What role will role-playing games play at this year's E3 expo? A big one, whether you're a fan of the old-school turn-based brand or the massively multiplayer online way of doing things.
Whether you prefer your role-playing experience to be traditionally medieval, brilliantly futuristic, gloomy and post apocalyptic or somewhere in-between, with shooter mechanics or thoughtful strategy, online or off, there's certainly no lack of content. Our look at the Big Role-Playing Games of E3 2010 may not cover every title that will appear—there are still plenty of surprises expected—but it should give you at least a few hundred hours worth of game time.
Here's what we expect to show up at E3 2010 and, more or less, fall in the role-playing game genre.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
It appears to be as much of a shooter as it is a role-playing game—and original Deus Ex creators Warren Spector and Harvey Smith aren't involved—and the game's focus on mechanical human implants and a regenerative health system appear to be substantial departures for the series. At least it's fashionable! We're looking forward to seeing more than trailers at E3.
Fallout: New Vegas (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Ready for another hundred hours spent traipsing about the post-nuclear wastelands of a future America? Obsidian Entertainment picks up development duties and takes the mutant-slaying, VATS-targeting role-playing game to Las Vegas and scorched earth locations beyond. Fallout: New Vegas will be at E3 and out sometime later this year.
Golden Sun DS (DS)
Nintendo's other big role-playing game was introduced to us as Monado: Beginning of the World at E3 2009. Thankfully, that name was changed to Xenoblade, at least in Japan, referencing the developer's previous Xenosaga games.
Dungeon Siege III (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Chris Taylor's action RPG series gets handed off to the very busy Obsidian Entertainment and comes to consoles for the first time. Add in cooperative multiplayer and a deep role-playing experience and, baby, you got a stew goin'!
Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)
The next Star Wars MMO is in the capable hands of role-playing game experts BioWare. This is starting to look like the Star Wars online role-playing game that we hoped Galaxies would be.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep (PSP), Unannounced Kingdom Hearts Game (??)
The still-hot crossover of Disney characters and Square Enix favourites continues, with the PSP adventure prepped for a stateside release. The Kingdom Hearts series will keep on chugging with another unannounced game, one that may rear its head at E3 2010.
Lord of the Rings: War in the North (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
Snowblind Studios, creators of the incredibly addictive hack-and-slash RPGs Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath, turns its attention to Tolkein's work. You had us at Snowblind Studios, Warner Bros.
Hunted: The Demon's Forge (Xbox 360, PS3, PC)
inXile Entertainment aims to revitalize the dungeon crawl in this cooperative action game that's inspired by games like Wizardry, but looks like a Gears of War contender. The RPG-ish nature of Hunted: The Demon's Forge is debatable, given its focus on ranged and melee combat, but fans of the genre might want to see how deeply those dungeon crawl influences run.
Deathspank (Xbox 360, PS3)
"Monkey Island meets Diablo" sounds about right. Creator Ron Gilbert and Hothead Games inject some rarely-seen humour into the action-RPG genre, but keep the deep customisation and questing of more straightly played games.
Dragon Quest IX (DS)
It's a big hit in Japan, but will the latest Dragon Quest game find an audience in North America? We'll know not long after E3, because the game lands in July, smiles, slimes and all.
Final Fantasy XIV (PS3, PC)
It was a big surprise at E3 2009, in part due to the fact that Final Fantasy XIII wasn't out yet, but Square Enix's second massively multiplayer online role-playing game set in the Final Fantasy mythos is coming along and will likely make another appearance this year. What about that Final Fantasy Versus XIII? Will that pop up somewhere?
Fable III (Xbox 360, PC)
Another sign of the blurring lines between RPGs, shooters and action adventure games, Fable III puts the player on a path to rule Albion, doing good or doing not-so-good. The Xbox 360 version is Project Natal-infused and places a big emphasis on "touch," according to Lionhead Studios boss Peter Molyneux.
DC Universe Online (PS3, PC)
Sony Online Entertainment lets players play hero or villain in the DC universe, buddying up with Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and other super friends for a chance to visit Gotham and Metropolis, then make a heroic name for yourself. It's one of a few PlayStation 3 MMOs in the works, so we hope SOE pulls it off.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Armada of the Damned (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (DS)
This Final Fantasy spin-off game is "a classic fantasy RPG using today's technology," according to the game's producer. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light not only has the random encounters and turn-based gameplay you (might) love, it also has some gorgeous art direction.
APB: All Points Bulletin (PC)
Role-play your way to criminal infamy or stop crime dead in its tracks with Crackdown developer Realtime Worlds' ambitious cops and robbers online game. Think of APB as the Grand Theft Auto MMO that hasn't been made yet and expect EA to ship the game not long after E3.
Valkyria Chronicles 2 (PSP)
Sega takes you to school with the sequel to the underrated PlayStation 3 military role-playing game Valkyria Chronicles. The second game in the series makes the shift to the PSP, adding new classes and skews a little younger.
What Is The Trend? Variety. Every platform is represented, thanks to a broad range of games that run from the traditional, like Square Enix's Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light and Dragon Quest IX, to the unconventional and inspired, like Deus Ex and Valkyria Chronicles 2. Defining what is and what isn't a role-playing game isn't as easy as it once was, thanks to every other genre borrowing its progression elements and character customisation, and the genre responding in kind.