This year we started to really see a rise in worthwhile downloadable RPGs. We saw interesting and unique RPGs on PC, PSN, DSiWare, XBLA, XBL Indie Games, and iOS. 2010 also marked the year the indie RPG scene really started to break out from beyond its PC roots and branch out into consoles and handhelds. RPGamers had better get ready, because the downloadable RPG is here to stay and that's a good thing.
Breath of Death VII: The Beginning and Cthulhu Saves the World are two titles from indie RPG developer Zeboyd Games, and we've opted to bestow first place in the Best Downloadable RPG category to both titles. This time last year, RPGamer had very little coverage for indie RPG projects, but thanks in part to Zeboyd and these two titles that is beginning to change. Each of these titles feature a tongue-in-cheek story with a fun cast of characters. Breath of Death stars Dem, a mute skeleton hero adventuring around a ruined world of the undead. Cthulhu Saves the World unsurprisingly features the ancient overlord Cthulhu as he seeks to regain his lost powers of evil by becoming a true hero and performing good deeds. The ease of entry into each of these games is part of the key to their success. Being made available for $1 and $3 respectively via the Xbox Live Indie Games section, the price of entry is low enough for most anyone with an Xbox 360. These two parody RPGs offer humor and a simple, yet deep, battle system in inexpensive packages. In a world full of $40 to $60 full retail packages, being able to purchase hours of fun for only a fraction of the price is just icing on the RPG cake.
DeathSpank and its sequel DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue are two of the premier downloadable titles this year debuting on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and the PC through Steam. This latest creation of Ron Gilbert, creator of the The Secret of Monkey Island series, takes a stab at being an all-out fantasy RPG parody, and as fantastic as the script and world are, the total package is hit or miss. The games sometime struggle to balance the humorous vision with actual gameplay, which is mostly very basic hack-and-slash, and your enjoyment of the game will largely depend on how strongly the humor pushes you to keep seeing more of the excellent dialogue. In short it can be very funny, but it can also wear on your nerves with the overly simplistic gameplay.
[Editor's Note: Sam's love for this game is so deep she is incapable of writing about it in a neutral 3rd person voice. Oddly, she can write about her boyfriend in 3rd person just fine.] I don't think I have to tell anyone what a nut I am for Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale. As soon as I had completed it, I was recommending it to friends, colleagues, and other members of the gaming press. I also probably looked like a lunatic doing it, but the game was worthy of sharing with all corners of the internet. With its amazing localization, addictive gameplay, and cracked out story, what's not to love? With the release of Recettear, I've pretty much sold my soul to Carpe Fulgur, but they already know this. Seriously, if you haven't played Recettear, you're missing out on one of the quirkiest RPGs to ever make it across the pond, and you owe it to yourself to give it a whirl so you too can add "Yepperonis" to your daily list of phrases.
by Sam Marchello, Roy Burnet, Michael Cunningham