We’re kicking off an exciting time, with highly anticipated games releasing all throughout the spring. This is especially a delightful time for RPG fans. Think about it: We get new IP with Horizon Zero Dawn. Torment: Tides of Numenera, a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, one of the strongest written RPGs, just launched. A new Nier game, which seemed unlikely years ago, is just around a corner. And let’s not forget, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Persona 5 are also coming up – two series with strong legacies that fans have been waiting to see go to the next level in a new generation. That’s all worth celebrating. I can’t remember when I last felt this excited by a spring RPG lineup; so I wanted to reflect a bit on these games, as I feel they all have interesting things going for them.
Horizon Zero Dawn is just an amazing story in itself. In this risk-adverse industry, how often do you see a developer switch genres and go big with an open-world RPG? Everything about Horizon excites me, from its outcast protagonist taking control of her own destiny to fighting its giant dinosaur-like machines. I was fortunate enough to go on our cover story, and the team’s passion for the project was infectious. I hope it’s the start of something bigger for them. So far, the reviews have been glowing. Our own Jeff Marchiafava said in his review, “Horizon forges its own path with a grand sci-fi tale and smart, challenging combat.” For more tips and things you should know, you should check out his recent feature.
Nier Automata may not have the hype surrounding it that some of these other RPGs do, but there’s a reason that first game had such a cult following (a touching story and great character interactions), and I’m intrigued to see where it can go next. When the original Nier released, it wasn’t a blockbuster, its reviews were mixed, and then its developer Cavia disbanded. Its future looked bleak, which is why it’s so great to see Platinum Games teaming up with Square Enix to bring us a sequel. Even series series creator Taro Yoko, producer Yosuke Saito, and composer Keiichi Okabe returned for Automata. The first Nier’s combat didn’t do it any favors, but its story and characters resonated strongly with players. Here’s hoping Platinum can provide the stylish action it’s known for to give it an upper hand in that area. I’m just happy to see the series get another shot.
Both Mass Effect Andromeda and Persona 5, though drastically different games, fall into a similar place for me. Both series need to prove they can move beyond what they’ve done in the past and evolve. These two games also feature new casts that must compete with the high bar set by previous entries. There’s something exciting about just meeting new people in these universes, sort of like the first day of school. Will I be introduced to cool people? How will they challenge me? Will this new backdrop offer me the new opportunities I desire? Interestingly enough, both of these franchises handle party bonding so well, and that’s really what makes the experiences. I feel like getting to know the characters around you is essential to RPGs and not enough game let you explore who these people are as individuals as much as they should. Both have also found interesting ways to start fresh. Persona 5 takes place in actual Japan this time around, previously you were in fictional towns and cities. For someone like me who enjoys and visits Japan, I love having the experience grounded in the real world like that and being able to visit places like Shibuya and Akihabara. Mass Effect Andromeda takes you to a new galaxy to find a new home, removing itself from Shepard as far as it can, which is a smart move. The stakes need to be new. We don’t want to compete with Shepard’s legacy.
As I noted before, Torment: Tides of Numenera is exciting for those who really enjoy narrative in their RPGs and having choice in how things play out. I love games that really immerse you in their settings and make you feel a part of them, and I have this inkling that Tides of Numenera might just provide that. Our reviewer Matt Miller seemed pleased with what it had to offer, saying in his review: “Cerebral and often disturbing, Torment is a rabbit hole of significant depth, where you can get lost in improbable imaginings of warped realities and existential angst. If you can wrap your head around a non-linear narrative all about consciousness, identity, and memory, Torment is a riveting departure from expectation.” I’ve really been impressed with inXile’s devotion to resurging the CRPGs of yesteryear. Games like Bard’s Tale, Wasteland, and Planescape: Torment had such an impact on the genre that it’s great to see inXile try to build on those successes and push the boundaries for a new generation of gamers.
Before I close this out, I also want to remind you of some smaller games launching in this spring window, such as Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey on March 7 and Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia on May 19. The Atelier games have long been a guilty pleasure of mine. I just enjoy the protagonist’s coming-of-age stories and besting my last creation with the fun alchemy system. Fire Emblem Echoes is inspired by Fire Emblem Gaiden, which launched in 1992 only in Japan. This entry has focuses more on exploration and dungeon crawling, but when you trigger a battle, it’s still the same tactical battle system we’ve come to expect from the series. Something about seeing Fire Emblem include more exploration just intrigues me, and I’ve always wondered about Gaiden as a longtime Fire Emblem fan.
All of these RPGs coming out in the same window might seem a little overwhelming, but my best advice is to stick to your own pace and just have fun. Don’t pressure yourself to finish them all by a certain time. We wait so long for these games, and I don’t think we always stop to smell the roses and appreciate them as much as we can. This isn’t a race. It’s about getting the most you can out of these games and deciding what’s right for you. For some that will be doing every side quest; for others it will be mostly zipping through the critical path. Either way, it’s exciting to know we’ll have plenty to keep us busy in the months ahead.