Giant Bomb News

55 Comments

Dave's Top 10 List of Modern-Era CRPGs

Dave brings his sword to the table to discuss some of the PC's best RPGs of the last decade.

Coffee in hand, it's about time to start the morning off with a list of something. Since many of you know I'm a big RPG nerd I thought it would be fun to list out some of my favorite modern-era CRPGs. I define modern-era as anything after the original Fallout, which brought the genre back to life along with the Baldur's Gate series. I'll also add a note that I'm partial to combat RPGs and that while stories in games are super-important to me, in the end I can't enjoy a game if it doesn't have great combat. Anyways... to the list! 


I absolutely adore surprise attack RPGs from Europe that I know nothing about until it lands on a game-shelf near me.  While the Gothic series -- specifically Gothic II -- shares this same sort of love, Divine Divinity is my favorite of the bunch. First off, the game has the most ridiculously awesome name of any on this list. It sounds epic but goofy at the same time and that's a good way to describe the game in general. Divine Divinity basically was a hack and slash Diablo-style game with a pretty deep skill system similar to the Elder Scrolls and Ultima games. It featured a good-looking, varied world with a few hundred NPCs all with deep dialogue trees. Really though what set Divine Divinity apart at the time was the game's humor which had you learning a little too much about the quest-givers you ran into.


I'll be honest, with it being over a decade now since I played the original Fallout, it's hard for me to come up with reasons why I enjoyed it more then Fallout 2 other then being slightly disappointed in the sequel's story-line. What I can tell you is that as a fan of TBS combat Fallout took everything I loved about the X-Com games and put them into a completely original world that I could totally get behind. In the end the deep combat is what always made me come back to the Fallout universe and though it's not as great a game as its predecessors, I still play Fallout: Tactics regularly each year.


If I could hang out with one RPG character in real life it would have to be Minsc and his "Space Hamster" from the Baldur's Gate franchise. For me, the second game in the series had a much better story-line and allowed for a lot more combat options. It also doesn't hurt that's also the one you can still play in a decent resolution. I find it tough going back to 2nd edition rules after NWN2 and IWD2, but when it comes down to pure story and quest options, Baldur's Gate II remains a favorite.


I know I'll catch a lot of flack for this, but I almost didn't include Planescape Torment on my list. Aside from the fact that you can only play above 800x600 through the use of some pretty buggy mods, after a recent attempt at a replay I just couldn't get past the combat in the game and the weaker first half. What is unquestioned though is that PT from a story perspective is completely unique and something you won't likely come across again. While games like Fable have really been pushing morality choices and the consequences of your actions, Torment was the first game I ever felt really torn between my decisions.


Everything that I disliked about the original NWN game was fixed in the sequel. This game had a pretty gripping story, a hugely enhanced party control system and much better dialogue. The only thing I can really neg the game for is its smallish map size and generally poor system performance, even on a top of the line PC. It's also the first game in the post Baldur's Gate world that I can actual say feels a lot like Baldur's Gate.

5. Icewind Dale II


Of the Infinity Engine RPGs, Icewind Dale II goes down as my all-time favorite for the simple reason that it uses DnD 3.5e ruleset and features some of the most challenging combat of any game on this list. It's a hard, brutal game that loves to throw not two or three, but ten monsters at you at any time. IWD2 likely requires the most knowledge of the DnD spell system as you'll find even the common battles requiring a lot of crowd control management. Although the game had relatively no story, you really felt like you accomplished something once you made it out one of it's many icy dungeons.


Yes, I think it is a better game then Oblivion. I know that's a little controversial these days but to me the Elder Scrolls games were more about exploration and character and Morrowind simply presents a more varied world then Oblivion did. In Morrowind I'd jump from one city to the next and feel like I was in an entirely different game. Each city had it's own architecture, creatures, politics and religion. Oblivion on the other hand had a draw distance that very much let me know where I was and how far away I was from the central city. It just felt smaller then Morrowind, which at the time completely blew me away as far as setting goes. I still think the combat in the Elder Scrolls games are pretty weak, but when you want to actually visit another world, I can't recommend a better series.


