeling of being 13 and booting up Day of the Tentacle for the first time, so it’s worth appreciating just how successful RPGs have been. Now. That being said, I do have to counter this to some extent by adding that as fun as the nostalgic trips have been, it is time to start seeing some more new ideas of the kind that made games like Baldur’s Gate and Ultima VII so explosively innovative and exciting back in the day. There’s a whole sack of ideas to steal from, from survival sims to Roguelikes to just generally listening to the guy who says “Isn’t it a bit boring to just get a quest, do the thing, and then go back?”

The cool thing is that the next wave of games does look to be getting more ambitious, with particular stand-outs so far including Divinity: Less Original Sin trying to borrow from tabletop and make party members more than just sacks of equipment and stats, and Numenara’s Crisis system where every battle is an interesting encounter. Fingers crossed that the nostalgia trip is about to become the next step forwards.

The Scroll of Histories: Serpent in the Staglands

There’s been a few RPGs for the more hardcore adventurer this year, including Lords of Xulima and Age of Decadence. This year’s pick though goes to Serpent in the Staglands, an excellent and brutal outing, in which you’re a fallen god travelling through a world more inspired by the likes of Darklands than traditional fantasy CRPGs. It’s not the prettiest game around, and it will stomp your face into a small puddle if you try to play it without not simply reading the rules but sublimating them into a liquid and drinking them in one shot. But, three diamond-tipped axes later, when you finally break into it, it’s a lovely bit of design and a very satisfying quest. Just don’t look up the speed-run on YouTube, because that’s not a way to feel good about yourself.

The Scroll of Failure: Raven’s Cry

Raven’s Cry wasn’t so much a game release as a pile of poo dropped from the TopWare anus, and everyone involved should have had their noses rubbed into it as a warning. Lord Walker of Bath covered the reasons back at the start of the year, and while to the developers credit they have been back and fixed it (though I’ve not played the updated version to see how well, because my list of better things to do with my time includes biting my toenails off, wielding one in each hand and having tiny sword-fights), the sheer scale of its original failure warrants a stamp of NEVER FORGET right on its forehead. On the plus side, The Witcher started off little better, so maybe in a couple of sequels, these will be some of the best RPGs around. Y’know. Maybe.

The Scroll of Banishment: Cyberspace

This year, being collected by Shadowrun: Returns for continuing a proud 30 year history of Cyberspace just plain sucking. Stop putting it into games. That includes you, OtherSide when you make System Shock 3, and you, CD Projekt, for Cyberpunk 2077. Cyberspace was a shit idea in the 80s when people wanted to make computers look like they were from the future, and now we’re in that future, it’s just embarrassing for everyone. Just give hackers an iPhone, or if they refuse on moral grounds, Android. But decking into the virtual holomatrix to shoot ICE and crypto-surf the information hyper-highway while wearing a whole cow’s worth of leather? Enough!

Wearing sunglasses indoors continues to be acceptable, if you can pull it off.

The Scroll of Vitality: The Old Republic / Final Fantasy XIV

I’m calling this one a draw, because… well, because I can. First, The Old Republic. I know, I know, I’d not thought about it in ages either. However, it wouldn’t be fair to not be grateful that BioWare has finally done what everyone wanted them to do in the first place, and make it possible to (more or less) just play through the class stories without having to endure one of the most tedious MMOs out there. The Imperial Agent story is the one everyone recommends, and with good reason. I’d also like to highlight the Smuggler, though, because it’s both really well written and wonderfully funny.

Taking the other half is Final Fantasy XIV, which only goes from strength to strength while still being able to justify a subscription fee. Its Gold Saucer addition earlier this year is one of the single coolest things ever added to an MMO, and Heavensward has given the main campaign a real shot in the arm. They’re currently doing a free login campaign for former subscribers that offers four days of free play until the end of the month. Sadly, everyone involved with the payment and account management systems has yet to be taken out and shot repeatedly in the face, as justice demands.

