The RPG Scrollbars: The RPGs Of 2016

The holidays are now over, and it’s time to get back to what matters – saving a million accident-prone fantasy realms from their own past mistakes, evil gods on the rampage, and all that pesky loot that they clearly don’t have anything better to do with than stick it in barrels at the bottom of dungeons. This is why so many of them have no choice but to have bandit-driven economies. Shameful. Someone should Do Something There.

Here’s some of the most exciting RPGs due in 2016. I suspect a couple may not actually make it to final release this year, but never mind – ’tis the season to be generous. In no particular order, then, some of the ones I’m looking forward to…

The Witcher III: Blood And Wine

On the one hand, yes, this one’s just an expansion pack. That said, it’s both an expansion to one of 2015’s most beloved games, and a far more involved one than the already superb Hearts of Stone. It’ll be good to get out of Temeria to take a trip to the land of Toussaint, where 20 new hours of adventure awaits. Officially, that’s all that’s been promised, with The Witcher III being called the end of Geralt’s story, but of late there’s been mutterings about more Witcher goodness to come – especially since it’s going to be, uh, a long wait for Cyberpunk 2077. (My bet? At some point this year we’ll see the announcement of a Ciri focused expansion, both to take advantage of how much of her story hasn’t been told in the games, and to test the waters for a full-on game set after the events of Witcher III, much like Geralt began the first game all those years ago.)

Final Fantasy IX

Yes, that’s the right numeral. Right at the end of 2015, Square let slip that probably the least played but most underappreciated Playstation Final Fantasy game would be making its way to us, presumably without the garbage graphical overhaul that makes Final Fantasy VI such an abomination unto all things good and holy. I say ‘probably’ because I confess, it’s one that I’ve not played either in its original form or any downloadable form, but I certainly plan to when it makes its appearance.

Shroud of the Avatar

Part MMO, part single-player game, and present Early Access construction site. I’ve not looked at it for about a year myself, preferring to let Lord British and friends call me when it’s ready and trust that unlike Pagan and Ascension, that’s actually true, but… well… if you’ve been reading this column, you know how much I love Ultima. I desperately want this one to repair its tainted name, even if it can’t officially use it.

YIIK: A Post Modern RPG

I played a demo of this one ages ago; an RPG in which… if I got the measure of it… Bill Bryson visits Earthbound to write his new travel book, only to end up saving the world so that he can be rude about minor inconveniences for comic effect. Yes. That sounds about right. Anyway, Undertale may currently be synonymous with ‘modern Earthbound’, but YIIK wants a slice of that butterscotch pie too. With its very different graphical style and approach to the genre, hopefully it’ll get it. The demo was promising, though I suspect it’s going to get hit with a few glares from humourless onlookers who can’t handle other people liking a game that they don’t.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

Honestly, was never a fan of South Park, so I was really surprised to enjoy its first RPG outing as much as I did. I’m assuming this one will be similar, only with superheroes and more jokes. If so, hurrah for that. Even if I have absolutely no idea what the title refers to. How does one fracture a butthole? Sounds like a goatse level stretch to me. But anyway. Even if I’m sorry Obsidian isn’t working on this one, looking forward to seeing another RPG that knows exactly how silly it wants to be and has decided that the answer is very, very silly indeed.

Mass Effect Andromeda

Both EA and BioWare have been very hush-hush on this sequel, but honestly they have me at “Mass Effect”. Despite That Ending and an increasing push towards not great shooty-shooty action, the characters and world design and writing made the original trilogy one of my favourite RPG series, and I can’t wait to get back to that universe even if it won’t be in the company of Shepard, Garrus, Tali and the rest of the gang.

Camelot Unchained

I’ve got a real soft spot for Dark Age of Camelot, despite the generally abysmal handling of the UK version by GOA. It wasn’t my first MMO, but it was one of the first that landed at a time when I had both time and a good enough internet connection to really dig in and enjoy splashing around Albion and Midgard and somehow never getting around to even visiting The Other One. Much of what it did was later refined by World of Warcraft, with The Elder Scrolls Online having more of it in its blood than the actual Elder Scrolls games. More’s the pity, but that’s not DAOC’s fault. Camelot Unchained plans to push the Realm vs. Realm action to the forefront and make it the core of the game instead of just an important slice, with player driven economies and backgrounds again borrowing from Arthurian, Celtic and Viking myths.

Dark Souls 3

Part III of my ongoing mission to get more than a few rooms into these games. I’m not holding out much hope, but I am quite looking forward to trying. I think that’s the definition of insanity in some quarters, but I desperately want to see these games as so many people I follow on Twitter do, instead of a big brick wall that just wants to break my sword in half. Maybe I should stop attacking the walls. But I don’t trust them! Like everything in these games, they plot my demise. Depressingly efficiently.

