BOOM widget 362757 Dragon Age 2: Some fans are approaching this sequel with trepidation. The first game's varied prologues and rich customization features have been replaced by a more focused origin story and lead character. Baldur's Gate-style command combat is getting a more fast-paced approach. The game seems to be drifting more towards action than strategic combat.
Traditional RPG players may be crying foul, but BioWare has built up a healthy cache of good faith with me. It was around this time last year that some fans feared Mass Effect 2 would travel too far into shooter territory. I was among them, and ME2 became one of my favorites of 2010. I loved the subtle rethinking of how we define an RPG then, and I'm looking forward to seeing how BioWare surprises us next.
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inFamous 2: The first inFamous was a flawed little gem of a game, but the idea had potential. inFamous 2 may be the realization of that potential, with a serialized narrative, a change in setting, tweaks to the combat and traversal, and an expansion of the moral dilemmas that seemed too binary in the first game.
I'm nothing if not a sucker for superheroes. The unexpected twist from Kessler made inFamous' story stick in my mind, and I'm looking forward to the next chapter in Cole's saga as he prepares to confront The Beast. Though I'd rather be playing Sly 4 this year (hurry up, Sucker Punch), inFamous 2 is a good enough reason to wait for my next raccoon adventure.
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Valkyria Chronicles 3: If you're a strategy and/or RPG fan and you haven't played a Valkyria game, you're cheating yourself. The first was a criminally overlooked PlayStation 3 title with inventive mechanics that mixed strategy with third-person shooting, and characters infinitely more likable than any brooding JRPG hero. The second was the surprisingly complete transition of those ideas to a portable format, and managed to improve the formula to boot.
A part of me still wishes Valkyria Chronicles 3 would come to the PlayStation 3 where the series originated, but I know that ship has sailed. Despite that, the series' quirky sense of humor, wide cast of characters, and colorful faux-history backdrop always hook me. I loved the changes made in VC2, and the new installment looks to build on the progress with multiple endings and an easier class upgrade system.
Sony's next handheld is due out later this year, so VC3 could be one of the last major releases for the original PSP. I can't think of a better swan song.
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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: Ten years ago, a new Zelda game would top my list by the sheer strength of the brand alone. It's since seen some missteps that make me cautious, but I still can't help feel that nostalgic sense of optimism. The bright, colorful palette shows that Nintendo realizes why the visual style of Wind Waker endures, and the combat's focus on striking angles may justify the existence of MotionPlus. Nintendo has commented that they know the series needs a shake-up. While we haven't seen serious signs of a sea change yet, the acknowledgment means they're on the right track.
I have no illusions that Skyward Sword will give me the same sense of wonder and magic I felt when I played A Link to the Past or Ocarina of Time. Still, even a mediocre Zelda game shows glimmers of brilliance, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this next game shines.
Keep your eyes open throughout the week for the rest of our staff's selections--in case you don't see something you're looking forward to. And don't forget to catch up on any picks you missed.