I’m beginning my annual winter roleplaying game this year, and I have to say I’ve picked been a good one: Fallout 3. For the next couple of months I’ll be relishing the Washington Wastelands by picking pockets, blowing up cities, and just causing general havoc.
As you all know by now, I'm sure...I have excellent taste. So I've decided to rank the top five video game RPGs I’ve played. Actually…let’s say ‘of all time’. Yeah, that's better. Although my sample size is only around 75 games total, only half of which were finished, you can feel safe in taking this list to the bank, depositing it, and getting all your money back in this top five list of pixilated RPG pleasure. I only play the best. That means no Nintendo.
5) Lands of Lore II: Guardians of Destiny.
I don’t know why this gem of a game has been forgotten. Sure, its got that cheesy late ‘90s real video capture with, at best, B-level acting. But the story for this complex game involves gods, demons, oracles, even a town of cat-people. Plus you’re cursed by a witch and randomly shapeshift from wise-cracking human, to pigmy lizard, to grunting monster lizard. Instead of going for the standard semi-medieval, or far future, period like so many games, Lands of Lore II goes for almost Greek-like world view of gods, monsters, and demons all living together. Its great.
4) Panzer Dragoon Saga.
This game was the sole reason I purchased a Sega Saturn. And, though the Saturn graphics are horrid, I played through this sucker twice. All you need to know about the game is that you ride a shape-shifting dragon and fly through a future destroyed world where everything has been genetically modified. Very Japanese. But the great story involving you, your pet dragon, and a 5,000 year old GMO’d girl named ‘Azel’ is phenominal. Most of the true die-hard Sega fans agree with me on this one, if you try to buy this game today you’re going to pay at least $200.
3) Ultima Underworld II.
In 1992, a year before Doom supposedly ‘invented’ the first-person shooter, Looking Glass Studios (rest in peace) brought out the real-time gem known as Ultima Underworld. Though UWI was technically great (you could jump, look up, down, fly), the story was rather simplistic – get out of the underworld. With UWII, Looking Glass kept almost the exact same graphics and interface, and focused on creating a great story that greatly expanded our knowledge of the major villain in Ultima 7, released just prior to UWII. In this game you explore many other worlds that the Guardian has conquered, you also can truly customize your character, being either a spellcaster, ranger, or in my case, a thug who punched his way into saving the world. Although there is only one ending, during the game you can kill whomever you want, and the spell system of runes instead of reagents is wonderful, as is all your items having their own unique slot.
2) Skies of Arcadia.
You’re Vyse, a teenage kid with love for swashbuckling adventure. You live on a planet made of many tiny floating islands. Your best friend, Aika has just watched a Moonstone fall on nearby Shrine Island. What do you do? Go cartoon teeny-bopper adventuring, of course. At the end of your travels you’ve been to the moon, discovered ancient technology, and fallen in love. Yeah, its very Japanese, but its also very Pirates of Dark Water. Finding treasures, interesting characters, Oh, plus you’ve got ship to ship battles!
1) Mass Effect.
Take Blade Runner, mix it with the Fifth Element, add a little BSG (all this has happened before) and finish it off with KOTOR-style character interaction, and you’ve got the absolute best RPG ever, Mass Effect. At the start of this game you’re trying to find an ancient beacon left by an extinct race. At the end, you’re humanity (et al.’s) only chance for survival. Although its got a great, original story, what really sets this game apart is its depth. You want to know the history of the Citadel, your character, Mass Relays station? No problem, just go to your character terminal and read the pages and pages of background text. BioWare must have dedicated countless hours to writing history, tech specs, and character details before releasing this game. Another plus: although it unabashedly steals from plenty of known sci-fi memes, it uses them to weave together a story that feels, at least to this rpg-er, extremely original.