The Best RPG title of 2011

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).

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Mass Effect 3

Risen 2

Diablo III

Of Orcs and Men

19 Comments
19 Comments Refresh
Edited by TerraMantis

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).

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Mass Effect 3

Risen 2

Diablo III

Of Orcs and Men

Edited by Atlas

The nominees link is broken.

I'm a massive RPG nerd - clearly my favourite genre - and I'm late to the Witcher party. I finished the first game about three months ago and absolutely loved it, but I don't always like to go straight from one game into the next one in the series, so I waited. And then Skyrim came out, and almost all my game playing time for the last month has gone into that. Deservedly so, because it's my 2011 GOTY by far at the moment (loved Portal 2, but can't compare), but I do really want to try and play Witcher 2 before the end of the year.

Your love of the game seems to come from love of CD Projekt's practices just as much as the game itself, and there's nothing wrong with discussing that stuff, but for me, I like to judge my games of the year based on the game, almost irrelevant to the company that produced it. I have affinity for certain publishers and developers - Valve, Bethesda, Paradox, Turn 10 etc. - but that affinity comes from how much I love their games, not their practices. Bethesda releases broken games, but I love them anyway, because their games are so crazy ambitious and excellently crafted (at least as far as world design goes).

My most anticipated RPG of 2012 is easily Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Part of the design team of Oblivion working with Big Huge Games and the writing of RA Salvatore is an extremely appealing combination. I am also well excited for ME3, but it's hard to even describe that game as an RPG in good conscience at this point.

Also, Of Orcs and Men? Really? Isn't that game developed by the people who made the extremely mediocre Game of Thrones strategy game this year? Wondering what about that game has you so hyped, because I have zero interest in the game at this point. Would love to be surprised, though.

Posted by Marz

it's my personal game of the year, not just "rpg" of the year.   Skyrim is probably a shoe in to win all the awards at major publications but hopefully when the 360 version of Witcher 2 comes out next year more people will see how fantastic this game is.

Posted by Atlas

@Marz: Man, that's depressing, but you're probably absolutely right. I'm sure that many people, both reviewers and average consumers, would have definitely played that game on a console but didn't want to or couldn't play the game on PC.

Actually, that reminds me of something. I did play the first two hours of Witcher 2, and it makes some changes to Witcher 1 that I'm not thrilled about. Most notable among these is that I loved how Witcher 1 had two options for the camera and character controls - pulled out camera with mouse based movement, in the style of the classic isometric RPGs, and over-the-shoulder camera with keyboard controls. I found that I played almost all of that game in the isometric view; I loved the scope of view it gave me, and controlling my character with the mouse felt more dynamic. As far as I could tell from my 2 hours with the Witcher 2, that game has one mode; over-the-shoulder camera, keyboard controls for movement. Sad face.

Also, the combat in the Witcher 1 was by no means your traditional RPG combat - it was more action focused - but the combat in Witcher 2 seemed simplified almost to the point of becoming generic. There was something really appealing about how the Witcher 1 required you to use different stances for different situations, which made combat feel more tactical (at least in the early game, that game got stupid easy for me towards the end on the default difficulty setting). The Witcher 2 almost feels like a step back in this sense, and the lock-on targeting seems really fiddly and tempremental. It almost feels like it was designed more for consoles.

As I said, these observations are not entirely formed, as I only just got out of the first stage, and maybe the combat just takes some getting used to, but my expectations for the Witcher 2 are lower now that I've seen some of these changes made.

Posted by Ping5000

I had so many problems with this game. I really didn't like how they handled piecing together Geralt's past. It was like, dialogue, dialogue and then SUDDENLY CUTSCENE BECAUSE I REMEMBERED SOMETHING WTF. There's no sense that I earned a new fragment of Geralt's memory. It was arbitrary and just kind of happened. For all the talk of non-linearity, it's really just that one point at the end of Act I that's really pivotal, providing a different point of view. There are some other decisions down the line, but the game ends before you get to see how any of that played out. The same randomness goes for attributes. You just gain them without a really knowledge of how, instead of making that part of the leveling system. The UI was pretty awful and that inventory is a clear case of form over function. Witcher 1's UI was pretty elegant and obviously designed for the PC; I can't say that for Witcher 2.

Still, a fully realized world, alright combat, insanely beautiful and everything but Geralt's memories are well-told. There were parts of Witcher 2 I really liked, but all told, I was disappointed.

Posted by Marz
@Atlas: weird, i didn't like the isometric camera in the first Witcher game, played it entirely in the over the shoulder mode.
Posted by Canteu

Radiant Historia JRPG of the year. But yes, Witcher 2 deffo takes the cake for W(?)RPG.

