By - April 24, 2008 - 38 Comments

Top 10 D&D CRPGs

This is a brilliant guest post by Mr. Gnome from The Random Gnome’s Random Lair. For hours of computer- and retro-gaming goodness be sure to check out his site.

The digital world of Dungeons & Dragons

Truth be said, computers do face quite a few problems when striving to provide us with proper RPG experiences. That’s, I guess, why we needed this CRPG term. Just to make sure roleplayers never raised their expectations too much. On the other hand, them CRPGs do tend to handle combat particularly well, and if you’re a munchkin you don’t really care for the RPG part of RPG gaming, do you? Then again, you might care but lack the time to gather half a dozen people to play. And a good story always is a good story.
Anyway. Enough with the intro bit. What follows is a selection of 10 of the best Dungeons & Dragons CRPGs presented for your enjoyment in the rather rare reverse chronological order.

Neverwinter Nights 2

Published by Atari
Developed by Obsidian
Released: 2006
Ruleset: D&D 3.5
Setting: Forgotten Realms
More info:
Official Site, MobyGames, Wikipedia, GameRankings

NWN2Following the original BioWare developed and immensely successful Neverwinter Nights, NWN 2 improved the game in every respect and provided us with a shining gem in all its action-focused, story-heavy, dungeon crawling glory. The visuals are nothing short of jaw-dropping, the music is superb, the available options ridiculously varied, the gameplay perfectly balanced and the plot appropriately epic, though admittedly quite a bit on the generic side of things. What’s more, and besides the replayability of the thing, NWN 2 can double as an impressive DM’s tool. Heck, there’s even a properly funny gnome bard thrown in for comic relief. Just remember to patch it before you start playing. Oh, and you’ll need a decent PC to enjoy it too.

The Temple of Elemental Evil

Published by Atari
Developed by Troika
Released: 2003
Ruleset: D&D 3.5
Setting: Greyhawk
More info:
Official Site (archived), MobyGames, Wikipedia, Sorcerer’s Place, Game Rankings

ToEETroika Games, the developers of The Temple of Elemental Evil are apparently no more, and if you have actually played any of their games, you are probably very sad about it; just like I am. If not, you should be. After all, they are the only team to attempt such a faithful implementation of the 3.5 edition rules while recreating this rather classic D&D adventure. Ok, so the plot development isn’t brilliant with its standard evil rising theme and the game did ship with its fare share of bugs, but what really stands out, the turn-based combat system, will more than make it up for you. As for the party of five the player leads through Greyhawk, it interestingly has an alignment which affects both the plot and the available choices. Mind you, ToEE still has a vibrant, creative and very active fanbase, that constantly comes up with new bug-fixes, enhancements and extra content.

Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter

Published by Interplay
Developed by Black Isle Studios
Released: 2001
Ruleset: D&D 3rd edition
Setting: Forgotten Realms
More info:
MobyGames, Wikipedia, Game Rankings

iwdhow.jpgYes, it’s an expansion for Icewind Dale, I know, but it’s such a glorious one it’s worthy of its very own mention. Changes include such things as the addition of several types of classic Dungeons & Dragons critters, a higher experience point cap, new magical items and the much needed option to play in a resolution higher than 640×480. Heart of Winter, with its basic though definitely grand plot, focuses on epic battles and intense (!) spell casting. Guess it’s something like hack-‘n’-slash for wizards really. Great fun and will last you for quite a while too.

Planescape: Torment

Published by Interplay
Developed by Black Isle Studios
Released: 1999
Ruleset: AD&D 2nd edition – heavily modified
Setting: Planescape
More info:
Official Site (archived), MobyGames, Wikipedia, Planewalker, The Escapist, Game Rankings

planescape.jpgIf there is one game that really (and I do mean really) puts an emphasis on storytelling, reading of extensive texts, plot twists, literary pleasures and non-combat focused gameplay, well, as you might have guessed, Planescape Torment has to be that game. Now, I do not want to spoil anything from its great story, but do know that there’s a brothel of intellectual delights to be visited, death plays a prominent role, the atmosphere is absolutely impressive and the bits of included humor actually work. After all, Planescape Torment, frankly, is way above the average D&D novel in terms of writing quality, character development and of course plot. It’s no Dostoyevsky of course, but no Salvatore (and I don’t mean that in a good way) either.
On the more mundane side of things, Torment is based on the Infinity Engine, meaning it features some of the best 2D environments possible and plays like a cross between an adventure and an RPG. Also, players don’t get to choose their party –it would definitely hamper storytelling- but they do get to pick some of the characters they’ll recruit and join a variety of factions from the Anarchists, to the Dustmen, the Sensates and more.

