Microsoft, though not new to the world of technology, entered the gaming fray as a newbie, just as the venerable Sega was departing. With its Xbox featuring the highest technical specs of the three major consoles and the marketing power of the operating system giant, it hardly matters that during the first year of its existence the console hasn't garnered a particularly large number of RPGs. The ones that it has had are remarkable nonetheless. Foremost among them is Bethesda Softworks port of The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind.
Taking on the role of a prisoner-would-be-secret-imperial-operative in a world of amazing detail and beauty, you are given the entirety of the one thousand plus hour game in which to talk with each inhabitant and explore every nook and cranny of the Isle of Morrowind. Considering the action-based nature of the game and the typical difference in target audiences between PC and console game, the conversion of such a complex title from a keyboard and mouse to controller interface went amazingly well. Though this was one of their first memorable efforts, let's hope that Bethesda keeps up the good work.
Taking first runner-up this year is Yu Suzuki's second installment in the Shenmue saga. The game focuses around the journey of Ryo Hazuki as he attempts to avenge his murdered father, and it implements a battle system that can only be called revolutionary as far as RPGs are concerned. With stunning graphics and music, as well as the personal efforts of one of the world's foremost game designers, Shenmue II is a fantastic game with an outlook of becoming epic indeed, with its final installment.
Third place this year falls to the port Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. The real-time strategy nature of the title is drawn roughly from its predecessors on the PC, although with enough alterations to the control scheme and story as to remain fresh, even for weathered Baldur's Gate fans. Featuring some amazing spell effects, fantastic music tracks, gorgeous scenery, and the freedom of exploration that Dungeons & Dragons has become synonymous with, Dark Alliance is a strong addition to the Xbox library.
With amazing titles like Fable and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic on the horizon for the Xbox, it's doubtless that RPG fans on the Microsoft field will have little to worry about in 2003. The console has weathered the worst, and from now on it can only get better.