Blend Games brings us a list of what they feel were the most underappreciated video games of this decade, and included among them are Anachronox, Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. Can't say I disagree in the slightest:
Arcanum was the first game to be released by Troika Games, a studio founded by former Fallout designers from Interplay. It wouldn't be a stretch to call Arcanum a spiritual successor to the first two Fallout games. It's an open-ended, isometric RPG with turn-based combat and skill-based progression. The biggest difference between this game and Fallout, its setting, was perhaps its biggest strength. Arcanum is set in a Tolkein-style fantasy realm that has been torn apart by an industrial revolution. The numerous conflicts between technology and magic offer scores of interesting quests. The attempt at real-time combat (optional, thankfully) didn't work well and the graphics were a bit dated by that point but nonetheless, it's a solid PC RPG that deserves a place on your shelf next to Baldur's Gate and Fallout.
While we're on the subject of Troika, it's worth noting their final project, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines. Despite full 3D graphics and the use of a popular license, Bloodlines actually managed to sell less than Arcanum. It's too bad because it's the more ambitious and impressive of the two. It successfully fuses first-person shooter and third-person hack-and-slash with a full-blown RPG, years before Fallout 3 or Borderlands were released. True to the pen-and-paper version of Vampire: The Masquerade, Bloodlines allows you to choose your character's skills as well as their clan, the latter of which determines what magic you'll have access to and how you'll be perceived by the word. The Nosferatu, for example, are hideous beasts who must stick to the sewers to avoid drawing attention. Though bug-ridden when it shipped, the game has gotten considerably more polished over the years thanks to community patches. I'd like to think it would've sold a lot better if it were less broken when it shipped...and if it hadn't been released a week after Everquest II and a week before World of Warcraft. Or on the same day as Half-Life 2.