The Technomancer

I don’t have huuuuge expectations for this new game from Spiders, mostly due to having played previous RPGs from Spiders. However, while they’re not exactly the best RPGs you’ll find even in the average bargain bin, they have been improving over the years and generally interesting enough in their quirkiness that I don’t regret my time with them. I don’t predict greatness for this one, but I’m open to being surprised.

Torment: Tides of Numenera

Honestly, I know next to nothing about this one, and that’s no accident. I went into Planescape Torment completely cold back in the day, and I think that has a lot to do with how much I ended up being sucked into its crazy world. I’d like the same thing to happen here. The few snippets I have somehow picked up through osmosis however have all tingled very pleasantly, particularly the scripted combat system where every encounter is a bit of an adventure, a puzzle, a collection of cool ways to use skills and find paths that don’t rely entirely on shooty-shooty-bang-bang solutions. Aside from that, I intend to try and keep up my ignorance until it’s finished.

Steve Jackson’s Sorcery!

Or, to be more accurate, Inkle Studios’ Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! Just as 80 Days finally made the jump from iOS to real computers, so to is Sorcery getting ready to make it to our shores. It’s been an amazing ride so far, going from a relatively simple Choose Your Own Adventure that apes the books to some seriously clever design involving time loops and stepping into the past, and going from a linear path to a basically open world where you can take your time to defeat the evil villain’s lieutanants and repair what went wrong, or simply storm forwards and let everything go to Hell. They’re really cool games, and deserve the wider audience that the PC should give them.

Underworld Ascendant

Both an Underworld and a System Shock successor? Sirs and madames, with these sequels, you are spoiling us. This one’s looking good, with my favourite bit being how much focus the pitch puts on the dungeon as a living ecosystem instead of just a lot of corridors. Underground societies, long-lost tombs, weaponising the environment… all music to my ears. Early videos do however show far too much focus on spiders. Spiders are bad. Please replace them with kittens. Cute kittens. That just want to play.

World of Warcraft: Legion

The next World of Warcraft expansion. It’s going to sell more than most games can even dream of, even if Blizzard has firmly moved away from trying to reignite its once-success in favour of just focusing on fans and long-term players. New features this year include the Demon Hunter with added focus on mobility, fancy upgradeable weapons, and a new location to sally forth into and beat things up. It’s playable in Alpha already, with few real surprises but lots of nice touches, especially to previously underbaked systems like Transmogrification, and a controversial change to PvP that wants to even the playing field and put the combat focus on skill rather than stats.

Divinity: Original Sin 2

Divinity: Original Sin was easily one of my favourite Kickstarted RPGs, and between that, seeing how much Larian has gone to town on improving it, and getting a chance to play a sliver of the upcoming Divinity: Less Original Sin, I’m really looking forward to seeing this one. It’s largely pinning its hopes on evolving from two-players to a full party of competing interests, which I don’t have much doubt will be cool with the right people. For me though, lacking a suitable group to play with, its success hinges on how well it can convey the same feeling in a single-player game. Can not knowing which party members to trust lead to interesting encounters instead of just random knives in the back? I hope so, because it’s definitely a cool idea, from a Larian Studios that finally has the rock-solid RPGs foundations its always needed to let its cool ideas flourish.

Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar

Hahahaha, sure. Just in time to celebrate the year of Linux on desktop.

Now, of course that’s not everything that’s coming over the next twelve months, and few genres know how to slip with style like an RPG. Don’t be too surprised if some of the games marked for the end of the year, like Mass Effect Andromeda, end up being saved for the space-year 2017. Luckily, there’ll be plenty of RPGs big and small to fill the gaps, and hopefully some big surprises for good measure. I’m also very much looking forward to seeing the progress of many of the games that are going to take a little longer, from the next wave of Kickstarted RPGs like The Bard’s Tale IV to the two different projects aiming to pick up where City of Heroes left off. Hopefully we’ll even hear something about Everquest Next. Stranger things have happened.

Could do without so many sandbox crafting games though.

Crafting in general really. Heroes. Don’t. CRAFT.

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61 Comments

  1. SupahSpankeh says:

    Crowfall.

    For the eve-like crows and vassals.

  2. geisler says:

    DAoC, never forget, most fun PvP ever in an MMO. Prydwen RR11 Skald represent.

