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By Alex Fuller

2013 has been a good year so far, but we're far from done in terms of RPG releases. Below are ten ones to look out for on PC and console in the coming months, including some highly promising indie entries, sequels, HD upgrades, and original games. RPGamers of all tastes look to be well accounted for.

Blackguards

Blackguards (PC) - Official Site
Pub: Daedalic Entertainment | Dev: Daedalic Entertainment | Release: 2013

Daedalic Entertainment's Blackguards sees the game favouring a hex-based map over the usual grid base that predominantely features in strategy RPGs. The German studio has built up its skills through a collection of point-and-click adventure games, and it'll be interesting to see how it fares with the first attempt at a turn-based RPG. Daedalic seems well-versed in fantasy worlds, and Blackguards looks to use this solid base in its setting. There isn't much known about the gameplay systems at this stage, outside from the screenshots showcasing the six-sided tessellation, but the setting is promising a lot of intrigue.

Players are promised control of a band of undesirables, including convicted criminals, as they try to save the world of Aventura from a dark, mysterious threat. The story is stated to include many twists and turns, with players likely needing to dirty their hands and have their moral compasses often tested. It's difficult to guess how well the story will live up to these promises with the current lack of details available, but strategy fans may well find lots to like in Blackguards.


Bound by Flame

Bound by Flame (PC, Xbox 360, PS3) - Official Site
Pub: Focus Home Interactive | Dev: Spiders | Release: 2013

Spiders has developed a bit of a reputation for coming up with neat RPG concepts that haven't really lived up fully to their initial promise, such as with Of Orcs and Men and Mars War Logs. Bound by Flame sees Spiders work from perhaps a more traditional vibe, but purports to take on a higher budget and be lengthier than its fifteen-to-twenty-hour previous efforts. The game sees players taking control of their own customised male or female mercenary, who is possessed by a flame demon. Players will be able to either resist the demon's influence and develop their own powers or accept the price of using its tempting offerings.

Choice is said to play an important part in the game, as chapters will change depending on the player's choices and how much influence from the demon they have accepted. Players will also be able to select what skills their character will specialize in for the game's real-time battle system. Companions also play a part, and players are said to be able to develop friendships, rivalries, and even romance through their interactions. Spiders has shown a lot of potential, but it has so far manifested in short bursts rather than in a whole substantial outing, but with Bound by Flame it hopes to deliver that full, proud experience.


Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness (PS3) - Official Site
Pub: NIS America | Dev: Nippon Ichi | Release: 10.08.2013 (NA), 09.27.2013 (EU)

As part of Nippon Ichi Software's 20th anniversary celebrations, the company announced the first direct sequel for its highly successful Disgaea series. With Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness the first game's main characters of Laharl, Etna, and Flonne arrive back in the main spotlight. While those experienced with the series should be very familiar with the overall gameplay already, there are a few changes and improvements of note. The Magichange feature from Disgaea 3 and 4 that allowed units to use monsters as weaponry has been replaced by the ability to mount them instead, which amongst other things, allows the monster to take damage in place of the mounted unit. The game also features a favourability system that keeps track of characters' relationships with each other. Increasing favourability can be done in many ways and has a number of effects, such as powering up combination attacks and mid-battle conversations between the characters.

Disgaea D2 follows on from the events of the first Disgaea game, with Laharl's authority as the new Overlord not being quite as respected as he'd like. Not helping his crackdown on dissidents is the sudden appearance of Celestial flowers, which have some rather interesting effects on the demons in the Netherworld, for which Laharl takes some flak from the dissenters for allowing to happen. Laharl's family life also appears to come into the spotlight with the appearance his supposed sister Sicily. The usual Disgaea humour can be expected in full force, and the series' fans will more than welcome another opportunity to dive into the Netherworld.


Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC, PS3) - Official Site
Pub: Square Enix | Dev: Square Enix | Release: 08.27.2013

A Realm Reborn effectively marks a fresh start for Final Fantasy's second MMO. A new development team was put in charge after the very disappointing reception and reactions to the changes that were being made by the new team indicated things were moving in a good direction before the game met a rather spectacular ending to allow the full relaunch. With the release of A Realm Reborn, Final Fantasy XIV also finally reaches PS3, which should help expand the game's reach, particularly as lower-end PCs rather struggled with the game's original system requirements.

Most feelings from the game's beta testing so far has been very positive, and there is a fair amount of interest from existing MMO and non-MMO fans alike. The PS3 control system looks to have done a very effective job of transferring as much of the PC playability as possible, and any potential chat issues are helped by the PS3's compatibility with the vast majority of USB keyboards. Square Enix has put a lot of effort into touching up the game this time around, making August's return to Eorzea a significant improvement from the initial visit.


Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix (PS3) - Official Site
Pub: Square Enix | Dev: Square Enix | Release: 09.10.2013 (NA), 09.13.2013 (EU)

In recent times, Kingdom Hearts has felt like a series trying to stay alive using its own existing fanbase, particularly with its attempts to link together recent games into an overarching plot. This effort likely hasn't been helped by the wide variation of platforms the various prequels and sequels have appeared on. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix offers the chance for those who may have missed out originally to get into the series and see why it has so many fans.

Remix effectively takes players from the beginning of the first game right up to the starting point of Kingdom Hearts II, including those events between the two. It includes full HD versions of both Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, as well as just under three hours of scenes that detail the events of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. This is the first time the first game's Final Mix updated re-release has been made available in the west, and it has been retooled to play similarly to Re:Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II, while all music tracks have been rerecorded. Remix is therefore not just a good jumping-on point for new players, but a chance for older ones to sample the first game once more with all the improvements from later releases.


South Park: The Stick of Truth

South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC, Xbox 360, PS3) - Official Site
Pub: Ubisoft | Dev: Obsidian Entertainment | Release: Q4.2013

Coming out considerably later than initially planned, no doubt at least partly due to ex-publisher THQ's financial woes, this holiday season is hopefully the time RPGamers can play Obsidian's latest effort. Unsurprisingly, South Park: The Stick of Truth takes a rather different style from previous Obsidian games, with 2D side-scrolling visuals that remain true to the style of the TV show. RPGamers can be assured that the show's trademark style of humour is also fully intact, including high levels of profanity and characters utilising farts in place of magic.

Players are thrust into the role of the "New Kid" in South Park, which appears to be in the middle of a massive town-wide LARP. Quickly recruited into Cartman's "human" army, they are soon tasked with retrieving the titular Stick of Truth from Stan and Kyle's elvish faction. Impressions so far have compared the turn-based battle system to that of Paper Mario, with appropriate South Park twists applied to near everything, including a very high level of violence. Certainly those who are not fans of the show's brand of humour would be wise to steer clear, but those that are should safely be able to get their hopes up for The Stick of Truth.


Sully: A Very Serious RPG

Sully: A Very Serious RPG (PC, Vita) - Official Site
Pub: Breadbrothers Games | Dev: Breadbrothers Games | Release: 2013

Sully: A Very Serious RPG is a new indie attempt from Breadbrothers to bring back the "good ol' days" to the JRPG genre, with a very lighthearted and humourous vibe despite the title's attempt to convince otherwise. The game focuses on two childhood friends, Crystal and Darin, and their last summer together before going to different colleges, although the nature of their world means this plays out rather more interestingly than it would normally. The main quest available for the game's E3 demo saw players join in a war between greaser crabs and turf-invading jellyfish, which should be a good indication of the level of seriousness at hand.

The overworld may not differ much from other efforts at retro RPGs; however, this is offset by the clear amount of effort that has clearly gone into giving the turn-based battles an impressive and distinct art style. The flowing, animated battle system is not only a visual treat, players can opt out of standard battles and simply take on only bosses. Sully looks to be another highly entertaining entry for RPG fans of all generations, which will also be available on PlayStation Vita via the PlayStation Mobile platform.