Baldur’s Gate

Published by Interplay
Developed by Bioware
Released: 1998
Ruleset: AD&D 2nd edition
Setting: Forgotten Realms
More info:
Official Site, MobyGames, Wikipedia, Planet Baldur’s Gate, Game Rankings

bg.jpgBaldur’s Gate, slightly flawed as it is, was the CRPG behemoth that kick started the genre renaissance of the late nineties and is still considered one of the best single player RPGs money can buy. The story is decent and, combined with the rich world of the Forgotten Realms, provides with the perfect canvas for character development and –admittedly- gratuitous goblin murdering. There are literally tons of battles, both random and staged, to fight, tons of dialogue to wade through and a moral system in the spirit of the game’s Nietzsche inspired slogan: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster…”. Oh, and so you know, two of Baldur’s biggest key selling points were (arguably still are) the intuitive real time combat system and an absolutely huge quest taking place over the entire –and very lovely- Sword Coast. Now, care for a bit of trivia? Good. Baldur’s Gate actually is the name of the sprawling fantasy metropolis part of the game takes place in.

Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession

Published by SSI
Developed by Dreamforge
Released: 1994
Ruleset: AD&D 2nd edition
Setting: Ravenloft
More info:
MobyGames, YouTube, Quandary review

ravenloft.jpgI remember feeling that weird sort of melancholy invented worlds tend to inspire when you realize they don’t actually exist when I first read through the original AD&D 2nd edition Ravenloft box set. It really was that good a romantic masterpiece, filled with incredibly powerful yet cursed characters, a dark history, imaginative realms and a deep sense of dread. Yet, I never played a Ravenloft session. Always thought it would have to be too epic to really matter. Well, Strahd’s Possession is epic. A bit too epic to be frank, and I do mean this in a setting altering way, but it still offers a passable story and a chance at some truly atmospheric computer gaming. Happily, it also offers a pretty innovative for its time full 3D world viewed in first person perspective and a healthy dose of dark gothic atmosphere. Oh, yes, and some appropriately cryptic Vistani too.

The Dark Queen of Krynn

Published by SSI
Developed by MicroMagic
Released: 1992
Ruleset: AD&D 2nd edition
Setting: Dragonlance
More info:
MobyGames, Wikipedia

dqok.jpgA classic. A true masterpiece. A technical achievement. A game that just can’t age and a brilliant dungeon hacking romp that enthralled (parts of) humanity and quite obviously me. Also the last installment in the Dragonlance based Krynn trilogy of games that were released as part of the aforementioned Gold Box series. Evil (well, the aptly named Dark Queen herself actually), you see, even after being defeated twice, just couldn’t leave Krynn alone and a band of adventurers just had to stop her. In a glorious 256-colours VGA world with SoundBlaster support, no less.

Eye of the Beholder

Published by SSI
Developed by Westwood Studios
Released: 1991
Ruleset: AD&D 2nd edition
Setting: Forgotten Realms
More info:
MobyGames, Wikipedia, Game Rankings

eotb.jpgAnother megahit and a respected award-winner from the era when gamers bothered with exercising their imagination. An era when pen and paper were the only way to map a game. Eye of the Beholder, not unlike Dungeon Master before it, was one of the earlier first person RPGs with a then-impressive 3D tile-based graphics engine. The title, as retro gaming CRPGers should remember, refers to the game’s final adversary, a nasty monster, gamers and their party of four would only reach after fighting a thousand battles, making friends with an assortment of dwarfs, murdering the odd Drow, casting roughly 40 different spells and solving lots of taxing puzzles in the sewers of Waterdeep. Eye of the Beholder was successful enough to spawn two sequels, quite a few spin-offs and port itself to everything from the Amiga and the Sega (Mega) CD to the Atari Lynx and the SNES.

