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Five RPGs To Watch Out For In 2018

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Kingdom Come: Deliverance

OnlySP is a huge fan of RPGs, insofar as a website can be a fan of anything. Here are five single-player RPGs you should definitely keep an eye on this year!

KINGDOM COME: DELIVERANCE

Modern RPGs are not lacking in variety of play: choices include the turn-based dungeon crawling of Persona and Etrian Odyssey; the strategic action and mystery of Dark Souls; story-heavy sagas big and small; and even the open-world adventure-sims of The Witcher, Horizon: Zero Dawn, or Assassin’s Creed Origins.

However, these bigger RPGs, at least, from Fallout and Mass Effect to Final Fantasy XV, fit invariably into the same box of sci-fi/fantasy worlds that have dominated video games since their inceptionand this fact is not necessarily bad. Science fiction and fantasy are highly regarded as delivery methods for all the most exciting aspects of an RPG in video game form; not to mention that they are just plain fun. Even Grand Theft Auto—a modern day RPG of sorts—uses absurdity and surrealism to enhance its satire.

However, this trend also results in a landscape of RPGs that hardly vary in terms of story genre. Where are the caper RPGs, the comedy RPGs, the spy RPGs? (Alpha Protocol gets remembered more fondly every passing day without a sequel or spiritual successor). Kingdom Come: Deliverance looks to be an answer to this problem. At first, the game may sound akin to any other RPG: first-person action, ability levelling, dialogue trees, and a non-linear open world. The game even has royalty, heroic knights, swords, and deadly bandits. What this RPG lacks, though, is any kind of magic or advanced technology.

Instead, the game is a work of historical fiction, based on current knowledge of the Kingdom of Bohemia circa 1403. Kingdom Come: Deliverance boasts lush visuals, a reasonably realistic combat system, and a deeply researched world—with a level of artistic license, of course, so that the game is still fun to play. Mechanically, developer Warhorse Studios has certainly taken inspiration from The Witcher and Skyrim, but the final product is a distinctive brand of open-world RPG.

For more on the ins and outs of the game, readers will want to check Dylan’s preview from last year. The best news for RPG fans is that, before the other games on this list, Kingdom Come: Deliverance had an actual release date, and will be hitting PC, PS4 and Xbox One in just a few weeks on February 13.

 

LONG GONE DAYS

From one of the biggest RPGs to one of the smallest, Long Gone Days shares with Kingdom Come an eschewing of what one might call ‘fantastical’ elements. This anti-war story with a focus on old-school 2D presentation (think The World Ends With You by way of Stardew Valley) begins in the modern day, in a fictional European country known as ‘The Core’. Players embark upon a dramatic journey through real-world dystopia in the long shadow of the Soviet Union. The developer BURA suggests the main story will be 4 to 5 hours long and also include multiple endings.

The game revolves around the intricacies of continental relations and requires the player to translate several different languages, as well as grow their relationships with NPCs from various European countries. Long Gone Days also sports an anime aesthetic and visual-novel-inspired mechanics, a blend likely to please fans of JRPGs from Undertale to Persona.

Long Gone Days hits Steam Early Access in the first half of this year, with a full release in September at the earliest.

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VALKYRIA CHRONICLES 4

Forget Valkyria Revolution—OnlySP certainly wishes it could. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is the first true sequel in the series since the Japan-only third entry in 2011. The new game looks more or less the same as the original PS3 title (and its PC/PS4 remaster), but after those wonderful watercolour visuals, Chronicles 4 is none-the-worse for it.

Since this upcoming release is the first time the series will appear on a Nintendo platform, perhaps a basic description is in order. Valkyria Chronicles is a mix of third-person action and turn-based tactics where players recruit scrappy soldiers and control them in cel-shaded battles against a faux-German Empire. Each battle begins with an overhead map, and after deploying their chosen forces, players spend Command Points to directly control their soldiers’ movements about the field in full 3D.

Having influenced the recent XCOM reboot, fans of the similarly inspired Mario+Rabbids will want to check out Valkyria Chronicles 4 to see where the genre’s resurgence began—and gamers who loved Fire Emblem‘s rebirth on 3DS will find the Potential system an interesting variation on relationships—all wrapped up in an appealing anime art style.

Valkyria Chronicles 4 releases in Japan in March, but Western players will have to wait till a little later in the year.

valkyria_chronicles_4_squad

VAMPYR

From the developers of the acclaimed Life Is Strange, Dontnod Entertainment, comes an open-world vampire RPG set in London 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic. In Vampyr, player character Jonathan Reid must balance his career as a doctor with his with his newfound thirst for blood.

Rather than the intricate environments and simulation elements of Vampire: The Masquerade, Vampyr is an action-RPG with elements of the Assassin’s Creed games. Although the game can be completed without killing, doing so is particularly difficult because Jonathan can only improve his vampire abilities by sucking blood. Players’ actions, including killing for blood, will affect the world in real time, with the status of the game’s four districts determined by the health of the citizens.

