Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Spotlight - XBOX 360's Best RPGs, Part 2

It's interesting how the consoles have treated RPGs. Back in the old days, Playstation and Playstation 2 were definite RPG titans, boasting a seemingly limitless number of titles in the genre. Then, an interesting thing happened around 2007 - 2009. The Xbox 360 - which, if you may remember, the original Xbox was more of an action-oriented console - somehow took over the reigns of the RPG kingdom. With most of the big-name spring and summer RPGs on the Xbox 360 already released, I countdown my top ten favorite role-playing games on the system. See my top five below!

5. Final Fantasy XIII

There's no question FFXIII had many faults: the extreme linearity of both the story and the character progression were in stark contrast to almost all of its recent predecessors. The Crystogen leveling system really gave you no room to differentiate your characters beyond their set path, and it wasn't until near the end of the game where you had any area that you could "explore." Still, despite this, FFXIII still was an enjoyable experience, whose strengths ultimately outweighed its weaknesses. Fluid combat, an innovative battle system, stunning graphics and a great soundtrack kept this RPG from completely abandoning its Finally Fantastic legacy.

4. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

It's a testament to the quality of this game that even after five years, the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion still ranks in the top five. Despite a rather unremarkable main plot, stunning graphics, a truly wide open world to explore, endless number of quests to complete, and a multitude of interesting factions to join make this Elder Scrolls one of the best in the series and one of the best RPGs on the Xbox 360.

3. Tales of Vesperia

Some might say the JRPG genre has grown stale and repetitive, and honestly, Tales of Vesperia doesn't really do much to disprove that. The battle system isn't revolutionized from it's predecessor series, and the story is at times just as nonsensical as most JRPG plots tend to become when translated to english. Still, there's a reason i sank 80+ hours into this game in one playthrough - it is fun. The combat is fluid, and there's no denying the gaming high you get when you succesfully pull off that chain of dozens upon dozens of combos. Stylistic visuals and a charming soundtrack top off an otherwise superior game.

2. Mass Effect

The first Mass Effect was truly revolutionary, and thrust Bioware into the forefront of cinematic storytelling. An epic space opera boasting countless worlds to explore, quests where you determine the outcome, and an array of interesting and deep companion characters made this shooter-RPG the most fun I've ever had on the system. Sure, it had its problems too, most notably the horrifying amount of level recycling used in sidequests and the sheer awfulness of its planet-exploring vehicle, but these are nitpicks at worst. This is a game you simply must play if you have not.

1. Mass Effect 2

A lot of people have argued that Mass Effect strayed too far from its RPG roots in its second iteration. Everything from the leveling system to your equipment and even inventory management had been stripped down significantly. Why then, is it at the top of my Best RPGs on the Xbox 360? Simply put, the game sacrifices these elements to make the entire experience that much better. The combat is fluid, visceral, and you still have a wide and varied amount of classes and abilities to choose from. The storytelling is refined, and the effort that went into it is clearly visible, with the ability to import the decisions you made from the first game. The addition of "conversation interrupts" gave you the sense that Shephard is definitely not someone to mess around with. Gone was the horrible planet exploration and recycled areas (though replaced by a similarly annoying planet-scanning minigame). On top of that, Mass Effect 2 came with the bonus of some of the best DLC out there (Lair of the Shadow Broker anyone?). Some truly poignant moments are waiting for you if you haven't yet had a chance to play this game.

What do you think? What are your favorite 360 RPGs?

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