Gaming My Way

30 May

Five Good Roleplaying Games

A few things to keep in mind about this list. First, these are simply the games that come to mind as I write this list. There are certainly others worthy of mention. Second, they are in no particular order. This isn’t a top list or a countdown, simply games I’d recommend if you haven’t played them. Finally, my requirement for putting a game on this list is that it be a roleplaying game with a good story and good gameplay. I’ve tried to keep this spoiler free, as well as quick and to the point. These are by no means full reviews.

Diablo II (PC)
Perhaps Diablo isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of either story or gameplay. On the surface, it does appear to just be another clickfest after all. However, watch just one cutscene, and you’ll see there is certainly a good story here. All of the cutscenes are very well done, especially for the time the game was released, but they would hold up even today. From there, you can even talk to the people in town and actually listen to what they say. The voice acting is superb, and the plot you get from the things people tell you is both well written and helps move the story right along.

This, of course, leaves the gameplay. Click, click, click, click. This is, unfortunately, more or less how it starts. It’s a good introduction though, just to get anyone who is unused to computer gaming to get a feel for it. Soon enough, you’ll be able to learn new skills/spells, and then we get into strategy and away from clickfest. With new skills come new options, and you can’t blast your way through the game with just one skill. No, not even frozen orb, corpse explosion, or your undead armies. Every type of damage has at least one creature that is immune to it that you will likely need to face at some point. Knowing when to use what skills, or to just attack, adds some much needed depth to the game. Knowing when to fight or run away also adds some more. Doing fancy footwork to avoid the enemies huge blasts of fire, ice, lightning and poison, among many other hazards, adds in some much needed reflex play. When it all comes together, you realize there’s actually a fair amount of good gameplay here, and it’s not the clickfest it first appeared to be.

Grandia 2 (Dreamcast, PS2, PC)
The battle system this game uses is amazing. It’s turn based to allow you to control the characters, but the fights animate in real time. Basically, the fights pause “real time” anytime you need to decide on an action to take with one of your characters, then resume “real time” once you’ve selected. This brings in all sorts of cool strategy, such as causing an opponent to drop a spell they were casting or losing the attack they were about to make if you can time your attacks right. The story, while good, is definitely cliché and not something to write home about. It gets the job done though and is entertaining.

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2)
This game is something completely different. You take on the role of a demon prince setting out to take back the netherworld, which rightfully belongs to him. With this introduction, a hilarious story with an amazingly amusing cast of characters brings you on a roller coaster ride of awesome. This game does not take itself seriously at all, and it’s all about the humor. While the story has its serious moments, you’ll find yourself bursting out in laughter constantly during most of it.

The gameplay also shines, allowing you to create an army of just about any combination of fighters you can think of. Wizards, fighters, healers, archers, gunmen, and the like, as well as any nonboss monster you’ve fought are all candidates for characters to make. From there, you walk your army out onto the field of battle. Up to 10 characters out at one time. The game uses a grid based system for movement and positioning, then you can let loose with all the standard spells, weapon attacks, and special attacks you may have at your disposal. The battle system has some quirks, but they only add to the depth that it has.

Chrono Trigger (SNES, Playstation)
This game involves lots of time travel. But that’s ok, because it’s handled well, without getting too complex to be entertaining. The plot is epic, spanning from the era of the dinosaurs to the post-apocalyptic future to everything in between… in no particular order. The characters are very well developed, and there’s quite the range of personalities as well. Also, there are multiple ways to get to the final boss battle, and when you fight the final boss affects what kind of ending the game has. There are a few other things that effect some endings, but the when you fight the final boss has the biggest effect. There are around ten different endings, though I don’t know the exact number, and most of them are entertaining and worth finding.

As for the gameplay, the battles are turn based. However, they gain some much needed depth through two important factors. The first is that every character has significantly different strengths and weaknesses in the techs (skills and spells) they can use. This helps keep the battles from being cookie cutter. The second is that multiple characters can combine techs to perform more powerful combination techniques, at the expense of both of their turns. Sometimes these more powerful techniques are worth it, and sometimes they aren’t. For instance, using a combination tech to heal everyone instead of one person is worth it if more than one person needs healing, because you get it done faster and save actions. If only one person needed healing, you just wasted someone else’s turn to heal everyone though. Knowing when to use which types of attacks helps add some more depth to the battles.

Baldur’s Gate II (PC)
This is quite possibly the biggest roleplaying game I’ve ever played. While most rpgs are winding down at the 40 hour mark, you could likely still be doing quests from the first city in the game and enjoying it if you wanted to at that point in time. Of course, that’s not at all required, and you can ignore most of the quests and get right on with the main plot as well. Even if you do though, you’ll likely find a game that lasts you a good 100 hours or more. With the number of quests I did, it took me more like 200, and there were still more to do. I don’t remember how many more, but they were there.

Now, a big game with nothing backing it is worthless. Thankfully, it has an excellent plot, great supporting cast of characters, and gameplay that requires some strategy to get through. It’s based on 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons, so it uses a fairly complicated ruleset, but since the computer handles that stuff for you, you just focus on bringing doom to your enemies and hope (or fear) to the masses. Deserving of mention is the fact that you create the main character, and there are more than enough dialog options for you to develop the main character however you see fit from a plot perspective. It’s really amazing how good a job Black Isle did with the dialog choices they came up with throughout the game.

So there you have it, five recommendations of rpgs you can play for both a good plot as well as fun gameplay. If you haven’t played them, and you have the cash to spare as well as an appropriate system, give them a try.

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