Posted by BuckGB at 9:18 pm on 01.31.2011 (2 years ago)
But enough with the reminiscing! Herein you’ll find the games that gobbled up our time and managed to prove themselves as the finest role-playing titles of 2010. Since there were so many excellent independent RPGs to consider again this year, we once again recruited Jay Barnson of Rampant Games to help dole out the awards:
Alpha Protocol (Winner)
Obsidian's spy-themed RPG had a lot of things going against it from the outset, including a general lack of polish and a stealth and combat system that were fairly unsatisfying. Even the dossier and dialogue systems weren't for everyone, but system flaws couldn't take much away from the rich and colorful cast of the game. Uncovering details on characters and using your knowledge to maneuver your way into their favor or disfavor is a solid gameplay concept in and of itself, but it was made all the more rewarding when you realized just how interesting the characters were.
From the silent Sis to the stoic Marburg, from the insane Steven Heck to the awesome Konstantin Brayko, this title benefited considerably from having a small cast and focusing its storytelling around them. The main plot of the game reads like a dime spy novel, and that's how it's supposed to read. Not gritty or realistic, this was a spy-themed title throughout, and what it set out to do, it did well. Obsidian clearly did some extensive research on the game’s various locations, and the assortment of little touches that they injected made the game world all the more richer.
Fallout: New Vegas (Runner-up)
In typical Fallout tradition, Fallout: New Vegas really doesn't have an urgent storyline, but instead one humming somewhere in the background. But who says you need to be story-driven to have good writing? Not us. While a little uneven at times, New Vegas shines at telling the little stories. It has a way of making the problems at even the most minor of location interesting, and in engaging you with the problems plaguing the factions that you encounter. After a decade of waiting, Fallout: New Vegas succeeds in fleshing out the Fallout setting the way we hoped it would.
Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer (Winner)
Cataclysm might have stolen most of 2010's press, but if your only concern was jumping back into Azeroth, then you likely missed an entertaining and visually stunning adventure through Funcom's Rise of the Godslayer expansion pack. We always pegged a majority of Hyborian Adventures' zones as being dense and slightly claustrophobic, but Rise of the Godslayer brought us these sprawling vistas with a Far East-inspired look that fit into the game far better than we thought they would.
Populating the lands of Khitai is an assortment of wildlife, creatures, characters, and landmarks that were clearly based on a variety of Eastern cultures. Everything looks incredible and just feels right, from the Great Wall and mountains off in the distance to the smoldering ruins of a freshly raided village. As long as you have a rig that can handle it, Rise of the Godslayer is hands-down the greatest graphical treat that RPG enthusiasts were given in 2010 and easily makes Age of Conan one of the best-looking MMOs on the market.
Mass Effect 2 (Runner-up)
BioWare not only gave us a larger variety of alien settings to explore in their sequel, but they also managed to make them even more believable than what we saw the first time around. A ruined world, a derelict spacecraft, a prison ship, a jungle planet, a warzone… and some pretty damn nifty sci-fi art design, as well.
Beyond that, the sequel also manages to provide us with another cinematic experience. The cinematography doesn’t quite reach a Hollywood-like or even Final Fantasy-like quality, but it’s certainly better than what we saw in the first Mass Effect, which makes us very interested in seeing what BioWare is able to do with Mass Effect 3.
Mass Effect 2 (Winner)
Composed by Jack Wall, Sam Hulick, David Kates, and Jimmy Hinson, the Mass Effect 2 OST is a quintessential example of doing game soundtracks right. While it won't win awards for originality, the themes are memorable and - most importantly - are specifically tailored to the locations or characters they were written for, including specific combat themes.
In addition to being memorable, the different themes are rarely intrusive, outside of the combat tracks that are supposed to prepare you for what’s to come. The themes work very well together for the various locations they are meant to present, and, in our opinion, that’s really what game soundtracks are all about.
Fallout: New Vegas (Runner-up)
The Fallout: New Vegas soundtrack is partially scavenged from history, richly using tracks from the older Fallouts, and adding new songs from veteran Fallout soundtrack composer Inon Zur, who generally did a more subtle and thus better job here than on Fallout 3. It may seem odd to give an award for recycling a soundtrack, but we feel New Vegas made the right choice in doing so, as the tracks bring back pleasant memories while also fitting in well with the game's atmosphere. The PipBoy radio is also back, though it once again suffers a bit from simply not having enough tracks on it. GTA did the radio thing well by only playing it while you are in a car, and like the GTAs the PipBoy radio is best enjoyed in limited doses, turning it off regularly. But turning it off completely would be a shame, as the songs featured are once again a strong selection of golden oldies, including some with lyrics rewritten and sung by Obsidian's own crew.
World of Warcraft: Cataclysm (Winner)
When picking this award, we felt that it isn't a fair race for anything paired up against Blizzard's latest. With so much content and mostly positive game changers packed into one expansion, the nod has to go somewhat easily to World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
While Cataclysm falls somewhat short when strictly comparing new content with previous expansions, what it does is refine the entire experience by giving players a bit of everything: massive talent changes that slim-down customization but make it more accessible, itemization streamlining, new races (where are the new classes?), a new level cap, and some new areas - but even the sum of these would not equal its largest change. Cataclysm went ahead and re-designed the visuals of all base-game content and made them accessible to flying mounts. Yep, they finally gave players what they'd always wanted - free-flying around everywhere, for those that are high enough level, of course.
For the veteran WoW player who simply wants to "reroll" and start anew, innumerable changes are in store which makes the entire experience more replayable than it's been for quite awhile. We’re still hoping for more content and a couple new classes when Blizzard gets around to releasing the fourth expansion pack, but until then Cataclysm will do just fine.
Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening (Runner-up)
BioWare put a lot of quality content into their Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening expansion pack - including a variety of new ways to develop characters, a smorgasbord of well-written and well-acted characters and dialogue, and a new 20-hour campaign to (possibly) finish off the story of the warden character from Origins - and that was enough to lift their effort over most of the other expansion pack / DLC contenders this year.
Had they only spent more time stamping out a few more bugs (like the annoying Silverite Mine bug), and made all of the changes backwards compatible with Origins to encourage further replayability, then Awakening just might have taken over the top spot.