Top 64 Games: 16 to 9

By Shamus Posted Friday Nov 7, 2014

Filed under: Video Games 193 comments

Reminder: Try not to stress out too much about the order of the items on this list, what games made it and which ones didn’t. Just use this as an excuse to talk about / praise / eviscerate games we might not get to discuss very often. Read the intro to learn why we’re doing this.

Also, the header image is embarrassingly easy this time. Sorry. I made them before I realized people were going to be treating them like a puzzle, but they aren’t really balanced in a meaningful way.

16. Civilization IV

Be immortal, rule as you see fit. Just one click and you can decree shit.

Civilization is one of those games that seemed to spring fully-formed from the mind of its creators. It took us several years of iteration to figure out adventure games, or shooters. But the essentials of Civilization were there from the earliest stages: Cities,taxes, tech tree, accelerating timescale, diplomacy. Since then it’s been a matter of balance and refinement.

Any of the Civ games would be worthy of this list, and I debated whether Alpha Centauri should be counted as a Civilization game. Clearly it’s of the same lineage, and the only reason the name is different is because of business reasons. And when you’re compiling a list of “top games”, the last thing you care about is the politics of idiotic IP wars between ninny publishers. From a purely gameplay standpoint, Alpha Centauri fits in the series better than Civilization V, which greatly altered the combat by moving to hex grids and removing unit stacks.

But ultimately I think I want to give the top honors to Civ IV. It’s a stellar entry in the series (although they’re all pretty good) and it has Baba Yetu.

15. Sim City 4

You don’t HAVE to build cities, though. But I guess “Sim Inhabited Geographical Region” just doesn’t have the same ring.

In contrast to Civilization, Sim City is a series that seems to have struggled to nail down which elements worked and which didn’t. Is this supposed to be a simulation of something realistic? Or is this really just about creative building? Or is the player here to build a city that can survive random disasters? Is the player looking for options, or challenges?

The first game was pretty shallow and doesn’t hold up well at all today. The next three gamesSim City 2000, Sim City 3000, and Sim City 4, because sequential numbering is for people who can count. were all fine entries, but I’m giving the place of honor to Sim City 4 because it’s the last one that was good.

14. BioShock

Under the sea \ Under the sea \ Darling it’s better \ Down where it’s wetter \ Take it from me \ Up on the shore they work all day \ Out in the sun they slave away \ While we devotin’ \ Full time to floatin’ \ Under the sea

This game isn’t nearly as smart as it pretends to be, but it’s pretty smart for a shooter. It’s not nearly as deep, complex, or open as its “Shock” forebears, but it’s practically an RPG sandbox compared to its contemporaries. Everything after the meeting with Ryan is pretty much a dumb waste of time, and the final boss fight is stupid and infantile in both a mechanical and narrative sense – but the Ryan meeting is still one of the best in modern gaming. And its atrocious DRM was the first of a bad breed of obnoxious customer abuse, a trend that lingers to this day.

And now that I’ve said all that, I have no idea what this thing is doing so high on the list. Ultimately I guess I have to give BioShock credit for keeping the flame of “smart(ish) exploration-driven shooters” alive. Also it was very pretty and the water effects still look glorious seven years later.

13. Batman: Arkham City

This isn’t the spoiler you think it is. This is actually a completely different spoiler. You’ll just have to play the game yourself if you want to understand.

Batman has been in a lot of videogames, and most of them are not goodProbably due to the fact that most of them were terrible movie tie-ins.. In fact, superhero games in general have always struggled to reconcile the need for challenging gameplay with the inherent empowerment of the superhero genre. But the Arkam Batman games did for superhero games what the Marvel Movieverse did for superhero films. They didn’t just top everything that came before, they did so by a long shot and made it look easy.

Sure, you could button-mash your way to victory like a thug, but the game made you feel like an ass for taking the lazy way through. It was exhilarating to get the rhythm of the game down and dispatch a whole crowd of mooks without taking a single hit. The animations were both fluid and brutal. Add in exquisite art, the best voice acting in the business, some serviceable puzzles, and a solid grasp of their source material, and you have a formula that no other team has been able to match, not even when they were handed the blueprints.