The Scroll of Sadness: Fallout 4

Don’t mistake this for “Fallout 4 is a bad game”, because it’s clearly not that. But, of all the RPGs I was looking forward to this year, this was the one that most landed with both a thump and sad farty sound. And yes, I really was looking forward to it. A lot. Not only do I love the series, New Vegas more than Fallout 3, admittedly, I was really in the mood for a big sprawling RPG that wasn’t fantasy. It didn’t deliver for me.

It’s cliche to say “I really wish Bethesda had done the world and Obsidian had done the writing”, but… yeah. I really wish Bethesda had done the world and Obsidian had done the writing. I soon lost all interest in the quests that were just glorified ways of setting up not particularly good fighting in bombed out buildings, couldn’t get into the boring and poorly implemented story, and while I’ve kept meaning to go back and find the cool stuff that I know is there, somehow every time I load it up I just end up staring for a while and quitting. Most of the fun I had with it was the time spend idly imagining playing as someone like Nick Valentine or Piper, with a reason to go poking around the deep corners of the wasteland. Seriously, what could be cooler than being a slightly dickish journalist finding awesome stories in the dark future? The success of the RPS diaries show that, even if I couldn’t get into the fiction enough to do the RP thing while playing, there was potential there. Certainly more than the concussed hunt for Shaun and battle for part of the Wasteland that’s doing pretty well on its own.

Basically, after clocking up literally hundreds of hours with the previous two, this one lasted me… eleven. Mostly in a couple of sittings desperately trying to find the fun on my mini-map, but only finding cheap-ass supermutants with long-range rocket launchers. That earns one Scroll, both devoted to and awarded with sighs.

The Scroll of Goatse: Eye Of The Beholder III

23RD GLORIOUS UNOPPOSED YEAR!

But hey, there’s 12 more months until next time…

79 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    WHAT?

    Cyberspace is the coolest thing that cyberpunk has added to the humanity! The best part of Beneath A Steel Sky, the best from Ripper, from System Shock, from Bloodnet, was cyberspace. How cannot you love a virtual world with Lewis Carroll kind of traps?

    I throw you the “Vurt” and “Pollen” ebooks to your face, angered.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      The best part of all those games was, in general, the parts that were NOT Cyberspace, but especially Ripper where it was John Rhys-Davies’ brief but wonderful scene about fucking Quinlan.

      • Premium User Badge

        Risingson says:

        Hm. Ok, agreed. Though Ripper has loads of so-bad-it-becomes-awesome moments.

      • Premium User Badge

        Waltorious says:

        I seem to be in the minority, but I actually liked the cyberspace segments in System Shock. You are correct that the non-cyberspace aspects were the best part, but the two worked in tandem. Jacking into cyberspace to do things like unlock doors or disable systems in the real world was awesome, and I wish it had been utilized more. It’s something I missed a lot when I played System Shock 2. Being a hacker in System Shock 2 was really boring because all it involved was spending nanites on the least interesting minigame ever.

        I wanted an expansion of the cyberspace aspect, not its elimination. I wanted a cyberspace system that ran throughout the physical ship, so hackers could avoid a lot of real-life hazards by spending time exploring cyberspace in order to shut things down, open up shortcuts that bypassed dangerous areas, etc. This could be balanced by the need to get to physical terminals in new places in order to access the higher-security parts of cyberspace. Instead my hacker could unlock some doors but only when right next to them and still had to act like a soldier much of the time, killing everything (including heavily armored combat robots) with a few pistol shots because who needs heavy weaponry when you have a skill system and can put points into pistols?

        OK got slightly derailed at the end there, but the point is that I liked the idea of cyberspace and real space existing in tandem and affecting each other. Sure, the actual cyberspace sections of the first game were a little janky, but it was cool that they were there, and I think that without them Citadel station would have been less interesting. With more thought and focus it could have become a really cool aspect of future games in the series. Eliminating it was one (of several) things that made System Shock 2 inferior to the original in my eyes.

        • ansionnach says:

          I really liked cyberspace in System Shock as well. The ending really was inspired. I’m not sure what the best part was. It certainly wasn’t the music, anyway. There was a lot of jankiness here and there in the game but all of those bits together was what made it. Cyberspace was one of the best bits.

