By TerraMantis 19 Comments
2011 was a pretty great year for RPG players with some fantastic entries into the genre. Here and there some games may not have delivered exactly what was expected or simply didn’t live up to what we wish they could have been, BUT thankfully, more often than not fans of role-playing games should’ve been fairly happy with the outcome of some really superb titles from 2011.
And the nominees are…
Though the list is short the title of role-playing game of the year was still a hard decision to make nonetheless.
My choice for Role-Playing Game of the year has to be handed to the developers of…”The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings”.
One could think that’s a bit of a contradiction because The Witcher 2 was not my highest scored RPG of the year. That being said, I don’t think that I played a game for more satisfying hours than I did while adventuring through the horrifying walkways of Lordran’s keeps in Dark Souls and I don’t think any other game this year had more noteworthy content than Skyrim. As a matter of fact I believe that The Witcher 2 itself had many combat features and aspects that were changed from its 2007 predecessor which were actually derivative and inspired by From Software’s “Souls” franchise. In the end, it was a very hard decision because The Witcher didn’t have nearly as much rich content or character flexibility as Skyrim and many of its gameplay aspects were derivative of the Souls games themselves. So why then? Why did I choose The Witcher 2 even though it didn’t score as high as Skyrim or Dark Souls and it actually had many inspired new features taken directly from these associated titles of the genre?
Well, I choose CD Projeckt Red’s “The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings” for several reasons. First off, CD Projeckt Red just seems to exude integrity and have a sincerity to make games FOR players. They are a new born baby when compared to other Tripple “A” developers, with a crowning achievement of creating only 2 games in their brief history yet they were able to elegantly combine sophisticated gameplay mechanics that were not completely derivative nor substantially innovative and still make a fantastic game that seemed to be exactly what they were aiming for. Also, in an industry sickened with an illness of DLC beggary where basically ALL other developers do not try to reward their faithful supporters and instead choose to nickel-and-dime us to death with what 10 years ago would’ve otherwise simply been called content. CD Projeckt Red has instead decided to reward their supporters. Most other developers have chosen to charge us gamers for extra content, alternative outfits and gear, levels, storage chests, additional characters, and so on. And the worst part, the mass of the developers have actually brainwashed many of the players (new and old alike) into thinking that the current direction DLC is heading is a good evolution in gaming.
Well, CD Projectk Red says NO, they say fuck the dumb shit. If you guys supported us and bought our game we plan to reward you time and again. Not simply because we believe we have made a compelling and enthralling RPG experience through the perspectives that the Witcher universe can convey, but also because any AND ALL DLC content we create for the game will be free to any and all whom have purchased our game from us…supported our company.
The free DLC almost feels like CD Projeckt RED’s love letter to the players and supporters of their games. And I first and foremost thank them full heartedly. It is a great breath of fresh air in an industry plagued with the overpriced and (mostly) crappy DLC disease.
Now, as for The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings itself let’s just say…extraordinary. A few of The Witcher 2’s commendable qualities are amazing decision making that is ambiguous not only through its display of morality that is neither black or white but also through its obscured foreshadowed consequences, excellent crafting, potion brewing, flexible Witcher specializations, and the story itself is written in a way that deserves applause because of its perplexing issues and MATURE delivery along with superb video gaming moments that will genuinely be etched into your memory forever. The way the narrative plays out is not the only aspect the game delivers with maturity. The difficulty asks the player to be experienced and hopefully have some intuitive familiarity with gaming. Weird right? Almost like it was a game intended for experienced gamers and it has a mature story? In an industry where gaming is time-and-again trying to be made more mainstream, continually dumbed down, and repeatedly made as accessible as possible for as large an audience as possible that most game developers tend to lose sight of what made their games truly special to begin with. It is simply nice to see that a game developer that can undertake this difficult task and show others that you can create the game you want, with the mentality and difficulty you want, AND have it still be an enormous success. Even in spite of the estimated ratio of 4.5 million copies of Witcher 2 pirated to its 1+ million legitimately sold copies.
Did I mention that basically every game is now compared to The Witcher 2 when the issue of graphics and environmental development is brought up? That is something in and of itself don’t you think?
Hey, we’re a small company with a handful of years under our belt. Oh yeah, we’re also going to develop our own brand-new game engine while creating this amazing RPG experience with our limited resources and without the budget of all the other massive development companies out there yet we’re still going to set the new graphical bar in gaming even with these limitations. Oh right, and we’re giving all of our additional content to our player base…for free.
If nothing else The Witcher 2 is an example and lesson not only for RPGs but also for all games in general. A lesson that with a focused vision in game development and what seems to be a respect for their players, that developers can deliver what people have had a hunger for which is a complex and sophisticated gaming experience. Hopefully various other game developers will look at The Witcher 2 and strive to mimic many of these admirable qualities.
All in all, CD Projeckt Red’s The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings got my "Best RPG of 2011" because everything about it is simply the right direction the future of gaming should be headed in. Not simply because it was a fantastic game to begin with, but also from every aspect down to development and respect of their supporters. This game is an example in mechanic and execution that hopefully other developers will strive to mirror.
A quick look at some 2012 RPGs that I am anticipating but not advocating…yet (just watching some).