Edited by TerraMantis

@Atlas: I don't know what to tell you, the link works for me every time i click on it. Try this i guess.

http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/terramantis/best-rpg-title-of-2011/46-69051/ or if you don't want to do the link they were

Drakensang: The River Time, Witcher 2, Deus Ex, Dark Souls, and Skyrim.

Yes, sadly the Iso PoV is gone from Witcher 1, but to be honest i never used it in that game. Dragon Age on the other hand it was sorely missed. Witcher 1 and Dragon Age: Origins were both using BioWare's Aurora Engine which supported the top-down perspective, but they both changed engines in their second installments and opted out of having that perspective choice...i don't know why.

As for the combat i think the fundamentals of 1 are there in Witcher 2. Definitely simplified or not so much simplified as they're altered, but the groundwork is the exact same. W1's combat had a weird place between almost being turn-based combat with the timed clicks and action combat. Just as in W2 you could click on one guy, spin your camera and then click on the next thing 10 feet away and fluidly continue your attack combination. W1 was strangely close to an RPG version of Batman: Arkham Asylum combat system (before Batman was released). W1 just simply had "filler" stylish swordplay and footwork in between the timed button clicks to keep you happy with eye-pleasing swordplay. W2 just feels as though they took out those filler attack movements and you have to do all the clicking yourself. Making it feel a bit more action over turn-based. Essentially though, the combat felt the same with clicking on a target and hitting them and then spinning the camera or marking your next enemy to attack and then springing into action with swordplay in their direction. I thought it was an intelligently improved system that still kept the ideals of the original and refined it quite well. All that being said though, i do see where you could say "the combat in Witcher 2 seemed simplified almost to the point of becoming generic". It did get changed to the strong/weak weapon swing system that many games have become accustomed to and i do wish they didn't remove fighting stances. I enjoyed reading the monster tomes and figuring what combat stances to use on what monsters...it made me feel like i was learning how to be a Witcher, i was becoming a professional at monster slaying.

Also as @Ping5000 said, the UI in part 2 was nowhere near as good as W1 and i actually thought they broke one of my favorite parts of W1 which was dice-poker, but in the end, the core, the meat of the gameplay was improved.

I do believe that my love for Witcher 2 as a game is a bit underwhelmed in this article by my appreciation for CD Projectk RED's development practices and executions through my wording, but my no means is one not equal to the other. I simply payed more homage to the company because i thought my...like...25 page review of Witcher 2 said everything i needed to say about the game and i wanted to pay a bit of more respects to the company that dished out the gaming experience that i enjoyed so thoroughly.

As for the game itself and the connection between the company that develops it, i don't see how you can separate the two. I understand what you're saying by trying to objectively only focus on the game experience at hand and not obscure a point of view, whether it be nonbias or bias, by who has made that experience. I think that the connection to who develops a game and the game itself are intimately connected to one another. Looking at a game's absent but associated kindred allows for you to make predeterminations of the material, influencing thoughts and judgements about it before you've played it. For example, you still buy Bethesda games even though you know beforehand that their games will undoubtedly have bugs and simply funky problems, but the world and experience they create usually trumps any technical problems it may or may not have tenfold. Right?

I have affinity for certain publishers and developers - Valve, Bethesda, Paradox, Turn 10 etc. - but that affinity comes from how much I love their games, not their practices. Bethesda releases broken games, but I love them anyway, because their games are so crazy ambitious and excellently crafted (at least as far as world design goes)....Also, Of Orcs and Men? Really? Isn't that game developed by the people who made the extremely mediocre Game of Thrones strategy game this year?

Aren't you already making predecisions about games before you've taken part in their practice due to who has developed them?

Although, i do not allow a developer to sway my judgement. The fact that i mention CD Projectk RED so much hopefully didn't imply that my respect for the game developers had influenced my choice of the Witcher 2 being my best RPG of 2011. I wouldn't rate a game worse or in favor of who did or didn't make the game, i would solely rate it on the gaming experience, but after the fact i just thought the accomplishments of this developer should also get some face time. I don't think good developers get enough recognition, only Kratos does...or master chief...or well...Geralt. That's all.

Also, I don't know what i said that gave the impression i am "hyped" about any of those games i listed for 2012. I'm just watching them is all. I was 'watching' Hunted: Demon Forge and look how that turned out. It's just a little friendly list to those who don't watch RPGs as meticulously as i do to have an idea of what could be good in the way of RPGs for 2012.

I know that this responce is WAY too long, but i obviously have not talked about Witcher and developing at all. Guess i had to get some things off my chest.

