The Top 10: RPGs on PC
One of the things I think every journalist should publish is their tiered preference for subjects within their topic. Wildlife journalists could prefer certain animals or locations over others, sports journalists have preferred teams and players and it should come to no surprise that game journalists have top genres and games. A reader should know those preferences so they can measure that in when that journalist is praising their favorite thing as usual or if they release an article that strays from their top preference. There is weight when something changes a person’s opinion and when it is apparent to the reader hopefully that impact can truly be felt.
So, in my first part of an on-going series, I am listing my top ten role-playing games on PC. The only stipulations I felt were necessary for classifying an “RPG” was the presence of the impact of decision and the ability to make a character from scratch. These two points are what gets you into role and what gives you that feeling like you have made a true impact on the world.
With that being said let us get into it.
10. E.Y.E: Divine Cybermancy
This game. Oh man. I love it so much only due to the fact that I barely understood what was going on at any time. To me this game is one of those so bad it is good type of games. There is something so satisfying when you finally figure out what the hell is going on with your character. Every moment is an "AHA!" moment and I mean that in the sense when you figure out what is going on with your stats, mechanics and when you figure out what the hell the plot is.
That is part of the beauty of the game and why I’m uncertain if I will ever play the game again. I figured out what was going on and it lost its mind destroying allure. After that it became a silly game on the Half-Life engine.
If you get into this game I warn you that you should not take this task of understanding this game alone. Get a friend or three together and experience this game with each other. Your minds will be collectively blown as you get through it piece by piece. Until that point you will all have a good laugh getting through the madness.
Also, as a buddy of mine has pointed out: Who doesn't love Bladerunner 40k?
9. Icewind Dale
This game is a staple if you just want to understand where the RPG genre has come from and how it got to where it is now. The joys about building your party and triumphing over each story and challenge that came your way couldn’t match to anything else at the time. This was especially true when you finally built that perfect group of random people off of the GameSpy multiplayer server system.
I remember when I was 12 and I got this game I had such a hard time understand what the hell was going on. It was my first RPG and I was determined to beat it and be that hero that the world needed. This game is what ignited that nerd side of me and introduce me into the world of Dungeons and Dragons. I have not looked back since.
8. System Shock 2
I was recommended this game a few years ago by an old friend I used to play Guild Wars 2 with. I didn’t know what to expect but he insisted that if I called myself a fan of the genre then I had to play this game. After getting through the long learning curve? He was absolutely right.
This game is the predecessor to many of the big modern games we have today: Dead Space, Bioshock and even a bit of Mass Effect. The creepiness and spooky elements you get as you understand how the big baddy is changing everything lead to our RPG Horror genre. It made a massive impact that we still influencing new games that are produced to this very day.
Did I also mention the challenge of it all? This game beats you up for hours and makes you earn the story. The fights can be unreasonably hard at times but the experience is so entirely worth it. When you finally triumph over a room of turrets and grenade chucking zombie assholes you will never feel more satisfied with your ability to play a game.
Why doesn’t it go up higher in the list? Well I never actually completed the game. When I hit some particularly difficult fights I got frustrated and put it down. I should really revisit it again but that is why it isn’t in the top five.
7. Shadowrun Returns
I got this game due a friend telling a story about this beloved Shadowrun and his crazy orc character in an ice cream truck. With that story I figured I had to give this a shot and learn a little bit about what Shadowrun was all about. While I am told it is a bit of a watered down version of the Shadowrun of old, the gameplay and storytelling of the core campaign is very engaging.
While I am disappointed that it isn’t a true open world experience I was so very pleased with how much of the world it did introduce me to. I finally understand why those dirty corp bastards deserve every shadowrun against them. I finally understand why it is such a bitter life for a runner. I was thrown into the world and I wanted to tackle the next biggest run of the ages.
One thing that does deserve special mention is the hacking interface. While your team is bitterly fighting in the real world you could be fighting viruses and security protocols. It is such a unique added mechanic to the game that other games usually cop out with a brief mini game or some skill check.
Let me tell you, Chummer. You want a futuristic world that blends fantasy and sci-fi beautifully while showing you what a grim world it can still be? This game is going to put you through a ride.
6. NEO Scavenger
I’m always a sucker for a good rogue-like game that incorporates survival elements. There are many of them out there and I fully intend to make a list about them but this one makes this list for the story it is also trying to tell. Most others similar to this genre are just about the experience of surviving and overcoming some odd challenges but NEO Scavenger takes it that extra step to make you feel those decisions you make be just a tad bit more about the world itself than just yourself.
While a lot of the game itself is super simplified with an almost MUD-like interface, it can be very satisfying when you find out the nuances. Yeah you can pick up a bottle and go to town cutting folks but you can also use that same bottle to make a spear and really do some damage. Yeah you could just kill those natives and score some gear, but if you work with them you could score so much more. Finding out who you are is exciting, but finding out what is going on in the rest of the world is awesome.
Word of advice: Don’t take off your necklace until you are sure you are ready.
5. Divinity: Original Sin
This game has everything going right for it. A good story that puts you through quite a ride, a great social system with NPCs or a friend and that ability to replay it and not quite get the same game each time. They also have awesome combat mechanics that combo together like you sometimes get in Dragon Age.
