Recently, I posted about Bloodlines being on sale and I talked about how it was “the best computer RPG that I have ever played”. Well, in the comments, JHG mentioned two *HUGE* lists of RPGs… *EACH* of which he considered better RPGs than Bloodlines. (Seriously, check his comments out.)
Well, I plan on going through each and every game on his list and discussing them (because I’d say that 90% of them are, in fact, awesome) but there are only a few games on his lists that deserved to be mentioned in the same single breath.
Now, to be sure, Bloodlines was buggy as heck when it was released (and we were still on dial-up!). I don’t know exactly how much I should weigh bugs against a game when the game has been patched to the point where the bugginess has been fixed for the most part. (The developers are *STILL* releasing patches! The last one came out a couple weeks ago!) I can understand that Bloodlines made one hell of a poor first impression… but I can’t help but feel that that is syntax rather than semantics.
A great many of the games he mentioned, the Wizardries, the Final Fantasies, the Baldur’s Gates, the Ultimas, the Gold Boxes… these are games where the player controls a party (usually of six) with different skills (two fighters, two clerics, one thief, one wizard… and there’s probably multi-classing going on but those are the high notes) go through an adventure together. This is all well and good but the emphasis is on tactics in these games for the most part. It’s about getting your team to optimally play well together (with the fighters as meat shields, clerics casting healing spells, thieves unlocking, and wizards casting fireballs… usually). The stories are good and sometimes great but it is a distinct experience from an RPG where you are given a single character to consider your own. Minsc was great, don’t get me wrong… but he was an NPC who followed your direction. He wasn’t *YOUR* character.
This also means that the games that have an emphasis on tactics rather than on story (in the most extreme cases, you’re stuck with cutscenes between maps) aren’t quite as engaging for the parts of my brain that require itches to be scratched. Sure, you’re making choices… but the choices are whether to use fire arrows or ice arrows, or whether to attack with cavalry or air support, or whether to put a point in strength or a point in defense. (While I adore games that give me these options, I prefer them to be the secondary level of choices that I have to make… the choices between listening to the demands of the hostage-taker, waiting for an open shot, or shooting the hostage are the choices that make my heart go pitter-pat.)
The games that have best done this are the Interplay/Troika/Bethesda/Obsidian/Bioware kinda games.
Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines handled this stuff perfectly. However… there are games that certainly deserve to be mentioned in the same (deep) breath:
Knights of the Old Republic, Kingdom Hearts, Neverwinter Nights, Planescape: Torment, Fallout: New Vegas, and Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain.
And if someone wanted to argue that Knights of the Old Republic was better than Bloodlines, I’d not argue with them. Anyway, I will eventually opine upon each of the games JHG mentioned… but those from that breath deserve their own posts.