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RPG Codex picks for 2002
Information - posted by Calis on Tue 24 December 2002, 20:33:51Tags: The Year in Review
RPG Codex's picks for best CRPGs of 2002
This year's been pretty good as far as CRPG releases. That is to say that there's been a heck of a lot of them. Everyone here at this site loves the genre, which goes without saying, and between us, we've played all that was offered up by both the industry developers as well as the home brew developers that we know about.
So, that brings us to this. It's the end of the year, there were a sizable amount of CRPGs released. So, we thought to ourselves, why not each list three of the ones we thought were the best examples of what we enjoyed this year. Why the hell not? Doesn't every site do this?
Well, that's true, they do. However, unlike most sites, we decided from the beginning that RPG Codex shouldn't be a main stream site. We're mostly niche CRPG gamers, so we figured it'd be best to be more of a niche site. We wanted to cover CRPGs, regardless of the status of the developers, be it good, bad, low budget, shareware, overrated, underrated, and so on. Our whole purpose was that, well, we loved CRPGs and wanted to share the loving, or unloving, no matter who was developing them.
So, why not list the CRPGs we thought were the best? OF course, some will say that the big reason not to do it is that everyone else is. However, I'm pretty sure that most everyone else didn't play all the ones we played. In fact, I'm pretty sure that most of them haven't heard of some of the shareware games we cover, or the rogue-likes.
Hey, we're different. That's not a bad thing. That's also why we decided to list our top three CRPGs of 2002, per staff member. So, without further ado!
Calis' picks for must-play CRPGs of 2002
With all the praise Jeff Vogel's Spiderweb Software has received on this site, you could bet your left nut there was going to be one of his games in this list. Spiderweb's games allow for a lot more freedom than most others, while still maintaining a strong storyline. They have non-linear, interactive, story-driven gameplay down to a science. So why did I pick Geneforge over their other releases? Well for starters, it's the only one I played through fully! I know, shame on me. That isn't to say my pick was random. Another strong point of Geneforge is that it has a setting far more original than the other releases this year. I can't really go into detail here, but it mixes elements of fantasy, genetic manipulation, and post-apocalyptic. While graphics whores will find the game to look dated, it provides a solid gameplay experience and shows off Spiderweb's amazing attention to design and detail. If you want to know more I suggest you read Saint's review of the game.
Many have lauded this game's accomplishments, and deservedly so. Its predecessor, Daggerfall, was a mixed bag. It offered a similar kind of freedom, but was plagued by bugs and a general feeling of pointlessness. Morrowind offers a huge, breathing game world with gorgeous graphics and a whole lot to do. On top of it all, the game is very, very mod-able which adds to the fun. Of course the game isn't perfect: interface flaws, steep system requirements and a less than perfect dialogue system all detract from the fun. The fact still remains, however, that Morrowind is without a doubt one of the most amazing accomplishments of the year.
Many people will claim I should have gone with something more revolutionary. However, that would've meant picking a game I never actually played. And let's be honest: Divine Divinity is a pretty solid title. Called a Diablo 2 clone by some, this game actually has a lot to offer. The character development system gives you a fair amount of freedom in fleshing out your character. The game world is highly interactive and reminds one of the Ultima 7 games, which were my favorites in the series. The storyline contains a bit of light-hearted cheekiness, but none of it detracts from the immersion. While some will cringe at the thought of *another* isometric high-fantasy CRPG, this game actually has a lot more to offer in the fun-factor department than most of its rivals. If you don't believe me, read Exitium's review.
Saint_Proverbius' picks for must-play CRPGs of 2002
Geneforge probably won't win many awards for the best CRPG of 2002, mainly because it's a shareware title. It's graphics aren't the best or the prettiest that you can find. However, the unique setting and atmosphere alone pushes this game to the top of my list. You won't find too many games out there that can do so much in those areas with so little, often making up for atmosphere and setting with a 3D engine and fancy spell effects rather than getting at the heart of your imagination. Jeff Vogel truly paints a fantastic vision of a new and unique world in this title, and with the sequel due out around mid-2003, fans of the game won't have to wait too much longer to return to that world.
