Friday, October 2, 2009

Top Five: Computer Role-Playing Games, Single Player Edition

  • Betrayal At Krondor - Once upon a time in the early '90s, before Baldur's Gate and Fallout redeemed the computer role-playing game, there was the slump. Few RPGs of note were released and it seemed like the genre was destined to disappear entirely. In this dreary time for RPG fans was released Betrayal At Krondor. Based on the books of Raymond Feist, Krondor gave us an interesting story, fun tactical game play, and an expansive land to explore. It was no slouch either. Errors in one battle were not easily recovered before you found yourself in peril again. I was unable to finish the game due to the ramp up in difficulty near the end, but Krondor was a bright light in a dark time for gaming.

  • Daggerfall - Everyone goes on and on about Morrowind and Oblivion, and for good reason. My favorite of the series, though, is Daggerfall, the second in the Elder Scrolls series. I see this game through nostalgia's lens, but had never before been so lost in a fantasy game world. The kingdoms were so vast that you could pick a direction and just ride, sure to find a new town, a new dungeon, and new adventure. Since so much was randomly generated, I actually set up housekeeping in an out of the way city with a good tailor's shop (I was really into Daggerfall's clothing options for some reason) and ignored the main storyline for weeks. Developers can't get away with that kind of content anymore, so it's a gaming moment lost in time.

  • Fallout - With the franchise so much in the public consciousness recently, it would be a crime if this game failed to make the list. Fallout was a breath of fresh, if irradiated, air to me and the RPG genre when it was released. I often talk about how hard it is for me to finish games. Fallout is one of those rarest of games that I have played to completion multiple times. Even today I miss the tactical, thoughtful pace of combat and the open solutions to every problem. That it wasn't yet another fantasy RPG made the game stand out. I think I need to reinstall this now.

  • Pool Of Radiance - Like first loves, the first game you play will always stand out for you. For me, that game was Pool of Radiance. I played it on an ancient IBM-compatible computer in all its CGA glory. While the 3D view was interesting, what sold the game for me was the tactical combat engine. Each character was controlled individually, in initiative order, to perform at maximum efficiency. You had to carefully target your fireball spells to avoid killing your own party. And in close quarters, you could place your melee characters up front to physically block monsters from attacking your magic user. It was not the best of the Gold Box series, but it was the game that gave me a taste for what computer role-playing could achieve. And yes, I prefer the combat in this game to real-time chaos of Baldur's Gate.

  • Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines - Made by the big name designers from Fallout, Bloodlines is probably the best role-playing game I never finished. And it wasn't for lack of trying. Troika just had the worst luck getting a game out the door in a polished state. In this case, they tried to wrangle a nascent Source Engine to their needs while Valve was still working on it. The result was a buggy mess, but also a brilliant game. Troika captured the feel of the World of Darkness perfectly, giving a fun environment to indulge in the taste of blood. I still go back to this game from time to time if only to bite someone in a darkened alley.

  • Agree, disagree, or make your own suggestions in the comments.


  1. Sweet memories.

    I have VtM: Bloodlines sitting on a shelf. I never made it very far in because I got hit with a bug right off the bat (even with the patched up version that was supposed to fix all the bugs). Should you have the temerity to cast a the same buff on yourself twice during the intro tutorial, the game assumes you are cheating and won't let you progress. Been meaning to try it again some time.

    My personal list would run

    1. Ultima VII
    2. Hero's Quest
    3. Curse of the Azure Bonds
    4. Ultima Underworld
    5. The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind

    Wow, that was tough.

    Honerable mention to Dark Sun Shatterd Lands, Angband, Fallout, Hero's Quest II, Pool of Radiance, and Planescape Torment.

  2. PS: I completely agree that the turn based combat in the old goldbox games was a more fun than the real time combat in modern games. It gave the games a more tactical feel.

  3. @ Yeebo - I think Planescape: Torment is the only game on your list I haven't tried. Considering all the praise it gets, I wonder how hard it is to track down a copy.

  4. Interesting list from both of you.

    After some quick thought, my list would have to be this:

    1.Knights of the Old Republic
    2.Neverwinter Nights 2
    3.Icewind Dale
    4.Baldur's Gate
    5.Fallout 3

    I'm a big rpg fan myself, and this list is just what I could come up with at the moment.

    When ever I think of a top favorite list, I always think of the games that I have played alot of, and I have put a considerable amout of time with those five in particular.

  5. @ Jayedub - Another good list. So far no overlap. :)

    There are worse ways to choose a top five than to look at time played. I don't want games that are technically proficient, but no fun. I want games that suck me in until I can't think of anything else.