Recent years have seen an unprecedented growth of role-playing video games, largely thanks to the far greater level of immersion afforded by modern hardware. With enormously successful titles such as Witcher 3, Dark Souls 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition being released in the last couple of years alone, it shouldn't come as any surprise that the trend is nowhere near close to abating. Following are five of the hottest RPG titles slated for release during 2016:
1. World of Warcraft: Legion
No game has quite the longevity of World of Warcraft, released way back in 2004. Legion will be released at or before September 21 as the sixth expansion pack to the world's favourite MMO. The expansion raises the level cap to 110 and introduces a new hero class called the Demon Hunter. Players will be able to explore an entirely new region, the Broken Isles, consisting of seven new zones, upon release. Other new features include class-specific artefact weapons and areas and an overhauled transmogrification system.
2. Mass Effect: Andromeda
Following in the footsteps of one of the most successful RPG trilogies ever made, Bioware's latest offering will be available in late 2016 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Although it takes place long after the events of the previous games, the new title will see a return of the familiar third-person, single-player gameplay where your decisions help shape the fate of the galaxy. Your adventures will also take place on a new spaceship in a search to find a home for humanity in the far-away Andromeda galaxy. New alien races and many new worlds to explore will also feature.
3. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
The latest in the line of leading cyberpunk-themed RPGs, Mankind Divided is slated for release on August 23. Adam Jensen returns as the player-controlled protagonist in a world set two years after the events of 2011's Human Revolution. The setting features an ongoing battle between technologically augmented humans and normal people, set in a dystopian Prague in the year 2029. The game will also feature an open-world design, mixing elements of stealth and action with extensive roleplay elements and character customization.
4. Dark Souls 3
Japanese developer FromSoftware has seen enormous success with its Dark Souls dark fantasy RPG series, making the third release much anticipated. Due for release on April 12 in Europe and the US, Dark Souls 3 will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. The game will follow on from its predecessor, and players will be able to choose and customize from a wide variety of weapons. New and terrifying enemies will take you by surprise at every turn, thanks to an extensively revamped AI. Also, the game will encourage exploration through larger, open-world areas.
5. Tom Clancy's The Division
Set for release on March 8 for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, The Division will feature the familiar third-person action gameplay of previous games of the franchise, albeit combined with role-playing elements to add greater depth to the game than ever before. The game takes place in an open-world environment set in New York during a severe pandemic crisis. The resulting apocalyptic scenario sees the fall of the US government, and the player character must do everything they can to prevent the complete collapse of society.
The above AAA titles all look highly promising, and most are already available for pre-order through popular distribution platforms such as Steam and Origin. However, the rapidly growing indie gaming market is also set to see some interesting releases in 2016, such as Mount & Blade 2 and the Kickstarter-funded Torment. Combined with the upcoming release of virtual reality headsets and the increasing popularity of 4K definition gaming rigs, 2016 is shaping up to be an interesting year for gamers everywhere!