Dark Souls. Elder Scrolls. Dragon Age. And of course the new (and supremely awesome) kid on the block, the Witcher. What do these four sword and sorcery franchises have in common? They all have games coming out in 2014.
Let that sink in for a moment. The third Dragon Age, Inquisition, and the third Witcher game, Wild Hunt, are coming out in the same year. The sequel to Dark Souls, one of the most critically acclaimed games of 2011, is returning. And of course it is a huge occasion when any new Elder Scrolls game is released, even more so when it is in an MMO that lets players explore all of Tamriel for the first time in the franchise’s history.
It is without a doubt a great time to be an RPG fan. But let’s say, just for fun, you can only embark on one epic quest in 2014. Which will it be? Let’s break down what each game brings to the table.
Dark Souls II
Few games captured the interest of hardcore gamers in recent years like Dark Souls. With it’s refusal to hold player’s hands and it’s bone crushing difficulty, Dark Souls really showed there is a huge number of gamers who hate themselves. Which brings us to Dark Souls II. From what I can tell it will be very similar to the first Dark Souls, though larger in scope and with an easier starting zone to ease newcomers into the painful ways of the game.
Potential Pitfalls: Might be easier than the first Dark Souls, not on next-gen systems (booo)
This might be your pick if: you enjoy pain and suffering, you love the feeling of accomplishment that comes with getting knocked down only to get up once again.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
While other franchise’s on this list are trying to replicate the past, Witcher 3 is plowing forward, with the third and final entry in the series going full open-world. The game will conclude the story line of the monster-hunter Geralt of Rivia on his quest to find his long, lost love Yenneffer. He will probably kill a lot of people/monsters along the way. Geralt’s trademark moral ambiguity will be returning, and developer CDProjekt Red promises meaningful choices and consequences. This is also probably not only the best looking game on this list, but the best looking next-generation title I’ve seen so far. That alone might be reason enough to give it a play.
Potential Pitfalls: the game looks so good you might not be able to play other games without thinking they look like crap. The difficulty, much like Witcher 2, could be too much for some. Oh who am I kidding, this game looks freaking amazing.
This might be your pick if: You loved Witcher 2, you enjoy open world games, like choices that aren’t just “light side or dark.”
Dragon Age: Inquisition
After a disappointing second entry in the franchise, developer Bioware has a lot to prove with the first (and maybe last) next-gen Dragon Age. Players can once again choose their race as they take on the role of the Inquisitor and begin to rebuild an ancient order, brokering deals between various warring factions to defeat the army of demons that are pouring forth from the Fade, also known as Dragon Age’s version of the spirit world. If that storyline sounds familiar, well, that’s probably because it is almost identical to the “rebuild Grey Wardens, unite Ferelden, defeat Darkspawn,” plot of Origins. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bioware looks like they have taken criticism of Dragon Age II to heart and are bringing the series back to it’s roots, but I have a nagging feeling it might have a “been there, done that” feeling to it.
Potential Pitfalls: Being a prettier version of Dragon Age: Origins (maybe that isn’t a bad thing?)
This might be your pick if: You loved Dragon Age: Origins, you hated Dragon Age II, aren’t cool enough to buy Witcher 3.
Elder Scrolls Online
Not only for the first time will gamers be able to explore all of everybody’s favorite fantasy playground, Tamriel, in one game, but thanks to Elder Scrolls Online, they will be able to do it with friends. Or enemies. Or both. Gameplay looks to be a mixture of Skyrim with more traditional MMO elements such as ability bars and classes, which could be interesting. Graphically Tamriel, from the deserts of Hammerfell to the snowy peaks of Skyrim, has never looked better. Throw in some intriguing pvp dynamics where actual players through their conquests can become the Emperor of the continent and Elder Scrolls Online is looking to be the next great MMO.
Potential Pitfalls: A $15 subscription fee. Really? We still are doing that? Also how the MMO mechanics in a traditionally single player game will work out is still up in the air.
This might be your pick if: you loved Skyrim, you want to rule a virtual country, enjoy social interaction.
As for me, if I absolutely had to only pick one, it would be Witcher 3 without hesitation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of every franchise featured here. I love Dragon Age: Origins, I love me a good challenge and I played 80+ hours of Skyrim just like the next guy. But after playing Witcher 2, I just can’t shake the feeling that Wild Hunt is going to be incredible. The Witcher universe and characters are just too captivating for me to pass up. Combine that with great gameplay, unbelievable graphics and meaningful choices and you have what very likely could end up being my game of 2014.
Regardless of which game is more up your alley, RPG fans of all shapes, sizes, and preferences have a lot to look forward in the coming months, so be sure to keep those swords sharp and your wits even sharper.