The Classic CRPG Thread
Those of us at animesuki, being anime nerds, often play lots of Japanese roleplaying games (heretofore known as "jRPG"). This is fine and dandy, though these titles tend to be console exclusive or have pretty crappy PC ports. The wider realm of the domestically-produced CRPG tends to get ignored here with the exception of newer western-produced RPGs that appear on consoles.
So I ask you, denizens of animesuki, what CRPG are you playing now, or have played recently? Age is not a concern; most of the best CRPGs are ten years old or older! Let's talk about classic computer roleplaying games; the classic titles that blew our minds when we were teenagers and still continue to do so even a decade or so later.
Currently I'm playing Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, which wins major awesome points for blending high fantasy with Victorian-era steampunk. Developed by Troika Games, the now-defunct company that split off from the fallout (no pun intended) after Interplay committed financial seppuku and took Black Isle with them.
Members of Black Isle ended up at Troika (the Fallout design team) and Obsidian Entertainment (the Planescape: Torment design team); unfortunately while Obsidian has attained a significant level of success by producing sequels for games Bioware doesn't feel like continuing themselves, Troika sort of fell apart. They produced a number of excellent and fun titles that were unfortunately plagued with bugs and frustrating balance issues, but you can tell just how beloved these titles are if you look at the still-strong fan communities, even years later. Arcanum got the fan-lovin' and has an unofficial patch that fixes most of the bugs (but unfortunately the balance issues have not been appropriately dealt with).
Currently I'm plowing through the game--I'm on the Isle of Despair now, having a lot of fun mercilessly slaughtering pretty much everyone who pisses me off, then taking all their stuff. Like Fallout, Arcanum has some balance issues in which it's fairly easy to make an extremely overpowered character. Only Arcanum is a little more blatant about it.
In Fallout (and its sequel, but not Fallout 3), the best build is the "diplosniper," a character that tags Small Guns, Speech and Lockpick (or Science in Fallout 2) and takes the Gifted and Small Frame traits. This character focuses on aimed shots and high critical hit damage with accurate weapons (sniper rifle, .223 pistol, Gauss weapons, while dropping a few points into Energy Weapons all throughout the game so you can use the Turbo Plasma Rifle in the endgame). This build is totally ridiculous and will make combat in the game pretty much a joke.
Arcanum is a slightly different story. This game's combat is inconsistent, starting off very easy for any type of character build, no matter how ill-equipped for combat. Even hardcore diplomat characters do pretty well right up to the Black Mountain Mines.
At that point the combat becomes Nintendo Hard. This is where you'll really feel it if your build sucks, because you have to do a LOT of fighting and most of it is against critters who can kill you in two or three hits, especially if you're playing a mage (since you likely won't have good armor). This is where, when I first bought this game, I pretty much had to scrap my saves and start over. Of course, I know better now.
Arcanum's version of Fallout's diplosniper is a little amusing for people who played AD&D 2nd Edition growing up. I'm currently running this build, and it's ludicrous in its overpoweredness--the fighter/mage/thief.
You start off as a pure mage, bringing Willpower to 18 in a hurry, buying all the spells in the Conveyance and Force colleges (I typically go three down into Fire to get Fireflash, which is great for clearing out large groups of weaker critters). In the first twenty levels or so, Harm is your best friend. It does lots of damage to living creatures and only costs 5 fatigue to cast. Putting points into Intelligence, Charisma and Persuasion can also be very helpful (if you start with a low Charisma, it's advisable to put points there so you can have more followers). Persuasion is great to have, especially at the beginning of the game with the thieves at the Shrouded Hills bridge; this is the game's first example of Nintendo Hardness, and unless you're a pure melee fighter, the fight is very hard to win.
As you hit level 20, which is where combat starts getting nasty, build up your thiefly melee skills. Pick up a Dagger of Speed at a magickal vendor in Tarant or Ashbury. Pump points into Dexterity, Backstab and Melee (Dodge can come later, once you have all the spells you need). Go two spells down into the Mental college; Stun is your best friend with this build. When Backstab is calculated, the multiplier is massively increased when the target is incapacitated--either by having your followers bludgeon it into unconsciousness or by stunning it.
Plus, since you started out as a pure mage, now your magickal aptitude should be at or near 100, so Stun hardly ever gets resisted. Anything you can't stun and stab to death, you can just pop off with Disintegrate. Which is good because the further you get into this game the more annoying the enemies become (much like Fallout 2 and the Enclave soldiers). By the time you close in on the level cap, you ought to have all your required spells, Melee, Dodge and Backstab maxed, trained as a Master in all three and pretty much anything you stun and stab will instantly die in one hit.
I'm thoroughly enjoying my recent playthrough of Arcanum. Next up on the agenda is a playthrough of Baldur's Gate II and it's expansion, Throne of Bhaal. After that I'm not sure. Any suggestions?
I always thought the term, CRPG has been expelled from common-use. From how I understand it, CRPG traditionally referred to Computer RPG but then it can also mean Console RPG.
Had to skim some of your post, unfortunately I have not played most of the games you have listed so I can only take stab suggestions.
You might probably like Dragon Age for its sweet branching dialogue trees and DnD style combat. Neverwinter Nights 1's expansions are pretty good another Bioware game, but ignore the original campaign like the plague. It's incredibly grindy. Likewise Neverwinter Nights 2 has a horribly broken original campaign but they built an amazing world for the expansions.
GOG.com has an RPG sale right now, so you might be able to pick up some old games for the cheap.
Jagged Alliance was a nice series, it always reminded me of the 2 x-com games, ufo: enemy unknown and terror from the deep, plus rpg content.
If you really want to try something old, have a look at wasteland, it was definitely released on the C64, i'm pretty sure there must be a dos version as well. It was really fun, but i'm not sure i'll playing it ever again, some games are better left alone, but if you never played it give it a go.
Knights of Xentar, yeah hmm, i don't think i need to introduce this game, i think it was the 3rd or 2nd in the Dragon Knight series, but only one that saw an english release(?).
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