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Paladin’s Picks: Top 5 RPG Games for PC

I love video games. Yes…that does sound like an opening statement only Captain Obvious would use, but it’s true. I am an avid gamer who is fascinated by not only the games themselves, but by the industry itself as well.

Throughout my years as a gamer, I’ve played almost every genre of game available, with the exception of most sports-based games (does MLB Baseball for the original Nintendo count?). From the early text-based adventures, to the shoot-em-up first-person shooters, to the story-rich RPGs, I have masqueraded as a variety of player characters through countless worlds, scenarios, and adventures.

Role-playing games are definitely my preferred stomping ground, and here’s a showcase of my top five RPGs for PC of all time.

  1. Ultima VII: The Black Gate– This game had it all. Groundbreaking graphics, a rich, in-depth story that evolved from a simple murder mystery to the introduction of Britannia’s arch-nemesis, and an advanced inventory system that let you revel in your inner-hoarder. U7 also introduced a fully interactive world. Almost every object could be touched, used, opened, or even eaten, opening up a whole new game experience. The Avatar did not stand alone, as both new and recurring companions shared your trials and hardships with you, and you could tweak the AI controls over respective party members. And thanks to the team at Exult, you can enjoy this timeless classic over and over and over again.
  2. Diablo II – Although not a true RPG in the standard definition, this hack-and-slash dungeon crawler made my list on sheer principle. The Diablo series has spawned numerous imitators, but like the Highlander, there can be only one. In Diablo II, you chose from among five character classes to partake in a battle royale against hordes of enemies and big bad bosses. Many weekends were spent in classic old-school LAN style, fueled by caffeine and scouring endless dungeons for matched epic set pieces.
  3. Baldur’s Gate 2: The Shadows of Ahm – I’m a Baldur’s Gate fan to the core, and the second of the series kept me glued to my keyboard clocking some serious gaming hours. From the moment my character escaped the wicked experimentations of Jon Irenicus all the way to the epic ending battle in the subterranean abyss, I was mesmerized by the in-depth story and and how actions you took in-game affected the way your adventure played out. In addition, BG2 served up some lovable (and some not-so-lovable) characters, including the big, burly berserker Minsc and his miniature, giant space-hamster, Boo. “Go for the eyes, Boo!” was his battle cry, and you will find this phrase popping up with cheeky deference in games such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect 2.
  4. Neverwinter Nights – Neverwinter Nights served up a heaping platter of D&D goodness. Starting with character creation, I’m sure I spent at least an hour custom tailoring my Paladin (of course) with feats, abilities, and appearance options. The game’s story line was great – at the Neverwinter Academy, you rose from the ranks of obscurity to become the city’s champion against the Wailing Death; a mysterious plague that is robbing citizens of their lives. Although the Henchman AI was a little quirky, it was rewarding learning more about your followers through each of their individual quest lines. Another great feature of NWN was the Aurora Toolset, which allowed you to easily create your own campaign modules and share them with your friends or online with the NWN community.
  5. Oblivion – The fourth game in the Elder Scrolls series follows in the great tradition of its predecessors. Take everything you know about traditional RPGs (be a hero, follow a linear line of quests, rescue the princess, save the world) and throw it out the window. This game lets you unearth your own creativity from the get-go with non-standard player characters. Want to be a fireball-flinging warrior who can rock stealth with the best of them? Go for it. Oblivion’s open ended quests, lush graphics, and breathtaking landscapes redefine the RPG genre.

What are your favorite RPG games for the PC? I’d love to know, so drop a line below!

Through the Moongate

Ultima Logo

Greatest. Series. Ever.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a longtime fan of the Ultima series and its creator, Richard Garriott (a.k.a. Lord British). To me, the Ultima series represents an age of eternal innocence in my life, and every time I return to the series I manage to recapture moments of my youth.

There were nine games throughout the main series that were divided into three trilogies, and chronicled a time span within the world that comprised Ultima. These time spans, referred to as “Ages”, narrate the heroic deeds of the Avatar, a time traveler from Earth who is transported to the troubled kingdom of Britannia via the Moongate, a trans-dimensional doorway.

In the Age of Darkness, the first trilogy, the world of Sosaria was beset by the foul wizard Mondain (Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness, 1980) who sought to conquer the world using the Gem of Immortality. The Avatar triumphs over the the evil sorcerer by destroying the Gem, but is later called back in the second canticle to face off against Minax, who wants revenge for the death of her paramour, Mondain (Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress, 1982). In the third installment, the Avatar returns to Sosaria to battle Exodus, the demonic offspring of Minax and Mondain’s union (Ultima III: Exodus, 1983). The Age of Darkness ended, but not before a cataclysm ruptured the world, leaving only the realm of Britannia to be presided over by the enigmatic monarch, Lord British.

The Age of Enlightenment refocused the series away from the “good-guy vs. bad-guy” theme, and introduced an intricate system of principles known as the Eight Virtues to guide the Avatar on his quest to become Britannia’s superlative savior and vassal of virtue (Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, 1985). The Eight Virtues include Compassion, Justice, Honor, Valor, Sacrifice, Humility, Spirituality, and Honesty, and each Virtue is guided by the Three Principles of Truth, Love and Courage. The goal of this game was truly unique in the fact that you became the spiritual leader of an entire world, and not in a creepy-bites-heads-off-chickens-cult kind of way. In the fifth chronicle, the Avatar answers Britannia’s call once again to rescue Lord British from the Underworld and dispose of the throne’s usurper, Lord Blackthorn (Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny, 1988). Soon after, Britannia is invaded by Gargoyles, a race of intelligent creatures who harbor a hatred for the Avatar, who they believe will be responsible for the genocide of their race (Ultima VI: The False Prophet, 1990).

The final trilogy (and my personal favorite) was the Age of Armageddon, and it pitted the Avatar and his/her loyal companions against the Fellowship; an evil cult that twisted the Eight Virtues and was led by Britannia’s ultimate nemesis, the Guardian. The seventh installment was released in two parts and showcased the game’s new engine, which was a graphical revelation that pioneered trends such as AI and multi-layered objects that are prevalent in today’s games (Ultima VII: The Black Gate, 1992 | Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle, 1993). There were also two expansion packs released with each game that added additional game play features and story arcs. In the end of the seventh game, the Avatar is thrown through a portal and lands within the Guardian’s home planet of Pagan, a wicked world that is bereft of the Eight Virtues and controlled by the Guardian’s servants, the Titans (Ultima VIII: Pagan, 1994). After defeating the Titans and escaping from exile, the Avatar returns to Britannia for his final battle against the Guardian in the conclusion of the series (Ultima IX: Ascension, 1999). In the apocalyptic ending, the truth behind the Guardian’s existence is exposed. When the Avatar became the embodiment of the Eight Virtues, all of the taint and corruption within his soul was expunged, eventually taking shape in a new entity…the Guardian. The Avatar sacrifices himself and coalesces his spirit with the Guardian’s, thus destroying him forever. The Avatar ascends to another realm of existence, never to return to Britannia again.

My Ultima Collection

My personal Ultima collection

The Ultima series will always hold a special place in my heart as a string of games that challenged the status quo, introduced innovation and progressive technology, and…perhaps most importantly, taught me what it meant to be an Avatar and uphold the principles that are illustrated within the Eight Virtues.

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