These are GamingBolt’s top 10 role playing games of 2018.
The genre of role playing games has been one of the pillars holding up the video games industry for as long as anyone can remember, and in all these years, it has never wavered, constantly delivering excellent stories and worlds. 2018 was no different in that regard. This year, we got to play some amazing RPGs, coming from Japanese developers, western developers, and indie developers alike, and a whole lot of these ranked as some of the best games we’ve played all year. Picking out just ten out of all the RPGs we’ve played this year was no easy task, and selecting a winner from those ten was even more difficult, but of course, that is just what we did.
Without further ado, then, these are GamingBolt’s nominees and winner for the Best RPG of 2018.
NOTE: The nominees and winner were decided by an internal vote held among the entire GamingBolt staff.
THE NOMINEES ARE…
Games that can back their unique and interesting concepts with solid execution of those ideas are a rarer breed than they should be, but Moonlighter is exactly that kind of experience. It’s got elements of roguelike dungeon crawling and grinding for loot, which should have inherently been addictive and engaging in and of themselves, but it goes above and beyond and ties that in which with the concept of managing your own store. “One more run” is something that has defined roguelikes for a long time, but Moonlighter’s DNA adds greater meaning and value to that, giving you even more of an incentive for wanting to dive into its dungeons for the sake of progression.
At first glance, it’s easy to think of CrossCode is little more than a throwback to classic action-RPGs, but hiding beneath that admittedly attractive exterior is a game that is extremely inventive in more ways than one. Set, essentially, in a game within a game – or an MMORPG within a single player RPG, to be more precise – CrossCode exhibits bold ideas constantly, and does them justice by executing them confidence. Its combat system is inventive and addictive, and its blend of MMORPG style gameplay with a classic single player RPG structure makes it one of the most surprisingly innovative and enjoyable games of the year.
Dontnod Entertainment’s Vampyr is very different from the kind of games they usually make, but it’s fair to say that it’s a very successful experiment on their part, in spite of its missteps. Vampyr’s gothic setting of a post-World War I London is immediately arresting, and the emphasis it puts on player choice makes it a game that is very easy to get invested in. The residents of London are all crucial to the fate of the city in their own unique ways, and deciding which of these excellently developed and voiced characters live and which ones don’t, and balancing that with the needs of budding vampire Jonathan Reid himself, makes for a captivating experience.
NI NO KUNI 2: REVENANT KINGDOM
Expectations were high from Level-5’s Ni no Kuni 2 in the build up to its highly anticipated launch, and it’s fair to say that it delivered in spades. While it doesn’t match some of its predecessors biggest strengths quite as well as some would have hoped, it surpasses it in several other areas. Ni no Kuni 2’s world, the people who inhabit it, and its core cast of characters are utterly charming, and the 40-50 hours-long journey the game takes you on is consistently brimming with that same charm. When it’s not being a JRPG to be loved by both traditional and newcomer fans of the genre alike, Ni no Kuni 2 a surprisingly engaging kingdom builder and management game on the side. The fact that it manages to coherently bring all of its distinct parts together makes it a joyous, wholesome experience that is a must-play for all JRPG fans.
THE BANNER SAGA 3
The Banner Saga 3 is not an innovative game- but it doesn’t need to be. It knows exactly what made its predecessors some of the best strategy role playing games of the last few years, and it plays to those strengths as much as it can. The tactical combat of the first two games is as strong as it has ever been in The Banner Saga 3, the visual aesthetic is just as beautiful as ever, but most importantly, the world, the story, and the characters that the series has built up till now shine brighter than ever. Immaculate writing and some truly weighty player choices elevate the narrative to unbelievable heights, and by the time you reach the conclusion, you can’t help but applaud the flawlessness of its execution.
POKEMON LET’S GO, PIKACHU! AND LET’S GO, EEVEE!