    • Dilapinated says:

      I throw you confetti at your choice in ebook-projectiles.

    • BorgiaCamarones says:

      Excuse me but… the best part of System Shock? Surely that’s hyperbole, as those 6dof navigation puzzles don’t hold a candle to the navigation of the Citadel, its atmosphere, the audio logs, SHODAN, the items, enemies, etc.

    • Zenicetus says:

      If games actually presented cyberspace the way it was described in novels like Neuromancer, it wouldn’t be so bad. More of an abstract flight simulator.

      Instead, many games commit the cardinal sin of just re-skinning the combat engine they use for the real world and dressing it up with glowy bits. It was so bad in the last Shadowrun game that I just used the console dev command to cheat my way through all the cyberspace bits, so I could enjoy the rest of the game.

      • ShadyGuy says:

        Hmm, I think the matrix system in Shadowrun: Hong Kong was improved a lot compared to the previous two games in the series. I liked how it became all about avoiding the guard and sneaking your way to the objective. The hacking minigames when you’ve reached a doorway or goal was annoying, but then I can’t remember a hacking minigame in any game that i’ve liked ever.

      • icemann says:

        Have to agree. I liked it more how it was in Dragonfall and Dead Man’s Switch.

        The new stealth element to it is fine, but the symbol guessing and simon says stuff. No.

    • Premium User Badge

      Mungrul says:

      Jeff Noon’s Vurt, Pollen, Automated Alice & Nymphomation are utterly wonderful books. Also, if you haven’t read it, I highly recommend Needle in the Groove. And his latest, Channel Skin, is pretty damn good too. Some absolutely beautiful imagery, and a noticeably more mature style. I can see why it takes him so long between books.

  2. Shiloh says:

    Hmm, I don’t really know what I want from RPGs anymore… which is to say, I’m a bit bored of the usual settings. How about an RPG where you play a settler following his/her Manifest Destiny and opening up the wilds of the US in the 1840s… or maybe, a detective on the trail of notorious killers in Victorian London? Or maybe a monster hunter in the 1920s, travelling across the globe to prevent an imminent apocalypse?

    • malkav11 says:

      Well…one of these days Meriwether, the Lewis and Clark RPG, is going to come out. At least in theory. Which is…not a settler opening the wilds of the western US in 1840, but it’s closer than you probably thought likely.

      • Shiloh says:

        Thanks for that – looks interesting!

        I think I’d settle for something like 80 Days in an early Western US setting to be honest – it just seems a niche that really isn’t catered for but which has lots of potential for an RPG.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Yes, please on the new settings, not just the usual fantasy or post-apo stuff (although I love both). For example, the Age of Decadence dev’s next game is set in an run-down space colony ship. Could be interesting.

      • malkav11 says:

        I am of mixed feelings about using that as an example, because on the one hand, run-down spaceships (colony or otherwise) are hardly an original gaming setting…but I don’t think there’s been much in the way of proper CRPGs with that setting (as opposed to ARPGs, shooter hybrids, etc). And it does remain cool.

  3. Senethro says:

    Serpent in the Staglands is now on my radar. Thank you.

    And to everyone else, I wish you a Nyeh-heh-herry Christmas.

  4. thelastpointer says:

    Cyberspace was a shit idea
    Wearing sunglasses indoors continues to be acceptable

    You are clearly very wrong about a lot of things :)

    Cyberspace is a brilliant idea, seemingly made for games — there’s just no good implementation of it anywhere. Using your phone for it was featured in Watch_dogs, and that was underwhelming too.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Holding big metal poles in the middle of lightning storms is a brilliant idea! Ignore all those suckers who didn’t have enough faith!

      • TΛPETRVE says:

        Bullshit. The entire concept of information processing through virtual reality may be nonsensical, but it is what defines cyberpunk as a whole. Remove it, and what you get is plain, run-of-the-mill futurism.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          Which isn’t stupid and has WAY better controls.

        • Sin Vega says:

          That’s just not true. Cyberpunk often has that aspect, yes, but it’s not what the genre is based on. Cyberpunk is about high tech societies with punk sociopolitical themes. You don’t need virtual realities or even, at a push, a particular focus on the exchange of information, to achieve that (although it typically helps).

