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The Age of Incline: RPG Codex's 2012-2016 GOTY Results

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The Age of Incline: RPG Codex's 2012-2016 GOTY Results

Community - posted by felipepepe on Wed 8 February 2017, 01:55:25

Tags: GOTY 2016; RPG Codex; RPG Codex Awards

[Poll and analysis by Felipepepe]

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the RPG Codex's latest poll results!

As you all know, the mid/late 2000's were quite sad for RPG fans. We were treated to the glory of the late 90's/early 2000's with some of the best RPGs ever released, only to see the "Death of PC" - Black Isle, Sir-Tech, Troika, Looking Glass Studios, Westwood Studios, DreamForge, New World Computing, Origin - all closed down or were bought (and then closed down), leaving us under the iron, multi-platform rule of a few giant publishers.

For reference, these are ALL the PC RPGs released in English in 2005:

Jeff Vogel made 12% of the year's RPGs, think about that. Not a stellar line-up by any means, and you had the added challenge of actually finding & buying them - GOG was founded in 2008 and Steam only began selling non-Valve games in December 2005 (which is part of why no one knew about Freedom Force vs. the 3rd Reich, it sold only 40,000 copies and we never got a sequel).

But the Codex endured, and in enduring grew bitter.

Then came 2012, and things changed. Or it felt like they changed.

First, Legend of Grimrock came out of nowhere (with productions values above RPG Maker levels!) reviving the real-time blobber sub-genre, dead since the 90's. Then Dark Souls got a PC port (something rare back then) and, more importantly, Kickstarter became a thing. That year we all saw Brian Fargo sell us on a dream of RPG revival, spearheaded by Wasteland 2 and soon followed by Shadowrun: Returns, Pillars of Eternity, Dead State, Banner Saga, Xenonauts, FTL: Faster Than Light, Legends of Eisenwald, Hero-U, Barkley 2, Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar, etc...

This began what many called The Age of Incline, a hopeful return to our past glory.

Now, five years later, how did it all turned out? We decided to find out, setting up a poll for users to vote on all games from 2012-2016.

One thing is certain - there's A LOT more games. In 2016 alone there were over 1810 games released under the tag 'RPG", according to SteamSpy. That's likely more than what we had during the entire 80's & 90's. I tried to get a comprehensive list of the highlights while limiting it to 200 games, but a few escaped me - such as Rance 5D, Ara Fell, Enderal, One Way Heroics, Long Live the Queen and Fortune Summoners. I apologize.

Now, onward to the results! According to 800 users, the best RPGs of the past 5 years were:

Yes, the winner is The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt - and by a large margin: almost 60% of everyone who played rated it 5/5.

Proving the Codex is VD's turf, Age of Decadence actually got more votes than W3, but less 5/5s, so it earns second place.

Divinity: Original Sin comes third - Larian's Kickstarter effort was among the most popular titles, but the votes were split between 4/5 and 5/5. D:OS2 has high hopes riding on it.

To no one's surprise, some games suffered heavily from down-votes. If we remove the 1/5 & 2/5 votes from all games, then Pillars of Eternity goes from #23 to #13, Dark Souls goes from 5th to 2nd and Undertale goes from #130 to #18. Wow. Oddly, Wasteland 2 goes DOWN from #23 to #29 if you remove the negative votes, as several games surpass it.

For other curiosities, Pillars of Eternity and Wasteland 2 were the two most played games, but while they had many positive votes few of them were 5/5s, leaving them rather low on the list. Shadowrun: Returns was the king of "good for what it is", with 33% of the Codex rating it 3/5. Rance VI: The Collapse of Zeth, Megadimension Neptunia VII and Voidspire Tactics would be the "hidden gems" - few players, but very high scores.

Also noteworthy is that, of the Top 25 RPGs listed above, 10 are self-funded indies, 9 were crowdfunded and 5 are JRPGs that were ported from consoles. The only AAA Western title is The Witcher 3.

On slightly related news, here's a list of the worst games:

Note that while Fallout 4 has the worst Bayesian Average, Sacred 3 and Sword Coast Legends have a way higher % of 1/5 votes (over 80% for Sacred 3!). Few played it, but those who did HATED it.

To help visualize all this, here's a graphic sorting games by how many people played & how they were rated:

We also divided the games by year and made a new Bayesian Average for each year, leading to these results:

Yup, a mod for Fallout 2 was chosen the best RPG of 2016. The RPG Watch 2016 GOTY poll didn't paint a positive look on this year's big releases either:

"In the running for this year's best games, the entry that came in first was...'none'! 12.9% of voters told us that they simply didn't feel that any one title was strong enough to take the prize this year. This speaks very loudly indeed; whether it means that 2016's offerings were watered down and lackluster, or that they merely paled in comparison to the smash hits of the previous year... that's something every gamer must answer for themselves."

Surprisingly, the Codex's opinion on the Top 3 games of 2014 remains exactly the same as when we voted two years ago, although the 2015 GOTY results have flipped - it was Underrail, AoD and W3, now it's the opposite. Bellow the Top 3 we had some bigger changes - Shadowrun: Hong Kong went from #10 to #4, Blackguards from #20 to #10, etc - but the results were still consistent.

It's also interesting to see that 2012 was so bad in comparison that Torchlight II managed to be the 5th best game of the year, despite being #138 and a "major disappointment" in the overall voting. Have we been spoiled?

For a better look of how each year went, here's a quick comparison:

It seems we have indeed been spoiled. 2016 might have had few classics, but had 29 games with a positive average score - almost SIX times the number of good games released in 2012. We had fewer all-time classics, but a wide range of smaller, niche releases - in 2016 you could play anything from AAA releases to Kickstarter games, indies, great mods, console ports, re-releases and even officially translated Chinese RPGs.

So, has The Age of Incline truly arrived?

Not in 2012, and not as a barrage of all-time classics loved by everyone as in the late 90's. But since 2014 we've definitely been getting more great games, and what's more important - we broke away from the dullness of an industry dominated by a handful of publishers and AAA releases. Due to Kickstarter, Steam & Early Access, cheaper engines and other changes on the macro environment, we now have a healthier industry, with more devs, games and options.

The Witcher 3 was the winner of the poll, but anyone unhappy with this can check the rest of the list and they'll surely find something more to their taste. We couldn't do this a few years ago.

And that's not counting the over 1000 Steam games tagged "RPGs" that didn't make the cut. Indeed, the biggest challenge nowadays seems to be finding the gems hidden among this daunting ocean of releases. Voidspire Tactics was voted the 8th best RPG of 2015, but it's practically unknown outside the Codex and only sold ~2k copies according to SteamSpy. Surely there are more games like that, just waiting to be found.

To help with that, the full results of the polls are available here, sortable by several filters and divided by year as well. And you can also download the full data to do some number crunching on your own and inevitably post on how you think my Bayesian Average is wrong. Cheers!

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