Wizardry still remains the weirdest CRPG universe to me but retains the most unique combat system that I wish someone would base a newer game around. The swan song of the series, Wizardry 8 allowed you to create a full party like you would in an Icewind Dale game but had you battle it out in a first person perspective from the point of view of your party, instead of one character. Essentially once you ran into enemies the game would go into turn based mode and you'd make your moves in turn for each one of your party members.  It was an incredibly deep style of play and with some pretty epic boss battles makes it the only game under Temple of Elemental Evil that I enjoy from a pure combat perspective.

Oh Arcanum, the game you could have been. Depending upon who you ask, Arcanum is either the best RPG of all-time or the most broken. In truth it's a little of both. What is clear though after all these years is that no game tried as hard to be immersive as Arcanum did. Made from a trifecta of fallen Fallout developers, Troika's steam-punk world had everything going for it but a reliable combat system. If you like non-linear games that branch out in ways you wouldn't expect I highly recommend picking it up if you can find a copy. You'll be rewarded with a huge world story that is hard to play through the same way twice. 

Temple of Elemental Evil is the game I go back to more then any other. While this is partly due to a pretty devout mod community it is mostly due to the deepest combat system on any game from this list. Basically take everything I said about IceWind Dale II and put it into a turn-based system that plays the most true-to-form pen and paper game of DnD ever made. Here's a game where you can finally play a rogue like a real rogue with tumble rolls, sneak attacks and visibility checks. Like IceWind Dale II it's a terribly hard game and one I wouldn't recommend to everybody, but for fans of the genre who aren't afraid to play a game with very little story, I can't think of a better CRPG.
Dave Snider on Google+
55 Comments
  • 55 results
  • 1
  • 2
Posted by snide
Coffee in hand, it's about time to start the morning off with a list of something. Since many of you know I'm a big RPG nerd I thought it would be fun to list out some of my favorite modern-era CRPGs. I define modern-era as anything after the original Fallout, which brought the genre back to life along with the Baldur's Gate series. I'll also add a note that I'm partial to combat RPGs and that while stories in games are super-important to me, in the end I can't enjoy a game if it doesn't have great combat. Anyways... to the list! 


I absolutely adore surprise attack RPGs from Europe that I know nothing about until it lands on a game-shelf near me.  While the Gothic series -- specifically Gothic II -- shares this same sort of love, Divine Divinity is my favorite of the bunch. First off, the game has the most ridiculously awesome name of any on this list. It sounds epic but goofy at the same time and that's a good way to describe the game in general. Divine Divinity basically was a hack and slash Diablo-style game with a pretty deep skill system similar to the Elder Scrolls and Ultima games. It featured a good-looking, varied world with a few hundred NPCs all with deep dialogue trees. Really though what set Divine Divinity apart at the time was the game's humor which had you learning a little too much about the quest-givers you ran into.


I'll be honest, with it being over a decade now since I played the original Fallout, it's hard for me to come up with reasons why I enjoyed it more then Fallout 2 other then being slightly disappointed in the sequel's story-line. What I can tell you is that as a fan of TBS combat Fallout took everything I loved about the X-Com games and put them into a completely original world that I could totally get behind. In the end the deep combat is what always made me come back to the Fallout universe and though it's not as great a game as its predecessors, I still play Fallout: Tactics regularly each year.


If I could hang out with one RPG character in real life it would have to be Minsc and his "Space Hamster" from the Baldur's Gate franchise. For me, the second game in the series had a much better story-line and allowed for a lot more combat options. It also doesn't hurt that's also the one you can still play in a decent resolution. I find it tough going back to 2nd edition rules after NWN2 and IWD2, but when it comes down to pure story and quest options, Baldur's Gate II remains a favorite.


I know I'll catch a lot of flack for this, but I almost didn't include Planescape Torment on my list. Aside from the fact that you can only play above 800x600 through the use of some pretty buggy mods, after a recent attempt at a replay I just couldn't get past the combat in the game and the weaker first half. What is unquestioned though is that PT from a story perspective is completely unique and something you won't likely come across again. While games like Fable have really been pushing morality choices and the consequences of your actions, Torment was the first game I ever felt really torn between my decisions.


