Why are modern isometric RPGs shit?

Discussion in 'General Gaming and Hardware Forum' started by maximaz, Nov 3, 2021.

  1. Gizmojunk

    Gizmojunk Carbon Dated and Proud

    Nov 26, 2007
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  2. ropetight

    ropetight First time out of the vault

    Feb 7, 2020
    It now seems that Elvis & aliens, Boogie Nights milking in New Reno and that Dragon fella in SF were actually highlights of game.
  3. ropetight

    ropetight First time out of the vault

    Feb 7, 2020
    Exactly like that, just not funny, more like boring and preachy. :D
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  4. Proletären

    Proletären Vault Fossil
    Staff Member Admin

    Mar 15, 2012
    True enough however they were probably made by smaller teams than today's endeavours. It's difficult to create a good game with too many cooks. Fallout 1 was the conception of just a few minds I believe.

    That is the worst. I truly hate that.
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  5. ropetight

    ropetight First time out of the vault

    Feb 7, 2020
    Agree, art or extraordinary things rarely exist as product of corporate manufactures.
    There was an aphorism in socialist Yugoslavia that I will try to translate:
    "Commune of working class and citizens with healthy ears didn't write Beethoven's Fifth. Deaf guy in solitude did."

    Bigger teams that work on the project, bigger chance that mediocre talent will make decisions.
    Problem is that today every attempt of world building is expontentially more complicated than ones that came before - so you need lots of people to do it in reasonable time.
    Or you do it for decades, like Dwarf Fortress or Star Sector.

    We were swept of our feet with games that had day/night cycle in 80s/90s.
    Today, people are finding mistakes in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, even if it made herculean effort in being faithful simulation of medieval times, weapons and armor.
    Facts are very easy to come by, so it is very easy to spot false claims about history - so it is baffling to me that people borrow so much from reality to make works of fiction.

    And when teams spend 75% of development things that are rarely more than gimmick, they find out that game is actually boring, with bad story and mechanics, or that it doesn't work at all.
    I really wanted Cyberpunk2077 to be good, as I grew up in time of Neuromancer and Johnny Mnemonic.
    But lets be honest: even when they fix all the bugs, game will be mediocre cyberpunk GTA clone - FPS with barely interesting RPG parts.
    Maybe, just maybe, if they haven't spent almost a decade on PR, fashion, motorcycle designs, soundtrack, celebrity voice acing and endorsement, trying to ensure that they didn't appropriate anything or offend any ethnicity or gender... and actually played it - it would turn out better game.
    But, hey, what is little loss of reputation and credibility when you sell 15 million copies?

    And all the constant development updates that are interesting mostly to the future game developers... best games I played were finished and I knew nothing about them before that. Nothing can live up to that amount of hype, all it does makes people engaged in some sort of development metagame.

    Both of games I mentioned are not isometric cRPGs - but the disease is spreading to the Iso too (PoE2 again), even if there is even less reason to do all this bullshit in isometric view.

    IMHO only way to make solid games with smaller teams today is to let go most of the things that are unnecessary, especially for cRPG.
    Complex crafting, photorealistic visuals, physics simulation, full voice acting, economy simulation, tower defense minigames with player sanctuaries...
    Do we really need all of that for good adventure?
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2021
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  6. Norzan

    Norzan Sonny, I Watched the Vault Bein' Built!

    Apr 7, 2017
    I enjoyed Underrail and Atom RPG quite a lot, so i disagree with modern isometric RPGs being overall shit. But to be fair, those are the only ones i played, so i don't know about the others.
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  7. Gizmojunk

    Gizmojunk Carbon Dated and Proud

    Nov 26, 2007
    It's not recent games per se... it's recent developers.

    I once had a conversation with a developer on the recent Torment over at InXile, and try as I might, I could not get him to comprehend the point of having both a run state, and a walking state for the PC in an RPG; just went right over his head >>>———>.

    *In a way it's akin to Celtic knots. For hundreds of years no one understood how the were designed... Then someone figured it out and made a cheat-sheet full of instructions. Now anyone can do it, but very few understand the reasons for why they were often designed so small, or why the animals & men were cartoons—tied in knots. The Romans laughed at them; wrongly assuming lack of skill was the cause.

    Modern devs seem to be either clueless about RPGs, or more concerned with selling games to non-RPG players at the expense of a good RPG; by streamlined hybridization that is always detrimental. A mentality that might justify (and think sensible) ideas like sugar coated Brussels sprouts, to please both kids and adults... yuck.gif —and then they say, "Well the fans can never be pleased"... and they are right so long as they never listen to them, and do the opposite anyway.

