The RPG Scrollbars: The Scrolls Of Honour 2016

As mentioned last week, it’s been one of those years. Lots of the biggest RPGs that we were expecting decided to spend a few more months in bed, or simply skip 2016. Can’t blame them! It’ll mean an awesome 2017, even if looking back there’s only been a few big names to pick from. Still, tradition is tradition! This week, another year marks another set of the RPG genre’s most fiercely fought-over fictional awards.

(Disclaimer: Actual fighting may also be fictional, all awards are based on the incredibly scientific principle of Wot I Think, awards cannot be exchanged for money, goods or services unless they too are entirely fictional. Please write all questions or complaints onto the back of a Myst CD using a Sharpie, break it into four pieces and bury them in interesting points around the globe for future treasure hunters to encounter, reforge, and then gag “Oh, god, Myst…” Or indeed, not. Completely your choice!)

The Belated Scroll Of Acceptance – The Elder Scrolls Online

I don’t particularly like The Elder Scrolls Online, but something I do always like to see is a company standing behind a game and trying to make it work. I can’t think of many better examples than TEScO, which arrived already clutching at the MMORPG bandwagon as it slowly began rolling out of town, quickly revealed itself to be more Dark Age of Camelot 2 than anything else, and basically landed with a flatulent pfffft. Since then however the team has taken that on board, initially building in features like thievery and the chance to join the Dark Brotherhood, and then finally launching One Tamriel – a whole new start for the game that actually gives it the freedom of an Elder Scrolls game rather than the restricted zones and tight pathing of old. Hopefully the gamble pays off, because the TEScO we’ve got now really much closer to what it should have been at launch, and a great starting point for adding more of the content that people have been holding on for, like the epic island of Vvardenfell.

The Soiled Scroll Of Disappointment – Fallout 4 DLC

Speaking of games that I don’t like… sigh. I really was looking forward to Fallout 4 last year, but the rubbish story, shooter-heavy action and focus on building settlements couldn’t have been much further from what I wanted. Oh, for stories inspired more by Nick Valentine or travelling journalist Piper. But that’s okay, right? There was still lots of DLC promised and that had the chance to save it! Well, not so much. After all, New Vegas had excellent DLC – even in its weaker moments, at least trying to do interesting things with the engine! But no. Cue Bethesda doubling down on trivial nonsense like settlements and the completely idiotic Vault-Tec Workshop (Guys, you know the nuclear apocalypse? It’s over, people!) It’s going to be ages before another of these games. Please don’t let this be the direction Bethesda plans to keep going for that, or the next Elder Scrolls. You’re not going to be the next Minecraft. Stop it.

The Torn Scroll of Virtue – Tyranny

Ah, yes, as the year rolled quickly to an end, so did Obsidian’s new ‘evil is good’ RPG, making it a sure contender for the best half of an RPG to pretend to actually be a whole one. Grr. It wouldn’t have taken much to conclusively end the story in a way that would still leave scope for further expansion of the world, with what we got feeling rather closer to the final boss just not bothering to show up than saving themselves for the sequel. From the start, Tyranny felt like a bit more of an experience than a raw RPG game – a rare chance to be the baddie that was compelling because of that rarity. Making it even stranger is that it’s certainly not afraid to go into detail about what happened next, so… why not just bite the bullet and figure out where to go next after everyone is having the post-adventure afterglow of a bad job well done.

The Torn Scroll Of Tear-Dripped Sadness – Underfell

Maybe not a 2016 thing exactly, but… you know Undertale? That really cute, fun, talk-to-the-monsters game? The one that stood out based on its sense of friendship and compassion and all that hoopla? No offence to the folks behind Underfell, an AU based on it, but… did we really need to have a version that asked “Yes, but what if the monsters WERE really evil monsters?” Not saying it shouldn’t be allowed or anything, but… what the hell did you do to Sans, you bastards? Don’t worry, guys. When those plushies arrive, we’ll totally hug and make it all seem better again…

The Blooded Scroll Of Unnecessary Rage – Siege of Dragonspear

Poor Siege of Dragonspear. Of all the gaming controversies of the last few years, this one still stands out as the least necessary and most over-blown. While certainly not up to the standards of Baldur’s Gate 2, Dragonspear deserves to fade from memory with some recognition for being a solid return to the Infinity format, regardless of one unfortunate bear-baiting line that the writers should have known better than to put into Minsc’s voice, and an unfortunately twee bit of dialogue that really didn’t warrant the microscope it was put under. No, it wasn’t a great bit of character writing, but it’s not as if NPCs don’t routinely share surprisingly personal things with protagonists. The maelstrom of anger and controversy largely buried Dragonspear, but you know what… it was okay. Not amazing or anything, but a solid enough return to Baldur’s Gate that kinda dropped the ball on the titular siege, but still did some interesting stuff around the borders and was overall a fun nostalgic trip back to the age of Infinity.