Posted by DylanGW

Xenoblade Chronicles?

Posted by tourgen

Witcher 2 is my RPG of the year too but you should also check out Drakensang: The River of Time.  It's pretty good in a classical way.

Posted by Sackmanjones

Sorry to be the "generic" answer but Skyrim.

Edited by TerraMantis

@DylanGW said:

Xenoblade Chronicles?

I'm from the states so...technically that isn't out yet. Definitely going to get it though when it comes out.

@tourgen said:

Witcher 2 is my RPG of the year too but you should also check out Drakensang: The River of Time. It's pretty good in a classical way.

Didn't click on my nominees huh? Long story short, I played it. It was the game that actually got me to start writing reviews because I though it went so "under the radar" that it needed some recognition...in some form or another. Dragon Age could learn a thing or two from them. In retrospect, the fact that it is basically the exact same premise and gamestyle as DA2 with single-player team based combat and told from a framed narrative by a dwarf no less, it makes BioWare's "Tripple A" attempt seem even more sorry- proving that bigger budgets don't equate to better games.

@Canteu said:

Radiant Historia JRPG of the year. But yes, Witcher 2 deffo takes the cake for W(?)RPG.

I...don't know, is it western? I guess it is west of Japan. But, isn't western now basically considered the Americas? Either way i don't know, it's Polish so it's definitely not Japanese. We know that much.

Posted by Little_Socrates

@TerraMantis: I've heard some people use the term "Eastern developed" for games out of Finland, Sweden, Poland, Russia, and their ilk. Separate from "Western developed" being focused on US, Canada, Britain, France and the like. That gives us three regions, West, East, and Asia (if you lump together S. Korea and Japan, anyways.)

I'm still in the first act of The Witcher 2, and I'm very fond of the game. Unfortunately, under the current patch, it refuses to boot up or reinstall properly on my computer at campus, so I can't go back to it until I return home from winter break. I'm still not sure how I feel about it against Skyrim, Dark Souls, or Bastion, though, other than they're all contenders against each other.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Everything I've heard about The Witcher 2 suggests that it is the kind of game I would be into. Once I finish the first one (assuming I like it), the second will not be far behind.

Posted by cotubbs

I always stayed away from Drakensang because of some of the reviews. I might go check into it. The RPGs I've been playing this year have been Dungeon Defenders and Lord of the Rings Online. I liked LOTRO more than I liked WoW, and I really spent a disgusting amount of time with it (I guess its relevant because of it going free to play and the new expansion pack). Dungeon Defenders is also really fun. Both require you to find a good group to play with though. I got lucky with both.

Posted by WinterSnowblind

I definitely agree with the Witcher 2.

Xenoblade is up there too though, but I'm guessing it'll get a lot more recognition next year once it's out in the US.

Drakensang is something I've had my eye on, but I've been waiting for it to show up on a Steam sale.

Posted by AlexW00d

Even though Skyrim is my GOTY, the Witcher 2 is easily my RPG of the year. That probably doesn't make sense to some, but I don't like Skyrim for its RPG stuff, I like it for all the fucking amazing stuff that happens and how I can do whatever the fuck I want.

This game is second place in my GOTY shit as it is, so yeah, the Witcher 2.

Online
Posted by amir90

It is a tought choice between dark souls and the witcher 2.

ehm, ehm hem.

*rolls a d100*

My vote goes for...

The Witcher 2.

But both of them are great.

Edited by TerraMantis

@AlexW00d said:

Even though Skyrim is my GOTY, the Witcher 2 is easily my RPG of the year.

I actually very much agree with this. If i did do a GotY it might actually go to Dark Souls, but i think Witcher 2 embodies all of the elements of what i consider an RPG is-- through narrative and perplexities choice along side good, thoughful combat and customization-- better than Dark Souls does. In the end though, i had more fun playing Dark Souls, but Witcher is a better "rpg" but i think Dark Souls is a more fun "game". But, i don't play enough genres to say anything is the best "game in general" amongst all other genres out there. So, I just stick with RPG of the year.

@Marz said:

it's my personal game of the year, not just "rpg" of the year.

It is my GotY as well because I basically only play RPGs so my "rpg of the year" and "GotY" are one in the same. On the other hand though, I don't want to say just simply Game of the year because there are a lot of different genres out there and games that i've not played that are supposedly fantastic games like; Portal 2, Uncharted, Arkham City, Zelda, Bastion, and a few others. So, i just stick with what i think i have a fair handle on and believe i have a firm enough grasp on the RPG genre to stake my claim to what is the best RPG of the year. I can't speak for all the other stuff.