    • Enkinan says:

      Yes! Percival Midgard forever

    • inxi says:

      Prydwen Hibernia Teadorn the bard repping! (no, not Teador the daoc efame enchanter) :P

      These days resubbing once or twice a year to play with my brother :)

  3. Abndn says:

    What is the game in the first picture? It looks like Baldur’s Gate, but I don’t think it is?

  4. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    I’m looking forward to all of these, Underworld and Torment probably most of all. Dwarves might be good too. Setting and graphics looks nice enough, curious about the writing and how good the gameplay mechanics will be.

    I’m also looking forward to hearing about the “big secret” RPG from Obsidian, which is probably Stormlands/Project North Carolina, the Microsoft funded XBox title whose sudden cancellation almost killed the company.

    Plus Obsidian’s new crowdfunded title, the news of which seems to have been postponed yet again. Will probably be Pillars of Eternity 2. Or just within the realms of possibility, a Vampire:Bloodlines sequel or otherwise World of Darkness related game contracted and financed by Paradox, maybe partially crowdfunded via Fig like Psychonauts 2 is.

    7 Dragon Saga, the revival of TSI, might come this year too. They failed the Kickstarter, but have been quietly continued working on the game since, taking a lot of the criticism they got from the KS campaign to heart.
    link to tsi-games.com

  5. Premium User Badge

    Andy_Panthro says:

    Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord is hopefully coming out next year too.

  6. malkav11 says:

    I would be really surprised (and not necessarily in a good way) to see Underworld Ascendant this year. It was only Kickstarted, what, sometime last year? I can’t think of a single videogame I’ve backed that’s come out on that sort of timeline, much less what’s supposed to be a big, deep, immersive RPG. (Probably not as big as it’d be on a AAA budget, of course, but still.) Well, maybe Original Sin, but that was already well into development when they did their Kickstarter and just needed a push across the finish line to get some features in that they felt would add to the experience. I don’t think that was the case for Underworld Ascendant.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I’d be surprised too, but AFAIK it’s still officially scheduled for the end of 2016. Would not be shocked to see slippage though.

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      Dorga says:

      I wouldn’t bet on Torment either

      • Tacroy says:

        Torment seems to be moving along nicely, I would not be surprised at a Q4 release.

      • Sakkura says:

        Torment’s chances are MUCH better though. Or less bad.

      • malkav11 says:

        Torment has been in development probably a year and a half longer, if not more (I forget exactly when the KS was), and late last year put out some playable alpha content. It could still take over a year to launch (and, based on Wasteland 2, might not reach its definitive version for some time beyond that), but it’s not at all unreasonable to think it might make it this year.

      • minijedimaster says:

        torment beta starts in like two weeks. I think its chances of final release this year is fairly high.

        • minijedimaster says:

          Went back to my email since I’m a kickstarter backer for Torment. Here it is:

          “I’m proud to tell you that Torment: Tides of Numenera Beta will be coming to all eligible backers during the week of January 17th and to Steam Early Access on the 26th of January.”

  7. Phantom_Renegade says:

    The best part of Bioware’s RPG’s have mostly been the party and party interactions. Which means that I’m a bit wary after not caring about anyone in DA3. For some reason, I just could not bring myself to be interested in any of them apart from Varric. But since he’s from DA2, I don’t think he counts.

    They hit all the right storybeats with them, and they were well written for the most part, but none of them resonated. I don’t know what it was, I just didn’t care. They proved with ME3 that they can do build up but can’t actually finish well which means the journey is all they really have. And if I don’t care about the npc’s I’m doing the journey with, then, just like DA3, in all likelyhood, I won’t finish it.

  8. Oozo says:

    I would add Barkley 2. I can see, though, why Mr Cobbett wouldn’t include it here, since he recently characterised the first game swiftly as “just another parody of the JRPG style”.

    (Personally, I would say that this is a bit misleading. First of all, because the parody itself is more complex than just being a riff on ye olde JRPG tropes, but also because it so fully gives in to the absurd world it created that it surpasses a mere parody with ease and becomes something all of its own… it had heart, and style, and brain, that one, even though you might not dig that style, or brain, or heart. Also, because it’s hands down a better game than a lot of those it parodies. The Spinal Tap phenomenon, if you will. But YMM, as always V. Might be a good year either way!)

  9. trn says:

    A shame Grim Dawn (Barkley 2, too) has been dropped since this list was published as part of the end-year material last week.

    In this age of early access I need to keep reminding myself that the game I enjoyed playing the most in 2015 is not actually due for release until February 2016!

    Happy to be living through this RPG Renaissance – reminds me of my college years (RIP Youth: 1999-2001).

  10. Anthile says:

    Also Dragon’s Dogma, which is out in about two weeks.

