Best PC RPGs of 2015

Analysing the average from scores via Metacritic (just the critics) and Steam (just the users), we list the top 14 highest scoring and best PC RPGs of 2015. Admittedly, RPG’s mean different things to different people. As such, we sourced only games tagged with the RPG label from each respective site.

Exclusions include – MMO’s, expansions and re-releases of prior PC games.

Summarily of the top 14 of 2015:

  • 5 are old school.
  • 2 of the top 5 are roguelikes.
  • Both of the 2 AAA blockbusters barely made it to the list?

 

#14. Serpent in the Staglands

SerpentintheStagGenre: Old School (isometric, real time)

Avg score: 79.5

Steam page Serpent in the Staglands

Set in the fictional world of Vol and a campaign inspired from a Transylvanian-type Bronze Age, this game blends traditional 90’s RPG mechanics with an atypical and grim setting. As Necholai, you are a minor god attending a moonlit festival. Discovering your return passage is blocked, you must take on the guise of a mortal and travel icy lands to unravel this plot against you.

Recruit up to 5 companions to help you explore an unmarked map and decipher languages, ruins and puzzles. Combat is real-time with pause and features classless builds, a non-linear storyline and different ending scenarios. Seriously, if you can get over the Ultima-style graphics (you’ve been warned) this one is a unique and coldly strange tale. Imagine a darker Baldurs Gate II, set in an East European Winter.

 


#13. Fallout 4

2016-01-31_00026Genre: Open World

Avg score: 82

Steam page Fallout 4

Believe it or not, some people were dismally disappointed with this one. Discounting the user reviews on Metacritic (which if counted, would’ve dismissed it from the top 14) each cite the non-updated graphics, inconsequential and simple dialogue options, clunky inventory system and the games re-direction or inability to provide role-playing a bad guy/gal. While these are valid criticisms, behind this features a massive world to explore; a wonderful score; an immersive and colourful setting; heaps of customisation and crafting; credible voice acting; improved FPS (first person shooting) mechanics; and interesting companions.

While the series has moved closer towards Mass Effect than classic Fallout – if you ever wanted to get lost wandering the landscapes of a post-apocalyptic Boston, with only a makeshift gun as your protection in hope of restoring civilisation among the impoverished – there’s no better way.


#12. UnderRail

UnderRailGenre: Old School (isometric, turn based)

Avg score: 82

Steam page UnderRail

If you disagreed with the above synopsis and still bitterly salty from what Bethesda have done to your beloved Fallout – UnderRail may offer comfort. Also set in the distant future where life is becoming untenable above-ground – the protagonist must rely on exploration and combat to survive in the metro station-states. You will also explore other underground cities, tunnels, buildings and caverns, etc.

Negotiating with conflicting factions and gangs will require full use of the elaborate item crafting and ability to customise skills and feats for differing play-styles. This extends to psi-abilities and crossbows! The tactile level design reminds me of Crusader: No Remorse dressed in a Fallout trenchcoat. Beware, this game is unforgiving. However at 1/5 of the price of FO4, this may be the antidote for the purists requiring a real ‘successor’.


#11. The Age of Decadence

Age of DecadenceGenre: Old School (isometric, turn based)

Avg score: 82

Steam page The Age of Decadence

On first impressions, if Mount and Blade had a story with similar mechanics to Neverwinter Nights and borrowed from the clothing department of Rome: Total War you’d have The Age of Decadence. However this unlikely mish-mash of metaphors presented above, belies a deeply political and interesting world. Sticking with one of the 7 classes, 3 factions and 4 guilds is in your interests as the lore will punish your choices if you veer too far from your base character build. Rather than a bad thing, the lore will foster your choices and allow characters as unlikely as a merchant, loremaster, assassin or wayward grifter.

Spanning ancient towns, bases, villages, city-states, temples and tombs will reward you with only temporary companions but 7 different endings. This one is like reading an unfamiliar book, with an interesting cover from an author you’ve never read. And then being pleasantly surprised.


#10. Victor Vran

Victor VranGenre: Action RPG

Avg score: 83

Steam page Victor Vran

More than just a Diablo clone or an Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing without a bankable lead – Victor Vran is a fast and engaging action RPG. As a demon hunter (the only class to play) in Zagoravia you can roll, jump, dodge and deflect missile attacks.

On the offensive, there are destiny cards, demon powers, customisable outfits, ingredients and loot to buff your weapons and wall-jumping to discover secret areas. Other features include PvP, multiplayer co-op and some kind of legendary sword that looks like a lightsabre. This very well might be the game to tide you over until Divinity Original Sin II.