          • Premium User Badge

            Mungrul says:

            Pretty much; Rudy Rucker’s Ware Tetralogy is much more punk than a lot of Cyberpunk out there, and doesn’t touch on virtual reality at all that I remember. It’s gloriously chaotic and features some deliciously weird ideas, such as “Moldies”, AIs that evolved from mold, and “Cheeseballs”, the humans who fetishise them.

            And then there’s Ian McDonald’s fantastically weird and fabulous “Out on Blue Six” with its performance art activists and genetically modified raccoons.

            Cyberpunk is so much more than Cyberspace.

      • thelastpointer says:

        Oh come on — holding big metal objects in the middle of lighting storms is actually featured in almost every game on this list.

        And replacing cyberspace with… an iPhone? That’s like the death of imagination or something. Maybe I’m biased or stupid, but please don’t do that. I like silly neon things. I take back what I said on sunglasses, if that helps.

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      I actually kind of like the Shadowrun Returns implementation. Wait wait hear me out!

      I like the change of pace it offers the main combat gameplay. Having a single character + summons + things like switch puzzles and alarm countdowns is kind of neat, and it’s usually paced to be fast and breezy. And it’s super cool when switches you flip in a cyberspace fight affect a simultaneous meatspace fight.

      It’s a bit more low-rent than the rest of the game, especially if you’re relying on an NPC to do all your hacking, but I think it adds to the game rather than bogs it down.

      • thelastpointer says:

        Don’t tell anyone, but I liked it too! I thought of it as a separate, simple puzzle or battlefield, which rewarded you for completing it, and it was a perfect fit thematically.

        That said, I can understand those who thought it was the main battle reskinned to blue so even I wouldn’t call it a perfect implementation.

        • thelastpointer says:

          …and it was TEN MILLION TIMES more interesting than clicking an icon on a fake iPhone or rolling a skill check!

          • Premium User Badge

            gritz says:

            ^^ this dude gets it!

          • xalcupa says:

            Agree with all the above. Really enjoyed Shadowrun returns as a setting and the hacking part was a fun lightweight break and well implemented for my tastes.
            I played as a Decker so I had my main do the hacking which added a touch to the rpg feeling.

    • Geebs says:

      Cyberspace as consensual hallucination has never not been cool. Bad leather-and-shades cyberpunk was never cool. Lumping the good in with the bad is the stock-in-trade of professional retrospective snark.

    • Yglorba says:

      The Genesis version of Shadowrun had a nice implementation of cyberspace. A bit minimalist, but nice.

      In general, though, that aside, I feel that the best way for games to represent hacking is to focus heavily on the way the virtual and real worlds interact. The ancient Neuromancer computer game did a really good job of that — this sort of feeling that you can reach backstage and fiddle with the wiring of your world. Hacking should feel like a cheat. A lot of computer games with hacking and cyberspace end up missing that.

      • rexx.sabotage says:

        I’m glad someone remembers this. Hacking in to random systems to pillage those datastores for fun and profit is easily my favorite part of that game.

        definitely more fun than the actual combat :P

  5. Anthile says:

    Underrail is coming out of early access soon. Will you be reviewing that?

  6. ribby says:

    Hahaha! That video of Geralt playing never have I ever

  7. malkav11 says:

    I’m sure that FFXIV is quite the thing but I’ll never know because in 2015 I can’t justify buying both a box (multiple boxes, no?) and paying a subscription fee just to check out an MMO I -might- like when I already have at least four MMOs I know I like that don’t ask me to pay a subscription fee and one that I still have enough investment in to occupy the one and only subscription slot. (I.e., the Secret World, Elder Scrolls Online, Guild Wars 2, and The Old Republic – well…okay, the last one wants a subscription at least occasionally. but still. Already played and invested. And then WoW.)

  8. MattMk1 says:

    Wait. The Witcher started off little better than Raven’s Cry?

    For all its rough edges, the first Witcher was still a very good game, even before Enhanced Edition.