Probably another one that won't peak many lists, mostly because the game's very misunderstood. For some strange reason, many people assumed this was a Diablo clone, which really isn't close to being true. Sure, the character system might resemble Diablo 2 in terms of advancement with attributes and skills, but the gameplay is nothing like Diablo. In fact, the most humorous comment I've seen in a review of this title was, "For an Action RPG, there's not much action." That's probably because combat isn't the focus of the game. Given the amount of quests, many of them don't involve combat at all, and the way it sticks with it's Chinese lore theme made this one special to me. If you've ever wanted a Kung Fu movie CRPG, Prince of Qin is about as close as it gets.
Another shareware CRPG, Prelude to Darkness offers many unique aspects you're not likely to find in the commercial CRPGs. For one thing, the combat is turn based and loaded with tactical options. The better you get with your skills, the more options you get. That's not to say the game is all about combat, it's not. In fact, you won't even get experience points for combat though your combat skills will raise through use. Instead, experience is given by completing quests, or parts of quests. This philosophy and skill system where you gain skill through use, along with the excellent quests and dialogue make this game highly notable. In short, this game was picked for one undeniable reason, it's the most innovative CRPG this year.
Mistress' picks for must-play CRPGs of 2002
Geneforge is a game that stands out in terms of the one thing that really matters - gameplay, not graphics, sound or the cloth map that comes in the box. If you're looking for bags of eye candy - this isn't the game for you, but should you be on the lookout for something a little different, there is plenty in this game to pique your interest. The originality of the setting is refreshing, in a year dominated by the usual crowd of elves, orcs, dwarves etc. At a time when I was growing more than a little tired of the same old stories, Geneforge was certainly a welcome and addictive relief. Jeff Vogel definitely proves that pretty graphics and dramatic special effects have nothing on a well-crafted atmnosphere and a little of that all too often underexercised imagination.
Prelude to Darkness, like Geneforge, is a shareware game. Another similarity it shares with my number one pick, is its originality. Again, this game picks up where the major commercial releases fall down - atmosphere and creativity. The turn-based combat, variety of interesting quests, and skill system based on the use of skills, not combat, all add up to make this a game worth taking note of. This game draws your attention and keeps it, without resorting to phat lewt and boobies, and it gets top marks from me for that.
Probably a more obvious choice than my first two, Morrowind is a game that, for me, both promised and delivered. It is by no means perfect, but it is definitely impressive. In sharp contrast to my other choices, Morrowind comes complete with stunning graphics, but past that is an immersive world, full of things to do. So full in fact, that I am still playing, as no doubt are many others. The combat could be better, the dialogue system could be greatly improved, and I could certainly use a more powerful PC to go with it, but I still often lose an afternoon or two wandering around this vast game.
Exitium's picks for must-play CRPGs of 2002
If there was one word for which to describe Morrowind best, that word would have to be 'alive'. Morrowind is a game that comes close to fulfilling my vision of a simulation of a real political world, filled with real geopolitics, real rivalries and real outcomes to decisions made by the player. That very aspect of being 'alive' would also cover the atmosphere in the game's well designed environments, its inhabitants and the plethora of events that come to shape the game's evolving world. As with all things fair, I must say that Morrowind is by no means perfect, but it does an outstanding effort at making the attempt.
Having an ardent interest in ancient Chinese history to study my cultural roots has pointed me towards the marvel that is Prince of Qin. Having been released by China-based Object Software earlier this year, the game has received nothing but bad press from most Western game media, mostly due to some grave misconceptions made between the title and Diablo, which I suspect are solely due to the isometric graphical setting of the game which in itself is quite impressive, despite what some people have to say about it. The game itself incorporates many historical facts about China, amalgamated with cultural myths to great result. The world in the game itself is quite true to ancient China, the quests abundant and typically interesting, with half of them not even combat related. I?d have to say that for a game, as well as an RPG, Prince of Qin is a damn good one.
If you've read my review of Divine Divinity, you'd know how I felt about it, and just in case you were wondering, I'll tell you again that I that it's a good one. My choice for Divine Divinity as one of my top picks this year is quite simply based on the fact that I played it, and that I quite liked it. What interested me most about the game was the interactivity. Simply put, you can do a lot of things in it that most RPG developers these days don?t even consider to implement. To top it off, that's not even the gist of why I like Divine Divinity. If I were you, I'd put Divine Divinity on my holiday list.