The game might not have the clout of Kingdom Come‘s historical fiction, but the team has researched heavily into the real-life London of the time, making for a detailed and unusual world for video games in 2018. With multiple endings and several warring vampire factions, Vampyr aims to be a strong RPG first and a visual powerhouse second—but similarly to last year’s Hellblade, Dontnod has picked its battles where it counts, producing a mid-range title of the sort labelled “triple I” or “double A”.

Will the game be as well received as its recent peers in the big-indie scene? Maybe not: the game aims to be eclectic and challenging, meaning the market is probably smaller than Night in the Woods or Hellblade. Nevertheless, as with Alpha Protocol, those who appreciate the game’s gas-lamp/classic-monster aesthetic will surely find plenty to love.

Vampyr is scheduled for release in the first half of 2018.

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PILLARS OF ETERNITY II: DEADFIRE

The first Pillars of Eternity was an excellent throwback RPG set inside a fascinating and well-written world; a modern game that leveraged the many positives of Baldur’s Gate’s past. Honestly, to be excited for the game’s sequel, Deadfire, one only need to dig into the first.

For more casual RPG fans, the great hope is for Pillars of Eternity II to begin evolving its nostalgic formula. Though developer Obsidian Entertainment had already pushed far beyond what was possible in the ’90s and the series’s quality of writing is unparalleled, the sequel goes further still.

First, as with all good RPG sequels, of course, the title takes into account the changes that players made to the world in their own story. More importantly, Deadfire‘s behind-the-scenes technology has been updated to include dynamic weather effects and more complex character AI that resembles the Radiant systems pioneered by Bethesda. To the former, the Deadfire Archipelago on which the game takes place is battered by a procedural weather cycle that physically alters the play space (a simple example is that wind from the ocean will blow clothes in the right direction). To the latter, NPCs now have daily schedules and personal priorities—all of which impact the game’s quests—and are themselves affected by the weather system.

Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire is scheduled for release on April 3.

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There you have it; some smashing role-playing titles to put on your radar. Plenty more are on the horizon, though, so which of this year’s RPGs are you excited for? Comment below and remember to keep it locked on OnlySP for more single-player news.

Mitchell is a writer from Currawang, Australia, where his metaphorical sword-pen cleaves fiction from reality daily. When he's not writing, he plays video games and watches movies. While thinking about writing.

E3 2019

Gender and Race Representation at E3 2019

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E3 2019 Diversity (Deathloop, Wolfenstein Youngblood, Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order)

Despite making up around half of the gaming population, women remain underrepresented in video games. More Hispanic and Black people refer to themselves as “gamers” than white people, yet minorities remain a rarity in modern titles. E3, which recently came to a close for another year, is gaming’s largest annual event, demonstrating the interests of the industry. Therefore, the statistics from E3 are a fairly accurate representation of the industry as a whole. OnlySP has broken down five of the main conferences from E3 2019 to see how each publisher represents women and people of colour in the games showcased, as well as their presenters.

Some of the shows from the event—the PC Gaming Show, Kinda Funny Games Showcase, EA Play, and the Devolver Digital Big Fancy Press Conference—have been excluded. Previously released games receiving updates or trailers at the event, such as Fallout 76 or Final Fantasy XIV Online, were also excluded from the statistics.

Each conference is broken down into seven categories for gender:

  • Male: where the game features only a male protagonist (Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order)
  • Female: where the game features only a female protagonist (Wolfenstein: Youngblood)
  • Player Choice: where the game allows a fully customisable character (The Outer Worlds)
  • Both: where the game allows the player to control both a male and female character, but not customise their preference (Marvel’s Avengers)
  • Ambiguous: where the protagonist’s gender is unclear (Ori and the Will of the Wisps)
  • None: where the game does not feature a gendered character, including racing games (Microsoft Flight Simulator)
  • Unknown: where the game’s protagonist is yet to be revealed (Elden Ring)

The last five categories are repeated for race within games; protagonists whose race is evident are identified as such.

Microsoft

E3 Chart - Microsoft 2

Microsoft kicked off the main press conferences this year with far more games than the conferences to follow. Out of a total of 29 applicable games, almost a third featured only male protagonists. Thankfully, female representation is not totally out of the question—with 24% of Microsoft’s games allowing full character customisation and 10% featuring both male and female protagonists—but only three games with a sole female protagonist is a disappointing statistic.

Unfortunately, representation among the presenters at Microsoft’s conference does not inspire much hope either, with two of nine being women (one of whom appeared alongside a man). This is sadly representative of the company as a whole, with women making up only 26.6 percent of Microsoft’s employees.

In terms of race representation within its games, Microsoft is not achieving great results. While nine of the games showcased featured Caucasian protagonists, only one had an African-American lead. Thankfully, at least, Microsoft is still allowing the player to decide the race of their character in 21% of its games. Microsoft’s presenters were also mostly white—mostly American, with two Brits, one Canadian, and an Australian—with only one African-American presenter.

While Microsoft’s representation at E3 is better than most of the conferences that followed, it still has a long way to go.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Microsoft

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Microsoft’s conference.

