Game Informer has done a GREAT job surfacing the top RPGs of 2012.
I edited their list down to the ones I'm most excited about:
Darksiders II (June)
Though the original Darksiders focused more on combat and Zelda-inspired puzzles, this sequel is blowing out the RPG elements. New protagonist Death will become more powerful as you progress while gathering tons of loot and stat upgrades. It's a meaty addition to an already compelling formula that I expect to keep me busy all summer.
Diablo III (early 2012)
No, seriously. Diablo III will be out in 2012. Seriously. I know it's hard to believe after all this time, but having spent hours with the beta, I fully believe that Blizzard is on the cusp of putting out this long-awaited game. Expect it to hit early in the year and leave you hunting down demons for better gear into 2013.
Dragon Age III (maybe 2012?)
Along with the big confirmed RPGs on this list, I put in a couple of long shots. This is probably the longest. I fully expect Dragon Age III to be announced in 2012, but it's hard to say if it will be released. There was only 16 months between the release of Dragon Age: Origins and its sequel. If BioWare keeps to a similarly tight schedule for this entry, we could see Dragon Age III as one of EA's big fall releases. Then again, considering some of the issues the second game suffered from, maybe we'd be better off hoping that they take their time.
Dragon's Crown (Spring)
Dragon's Crown is notable both for its continuation of the gorgeous art style found in previous Vanillaware releases (such as Odin Sphere and Muramasa) as well as being one of the first simultaneous PS3 and Vita releases. The core gameplay seems to be more of a beat-em-up, but given the developer's track record, I expect there to be some unexpected and delightful depth.
Dragon's Dogma (March 27)
Capcom's upcoming new IP tends a bit more toward the action than a lot of games on this list, but it still has many recognizably RPG elements. A huge open world, tons of loot, and hundreds of massive beasts to slay should please fans of traditional fantasy games.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim DLC (throughout 2012)
Let's assume for a moment that by the end of 2011, you've actually sunk enough time into Bethesda's massive latest entry in the Elder Scrolls series to wrap up the main storyline and whatever side content you're interested in. Even if you find yourself in that unlikely situation, you're certain to have plenty of reason to return to the frosty realm of Skyrim throughout next year. Bethesda has promised some sizable DLC, and given the developer's excellent add-on support for Oblivion and Fallout 3, I have no doubt that they will deliver.
Fable: The Journey (2012)
It's getting harder to feign excitement for Kinect games, but as the latest in Microsoft's effort to prove that they can create satisfying hardcore experiences on the motion-control device, Fable: The Journey is going to be an interesting study at least. Early demos haven't impressed, but if Peter Molyneux and company are able to pull off a deep, interesting RPG that runs off of Kinect, I will be very impressed.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 (January 31)
Though I had problems with the pacing and overall plot of Final Fantasy XIII, Square seems to be offering some great improvements with this sequel. A new time travel element and a refinement of the first game's awesome, fast-paced combat system are enough for me to give the world of Gran Pulse a second shot.
Final Fantasy Versus XIII (???)
Here's another long shot. We thought Square would finally open up about the long-in-development FF Versus XIII after Final Fantasy XIII's release, but then they announced a direct sequel to that game. With FF XIII-2 hitting in January, I'm hoping that 2012 will be the year we finally get to see more of Versus XIII - maybe even play it?
A Game of Thrones (early 2012)
Developer Cyanide's first take on the Game of Thrones franchise - a real-time strategy game titled Game of Thrones: Genesis - was less than impressive. That said, it's hard to keep my ears from perking at the prospect of exploring a virtual version of the massive land of Westeros. I've read hundreds of pages set in this world in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books; I can only hope that the game is a fitting representation.
Guild Wars 2 (2012)
Every time I've seen Guild Wars 2 in action, I've come away more impressed. From the fast-paced combat to the genuinely interesting story, ArenaNet busts down MMO conventions to great effect. And there's not even a subscription fee to worry about! We still don't know when Guild Wars 2 will be released, but this is the MMO to beat next year.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (February 7)
With an incredible fantasy pedigree behind it, including Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion lead designer Ken Rolston, comic artist Todd McFarlane, and writer R.A. Salvatore, Kingdoms of Amalur is a new I.P. worth paying attention to. By blending the open-world questing of Elder Scrolls with the fast-paced combat of God of War, Reckoning is shaping up to be a truly special hybrid.
We don't know a ton about this upcoming downloadable title from Swedish studio Fatshark, but it's set in a Fallout or Borderlands-esque post-apocalyptic world and includes multiple classes to choose from with an emphasis on co-op, crafting, and meaningful choices. All of this sounds like a solid start to me.