The Xerox Scroll For Unnecessariest Prequel – Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Look, I liked Human Revolution a lot. It was an interesting trip back to see how the Deus Ex universe got the way it did, from a sufficient point that it could still feel fresh and new and like its own story. Mankind Divided though, not so much. This completely unnecessary story based on a frankly ridiculous premise about the world turning against augmented people ended up mostly devoted to introducing lots of baddies who we know all too well we can’t just wander over and punch in the cock because they have to still be around so that JC Denton could do that back in 2000.

At no point in the writing of this did anyone seem to consider why we were meant to be gripped by a conspiracy that we already know can’t be stopped or even exposed, headed up by a man who wears a trenchcoat because it’s easier than having a personality. By the time the story’s disappeared up its own conspiracy loving anus, it just doesn’t matter any more. There’s still plenty of room for Deus Ex out there, but next time, maybe justify its existence. Oh, and not do a tutorial in Dubai that makes Spec Ops: The Line feel like Half-Life 2.

The Densely Written Scroll Of Delicious Text – Sorcery! 1-4

Have we praised this series enough? Not quite! Inkle took the beloved Sorcery series and truly made it their own with this four-part classic. The best part by far is the third, breaking free of all linearity for an open-world of exploration, time-travel and a race against time to defeat both the Seven Serpents that block your progress and make it to the fourth part before your nemesis sees you coming. After these and 80 Days, I really can’t wait to see what they’re working on now.

The Pleading Scroll of Insufficient Weight – CD Projekt

Hey, guys. You know how it’s going to be ages until Cyberpunk 2077? And you’ve mentioned before that The Witcher isn’t necessarily over? Spin-off game starring Ciri. Just saying. Asking. She didn’t get enough love in The Witcher 3, and no, I’m not talking about sex scenes. Not even after modders started experimenting with the models. But it’s such a perfect idea for an interquel – a new character to see the world with, a Witcher by trade if not by nature, with her own powers. Great gaps in the story to fill in with adventures, both during the flight from the Wild Hunt and potentially after the game ends. It’s the perfect way to give us another hit of Witcher goodness, especially if the creative folks who brought us the likes of the Bloody Baron have time to write campaigns for the upcoming Gwent spin-off.

The Scroll of Wasted Potential – Mean Streets Of Gadgetzan

Gawd, was this trailer too good for a card-set. I want a whole game set in this city.

The Blood-Written Scroll Of Surrender – Dark Souls 3

Third time… wasn’t the charm. I give up. You win, Dark Souls. You… you win.

The Dark Scroll Of Challenge – Dwarves vs Dwarves!

We Are The Dwarves, meet The Dwarves. Fight! Who will claim the title? Literally!

The Scroll Of Unseeming Alacrity – The Witcher 3 Speed Run

Over the last couple of years, I’ve probably spent about 80 hours playing The Witcher 3. Want to see some bugger blitz right through it in two? Thought you might…

What can I say except… sir, congratulations. You are the Witchiest of us all.

21 Comments

  1. MrBehemoth says:

    You can’t just put a picture of an Elder Scroll up there for any reckless neophyte to see with their unschooled eyes! Thank Hermaeus Mora that the secrets of Mundus are below me, or else I could be blind and/or insane by now.

  2. Unsheep says:

    Fine! I’ll add my own list then.

    The Technomancer (PS4)- I love sci-fi RPGs and there’s not enough of them. This game had some minor technical issues, but to hell with that, it’s a cool sci-fi game.

    Balrum (PC)- combines classic RPG elements with modern ones, a slow-paced atmospheric game where you focus on crafting and exploration.

    Halcyon 6 (PC)- Star Trek meets Master of Orion in a giddy and casual way. The updates added some much-needed variation and depth.

    Dungeon Rats (PC) – a tough and challenging RPG that focuses on combat. A great tactical game, that would have benefitted from further variety in the sceneries.

    Avadon 3: The Warborn (PC) – old-school RPG with lots of interesting quests and characters, … lots of reading too. Great storyline.

    Tahira (PC)- interesting story and attractive visual design. The combat needed some more variety though. Still, a very good game.

    Masquerada (PC)- another RPG with a unique storyline and concept for a game. The game is rather linear though for an RPG.

    Zombasite (PC)- a continuation of Soldak’s unique take on action-RPGs, combining 4X elements with 3rd-person action. Tough as nails and extremely confusing to new-comers, but very unique.

    Grand Kingdom (PS4) – a Japanese RPG with a unique style of combat. I don’t play that many Japanese RPGs, but this one really appealed to me. A fun game.