Pool of Radiance

Published & Developed by SSI
Released: 1988
Ruleset: AD&D 1st edition
Setting:
More info:
MobyGames, Wikipedia, Dragonbait’s Page, GameBanshee

por.jpgPool of Radiance was the first of a long and brilliant series of RPGs that shared a common graphics engine and common gameplay mechanics, and came to be collectively known as the Gold Box series. Must have been the gold boxes in which the games came, methinks. Anyway. Point is, Pool of Radiance is a legend and a 20-year old game everyone with the slightest interest in CRPGs and their heritage should play, even though admittedly some of the later Gold Box games actually bested it. Still, not many of them received the accolade of being called “the best RPG ever to grace the C64, or indeed any other computer” by Commodore User magazine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pool_of_Radiance – _note-0The game only allowed fighter, cleric, wizard and thief and severely restricted them in their level advancement, but its combination of first person dungeon exploring with 3rd person turn-based combat and the official endorsement of TSR made sure it was years before anyone actually noticed it.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain

Published & Developed by Mattel
Released: 1982
Ruleset: AD&D 1st edition
Setting: none in particular
More info:
MobyGames, YouTube, IntelliVision Lives, Video Game Critic

addcm.jpgI’m not 100% sure on what exactly this Intellivision game is called, though its loading screen does imply that Advanced Dungeons & Dragons should be enough, but I do know it’s not the first D&D game ever. 1974, you see, saw the release of dnd, which being playable only on a mainframe failed to reach a wide demographic. Not that this game did, but, well, at least it tried. Originally being worked on under the title of “Adventure” until TSR licensed the game, AD&D was the first Intellivision cartridge to use more than 4kb of ROM and feature randomly generated mazes stuffed with monsters, in what could easily be described as Diablo’s great grandfather. I’d suggest tracking a copy of the thing online and actually seeing how impressively innovative it was. Finding a free copy shouldn’t be too difficult, even if your reward would have you recovering the two pieces of the rather silly-named Crown of Kings.

What are your top CRPGs?

Let us know what kept you enthralled for social-life-mangling weeks!

This was a guest post by Mr. Gnome from The Random Gnome’s Random Lair. For hours of computer- and retro-gaming goodness be sure to check out his site.

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Top 10 D&D CRPGs, 4.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

Leave a comment (38 comments so far) »

  1. Mike says:

    Nice post! Pretty representative – but why did you leave out Dungeons & Dragons Online? Turbine did an excellent job implementing D&D 3.5 along with the Eberron campaign setting.

    Thanks!

  2. Yax says:

    That’s a good question! Maybe Mr. Gnome hasn’t had time to fully delve into the world of DNDO. I personally haven’t played it either unfortunately.

  3. Chris says:

    I think one of the most impressive D&D games, in terms of the world setting and plot – that people never had the chance to play – was ‘Dark Sun: Shattered Lands’. It had an excellent battle and inventory system, and the plot was extremely enjoyable. Not to mention one of the only cRPGs I’ve ever played that ended the game in an epic battle. I seem to remember there being over 50 enemies and allies on the screen at the same time, and the battle took over 30 minutes to fight. Besides, it’s the only cRPG I know of that lets you play a gladiator as a character. :)

  4. gnome says:

    Thanks for the kind words Mike. As to why I left D&D Online out, well, truth be said I didn’t quite enjoy the few hours I played th thing, but I have to admit it’s quite an important game. Besides, I decided to mention only games that I both like and have fully played…

    Oh, and dear Yax, if you were to go for a MMORPG, I would strongly suggest you gave LotRO a try.

    Hey! Chris! You’re back mate! Off to your place as soon as I return to mine, which will apparently be quite a bit after I leave in a few minutes :) Oh, and yes, Dark Sun was a great game indeed.

  5. Ail says:

    Hi,

    honestly, DnD was my best introduction to the table-top game, as I came to know the basic concepts through there… and the Basic box player’s book. And it was so compelling (a lot more than ADOM, in the long term, because of being simpler and easier to master) that I feel it deserved a spot here, not just a mention.

    Aside from that, I do think Dragonstrike deserved a mention. Not being a RPG game properly, as it was more a flying-simulator of a strange kind, it still told pretty accurately, from what I can tell, the whole War of the Lance. I have fond memories of it, even though I could never finish the game.

    Also, kudos on incuding Strahd’s Possession. Despite some awful bugs and awkward interface, it did have an impressive environment and music to leave me always on my toes.

  6. Johnnay says:

    Although not technically D&D, I remember enjoying a medieval-fantastic-esque might&magic game called return to xeen. Ah the good ol times.

  7. Pedro X says:

    The old games kicked ass. It was nerve-racking – but oh so rewarding when it worked – to switch floppy disks and hope nothing crashed.

  8. DEITRIX says:

    Excellent post Gnome..!!
    I remember playing Eye of the Beholder when I was young. Blast of a game..!!

    Wish I had played them all, but no time these days.

  9. Sandrinnad says:

    oh lordy I loved those gold box games….the hours I’d spend playing them when I had an essay to write….

    Pool of Rad kicked butt, but for some reason Curse of the Azure Bonds was always my favourite….could’ve been the female protagonist….or maybe the dinosaur :)

    Anyone else remember levelling rangers to 9 then switching them over to wizards? :D that was the order, wasn’t it?

