2023 is set to be an exciting year for RPGs in general, with the likes of Starfield, Final Fantasy XVI, Diablo IV, and more on the horizon, but the comparative niche isometric-style RPGs add up to an impressive catalog in their own right. This type of perspective gives players a more top-down and strategic view of the player characters and the world around them.
Still, this POV has been well done by combining it with different types of RPGs. From the roguelike action RPG Hadesto modern setbacks which Divinity: Original Sin IIIsometric RPGs have an excellent depth to them.
10/10 Never winter nights
The massive one Dungeons and dragons franchise has paved the way for countless video game adaptations, and Never winter nights usually ranks among the all-time greats for veteran fans. Developed by BioWare during the team’s golden age, this game had incredible attention to detail for the early 2000s era of RPGs, offering an immersive world, story campaign, and single and multiplayer modes.
Set in a high fantasy universe where the protagonist is tasked with obtaining a cure for a widespread plague, players can enjoy a game with satisfying mechanics and customizable modes – namely the Aurora Dungeon Master Toolkit.
9/10 Diablo II
Partially credited with paving the way for the success of the action RPG subgenre, Diablo II was a revolutionary game for its time. The game was released for PC in 2000 and expanded the gameplay base that made its predecessor such a success in the 90s.
Diablo II featured a high-octane hack-and-slash combat system combined with an engaging loot system. Punctuated by an enticing dark-fantasy setting, the game boasted an incredible level of replay value for fans at the time – and one that many will hope to see enhanced in Diablo IV.
8/10 Planescape: Torment
The aforementioned Dungeons and dragons tabletop franchise has given fans an embarrassment of riches across every medium it’s featured in. And even with all the now-classic games it spawned, Planescape: Torment maintains its pedigree in the fantasy realm — as well as being one of the most subversive.
The game follows the protagonist known as the Nameless One; an amnesiac who loses his memories every time he is killed. It’s an enticingly odd concept, and it was critically acclaimed for how it executed storytelling as a primary game mechanic as opposed to the usual tactical combat of its contemporaries.
7/10 Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows Of Amn
Baldur’s Gate is undoubtedly one of the most revered names in the CRPG subgenre. The series proved to be one of the most influential for the genre going forward and another jewel of BioWare’s backlog of classic games. Divinity developer Larian Studios directs the upcoming Baldur’s Gate IIIbut Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn remains a worthy retrospective for die-hard fans of isometric CRPGs.
The game was praised upon release for similar reasons that modern RPGs enjoy The Witcher 3is so praised today, in that Shadows of Amn featured a rich fantasy world that made exploration incredibly satisfying and a variety of side quests that matched – or surpassed – the main story in quality.
6/10 Final Fantasy Tactics: The War Of The Lions
The original version of Tactics received such acclaim that it has been regarded by longtime fans as one of the greatest Final Fantasy game, spinoff or other. Still, the PlayStation Portable remake – War of the Lions – was seen as a superb facelift of the PS1 original. And while even War of the Lions grows up in age, it remains in the highest level of strategy role-playing games.
As with its subgenre counterparts, the game is played from a top-down perspective to give players a bird’s-eye view of the battlefield below and plan attacks. As well, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions was celebrated for its gripping high fantasy story along with its grueling combat.
While perhaps pushing the boundaries of what defines an RPG, Supergiant Games’ Hades should have enough of the mechanics to justify it. The game was fully released in 2020 to widespread critical acclaim, with many fans seeing it as the developer’s crowning achievement – so far. Hades has players take on the role of Zagreus as he rebels against his father and tries to escape the underworld.
Combat is thoroughly addictive, combining weapon variety and acquired skills to make each run unique. Moreover, it is a rare example of the frivolity that makes the storytelling as compelling as the action. As such, it’s an easy-to-recommend rogue-like RPG for genre newcomers and has inspired great confidence for the upcoming Hades II.
4/10 Pillars Of Eternity
Proudly wearing its inspirations on its sleeve without feeling like a cheap copy, Pillars of Eternity is a modern CRPG similar to Larian Divinity games that call back to the old school days. Obsidian Entertainment was behind the game, which has developed a solid amount of goodwill among gamers for their work on role-playing games such as Knight of the Old Republic II and Fallout: New Vegas.
However, this high fantasy epic takes a page from the likes of Baldur’s Gate, which takes place in a dense world ripe with content ranging from main quest lines to side quests. And like other isometric CRPGs, Pillars of Eternity earns its stars by having a gameplay loop that encourages players to get creative about how they overcome the odds in battle.
3/10 Dragon Age: Origins
Many fans are anxiously and cautiously waiting to see if it will come Dragon Age: Dreadwolf will see a triumphant return to form for BioWare. Because many longtime fans of the developer’s revered titles, Dragon Age: Origins is still the pinnacle of this fantasy RPG series. The series has changed noticeably over time, as Origin is the only game with a true isometric perspective.
And while many players greatly appreciated this creative choice, it is one of many. The combat system is both easy to approach while displaying an incredible level of depth, along with a consistently engaging high/dark fantasy hybrid story driven by masterful character writing.
2/10 Disco Elysium
Developer ZA/UM released yet another one of the best modern CRPGs available in the form of Disco Elysium. Equal Planescape: Torment, Disco Elysium succeeds in being a subversive isometric role-playing game, but arguably more so by forgoing combat altogether and having gameplay conducted solely through exploration and dialogue interactions.
Players follow an amnesiac detective in a fictional town tasked with solving a murder—as well as his own past. It’s cleverly executed, and proves to be just as engaging as RPGs with conventional (or unconventional) combat systems. The level of player freedom offered also invites multiple playthroughs.
1/10 Divinity: Original Sin II
In recent years, the CRPG subgenre has received a welcome new slice of the spotlight, and part of that resurgence is thanks to Larian Studios’ success with Divinity: Original Sin series. Released to critical acclaim, the sequel builds on the strength of its forebear and takes tasteful inspiration from genre titans that preceded it.
It’s a true love letter to the subgenre’s classic days, which Divinity: Original Sin II was praised for its gameplay depth as much as its narrative. Anchored by an impressive high-fantasy universe, players are encouraged and rewarded for exploration, experimentation with party composition, and dialogue choices that have a meaningful impact on both main and side quests.
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