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RPG Site Awards 2014: Day One

2014 was one of RPG Site's most productive years in recent memory. Not only did we kick off the year with a brand new redesign that gave our site a much more modern look, but we also had perhaps the highest output of articles that we have done yet as a site in our nearly-9 year history, with a ton of reviews and previews for you the fans to enjoy.

As we look forward to the new year, we have a lot of amazing plans that we hope you enjoy including even more comprehensive coverage and different ways of presenting that information.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet. There were a lot of fantastic RPGs for us fans to enjoy these past 12 months, so we want to take a look back and decide which ones deserve the honor to win one of our categories as we commence the RPG Site Awards 2014. 

You can listen to all of our deliberations in the embedded Youtube video above, or you can download it directly here. You can also check us out on iTunes where the latest episode is up.

 

Best Tangential: DanganRonpa 2

Despite borrowing concepts from other franchises, DanganRonpa is very much a unique beast, and a powerful one at that. Both mainline entries of this over-the-top, stylized, whodunit mystery visual novel series saw release in the west this year to great reception from fans and media alike.  

The conflicting yet effective presentation, the fast-paced trials that even Phoenix Wright wouldn’t be able to keep up with, the full spectrum of emotion one experiences when playing the games; all of it resonated with the audience, and for good reason.

With both 1 and 2 eligible, and agreeing that only one should be chosen as a winner in this category, coming to a consensus was not easy. With its better regarded cast, more compelling mysteries, and an emotional rollercoaster of a plot that even the first game could not boast,  DanganRonpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a natural choice for this category - but it’s fair to say that both of them are well worth your time.  

Runner Up: This War of Mine, Destiny

 

Best Writing: South Park: The Stick of Truth

This category almost feels a little unfair this year. Trey Parker, Matt Stone and the rest of the core South Park team have a strong track record of turning in some of the funniest scenes in TV on an incredibly strict timeline - so give them a full 20-plus hour game and a lengthy time in which to write it seems like overkill.

The truth is, though, South Park: The Stick of Truth’s protracted and difficult development meant it probably had too long in the oven - and yet it comes out no less relevant, timely or self-aware for it. It happily rails on the conventions of video games with glee while somehow justifying itself perfectly. It makes incredible use of the franchise and its characters, and despite being utterly rammed full of fanservice, it feels fresh. Its story was no small part in earning it the glowing review we gladly gave it.

It’s also hilarious. Yeah. That helps too.

Runner Up: Dragon Age: Inquisition, DanganRonpa 2

 

Best Soundtrack: Bravely Default

When it comes to mastering presentation and tone, nothing is more important than a musically interesting and fitting soundtrack. Indeed, at all moments there is music to be heard, setting the mood and accompanying all aspects of a game: from cutscenes; to battles; to wandering dungeons or aimlessly idling in a town. From its initial reveal, the artstyle made clear that Bravely Default was aiming to invoke a charming style and a classic feel reminiscent of the RPGs of days past. You could not ask for much more with how Revo decided to score what has become the start of Square Enix’s newest franchise.

While the soundtrack doesn’t boast a large number of tracks in total, clocking at less than 50, the quality found in nearly every piece is simply remarkable. Bravely Defaults music is largely performed by wind instrumentation, both brass and woodwind, but piano and guitar also work their way into many of the songs. The music does a great job with varied styles while also creating a cohesive overall package. Not only is the audio quality itself top notch, but every track fits exceptionally well into its place in the game. It’s impressive how appropriate each track feels.

Choices during composition go a long way in integrating the music into the game. Each character is represented by a suitable instrument, such as the serene pan flute for the low-key Tiz, or an accordion for the goofy and flirty Ringabel. Location themes also perfectly set the mood, as the industrial war city is represented by a bombastic brass melody, while sleigh bells and piano mark the outlier snow city. Battle themes are upbeat and lively, and the concluding sections of the game join together many of the earlier tracks in an all encompassing finale medley. How common musical phrases are rearranged throughout the soundtrack is masterfully done.

It’s difficult not to gush more about Bravely Default’s soundtrack, as it easily claimed victory as RPG Site's Best Soundtrack of the year.

Runner Up: Transistor, Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star

 

Biggest Surprise: Terra Battle

When Mistwalker announced they were working on a new RPG, some people - including many of us here at RPG Site - sat up sharply. This is the creator of Final Fantasy! Then the fateful words were uttered: ‘For Mobile’. Oh. Expressions slumped. ‘Free to Play’. At this point, most people had lost a lot of interest, if not all. Then came a Comic Con panel where Sakaguchi waxed lyrical about something called ‘Download Starter’, which seemed to be Kickstarter without the actual purpose. Huh. Okay then.

...Then it came out. Anybody who could actually look past their disappointment that it wasn’t Lost Odyssey 2 or something similar discovered something incredible: It’s good. Not just good - it’s excellent.

A smart combination of some of the concepts behind top mobile puzzler hits with a healthy injection of RPG stats, story and leveling up and with smart free-to-play mechanics, Terra Battle went from being a minor, vaguely disappointing footnote of the year to a major point of discussion. If you haven’t tried it, you should.

Runner Up: Valkyria Chronicles surprise PC port, Tetsuya Nomura leaving Final Fantasy XV

 

One to Watch: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

There is plenty to be excited about involving Wild Hunt, and is bound to excite franchise fans and newcomers alike.  The third entry to CD Projekt’s Action RPG series might continue the story of the grizzled Gerald, but there is plenty for every RPG fan to look forward to.

In a harmonious marriage between The Elder Scrolls and Monster Hunter games, Wild Hunt features a huge open world full of dangerous, gigantic monsters to take down.  You can dodge these behemoths, biding your time until you get strong enough to strike them down, or take a risk at glory and try and defeat the foe right away; the choice is yours.

Of course, such an open world could end up being empty and lifeless, especially in one that supposedly takes over a half an hour to transverse on horseback. If the developers are to be believed, however, there will be more than enough to do in the world of Wild Hunt, with a plethora of locations and dynamic events that will keep travels from being anything but dull.  Also, with decisions that the player makes having real, lasting impacts on the story and other events, everyone’s playthrough is bound to be different.

It’s a shame that Wild Hunt has been delayed into 2015, but if all the glowing previews and exciting tidbits are to be believed, the wait will be worth it. May can’t come quickly enough!

Runner Up: Bloodborne, Final Fantasy XV

 

Stay tuned for tomorrow where we will cover Best Indie, Best Small Screen, Best Big Screen, and Best Overall RPG!

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