The Good, The Awesome and The Ugly of Isometric RPGs

                   Welcome to a genre review of Isometric games for the PC. The First Neverwinter Nights was developed by Bioware though the sequel was later developed by Obsidian Entertainment(They also did the other Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: Sith Lords). Not to say that other games haven’t come out as an isometric RPG but we haven’t seen one out of the D&D rule set since 2006(last expansion in 2008). Even though we haven’t seen any real well done realises in the time between 2006 and 2014 we have seen alot of other kinds of RPGs come out. These being the four big Bethesda titles of Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas. The hack and slash “RPG” actions games and a large multitude of games that incorporate RPG aspects with out fully lending themselves to being RPG titles. Lets not forget the punishing games from From Soft or the games done by Bioware which are more RPG-lite. By the way there will be spoilers of the following games: Neverwinter Nights 2, Wasteland 2, Sword Coast Legends,  Fallout 1 & 2, and Pillars of Eternity. Though the spoilers will be minimal.

Just look at that font! Gorgeous!

                     So we start off our adventure with an adopted son/daughter(you) of a wood elven ranger named Daeghun Farlong(greatest name ever). This guy is the stereotypical distant adoptive father that once knew your mother. His wife, and your parents were killed in an epic battle with demons in the very small town in which you two currently reside. When the town is attacked (fucking surprise right?) by more demonic forces we find out that dear ole dad hid a piece of magic blade that had exploded from the battle that had happened so many years ago. This is the kinda of tale we are set into from the beginning of Neverwinter Nights 2, Classic(or Stale?) epic adventure tale that ends in bloody conflict with the King of Shadows. Thing is we’ve had many games like this in the 00’s and while it certainly one of the worst it certainly couldn’t compare to its amazing predecessor or to even the other games that came out at the same time as it. Isometric bird’s eye view RPGs were starting to become a thing of the past when this game came out and had to make way for the First Person perspective games. Does this mean that Neverwinter Nights 2 didn’t innovate? No it doesn’t, with the crap ton of unlockable content and side quests that if you weren’t paying attention you would’ve missed and there is lots of content in just the main game not including the expansions and the user created content that some people still manage and run RP servers to this day. The reason people love games like this stems from the 2nd AD&D edition games known as the Icewind Dale games and the Baldur’s Gate games where you could play the games with your friends through LAN connections. Diablo and Diablo 2 had a lot to with this as well in that that it encouraged online and group play more that the solo play and arguably led to rise of mediocre games catering to the same thing.

EPIC DEMONS ARE EPIC!

                  Sword Coast Legends, Pillars of Eternity and Wasteland 2 are new titles to this genre and while they each have good parts to them but there are problems with even these modern games. Firstly lets start with Pillars of Eternity, fantastic game only problem that I could say with it is that its a bit complicated but it pays great homage to Icewind Dale and Baldur’s Gate which also had a fairly complicated rule set to understand (THACO anyone?) and perhaps that I couldn’t ever get enough of that game it was just that good. Wasteland 2 was a decent game, it wasn’t Pillars of Eternity good but at the same time it was trying to be closer to the first Wasteland and Fallout 1 & 2 Games with its style of play and its strange hatred towards robots. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t played Wasteland yet but it had the opportunity to explore the idea of trans-humanity (Scientists arguing it might be the next step in human evolution and others saying it is a perversion of our own humanity), but instead of showing it in a rather even light they decide to go down the road of The Terminator where the machine enslaves the man instead of making it about humanity trying to find a way to expand itself to where it once was and beyond; however, that is just me nit picking an ending of an otherwise good game. The turn based aspect make things slower but it is also incredibly necessary in a squad like game when you have things like guns and the like and the dialogue is wonderful though they could stand to have more voice actors for more of the side quest characters. Its 2015 we shouldn’t have to read what a character is saying.

                          This brings us to our third game which is Sword Coast Legends. The game itself is ambitious as it tries to replicate the feeling of a pen and paper experience in a computer game with a player DM and a group of four players. It has six classes and four races so far and already has a ton of player created content from which the developers streamlined the process of making modules for players to play through. The main way they do this is through a user friendly HUD and pregenerated dungeons, and through this you can create your own tales and adventures to share with the community and your friends. The single player experience however is lack luster, the story itself is a cliché mess of characters and backstory that have no real bearing to main story and even when one characters acts all betrayed from another character revealing themselves as something else it best comes off as racist if anything. The differences between the story campaign and the any player created modules so far has been voice acting and the odd game mechanic but nothing really substantial. One thing that ends up being a major issue in the game is more from the “dungeon crawl” mode where you can do run after run of pregenerated dungeons and do “quests”. This is a piss poor excuse for just being able to kill monsters and bosses with no basis or storyline to go with it. Its almost like the Developers wanted to cater to Diablo players who focus more on stuff then the actual enjoyability of a story and a module. Not a surprising move as those that appreciate being able to make their own content continues to get smaller and smaller but you can’t expect people to be invested when you the developer can’t invest enough player content to get the ball rolling.