 

 


#9. Tales of Zestiria

Tales of ZestiriaGenre: JRPG

Avg score: 83.5

Steam page Tales of Zestiria

Assume the role of a Shepherd and journey through an open world with lovely anime-style graphics to restore harmony between humans and Seraphim by destroying hellions and the Lord of Calamity! ..Culturally JRPG characters usually have humble beginnings but courageous and determined characters, chatty cut-scenes and big monster combat with party-based mechanics.

While the former two elements are supported, the combat features new additions. In ToZ, combat is in real time with the chance of allied attack multipliers and ability to dodge incoming attacks. Additionally, you can fuse with your elemental companions in ‘armatization’ – whereby you become a hybrid with one of your Seraphs for boosted attacks, abilities and stats along with the special abilities of the Seraph (i.e., wind, earth, fire, water) which you symbiotically joined.¬† There’s full translations of voice acting in English (or Japanese) which are actually good and boasts a great soundtrack.


#8. Shadowrun: Hong Kong

Shadowrun Hong KongGenre: Old School (isometric, turn based)

Avg score: 84

Steam page Shadowrun: Hong Kong

Shadowrun: Hong Kong initially began as a Kickstarter campaign and continues the success of the much loved Shadowrun series. The aesthetics remain consistent with striking neon Blade Runner-esque environments. Moreover, the series fuses atypical and elegant blends of distinctive elements within genres. For example, SHK features trait-based checks in dialogue, tough turn-based combat, fantasy elements combining elves, orcs and spells, all accommodated inside a dystopian and steam-punk age!

Few games can pull off being a buffet of various sub-genres and find a good balance. However this one does and provides good pacing, strong character development, an engaging story and promotes hacking and charisma. Simultaneously this is a great entry and/or sequel to the series.


#7. Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim

Ys VIGenre: JRPG

Avg score: 84

Steam page Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim

Firstly, the Ys series has been developed on almost every gaming platform internationally at some time or another. With that feat aside, Ys is architecturally the other side of the coin when it comes to JRPG’s. Rather than the more recent Final Fantasy’s or Tales of Zestiria – this one is closer to Zelda, 90’s JRPGs and those quaint and nostalgic feelings we get of the first few JRPG’s we may have played.

This time around, the player character Adol washes up on the shores of the Canaan Islands. Stranded in a beautiful but dangerous location, the locals are lucky to have your abilities in performing a variety of platforming, jumping, dash-jumping, lunging and jump attacks and harnessing the power of 3 elemental swords for those traditional and screen swallowing, big boss fights. If you’re after a classic with a good PC port – this might be up your rustic island.


#6. Hand of Fate

Hand of FateGenre: Deckbuilder / Action RPG

Avg score: 85

Steam page Hand of Fate

Ever wanted to role-play in a single player, card-based, table-top campaign run by a dungeon master where the consequences transform into an action RPG setting? Well, you’re a card. And should be dealt with. Fortunately HoF has you covered, with a concept offering a truly original and unique setup.

Like Hearthstone you build a deck to challenge bosses. The DM deals story cards which present opportunities (and storytelling) via random events to pursue or decline. Some events will lead to a battle arena featuring procedurally generated dungeons involving elements of a live action RPG. Within your deck of cards includes armour, weapons and spells which instantly equip before battle. Battles are short and the player can dodge/roll, counter and combat through minions and/or bosses, Batman Arkham-style.

The concept of molding 2 genres into 1 game with distinct parts could have fallen flat. However FoH is an engrossing experience and mostly from the mysterious and magical nature of the tabletop mechanics. Cards fly about, the DM intermittently comments on your deck and the choices you make providing interactivity. Lastly, the uncertainty of what to expect or whether your health, food or gold can favour you to make it to the next turn of cards will have you playing for just ‘one more turn’ before bed.


#5. Darkest Dungeon

DarkestDungeonGenre: Roguelike

Avg score: 85

Steam page Darkest Dungeon

Once opulent and imperial the family manor now perches decrepit above the moor. Rumours fed the inhabitants’ avarice and greed, suggesting untold powers lay beneath the shadowed mansion. Foolishness gave way to relic and ritual in attempt to uncover its secrets. Exhausting the family’s fortune and assailing the pits with worker and shovels revealed a portal beneath the lowest foundations. Horrors, madness and death reduced the party to one whom barely escaped. A letter bearing your family’s seal implored you to “return home, claim your birthright and deliver our family from the ravenous, clutching shadows”.