12. Skyrim

Link (YouTube)

Which Elder Scrolls should make the list? Should it be the talky, obtuse, deep and vast world of Morrowind? Or do we give the spot to Skyrim, the shallow glamorous meme-spawning dragon-punching spectacle that served as fertile ground for a massive library of aggressively ambitious mods?

While I’ll always love Morrowind for its depth, it’s exquisite world-building, its fascinating themes, and its fantastical environments, it also gave us cliff racers. So Skyrim it is.

11. Left 4 Dead

Francis: “I HATE top 50 lists.”

There is some debate among the community between Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. While I don’t have the numbers to prove it, I have this sneaking suspicion that if you asked them, a lot of the staunch L4D1 fans would be co-op players and the L4D2 fans would be PvP fans.

I’m all about the co-op, and I’m all about the first game. It launched a little sub-genreIs it large enough to be called a genre? Maybe we should call it a fad. of 4-player co-op games like Killing Floor and Payday. It was fun and funny and completely nailed the direct-to-cable action schlock vibe. The AI director gave the game massive replay value and the varying banter kept the quiet moments fresh. Also, the game had quiet moments, which is something games still struggle with.

It also has a bit of a personal legacy with me: Left 4 Dead is how I met Josh, Randy, and Rutskarn. Which means the seeds of Spoiler Warning and our weekly podcast were planted in L4D. It also inspired Pixel City. It inspired Left 4 Dumb.

10. Knights of the Old Republic

As Darth Malak once said of the Dark Side: Mrph hm grrbl buph mmrm, bruph mrmmum!

When people talk about “classic BioWare” they’re only really talking about three games: KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass EffectMaybe you could include Dragon Age in this list. The line is pretty blurry.. Those are the upbeat, character-driven, lore-rich, tonally consistent games with lots of worldbuilding and really awkward RPG mechanics. Earlier games aren’t as celebrated and don’t have those quirks that we came to associate with the BioWare name. And the later games went the way of broad spectacle-driven power fantasy.

But for a brief time BioWare gave players something they just weren’t getting elsewhere, and in that time they built a rabid fanbaseThat subsequently turned on them when BioWare spurned them for a larger demographic.. It’s very possible that everything we’ve come to associate with the “classic BioWare” aesthetic came from a tiny handful of writers. (And possibly just Drew Karpyshyn all by his lonesome.)

KOTOR was the first game of that brief BioWare golden age, and it was one of the rare titles to capture the mood of classic Star Wars.

We’ll never forget you, Trask.

9. Master of Orion 2

The name of the game is okay, I guess, but the “MOO” acronym is really unfortunate.

It’s been 18 years, and this game still stands at the top of its genre. (I’ll allow for the people who insist MOO1 is better than the sequel. They’re very close to each other and very far above the alternatives.) Every game since then has lost their way by adding endless and pointless complexity (Master of Orion 3 is abominable) or leaves out a lot of really appealing depth. The focus on sleek graphics has harmed a lot of the newer titles by robbing them of their ability to gracefully abstract concepts into click-and-drag icons.



[1] Sim City 2000, Sim City 3000, and Sim City 4, because sequential numbering is for people who can count.

[2] Probably due to the fact that most of them were terrible movie tie-ins.

[3] Is it large enough to be called a genre? Maybe we should call it a fad.

[4] Maybe you could include Dragon Age in this list. The line is pretty blurry.

[5] That subsequently turned on them when BioWare spurned them for a larger demographic.

From The Archives:

193 thoughts on “Top 64 Games: 16 to 9

  1. Da Mage says:

    Skyrim over Morrowind….eh, that’s still a fair choice….and that’s coming from a die hard Morrowind fan. At least you didn’t pick Oblivion. Morrowind has great depth but poor gameplay, Skyrim has engaging gameplaying, with boring content. I would call Morrowind an experience and Skyrim fun.

    My guess at games in title:
    1. Dungeon Keeper 2
    2. ?
    3. Master of Orion 2
    4. Team Fortress 2
    5. Civ 4
    6. ?
    7. Tomb Raider (2013)
    8. Duke Nukem 3D
    9. Dues Ex
    11. Pacman (That ultra extreme trippy version)
    12. ?

    1. MichaelGC says:


      12 looks a bit Mortal Kombat-ey?

      1. 2 is some kind of roguelike. Nethack maybe?
        6 is Prince of Persia. It’s the screenshot from the last list.

