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Though Final Fantasy XIV is noteworthy already for its strong story, Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers eclipses it to provide one of the series’ strongest narratives of all time. Shadowbringers is given the opportunity to take the game’s story in a more daring direction, and while it gleefully uses the move from the world of The Source to The First to not only come upon a whole new and fascinating setting, it keeps those well established threads running throughout the narrative. It superbly handles telling both a fresh story and making it tie back into the major points of Final Fantasy XIV’s ongoing tale.
One of Shadowbringers’ greatest successes is how it makes the Warrior of Light feel like one of the driving points in the story, as opposed to the previous expansions where they often felt more like a powerful helping others achieve their goals. The plot ends up with a fitting and memorable conclusion to its own arc, but keeps plenty of tantalising threads with endings still to be found. The writing, characters, and localisation are all at the top of their game, and the mixture of great individual events and a brilliant overall tale ensures it comes away with RPGamer’s Best Story Award.
Nihon Falcom is crafting the gaming equivalent of an epic fantasy series with Trails, and The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III finally looks like things are coming together. It is also perhaps the strongest narrative to come from the series yet (at least in English with the two Crossbell games yet to make it over). The incredible amount of depth and world-building is only part of what makes it such a good story. The other part is how Nihon Falcom packs its cast and setting with character and charm. The one mark against it now is that the story has gotten so deep, it’s hard for new players to jump in; familiarity with at least the previous Cold Steel games should be considered a necessity. But it’s impossible not to get invested in the tale of the Erebonian Empire, and Trails of Cold Steel III takes that to a new level.
Concerning the tale of an amnesiac cop sent to solve a public and grizzly murder — an investigation he’s already a week behind on — Disco Elysium finds the player struggling on multiple fronts to solve the murder, rediscover their memories, and confront the many local denizens of the town, many of whom are antagonistic toward the player. However, players will quickly discover that Disco Elysium’s narrative is built by their interactions with the populace rather than in the investigation itself. It’s here that the meat of the narrative can be found. Learning of the townspeople and the history of Revachol layers on flavor and pathos, with many of the revelations made reflecting back on the player in some way. Discovering the murderer is the end goal and the ending has one of the most hopeful and well-earned payoffs of any game I’ve played in years, but the journey of getting there carries far more weight and importance and ensures Disco Elysium’s story falls right near the top.
by Alex Fuller and Zack Webster