The game is particularly enjoyable in the way that it doesn’t overload you with lore to cut through. You know you are some people sent to kill some other people and you need to get it done. You don’t need to know a billion things about the past games or where your current location is in the grand scheme of things. It is a game that keeps it simple but still draws you in.
Also the self-awareness in their humor is awesome. If you play this game I highly recommend you get a character who can speak with animals. It is worth it for the laughs alone.
4. Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
This is a game that has aged incredibly well and has a dedicated community that has made it so the game’s many bugs are addressed while some have even been working on enhancing the game itself. Outside of that this game has done an amazing job of surviving throughout the years. This game is proof positive that the best need only to provide a great story and a solid ground of gameplay.
I am always shocked when I go back through Steam’s forum for Bloodlines. To this very day there are modders working on making the game even better despite the developers, Troika, having been shut down in 2005. That is a dedicated community for a game that only officially sold somewhere near 72,000 units (not including Steam sales).
This game that will show you what a gritty world of vampires is about. It will allow you plenty of different methods of overcoming in-game challenges through stealth, social, brawling and even some fantastic abilities that make you feel epic. There is no other world like Bloodlines and I will always revisit this game now and again to remind myself of why this game is one of the greats.
3. Dragon Age: Origins
Now I must warn you about two things about my bias in this game. The first is that I love Medieval Fantasy games. I’m almost always immediately interested if a game boasts about dwarves, elves and dragons. The second is that I got the digital deluxe edition game free from Bioware after I won a giveaway at GenCon.
What can be said about this game that hasn’t been said before? While it follows Bioware’s typical RPG elements (that I will outline in a different article) it steps out as one of the greats through the surprisingly deep story and the immersive combat that was pretty unique when it first released. That has probably been said before. Let me try that again. Dragon Age: Origins remains the only game that modern Bioware has released that has made me absolutely impressed with what they can do.
There are certain points in this game that has made me pause and appreciate just how far Bioware was pushing the envelope just under the radar. The story of broodmothers is heart wrenching and surprising to see in a main steam title. The combat was the start of showing how modern games could make things just a tad more complex and unique. There are so many memorable characters and moments.
It is just a shame that second game of the series dropped the ball so hard. Inquisition is my only hope for Bioware to show they can maintain an awesome world and game series.
2. Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2
What I wish I could get away is rating these games as 1b and my next as 1a. It is so hard to say that these games are not my favorite of all time but I will get into why it fell just short of that number one slot.
What I need to explain is why I decided to clump these two games together. The original Neverwinter Nights is a great introduction piece into the mechanics and gameplay of what Bioware was trying to show off. It fell just short of being incredible due to two facts: strange, buggy mechanics and the fact that it really just doesn’t look too good. This game looks like an isometric view of a medieval System Shock 2 universe pasted against mud and bleakness. However, I would have never played Neverwinter Nights 2 if not for the original getting me so absolutely hooked.
Neverwinter Nights 2 is just the cream of the crop when it comes to what I want in an RPG. It looks good, it plays pretty well and the story actually ends in a place that leaves you satisfied with what you have done. It is still a buggy mess sometimes but at least things made more sense than they did in the original. Obsidian did a great job of picking up this title and showing they could make it closer to Dungeons and Dragons.
The reason why I find this game so close to being the best is the multiplayer experience. I spent so many years on these games playing on the completely original worlds that the community would make. The online community released mods, all new models, community expansion packs and so much more to make it incredible. No server was identical to another and in the game’s height there were hundreds of servers. To this day there are servers still up and being developed because there really is no other online roleplaying game like it.
This is also why it won’t reach the number one slot. The online experience, while heavily supported by Obsidian and Bioware, wasn’t the base games and what they were all about. The games needed to be heavily modded to be truly amazing and while that was achieved it still didn’t forgive them of some of the glaring issues they had that could never be addressed.
I will always tell people I want another online RPG experience like the Neverwinter Nights series could provide. The base game, however, had many things they needed to address to be truly great.
1. Planescape: Torment
Planescape: Torment is the best roleplaying game of all time. A statement I will stand by and never back down from. I know I’m not causing waves with this statement, either. I am backed by nearly anyone who’s ever played the game. One of my favorite lines in a review, made by Armchair Empire, is this:
Batten down the hatches, let the answering machine do its thing, and keep some snack food on standby, because Planescape Torment is one of those RPGs with such a deep, rich story that it demands every ounce of the players attention.
This is so true. This game will soak up your life for a month and keep you enthralled until the bitter end where the ending completely blindsides you. This is a storytelling experience that hasn’t been matched in the many RPGs that has been released since 1999 when this game released. Every little thing you do is going to affect the outcome and when you are done you will know more about yourself as a player and a person.
This game gained my number one slot because it doesn't need mods to be the best at what it is. It doesn't need an immense online experience. This game stands on its own two feet and gives you the best story you will ever get. The challenges are memorable, the characters are memorable and the impact will stick with you for a long time.
It may not look pretty anymore, and it may be a tad bit clunky compared to modern games, but I promise you that if you’re looking for the best RPG of all time you will find it here.