Everything that I disliked about the original NWN game was fixed in the sequel. This game had a pretty gripping story, a hugely enhanced party control system and much better dialogue. The only thing I can really neg the game for is its smallish map size and generally poor system performance, even on a top of the line PC. It's also the first game in the post Baldur's Gate world that I can actual say feels a lot like Baldur's Gate.

5. Icewind Dale II


Of the Infinity Engine RPGs, Icewind Dale II goes down as my all-time favorite for the simple reason that it uses DnD 3.5e ruleset and features some of the most challenging combat of any game on this list. It's a hard, brutal game that loves to throw not two or three, but ten monsters at you at any time. IWD2 likely requires the most knowledge of the DnD spell system as you'll find even the common battles requiring a lot of crowd control management. Although the game had relatively no story, you really felt like you accomplished something once you made it out one of it's many icy dungeons.


Yes, I think it is a better game then Oblivion. I know that's a little controversial these days but to me the Elder Scrolls games were more about exploration and character and Morrowind simply presents a more varied world then Oblivion did. In Morrowind I'd jump from one city to the next and feel like I was in an entirely different game. Each city had it's own architecture, creatures, politics and religion. Oblivion on the other hand had a draw distance that very much let me know where I was and how far away I was from the central city. It just felt smaller then Morrowind, which at the time completely blew me away as far as setting goes. I still think the combat in the Elder Scrolls games are pretty weak, but when you want to actually visit another world, I can't recommend a better series.


Wizardry still remains the weirdest CRPG universe to me but retains the most unique combat system that I wish someone would base a newer game around. The swan song of the series, Wizardry 8 allowed you to create a full party like you would in an Icewind Dale game but had you battle it out in a first person perspective from the point of view of your party, instead of one character. Essentially once you ran into enemies the game would go into turn based mode and you'd make your moves in turn for each one of your party members.  It was an incredibly deep style of play and with some pretty epic boss battles makes it the only game under Temple of Elemental Evil that I enjoy from a pure combat perspective.

Oh Arcanum, the game you could have been. Depending upon who you ask, Arcanum is either the best RPG of all-time or the most broken. In truth it's a little of both. What is clear though after all these years is that no game tried as hard to be immersive as Arcanum did. Made from a trifecta of fallen Fallout developers, Troika's steam-punk world had everything going for it but a reliable combat system. If you like non-linear games that branch out in ways you wouldn't expect I highly recommend picking it up if you can find a copy. You'll be rewarded with a huge world story that is hard to play through the same way twice. 

Temple of Elemental Evil is the game I go back to more then any other. While this is partly due to a pretty devout mod community it is mostly due to the deepest combat system on any game from this list. Basically take everything I said about IceWind Dale II and put it into a turn-based system that plays the most true-to-form pen and paper game of DnD ever made. Here's a game where you can finally play a rogue like a real rogue with tumble rolls, sneak attacks and visibility checks. Like IceWind Dale II it's a terribly hard game and one I wouldn't recommend to everybody, but for fans of the genre who aren't afraid to play a game with very little story, I can't think of a better CRPG.
Posted by zityz

I loved Ice wind Dale and Baulders Gate 2, Never played the D&D game.

Posted by jakob187

HEY!  NOT FAIR, SNIDER!!!  You can make your top "insert number" list as an article!!!  We only get a forum post!!!  =  P

Edited by CoinMatze

Yes of course Arcanum is on there! This is one of the best fantasy worlds I have ever seen and somebody out there should really do a sequel. But for me Baldur's Gate 2 will always be infinite times better than anything else. I just have some damn fine memories about this game. Plus: Irenicus is one of the best villains ever excalmation mark! And what is wrong with Fallout 2? It's a little heavy on the silliness but I can't remember it being disappointing. Hey whatever, you got all the nice ones on there, so I approve of that list, Dave.

edit: Also, first
more edit: Also makes me wonder why so many old rpgs are better than those that are coming out these days. But hey Kotor is missing.

Posted by snide

KOTOR is not missing. If you want to know why so many old RPGs are better then those coming out these days, look to KOTOR for the reason. As far as I'm concerned it forever dumbed down the genre and we'll never recover.