Bethesda

E3 Chart - Bethesda 2

Bethesda’s conference was short on new titles this year, with only six upcoming games showcased, but it had the strongest showing in terms of character representation. Only one of the six titles—Doom Eternal—featured a single male protagonist, and, that aside, the game is shaping up to be something special.

Both of the upcoming Wolfenstein games—Youngblood and Cyberpilot—feature female protagonists, and while two female-centric games is not a hugely impressive statistic, as an overall indicator it is quite impressive when compared to Bethesda’s other games. Two of the six games—Commander Keen and Deathloop—allow the player to select between a pre-determined male or female character; and in the case of Deathloop, both characters are African-American, so Bethesda’s representation expands beyond gender. However, only one title with a confirmed non-white character is not a very impressive statistic.

The same praise cannot be applied to the presenters of Bethesda’s conference, either; only two of the 17 presenters were female—one of whom has become a bit of an icon following the show. Of the 17 presenters, more than half were American, with only two Japanese presenters, two French, one Swedish, and one Puerto Rican–American. Considering Bethesda’s support of women and minorities in the past, seeing such little representation among its staff is a disappointing statistic.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Bethesda

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Bethesda’s conference.

Ubisoft

E3 Chart - Ubisoft 2

In regard to giving the player choice, Ubisoft easily beats the competition, with three of its eight new titles featuring full character customisation and two allowing the player to select between a male and female character. Diversity of representation, however, ends there; Ubisoft did not showcase a single female-led video game during its E3 showcase this year. Of the three games allowing character customisation, two—Rainbow Six Quarantine and Roller Champions—are multiplayer games; and of the two allowing both male and female, one is Watch Dogs Legion, which lets players choose between dozens of characters in their operation. Whether or not such a concept will lead to positive representation is yet to be seen. While no games from Ubisoft star an African-American in the leading role, hopefully the developer can achieve positive diversity by taking notes from its 2017 title Watch Dogs 2.

For its presenters, Ubisoft is better than its competition, with females making up four of the conference’s 14 on-stage personalities, but that statistic is still disappointing. If 29% is the best that the industry can do, it still has a long way to go in the years to come.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Ubisoft

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Ubisoft’s conference.

Square Enix

E3 Chart - Square Enix 2

Square Enix may have had the most disappointing press conference this year in regard to gender representation. Of its 14 games, not a single had only a female protagonist, while over half centred around males. To the publisher’s credit, several of these games feature, in some segments, playable female characters, but to have so many male-centric games without a single sole female protagonist is incredibly disappointing.

Thankfully, five games shown at Square Enix’s conference allow the player to select between a male or female. However, even in some of these games, representation is not entirely clear—only one of the five main playable characters in Marvel’s Avengers, for example, is female, as is only one of the three in Outriders.

Unfortunately, the disappointment of diversity is only exemplified with the conference’s presenters. Only one of the show’s nine presenters was female, with her appearance taking place at the very end of the show alongside a male presenter. Square Enix has a long way to go with its female representation.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Square Enix

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Square Enix’s conference.

Nintendo

E3 Chart - Nintendo 2

Historically, Nintendo is not known for strong female characters—Princess Peach is the figurehead for the damsel-in-distress trope—but it has made strides in this area with strong characters such as Zelda in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Unfortunately, none of these characters have been allowed to represent their own video game, constantly being shadowed by the male protagonist.

While six of the 17 new Nintendo games shown during its Direct this year featured male protagonists, not a single game featured a female protagonist. With three games allowing full customisation and six giving the choice between male and female, not all hope is lost with Nintendo, but diverse representation is better than customised representation. Being forced to take on different perspectives—as females must do when playing 35% of Nintendo’s games—is more beneficial to the player than choosing to play as an undefined character.

Nintendo only had three presenters during its presentation—deputy general manager Yoshiaki Koizumi, president of Nintendo of America Doug Bowser, and general manager Shinya Takahashi—but seeing some more representation of its female staff (as it does rather well during its Nintendo Treehouse live stream later in the show) would be encouraging.

E3 Chart - Demographics - Nintendo

Demographics of protagonists in games shown at Nintendo’s conference.


Overall

As a whole, E3 2019 was rather disappointing. While a third of the games showcased at the five conferences above featured only male protagonists, only 7% featured female protagonists. While developers are improving in regard to player choice—allowing either full customisation or the selection of a male or female character—diverse representation is a necessity moving forward, and the industry needs to look at improving.

Presenters Demographic

Demographics of presenters at the five conferences during E3 2019.

In terms of race representation, the statistics are even more abysmal. While an Americanised show is expected due to the location of E3, some diversity would be appreciated; with over half of the presenters being American, the companies are failing to demonstrate their diverse talent. The same can be said about the games; as seen below, 27% of protagonists in games are Caucasian, while 3% (only two games) feature African-Americans as lead characters. As aforementioned, developers are seeing improvement in allowing players to customise or select their characters, but specified diversity is a change that the industry requires.

E3 Chart - Games Demographics

Demographics of protagonists in the games showcased at the five conferences during E3 2019.

The industry has a long way to go.

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