    • Geebs says:

      Abso-fricking-lutely. If there’s a weak entry in the series it’s the second one; the series nailed “being Geralt” from the beginning.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      True, never played RC but Witcher was pretty good from the go or else some mediocre RPG from an unknown studio would never have sold globally.
      There is a lot of senseless backtracking and minor problems but the eastern-european athmosphere is great with detailed novel monsters like the striga or noonwraiths.
      Also the reveal in the ending which could be easily missed was thoughtful.

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Yeah, I went all “You said wot, mate?” when I saw that. The Witcher 1 is one of my favorite games and a quiet/quite a masterpiece. The voice acting above all is really good. Although, I’m a fan of bad/hammy voice acting and I loved VtM: Redemption for that reason, but I don’t know if Raven’s Cry has any other qualities and my backlog won’t allow me to check on that.

      @Geebs I agree with you that the Witcher 2 is the weakest game in the series, but it still outshines lots of other games, that’s how good the Witcher formula is.

    • Premium User Badge

      gritz says:

      The version of W1 that came out on release day was a giant mess. The translation ranged from hilarious to indecipherable (“I’ll show you a real man’s balls!”) and the Aurora engine was falling apart at the seams.

      They patched it up and gave it a better translation a few months afterwards, and then the Enhanced Edition came a year or so later. But it’s not inaccurate to say that the series started out in a hilariously awkward place.

    • AngoraFish says:

      The Witcher Enhanced Edition remains the best and most accessible game in the series.

  9. Jac says:

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time with fallout 4 but there is definitely something underwhelming about it.

    I think a combination of the Witcher 3 being so outstanding, too much combat and the lack of any huge cities/settlements is the main reason. It’s just a bit dull really and actually a step backwards from skyrim.

    • guidom says:

      here here. after the brilliance of Witcher 3 it is really clear how much of a sideways step FO4 is. quite disappointing from Bethesda, considering how far the boundary has been pushed by other AAA developers

    • Zenicetus says:

      I had enough fun in Fallout 4 to finish the main plot and spend something over 100 hours in it. But it pales in comparison to Witcher 3. Or many other recent games like Wolfenstein New Order, in the action/RPG shooter category.

      It’s big, sandboxy, occasionally interesting, but aside from the Valentine companion and a few isolated side quests, the writing just stinks. They’re coasting on the lure of the IP and the size of the game, at this point.

    • caff says:

      I’m probably in the minority, but I loved FO4 but bounced off Witcher 3.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Did you play the first two Witcher games? I’ve wondered if there might be some pre-conditioning in how much I liked the third one, because I had played the first two and was familiar with who and what Geralt is, as a main character. This one feels like what the developers have been aiming for all along, and finally got the recipe just right.

        Or it could just be a taste for sci-fi vs. fantasy. I prefer sci-fi myself, but there aren’t many games this polished so I’ll take what I can get.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        On the contrary, I think your preference is held by a wider majority. I don’t want to sound like “fkn casuals” or anything, but Fallout 4 was clearly aimed more at the mass market than TW3.

  10. Zantium says:

    Witcher 3 gets my vote too but I’m now also really enjoying Fallout 4. Despite my game-breaking bugs count hitting 9 already (workarounds generously applied), I’m really enjoying most parts of the story. I am however a newcomer to the series so perhaps that perspective helps.

    • ShadyGuy says:

      While The Witcher 3 is my game of the year I’ve spent twice as much time playing Fallout 4 already. I spend ages building my own homestead and when I get bored of that I go out and do some kill, loot, return quests while picking up ALL the junk to use as resources for my settlements. I find it very enjoyable.

  11. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Best RPS Feature of the Year: RPG Scrollbars.

    Even when he ends it with classic CRPG goatse.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Aw, thanks, sir :-)

    • Darth Gangrel says:

      Ummm, I don’t know what to make of this, but when I looked up “goatse” in wiktionary this was the only explanation: “(Internet) A certain image of a man displaying his unnaturally dilated anus.”

