We can deny it all we want, but at the end of the day a true RPGamer loves a good story. We can get a solid gameplay experience anywhere, but it's not always easy to find an enjoyable tale. These are a few of the titles that were able to take us away from the real world for a little while this year. Join us in applauding the top RPG stories of 2009.
Each of the origin stories in Dragon Age: Origin offers a unique introduction to the main storyline. Giving players the option of six different perspectives, each gives a completely different experience. Complimenting these origins is the fact that player decisions actually matter and have lasting effects both on the story and on party members. This system gives gamers an opportunity to actually role-play instead of being pushed down a set path, as some options might even cause friendly party members to turn on and attack the group.
These decisions are not easy to make, as most are shades of gray. Not only that, but the consequences are tough to live with, so overall it helps create a level of immersion that will have players jumping back into the game again just to see how things would differ if another path was taken. Some well choreographed plot sequences give shock value and emotional emphasis to key moments, and it's easy to start caring about the characters in the setting no matter how small their roles. It is not so much that Dragon Age offers an original take on a fantasy narrative so much as it's that the player has a big hand in how things play out within that story in an expansive, interesting world that makes Dragon Age: Origins truly shine in this department.
While many RPGs use cliché stories and settings, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor breaks the mold in a variety of ways. Featuring a modern setting, over a dozen characters with a significant role in the story, and a very interesting plot premise, Devil Survivor sets itself apart from the stereotypical RPG right from the beginning. Original story elements alone, however, do not win awards. Devil Survivor brings them together with well written plot twists as the characters learn more about the situations they find themselves in. Furthermore, choices the player makes profoundly impacts the story, with poor decisions carrying terrible consequences. This level of control in a story really draws the player into the role of the character in the story, which is arguably the most important point of an RPG
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride is the second game in the Zenithia trilogy, a storyline that involves a legendary hero, a floating castle in the sky, and a set of top-tier equipment that only the chosen one can wear. While Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen was divided up into sections that covered multiple characters, Dragon Quest V sticks with one character's trials and tribulations as he attempts to save the world. Even though it trades a party of individual characters for a cast of recruited monsters at times, it still remains suitably epic.
by Tom Goldman, Phillip Willis, Michael Cunningham