|Stuff That's Already Out
What can I say about my gaming habits for the first half of this year? They've been characterized by large chunks of time spent on non-traditional RPGs, mixed with short chunks of time spent on gaming ADD. Since I'm a cheap so-and-so, most of the games I play are not particularly recent, but that's all right. One of the awesome things about the RPGamer community is that it isn't obsessed with only playing the latest games. In that light, I'll write about the games that have most captured my interest, or at least taken up the most of my time.
1st Place · Pokémon SoulSilver
Pokémon SoulSilver has taken by far the largest chunk of my gaming time this year. Completing the entire game, then going insane and trying to "catch them all" took a significant chunk of time. All in all, SoulSilver is a solid remake and a strong combination of the many elements that make the Pokémon series so darn addictive.
2nd Place · Harvest Moon: Animal Parade
Harvest Moon: Animal Parade features a fun cast and a ton of goals to shoot for at your own discretion. The days are very long and making enough money to upgrade your farm takes a lot of work, so it's not for the impatient. I'll have my Animal Parade review up eventually. In the meantime, if you're looking at the Harvest Moon Wii games, here's my suggestion: if you're new to the series and aren't sure if you'll like it, try Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquility. It's simpler, faster, and has a better tutorial than Animal Parade. If you're a hardcore Harvest Moon fan, Animal Parade is the game for you. It's slower-paced, more polished, more complex, and has more of everything to play around with. Both are very good Harvest Moon games, so you can't go wrong.
3rd Place · Monster Hunter Tri
Tragically, I haven't had a lot of time to play Monster Hunter Tri yet. I've enjoyed what I've played so far, and the game is difficult enough that I feel like I'm paying proper penance after playing Pokémon and Harvest Moon. I did write an editorial that was basically an ode to my female character, who looks proud and tough and like she can totally go toe-to-toe with the nasty monsters in the game. I like the fact that I need to carefully prepare for each mission, and the game doesn't hold your hand too much. Hopefully I'll spend more time with this game later this summer, as one of my good friends has it now, and she and I might get some multiplayer in.
4th Place · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
I resisted buying Oblivion for a long time, having heard that it's a lackluster experience unless heavily modded. I couldn't resist a recent Steam sale for $8.00, though. Modding Oblivion to one's liking is practically a game in itself, but I've finally got my copy up and running smoothly. It sure looks pretty with an enhanced texture pack, enhanced character textures, a mod that redoes all the NPC faces to reduce their fuglification, and an enhanced weather/nature system. Not to mention the mod that gives the enemies static levels and sensical loot tables, the mod that overhauls the character levelling system, and the mod that adds a ton of new enemies and gives them more interesting AI. Since the game I'm playing barely resembles the original in terms of visuals and mechanics, I figured I'd make it my own personal sandbox. I'm playing a custom human race with a few animal attributes who rides a dapple-grey unicorn with a flowing mane and tail. That's right, I'm a catgirl riding a freaking My Little Pony, robbing the rich and giving to myself. I don't really know if The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is any good, but the game I'm playing is a ton of fun.
Special Rage-Inducing Category · Divinity II: Ego Draconis
My first review for RPGamer, awesome! Too bad it was a bit of a stinker. I liked the first half of Divinity II well enough, but the second half caused me to fly off the handle. From dumping me into dragon combat for the first time with about 30 towers shooting at me to having various quest bugs and interface glitches that nearly caused me to fling my mouse through my monitor, poor Divinity II's score dropped more the longer I played it. And after all that aggravation, what did I get? A bummer of an ending that couldn't have been altered by any choice I made in the game. I suppose I should have expected that type of experience, but the lure of finding another gem like The Witcher keeps me volunteering to review possibly dodgy PC RPGs by small European publishers.