The Most Important RPG of the Last 10 Years

        I've been putting a lot of thought into what my next blog would be because I don't really like to talk about what's going on in my day-to-day life. I'm kind of a private person and I don't really think my life is all that exciting. But every now and then I have insights I think I can lend to something and I feel the need to. Again, as I often do, a little background on me: I didn't meet and befriend other people who played videogames until I was in high school, as a result I grew up loving RPGs because they could be played alone (that sounds so depressing when I type it...), so RPGs are a genre that I have a lot of fondness for. I've been excited to see the rather significant metamorphosis they've undergone in the last ten or so years (I'm talking mostly in this about Western RPGs. JRPGs are a whole other animal that I may someday tackle.) I've given a lot of thought to what is the most important RPG of the last ten years. Not necessarily the best, mind you, because my choice certainly isn't the best. But it's the one that I feel has set the tone for what RPGs will be over the next ten years, maybe more. My choice is The Witcher. 
       Bioware (and by extension Black Isle and Obsidian) are some of my favorite game developers. The Baldur's Gate, Fallout and KOTOR games, while not perfect, were all revelations of freedom. In Fallouts 1 and 2 you can literally do anything to anyone whenever you feel like it. You might break the plot and kill a character whose important, but that's called consequence. The problem with those games, and it's a problem that continues today both in and out of the genre, is that they gave you two choices: be an angel or a demon. There was no middle ground, no grey area, you were either the kindest, gentlest, nicest, noblest person to ever exist, or you were the most despicable, sociopathic, monstrous, most disgusting person to ever exist. The Witcher might not have been the first game to change that, but it was the first one to receive any kind of wide release and be extremely playable (after the Expanded Edition was released anyway...) 
       The tagline of the game sums it up perfectly: "No good, no evil, only choice...and consequence." The choices you make in that game aren't good, they're the lesser evil, or at least you have to decide if they are. The first time you make a truly difficult choice, (whether to support the fantasy equivalent of terrorists or a hate group) I agonized over it. It was the first time I felt like there was no "good" choice. I played through it again and chose the other way, things weren't much better. At first I actually felt betrayed! I felt like the game had tricked me into something until I realized that it was simply forcing me to examine my own moral code. Who would  support in this case? Who do feel is right? Who is the lesser evil. Without this game coming out, we have no Mass Effect 2 (the first ME came out around the same time as The Witcher, but I actually maintain that 2 had a much more grey area approach, as I still felt Renegade was kinda evil in the first) and we certainly have no Dragon Age: Origins (the developers specifically said they were influenced by The Witcher's morality system, or completely lack thereof, when they made the more complex choices of Dragon Age). 
       I feel like these games will go on to define what Western RPGs are, they've certainly been the highest selling of the new decade, and I think they're going in a great direction. But we need to thank the little game out of Poland by a small development company that finally had the quads to say "You know what? What if there was NO good decision? What if we made the player choose between who was less wrong?" I truly cannot wait to see what they do in the sequel, and hey, maybe we'll have our most important game of this decade nice and early.    