Tales of Xillia

Tales of Xillia (PS3) - Official Site
Pub: Namco Bandai | Dev: Namco Bandai | Release: 08.06.2013 (NA), 08.09.2013 (EU)

The Tales series has been on somewhat of a resurgence in the west, with Tales of the Abyss and Tales of Graces f doing well. Namco Bandai has even seen fit to announce a western release for Tales of Xillia's sequel before the first game itself arrives in August. Xillia's Dual Raid Linear Motion Battle System (DR-LMBS), brings back TP but also retains aspects of Graces f's Chain Capacity system. DR-LMBS's main new contribution to the series is how two characters will link up for more effectiveness in battle. Linked characters get both passive bonuses and AI changes that enables the pairing to fight more effectively against a foe, including a special Link Arte that occurs when certain conditions are met while linked. Another change allows users to choose how to level their party by spending Growth Points in six areas.

Xillia is set in Liese Maxia, a world where spirits coexist with humans and monsters. The game features two main protagonists, Jude, one of the main protagonists, is a medical student investigating an incident that left many casualties, who ends up meeting Milla, a mysterious girl undertaking her own investigation into the deaths of spirits. The series is well known for very twisting plots, and Xillia is no exception. This is the first Tales game created specifically for the PS3, and the visuals look to have taken another decent step-up while keeping the series' anime style. Tales of Xillia looks in prime position to take on and build upon the series momentum.


The Guided Fate Paradox

The Guided Fate Paradox (PS3) - Official Site
Pub: NIS America | Dev: Nippon Ichi | Release: Fall 2013

The Guided Fate Paradox is Nippon Ichi's spiritual successor to PSP title Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman. Ordinary high school student, Renya Kagurazaka, is entered into a raffle at a shopping mall and wins the rather unusual prize of godhood. As a god, Renya is now tasked with helping make people's wishes come true using the Fate Revolution Circuit. Fortunately, he is not alone in this endeavour as there are a group of angels to back him up.

The game is effectively a mix of roguelike dungeon-crawling and Nippon Ichi's brand of strategy RPGs. Players take direct control of just Renya, with any extra characters following preset behaviour. Each action that Renya takes, such as moving or attacking, is followed by all other combatants taking one themselves. The Guided Fate Paradox definitely borrows visual cues from Nippon Ichi's previous games, utilising the same style of sprites as well as the over-the-top animated attacks. Unconventional equipment options are also present in abundance, such as equipment tank treads on characters' legs. The Guided Fate Paradox offers another flavour for Nippon Ichi fans to try out, and they seem to be very well catered for during the anniversary year.


Two Brothers

Two Brothers (PC, Xbox 360, Wii U) - Official Site
Pub: Ackk Studios | Dev: Ackk Studios | Release: 2013

One more upcoming retro indie RPG is Two Brothers from Ackk Studios. However, instead of sticking to one of the technological eras, Two Brothers allows players to take the journey from black-and-white through to 16-bit. This journey is reflected in the story, where players take on the role of Roy Guarder. Roy suffers a near-death experience that shows him a world full of colour, and sets out with his brother Bivore to introduce these colours to their world.

RPG death also gets an examination in Two Brothers. When players die the usual game over screen doesn't appear, and they instead find themselves in the Afterlife Hub. The Afterlife Hub acts as another world, where players can uncover clues and interact with characters that have passed away in the game's story. When players wish to return from the Afterlife Hub they can simply jump from the edge back to the living world. Two Brothers looks to bring in some very interesting ideas, and it will be fascinating to see them work in practice.


Honourable Mentions
Of course, that isn't all that's coming out this year. Below are a few honourable mentions, getting updated re-releases or making their debuts on new platforms, to look out for amongst those not covered above.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Deus Ex: Human Revolution Drector's Cut Diablo III
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