        I don’t think 12 is Mortal combat. I’m feeling some kind of PC RPG.

        1. 2 is definitely Nethack, from a few posts ago.
          12 is Diablo 2, from the character creation screen.

          1. swenson says:

            Not only is it Nethack, but at the top of the screen, it is listing a newt corpse, a jackal corpse, a food ration, and an unknown number of gold pieces.

            I have played a lot of this game.

      2. Patrick the 4th wall destroyer says:

        2 Is Nethack
        12 I think..i think…is from DiabloII? Is that the Druid?

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:

      It isn’t just more engaging gameplay. Its a better looking world to run around in (even throwing aside the graphics). And I can say this based on playing both Morrowind (with the Graphics Overhaul) and Skyrim’s update of the Morrowind assets, Dragonborn. Dragonborn introducing Morrowind setting elements made for a nice change of pace at the time but still when choosing which world to run around in, I’ll choose Skyrim every time.

      Though I will give Morrowind points for its originality and I might rank it above skyrim if so much of it wasn’t the bleak ash-encrusted landscapes that make up the middle of the map.

      1. Skyrim is a significantly more enjoyable experience than Morrowind…as long as you’re not playing the game. Oh and you have a pile o mods running, natch! Yeah, once I got Hunterborn, Frostfall, and a pile of ‘realistic’ mods going, I was able to spend hours on end ignoring the game while I played it.

        1. swenson says:

          I can’t imagine playing Skyrim without Frostfall. I still can’t believe that they don’t build in optional survival mechanics to the games from the beginning.

          1. Henson says:

            The reason they don’t make it themselves is because they know they have a strong community of modders who will fill every conceivable hole in the experience. They’re concentrating on the base game and the tools to make all these ‘preference mods’ possible.

    3. CrushU says:

      6. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.

      That’s totally the Prince there, and the background architecture seals the deal.

    4. Bryan says:

      I agree on Morrowind and skyrim both being good. Oblivion was horrible.

  2. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I support your cliff racer based decision making process.

    1. ian says:

      I am currently enjoying my umpteenth play-through of Morrowind. But yeah Cliff Racers.

      Luckily I have just the thing – a high-level fireball-ey type spell that zaps ’em from distance. I can stand atop a mountain and kill half a dozen before resting. Cathartic is what it is.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        There are also several mods that address this menace, for example making cliff racers non-aggressive by default.

    2. Felblood says:


      My fist cliff racer encounter was also my last hour of Morrowind.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Its official now,civiv is the ultimate civ.

    1. Josh says:

      Was that ever really in doubt?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        There were a few deluded people that didnt want to believe it.

        1. Sigilis says:

          Bah, Civ II is truly the best, the Civ that dare not speak its name.

          Live action advisors, the last wonder movies, the ability to change your government on the fly leading to emergent narratives about the value of personal freedom versus the integrity of the state and how the supposedly monolithic entities we inhabit are in a constant state of flux, no matter what the… Uh, this was supposed to be tongue in cheek but I got whipped into a frenzy. Whoops.

          And let’s leave the matter of SMAC to lie, I’m in a twelve step program after BE made me replay it.

        2. James says:

          I thoroughly enjoy Civ V, aslong as i have at least GnK installed and preferably BNW,

          I for one believe the hex and no stack is better for combat as it forced players to not build doom stacks of 45 tanks and roll an entire continent.

    2. Aerik says:

      Uh, I think you mean CIV.

      My favorite is actually CiV.


    3. MaxEd says:

      I much prefer the first Civilization to anything that came after. It’s the only one I had patience for: the newer games add too much stuff. Also, if you ran it after first running F117 Stealth Fighter, it sped up all animations by a factor of about 5 and made it much more enjoyable.

      1. Bryan says:

        Wait… what? How is that even…

        Was it using feedback from the sound card’s timer to set up the animation timings, like the first Red Alert did, and F117 both sped that up from whatever Civ was looking for, and left it that way? (As this was DOS, leaving hardware in a different state than you found it was entirely possible, though I’ve never heard of this particular effect.)

        Otherwise it must have been using timing feedback from something else. The RTC? Seems doubtful, as then if F117 had sped it up, the time would be completely off when the machine booted next. (Also I don’t know of any way to poke the hardware to change that particular clock rate…)

        The CPU? Also seems unlikely, as then the turbo button would have been a much easier way to make that happen.

