OCC E3 2013 AwardsClayMeow - July 2, 2013
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Best Role-Playing Game
Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4, XBO)
There's little doubt that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the game I'm most looking forward to, although placing it as my winner in the RPG category was rather hard. All you have to do is take a look at my runners-up below and you'll see why. However, there's just so much to The Witcher 3 already, and all of it speaks to an RPG you cannot miss. CD Projekt RED is creating a world 30 times larger than The Witcher 2 and 20% bigger than the land of Skyrim in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Then there's the main quest that'll take 50 hours of your time, a multitude of side quests to take yet another 50 hours, and you'll soon wonder why the sky is getting bright again when it was dark just a moment ago.
The Witcher 3 features an open world with absolutely no loading screens as you journey from one end of it to the other. You'll experience a variety of different landscapes, architecture styles, and climates, so moving from one to the other should feel and look magnificent. Side quests can be undertaken in the wilds, or you can just venture off and investigate new areas. Hunting plays a huge role as well, as you can go after massive creatures that are sure to test every bit of your combat prowess. Hopefully the rewards will be great for doing that, but I imagine a sense of accomplishment for taking down a huge monster, like the one featured in the banner above, will be just as rewarding.
I could go on and on about The Witcher 3, from the wealth of new combat animations to the seamless blend of melee and sign (magic) usage to the fact Geralt's tale is of a more personal nature than the past two games. There's just so much about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that I love, and this is a game that truly looks like a next-generation title, thanks to REDengine 3. We still have to wait until next year to get our hands on this game, but it's a wait that's going to be well worth it.
Runners-Up: Final Fantasy XV (PS4, XBO), Kingdom Hearts III (PS4, XBO), Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX (PS3), Dragon Age: Inquisition (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
As you can see there are a lot of RPGs I'm looking forward to, just The Witcher 3 wins out. Honestly I could have put pretty much every RPG shown at E3 here, but I didn't want to write for days on them. If you hadn't guessed, RPGs are my favorite genre since it's the first one I really cut my teeth on when I just started gaming. The Final Fantasy series has been around for ages, and many moons ago we were supposed to get a game called Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Funny thing is we didn't really hear much of it, even with Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 launching, plus the impending Lightning Returns having more shown in the past year than Versus XIII ever got in the last seven.
During E3, Final Fantasy XV was shown off with amazing graphics, and then came the news that Versus XIII is now FFXV. Talk about a reversal, but hey, after seven years something had to give. FFXV is a much darker and realistic tale than most other Final Fantasy games, with human emotion and more believable characters included. The game is more of an action-RPG affair and even features some shooting elements, with a battle system reminiscent of the one in Kingdom Hearts. Like KH, the party is limited to three characters and you can switch control between them at will, which should make for a much more involved battle system. There's really a lot more to talk about with FFXV, but I have plenty more RPGs to go over.
Immediately following the FFXV reveal was one for Kingdom Hearts III, which makes sense considering Tetsuya Nomura is the director for both. KH3 has been rumored for years, and finally we got our first glimpse at it. The teaser trailer was incredibly brief and basically showed Sora picking up the Keyblade on a beach (most likely on Destiny Islands), and then running from a mob of Heartless. There isn't a ton known about KH3, but hopefully there'll be a ton more worlds added in since Disney has acquired Marvel, LucasFilm, and Pixar since the release of Kingdom Hearts II. Imagine squaring off against Darth Vader or Dr. Doom while Iron Man or Buzz Lightyear fight by your side. It'd be freaking awesome, but we'll just have to wait for a lot more information on KH3.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX may already be out in Japan and it's not exactly a "new" game since it's an HD remake of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Re:Chain of Memories. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is also included, but it'll be about three hours worth of cinematics telling the story instead of a playable game. That being said, HD 1.5 ReMIX is going to be a fantastic way to get back into the Kingdom Hearts world, just with the first game more resembling KH2 thanks to the tweaks of the Final Mix. The camera and command menu are similar to KH2, and means a more consistent gameplay experience throughout the series. Hopefully an HD remake of KH2 isn't far behind, and maybe with another one or two of the portable games for good measure.