  11. WarderDragon says:

    Just abandon all hope for Shroud of the Avatar. It’s not the singleplayer RPG of your dreams, it’s Ultima Online 2 with an enormous amount of microtransactions. The successor to Ultima, it is not.

    • derbefrier says:

      as someone who just bought the game on steam cause i thought it looked cool and played around 40 hours of it. I didnt even know the game had micro transactions( or rather a pledge store to be more accurate) I actually had to check when i read your post) thats how small of an impact they have on gameplay. I mean it is mostly hats and shit and its not even very much stuff. not happy with the way the game is turning out or something and just shitting on everything about it?

  12. DailyFrankPeter says:

    Where is the very first screenshot in this article from? Thanks.

  13. ChairmanYang says:

    I have a feeling Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is going to blow away everyone’s expectations. Human Revolution was shockingly great for the dev team’s first project, and now that the base has been established, I’m expecting huge leaps in refinement, reactivity, game balance, level design quality, and sheer quantity of content.

    (I’m expecting the same for the next Dishonored, although that’s more immersive sim than RPG, although the line is kind of blurry.)

    • welverin says:

      I don’t think the line is blurry at all, neither one is RPG.

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        Zekiel says:

        Has the debate about “what makes an RPG” ever been settled? If you define it as having a degree of control over your character’s personality and being able to influence the story to some degree, then DEHR qualifies. If you define it as “character abilities contribute to gameplay outcomes significantly before than player skill” then DEHR doesn’t qualify. (And Deus Ex occupies a weird middle ground.)

    • Unsheep says:

      My big concern is that they will follow the same pattern as most other major titles, namely to put as many different gameplay elements into the game as possible in order to attract the biggest audience possible. Equally bad is if they simplify things even further.

      I’ve played every Deus Ex game, except for that mobile one, and the first Deus Ex game is the best by a considerable margin.
      Most people who have played all of the games would agree on this.
      Most would also argue its one of the best RPGs ever made.
      It received a tonne of awards so its not just fanboy-ism talking.

      Don’t take my word for it though, you can buy the first Deus Ex game for only $10 on GOG, during a sale for as low as $2.50, which is ridiculously cheap considering the depth and length of the game.

      If the developers can look at the first game for inspiration I’m very optimistic for Deus Ex. If they look at the most popular RPGs in recent years, like Mass Effect 2/3 and Skyrim/Fallout, I’d be rather concerned.

  14. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Heroes. Don’t. CRAFT.

    Well, exactly. I want more games where I don’t have to play some boring-ass “hero”.

    I don’t believe anyone’s really attempted the economic sim / RPG hybrid. It could be done. Lots of people played Ultima Online (and the tiny handful of other games where it was possible) as pure crafters, and I think you could capture a similar feeling in single player form.

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      gritz says:

      Yes if only someone would step in and finally fill that tiny niche of games where all you do is wander around a world crafting things.

      • balinor says:

        I so wish someone would. I really miss the days spent mining and blacksmithing in UO. I still hold out hope that someone some where will come up with something to beat it (preferably in single player offline format) or at least come close to matching it.

        • Moraven says:

          Fantasy Life on the 3DS kinda has a basic crafting single player going for it as an option.

    • Moraven says:

      Camelot Unchained recently revealed their crafting system plans. I think it has potential to be what you want.

    • ACE209 says:

      I don’t believe anyone’s really attempted the economic sim / RPG hybrid.

      I think “The Guild” kinda tried that.

    • Fnord73 says:

      Some of us wait for the Darklands-remake with patient tears in our eyes.

  15. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    Torment and DoS2 are the ones for me this year. Contrary to Richard, I’ve been following Torment closely and I hope my unreasonably high expectations are not dashed to pieces. Although I really wouldn’t be surprised to see it slip into 2017 delivery.

    Wish HBS was doing an RPG too after their very fine Shadowrun RPGs, but they’ve got Battletech on the plate. Which could be very fine too, but not an RPG.

  16. tomimt says:

    But really, what is going on with Grimoire?

    • Le blaireau says:

      You can ride on turtles!

    • mgardner says:

      Let’s see… In the past few years, Grimoire has missed a few guaranteed release dates; had a bug tracker countdown that moved to single digits, morphed to a fractional number, and morphed again to a larger number of micro issues; Cleve announced a few months ago that he had only 8 hours of work left to completion…

      …so yeah, it’s never coming out.

      • fuzziest says:

        Cleve was working on Grimoire back on usenet. If that ever comes out it’ll be like Smart finally finishing a Battlecruiser game which will probably doom the world as the sign of some dark prophecy.