        The ISA or PCI bus perhaps? (Probably ISA given the time but you never know…) Maybe some piece of hardware (…keyboard controller?) could be programmed to periodically interrupt the CPU and it used that, with F117 speeding up the rate somehow.

        I’m betting it was the sound card… but that’s just weird.

  4. MichaelGC says:

    When people talk about “classic BioWare” they're only really talking about three games: KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect.

    Lots of folk I hear talking about classic BioWare games seem to share this odd speech impediment where “Jade” comes out like “Bald,” and “Empire” ends up sounding like “Ursgatetwo.”

    1. Cilvre says:

      Yeah, i distinctly hear that.

      Also, with the EE editions released recently and for decent prices, there is no reason for not checking them out now.

    2. Mike says:

      Seriously, if you say “name a classic Bioware game” I’ll say “Baldur’s Gate 2.” It was Bioware’s peak for a long time — NWN was too rough around the edges, KOTOR and Jade Empire were too shallow and railsy — and arguably it wasn’t until Dragon Age that Bioware finally topped BG2.

      1. Thomas says:

        I think KotoR has much more wide reaching appeal. BGII is the old-school style game and Dragon Age is the game that attracts you because it was a conscious return to that style of game.

        I think BGII is always going to be the hardcore’s Bioware game, but the public are probably going to think of Mass Effect and KotoR (I doubt Jade Empire would come up. It’s like a hidden gem/cult classic somehow)

        1. Blovsk says:

          I think when people are saying BG 2 as the definitive Bioware game it’s because it’s:

          A) the apex predator of the infinity engine subset (see Project Eternity… those games are still dead popular and BG 2 in particular has a really active, friendly and loyal modding and general community that the more mod-unfriendly later Bioware games don’t seem to me to have… I’m curious as to whether Mass Effect or KOTOR will inspire the same level of loyalty 10 years after their release)

          B) it’s clearly the turning point from pen-and-paper-like questy RPGs to character-driven ones which have a tutorial, open up into a wider world (with a brilliantly handled cutaway section that opens up a very different gameplay experience for more experienced players who can handle the Underdark with lower level companions) and then have a linearish ending. It also really bigged up the companion voicing, better, fewer and more developed companions with their own quests and interactions, a really strong and unusual villain etc etc

          But also it still had the freedom of action, reasonably emergent tactical gameplay, isometric backgrounds and sense of humour that BG had.

          C) the companions are just way more mature and serious than anything Bioware’s even tried since; even the comic relief gnome’s companion quest is about domestic abuse (and it’s handled sincerely and powerfully and in a way that doesn’t let you solve everything). Compared to the rather sad way Bioware handles a number of simpering romance options nowadays the ones in BG 2 basically act like real adults with the sort of real issues that are going to get someone to go and be an adventurer.

          D) it is a perfect (maybe the definitive) example of how to do a sequel. Continuity is there but the story’s self-contained. It’s a refinement in every respect (UI, AI, graphics, art direction, gameplay, writing) of the first game. There’s tons and tons of content, all of which is worthwhile. It also pulls off a major shift in tone and a real change in focus without ever breaking with the first game.

          Not knocking the choice or anything. KOTOR’s very interesting in its own right (introducing minigames, hitting the Star Wars feel, having a base ship for your companions to hang out in, kind of preempting the ME/ME 2 combat style and setting the standard for Bioware’s worldbuilding). I just reckon in my list BG 2 would be there A) because I like it more [than all other games ever] and think it stands up really well today; B) to represent the Infinity Engine games which were really one of the two great chapters of the intersection of PC gaming and pen and paper RPGs (the other being the mechanically weaker but more fashionable Fallout/Wasteland); C) because it has been so deeply influential on the structure and the formula and the focus of modern CRPGs.

          1. nerdpride says:

            Well, Minsc wasn’t too mature, but you know, comic relief or something.

            I remember being a teenager and failing the Aerie romance and being completely baffled by how it happened. Sometimes the dialogue didn’t immediately make me happy like that, but you know, good stuff. It made her character interesting and consistent.

            Plus they add some kind of written math problem in there like “what are the ages of the prince and princess if he was three times older than her 20 years ago when he was born in the year 120?”