    I wonder if they’ll still work….

  10. Yax says:

    Yeah. There has to be a way to make them run on our fast-as-lightning PCs. Anyone knows where to find and how to install oldies?

  11. Mike says:

    Yax,

    http://www.abandonia.com/ , an abandonware site, which has many of the old CRPGS. There should also be a link to get DOSBox which lets you run old dos games on Windows.

  12. Yax says:

    Thanks Mike!

  13. Kameron says:

    NWN2 but not NWN??? Good day, sir.

    I said, “Good day!”

  14. I still play Baldur’s Gate sometimes when I’m bored. I have the game cds, its expansion, and the unofficial one called the Darkest day, which adds close to 200 hours of gameplay. It’s one of my best game EVER!

  15. Infamous Jum says:

    I enjoyed the bajeezus out of Temple of Elemental Evil. I employed some of the third-party hacks early on, to offset a number of bugs. The biggest problem was NPCs grabbing loot to the point of being encumbered, and then refusing to sell or drop the junk, until I found a hack that let me ransack them whenever I pleased. That hack had the humorous side effect of allowing me to rob the Prince before escorting him out of the dungeon. Even though I sent him home naked and unarmed, he still sent me a fancy blade for my troubles. Nice guy!

    Also, after finishing the game, the cheats opened up a new level of hilarity. My naked monk with 99999999 HP and 9999 stats made short work of every killable thing in the game, including jolly ol’ Saint Cuthbert, Iuz, and even Zugtamoy, all with a single shuriken. I only wish the horse-headed Juggernaut had been there to see it….

  16. Kane says:

    Pool of Rad was a great game, and I love the NWN series. Of course for rpg’s I played more of the Ultima series then the D&D stuff, hence Lord British getting his claws sunk into me for many years on Ultima Online :)

  17. gnome says:

    Ooooooh, lots of comments. Nice!

  18. BlkWizard says:

    I know it’s not strictly DnD, but the Wizardry series, especially the last 2 or 3, really did have the turnbased attack thing down. And what i liked was that it allowed up to 6 players per team, not just 4, and had “prestige classes” available such as ninja and bishop.

  19. Russell says:

    I am glad to see Eye of the Beholder. I mapped out the dungeon on graph paper ala tabletop D&D. In fact, I still have the maps.

    Another great non D&D game was Ultima.

    I agree, NWN2 but not NWN?

  20. Rom says:

    Hey gnome, great post. No Baldur’s Gate II though?

    I wholeheartedly agree re Dark Sun: Shattered Lands, even if fully half the game ended up locked off from me because I finished all the more difficult northern quests before I tried to go east (hopefully that’ll make sense to somebody). Wake of the Ravager was a nice sequel too.

    I’m about to head back to your regular site to see if you’ve written anything Ultima-related. U5 and Underworld are two of my favourite games ever.

  21. Nathan says:

    I can’t believe there’s no Might and Magic in this list. It’s a garbage franchise now, but the first few were really excellent. MMI also preceded Eye of the Beholder by 5 years, yet incorporated the ‘inovative’ 3D tile system ;)

    If you haven’t tried them yet, I strongly suggest you give them a shot. They’re wonderful games, with tons of humor and plenty of adventure to slog through. And though they’re not STRICTLY D&D, you’d be hard pressed to find a difference in the rules, classes, attributes, etc (the only thing I can think of is Dex got split into Spd and Agi – one is for accuracy, the other is AC)

  22. Rendclaw says:

    The AD&D game for the Intellivision was groundbreaking for sure, but Treasure of Tarmin had it beat nine ways from Sunday.

  23. PyroMancyr says:

    love the games mentioned so far, but I’m a little surprised that nobody’s mentioned Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor. Although published much later than the original Gold Box games, it does IMO a decent job of continuing the story set down in the first game.

  24. Ian Winterbottom says:

    I don’t usually go for Console games, but I have become hooked on Baldur’s Gate; Dark Alliance. I thoroughly agree with your rating, I am currently playing it from the very beginning in my own avatar, after making it all the way to the end using a “cheated” megacharacter my mate, who gave the the PS2 and the game, had created. It is quite literally AD&D to a T, fantastic stuff, just like the games I ran back in the eighties! For the mate I mention, among others, which is why he gave me the Playstation! I am now wondering what to do for an encore, my grandson has promised me BG2, but he keeps forgetting it! Typical!