  17. Zenicetus says:

    Last weekend I decided to try the new enhanced Divinity OS, after bouncing off it partway through the first time. It’s a frustrating combination of terrific battle mechanics with juvenile fantasy writing, and the EE version doesn’t improve much in that respect. There are also some terrible accent choices with all the new voice acting too. Madora apparently comes from the Tennessee back country. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by Witcher 3. The writing and dialogue in Pillars of Eternity wasn’t that great, but it was better than DOS.

    So the one thing I hope Larian really focuses on with DOS 2 is better writing, dialogue, and better voice acting. The game mechanics and combat are great, but boy do they need to work on that.

    Also, is ME Andromeda actually going to be a 2016 game? I thought it was further out?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Holiday 2016. But as said, would not be shocked to see it slip.

    • Arkayjiya says:

      I had the same problem with D:OS. The world did not draw me in, kind of like Dragon Age: Origins, I loved the gameplay (although the dungeon crawling was excessive) but the universe felt generic as hell (except the little bits about magic and demons that were better than the rest).

      Pillars scratched that particular itch better, I hope Torment (with Turn based meaningful but rare fights, exactly what I want) can do even better.

    • thaquoth says:

      The involvement of Chris Avellone could lead one to hope for at least a bigger focus on these aspects.

      Because man, would a quest line written by him stick out in a game like D:OS.

  18. LordCrash says:

    Wait, why no Kingdom Come Deliverance and no Deus Ex: Mankind Divided???

  19. suibhne says:

    There are bizarre discontinuities between this list and last week’s “Games of 2016″ super-post. This one has Blood and Wine, last week’s didn’t; this one is missing Kingdom Come, Dragon’s Dogma, and Grim Dawn (among others), which were on last week’s; both lists are missing The White March Part II; and so on.

    • thanosi says:

      It’s almost like they were written by two different people on two different topics

  20. thekelvingreen says:

    Torment in 2016? You’re more optimistic than I am!

  21. carewolf says:

    Dark souls???? That is not an RPG, it is 3D Beat’m’Up!

  22. Moraven says:

    Grim Dawn is content finished and near completion. Looking forward to playing it (backed, but did not want to test/alpha/beta).

  23. Anonymous says:

    Shut Up and Jam Gaiden 2 needs to drop this year, dang it.

  24. TheAngriestHobo says:

    Right, but when is any of it actually coming out? I’ve been waiting for another decent RPG since TW3 release in motherloving May.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Edski says:

    No love for Kingdom Come: Deliverance? I know it has a stupid name, but discriminating against it on that basis would be unfair.

  26. Wulfram says:

    I think ME3 had rather great shooty-shoot action, actually. The success of its MP being the best evidence for it – take away the story and characters and it can still thrive, which isn’t something you can say about many Bioware games.

    Which is why I’m still optimistic about ME:A despite being pretty sceptical about how the story and setting will turn out after the semi-reboot that seems to be happening – to me all the good world building seemed to happen in ME1.

    • brucethemoose says:

      Yes, ME3 had some fantastic shooty-shoot action. You don’t really notice it at first, but once you get into MP or your 2nd insanity play-though, it’s really amazing.

      My worst nightmare is a Mass Effect: Andromeda with the dumbing-down of ME3, the shooting mechanics of ME2, and the Mako mechanics of ME1.

    • malkav11 says:

      It’s certainly loads better than the shooting in the second game and as you say, the proof is in how viable it was as a storyless multiplayer exercise. My biggest complaint is just that I don’t really care for cover shooters in the Gears of War style. ME3 is one of the better such shooters, but I still feel like the cover mechanics mess with the pace in ways I don’t like. 3’s way better at making you move around, though, and much better at weapon variety, enemy variety, friendly NPC variety, etc.

  27. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    Really looking forward to Sorcery and hopefully more inkle games on PC. 80 Days was well adapted and looked smashing on 4K PC.

  28. Unsheep says:

    Plenty of interesting games even for old-school gamers like myself.

    If its anything like last year though, we’ll also get a good number of unexpected yet awesome indie RPGs, like Legends of Eisenwald, Age of Decadence and Underrail.

    Its a good year for RPGs that’s for sure. Even the old-school stuff.

  29. syllopsium says:

    I still haven’t caught up to 2014, never mind 2015! This year I’m definitely going to finish KOTOR2, Dragon Age (yes, the first one), and I do want to start on the Witchers.

    Hoping Numenara is decent, although I’m keeping expectations low at this point.

    However, if Sorcery! 4 : Crown of Kings comes out in 2016, I’ll jump straight on to that. They’re brilliant on a tablet, particularly The Seven Serpents. I’ve completed them all, but need to replay Serpents to achieve the aim within the best time limits.