            But yeah, because of games like BG2, I still have much more value for reading and prose and even tedious things like spelling and grammar.

          2. Rob says:

            Yes, let’s talk about Baldur’s Gate 2’s romances, back when Bioware’s characters actually felt like real people with complex, layered issues instead of the fan-base pandering archetypes that we get now.

            My absolute favorite thing about the BG2 romances: they don’t treat sex as some sort of disturbing end-game reward like later Bioware games do, but instead treat them like a minor scene (fade to black, dialog continues the next morning). They also continue the romance long after you’re a couple, even well into the expansion pack. Hell, you can have children with one of them (two if you include epilogues).

            I could talk about almost every character in Baldur’s Gate 2 for several pages each, but here’s a simple breakdown of only the romanceable ones. It’s been a few years since my last playthrough so some details might be off.


            Obviously there are massive spoilers ahead, so you shouldn’t read this if you intend on ever playing the game.




            Jaheira’s an elven fighter/druid, and she and her husband are old friends and allies of the main character. Both are part of a secret society called the Harpers, sort of a benevolent Illuminati-ish organization. The two canonically traveled with you from nearly the beginning of BG1 (there was no save import option back then so many BG1 choices are predetermined in BG2), and were captured alongside you before BG2 starts. Her husband, Khalid, was killed by the main villain before the game begins and she’s an emotional wreck because of it. There’s also some implied post-traumatic stress disorder.

            Once you reach the point where the game begins to open up she starts taking out her stress on you by mocking your leadership, but later recants and apologizes. You travel together for a while, establish a stronger friendship, blah blah blah, until she receives a summons from her old mentor who is now the leader of the local Harpers chapter. He knows your character is a Bhaalspawn (a scion of the god of murder and part of an apocalyptic prophecy) and wants to meet with you to determine if you are a threat to the world. Turns out the meeting was a sham and he intends to capture/kill you regardless of how you’ve acted. He’s become a corrupt, politically motivated chapter master, and only wants the glory that taking down a powerful Bhaalspawn would bring him.

            Jaheira helps rescue you and the party wipe out the entire local Harper chapter (many of them her former friends), and she leaves the organization afterwards. Later on, a stranger comes up to her and asks her how she feels about her decision. Depending on how you’ve acted in the game so far, she can either be regretful or accept that she made the right choice. If it’s the latter, the stranger reveals himself as one of the major Harper NPCs in the Forgotten Realms setting there to judge her for her ‘crimes’, reinstates her Harper status, and grants her a powerful Harper’s Pin.

            Past this point is where she begins to grow romantically interested in your character. A large part of her romance is dealing with the guilt over feeling this attraction so soon after her husband was murdered. Honestly, aside from an emotional scene later on where a doppelganger takes Khalid’s form and taunts her about the situation, it’s not that interesting compared to the Harper stuff.


            A drow (dark elf) cleric, Viconia is a refugee from an underground civilization that practices deity-mandated social darwinism to such an extreme that, despite drow being physically and intellectually superior to virtually every other humanoid race, their empire is in a constant state of near-collapse and not really a threat to anyone outside of surface raids. Drow are almost always evil and universally hated, so she travels with a hood obscuring her features to avoid the racism. As a consequence she has trouble trusting anyone, and the one person she trusted enough in the past to reveal she was a drow to (her farmer neighbor when she first tried to settle down after escaping the Underdark) smiled, nodded and left, then returned with his sons later that night and tried to murder her. Saying she has “trust issues” doesn’t even begin to cover it, but she’s not whiny about it like Carth Onasi or Jack in other Bioware games.

            You meet Viconia tied to a stake in the government district surrounded by religious zealots about to burn her. It turns out she was traveling through the town and someone spotted her face beneath her hood, and a mob quickly formed and demanded she be killed for being a drow. As they are sentencing her to death, she’ll spot you passing by (she knows you from the first game) and calls out to you for help. If you rescue her, she will trust you enough to travel with you.

            Being from a vastly different culture, she is by far the hardest companion to romance as her conversations are filled with verbal landmines, and what she’ll accept when she doesn’t know you is very different from what she expects you to say when you are close.

