RPG of the Year
RPGamer's staff members have varied tastes, but year after year when we score the last twelve months of RPGs for our awards, the top game is a major AAA console release with a wide appeal that everyone who played it on staff enjoyed. In a year where BioWare disappointed, Bethesda's RPG had multiple detractors on staff, Atlus USA's big console release wasn't an RPG, and the other JRPG localizers didn't release any console games with a broad appeal, we weren't quite sure what would happen. Would the Game of the Year go to a niche title only a few people in its target audience played? Would it default to the latest entry in a series with an established fanbase? Would a great handheld RPG finally win? We were surprised and happy to see Bastion, a downloadable title quietly played and adored by many staff members, end up on top.
Everything about Bastion is outstanding. From the memorable narration, to the vivid art style, to the music enhancing the game, to the solid and highly customizable gameplay, to the Old West-inspired fantasy setting, you could ask five different people what the best part of the game is and get five different answers. The most impressive feat is how Bastion marries these superlative features and presents a coherent, unique, artistic experience in the process.
The game's mechanics and presentation center around the concept of the Calamity, and how the world is broken. The empty landscape builds itself around the hero as he treads across the lifeless world. In this manner the graphics style becomes a gameplay mechanic in itself; with new areas and challenges appearing from the void, you often have to choose a route or discover a secret before the world has finished reconstructing in front of you. A narrator speaks in short phrases as the Kid performs actions and as the stage forms, often feeling as alien and detached as the fragments of Caelondia. As the world's visuals join together, the narrator's audio joins in sync with it, together crafting an interesting, beautiful, and sad setting from the post-Calamity nothingness, and all of this happens in response to the player's movement and actions. This whole fascinating experience comes on top of the most enjoyable, deep, and varied action-RPG combat system in any modern downloadable RPG, and makes it RPGamer's best RPG of 2011.
This was a very diverse year for RPGs, and lots of different titles were battling it out for the top spot. While our top pick went to a very non-traditional experience, our second place title went to a game in a long-running series. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword took the experience many long for in a Zelda game and mixed in a heart-warming story, fantastic combat mechanics, a variety of new tools, and even seemed to not anger those of us on staff that normally hate motion control. Coming in third, Radiant Historia's unorthodox twist on time travel helped win the hearts of those looking for something different out of the JRPG mold. Atlus USA charmed its way into our hearts with this amazing tale and quick-paced RPG.
by Glenn Wilson and Michael Cunningham