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Monday, January 07, 2008

Top 10: Role playing games

Please note: This special series of VideoGamer.com's Top 10 is a buyer's guide for Christmas 2007 and New Year 2008, and as such only includes modern titles available for the currently supported platforms. It is not a best of all time list.

10. Kingdom Hearts II - PS2/PS3.
Kingdom Hearts II
One for those PS2 owners out there (and owners of PS3s with backwards compatibility!), Kingdom Hearts II, from Japanese developer Square Enix, is a super-cute role-playing game which fuses all that's great about Disney with all that's great about role-playing. You'll visit a number of lands from Disney movies, including themed areas from Pirates of the Caribbean, Tron, Mulan and Aladdin. You should be able to pick this one up for about £15, making it a great stocking-filler for any role-playing fan.

9. Titan Quest - PC.
Titan Quest
Sure, this one's over a year old, but it's still a super RPG that PC-owning RPG fans are sure to get a kick out of. What's great about Titan Quest is that it can be played almost entirely with the mouse, giving it a certain charm. It's got everything you'd expect from an RPG - hordes of mythical creatures and impressive productions values. For those of you twiddling your thumbs waiting for Blizzard to pump out a sequel to Diablo, you could do a lot worse than Titan Quest. And you can pick this up with its expansion, Immortal Throne, for under a tenner.

8. Pokemon Pearl/Diamond - DS.
Pokemon Pearl/Diamond
While Pokemon isn't for everyone, Pikachu and co certainly have a loyal fanbase. And these two DS games do the series proud. As Will said in his review: "Diamond and Pearl are among the best Pokémon titles so far, if not the best. Visually the game is fantastic, ably juggling 2D and 3D elements, and the soundtrack is catchy, upbeat and distinctly Pokémon themed. If you are a virgin monster hunter or seasoned fan with a bulging Pokédex, this game will be engrossing, exciting and provide wonderfully fulfilling escapism." We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

7. Guild Wars - PC.
Guild Wars
Although this massively multiplayer online RPG has been out since 2005, it's still just as compelling as it was then. It's seen loads of expansion, has a healthy community and looks fantasy fantastic. According to Keza: "Guild Wars is awesome. It's a beautiful playing experience, as well as a treat for the eyes, a technical marvel and a fantastic way to pass the time." But the best thing about Guild Wars is that it's practically free, since there's no subscription fee. Go get!

6. Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King, PS2/PS3.
Dragon Quest
Another Square Enix RPG that's still relevant this holiday season, Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King (or Dragon Quest VIII), is a proper Japanese RPG, and, while it might be a bit daunting for newcomers to the genre, is sure to have RGP fans crying tears of joy. From the mouth of Olly: "RPG fans who have yearned for this series to make it to our shores will struggle to find a better example this generation." Another class but cheap option for PS2/PS3+backwards compatibility owners.

5. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions - PSP.
 Final Fantasy Tactics
This is hands down one of my favourite RPGs ever, and one of the best games on the PSP. While it's not for everyone, it's certainly for every RPG fan. It's got classic 90s graphics, turn-based combat played out on a grid, beautiful rendered cut-scenes and a gripping story. It's also really well suited to handheld gaming - each battle shouldn't take more than 20 minutes, which, if you have a half hour commute in the morning, leaves 10 for a bit of story and some character tweaking. Perfect, enthralling and essential.

4. Final Fantasy XII - PS2/PS3.
Final Fantasy XII
Following the glut of excellent new releases towards the end of 2007, it's easy to forget that Final Fantasy XII, one of the best RPGs ever, also came out this year. For some, the move away from random battles and complete control over what actions your characters took was a sign the long-running and much-loved series was losing its edge. But for most, the changes injected a much-needed breath of fresh air into the franchise. Just don't expect a quick or simple time of it. FFXII still requires as much time and effort at FF always has.

3. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Xbox 360, PS3, PC.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Oblivion is absolutely stunning - it's got some of the best graphics ever, a wonderful story and engaging quests. It's also huge. Greg spent 133 hours fishing out every last fantasy morsel out of Oblivion's sumptuous world before writing his review. As he said: "Oblivion will consume you. It'll consume your life, your performance at work will suffer and you might not see friends in weeks. With hundreds of hours of gameplay, and an unprecedented amount of quests to be completed, I couldn't possibly recommend Oblivion enough." Neither can we.

2. Mass Effect - Xbox 360.
Mass Effect
What to say about Mass Effect? It's the RPG every Blade Runner fan has been waiting for. Developer BioWare has in one fell swoop made its previous, also excellent, RPG effort Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic extinct. Mass Effect looks like an 80's sci-fi movie, it sounds like an 80's sci-fi movie and it feels like you've been transported into an 80's sci-fi movie. Don't get me wrong, it has its flaws, but these are so overwhelming outweighed by its positives that you'll hardly notice. If you have a big HD TV and surround sound, you owe it to yourself to play Mass Effect.

1. World of Warcraft - PC.

It's amazing to think that nearly three years after it was released, World of Warcraft's popularity still shows no sign of slowing down. What is it, 9.3 million players globally now? Amazing. I still remember the first day I played WoW. The weekend it came out, I rushed to my local GAME during my lunch hour, bought it, got home, then played it for 48 hours without stopping. I ate left over pizza, tins of beans and went to the toilet only when I was flying from city to city on the back of a griffin on autopilot. It was one of the greatest weekends of my life. And if you still haven't experienced the phenomenon that is WoW, I heartily recommend you give in and have one of those weekends for yourself.

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