            Anyway, she’s openly flirtatious and boastful when you first talk to her, but as she gradually opens up to you she sheds the mask and reveals her bitter, lonely, and guilt-stricken true self. At some point in her romance drow assassins show up and try to kill her for leaving the Underdark, which has horrible consequences later on. After she sleeps with you, she reverts back to her old, cruel self. She starts retelling her old stories with changes making her out to be the villain this time. If you stick with her, she eventually has a breakdown and asks why you won’t leave. It turns out she’s fallen deeply in love with your character and is terrified of what it would do to you if she were killed, and is desperately trying to push you away for your own protection.

            Oh, and an extra spoiler: she was right. She doesn’t get a happy ending if you continue to romance her, assassins find her sometime after the trilogy ends and exactly what she feared comes to pass in the epilogue of the expansion pack.


            A naive, sheltered Avariel (winged elf) who was captured by slavers as a child and sold to a circus. They kept her in a tiny cage until her wings got infected and they crudely hacked them off (in-game she’s treated as a regular elf due to this). She was saved by a minor NPC from the first game who worked at the circus and adopted her. Since flight was a large part of Avariel culture, she has severe body image issues and is self-conscious about the scars on her back.

            My PCs have never romanced her because I can’t stand the character (she’s whiny, petty, and cruel to other female party members who show even slight interest in the main character, including mocking Jaheira about her dead husband), so I only know what others have said about the path. From what I’ve heard, sleeping with her when she first offers actually ends the romance right then and there because she was feeling vulnerable when she offered, and the next day she will realize you were taking advantage of her and request time apart to ‘figure things out’. That’s a brilliant touch in my opinion.


            Another one I never romanced (for a completely different reason ;)), Anomen is a squire of Helm and, to put it bluntly, an arrogant tool. He starts out with horrible stats, but gets a wisdom boost and a personality change into a humble knight if you make the right choices during his personal questline and he becomes a full knight. Since I’ve only ever had him in my party once, I’ll just link to his wiki page. He’s actually a rather complex character, but his starting personality is so toxic and his initial stats are so vastly overshadowed by every other cleric that few players will drag him along until the point he becomes tolerable.

            Oh, and if you make the wrong choices during his personal questline and he fails his knighthood test, he becomes violently insane and eventually attacks other party members. So there’s that, too.


            Yeah, these are how long just the summaries are. The game’s something like 100-200 hours long; there’s a ton of stuff I’m glossing over here, especially the party dynamics. Unlike in later Bioware games, you only have your active party with you*, and they will form unbreakable bonds with each other if they are together in the party long enough, sometimes to the point where you can’t remove one from the party without the other following. It goes the other way, too. Some characters can’t stand each other to the extent that, if kept together long enough, they eventually come to blows and you lose one forever. It gave a very Obsidian feel to the game.

            There’s also an insane amount of intra-party banter in this game – being primarily unvoiced outside of story scenes means there were no budget constraints preventing the writers from going nuts.


            * The expansion does have a central camp equivalent, but individual stories still only advance while that character in your party.

            1. Blovsk says:

              Absolutely about the way BG 2 treats sex as *part* of a relationship rather than just end-game content reward.

              Oh, the “evil”/CN/non-knight version of the Anomen Romance is really compelling, in that he gets super-isolated by the decision and by giving up his whole dream he becomes super-reliant on the PC. Beats the hell out of any of the evil Sith romances. It’s an interesting unhealthy relationship. The redemptive arc is pretty cool as well, much as he is initially a bit of a bell-end.

              Minsc’s got some serious survivor’s guilt in BG 2 (all the characters that transition have some sort of awful trauma, it’s a big part of the tonal shift from BG 1’s high fantasy/adventure to TOTSC’s genre horror to BG 2’s psychological darkness) and I love his arc with Aerie in the party, even though he’s very silly.

              1. RCN says:

                I actually always bring Anomen with me in my BG2 games. I just love the guy, even when he’s an asshole.

                I also romanced Aerie once. ONCE. And the funny thing is it was with a neutral evil bastard so he encouraged her to be mean and petty whenever he could. It is… weird.