    A case in point: For months before FO3 released, fans posted how to implement power armor in the game; the devs ignored them, but in FO4 seemed to use the advice, and it gets praise even by critics for aspects of the power armor.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2021
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  8. ropetight

    ropetight First time out of the vault

    Feb 7, 2020
    Success is sometimes misleading: lots of new developers want to be new BioWare or Blizzard, beacause that 's who was the king when they were kids.
    So, follow their footsteps and streamline even more, and use procedural generators wherever you can.

    Problem is that BioWare was already in decline in second half of 2000s, and WoW effectively suck in all the creative talent in Blizzard and other companies (at one point, they were hiring everybody who wrote anything coherent to write for them) for years, without making anything new in years, just keeping the machine running.

    Maybe it wouldn't hurt them to go bit further into history, there are bunch of great cRPGs to look for inspiration and emulate, like Gold Box series, Dark Sun, Wizardry, M&M.
    But I guess they are too cryptic for most of new developers, so even when they copy those, they rarely copy good things.
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  9. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign The Douchelord Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    Modern RPG's are fine people just get butthurt when current year politics get inserted into something inherently political. This is something you have to steel yourself against because it makes you weak. You could always murder that faction.

    The obsession with turn based over RTwP has also limited people from playing good games. Those people I hope skip mediocre adventure games like Witcher 3 if that is the case. I have played more isometric games in recent years than I did during the entire CRPG boom. This isn't because I have shit taste or whatever either. I just choose to not let minor things distract me from enjoying otherwise decent games.

    Last night I beat PoE 2 along with all the DLC and it was the most fun I have had since Baldur's Gate 2. I didn't even touch the turn based mode.

    Just started playing Wasteland 3 and it is pretty good too. A lot better than 2 especially in regards to combat.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2021
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  10. Risewild

    Risewild Carbon Dated and Proud
    Modder Orderite

    Jun 14, 2014
    For two main reasons:

    Reason number 1:
    The old Isometric RPGs were mostly made by actual P&P players and Game Masters. They were very passionate about P&P and knew what makes a good session from a bad session.
    They played old-school P&P RPGs, where world building, characters and the story are the focus but were also full of numbers and mechanics that today would put most players off while being called "too complex". The developers would then try to faithfully reproduce as close as possible on the computer those things too. They would try to make it so that playing the game would still give some of the feel they got when playing P&P.

    Reason number 2:
    People these days are scared of what they perceive as "complex" systems and "lots" of numbers. There was a reason why only "nerds" used to enjoy playing RPGs. It was too confusing and boring for the vast majority of people. But games these days are forced to try and appeal to the vast majority of players, so stuff like RPG systems, world building, story and writing is made just "good enough", this is what some call "dumbing down" or "streamline" a genre. Things have to be made as simple as possible so more players can understand and feel engaged with the games without feeling dumb or bored of stuff they don't understand.

    This is because the gaming industry evolved the same way as the movie industry did, maximize the profits whole reducing the risk of a game flopping.

    We can see passion from a lot of indie developers, but the AAA and even AA studios have lost their passion (or have it suppressed by the standards of the industry) a long time ago.

    But Toront is right, there are still some fun isometric RPGs even today. People just have to find (which is the hard part) and play them to have fun.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
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  11. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign The Douchelord Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    Basically you guys are the problem. How many of you even fucking bought Wasteland 2, PoE 2, UnderRail, or Age of Decadence? How many of you have played Planescape Torment or Arcanum anyway? How many of you have tried playing something you think you might not like due to one thing then liked it? I know I have with PoE 1 and 2 and Wasteland 3. Gee that is amazing.
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  12. Gizmojunk

    Gizmojunk Carbon Dated and Proud

    Nov 26, 2007
    That's how I found Fallout—coming from Planescape and Baldur's Gate.

    *That's also how I found the Disciples series; my first session of Disciples 2 lasted eighteen hours straight. :shock:
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2021
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  13. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign The Douchelord Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    People like Morgan can barely even play Fallout 1 much less Planescape Torment. Zoomers are the worst.
  14. Jogre

    Jogre So Old I'm Losing Radiation Signs

    Oct 25, 2015
    Funnily enough, I have the exact opposite complaint as you about how Pillars of Eternity II handled colonialism:

    The fisherman was, from what I recall, trying to get his land back after his village was effectively made to sign a predatory deal with a colonial company backed by a large state: Perhaps you may take issue with the exact way and nuance of how the fisherman said it, but right there that's establishing an interesting theme of colonialism.