      Is goatse a different spelling of goatee? That red-eyed person in the picture looks like he has something black hanging down his chin which might be a goatee.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        I’d say to Google it, but you don’t want to do that.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        People used to find it amusing to spam the image on a number of forums a bit like an X rated Rickrolling. (But obviously not as awful)

        • Darth Gangrel says:

          Umm, so you mean that the pic of the lich with the red eyes is the CRPG variant of a man with an extremely dilated anus? The internet and memes sure do move in mysterious ways.

          • Darth Gangrel says:

            I think I get it now. The placement of the fingers could imply that they are trying to dilate [something that doesn’t at all look like an anus] and the text in the space between the fingers are obscuring the cavity of the not-resembling-an-anus thing, like a [censored] tag used to cover up exposed areas of the human body. At least, that’s my interpretation and I’m sticking to it :P.

      • thelastpointer says:

        It is exactly that, you innocent, taintless, goatse-free being.

      • qrter says:

        Oh wow, we might’ve actually found the only person left on the internet who hasn’t been ruined by goatse!

  12. Drunk Si says:

    The Witcher 3 had so much heart. It had engaging characters, genuinely funny moments and a world that was absorbing enough to actually feel like a world rather than a map to just fast travel through blitzing icons. For me it’s not only my favourite game of the year, it may well be my favourite game of all time.

    I didn’t think the first one was all that bad either, it had a few missteps but in some ways I preferred it to the second game (which I still loved) and I felt of the three it was actually the best at making you prep for encounters ahead of time. I remember having trouble with an archespore in the swamp outside Vizima and I legged it back to town, hunted around the stores for any books that could add entries to the bestiary, prepped for battle and went back and kicked its arse. That felt *great*!

    Fallout 4 is a good game but it’s not much of an RPG. Also Nick is about the only interesting character in the entire game and whereas Geralt’s search for Ciri was interesting and you see some real emotions in some of the scenes it throws up I just did not care about the Sole Survivor’s search for his son. And all the factions are pretty one dimensional. But as a dungeon crawling, exploration and scavenging game it’s pretty decent.

    • Zantium says:

      I like Nick the most as a companion so far and I wonder if it makes a difference to enjoyment with the acting but I’m playing the female character? Maybe the main quest is more heartfelt that way.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Styxie says:

    Thanks for all of the Scrollbars this year Richard! They make Mondays infinitely more bearable.

  14. GamesBrit says:

    I haven’t played Fallout 4 yet but from what I have heard of it, my thoughts would likely be similar to yours. I’m also a New Vegas over 3 fan and the fact that the dialogue in 4 has been so dumbed down is a disgrace. I’m not sure I’ll ever even get it now.

    Also,
    “Every layer just builds the excitement and usually comes with a bit of candy.”

    Candy? CANDY? I want my country back.

  15. Zenicetus says:

    It’s far from my best RPG of the year (which would be Witcher 3), but I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate lately, and I think it might deserve a Scroll of Redemption for the series.

    There are still some annoying things in the game, like having too much magpie collectible crap (do people actually like this?), and some of the missions are too heavily scripted. It feels like I’m being led by the nose a little too much sometimes. But they got rid of the most annoying stuff like insta-fail assassin missions (at least so far, I’m only partway through the game).

    The one new thing I really like is being able to switch between an optimized sneaky assassin and a brawler, depending on which of the two siblings you use when exploring, or on a mission. It’s a refreshing change from having to decide on building your RPG character for stealth or more direct combat. You can have your cake and eat it too.

  16. Geebs says:

    Undertale’s quality curve goes yawn-yawn-yawn-huh?-hrrm-wow-WOW-AMAZiNG-mehhhhhhhhh. I’m never going to finish it though: the “oh wow you’re so violent” thing is kind of nauseating, going pacifist the first time makes the game cheat so that it’s impossible to finish, and backtracking in that game is literally the worst thing.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      A common mistake is that the pacifism thing is ‘the reveal’. It’s not.

      • Geebs says:

        The “it was all just a misunderstanding” thing isn’t particularly deep either, and annoyingly autocratic.

        If they release a patch that allows you to skip everything before the first appearance of Metaton, I might consider giving it another go.