Posted by unangbangkay

Why don't I see The Witcher on this list? Also, I'd like to point out that while Neverwinter Nights 2 was without a doubt a perfectly competent cRPG (once the bugs were patched out), it's really the Mask of the Betrayer expansion that put the story right up there with Torment in uniqueness and complexity.

Posted by MattBodega

Real CRPG fans like games BROKEN. They're messed up and programmed by monkeys and we LIKE IT THAT WAY.

Posted by MattBodega
unangbangkay has it totally right. The original NWN2 campaign is great, but Mask ot the Betrayer feels like it was crafted by geniuses. Easily the best D&D campaign I've ever played.
Posted by snide

@unangbangkay and @mattbodega


I completely agree with you and you can assume that expansion packs are taken as part of the original in these lists.
Posted by ahoodedfigure

I liked the scope of Daggerfall.  I really liked scouring the land for stuff, but the world was so shallow that I felt like I was playing a randomly spawned MMORPG by myself.  I still think that level of scope is possible on today's processors but now we can add a lot more detail (and make some sensibly sized dungeons that fit together properly). 

Now you made me regret not picking up Divine Divinity while I had the chance.

And I'm afraid to try out Wiz 8 because I heard of some random bug that totally destroys your saves if you get it, creating some impossible-to-complete task (similar to the silent dude catching a random magic arrow in the strange plane in Ultima Underworld 2).

Posted by snide

@ahoodedfigure


If you're old enough to actually remember UU2, I DEFINITELY recommend Wizardry 8 to you. It's prolly the most old-school game on my list and the most complex. You'd prolly adore it. 
Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

I keep hoping to see Wizardry 8 available on Steam or GOG.com.  Thankfully, Gothic is now available, which I've never played and am looking forward to.

Moderator Online
Posted by GreyFox

Arcanum FTW!

Posted by Captain_Fookup

Nice list bro, I still play and beat both Fallout 1&2 at least 10 times a year.

Posted by ComradeCrash

So would you say that Baldur's Gate would be cool to try if I am into story in games a lot?

Posted by Coltonio7

Man, I feel really horrible for not knowing most of thee games. Anywhere I can give thema shot?

(( Mostly the older ones ))

Posted by Windshroud

Solid list man, dugg.

Posted by BiggerBomb

No love for The Witcher?! =/

Posted by Spiritof
Posted by LeadNinja

I realise people probably said this when it actually came out, but I've never heard of it before: isn't the "Divine" in "Divinity" a bit redundant?

Posted by RHCPfan24

Wow I don't really play that many CRPG's. I have only played about 3 of those...

Posted by skrutop

I'm not surprised to see 3 infinity engine games on the list.  They looked (at the time) and played great.  BG and Planescape also had wonderful writing.

Posted by logson

This is on my top 10 list of favorite top 10 lists.

Posted by DJ_Lae
snide said:
"KOTOR is not missing. If you want to know why so many old RPGs are better then those coming out these days, look to KOTOR for the reason. As far as I'm concerned it forever dumbed down the genre and we'll never recover."

AMEN.

It's a fine game and all, but it took RPGs in the wrong direction.
Posted by Clbull

I never liked the Elder Scrolls games that much, and I played both Morrowind and Oblivion. Morrowind involved a lot of confusion and a mediocre at best combat system, while Oblivion refined the combat system and improved the way the game progresses, but the rest of it felt boring.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

This is obviously an april fools joke because Baldur's Gate II is so low and there is no mention of the Might and Magic series. Oh Dave you jokester!

Edited by TuftyMcTavish

Hey Dave, interesting list. Curiously enough I own every single one of those games bar one, your #1 pick, ToEE. The sad thing is that the only ones I've completed are Planescape Torment and Icewind Dale II although to be brutally honest, I haven't actually started playing the others yet. "Yet." Listen to me, like I'm ever going to get around to playing them after all these years?!!!

Posted by Swabbleflange

Solid list and a great call on ToEE. A tremendously good CRPG that suffered negative reactions thanks to problems that have since been fixed by the fans.

Posted by SuperfluousMoniker

I've never played any Wizardry games (I know, right?) but I've heard that they're a lot like Etrian Odyssey.

Posted by TuftyMcTavish

D'oh, I just realised the date today. Double D'oh. Gnashes teeth at wasted effort.

