Our most anticipated RPGs of 2021
Horaszdóttir levels up
Flee, gentle reader, for she has come again! It's not too late for you to escape her: Horaszdóttir the Endless, she of the big boots and bear fur. Alas, our fate is sealed. She visits us every winter to split open turkeys from her eldritch flock, and soothsay our most anticipated game releases for the year to come.
She shows us many a game in those birds, reader, and we must impart the dread knowledge to you. We've already done strategy games; what hideous vision of the future is forced on us today? Ah yes, of course. It is the time of the storytellers, the quests and levelling, the congress with aliens. RPGs!(Horaszdóttir has seen fit to anticipate a surprising number of remasters / rereleases / formerly-not-on-PC games this year, which all come at the end of the list.)
What is it? Gritty singleplayer cyberpunk RPG about solving INTERNET CRIMES
Who's it by? Anshar Studios
When is it out? 2021
Alice Bee: That description would also work if I'd put 'cyber crimes', like that terrible CSI spin-off, because the demo for Gamedec was you (the gamedec, that's who you are, you're the gamedec) being hired by a very rich man because his son got stuck in a full-body VR pod in a hardcore MMO sex game. And I thought parents today had enough to worry about, wakka wakka!
Haha, but seriously folks. I'm a sucker for a deep, singleplayer RPG - especially if it's isometric, 'cos that reminds me of early-2000s RPGs that I loved - and Gamedec gives you lots of options for solving complicated quests. Or, well, cases, I guess. Depending on the type of character you build, your futuristic private-internet-eye could come to conclusions by finding a secret safe, or hacking a computer, or by being a really smooth talker. There's actually a really cool social mini-game aspect to talking to witnesses and suspects, where you can unlock different bits of information depending on how you approach the conversation. It's a really text heavy game, in case that sinks your boat, but it doesn't mine.
What is it? A kung-fu action RPG with weird morphing animal pals.
Who's it by? Experiment 101, THQ Nordic
When is it out? May 25th
Katharine: I've been looking forward to BioMutant ever since I first saw it at Gamescom in 2017. That seems like an actual eon ago now, and it's clear from Experiment 101's recent announcements (the first peep we've heard from them in three years) that the game itself has changed quite a lot since then, too - which is apt given the mutating animal characters sitting at its core. From the looks of things, though, what I loved most about those early demos still seems to be very much present and correct, and I'm crossing all fingers and toes that its ballooning script hasn't given its story a case of the old mega bloat.
Either way, the thing that's always intrigued me most about BioMutant is being able to see your character morph and change shape as you mutate and upgrade their abilities. Other RPGs might give you swish sets of clothes you can swap in and out, but this feels like it's tapping into those older Fable-style games of yore where your hero got properly buff if you did a lot of punching, for example, or changed weight based on how much you ate. Only here, you're applying those principles to natty little red pandas. Its stylish kung-fu-style combat was another big draw all those years ago, and I'm hoping its crunchy moveset is still just as tight and satisfying as it was back then. I'm also intrigued to see how its shape-shifting creatures fit into the game's open world - and whether saving the game is still marked by your character taking a leak on a rock.
Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord
What is it? RPG meets strategy on top of a horse, which you are riding into battle at the head of a warband of soldiers.
Who's it by? TaleWorlds Entertainment.
When is it out? Prrrobably TBA 2021?
Alice0: I’ve not touched M&B2 during early access because after seeing the original go through several revisions before finding its best form, I’m glad to see this do that in early access - and will wait until it’s done. When TaleWorlds launched M&B2 into early access in March 2020, they said they expected it to take about a year, so allowing for the usual early access holdups, mmmaybe this year? What I’ve seen of the sandbox medieval warfare RPG so far looks cracking. Well up for leading my own army into a siege while holding aloft some daft gert custom sword I forged myself.
What is it? Miyazaki and George R.R. Martin sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
Who's it by? FromSoftware
When is it out? TBA
Ed: Ah Elden Ring, I don't even know what you are. I'm cheating getting you on this list because you're not even confirmed for this year. And yet, I yearn for a little tease. A little num num for your boy. All I know is that George R.R. Martin, the Game of Thrones man, has teamed up with Hidetaka Miyazaki, the mastermind behind Dark Souls, and they are making a video game called Elden Ring.
Elden Ring's E3 2019 announcement trailer seems a bit Soulsy, with its dark fantasy setting. And um, yeah. I heard somewhere that you can ride a horse! There's that too. I suppose what I do know is that Miyazaki never misses with a new IP: look at Demon Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne. And with George by his side, I can only imagine they've got a showstopper of a dish in the slow cooker for us.
Yakuza 6: The Song Of Life
What is it? Heartwarming RPG about a man who used to be in the Yakuza but now just batters people with bikes and runs an orphanage.