  17. LexW1 says:

    HEY! Scroll of Goatse can’t have been unopposed for 23 years, because WoW has gone up against it more than once!

    Examples:

    link to i41.tinypic.com

    link to wow.zamimg.com

    So, how say you now, Richard? Unopposed? I think not. Admittedly this was mostly from 2010/2011 but still…

  18. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Really have to add to the above. Cyberspace is a fine and essential concept of Cyberpunk:
    Implants, Megacorps, Cyberspace, Dystopia define Cyberpunk.
    You might trash game design but doing the idea away along with the 80s?

    I stopped reading Shadowrun rulebooks when they “modernized” the setting with WIFI-hacking. There’s no fun in that. Plug your brain back in and let them fry it by cable. Might as well leave out Dystopia wouldn’t work either.

    Nevermind Cyberspace not working well with either computer games or pen and paper when mixed with real space. There are great novels and the concept allows for good video game settings (Tron comes to mind). AC series is basically Cyberspace.
    As for “hacking” it’s not really like “dude waves iphone around”. Those dudes end up getting hacked in RL.

    Yeah reality never lived up to expectations, no mars colony, no planetary government, no flying cars or cyberspace. Instead zombies in consumer drone paradise… we got Megacorps and they are way smarter than imagined.

  19. csbear says:

    That was a fun article…Thanks!
    Now for my wall-o-text:
    I am currently juggling between The Age of Decadence and Serpent in the Staglands. AoD has really pulled me in with its story, dialogue, and gritty character, and that’s saying a lot because I wasn’t sure if the whole Romanesque, low-magic setting would appeal to me. I’m really enjoying it so far.

    I started up SitS and have only just exited the starting temple (Lumen Forten?) and into the first village area. Unfortunately, I lost interest quickly and went straight back to AoD… wasn’t feelin’ it. However, after reading this article, I think I just need to give it a fair shake. It was mentioned in a previous review that it takes a little time for the game to blossom. There are times I love the pixel art and then other times my eyes want to explode! Overall, the aesthetic really does trigger my imagination, and that’s a big deal for me in video games. Will give it another shot tonight…

    The Witcher 3… I can’t believe I gave up on this game so early (maybe after 7-8 hrs). I’m seeing universal praise for it and even the hardcore, ole-school cRPG players have good things to say. And I was actually enjoying it! Maybe the console-ish, AAA sheen affected me early on, and I was expecting a typical kind of experience, but I’ll definitely be getting back to this one very soon.

    I enjoyed Shadowrun Returns, but my least favorite part was the cyberspace. Maybe it was the implementation of it, not sure, but most of the time I just wanted to get through it fast, especially since I really liked the rest of the setting.

    As for Fallout 4, I was enjoying it somewhat, but Bethesda should have really came stronger, especially considering with what CD Projekt RED did this time. Although I haven’t played Witcher 3 much (yet), there is a stark difference between FO4 and W3 in many aspects, and what an AAA RPG should be like in 2015. I am sure Bethesda noticed, but do they actually care for their next big game? I am not a graphics snob, but when it comes to games by the big publishers/devs, somebody please do something about these terrible textures! It breaks immersion when the draw distance looks so good, yet close up it looks like I am playing Oblivion all over again.

    Torment: Tides of Numenera and Underrail are what I am looking to forward next.

  20. Towny says:

    “Raven’s Cry wasn’t so much a game release as a pile of poo dropped from the TopWare anus”

  21. Guvornator says:

    There’s no alt text? There’s no alt text! RICHARD, WHAT HAVE RPS DONE TO YOU?!!!

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      Unfortunately Marsh Davies specced deply into Alt Text so Mr Cobbett had to respec full Snark or the party would have been unbalanced.

  22. vahnn says:

    I suggest you go back in time and revisit the video game adaptation of The Lawnmower Man on the Genesis. That’s cyberspace done right!

    (I just know that going back and playing it will make me eat my words. But I really loved that game as a kiddo.)

  23. wombat191 says:

    with the advent of VR just around the corner one of the first things developed had better be a cyber space UI and representation.. come on folks give me my cyberpunk !!!