We now turn to the RPG genre, that also helped while I was writing my book on RPG design. We have some very different takes that go from being old school, to not-so-old school design.
It Could be a Contender Award – Pokémon
I have rarely enjoyed the Pokémon series on and off throughout the years. With the latest one on the switch, I’ve heard it’s either the best or worst take on the series. As someone who played Final Fantasy 12 simply because I heard people hated it as a traditional RPG, I wonder if this game would work the same way for me.
Honorable Mentions: Entity Researchers and Potato Flowers In Full Boom
Two very different indie takes on RPG design make the honorable mentions this year. Entity Researchers is a kind of roguelike through 90’s aesthetics with a pinch of Pokémon for good measure. Your job is to hunt down strange creatures invading our world. As you learn more about them, you’ll be able to acquire new powers, gear, and try to piece together what is going on. The game can be admittedly frustrating to play and has a real-time cycle for how you can find specific enemy types. This is the game for someone who is looking for something a bit different with their RPGs and don’t mind a little difficulty.
Potato Flowers In Full Bloom is a dungeon crawler that combines adorable characters with very difficult design. The challenge is that you build a party of three to explore fixed dungeons trying to make some permanent progress before you run out of stamina and fuel for your torch. All enemy encounters are fixed, with enemies responding to different kinds of attacks. This is not the dungeon crawler where you build your perfect party, but have to swap people in to make the perfect party for the moment. What keeps it from being on the list is that I prefer Etrian Odyssey‘s style of dungeon crawling and character development. Still, if you’re looking for a new dungeon(s) to conquer, this is a definite must play.
#3 Betrayal at Club Low
You may have played a lot of RPGs, but tell me, have you ever played one where you are a pizza spy trying to break into a club and may inadvertently become the greatest DJ ever known? Betrayal at Club Low is a trip through a strange world where you must use the power of your dice, and pizza, to get past different encounters. Upgrading your dice will give you a better chance at winning encounters, and the story will go differently based on what choices you choose and which encounters you win. There really is nothing else quite like this game, and it’s such a weird delight to go through, especially if you love pizza as well.
#2 Chained Echoes
The most “traditional” RPG on the list this year, Chained Echoes does a great job of mirroring and honoring classic JRPGs but does it in a way that is different the more you look under the surface. With a huge world to explore, challenging combat, and amazing pixel art, this is the game for JRPG fans who are looking for something new to play. While it’s a bit too traditional when it comes to encounters for my taste, it’s still a solid game.
#1: Fear and Hunger 2
I’ve already talked about my love/hate of the brutally difficult Fear and Hunger, and Fear and Hunger 2 continues that trend with more disturbing sights, challenging gameplay, and a whole new world to get lost in…and killed in. This is not for the faint of heart, or those looking for an easy time. This is a game where failing the tutorial will get your legs chopped off.
This is less of an RPG and more of a brutal puzzle for you to try and solve. One day, I need to sit down and try to learn both games. If you like your RPGs hard, and aren’t easily disgusted, there is no other series like it.