by Louise Baker
Role playing fans have been longing for an era as exciting for the genre as the mid-nineties were, between Earthbound, Final Fantasy 6 and 7, Wild Arms and Chrono Trigger. What we're mainly seeing these days in the genre is still a good hit here and there and a bunch of junk to fill the spaces in between. That said, 2011 is already shaping up to be a really hot year for role players if the following games are any indication.
The first Diablo was an instant hit upon release. The old school dungeon crawler was less a modern RPG and much more a continuation of the basic ideas put forth by games like Wizardry. The level busting, customization and exploration between the first two Diablos makes a return for this one from Blizzard.
Final Fantasy Versus XIII
The title doesn't make a lick of sense (is Final Fantasy fighting with the number thirteen?), but long time RPG fans know that Final Fantasy is always a series to watch out for. Even if you were disappointed with previous entries in the series, you never know when something as fun as Four Warriors of Light will come from Square/Enix.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Star Wars: The Old Republic blends action and role playing together within the Star Wars universe. This promises to be an in-depth and involving delve into the world of Star Wars as only modern gaming can deliver.
While it's really being advertised as "Grand Theft Auto: Prohibition Era Chicago", it really borrows just as much from games like Dragon Quest as from Grand Theft Auto. Fans of GTA: San Andreas should be happy to see Rockstar's free-roaming gameplay and action mixed with role playing elements again.
New Vegas: Honest Hearts, Lonesome Road and Old World Blues
Players of Fallout: New Vegas have these new DLC packs to look forward, adding hours upon hours of new campaign play to the fan-favorite action-RPG series.
What we can gather from these releases is that traditional RPGs are becoming fewer and farther between. Even the most recent Dragon Quest was initially going to be released with full-on real time combat instead of menu based combat. Younger gamers are hungry for something that combines the depth of RPGs with the action and excitement of the first person shooter and free-roaming action games. All in all, it's really for the best that we're seeing this cross-pollination of genres, but older RPG lovers may long for something more traditional. We're also seeing DLC content becoming a more integral piece of the gaming marketplace, with some of the hottest upcoming games only being available by download. It's definitely an exciting time to be a gamer.