    …. My awards:

    Best Story: Avadon 3 – The Warborn
    Best Action: Dungeon Rats
    Best Visual Design: Masquerada
    Best Use of Humor: Halcyon 6
    Most Unique: Zombasite
    Most Relaxing: Balrum
    Coolest Game-world: The Technomancer
    Biggest Positive Surprise of the year: Tahira
    Best Japanese RPG: Grand Kingdom

    Yes, they all win something.
    For me, this has been a great year for RPGs.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Mmm, some interesting choices. Will look stuff up.

      Gah, I wish I had more time to play… :-( :-(

    • Holderist says:

      Technomancer is on PC too.

      • Saarlaender39 says:

        Yep…but my guess would be – Unsheep played it on PS4 – so s/he wrote about that version (PS4), instead of the version s/he hasn’t played (PC).

        Funny, how that works, hm?

  3. SaunteringLion says:

    “Over the last couple of years, I’ve probably spent about 80 hours playing The Witcher 3.”

    But how? My first playthrough, sans DLC, was about 80-100 hours. I’m not close to a completionist or anything.

  4. Premium User Badge

    FhnuZoag says:

    Not PC, but Pokemon this year was pretty good.

  5. RuySan says:

    I don’t really get all the hate Fallout 4 gets. The story isn’t great, but it was much better than the nonsense in F3. The map is less interesting to explore than in F3, but the combat feels much better, and the weapon crafting was a nice addition.

    I also didn’t like the settlement building, but that whole part can be ignored.

    • jj2112 says:

      Yes, I enjoyed this Fallout as much as Fallout 3 or NV, and regarding the complaints about the story… it’s a Bethesda game, you know what you’re getting into.

    • aepervius says:

      I cannot speak for everybody but for me it simply felt they dropped the rpg part and made it nore of a shooter. I felt the limitation they put simply were too much. I ould npt concentrate on stealth if i wanted, as i was gated at certain level for the stealth feat, and there was no skill percent anymore. So i could no be a master of stealth at low level if i wanted.

      I simply think that removing the card system with the specials you got every so level and remove the % changing to a gated system removed the role part from rpg.

      Eta in fact i would rather replay f3 or f3 nv than f4. At least i dox not feel gated while making my build

      • RuySan says:

        For me, I feel that Fallout was never much confortable in it’s rpg pedrigree when Bethesda got hold of the Licence. Altough I would love to have another Fallout in the vein of the first (At least i got Wasteland 2), i’m fine with the recent ones becoming more like shooters.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I enjoyed it for what it was. I would have liked more RPG elements (and more Nick!), but some of these games just need to be taken on their own terms, and not wishing it was New Vegas or whatever.

      I agree with the complaints about some of the DLC in the article above, but I thought the Far Harbor one was pretty good. It satisfied the “More Nick!” urge, and it was a nice change of scenery from the Commonwealth at least. I haven’t done Nuka-World yet because I’m not sure there’s enough there to grab me.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      But this game formula is old news now. Ok gunfights are finally good, settlements and power armor are an ok addition. Vegas had better RPG mechanics and DLCs and F3 had the better wasteland/ruined city in my opinion.
      It wasn’t the great revolution people (undeservedly) anticipated both technically and gameplay-wise.
      Like say Skyrim delivered compared to Oblivion.
      Oh well let’s hope for the next Elder Scrolls.

  6. RuySan says:

    And BTW, a Ciri spin-off for the Witcher would be ace indeed.

  7. Chaoslord AJ says:

    DS3 and Blood & Wine DLC win in my book of the RPGs 2016.
    DS3 -best combat and B&W for the feels and RPG immersion.

    Completely agree on Deus EX:MD especially about the ridiculous premise. They took the safe bet to make another Adam Jensen -game while they could have made a different or even post-JC-timeline -game. Or even Illuminati conclusion connecting to original timeline but it had to be a trilogy with the second part being just filler content.
    Fallout 4, good but underwhelming. Uninspired use of the “blade runner replicant” setting, too.

    • Cronstintein says:

      I’m likely in the minority, but I liked the RPG elements in the very first Deus Ex the best. Skills, equipment and augs provided different avenues of traversing the environments that seemed much more varied than what has followed.

      Having to choose between 2 augs for each upgrade slot was a tough call. You could be excellent at picking locks, but that would cost your combat skills and be useless against electronic doors. You could blow up many doors, but at the cost of equipment and noise. There were plenty of vents, but it feels that the follow-ups have relied on that crutch WAY too heavily.

      Old man feels old, get off my lawn!

      EDIT: Apologies, but the rant continues: Elements like being able to silently punch through very specific walls that are immune to explosive devices feels contrived in a way that seems anathema to the original idea of an “immersive sim”.

      Ok, all done.

  8. Shinard says:

    No Eye of the Beholder? What happened to tradition?