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Flexing their list-making muscles prior to the inevitable game of the year season, the folks over at PCGamesN have put together a list of what they think are the 15 best RPGs on PC. And while I can't really agree with including Shadowrun: Hong Kong over Dragonfall or Diablo III over Diablo II, the list makes up for it by giving credit where it's due to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords.
Here are a few snippets:
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 takes all the moral ambiguity, challenging subjects like racism and bigotry and, of course, monster hunting from the previous games and puts them in a massive world. The result is an extraordinary RPG that sets the standard for open-world adventures.
Every quest is an opportunity to not just learn more about the war-ravaged lands and the whole gamut of its inhabitants, but to also be drawn into the knotty drama. A simple contract, such as directing series protagonist Geralt to slaughter a monster (there are many such quests, and for the first time it actually feels like we’re getting to see Geralt doing his actual job), can transform into an elaborate series of consequence-laden stories that span several hours, closing and opening doors as it hurtles towards a satisfying conclusion.
Navigating the complex, dark fantasy world is a delight, even when the oppressive misery of it threatens to send you spiralling into depression. Even the most innocuous of decisions can have a huge impact on the world and its denizens, giving every action a great deal of weight. Impressively, CD Projekt Red manage to avoid padding the game out with the usual RPG fillers, like inane collectibles and quests to kill 'x' amount of monsters. Every quest has a purpose and a payoff, a whole story to unravel, with even the smallest of them possibly taking several hours till it is cleared.
Even better, CD Projekt Red produced arguably the best DLC ever made with Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine, which has an even better quest than the base game. The Witcher 3 really is something to be devoured until nothing remains.
Pillars of Eternity
Pillars of Eternity is an exceptional RPG. It evokes the best parts of the classic Infinity Engine games like Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment (both found elsewhere on this list) while striking out on its own path with a compelling fantasy yarn and a richly detailed original world.
It is Obsidian Entertainment at the top of their game, with the beautiful writing that the studio is known for wrapped up in a polished adventure - a combination they have struggled with in the past. Despite being a massive RPG with a daunting number of options to take, everything in Pillars of Eternity has been crafted with so much care, even the smallest detail. Religion, philosophy, class warfare, and the world of Eora overflow with conflict and crises - every region on the map is fat with problems waiting for nosey adventurers, and even the most seemingly mundane quests can offer insight into the world or the chance to create a reputation, good or bad.
Instead of cashing in on the popularity of its spiritual predecessors, Obsidian build on those strong foundations to create an experience that doesn’t rely on the past or on nostalgia to deliver its hits. It is a solid step forward for this type of RPG, and the overall experience is one that is even more reminiscent of tabletop RPGs than many of those rooted in D&D.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2
We were hesitant about putting a game released in an unfinished state in this list, but beneath Knights of the Old Republic II’s cracks and flaws is the best Star Wars game ever made, and an amazing RPG.
Where its predecessor - made by BioWare and not Obsidian - was a fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe complete with a twist worthy of The Empire Strikes Back, KOTOR II takes the venerable IP and pulls it in a completely new direction. No longer is the focus on the constant battle between the Dark Side and the Light Side, Republic versus Empire. Instead, we’are treated to a narrative that explores the nature of the force and what it means to be cut off from it and lost. It is a story of misfits and traitors and, in retrospect, sometimes feels very much like Star Wars by way of Planescape: Torment.
Shades of grey permeate the entire adventure, as the Exile - KOTOR II’s protagonist - is forced to think about every action and how good deeds can beget evil ones, being pushed ever further towards pragmatism. An often depressing and bleak game, it is as much about personal exploration as it is about gallivanting across the galaxy, getting into lightsaber battles and using the force, though there is certainly plenty of that, too.
Perhaps the best thing about KOTOR II is Kreia, the Exile’s secretive mentor. As the impetus for much of the game, she pushes the Exile, berates him, and attempts to teach him all while presenting the force in much more interesting ways than any of the film trilogies manage. It makes the pupil-mentor relationship between Luke and Yoda, or Ben Kenobi, exceptionally dull in comparison.