Every so often a game appears out of nowhere to shatter expectations and remind us all why we love RPGs so much, and Xenoblade Chronicles is exactly that kind of game. The designers at Monolith Soft took ideas from a wide range of sources, from the old classics of Squaresoft to the latest MMOs, and fused them into a remarkable game that isn't quite like anything else but still evokes the fondest memories of great games from the past. In doing so, it also points the way toward the future of the genre and where RPGs will triumph moving forward.
While games can be fun just by doing one thing well, Xenoblade is a rare masterpiece that excels in almost everything. It has a battle system that is fast paced and exciting but still favors careful planning and positioning. Its characters can be rebuilt in many different ways while always remaining unique, and every possible combination of characters provides new strategies and challenges. The world composed of two giant gods is unlike anything else, and it is incredibly well realized with huge, complex environments that are a pleasure to explore. It has an enthralling story filled with twists and a wonderful cast, and all this is supported by a rousing musical score. It is incredibly easy to lose yourself in this game for a hundred hours and still find something new to enjoy. Yet, even with all of this content the game is still incredibly accessible and forgiving, making travel easy and making it more advantageous to take risks and have fun rather than to hold back and play it safe.
Xenoblade Chronicles has its faults, but all that does is prove that even the greatest of games will not be perfect. It may not have high definition graphics or sharp textures and it has some dull sidequests, but it is nonetheless one of the most beautiful and enjoyable games to be released in quite some time.
Borderlands 2 is fantastic on consoles, as it not only offers a great single-player experience, but allows gamers to jump online easily via XBL or PSN and play co-op with friends from the very beginning. It is a great experience for all involved. Tales of Graces f is another impressive offering from this year, bringing series veterans and newcomers together with a massive adventure. The Tales series has its peaks and valleys, and we were glad to see Graces f package the tried-and-true battle system with a tight interface, engrossing world, interesting dungeons, perfect pacing, and addictive skill system to make this another highlight of the series.
by Nathan Schlothan, Michael A. Cunningham