Erik van Asselt’s RPGs of the Decade
In addition to showing the results our staff-wide voting, our massive RPGs of the Decade feature allows individual staff members to highlight their personal favourites from the last ten years. While our main list is limited to entirely new entries from the decade, our writers have been given a bit more leeway for their personal lists, being able to combine titles into a single entry in their list of ten, include various remasters and ports, and use whatever ordering, or not, they wish. Here, Erik van Asselt gives us his picks.
I had a hard time choosing between Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse. Both are amazing role-playing games and Atlus really made the Nintendo 3DS the go-to console for JRPGs. But I choose the sequel, because of the dynamic between you, the player, and Dagda, the god who resurrects you from the dead at the start of the game. The choices you need to make feel far more impactful, mostly those between you and your comrades. While Dagda keeps on nudging you to become the Godslayer, the rest of the party is working with you to save the world. In true Shin Megami Tensei fashion, there are no right answers. There is only law and chaos.
I picked Dragon’s Dogma up when I found the PC version in a budget bin. I did not expect much, but what I got was an amazing combat system with great character customisation. You can create your own Pawn, a NPC that fights with you and is able to learn from other players who will hire them. For me, the greatest highlight were the giant monsters, which required different approaches to take down. If you have never played this game, please give it a try. It is available for almost every platform at the moment, so if you miss out on this game, it is entirely your own fault.
The only reason why The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is not higher on the list is because I haven’t finished it yet. And that is not my fault. I have sunk over 40 hours into the world of the Witcher, but every time I try to spend some time on the main quest, my eye falls on the world map. And there it is. A screen full of points of interest. Treasures to find, monsters to slay, and Gwent cards to collect. This game is torture for the poor soul who tries to complete everything. And yet, I absolutely love it. I just wished Roach would stay off the roofs from time to time.
If someone would have told me that I would spend over a hundred hours in a free-to-play game, I would have thought they were crazy. But here we are. Path of Exile is the greatest hack-and-slash dungeon crawler I have played this past decade. The atmosphere is dark, gritty, and there is a feeling of unease. You are an exile, exploring the new world before you. Become stronger with each monster slain and drown in the biggest skill grid I have seen in a game. And never did the game put anything behind a paywall. It really is one of the greatest free-to-play games, with a vibrant community to boot.
The jump from 2D sprites to 3D models has been one of the biggest achievements in the sixth generation of Pokémon games. Finally we were able to experience the world in the third dimension. The world of Pokémon never felt more alive. And even though that was one of the biggest selling points for Pokémon X and Y, for me there was something else. You choose one of the new starters, but shortly after starting your journey you get to make another choice. And not just some random Pokémon. No, the original Kanto starters were back. It was the reunion between me and my boy Squirtle. And together we conquered the Kalos region.
It is not a secret that I love the concept of time travel. In movies like Back to the Future, or in series like Doctor Who, or even in video games, like Chrono Trigger. So when I read about Radiant Historia, I got really excited. There was only one problem. The original Nintendo DS release never made it to Europe, so I imported my copy and fell in love with this gem. Fixing the timelines with Stocke, the protagonist, was a really amazing story experience, together with the interesting battle system. Oh, and don’t forget the music. *chef’s kiss* So good.
Six years ago I fell in love with the Dragon Quest series. I already knew of the series, but never got around to play any of the games. They were either not on the consoles I owned, or never released in the west. So when Dragon Quest XI came out, I immediately bought it. I was there at the release of a Dragon Quest game. For me, the game brings back a lot of memories, because it is the first game me and my son played together. We explored together, fought bosses together, and experienced the world together — a real bonding moment with my kid. Now he has a 100-plus-hour game of Dragon Quest Builders 2 going on. Mistakes were made.
I have a Nintendo Wii U, and to be honest, I haven’t spent much time on the console in the past. It was just there, waiting for the next installment of The Legend of Zelda. It was a long wait, but it was worth it. Breath of the Wild took the Zelda formula and threw it out of the window, something the series absolutely needed. And then it gave us a world to explore. I saw a mountain on the horizon and I went to it. I explored all the nooks and crannies of the world, all on that clunky Wii U controller, and it was the best time I ever had on the console.
Fallout: New Vegas is my favourite modern Fallout game. Obsidian Entertainment created an immersive world, a compelling story, and some great characters. But most of all, they looked at what a Fallout game used to be and brought that over to the modern age. Do you want to be an incredibly stupid powerhouse of a character? Sure, go ahead. Just don’t expect yourself to be able to talk your way out of things. This freedom of character building was always the staple of Fallout 1 and Fallout 2. To see that return in a modern age made my day. I still remember my days in the streets of New Vegas, listening to the amazing soundtrack, and trying to find out where Rex, my companion, would bring me next.
I never got angry at video games. Annoyed, yes, but never angry. Dark Souls changed that. Controllers went flying through the room and often I heard the plastic of the thing cracking in my hands. Not destroying them, but certainly putting a lot more strain on them. But every time I got defeated, the urge to go back to the game and do it better became incredibly strong. Often it wasn’t the fault of the game that I was defeated. It was my fault. A wrong side-step, a misguided roll, an overconfident stab were just some reasons for me to fail at a boss. So when you finally defeat that boss who had been tormenting you for hours, it felt amazing. A feeling I haven’t had in years when playing a video game. And that is why I put it in my number one spot.