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Best Hybrid RPG
It feels weird that Disco Elysium goes into the catch-all Best Hybrid section when it is the perhaps most honest translation of the traditional storytelling of pen-and-paper RPGs to the digital interactive medium, but in the context of video games it is a bit of an oddball. Skewing closer to classic point-and-click adventure games of old, the game manages to seamlessly blend that style alongside that of fondly-remembered isometric RPGs. But tying all of it together is its skill system; the game uses a simple 2d6 roll, before applying modifiers, to see if you pass or fail any given challenge. The game even provides the odds of passing each check along with any modifiers accrued from decisions made leading up to that point, giving a clear indication to the player how viable a path ahead is.
But the biggest improvement over other RPGs is the game’s insistence on failing forward. Passing every skill check isn’t possible; the spread of skill points and random chance mean that not everything is a guarantee. Despite this, the game and its story never stop moving forward and players must learn to live with failures, much like the protagonist must come to terms with his missteps. Even high stats can offer downsides, as the game will often attempt to lead players toward the desires stemming from those skills, for better or worse. Ultimately, what Disco Elysium offers is a beautifully-written and highly-reactive RPG with deep opportunities for role-playing and is why it comes out on top on our Best Hybrid RPG award.
Coming out as the Nintendo 3DS wound down, Yo-kai Watch 3 treated those that gave it a try to a great reminder of everything we loved about the dual-screen portable generation. Adding in a new “American” city called BBQ (an element that rather challenges the original game’s localisation choice of pretending it was taking place in the US from the start) and switching between two protagonists to explore and advance the story, there’s a vast wealth of side quests to play and yo-kai to capture. The humourous story has an excellent localization that successfully translates a lot of the jokes, especially for anyone who loves bad puns, and the game introduces a brand new battle system that offers a nice twist on the original game’s mechanics that are easy to understand but offer lots of depth. Yo-kai Watch 3 is a massive, and massively fun, game that too few people have played. Anyone who still has a 3DS should not miss it.
What was more unexpected: that the Legend of Zelda franchise would be combined with the rhythm-based roguelike Crypt of the NecroDancer, or that this merger would stand strong as one of the year’s better titles? Cadence of Hyrule’s marriage of rhythm-based movement and combat, as well as randomised world and dungeon layouts, with the classic Zelda design structure works surprisingly well, and those who’d rather march to the beat of their own drum even have the option of simply turning off the rhythm feature. Cadence of Hyrule is a solid Zelda entry with all the secrets, dungeons, and bosses anyone could ask for — and, of course, a rocking soundtrack of classic Zelda remixes.
by Zack Webster, Michael Apps, and Pascal Tekaia