                But I think the problem is that the underlaying relations are too cryptic most of the time. In Neverwinter Nights they “fixed it” by making the right stuff to say always be completely agreeing with the NPCs and doing the bloody obvious (and giving those +X relationship cues). And since then it’s been a bloody mess (with the prize going to Dragon Age’s gift-based relationships. Your companions pretty much only like you for the bling you give them…)

                Games are based on systems. If the system is too obscure (that is, the feedback from the black-box is cryptic or incomprehensible) it creates frustration, even if it is more realistic. And in BG2 it was further complicated by timers that were completely unreliable, making it so that it was very easy for a relationship to simply freeze and you having no idea what went wrong. So eventually Bioware went from having discussions with your companions to simply mindlessly agreeing with everything they say to get on their good side.

                Though at least you can convince the templar guy in Dragon Age (I forget the name) that hunting mages is wrong. As long as you give him enough Templar bling.

                1. Blovsk says:

                  The real places where the future games “improved” the systematisation were in allowing you to initiate dialogue with your companions in a basically consistent way (you’re in your ship/camp, you go talk to them) and by not making you kick out any NPCs not in your party.

                  The failures were kind of to make all the romances identikit and part of the power fantasy element.

      2. Patrick the 4th wall destroyer says:

        I never played Baldur’s gate II, but I think it would have a tough time topping the juvenille glee gained from slut-shaming Bastilla by making her run around in her underwear after she joins your party.

        Ungrateful &@*()*#@…that’ll teach her to be so.. soo…. sooooo…. British-y!

        Also HK-47 should have at least a cameo in every game.

        EVERY GAME

        1. syal says:

          …oh man, now I want to see HK-47 and Zero III as a wandering pair of comedic robot sociopaths. In every game.

          1. Patrick the 4th wall destroyer says:

            If Shamus wanted to do something reaaallly awesome he would do a re-boot of MST3k starring HK-47, Zero III and Sephiroth.

            They could start be reviewing Twilight:New Moon

            1. syal says:

              Sephiroth is mostly there to laugh deeply and maniacally at the jokes.

        2. poiumty says:

          “I think it would have a tough time topping the juvenille gle-”

          Sorry, sorry, I know it’s your comment, and ima let you finish, but Baldur’s Gate 2 is the best CRPG of all time.

          Best CRPG of all time!

      3. Aerik says:

        I’ve heard folks say that every BioWare game is an attempt to re-capture the magnificence of Baldur’s Gate II. They just can’t do it, because graphics have moved on.

        It came out at this magic tipping point Shamus is always talking about, where you could have an NPC sprite that looks like all the others, but has pages and pages of dialogue and story packed in.

        I’ve *loved* the Enhanced Editions (I’m just starting Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition now).

        Good luck, Pillars of Eternity. You can do it! I believe!

    3. poiumty says:

      What? People mentioning Baldur’s Gate II before me? Leaving me no reason to spoiler it?

      Aw that does it. There will be blood.

      Seriously though. Shamus. I don’t want you to play Baldur’s Gate 2 right now, because then you’d have to redo the entire list and everything.

      Bur once you’re done with this, it’s as easy as activating your pocket plane where time stops (or at least slows down) and grabbing the Enhanced Edition. If there is one. I forget.

      You might want to make another list just to sing its praises afterwards. This is normal. Try to resist. Then try to resist not rolling another one of the 18+ classes. Or maybe a multiclass. Or maybe a dual-class. Or maybe some sort of useless cross-class abomination. I think they call them bards. Maybe you’ll want to pick the other faction. Or get the feisty warrior druid instead of the cocky evil cleric. Or romance the cheesy elf chick. Or duo the game with only you and your trusty sidekick Jan Jansen.

      Man I could go for a bard right no-NO BAD THOUGHTS MUST GET AWAY

      1. Jonathan says:

        I’ve beaten BG2 with every character class – not every kit, but every class.

        Most of them solo.

        TOB solo? Much harder – only really possible with Wish access. Someone has done a Solo Poverty Insane run of ToB, though, with a sorceror. I’m not that masochistic.

        At some point, I should look at this “Expanded Edition.” Does it still support all the good mods (Kelsey, etc)?

        1. poiumty says:

          No idea. In fact, that’s what I’m afraid of too.

          1. Blovsk says:

            Oh with TOB solo you mostly just need the exploiting power of traps. I did it with a Swashbuckler and Use Any Item, was a blast.

  5. Darren says:

    Even though I’ve yet to play it, wouldn’t Baldur’s Gate II also fall into Classic Bioware?

