This was a great year for RPGs. There was still a ton of fantastic RPGs released, old and new. It was close, tight race for RPG of the Year, but the scores left no doubt of a clear winner. Without further ado...
In many ways, Valkyria Chronicles came as a surprise to the RPGaming community. Sure, it's appealing enough at first glance, due to a beautifully unique artistic presentation. It's hard not to raise an eyebrow at the battle system as well, if only because of how different it is from standard TRPG fare. But once you actually begin playing this masterpiece, you'll find that there's much more to it than some pretty graphics and a novel gimmick.
Valkyria Chronicles is a complete package. It features quite possibly the finest combat found in a TRPG, combining elements of fast-paced FPS titles with traditonal strategy elements. The result is some of the most intense, mind-bending gunbattles to be found in a video game. The story is equally epic and human, realistically presenting its cast of heros and villains in the midst of a tragic war, and featuring some extremely gripping, emotional moments. Production values are through the roof, with a graphical presentation that stuns on both the technical and artistic level, wonderful voice acting, and extremely well-produced and well-written cutscenes. The few, trivial rough edges present in the game are instantly and easily forgotten.
Sega's masterful take on TRPGs doesn't merely represent a strong addition to the genre; it represents a step forward. There were many superb RPGs released in 2008, but none of them raised the bar in the way that Valkyria Chronicles did. We can only hope that the Chronicles of the Valkyria don't end here.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 might seem to some as a quick cash-in on Atlus's overwhelming success with Persona 3. Thankfully, Persona 4 is no such thing. This title takes the formula created in Persona 3 and improves on it in everyway. The ability to control all allies in combat is a major improvement. Also, social links with party members now give benefits in battle. These changes combined with the improved pacing of dungeons, an interactive murder mystery story, a top notch soundtrack, and a more user-friendly interface make Persona 4 one of the best RPGs of 2008.
After a decade and a change in development studio, the long-anticipated Fallout 3 finally came to be last year. Managing to win over diehard fans of the original two games in the series as well as those who usually find RPGs to be a chore, Fallout 3 shipped nearly five million copies during launch week and has already gone on to win 360 Game of the Year and PC Game of the Year awards from general publications and websites not focusing on RPGs. Something about the enormous world, engaging battle system, open quests, and awesome graphics pulls you in and refuses to let go. Everything about the game is detailed, well thought out, and makes you want to see more. It achieves that rare feat for an RPG, providing addicting gameplay that appeals to fans of all types of games and all types of RPGs. While Oblivion's combat system and too-populated world left some RPGamers bored and annoyed, Fallout 3 hits the right spot where you want to keep playing, killing, and exploring and until you realize it's past midnight, you forgot to eat dinner, and you need to be up for work at 6am.
by Oliver Motok, Glenn Wilson, Michael Cunningham