14 Comments
15 Comments
Posted by Undeadpool

        I've been putting a lot of thought into what my next blog would be because I don't really like to talk about what's going on in my day-to-day life. I'm kind of a private person and I don't really think my life is all that exciting. But every now and then I have insights I think I can lend to something and I feel the need to. Again, as I often do, a little background on me: I didn't meet and befriend other people who played videogames until I was in high school, as a result I grew up loving RPGs because they could be played alone (that sounds so depressing when I type it...), so RPGs are a genre that I have a lot of fondness for. I've been excited to see the rather significant metamorphosis they've undergone in the last ten or so years (I'm talking mostly in this about Western RPGs. JRPGs are a whole other animal that I may someday tackle.) I've given a lot of thought to what is the most important RPG of the last ten years. Not necessarily the best, mind you, because my choice certainly isn't the best. But it's the one that I feel has set the tone for what RPGs will be over the next ten years, maybe more. My choice is The Witcher. 
       Bioware (and by extension Black Isle and Obsidian) are some of my favorite game developers. The Baldur's Gate, Fallout and KOTOR games, while not perfect, were all revelations of freedom. In Fallouts 1 and 2 you can literally do anything to anyone whenever you feel like it. You might break the plot and kill a character whose important, but that's called consequence. The problem with those games, and it's a problem that continues today both in and out of the genre, is that they gave you two choices: be an angel or a demon. There was no middle ground, no grey area, you were either the kindest, gentlest, nicest, noblest person to ever exist, or you were the most despicable, sociopathic, monstrous, most disgusting person to ever exist. The Witcher might not have been the first game to change that, but it was the first one to receive any kind of wide release and be extremely playable (after the Expanded Edition was released anyway...) 
       The tagline of the game sums it up perfectly: "No good, no evil, only choice...and consequence." The choices you make in that game aren't good, they're the lesser evil, or at least you have to decide if they are. The first time you make a truly difficult choice, (whether to support the fantasy equivalent of terrorists or a hate group) I agonized over it. It was the first time I felt like there was no "good" choice. I played through it again and chose the other way, things weren't much better. At first I actually felt betrayed! I felt like the game had tricked me into something until I realized that it was simply forcing me to examine my own moral code. Who would  support in this case? Who do feel is right? Who is the lesser evil. Without this game coming out, we have no Mass Effect 2 (the first ME came out around the same time as The Witcher, but I actually maintain that 2 had a much more grey area approach, as I still felt Renegade was kinda evil in the first) and we certainly have no Dragon Age: Origins (the developers specifically said they were influenced by The Witcher's morality system, or completely lack thereof, when they made the more complex choices of Dragon Age). 
       I feel like these games will go on to define what Western RPGs are, they've certainly been the highest selling of the new decade, and I think they're going in a great direction. But we need to thank the little game out of Poland by a small development company that finally had the quads to say "You know what? What if there was NO good decision? What if we made the player choose between who was less wrong?" I truly cannot wait to see what they do in the sequel, and hey, maybe we'll have our most important game of this decade nice and early.    

Posted by xyzygy

I just wish they had went ahead with that PS3/360 port of the Witcher. I can't play that game because my computer isn't good enough. It looks like a game I would really really enjoy.

Posted by Gabriel

Yo Deus Ex came out in 2000 so....

Posted by lucas_kelly

The enter key, use it.

Posted by Undeadpool
@Gabriel:  
True, but I haven't played it fully. I may have to amend this if I wind up agreeing. 
@lucas_kelly:
  
I did. Repeatedly. 
@xyzygy:
  
I was interested in seeing what they did with the combat in that, so I'm a little disappointed. At least it's merely been "shelved" and not fully canned.
Posted by Kombat
@xyzygy said:
" I just wish they had went ahead with that PS3/360 port of the Witcher. I can't play that game because my computer isn't good enough. It looks like a game I would really really enjoy. "
What, are you running a Commodore 64?  Regardless, I agree with you, but only because the weird new combat mechanics they came up with for the console version looked pretty interesting, if a bit divisive. 
Posted by xyzygy
@Kombat: Nah, I got an Asus F3. It's a gaming laptop, but I would want to play a game like this with HD resolution and not medium settings.  
 
@Undeadpool: You mean they didn't actually cancel it, and there is still a possibility?
Posted by ArbitraryWater

The Witcher sounds like the kind of janky WRPG I would be into, considering you basically choose between two equally evil options most of the time. But alas, my computer is 7 or so years old, so my chances of getting it to run well or at all are zero. As for the most important WRPG of the past 10 years? Still Baldur's Gate 2. It came out in 2000 so it still counts.

