Ever since I was a wee young Kenny, I’ve really enjoyed RPGs, but there was always one genre that really stuck out to me: The Isometric RPG. In this genre the camera was usually locked in place at an angle above your character(s) at a close 75 degree angle. The game play came in many flavors, there were action RPGs similar to the Diablo series, then there were the turn-based/strategy RPGs like the O.G. Fallout series, Neverwinter Knights, and Baldur’s Gates. This write up covers the turn-based/strategy Isometric RPGs specifically. The genre stayed fairly popular until I was in my early teens which was around 2002 or so, then it all seemed to just fall into the aether.
Well I have great news for you: Isometric RPGS are back! We are now starting to see a resurgence of the genre that I loved so dearly as a kid. What follows are the games I credit for this modern genre revival.
Divinity: Original Sin
I remember when Divinity: Original Sin’s kickstarter campaign was announced, I was very skeptical. I had played Divinity II: Ego Draconis and deemed it was pretty mediocre. It was similar to Dragon Age: Origin in a lot of ways, but it lacked the powerful story of Dragon Age, and the gameplay mechanics left me wanting more. So, I chose not to back Divinity: Original Sin. It wasn’t until I saw the first gameplay trailer that I got really excited for Divinity: Original Sin. The trailer showed off the game’s turn-based combat system and how you would be using the environment to help take down your enemies. The trailer also talked about the difficulty of the game; if you make poor choices in combat, then your characters will die, this notion had me hooked. I went out and purchased the game on Steam’s early access immediately!
Now I have been playing Divinity: Original Sin for years (and still haven’t beaten it). For me it’s one of those games that every time I go back to it, I always want to try a new combination of classes, but one of my goals for next year is sit down and do a full play through of the game, especially with Divinity: Original Sin 2 having recently released into early access.
Shadowrun Returns/Shadowrun: Dragonfall
Shadowrun Returns was already dripping with nostalgia for me from playing the first Shadowrun video game on the SNES when I was younger. I never made it far into the SNES version because I never owned a copy, I would rent it when it was in stock at the local video store. However, as soon as I saw Shadow Returns, I bought it, and I was not disappointed. The game is great! It’s a cyberpunk dystopian future where you will play through the life of a character you create. Character creation is very interesting in Shadowrun Returns, you’ll start by selecting your race, which includes cyberpunk versions of classic fantasy archetypes, like dwarves, elves, and trolls. Then you pick your class, which range anywhere from a hacker to a melee fighter, after that you’re off into the game world.
The gameplay of Shadowrun Returns is turn-based; you have basic attacks and special abilities that are on cool downs. What makes the game stand out for me, is how you can approach each situation differently. If you have a hacker, maybe you turn the enemies sentry guns on them, or if you want to run in guns blazing, you can do that as well. As you play through, you will meet other characters who join your cause, you may have to do quests to get them to join your team, but once they’re on your team, they stick around for the remainder of the game…for the most part.
Coming into Wasteland 2 I wasn’t sure what to expect, as I had played very little of the original Wasteland. By the time I was old enough to really understand how to play the original Wasteland (which came out in 1988), it felt very dated and clunky, especially after playing the original Fallout. Fast forward several years, and Wasteland 2 had launched. I’m so glad I gave it the chance. It really scratched the itch I had for a post-apocalyptic turn-based squad RPG. It plays very similar to the original Fallout games, where you can do things like take a penalty to your hit chance, and try to shoot the enemy in the head for more damage. Also, different types of weapons do more damage to specific enemy types, for example: using standard guns against a robot is pretty pointless, instead you should consider using blunt melee weapons or an energy weapon against them.
I also really enjoy the cast of the game. When you start the game you will make your “Ranger squad”, which consists of four characters. Rangers police the wastelands, and try to keep order and peace. As you play through the game you meet all sorts of interesting NPCs, some of which will join your team and others who will try to stop you at all costs. All and all, Wasteland 2 is worth checking out if you enjoy the post apocalyptic games.
Pillars of Eternity
Lastly, we have Pillars of Eternity. This is a full blown fantasy Isometric RPG very similar to Baldur’s Gate or Neverwinter Knights. In Pillars of Eternity you will start by creating one character. You will choose race and class, and the game has all the typical fantasy creatures you’d expect to find, as well as all the classes.
When the game starts, your character is “Awakened”, meaning your character is now able to see spirits, and is connected with its past lives in some way. Ultimately, you are sent on a quest to find out why children are being born without souls. Along this journey, you’ll start building out your team of fighters, rogues, and wizards.
One thing I absolutely loved about Pillars of Eternity, was that the game doesn’t restrict the way your characters grow. One perfect example is a dwarf fighter that joins your party early on, whom I built him as a tank with a sword and shield. He could take a ton of damage, but he was pretty useless when it came to dealing damage back to the enemy. This old school approach really made me fall in love with the game.
I hope this list helps to point you in the right direction if you’re looking for something new to play. If you have something you think should be added to the list, please leave us a comment below, and I’ll give it a try.