Gamefront 2010: Best RPGs

It gets harder and harder every year to define RPG as a specific genre. Almost every major game from Madden to Hello Kitty feature story progression and leveling of character abilities. The challenge is to find titles these days without some role-playing element.

Even titles like Enslaved or 007, which have key protagonists, allow for customization and ability development. Call of Duty and Battlefield open up new weapon loadouts and player levels throughout, Halo:Reach even features RPG-like elements in the multiplayer achievements.

2010 was a good year for the more traditional RPG titles like Bioware’s Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins (DLC mostly), Square’s Final Fantasy XIII and tons of JRPGs. These are the staff picks for the standout titles and a little of our reasons behind our choices.

Fallout: New Vegas

Shawn Sines
The latest game in the Fallout series brought classic Interplay level sensibility to the Fallout 3 approach. While that should not surprise (many of the Obsidian staff started at Black Isle/Interplay), it was refreshing to see much of the earlier California/Nevada setting pay off in a modern game. The addition of a detailed crafting system, expansion of the weapons and a nice optimization of skills also went a long way toward making this my favorite RPG of 2010.

The humor and story kept me playing despite the numerous bugs and corruptions.. I mean who didn’t think the sexbot Fisto and ghoul prostitute were inspired story points?? Add to that the expansion of the New California Republic, the political power behind New Vegas and even the subtle hints back to the happeening mentioned in Fallout 3 and you have a great addition to a series of great RPGs.

Mass Effect 2!

Phil Hornshaw

I’m usually a pretty involved RPG fan, but this year I found myself too busy to really engage in big quest games — except for Mass Effect 2, which I anticipated from the moment it was announced and had shipped to me in all its collector’s edition glory on release day.

It didn’t disappoint.

Yeah, there were some draggy points — like endlessly scanning planets — but on the whole I was totally enamored of ME2 for the entire experience, and it’s a high contender for my favorite game of the year. More than just about any other game I played in 2010, I felt like everything hinged on my decisions, and building up my team for the final push against the Collectors was a great mechanic that brought all those little decisions home in a very real way. Sure, who you picked to be the leader of the humans felt important at the end of Mass Effect, but your decisions in ME2 were important on the level of your mission’s success or failure.

The game was more streamlined than a lot of RPGs and the combat portions had more of a mission-by-mission feel, but I appreciated the speed and flow of Mass Effect 2. The game got to the point and hit what it needed in story and gameplay without dawdling and wasting my time. And even then, with a lot of the wandering around empty planets screened out, it was still a huge and immersive experience with lots to do.

And more than anything, ME2 creates great characters and tells a compelling story, which is central to my RPG experience. To be honest, I kind of used to hate menu-based JRPG games, but they dominated my childhood and young-adult life because they told great (if convoluted) stories. So does Mass Effect 2. I’m in it because I want to know what happens next — the fact that the game is fun to play is icing, but oh, is it sweet.

Fallout: New Vegas Again

Phil Owen

Pretty much every Western RPG presents you with a broad choice: do you want to be good or evil, super nice or a great big gaping asshole? In New Vegas, it’s very clear what the “gaping asshole” side is, but where is the “good” route through the Mojave Wasteland? New Vegas is a postmodern masterpiece, one that provides you with no easy answers, and the challenges you face along the way make it impossibly difficult at times to avoid f–king over somebody who probably doesn’t deserve it.

What’s most interesting about this game, though, is how it made me angry and, as a result, power-hungry. For the first time in gaming history, I felt like none of the characters — aside from the various travellers I brought with me and, oddly enough, the King — ever gave me credit for the insane things I had to endure for them. As the climactic battle approached, I was working for an NCR woman at the Hoover Dam, and she didn’t pay me well or even pretend I was an important part of their efforts. Through the whole game I worked for the NCR, thinking they were the lesser of the two weevils, as Jack Aubrey would say, but to them I would never be more than a common soldier.

And this is where New Vegas’ true brilliance comes into play. I said, “No more!” and went into business for myself. I would be slave to no man or army or nation. I would kick the asses of everyone who thought they had a claim to New Vegas. And I did. Thank you, Obsidian.

More love for Mass Effect 2

Mark Burnham
While it’s becoming a nebulous genre, one thing you can count on RPGs for is layered character interactions. You can often chat it up with bartenders, inn proprietors, townsfolk, children, bandits, and of course the members of your party. You know the drill. Often these conversations lead to side-quests, where you discover mysteries, hidden battles of good vs. evil.

Mass Effect 2 totally, completely nails this. I was constantly struck by the writing, specifically how well character’s were scripted. Jacob, Mordin, Tali, Jack, et al–these characters have serious, deep backgrounds and world views. It’s not just that they have well-drawn personalities, they also tend to challenge your own ethical standards without apology. It gets kind of heavy.

For instance, remember the time Mordin waxed nostalgic about developing the genophage (which is one of my favorite parts in the whole game), and how it represented some of the greatest days of his life? That part is just brilliant.

And then Mordin’s justification for said genophage is honest, practical, scientific. I found myself agreeing with him, to my own surprise. He’s explaining how he crafted a virus that severely decreased the fertility rates of a whole species, and why he did it for the “greater good.” And how he woke up excited everyday to do it. Yeesh. What do you do with that? You have to work with this guy, so you kind of need to make up your own mind and choose a side. I loved that.

But then, this for-the-greater-good ethical stance isn’t just Mordin’s. You’ll have to face it a lot. For instance, the Illusive Man. He’s a guy with brutally utilitarian views, but he’s also got this chillingly self-serving attitude. You never get the sense that he respects the gravity of his decisions, or that he loses any sleep whatsoever.