  25. David says:

    Hey guys,

    Great post. i do feel like posts like these either get generated by personal favorites and a little bit of research rather than by the users/fans. This is okay, but sometimes it leaves many game left out due to exposure. DDOL was a descent game, but one of the most memorable and well designed ever made for the Sega Genesis with the DnD logo was:

    Dungeon and Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun

    This game was a hefty $70+ on its release which was crazy at the time, but worth every penny. To anybody and everybody…this is a gem of a classic that still has great playability, so dust that Sega off and find a copy or request it at a game store and have a great adventure.

    ~David

  26. Rom says:

    D&D: Warriors of the Eternal Sun for Mega Drive wasn’t a bad game at all – it seemed pretty heavily influenced by Ultima 6 (though a lot shallower), at least while you were above ground. It released at $130 here in Australia! I paid it…

  27. MaleAlphaThree says:

    I actually haven’t played a lot of those games, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about the NVN series and Baldur’s Gate series. I’m glad you didn’t include Oblivion. People go all gah-gah over that thing because of the pretty graphics, but the leveling system ticked me off and I quit real fast. What about Elder Scrolls III? Heard that was popular.

  28. Kirk says:

    Favorite CRPG of all time? Fallout 2. Not D&D, but there you go.

  29. TES fan says:

    MaleAlphaThree,
    Forget the pretty graphics and all ‘those people’ who go gah-gah over them. They, most obviously like yourself, have likely only played the fourth installment. You are cheating yourself out of a very rich experience by not getting over your qualms. Take a moment to adjust. The leveling system is one of the most logical and sophisticated in an rpg to date. In addition, the Elder Scrolls series has always epitomized the pinnacle of innovative, free-roaming rpgs.
    My $.02.
    Also, TES II:Daggerfall and TES III:Morrowind both won RPG of the year and I can’t think of another RPG experience that touches them in terms of adventure, exploration, faction interaction, depth, and the fantastic leveling system, which increased skills based upon their use, not strictly giving general experience based upon some formula comparing your stats to those of your enemy. Fable’s system of Strength/Skill/Will experience is a similar example of this concept, but in a monumentously simplified way.

    P.S. I’ll second the mention of Fallout II – one of the best

  30. knowerseeker says:

    I thought I would mention Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday as another contender for the top 10 list. (I haven’t played its sequel, Matrix Cubed.) It is one of the last Gold Box games to be made and an excellent example of D&D rules applied to a sci-fi setting.

  31. jpledouche says:

    why isn’t dungeon siege 2 mentionned in any of these games? :(
    to me the BEST game ever if u like it when you can see and feel your power increase in these games…and for it’s time it wa

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  33. Randax says:

    WHAT?!? NWN2 on a top 10 list? And you claim it improves on the first in every way?

    Please hasten to the nearest psychologist for immediate treatment. There is something terribly, terribly wrong with you.

  34. Kaldain says:

    Very nice list. It is always nice to look back at where a genre has been, and remember the excitement of playing those games, even if the graphics look horrible compared to today (they were great back then). I always liked the SSI Gold Box games (played Curse of the Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades, Champions of Krynn, and Death Knights of Krynn), as well as Dark Sun, and Buck Rogers. Played many others, like Dungeon Hack, and Birthright, and must say I do enjoy NWN 2 alot, story was good, etc. If you want to relive an old AD&D game updated try the Pool of Radiance Revisted for NWN 2, loads of fun. Would love to see the older games updated to current technologies, and see how impressive they’d look now, all shiny and new.

    Someone should do a CRPG top 20 of All games (not just D&D series). That series would include Shining Force series on Genesis, Wasteland on PC/Amiga/C64, the Fallout series, Realms of Arkania, Might & Magic, Ultima, Arcanum (from Troika/Sierra), Diablo series, Knights of the Old Republic, Shadowrun (on Sega Genesis), as well a all the AD&D series and others I can’t remember at the moment.

  35. TheKnowerseeker says:

    Kaldain, if you liked any of the Ultima games, check out these remakes: http://www.projectbritannia.com/

  1. dungeons and dragons linked here

    [... This is a brilliant guest post by Mr. Gnome from The Random Gnome's Random Lair. For hours of computer- and retro-gaming goodness be sure to check out his site. The ...]

  2. [... This is a brilliant guest post by Mr. Gnome from The Random Gnome's Random Lair. For hours of computer- and retro-gaming goodness be sure to check out his site. The ...]

  3. [... This is a brilliant guest post by Mr. Gnome from The Random Gnome's Random Lair. For hours of computer- and retro-gaming goodness be sure to check out his site. The ...]

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