You may think it odd seeing the new Dragon Age listed here after the way Dragon Age II was botched, but I have high hopes for DA: Inquisition. The game is running on the Frostbite 3 engine and BioWare has said gameplay will be a mixture of the best elements from DAO and DA2. What exactly that means we have no idea, but hopefully it's more of a tactical combat experience with some more speed to the animations. Customization of companion characters is also going to return, which was effectively stripped out in DA2. As for the story, well, there isn't a ton to go on, but the Circle of Magi have effectively gone rogue, with the Templar Order separating from the Chantry in order to wage a civil war on mages. DAI is said to feature much more of Thedas than ever before, possibly taking us to Orlais, and hopefully that means a more open world to explore. Hey, after seeing the same five dungeons in DA2 over and over, I'll take more variety any day.
Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4, XBO)
I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Go Big or Go Home!" That seems to be CD Projekt RED's mantra for the final game in The Witcher trilogy. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is 30 times larger than the previous game and 20% larger than the reigning open-world RPG champion, Skyrim. However, unlike Skyrim, The Witcher 3 is a very story-driven game, not a sandbox experience. CD Projekt is promising around 50 hours of gameplay for the main storyline and another 50 for side quests in the open world. The world is also seamless with no loading screens – so if you want to walk, ride or sail from one end to the other, you can do so... though I imagine that would take awhile.
Powering The Witcher 3 is the new REDengine 3, a 64-bit engine designed specifically for developing open world environments. Merely in the alpha stage of development, the game already looks absolutely gorgeous. Combat also looks a lot slicker than the previous games, though that's not surprising – Geralt now has 96 action sequences compared to just 20 in The Witcher 2. And if you despise quick-time events (QTEs) like I do, you'll be happy to learn that there will be none – every attack will be up to you, nothing will be scripted. If you worry that combat may get repetitive, CD Projekt RED is promising up to 80 unique monster types. And unlike some other well- known RPGs, enemies won't scale, so you better be careful where you traipse early on. If you're an RPG fan and The Witcher 3 isn't on your radar, you need to have your head examined.
Runners-Up: Dark Souls II (PC, PS3, 360), South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC, PS3, 360), Dragon's Crown (PS3, Vita)
Like The Witcher 3, Dark Souls II is a mature RPG. Unlike The Witcher 3, it's not so much about story as it is about dying over and over again in the hopes that you eventually learn something. While developer From Software has stated that the beginning of the game will be more accessible to newcomers, don't believe for one second that the game will be a cake walk. Like the first game, dying is simply part of the experience. In fact, during E3, publisher Namco Bandai announced that they would give out a free t-shirt to anyone who could beat the boss monster, Mirror Knight, at the end of the E3 demo. Nobody earned the coveted t-shirt. While one boss battle during a demo doesn't prove anything, it should at least restore some faith that the sequel will be every bit as challenging as the first game. For PC gamers, the promise that the game is receiving the proper care and attention it deserves is reason enough to be excited. From Software was excused for the shoddy PC port of Dark Souls, but the PC gaming community won't be so kind this time around. I think the company knows that.
South Park: The Stick of Truth was my Best RPG last year and it certainly continued to impress this year. After the collapse of publisher THQ, it was just nice to see it at E3 at all (it's now being published by Ubisoft). The trailer shown during the Ubisoft Press Conference was classic South Park, introducing us to a fart called the Nagasaki. It's called that, because when done correctly, it makes you go "oooooooo." Yes, the trailer was both hilarious and offensive – in other words, South Park! While The Witcher 3 and Dark Souls II are labeled mature RPGs due to their extreme violence and occasional nudity, South Park rated for mature audiences because of, what I guess some would call, immaturity. If you've never watched an episode of South Park and laughed your balls off, this game probably isn't for you. But if you're a South Park fan, even in the slightest, consider this gaming gold.
If you checked out Best Action Hack-and-Slash (and of course you're reading every single page, right?), you may remember me mentioning Dragon's Crown. Dragon's Crown is an action-RPG masked as a side-scrolling beat 'em up. You can choose one of six characters (fighter, amazon, wizard, elf, dwarf, and sorceress) and party with up to three friends as you hack-and-slash your way through hordes of enemies. In true action-RPG fashion, your characters and skills level up, and there are a ton of items you can acquire and equip. Visually, the game has a hand-painted, exaggerated style. While combat may get repetitive, if you love collecting better and better loot, you'll surely be able to sink hours upon hours into Dragon's Crown.