A Beginner’s Guide to CRPGs

In case any of our readers have only just discovered the amazing world of CRPGs, you might be interested in checking out this beginner's guide on Nerdable that offers some guidance on how to approach these types of games, what to expect once you're committed to checking one out, and a list of recommended titles to start with based on their importance and accessibility, including Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, Pillars of Eternity, Shadowrun Returns, Tyranny, and Divinity: Original Sin. Read on:
Character creation is only the beginning of course. The two main aspects of a CRPG are combat and dialogue. Yes they have a lot of talking and reading. Let’s start with combat first. These games typically have you playing from a top down perspective so you can see everyone on the battlefield at once. Tactical play is emphasised here. For the most part it’s best to take combat slow, by which I mean pausing after every command to issue new ones. You can tell your party to attack and they’ll keep hitting whatever’s in front of them with their weapons but that isn’t enough. It’s up to you to decide who casts what spells or uses what abilities and when. Weakening an enemy’s attack power with magic at the beginning of a fight can make things a lot easier for you. Basically, you always have to make sure your party is positioned well and works to the best of their abilities. Keep tanks in the front line attracting the attention of hard hitters, get the rogues to sneak behind them and attack without being seen and make sure your spellcasters are far away from any swords that would easily slice them in two.

Now onto the other main gameplay aspect of the CRPG. So much of your time will be spent reading dialogue and responding to it. Usually when you meet a character they’ll say their bit in a text box and you’ll be given a list of possible responses. This allows you to take the conversation in various ways. Your character’s skills will often come in to play as well. For example, Planescape Torment is all about a man trying to find out what he did in his past lives. If you give him a lot of Intelligence and Charisma points at the start, he will have an easier time talking to people, getting information from them and using his intelligence to solve riddles for example. If you were to give him lots of Strength points he would be able to physically threaten other characters. This wouldn’t work for a weaker character because nobody’s going to take his threats seriously.


1. Don’t be afraid to set the difficulty to easy. These games are challenging and you likely won’t fully understand the mechanics on your first play through. I know I’ve had to make several new characters before getting anywhere in Planescape Torment or Baldur’s Gate.

2. Even on easy you’ll probably die a lot and that’s ok. You aren’t meant to win on your first try. If you get to a challenging fight don’t just rush in angrily. Think of a different strategy before you go in. Decide who will attack first, should you have a ranged attacker in the back or the front? Take a look at the items you’ve picked up along the way. Often times you’ll find potions in your backpack you never though of using that can give you an edge in battle. Try them out!

3. Save all the time!. These games have multiple save slots for a reason. Save all the time. Won a battle? Save. About to go into a battle? Save. Saving before tough fights ensures you’ll not have to wait long before giving it another try, meaning you can hop right back in!

4. If you really try, and you’re still getting nowhere, go somewhere else. Too often I’ve seen people spend ages trying to do one battle over and over when they could have tried another quest they enjoyed, got some new powerful gear, levelled up the party and come back to whatever was kicking their ass and plough right through it. There’s no shame in admitting defeat, because you’ll be back to finish them off later.

5. Take your time and be patient. It’ll take a while for you to get used to all the different terms and mechanics but just keep playing and they’ll become second nature to you in no time.