It didn't matter if you were a Western RPG fan, or a connoisseur of JRPGs; whether you were in it for the story, the combat, the epic loot, or all of the above, there was an RPG for you this year. Many of them were hybrids, many had taken on elements from other genres in a bid to grow and expand, many of them were franchised entities, building on games that had come before in evolutionary manner. Projects went abandoned, revision left untouched, there were timesinks aplenty - too many worlds to save, characters to get to know, destinies to fulfil, and legacies to forge.
And loot. So much awesome loot.
NB. Click on the thumbnails for price comparisons and the game's title for the relevant review where available.
We described Borderlands 2 as "the best co-op shooter of its generation" and it still holds true to that accolade. Outstanding AI, superlative scripting, one of this generation's finest villains in Handsome Jack, persistent RPG mechanics and upgrades, and more loot than we knew what to do with, Borderlands 2 was a huge step up from its predecessor. Not that Borderlands 1 wasn't great, it's just that its bigger, badder, bolder brother was so very pleasing.
It was broken in places, and Gransys was one of the more forgettable worlds we've seen from an RPG, but Dragon's Dogma was one hell of an endearing game. Breathtaking combat, an innovative Pawn mechanic, and deep customisation options made it a firm favourite in spite of its flaws. Plus, the opportunity to take down a hole bunch of mythical beasts made it all the sweeter. Refreshingly mature.
Square delivered a game that built upon, and corrected a number of the mistakes of, its predecessor, whilst sacrificing none of what made FFXIII an attractive proposition in the first place. This was a game that made few concessions to genre unbelievers, preferring to reward the faithful with some fine examples of fan service. It wasn't perfect, and it doesn't quite stand on its own two feet, but rather made a bid to be the game that FFXIII should have been...and it largely succeeded.
Big Huge Games made a big huge game, and one that was good for hundreds of hours of addictive questing. The brilliant combat and compelling skill system deserved stronger characters and a more imaginative, less insipid setting, but Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning absolutely nailed the 'Playing Game' aspect of RPGs. With gameplay this good, we were willing to forgive the compromise in the 'Role' department.
The third and final entry in the Mass Effect trilogy was a stunning achievement. The combat systems were better than ever, the multiplayer hugely enjoyable, and there was a sense of scale and heightened emotion that drove everything. But it was the excellent pacing and wonderful writing that rung out, providing us with some of the most memorable moments in videogaming. It's just a shame that BioWare rushed and ruined the ending. The journey was sublime; the destination found utterly wanting.
If last year's JRPG spectacular - Xenoblade Chronicles - gave us forward-thinking genre pinnacle for our times, this year's The Last Story sought to create the definitive traditional JRPG. Sakaguchi's opus was beautiful, and gave the Wii a fittingly epic swansong.
Runic Games may have less than 40 developers on staff, but they delivered what was perhaps the best loot grinder since Diablo II. Practically perfect in every way, it shamed Blizzard's third effort in the aforementioned franchise through comprehensive content and exquisite execution.
Unbelievable value, enormous longevity, superb mechanics, and a perfect balance of substance and style, Torchlight II tole Blizzard's crown this year by out-Diabloing Diablo. Runic's follow-up to their RPG smash hit gave fans everything that they wanted and more, delivering a dungeon-crawling loot-grinder that came as close to perfection as we've ever seen, and presented what Blizzard could not: a true successor to Diablo II.