Anyway, that’s all I got. Mass Effect 2 wins for me because of the wonderfully written, deep character interactions. Bring on ME3!

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7 Comments on Gamefront 2010: Best RPGs

Kobains Ghost

On December 16, 2010 at 3:50 am

I tried to like this site. but you guys suck so hard. ur not even trying…

1.your sign in/up process is clunky and useless
2.your writing is stupid and not funny or edgy like you think it is
3.The articles ideas are okay…but again the writing seriously needs work

Shawn Sines

On December 16, 2010 at 4:10 am

Kobain’s Ghost: Thanks for taking the time to share your feelings.. now like your high school English teacher might not have taught you.. do you have any suggestions for how you think we could improve?

We’re trying to be less stupid and to do more work, but that’s not much for us to go on you know, and the sucking is something we’re not quite sure how to define.

Kobains Ghost

On December 16, 2010 at 4:59 am

ME2 and Fallout? Those are the only 2 titles worth mentioning all year? I loved ME2 and never played Fallout but im just saying….i Expected you to at least list a few other titles that maybe werent so Obvious. Who makes a list with only two entries? Thats barely even a list. It just seems really lazy to me. There are so many Gaming/tech websites out there that offer so much more content why should i bother visiting you guys at all?

If theres a joke that i missed i am sorry.

Having said that the writing in general on here is just….I dunno how to describe it other than…Corny Maybe?Lame? whenever i Read Phil Owens writing i just feel like he’s a major tool. the Yakuza 4 article in particular annoyed me. oh and the Sign in thing is a real drag.

I hoped this helps you guys not suck in the future. ill keep checking back and maybe ill move you guys up in my Bookmark cache

Shawn Sines

On December 16, 2010 at 6:44 am

Thanks for the response. I can understand that all the voices of the site’s writers don’t appeal to every reader. That’s one of the reasons that we have multiple writers.

Regarding the RPG list.. since I was tasked with putting this post together I can probably shed some light. These pieces are a compilation of the staff positions.. like I said in the teaser, we all discussed the RPG titles of 2010 and we considered tons of titles – FF XIII, DQ 9, etc. but the writers all felt so strongly about these two games that I decided to go to press with the comments we had.

It’s not that there weren’t other RPGs out there to mention but we were sharing our favorites and no one else presented options. I struggled with the idea of including FF XIII. Honestly it was a competent game, DQ 9 is my favorite Handheld game but it was not my favorite RPG.

The only reason to visit any of these sites is if they present views or feature writers you enjoy reading.. so if we’re not there, I’m sorry.. I think you’ll find that Ron, Phil H, Ben, Phil O, Ross, Mark, Jon and I all write in a different style. We’re also real people who like to interact with readers. I find it’s easier to get to know a site by the way the staff responds.

I’m not sure what to say about the sign in.. it’s a mechanism to reduce spam and far less invasive than some website comment systems. What about it bothers you most?

Seriously, I take your comments to heart and hope you continue to visit and find some of our content useful.

Shawn Sines

Ron Whitaker

On December 16, 2010 at 6:53 am

@Kobain’s Ghost: What parts of the signin/signup process are vexing you? Please let us know, so we can improve the user experience for everyone.

Please note that if you only want to read our content, comment, or download files, there’s no need for you to register an account, unless you just want to. Registration is only necessary if you want to utilize our (admittedly awesome) user file upload service.

On the topic of RPGs, this was not a great year for the genre. ME2 and New Vegas were head and shoulders above the crowd of mediocre entries this year, and as such, they were the only two that came to my mind when thinking about “Best” games.


On December 16, 2010 at 7:33 pm

what about PSP games, I know you guys are doing your best but I’ve hardly seen anything about PSP other than that large rumor going around. I know you guys are super busy trying to please everyone at this site and I appreciate it and it almost seems like you guys are doing ton’s of writing for new articles and stuff. Plus I think its also hard to come up with new material when all the major titles are already out and nothing is going on till the next year. I like the little rumors and stuff and Phil Owens weird pics of his weirdness in all…but hey I give you guys a good credit for trying on this one, not so much a list and I really didn’t read this cause Its only two titles and I read the head lines of each section for each writer that chose their favorite title. Kobains Ghost they are working as hard as they can to keep people interested of all types of gamers to the site, but a forum can not have all good articles your bound to see some bad ones but I just like to read the stuff I’m interested in this website, like the VGA thing and few others that you can see my super long ass essay like posts. I feel that the writers are trying to make a huge effort and I thank them for It cause hopefully I would like to see my “New Patches and Demos”(keeping my fingers crossed guys keep trying for it) section on the right side here of that nice open space, but not trying to clutter up the site with useless information. Now this is the writer’s picks not everyone’s maybe you guys should have like a user picks article hold a nice pole for all the users and guests to rate what they think is the best of 2010 that might be something too look into since mostly all the other sites are doing kinda…(not saying be like all other sites just giving an idea out that’s all) But maybe keeping it with Writer’s choices might be still the best way to do things on this site since your getting your guy’s mojo back more and more. I think this writer’s choice is a good thing cause some people that don’t post and just like to read the articles may enjoy what you guys have to say about the games of this year. Since you guys still rat me out on doom being my all time favorite still grrr. But hey you guys have the right to your opinion and that’s what this website is all about and that’s why I keep coming back.


On December 20, 2010 at 7:10 am

I was disappointed with this list, only two RPG titles out of the massive amounts that have been released.