    Whenever I think of how POE II handled colonialism, I think of MrBTongue's video on discomfort, where he argues the point that a lot of video games try and give the veneer of moral ambiguity, but stop right before the point it becomes uncomfortable, because too much moral ambiguity would make the player hesitate, whereas embracing the uncomfort is a positive

    A big part of the issue I take with POE II's writing, is it doesn't portray enough of an anti-colonialist struggle, nor enough of colonialism as a system of power, which makes it feel kinda just hollow and tacked on. I feel a large part of the reason for this is that Obsidian figured "We need to make this game morally grey and with different factions all with their own flaws, therefore we can't go overboard"

    Real world history is incredibly brutal, but Pillars of Eternity 2 feels like it's toning down the brutality of systems of power in order to make it seem more morally grey and like all of the factions have a point. How I would have written it would have been more among the lines of

    1. Make slavery an active persistent problem in the Valian Republics that's an issue throughout all their colonies, rather than an underground illegal business practice. Don't make it all doom and gloom, I'm sure there are some Valian Abolitionists, but the horrors of slavery come from precisely the fact that it was a completely normalised and above ground, so making it as this shady side business the Valians are engaging in kinda makes it lose some of it's bite.

    2. Actually take measures to emphasise violent occupation. Like ok so part of the factional conflict is that the Valians are they're a trading company that's exploiting local for profits, as opposed to Rauatai which has a burgeoning nationalism, which wants to violently unify the Aumau people in to a singular nation state. This is incredibly interesting on a surface level, but the problem is they're not willing to fully emphasise the violence that the worldviews these people have will inevitably involve

    Like, this could be fairly easy: Show far more of the actual conquest that Rauatai is engaged in, and make it an active choice to help them conquer nearby tribes. In the case of the Valians, have them get you to protect their property from the violence of locals, only to find out the land their property is on was taken from the locals in some dodgy exploitative trading agreement.

    3. Have the Huana seem more genuinely resentful. They should feel like a culture that's trying to avenge a massive cultural trauma gained from their loss of sovereignity to foreign occupation, not just weird traditionalists.

    4. Have the pirate ending seem far more like a fragile social order, like it could potentially collapse if any of the major factions made a move.

    There's already in my mind, plenty of interesting questions that could be asked in POE2. The Valian Republics are on the verge of a scientific revolution with a new type of technology, Rauatai looks like a potential Industrial Powerhouse, held back only by it's seasonal storms stopping it from creating the agricultural base necessary for full industrialisation.

    The game could ask you "Do you think it's the right way forwards to choose one of these potential futures, either the technologies that come from Industrialisation, or from the unique Animancy Soul Machines that this universe have, and thus choose a potential progress for this universe, if the cost is having to enable violent systems of power". It would ask questions of how much the player values technological progress and industrialisation, over the self-determination and national sovereignty of peoples, and whether they think violent occupation is acceptable as a means to an end. On the other end it could ask how far colonised people can go in trying to overthrow their oppressors: What happens to all the Valians and Rauataians who live in the Deadfire after the systems protecting them break down?

    And it would feel like it would have genuine moral weight, since the game wouldn't be playing around with how brutal all the major players involved are.

    Instead we have a game where all the factions feel vaguely friendly with a few minor flaws. This doesn't feel like having to choose out of a series of different violent systems of power, ones where their values don't necessarily align with your own, and thus question in the process where your values lie. It feels like choosing between a series of equally moraly grey endings because they haven't really thought about how to make the questions being asked have any actual weight.
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  15. TorontoReign

    TorontoReign The Douchelord Staff Member Moderator

    Apr 1, 2005
    Yeah the best ending is the one where you use Wael to kick adra titans ass. The problem is these guys don't have enough money to make the best RPG ever and people are too impatient to wait more than a couple years.
  16. SquidWard

    SquidWard Pirate and Bankrobber oTO Orderite

    Jun 1, 2018
    This is how I feel reading a lot of "oldhead" RPG discussion. Cool you think older games are better but how many have you even played? One? None? Just the ones everyone talks about? I feel like younger Codexers are often guilty of this. It's cool on this backwater forum to hate new niche products because it's not like the big name old products like it! Damn SJWs they let people have green hair in character customization. Can you believe it?!

    I play anything that seems interesting to me and worth the asking price.
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  17. ropetight

    ropetight First time out of the vault

    Feb 7, 2020
    Personally, I played all of the titles you mentioned and liked them to various degrees.