There was no shortage of cynicism surrounding Pokemon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! in the build up to its launch, and on paper, it all seemed justified, but we’re glad that Game Freak proved us completely wrong. Let’s Go is a breezy, delightful trek through the origins of the series. It brings Kanto to love with charming HD visuals, and rides the nostalgia wave hard, but even when viewed on its own merits, its qualities are undeniable. Just as an example, the absence of random encounters and being able to see wild Pokemon in the overworld are huge plus points that make the entire experience infinitely better. With Generation 8 coming out on the Switch next year, Let’s Go is an exciting sneak peek at what the future of Pokemon on consoles holds for fans of the series.
Octopath Traveler is a dream come true for fans of classic 8- and 16-bit JRPGs. It banks hard on the core hook of being a throwback to a very particular style of games, but it does so very successfully, and in a manner where it never feels like a gimmick or like its pandering to anything or anyone. It has a completely open ended structure that encourages freeform progression, and an excellent turn based combat system that involves actual strategy and nuance, not to mention an absolutely gorgeous diorama-esque aesthetic and an amazing soundtrack. The game makes some concessions in the narrative department to allow other, more central parts of its premise to shine through, but as a whole, Octopath Traveler is a game that absolutely should not be missed by any JRPG fan.
MONSTER HUNTER WORLD
Any time a series tries to appeal to new audiences through greater accessibility, no matter how many promises it makes about not wanting to alienate existing fans, there is always a healthy amount of skepticism surrounding it. Monster Hunter World’s vision to do the same was no different, but Capcom well and truly blew all doubts to smithereens. This is Monster Hunter through and through, but it’s smarter, slicker, better, and more beautiful than ever before. The ridiculously addictive loop of grinding for better gear is still at the core of the experience, but supporting mechanics are executed with the kind of polish and smart design that, until now, had been missing in Monster Hunter games. With hundreds of hours of gameplay wrapped up in a fantastic overall package, Monster Hunter World is undoubtedly one of the best RPGs of this year.
DRAGON QUEST 11: ECHOES OF AN ELUSIVE AGE
The progenitor of the RPG genre as we know it today, Dragon Quest returned to limelight in 2018 after a long absence, but Echoes of an Elusive Age was well worth the wait. Rather than trying to wow players with forced innovations or bold new mechanics, Dragon Quest 11 focuses on the essence of what makes this genre and this series so great, and doubles down on those elements. The world of Erdrea is vast, varied, and gorgeous, the game’s cast of main characters is charming and loveable, and throughout its runtime, Dragon Quest 11 keeps delighting players with excellent new sights to behold. Though this is a game that can take anywhere between sixty to eighty hours to finish, by the time you’re done with it, you can’t help but crave for more.
ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY
When Assassin’s Creed went to Ancient Egypt in 2017, it started veering into RPG territory, and upon its visit to Ancient Greece this year, it went all in on that front. With dialogue choices, multiple endings, romance options, skill trees, and a deep loot system, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey boldly declares itself as a full fledged RPG, and executes its vision with great aplomb. The choices you make as a player define the story of Alexios or Kassandra in interesting ways, while the amount of control the game affords over your progression makes sure that you are always invested- and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey does it all while still feeling very much like an Assassin’s Creed title. Ubisoft took a risk with this new approach for the series, one that could have alienated its fans, but it’s fair to say that, in the end, it is a risk that paid off spectacularly.
AND THE WINNER IS…
ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY
Ten years ago, “Assassin’s Creed as an RPG” would have seemed like a bizarre concept, and when Ubisoft revealed that that was the direction they were taking with Odyssey, there was certainly plenty of skepticism from fans of the franchise. But you know what? It works. It works very, very well. The huge, quest-driven open world structure that the series established last year continues in Odyssey, and it works as the perfect foil for its role playing mechanics. The meaningful progression and skill trees empower the heavily improved combat to give a great deal of freedom for players to approach objectives in a variety of manners. The dialogue choices feel like they actually serve a purpose rather than just being there for show, and not only do they allow you to define the character of Alexios and Kassandra in important ways, they also let you shape the outcome of the story and where and how it ends. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey proves that this is a series that can work wonderfully as an RPG, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that Ubisoft decided to take this franchise in this direction.