Posted by Undeadpool
@ArbitraryWater:  
And don't get me wrong, it's one of my favorite RPGs of all time, but you're still choosing between being a saint and a devil.
Edited by Jayzilla

The Witcher has a lot of technical issues for a lot of GPU's though. I have the enhanced edition. It is buggy on steam for more than a few nvidia cards. I also think the inventory system is pretty poorly done as well as the drops. The weapons aren't much to look at either. I also found it to be pretty base as far as its humor goes. There was no subtlety in the humor. I know that can be chalked up to poor translation, but I want my dialogue in an RPG to be witty no matter the original language. It is a great looking game though. It has a lot of strong points. My favorite RPG of the decade is the first KOTOR or Morrowind. I think I am leaning toward Morrowind to be honest. What a game. I truly believe it is the most important as well.

Edited by MonetaryDread
@Gabriel said:

" Yo Deus Ex came out in 2000 so.... "

Yeah, I know Deus Ex came out in 2000, but The Witcher was still better. As for The Witcher being the most important RPG of the last ten years though, I dunno.  The Witcher is my favorite RPG since Chrono Trigger, but I still think that World of Warcraft has done more for the genre than anything else this decade. I know more people that absolutely hated RPG's until they tried that game.
@Jayzilla said:
" The Witcher has a lot of technical issues for a lot of GPU's though. I have the enhanced edition. It is buggy on steam for more than a few nvidia cards. I also think the inventory system is pretty poorly done as well as the drops. The weapons aren't much to look at either. I also found it to be pretty base as far as its humor goes. There was no subtlety in the humor. I know that can be chalked up to poor translation, but I want my dialogue in an RPG to be witty no matter the original language. It is a great looking game though. It has a lot of strong points. My favorite RPG of the decade is the first KOTOR or Morrowind. I think I am leaning toward Morrowind to be honest. What a game. I truly believe it is the most important as well. "

1. I built a computer two years ago for just over $500 that can play the Witcher maxed out at 1680x1050 and it doesn't dip below 30fps, so unless you are playing on an el cheapo netbook or a 7 year old pc there isn't much to complain about. (and if you are running a 7 year old computer then maybe you should upgrade because everything I purchased is over half the price I paid). If you can run neverwinter nights you can run The Witcher
2. Whats wrong with the inventory? You have about 50 spaces and most items take up one space. Sure you have to go to two or three different stores to sell all your inventory but that is only an extra twenty seconds out of your life.
3. As for the translation and humour, did you play the whole game? The translation can be iffy at moments, but it is still above average, again, if you didn't chuckle at least a few times you probably didn't play past the third chapter.
 
As for my biggest complaint. The game is a little slow in chapter three and four. Those two chapters are filled with intrigue and interesting choices to mess around with the end game, but i found it easy to get distracted.
Posted by ThePhantomnaut

The Witcher had Vader. So that's a win.
 
 

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Undeadpool said:
" @ArbitraryWater:  And don't get me wrong, it's one of my favorite RPGs of all time, but you're still choosing between being a saint and a devil. "
Sure, it still has some of the most brazenly black and white moral choices ever, but I would argue that in terms of raw importance BG2 has had a wide swath of influence over the entire genre. More than the first game at least, which has problems aplenty that prevented me from finishing it and came out more than 10 years ago. BG 2 was really the first WRPG with awesome party members, and you can still see that influence paying dividends in stuff like Mass Effect 2. Of course, I would also accept KotOR, and maybe Morrowind for this title even though I'm not a particularly big fan of it.
Posted by Undeadpool
@ArbitraryWater:  
The issue then becomes about those black and white choices. I love the characters from Baldur's Gate 2 and I love the party interactions. Even the romances were some of the best in a videogame (unless you were a female character...), but they've gone toward more centralized interactions in terms of party interactions. I just feel The Witcher was more groundbreaking. Baldur's Gate 2 had great characters, but RPGs already had great characters. What they needed was something that really changed the dynamic of the game.
Posted by JB16

WoW: For mainstreaming mmorpgs
Oblivion: For being awesome 
KOTOR: For being awesome
 Dragon Age Origins: For putting the classic isometric fantasy RPGs back on the map