Video Games
25 Top RPGs of the Last Five Years

The Escapist Staff | 1 Aug 2014 17:00
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13. Dragon Age II

Developed by BioWare. Published by Electronic Arts. Released on March 8, 2011. Available on PC, OS X, XB360 and PS3.

dragon age 2 cover

Greg says: I know, I know. Look, Dragon Age II was a fantastic role-playing game that had the unfortunate problem of being too far removed in tone and form from its predecessor. It was set in the single city of Kirkwall and told a more intimate story of the rise of that city's champion. The combat system was more action-oriented, but it had a surprising amount of depth in how you could combine your party member's attacks for devastating effects. You could form strong relationships with your friends, and even fall in love with them, but that's not what made DA2 special.

Bold storytelling choices set the game on the pedestal. You played as the Champion, but you were a part of a family. The reactions of your sister or brother (different depending on what class/gender you chose) and your mother to your deeds and decisions made those events feel incredibly real. Because you were in a single city, the sense of community you gained from helping dwarves, merchants, nobles and poor city elves with their plight was something I hadn't experienced in a game before. And, of course, the fun of the unreliable narrator in Varric was amazingly clever - The events you played through were all focused through the lens of what the dwarf revealed to the Chantry interrogating him.

Dragon Age II attempted things no other game had before, and succeeded in making you feel you were experiencing a story carefully improvised by a game master instead of a pre-programmed script. Yes, it reused dungeons and you couldn't equip shoes on your companions. These are extremely minor complaints compared to the leaps DA2 made in actual role-playing and storytelling.

If I had my druthers, Dragon Age II would be higher on the list, but I recognize my opinion is in the minority. That said, you who hated on DA2 when it came out should give it another shot. It is a superb game.

12. Demon's Souls

Developed by From Software and SCE Japan. Published in Japan by Sony, NA by Atlus. Released February 5, 2009. Available on PS3.

demon souls cover

Mike says: The first game in the experiment that is the Souls franchise proved a huge success, earning two multi-platform follow-ups and building the name of director Hidetaka Miyazaki's upcoming Bloodborne for PS4. Deep, challenging, and realistic combat is the first building block of the game. Even the weaker enemies hurt with just a single hit and your armor and shield add real weight to your character, not just slowing down your sprint but a well armored character was never going to pop up from a roll.

Beyond the combat, the signature of Demon's Souls was the souls themselves. Killing enemies and using some items grant souls to players, and those souls would be used to buy, repair, and craft items, learn magic, and level up your character. Redeeming these souls could only be done in the hub of the game, and they were lost upon death, but could be reclaimed if the player could reach the spot where they died. This simple mechanic carried the tension of the game, the truest consequence for death. The further you progress, the more you have at stake as you are carrying more souls and recovering those souls after dying would be all the more difficult.

11. Monster Hunter Tri

Developed by Capcom Production Studio 1. Published by Capcom. Released on March 19, 2013. Available on Wii, 3DS and Wii U.

monster hunter tri cover

Jon says: In every single one of its incarnations across all the platforms it appeared on, the third installment in the famous Japanese series about turning dragons into pants was a smashing success. From the Wii, where it innovated with new weapon and control schemes, to the final versions on the 3DS and Wii U, where cross-play and internet play allowed seamless access to an increasingly MMO-like world of quests, the game never failed to delight. Monster Hunter requires a level of skill and timing that can only be compared to other action RPGs like Dark Souls. Monster Hunter simultaneously has hidden depth, with secret items and materials only coming from monsters when you hit them in specific ways, and the game isn't going to explain how that happens. Didn't know you could shatter the monster's horns? Well, too bad. You don't get the horn component. You don't get to craft new shoulder armor. That might seem unforgiving, but it really just adds a continual sense of wonder to the game as you find out new things you didn't think you could do.

Focusing all its RPG progression into the equipment you're wearing is the huge secret to Monster Hunter's success, though. It means that your ability at the game drills down to your talent at learning how your weapon works, what its combos are, and the monster's attack abilities. Monster Hunter serves up the kind of in-depth difficulty and rewarding learning curve that few other games can, in a way that nearly none of them do.

10. Torchlight II

Developed by Runic Games. Published by Runic Games. Released on September 20, 2012. Available on PC.

torchlight ii cover

Justin says: The original Torchlight had a seemingly simple design goal, "let's make a better Diablo II". In fact many of the team at Runic Games are Blizzard North vets. Torchlight II took all the groundwork that was laid with the original and ran with it. Most importantly it added much needed multiplayer to the series. Torchlight was a mighty fine game in many rights, but the lack of multiplayer was a thorn in an otherwise nearly flawless product.

At its core, Torchlight II is all about refining a bunch of little, almost invisible, aspects of the action-RPG looter and also giving you a lot of freedom to play how you want. While other games were cramming all kinds of DRM between the content and the players, Torchlight II was letting you play with friends over the internet or by LAN, and modding was actively encouraged. I still have a bunch of fun every few months opening up the Steam Workshop and playing around with someone's custom creation.

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