The best computer role-playing games of our decade.
The role-playing genre has long been the cinematic crux of gaming. From humble roots in games like Adventure on the Atari 2600, where you simply controlled a square wandering an 8-bit world, to modern powerhouse games like Final Fantasy XV that strive to revolutionize graphics engines, players have always craved the immersion granted by classic RPGs.
For PC gamers, there's a special sub-genre of RPG that is near and dear to our hearts -- the CRPG. These computer role-playing games were all the rage a decade or two ago, and have recently been making a bit of a comeback. Hallmarks of the genre included RPG elements like classes and customizable stats, turn-based combat, and often a top-down perspective. In light of this resurgence for CRPGs, we decided to round up some of the best ones from the past decade. Here they are.
1. Diablo 3
Leading the list is Activision Blizzard's own Diablo 3. Many gamers know the Diablo series from its predecessors, and held high expectations for the third installment. Naturally, the high expectations were hard to meet, and Diablo 3's initial release was shaky at best, due to issues with players not being able to play the game at all, or the in famous real money auction house.
After restructuring their staff, Activision Blizzard's game began picking up steam again. Following a new expansion, the removal of the auction house, reworks to the classes, and the introduction of "seasons" similar to other sports, Diablo 3 was able to become one of the best action role-playing games in the genre.
2. Divinity: Original Sin
With 11 different classes, attributes, and ability modifiers to define your character, talent and skill points to invest in, and a huge crafting system, Divinity: Original Sin really has a lot going on for it. The series is also cooperative, making for a great thematic adventure you can share with your friends. The game even uses an in-game relationship system based on how your characters choose to respond to the NPCs and the choices they make. There is also a turn-based system for combat, making Divinity: Original Sin stand out against its competitors, since it embraces its roots so well.
The game's humor is well established, and you are able to customize your character's attitude and choose a class right from the start. There are also several classes unique to the series, such as Wayfarers, the dexterous mages, or Enchanters, the manipulators of minds.
3. Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity, similar to Divinity: Original Sin, has a selection of 11 classes, and races familiar to the Dungeons and Dragons crowd -- dwarves, elves and your occasional godlike being. The game includes skills that will be familiar to veterans of role-playing -- such as athletics checks and survival. This allows you to specialize your characters not only for the purposes of satisfying an objective, but also adding that extra layer of personality to who you're creating.
If you're looking for a single player experience to emulate the Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition experience, this game is one of the hottest out there.
What sets Runic Games' Torchlight apart is just how gosh-darn cute it is! The character sprites for this game are amazing. To start it off, you get to pick a pet to accompany you throughout your adventures. Your pet is able to fight alongside you in combat, and even tote your trash loot back and forth between towns. My dog being able to barter with merchants for wares is pretty extraordinary, but I think I have some ideas as to how he gets it done.
Similar in feel to early Diablo games, Torchlight was able to make an otherwise unfriendly and difficult genre of gaming feel welcoming and accessible to anyone. If you're looking for a less complex way to enjoy a dungeon crawler, or just want a fun way to enjoy an adventure with friends, this is a great place to start.
5. The Witcher
The Witcher series brought something new to the classic computer RPG genre; mixing together the elements of a 3rd person action game while still retaining a feel of a turn-based RPG. While movement in the first iteration of The Witcher is free, the main character Geralt only attacks as frequently (or infrequently) as the weapon he has equipped allows. This adds the strategic element of swapping between available weapons, and use of spells to try to maximize the damage you're dealing to enemies while keeping yourself healthy. This made the game notoriously difficult to players new to the franchise, and gave the game the attention it deserved in order to escalate into the action RPG franchise it is today.
That's the end of our list. Despite being numbered, there's no right or wrong choices here, every single one comes with a stamp of approval. All of these titles will be able to give you that sense of satisfaction your role-playing heart could ever want.