Despite being a genre that's certainly had its ups and downs, role-playing games remain a cornerstone of gaming. While traditional RPGs are few and far between outside of independent attempts, traits and mechanics that the genre introduced have steadily bled into vastly different types of releases. From shooters to sports titles, things like statistics, levelling up, and skill trees have made their way into some of the most popular franchises to ever grace our consoles.
As such, the definition of an RPG has expanded and evolved over time, creating a rather broad term that covers everything from Final Fantasy to Mass Effect. Whether you're partial to more typical Japanese RPGs, loot-heavy dungeon crawlers, or open world adventures, there's usually something for everyone when it comes to this incredible genre. And thankfully, 2014 is absolutely chocked full of role-playing goodness. To mark such an exciting span of time for RPG enthusiasts, we've put together a list of eight promising titles that are hitting PlayStation machines this year.
Scorching onto store shelves in just under two weeks, Bound by Flame makes the list because it could well be the PlayStation 4's first true fantasy RPG. While it's also releasing on the PS3, Spiders Studio's action packed adventure promises to step things up on Sony's newest console, where it'll feature butter smooth combat and some picturesque visuals. Although it's admittedly difficult not to be a little bit cautious when approaching a title that's coming from a relatively unknown studio, what we've seen of the game so far thankfully looks the part. Boasting incredibly deep player customisation and crafting options, moral choices that have you weigh up decisions with the flame demon that possesses your character, and even a romance system, there should be plenty of ways to leave your mark on this fiery tale.
It's not difficult to assume that mega-studio Bungie's Destiny is, er, destined to be 'the next big thing' in gaming. A first person sci-fi shooter that's laden with RPG elements such as player classes, skills, levelling up, and huge quantities of loot, the game will no doubt be making a big splash at this year's E3. Featuring a storyline that sees you travel all around the galaxy, we're still anxiously awaiting more details regarding the title's finer points, but with the creators of Halo at the helm, we simply can't see this going wrong. Whether you're exploring alone, with friends, or with total strangers, Destiny promises to be a colossal experience as you develop your customised guardian protagonist. September simply can't come soon enough.
After the divisive Dragon Age II, some would suggest that Dragon Age: Inquisition is developer BioWare's last chance with the franchise – but what a last chance it may turn out to be. Featuring a huge world to explore, both tactical and action-based combat, the return of player character races, a branching storyline where choices have consequence, and a cast of no doubt well written personalities, it's safe to say that the Canadian studio is really stepping things up for this impending sequel. As far as Western fantasy RPGs go, the release is certainly this year's one to watch, especially now that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has been booted into 2015. And did we mention how glorious it looks running on EA's Frostbite 3 engine?
Recently confirmed for a Western release, Japan Studio's Freedom Wars sees you tackle giant futuristic monsters in order to save your allies and cut down your ridiculous one million year sentence of service in a rather dreary apocalyptic setting. Once again, it's the Monster Hunter formula at work as you slay creatures with a squad of buddies, but it's the game's art style and flashy combat that looks to set it apart. When you're not slicing and dicing enemies with a range of cool looking weaponry such as a chainsaw sword or a huge katana, you'll be pelting them with bullets and missiles courtesy of a plethora of long range armaments. Finer details are scarce right now, but with a competent developer at the helm, this RPG should be on any Vita enthusiast's radar.
A title that's garnered a lot of attention recently when its latest trailer served to draw comparisons to Dark Souls, this action RPG promises to be full of grisly creatures, varied fighting styles, and good old fashioned loot. Playing as a ruffian known as Harkyn, you'll take the fight to a menagerie of demonic monsters with the help of a combat system that strives to be tough but fair. Challenge plays a vital role in the adventure as you learn from your mistakes and alter your approach in order to overcome each abomination that stands in your way, while the story will supposedly be a subtle affair that'll boast plenty of depth for those willing to look. It may not have a specific release date just yet, but if Lords of the Fallen does manage to scratch that particularly hardcore itch, it should prove to be a great next-gen alternative to From Software's beloved but brutal creation.
Also known as Over My Dead Body 2 in its native Japan, this handheld JRPG boats some absolutely lovely looking visuals and a tactical turn-based battle system. Taking on the role of an heir to a cursed bloodline, it's up to you to navigate labyrinth-like dungeons and receive aid from divine entities. It's not just the game's rather stunning art style that sets it apart, though, as each party member can only live for two years before their doomed DNA takes effect, meaning that you'll be jumping through different generations using a family tree system. You'll also need to expand your clan's influence by gradually taking control of a nation, and for a family full of cursed individuals, that should prove to be quite a feat. As such, cultivating your ideal group with the help of deities that are eager to experience the joys of marriage promises to give the release a lengthy playtime.
The first Tales Of title on this list, Tales of Hearts R looks like everything you'd expect from the long running series. Colourful characters, a frantic battle system, and a meaty storyline are all part of the formula, although we're curious to see how well the blueprint makes the jump to Sony's portable device. Still, with the franchise's growing popularity in the West, we're hoping that this is just the beginning of the Tales Of series' commitment to the struggling handheld. With an emphasis on aerial combat and stylish looking combos, the release isn't looking to revolutionise the franchise, but we're fairly confident that it'll prove to be a hit with JRPG fans nevertheless.
Widely regarded as one of the best games in the Tales Of series, Tales of Xillia was an absolutely solid Japanese RPG that sported an endearing cast of characters and a great battle system. Its eagerly awaited sequel, Tales of Xillia 2, promises to expand upon the original's universe by telling a separate story that takes place after the first game's events, while also throwing a number of returning characters into the mix. Suffice to say, it's probably best to play the previous title before jumping into this one, although with a new protagonist, slightly altered combat mechanics, and a branching storyline that features player choice, there should still be plenty of fresh ideas here to keep things interesting.
Did we miss any 2014 releases that you're particularly excited for? Which title on our list are you most looking forward to getting your mitts on? Vote for your most anticipated RPG in our poll, and share out your experience points in the comments section below.
Which of the following RPGs are you most looking forward to? (67 votes)
Bound by Flame
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Lords of the Fallen
Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines
Tales of Hearts R
Tales of Xillia 2
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