Who's it by? Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio, Sega
When is it out? March 25th
Ed: The prospect of an HD Kiryu Kazuma in dad mode has me hot under the collar. Yakuza 6 sees my favourite thug-slayer hunt for his missing adopted daughter, while simultaneously taking care of the baby she's left behind. It's probably the most intimate Yakuza of the lot, as you're not bouncing between different beefcake characters, or concerned with upholding your position within Japan's criminal underworld. Instead, the focus is on family, and instilling the yakuza's traditional values in a younger generation that's become tainted by greed.
Yakuza 6 also sees Kiryu spend much of his time in the quaint seaside town of Onomichi, which is a world away from the hustle and bustle of Kamurocho. Not only is it a wonderful place to explore, with its shrines and hushed streets, but it strips things back and lets you see a more vulnerable side of Kiryu, a man who maybe isn't as indestructible as his chiselled torso lets on. But don't worry, it's still a huge amount of fun. There's plenty of that bonkers side the Yakuza games are known for, including a fishing minigame which lets you go toe-to-toe with a giant squid.
Yakuza 6 is the perfect send-off for Kiryu, then. I say I want to play it again on PC, but I don't actually know if I'm emotionally prepared to see my favourite yakuza dad swing fists one last time.
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
What is it?
Alien dating sim The best sci-fi RPG series.
Who's it by? BioWare
When is it out? May 14th
Imogen: Mass Effect is a known quantity. But it's also a phenomenal trilogy that I can't wait to go back to. This sounds a bit silly because I could just do that with the copy I already own. I just haven't had the heart to play through it all in years, mostly because I can't stand playing the first game (and I can't just skip to the second or third, I'm not a monster). Don't get me wrong! The first Mass Effect sets up this incredible story of a ragtag bunch of weirdos going rogue to save the galaxy, and has, I think, one of the best villains in games. The story, the characters, the romances... it's all just - *chef's kiss* - great. It looks and controls, however, like ass.
"Hopefully the hot aliens will look even hotter with the new visuals. Priorities, BioWare."
Thankfully, out of all three games, ME1 is getting the most tweaks and improvements with the Legendary Edition remaster. Reworked cameras, weapon balancing, graphical updates to bring it in line with the second and third installments - it's like music to my ears. I never stopped loving ME2 and ME3, and playing them again with a few enhancements will be lovely. But I'm most excited to simply enjoy ME1 again.
Also, hopefully the hot aliens will look even hotter with the new visuals. Priorities, BioWare.
Ed: Hello Mass Effect fans, lovely to meet you. I am sad to announce that I was once one a member of your club, but that membership expired aeons ago. You see, I played ME1 back in the day, and then proceeded to 2 but barely glanced at the tutorial before my progress came to a grinding halt. Now I don't remember a thing about them, apart from a sliver of memory which says, "You enjoyed the first game, silly, why did you stop?".
I don't know, okay? But Mass Effect: Legendary Edition will give me a chance to right the wrongs of my past, and not only rekindle my relationship with the sci-fi RPG, but also the cool aliens I hung out with. I can't wait to say hi to that big red lizard man again.
The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (Next-Gen Edition)
What is it? The Witcher III with shiny new future graphics.
Who's it by? CD Projekt Red
When is it out? TBA
Katharine: Four words: ray traced bathtub Geralt.
NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139...
What is it? The upgraded version of the indirect prequel to NieR: Automata
Who's it by? Toylogic, Square Enix
When is it out? April 23rd
Ed: I and a few friends blitzed through NieR: Automata in a week of chaos and emotion. A spectacular game it was, with a spectacular soundtrack. So the prospect of getting to play Nier: Replicant, a shiny, expanded prequel of likely equal chaos and emotion, has me pumped.
I haven't really got a clue what the story holds, but from the looks of things, you play as a sword-wielding gymnast accompanied by a talking, levitating tome called Grimoire Weiss. And then boom, you'll be dropped into a beautiful ruined world with sweet opera music, and bullet-hell sequences, and platforming bits. It'll be a camera-flipping blast to the senses, with the occasional emotional gut punch to keep us in check. Sign me up, chief.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
What is it? A beefed-up version of the best game to come out in 2019 (apparently).
Who's it by? Studio ZA/UM
When is it out? March 2021
Jake: I've put off playing Disco Elysium for so long, and I'm not really sure why. Luckily there's Disco Elysium: The Final Cut coming in March, which adds full voice acting and extra story content. Once again I've missed the boat on a great game and it has ended up paying off massively.
You've probably heard by now that Disco Elysium is one of the best RPGs ever made, so if you haven't checked it out then this is a great place to jump in. The extra content being added also makes The Final Cut tempting for players who already cleared the original. There's new 'political vision quests', full voice acting and even a whole extra area. I'm really excited to see what all the fuss is about, because on paper Disco Elysium is exactly the kind of game I enjoy.