Mass Effect 3 (March 6)
If you're one of those people who whines about Bioware stripping away RPG elements from the Mass Effect series, I'm going to kindly ask you to step aside for this entry. All gone? Excellent. For the rest of us, Mass Effect 3 looks like the perfect end to one of gaming's best trilogies ever. The gunplay is polished, the leveling system is improved, and most importantly, the stage is set for some incredibly intense dramatic moments as players finally wrap up the story of Commander Shepard.
Of Orcs and Men (2012)
You'd think they already have their hands full with A Game of Thrones, but European developer Cyanide (with some help from Spiders) is also working on this generically titled action-RPG. The big difference from other fantasy games is that this one places you into the shoes of an orc and his goblin companion. You'll travel a dark world attempting to prevent humans from wiping out your beleaguered race. Cool concept, but we'll see about the execution.
Risen 2: Dark Waters (April 24)
The first Risen was a solid but forgettable European RPG. Its sequel already stands out as more memorable to me based off one simple fact: It's a pirate RPG, something we seriously have not seen enough of. Looting, pillaging, and generally being a nuisance to water-logged nations while simultaneously leveling up? Yep, I'm down for that.
The Secret World (April)
While there are more MMOs than ever vying for our attention next year, Funcom's The Secret World has a chance to make a strong argument. The unique modern day setting embraces the supernatural, myths, and conspiracy theories rather than the science fiction and fantasy clichÃ©s that most RPGs stick to. Three distinct factions should lead to plenty of intense PvP rivalries as well.
South Park: The Game (2012)
Surely you've heard of this one? The one that was on our cover last month? There's nothing that I could tell you about South Park: The Game that you wouldn't have an easier time discovering in our month of online coverage, but here's the synopsis: You take on a newcomer to the foul-mouthed gang of cartoon Colorado kids in a stylish RPG that blends the open-world style Obsidian is known for with a more traditional, JRPG-influenced battle system.
Star Wars: The Old Republic (technically December 2011)
Wait, not so fast on opening up your e-mail to type up an angry response to me. Yes, I realize that BioWare's first foray into the MMO space has technically already released. That said - and this is coming from someone who's spent the last few weeks utterly obsessed with it - The Old Republic is a seriously gigantic game. By the time 2012 starts, I won't even be at the level cap for my first character, much less started on any alt classes whose deep, developed stories I want to check out. Anyone who's already started playing Old Republic is likely to be spending a serious chunk of 2012 playing it as well.
TERA is a Korean MMORPG from some of the same people who created the original Lineage, but don't let that frighten you off. Unlike that ultra-hardcore grindfest, TERA has more of an action focus to the degree that you can even use a 360 controller to play it. We've been impressed every time we've seen it, so don't discount it as just another Korean MMO quite yet.
Torchlight II (2012)
It would have been nice for this Diablo-alike sequel to beat Blizzard to the punch in 2011, but no matter when it releases, Runic Games' more whimsical take on the lootfest style of RPG will surely be worth sinking some time into. Torchlight II will improve on the original with four all-new classes, more randomized dungeons and monsters, and - finally! - multiplayer.
Transformers Universe (2012)
Browser-based MMOs may not spark much interest among most hardcore gamers, but Transformers Universe is worth paying attention to for two reasons: 1. that beloved robot license and 2. developer Jagex. These are the people behind Runescape, one of the longest-lasting and most widely successful browser-based games ever. Not too much is known about Transformers Universe right now, but the game should have some excellent PvP opportunities in the battle between Autobots and Decepticons.
The Witcher 2 360 (2012)
While many PC gamers already have The Witcher 2 topping their game of the year lists for 2011, console players will be introduced to gritty anti-hero Geralt next year. I won't spoil any story stuff - not least of all because I'm waiting on the 360 version myself! - but this European-developed RPG features intensely challenging combat, a dark story, and huge plot choices that affect the game's progress in ways that will leave you shocked.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (probably 2012)
Blizzard hasn't officially announced a 2012 release date for its fourth World of Warcraft expansion, but from talking to the company at Blizzcon, they want to get it out to players as soon as possible. Some hardcore WoW fans won't stop whining about the more light-hearted tone of the new content - it introduces a new playable race of panda people whose primary class is a kung-fu-performing monk - I expect plenty of them will shut their mouths and keep playing when the game actually comes out. Even in a year with a lot of solid MMO challengers, this is Blizzard and this is World of Warcraft. They know how to put together some polished, compelling content.
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