Every once in a while, particularly when I can't think of anything pertinent to discuss, I feel the need for a list is in order. What better topic for a list than my absolute favorite genre, the RPG. There has been a wealth of RPG's released this generation. Some have been absolutely stellar, while others are steeped in mediocrity. This is my futile attempt to assist you in wading through the crap, and steer you towards fantastical adventures that will steal hundreds of hours of your time, and quite possibly your soul.
1. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (360,PS3,PC)
What could I possibly say about this game that hasn't already been said hundreds of times already. This is quite possibly the most quintessential western RPG ever created. The game world is yours to do as you wish. There is nothing you can't do and nowhere you can't go from the moment you step out of the sewers of the Imperial City prison. Odds are, if you are at all a fan of the genre, you have played this, and quite possibly are still playing this. Several have mentioned that is reminiscent of a large MMO, only single player. I think that statement alone sums it up nicely. Certainly anything associated with Todd Howard is a must buy at this point. If you have played it, and haven't downloaded the Shivering Isles, do yourself a favor and do so. You will not be disappointed.
2. The Witcher (PC, and provided a publisher decides to finally pick this up perhaps the 360 as well)
Simply put, this game is gorgeous, deep and huge, yet it remains very accessible to newcomers of RPG's. It is based on the book series of the same name by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. It could be considered linear only when compared to the likes of the Elder Scrolls series. Though one area that it certainly exceeds even that of TES IV: Oblivion, is in it's consequences. For almost every action, there is consequence. It truly realizes the promises that Peter Molyneaux made of Fable many years ago. This one would truly be worthy of a complete PC build strictly to play this game. So much care has gone into the making of this it's truly almost indescribable. For example, after the title was released, the developers were not happy with the voice work. What did they do about it you ask? They re-recorded every line of dialog in the game, of which there are thousands. Not only that, there have been several expansions made available for free for registered users. So much care has been taken with this title, it's almost impossible to believe it came from such a small indie developer in CD Projekt RED.
3. Mass Effect (360,PC)
The Bioware doctors have done it yet again. Yes their games are certainly on the linear side, but the story telling is impeccable. The folks at Bioware have always made wonderfully accessible yet fairly deep RPG's. Only they had almost always done it with a known IP, be it AD&D or Star Wars. This time they did it with an all original story and setting. It is a Sci-fi epic for the ages well worth the price of admission. It's not perfect in every aspect as the combat leaves a bit to be desired. But if you make it through this game once, you will be hard pressed to not want to do it again. If only for the fact, that for the first time in a game of this scale, the decisions you make will carry over into the sequel coming next year. That alone is one of the most intriguing prospects I have ever witnessed in the industry. I for one can't wait to see how they pull it off.
4. Fallout 3 (360,PS3,PC)
Todd Howard and Bethesda took the Oblivion engine and made yet another epic. This post-apocalyptic wasteland is your playground. It lacks the sheer mass of Oblivion, but makes up for it with a personalty that TES just doesn't posses. It's quite paradoxical. On one hand you are in a desolate, post-nuclear wasteland. On the other, it is filled with so much life and humorous charm, it's hard to put down once you pick it up. There is also a wealth of DLC available that ranges from exceptionally brilliant to a little spotty. But all in all, as a complete package in the GOTY version, would be well worth the time investment.
5. Lost Odyssey (360)
I suppose I would be remiss if I didn't include at least one JRPG in this list. I enjoy the occasional JRPG. It's an itch that needs scratched at least twice a year. As long as I get this out before Final Fantasy XIII, I can keep the FF zealots off my back a bit. One thing they tend to forget however is that Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of FF, left Square Enix in 2004 and hasn't been involved in the series since. In my opinion this is truly the successor to the FF series. With Sakaguchi-san writing and Nobuo Uematsu composing, it doesn't get any more pure JRPG than this. Be forewarned however, if you don't like sappy convoluted plots with insanely long FMV sequences, JRPG's are not for you. This is turn-based old school JRPG gameplay at it's finest, including the ever annoying random battles.
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