Edited by MrKlorox

TOEE was the only Troika game I didn't get into. Something of a stale atmosphere compared to the rest of the devs' works. But I did enjoy the radial tree battle system.
Arcanum is my favorite from that list. If only it had TOEE's battle system...
I say Troika shoulda skipped TOEE and VTMB and just made an Arcanum 2 with the TOEE battle system.

I'll probably never get around to playing though Torment. I've tried installing it a number of times (I thought the recent resolution patches would help) but I just cannot get into it. I keep searching for that feeling I got when I played through the first Fallout the first time. It was my first CRPG and by far the most immersive and enjoyable at that time. Now, hardly anything works like that to pull me into the game. - Perhaps it was because I used to take Ambien nightly but chose Fallout over sleep.

Posted by snide

@Tufty


It's a serious list, no worries. I really do think ToEE is the best CRPG of all time. Just like Brad thinks his beard is the best game beard out there.
Posted by EntwineX

Good to see someone else liking NWN2 as well, the game gets a lot of hate and I can't say it's completely unwarranted, but even with the countless flaws I think it's the best rpg this gen. Fallouts are my overall favs tho, the combat system puts them above Arcanum and Planescape, plus I really like the setting. Surprised to hear people diss kotor so much, it might have started the trend for shallower rpgs but it had a very good story, characters, presentation and gameplay, even if lot of the appeal came from the star wars license.

Posted by megalowho

Man, Arcanum really is good. I need to actually get deep into that game someday, I can't count how many times I've played through the first few hours before wandering off after a particularly frustrating choice/death. And I still enjoy doing that even. I always keep a copy on the hard drive in case I feel the urge to revisit it.

Posted by Moonshadow101

...Morrowind <3

Posted by Ping5000

Bloodlines currently and will forever own a piece of my heart(s).

Edited by Johnny5

Snide is the missing link in Giantbomb for me. The current crew are really awesome, but theres no crazy rpg or oldschool pc gaming sort of dude. A Greg Kasavin type if you will.

I probably relate to all of snides articles more than anyone else here and I wish he did full time editorial content. (although he does a great job on the site)

Also man props for Divine Divinity I should make a game called Bomb Bombinity

Posted by Kyle

I think this list and I need some alone time....

Posted by TracedVelocity

I'm a huge fan of cRPGs, and there's stuff on here I've barely heard of. Time to do some research.

Posted by Trnck

Unfortunately I never played any of these

Posted by AspiringAndy

Morrowind was definitely a lot more varied, some of the city's were huge.

Posted by atejas

No love for Deus Ex or Vampire Bloodlines? They were better than Morrowind (imho).

Posted by Media_Master

nice list

Posted by Sunjammer

Man i dig TOEE, but, even with unofficial patches etc, i keep running into this one room where a character turncoats on me and turns out to be... An invisible, unbeatable horror that murders my entire party... I Thought it was an invisibility spell at first and grinded levels to get my chars up to deal with it, but apparently it's just a bug.

I love the game to death though, one of the best soundtracks i can recall. Still have it installed. Wish i could figure out that bitch though..

Posted by Noremakk

I love western RPGs (or, as you call them, Combat RPGs), and these are truly the cream of the crop. Thanks a bunch for this list, I'll keep my eyes out for some I didn't know about before.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

One step closer to divine divinity...
 
Still wish they'd picked a different title.  You know, I wonder if they actually LOST SALES because of that title.  That's how important they are!!

Edited by Delta_Ass

Wow, I can't believe NWN2 was on that list. That's probably one of my most hated games of all time. You noted the poor system performance, but that was only one of its many flaws. The graphics were pretty damn awful, and the camera system was devised to confound and infuriate. 
 
Still to this day, it's probably the game purchase I most regret.

Posted by Zanthox

Wow, I just installed TOEE and Arcanum on my new (tiny) netbook because I've never finished them... Guess I better make sure I do!

Posted by Johnny5

great list, I wonder if you like enough TRPGs to make a list :P (well to have it be more than Jagged alliance and silent storm )

Posted by Meteora

Pretty surprised that this list didn't get nearly as many posts as it should have. 
 
Not to mention, this thread was a year old. Talk about necro.

  • 55 results
  • 1
  • 2