As I have mentioned many times before, I grew up playing video games – and I have always enjoyed role playing games the most. I loved exploring the worlds, immersing myself in the stories, and progressing my character(s) through the story to defeat the evildoers/save the world/save the princess/etc. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until my teenage years that I dabbled in Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, which no doubt inspired the vast majority of the RPGs I grew up playing.
After playing Dungeons & Dragons for the first time, I was hooked by its seemingly limitless possibilities, deep and complex character creation, and by the connection you have with the story and the people delving into it with you. I absolutely loved it, and looked forward to getting together with my friends every chance we could, initially it was a few times a month, then as we got older and busier it became once a month, and eventually it was us getting together and playing once or twice a year. This definitely bummed me out, because not only have I been deprived of playing and hanging out with some of my best friends, but I’ve lost out on the incredible experiences you have playing a game like D&D. How have I dealt with this void in my life? Well, unsurprisingly to some I’ve turned to video games to help scratch my tabletop RPG itch! There are a plethora of tremendous video games, both on consoles and on PC, that are inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, and today I’m going to give you the breakdown on the three that I’ve enjoyed diving into the most. Let’s get to it!
Planescape: Torment – How can I make a list of video games inspired by the world famous Dungeons & Dragons and not include one of the best RPGs of all time? Planescape: Torment was released during the holidays of 1999, and should have really blown the doors off of the RPG community, but it was unfortunately overshadowed by another D&D inspired RPG heavy hitter, Baldur’s Gate, which had come out before it. Baldur’s Gate got a ton of attention, and is a phenomenal game in its own right (was very nearly on my list, too!), but at the end of the day I feel that Planescape was the better game out of the two, as I enjoyed the setting and storyline more than I did Baldur’s Gate. The game was absolutely incredible the first time I played it, with deep and complex character creation, challenging and interesting gameplay, and was really gorgeous for the time. In fact, the art style and graphics were so good that it has actually aged pretty well, even though it’s nearly 20 years old. So, if you’re wanting to dust off a classic and experience one of the greatest RPG experiences of all time, but without the hassle of hoping your buddy can be the GM this weekend, you may want to give Planescape: Torment a look and you can play the classic, or the recently released enhanced edition!
Pillars of Eternity – The crowdfunded Pillars of Eternity has become one of my favorite games in recent memory – and I’m certainly not the only one who thinks so, seeing as it was the highest funded video game of all time, having raised over $4,000,000 on Kickstarter leading up to it’s March 2015 launch (which is absolutely bonkers!). The RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment is lauded as a spiritual successor to the classic top-down strategic RPGs of the good ole days (Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescpae: Torment, etc), and it certainly does not disappoint it’s D&D inspired predecessors – it features the same kind of party-based tactical RPG gameplay, the same isometric top-down view with gorgeous pre-rendered 2D backgrounds. You build your character’s classes with a similar character creation process, and one that features 11 playable classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses – and you’ll eventually recruit a full party of five for your merry adventures. The art in this game is incredible, the gameplay is challenging and engaging, and the story was a blast – and while some complained about it, I actually loved the fact that it doesn’t feature voice actors – which gives it a very old school pencil-and-paper RPG feel as you work through complex dialogue situations and intense story moments. One really cool perk that sets Pillars of Eternity apart from other RPGs? You don’t get experience from killing enemies, so stealthy or diplomatic approaches to the game can be just as viable as seeking out to defeat your foes. And to top it all off, it’s a very accessible game, being that it can be played on PC, Mac, and PS4 and XBox One.
Divinity: Original Sin (1 & 2) – Now, I know I’m cheating a little bit here by including two games, but trust me when I tell you that if you are looking for an RPG experience that is on par with what you could experience with a classic tabletop RPG, then you can look no further than buying Divinity Original: Sin and Divinity: Original Sin 2. I have never played a game that presented me with so much possibility, so many options, so many ways to play. The original came out in 2014, with enhanced editions being released on console and Mac in 2015, and it truly modernized the isometric RPG genre in a big, big way. But the sequel took that recipe for success and amped it up to 11. Now, initially it doesn’t wow you with the complexity of the character creation (admittedly the sequel is much better about character creation than the original). Characters and classes offer up your standard fair of warriors, hunters, rogues, mages, and so on, but for Divinity: Original Sin the devil is in the details – once you get into the stories and start immersing yourself in the quests and the gameplay and the combat, you will begin to see where the D:OS series shines above all others. I have never seen a game present a player with so many options, and in many instances it seems like there really aren’t many limits with how you can approach things, and because almost every single piece of an environment can be interacted with, you will find yourself with some super neat moments – electricity spells deal huge damage to people standing in water (or blood on the ground, yuck!), poison clouds can be ignited with fire magic, frozen enemies can be shattered, and so, so, SO much more.
One of the coolest moments I’ve ever had, and one that feels like it came right out of an epic D&D moment, saw me fighting a battle that really felt like I had no way of winning: I was running low on health and items, and the enemies were funneling in at me from a nearby bridge. How did I handle it? But grabbing a barrel of oil from my inventory (something I had for crafting, and the games have a VERY deep crafting system), and throwing it out on the bridge in front of my enemies. With my very next turn, I sent a fireball flying, which subsequently blew up the barrel, and ignited the oil on the ground, which set my enemies ablaze – and the rest of the fight was a piece of cake. What makes all of these amazing gameplay experiences even better? It’s the only game on my list that can be played multiplayer – D:OS 1 can be played with one friend, and D:OS 2 can be played co-op with a party of four. And if that wasn’t enough, Divinity: Original Sin 2 offers a deep Game Master tool, so you can literally create your very own D&D style experiences using the game’s engine, which is so stinkin’ cool I can’t even stand it. The Divinity: Original Sin series is easily the closest I’ve felt to a true Dungeons & Dragons style experience, and a must-play for RPG fans.