Manage a roster of 4 characters from 14 hero classes, descending into the labyrinthine hallways (in a mixture of real-time movement and turn-based combat) managing stress levels, afflictions, food and lighting in this gory fantasy! Featuring permadeath and a steep learning curve Рthis entry is a steely, frightful and thrilling grind.


#4 Avernum 2: Crystal Souls

Avernum2Genre: Old School (isometric, turn based)

Avg score: 85.5

Steam page Avernum 2: Crystal Souls

Pick a starting class, travel with a party of four and explore the subterranean kingdom of Avernum. The Empire has cast all the undesirables underground and after a successful assassination attempt, they’re invading Avernum in retaliation.

Everything you’d expect from a classic RPG is here with melee, missile and magic (the three M’s of RPG combat), with as much looting and exploration of towns, dungeons and passages as you can handle. In many ways this title is akin to Icewind Dale. For example, you create your party of 4 with consideration of race (here there’s 3) and enough skills to compliment both attack and defense. Secondly, both worlds are a palette to which you can craft and pace your own adventures. One intriguing point of difference is that there are three major quests which trigger the ending. Decide for yourself if 1, 2 or 3 are worth pursuing.

 


#3. Pillars of Eternity

2016-03-03_00006Genre: Old School (isometric, real time)

Avg score: 88.5

Steam page Pillars of Eternity

The developers of PoE, Obsidian Entertainment, are combined from the talents which were involved in either developing or publishing CRPG classics within the franchises of Fallout, Planescape: Torment, Baldurs Gate, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights, etc. From such a high pedigree, the expectations were high. To everyone’s relief – Pillars of Eternity delivered.

The mechanics were based on but not limited by Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) rules, allowing a relatively smooth entry for loyalists and depth for newcomers. Similar tweaks were made to popular classes and races (6 and 11, respectively, not including sub-races), with notable newcomers, the Godlike and Ciphon. Obsidian spent a lot of time creating this franchise, evidenced by the extensive lore and dialogue options (with varied skill level checks). The voice acting is moody and sparse and companions are actually mature reflecting the political and factional conflicts of the time. PoE was both well received and developed and easily one of the best CRPGs since the classics.


#2. The Witcher 3

GeraltGenre: Open World

Avg score: 94

Steam page Witcher 3

The Witcher 3 is one of the best games across all genre’s and CD Projekt Red is one of the better developers in the industry. There, I said it. Overall, this game suspends disbelief to such a degree that the sum and it’s parts are of equal importance and each equally excel. The graphics are stunning with day/night cycles and weather effects which seamlessly integrate that dispose the use of a clock. The soundtrack moves from strings and bagpipes to sweeping, bold and blustery orchestral movements. Voice acting is strong and adds personality to the characters. The combat is fluid and balanced. The story is engaging, helpfully pushed along by the gruff and sarcastic lead, Geralt. The sidequests are mature, engaging and memorable, e.g. saving the kidnapped children from the eerie swamp; the unforgivable Baron; and the ghost who forlornly haunts the tower wishing to be re-united with her lover, etc. Altogether this culminates in a feeling of atmosphere that’s completely realised and a masterpiece of fantasy storytelling.

There are games and there is The Witcher 3. There are interactive experiences which incorporate forms of other mediums such as comics, card games, movies, tv shows, songs and books. And then there is The Witcher 3, where near everything pales in comparison to both the parts and its sum.


#1. Undertale

UndertaleGenre: Roguelike

Avg score: 94.5

Steam page Undertale

This game uses various humour to point and make fun of RPG tropes that have been naturalised to an extent we don’t even question them.

Fundamental to RPG’s are the ability to choose and have agency over your character and their decisions. But what if the land is ruled and populated only by humans and monsters? Most of us (in that game way) know instinctively through playing other similar games what must be done. We’re all humans here (one of the few signified characteristics we all share), but what about monsters? Monsters are monsters, but humans.. Humans can be heroes. Therefore, humans are heroes and everyone else are non-player characters (NPC’s) or enemies. ..Right?

Although I’ve never played it, the developer and user reviews boast that – killing is unnecessary; you can become friends with all the bosses; the provision of a meta-experience reflects how you make choices when playing games; a deep morality system will remind you of your actions; choices will matter. Other reviews point at how emotionally invested you become, how simple and how amazingly game of the year it is. And then there’s more meme-like one sentence appraisals I don’t get. Maybe I should play it? It does have the highest average score, after all.


 

Which is your favourite and why?

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