Xenoblade Chronicles' award for Best Story comes from a huge amount of depth in all its facets. The exciting, twisting plot is built on a powerful foundation of a fascinating and unique world inhabited by an excellent cast, polished off with lots of great little finishing touches to create a memorable tale. Shulk and company's journey to defeat the invading Mechonis that threaten their homes runs the wide gamut of emotions and provides more than satisfying reward every time players push on to see the next sequence of events.
The world, made up of two titans in the organic Bionis and mechanical Mechonis and inhabited by a diverse set of races and creatures, provides that brilliant foundation almost all on its own with an incredible amount of character, a lot of this just in its physical locations. Even those inhabitants that might not be key to the story aren't simply background noise, and the affinity system that shows the changing connections between NPCs as players explore and complete quests plays a key part in bringing the world to life. It's a diverse cast of characters, each with their own individual strengths and flaws, but a cast that blends together incredibly well. The pre-existing and burgeoning relationships within the party get more than a fair share of development and it's a pleasure to see how they come together throughout the game. Nintendo of Europe's localisation job is superb, with the excellent British voice acting helping to make all the characters, from the boisterous bruiser Reyn to the determined mage Melia to the flippant fluffball Riki, memorable.
One of Xenoblade's greatest credits is how it keeps the story ticking along throughout the game's lengthy span, which can take anywhere between sixty and a hundred-plus hours depending on how much side content is done. The many twists and turns, some of which can be more easily predicted than others, manage to keep the story ever building into a very satisfying conclusion at a time when many high-profile endings have met with relative disappointment. Xenoblade sets its stall out for an epic story fairly early on, making sure that the main characters' motivations are conveyed to players and the game continues to do so as it progresses and further characters are introduced. Important events get full cinematic treatment as well, often helped by stirring music, making sure players receive the levels of shock or action that the scenes deserve. The end result of all these things is a story that sticks in the mind for many great reasons, which is one of the main factors that has seen Monolith Soft's creation receive much love in the RPGamer community.
Mass Effect 3's ending was controversial. There's no questions about that. Wrapping up a lengthy and personal series of three games was bound to have some controversy at its end. So why did Mass Effect 3 deserve attention in the story category? As it turns out, sometimes the journey is just as important as how it ends. With many decisions from earlier in the series coming to a head and many new and difficult decisions in the third game itself, this journey was hard to forget. It creates many reasons not only to replay Mass Effect 3 itself, but the entire series a whole. As with the previous games, BioWare crafts hours of memorable dialog and creates some of the most gut-wrenching decisions ever put into a video game. Is the ending bad? At the end of the day that question hardly matters because the rest of the story is just that good.
The first Borderlands game had a bad story. For sure it was a fascinating and fun mix of Diablo and first-person shooters, but the gameplay was the sole reason to take part. It tried at comedy, but largely fell short. So how did Borderlands 2 make this list? It appears that Gearbox realized the error of their ways because Borderlands 2 not only has a far better story, but one of the best stories in an RPG this year. Full of comedy, unexpected plot twists both goofy and serious, and one of the best villains an RPG has seen in quite some time, Borderlands 2 provides tons of entertainment just with its chatty characters. Given that loot-filled RPGs donít often work to craft good stories, it is quite refreshing to see Gearbox make the effort here. People will be talking about the enigmatic Handsome Jack for years to come.
by Alex Fuller and Michael Apps