    Underrail really doesn't fit the description in title of this thread - absolutely not-shit, but not that modern in first place.
    Wasteland 2 played 3 times even the game is irritating and amateurish at some places.
    Recently I played Solasta and Encased - both good games, but with serious flaws.
    Solasta has weak and generic writing - which is a shame, because rest of the game is really good and it gets better with updates - it has potential to become this era NWN.
    Encased is just unfinished, probably should wait half a year or so, but it has lots of Fallout 1/2 in its DNA.
    From the newer ones I enjoyed ATOM the most, and I can only reccomend it.

    PoE 1/2, DOS 1/2, Pathfinder - just stopped playing them after some time and never returned.
    PoE was full of really uninspired writing and boring, nerfed classes and enemies.
    D:OS gets really silly in its forced tongue-in-cheek humor while attempting to be cosmic scale epic.
    Second half of Pathfinder had that god awful RNGesus castle management at its core. And lets not speak about bugs in that game.

    Arcanum is deply-flawed-almost-masterpiece - I really love it (setting, music, story), but combat, magic and crafting (fits the setting and some classes perfectly, but finding of blueprints and ingedients is rarely incorporated in story & quests) are underwhelming at best; at the places completely broken.
    Planescape: Torment is in league of its own, nothing really comes close; especially that lore-wall-of-text ueber alles "sequel". Collin McComb and his team were making sure you don't miss any part of their writing.

    Modern games should have all the benefit of the modern technologies, easier communication with players and patching of bugs.
    But it seems that they get more negative effects
    Often you feel like code reviewer reviewing junior devs pull requests, and the game is completely different after obligatory patching period of cca 1 year (sometimes for the worse).
    This is not unique for cRPGs, but it hurts them the most. Roguelites, i.e. are often designed for faster, multiple playthroughs.
    Singleplayer cRPGs with focus on one story/campaign really don't feel the same when plot is known in advance.

    Oldhead/newhead storyf*/combatf* divide is too atificial IMO.
    Simplistic combat in newer titles is just one part of problem: adding unnecessary mechanics from flavor of the month (survival games, X-COM, ) is another; balancing single-player games so they must be rock-paper-scissors MOBA-like for often obscure multiplayer; before mentioned writing that feels bland, superficial and too post-modernistic - especially forcing too-grayish depictions of fantasy worlds which have roots in good vs. evil epics. etc.

    There is a chance critique is a case of oversaturation over years of older players; but ratio of shovelware and amateurish/good games gives better chance to claim something is wrong with modern game development.
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  18. ropetight

    ropetight First time out of the vault

    Feb 7, 2020
    Fisherman just stuck with me as inconvincing writing.
    You gave PoE2 much deeper analysis; it also seems you played it much more than me.
    But If I understood correctly, you also think that writing is superficial and that it missed a chance to build more convincing world.

    As for brutality, I always felt difference between depicting it in game and playing it.
    More brutal depictions of slavery and colonialism really could make PoE more convincing.
    Tyranny was full of opportunities to be brutal and evil (as i remember, two actual choices for playthough were pragmatic evil and sadistic evil) and wasn't my cup of tea.
  19. Black Angel

    Black Angel Grand Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus

    Mar 21, 2016
    Well, there's still not that much cRPGs released in the last 5 years, and when compared to Wasteland 2 and Pillars of Eternity 1, Underrail's definitely more 'modern' if we go by the chronological releases. And since the game is deeply inspired by older cRPGs like Fallout and Arcanum, then Underrail definitely fits the bill of "modern isometric RPGs", and that's not even considering the fact that, (1) it still gets patched from time to time, (2) an expansion was released just 2 years ago, and finally (3) they're cooking up a standalone expansion as we speak.

    But yeah, I agree with the rest of what you said here.
  20. SquidWard

    SquidWard Pirate and Bankrobber oTO Orderite

    Jun 1, 2018
    Underrail is definitely modern by release time. Being that of 2015 and having an expansion in 2019. You can argue about it's design and goals and whatnot all you want and how modern it is or isn't but it still was not a game being bought and talked about in great detail. It's a game during the modern time, no matter if it feels old or not.

    I don't think it feels like an older game at all. It has some of the ethos of them though. Though I would wager that older games not holding your hand was more of a result of just not implementing tons of tips and wasting time on helping you instead of just using that time for more content and refinement. Also has been argued many designers in the early days of home games came from designing arcade machines meant to be hard. So that seems like it probably just wilted over time.

    I'm sure you can argue against a lot of that. Have fun doing so.