Renaming characters, doing multiple playthroughs while making the same choices over again, getting entirely too attached to fictional characters, chasing that one particular rare drop you need to perfect your stats for the ideal build - all of these and more are the classic quicks of role playing games we know and love.
There isn't quite another genre like RPGs, and even though most of them are utter time sinks gobbling up hundreds of hours of time, we can't ever get enough.
We're already halfway through 2021 and some amazing RPGs have launched this year - Loop Hero, Monster Hunter Rise, Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance and Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (even though it's a remaster it still counts), to name a few. Even so, we still have half the year ahead of us with a stacked release schedule, and there is plenty for RPG fans to look forward to.
Of course, all of the games on this are expected to release in 2021 but looking back at how things have been going recently, we wouldn't rule out delays for any of these, potentially pushing them to 2022. At the time of writing, all of these titles are projected to launch this year, and considering how delays aren't exactly good for alleviating crunch, we'll hold out hope that they do.
In no particular order, here are our most anticipated RPGs slated for launch in 2021.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
It's impossible to talk about the roleplaying game genre without touching base with the pre-video game roots found in tabletop. Pathfinder is a younger series that spun off from an Open Game License variant of and older DnD edition, and shares much of its DNA with the seminal tabletop RPG that spawned it. While not as universally popular, it grew and cultivated a huge fanbase and spawned many video game adaptations.
After the success of Pathfinder: Kingmaker, Russian game studio Owlcat is delving back into this world of high fantasy with Wrath of the Righteous. Owlcat took to Kickstarter to fund Wrath of the Righteous, and it sure paid off - $2,054,339 was raised, meaning a lot of fans who were happy with Kingmaker are happy to come back for seconds.
Wrath of the Righteous is slated for a September release, and based on how great Kingmaker was and the pair of beta versions available to backers, it's going to make an even bigger splash. New characters, a new story and new locations aren't the only thing we're getting - there's a brand new Crusading system implemented as well, allowing you to spread your influence to distant lands you won't be able to actually visit.
Tales of Arise
Tales has grown to become a marquee series in the JRPG genre worldwide with its relatively recent explosion into the western market. While most of us have only begun hearing about Tales in mainstream media in the past couple of years - or around 2003 if you are a JRPG fan, which is when Symphonia was released - it's been the third biggest name in the genre in its native Japan behind only Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest since its birth in 1995.
Tales of Arise represents Bandai Namco's latest attempt to steer the series down a fresher path, cutting multiplayer entirely and revamping the combat system with a great focus on strategic, defensive gameplay that favors dodging and countering incoming attacks.
Not unlike Final Fantasy titles, the various entries of the Tales series are not necessarily linked in any surface-level manner or take place in the same fictional universe, with the connection between games being a bit more esoteric and steeped in narrative themes. As such, you can dive into Arise, the 17th main entry, with zero prior knowledge. If previous entries in the series are anything to go by, the story is bound to be a memorable one.
"What if you played as the bad guys?" isn't exactly a revolutionary concept in games, but few titles in the past which had this idea managed to pull it off with the kind of style that Rogue Lords has on display. A dark fantasy roguelike similar in subject matter and gameplay to Darkest Dungeon, Rogue Lords is coming to PC this September and tasks you with giving the archetypal Good Guys a nice wallop after their supposed victory.
Rogue Lords posits you as the devil himself who just got punked by the forces of light. Naturally we cannot allow such a thing to go unpunished, so you need to assemble a team of history and folklore's 9 worst and most awful people like Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein into a crack team of do-badders.
The gameplay trailer that publisher Nacon has recently released show a deep skill based combat system and funky mechanic where you can bend the rules of the game in a fourth-wall breaky way by pressing a big red pentagram button. Remember kids, satanism rules!
Star Wars: The Old Republic - Legacy of the Sith
Not a whole new game, but we're counting new expansions too - Legacy of the Sith will be the latest full-on expansion arriving to Star Wars: The Old Republic since Onslaught was released in 2019. Arriving as part of the game's big 10th anniversary celebrations kicking off this holiday season, Legacy of the Sith has all the trappings of your usual MMO expansion - increased level cap, new locations to explore, new story content, a new raid, fancy new items and so forth.
Less usual about this expansion is some of the meta changes it brings to the way the game works. Combat Styles is cracking open the SWTOR class system for infinitely more customization options, opening up all Force-using advanced classes to all Force-using classes and all tech-using advanced classes to all tech-using classes. What does this mean?
An end to weapon restrictions, basically. A smuggler with an auto-cannon. A Sith warrior with a dual-bladed saber. Arguably the most important one - bounty hunters with anything other than a dinky little pistol! Legacy of the Sith is also the first release in an entire year's worth of subsequent anniversary content drops, bringing additional raids, character customization overhauls, UI revamps, quality of life updates and possibly even graphical overhauls.
More often than not, any game idea that revolves around mashing together two popular but unrelated properties only sounds cool in your head for about five seconds before all the glaring flaws appear if you think about it for a bit. Monster Harvest is... one of the key exceptions. Crossing Pokémon with Harvest Moon is a stroke of genuine genius.
It's like Pokémon in the sense that you need to collect all sorts of colourful little fantasy monsters and test their strength against each other in
savage pit fights sporting competitions. However, instead of finding the critters in some tall grass, you need to grow them.
Yes, that's right - the monsters are mutant crops. Sentient vegetables in animal form. You need to tend to your farm, sow seeds, till the soil and do all the chill chores you've come to expect from a Harvest Moon game, except when it comes to collecting the fruits of your labor, you collect monsters instead of, you know, fruit. How didn't anyone think of this sooner?
Following Monster Harvest, we have another pixel-art retro RPG that is a lot less cheerful. Death Trash is a particularly grim post-apocalyptic gorepunk RPG with a distinct aesthetic. While other games focus on being gloomy, or scary or decrepit, Death Trash is all about grossing you out with copious amounts of weird pulsating flesh.
Earth-tones and sickly oranges and yellows dominate the utterly awful and horrible world of Death Trash wherever there isn't a giblet of half-rotting meat on display, but the artistic direction and clever application of restraint prevent it from being silly and 'edgy for the sake of being edgy'.
You take on the role of an outcast trying to survive on a ruined foreign world where human colonization efforts failed due to outside intervention of the 'cosmic horror' variety, but it is implied that the slimy flesh monsters were already here so we're not sure why humanity even tried. A dynamic combat system helps round out the intriguing setting. We can't wait to jump into this repugnant world when it leaves Early Access later this year - if you can't wait to wade into the rotting carcass of Death Trash, you can try out the EA version on Steam right now.
Diablo II: Resurrected
Diablo fans could argue that Blizzard has been doing its darndest to alienate them from the franchise in recent years (now that it's successfully run WoW into the ground for old-time fans), so bringing back what most people consider the height of the series seems like a good move.
While a an expansion and a lot of duct tape later, the horribly botched launch of Diablo 3 faded from memory as the game turned into something pretty good, and arguably even great, fans would still say that Diablo 2 was where the isometric hack and slash was at its peak. Diablo 4 looks like an attempt to return to that former glory, but we're all suspicious of Blizzard's attempts at new games.
Diablo 2: Resurrected, however, seems like a promise we can all hope on being delivered. The fan favorite second installment, with content from the Lord of Destruction expansion, given a graphical and quality-of-life touchup without any of the gameplay being fiddled with. No crappy loot tables, no auction houses - just D2 with a fresh coat of paint. We're ready to brave hell once again.