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!
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.