    This is a really strong list. Civ IV is the game that got me into the series, although I actually prefer Civ V.

    Master of Orion II is the game that got me into the 4X genre and still beats most other entrants handily (though I think Amplitude is getting dangerously close to matching it).

    I completely agree with you on Bioshock not really being a great game, but you are absolutely right to place it as high as you did: it’s simply too influential to not include.

    Good job.

    1. tmtvl says:

      Well, you’ve got classic Bioware, and then you have ancient Bioware.

      For me, BG2 is the best Bioware game ever, but I’m also slowly growing old and my opinion isn’t valid anymore.

      1. Cilvre says:

        With the recent re-release it’s gaining street cred again. The guys at beamdog did an awesome job bringing new elements to the game and working with the modding community.

      2. IFS says:

        If it helps I would also rate BG2 as the best Bioware game ever, and I only turned 21 a couple months ago. Hell I only played it for the first time a couple years ago, after having played the Dragon Age games.

    2. CrushU says:

      Civ V’s changes to combat are what make it better to me; I always hated the Stack of Doom. It requires you, after a fashion, to have a supply line if you want to attack a city, since you can’t just throw all of your army at it at the same time. It also feels more like a siege when you get a ring of melee guys around the city, with archers and catapults one step further out. A+, right there. (I’m more concerned about how the technology and religion/culture changed from IV to V, not as sure that was a good move.) Still, Civ IV is the first Civ game I bought (not counting Alpha Centauri; it was way too good to be a Civ game. ;) )

      MoOII… Still the game I use to describe Eclipse (board game). I’ve not found another 4X that let me CONTROL MY DAMN SHIPS in combat. Endless Space is making a pretty good run for me right now… Can’t control the ships, but instead I choose a broad Tactic for them at every stage of the fight… Ends up being Rock-Paper-Scissors, that through research, becomes Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock. Very interesting.

      1. SoulMan says:

        While ither of the MoO games deserves to be on any top list, people always seem to forget about two other great (in my opinion) 4X space games.

        – Galactic Civilizations 2 (Specifically Ultimate Edition, since it took a couple of expansions for the game to hit its high point)
        – Ascendancy (Came out the year before MoO 2 and did a lot of things differently that previous 4Xs.. though the AI was it’s biggest weakness in the end)… also it apparently has a modern IOS remake, though I’ve not played it as I don’t own any Apple i-Products.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I love ascendancy!It helps that I was hooked to supremacy back when I had my commodore 64 so this was a natural one for me to go to.

          Galciv 2 is also nice,but its second expansion is what makes it the best,with every race following a different path.Also the best ai in any 4X game.

      2. Ivan says:

        I do agree that the combat is much better in Civ V, but remember enjoying Civ IV more. If I had to guess then i’d say that city management was somehow better in IV. I certainly played games longer. Idk, Civ has always had this problem with lousing momentum with me. Early on you’re exploring and planning and looking at all the surrounding land and thinking how awesome it will be to drop a city right there. Then end-game hits and all the land has been grabbed and all the resources are being mined and you’re left with a civilization that isn’t quite as awesome as you thought it was going to be. Idk, mine at least never lived up to the hype built up during the early game. The most obvious problem is that I’ve run out of world to explore and never found the rest of the game nearly as engaging.

        Though IV was better on that exploration front, with the second age of exploration when you discover iron working and are able to get into jungle tiles. Maybe that’s why I always played a campaign in IV longer than V.

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        One unit per stack is a neat idea,but its far from being perfected.Remember that it took them 4 iterations of stacks in order to perfect the ai to actually be (somewhat) challenging,and in order to get rid of the lousy “block friendly settler from grabbing the good tile” exploit.I was mostly disappointed by the reintroduction of that exploit into V,but I did not have high expectation for the ai with regards to the 1 unit per tile.

        What surprised me most unpleasantly in V,however,is the incredible decline in the ui and civilopedia.

  6. Mersadeon says:

    I’d actually still say that KOTOR2 is better than the first one. While the first one definitely had the Bioware charm, the second one is one of the few Star Wars works that takes the setting not just serious, but tries to make sense of it. It is cynical and hateful at times, but that is what made it greaet – and it has Kreia, the woman whose words are still getting analyzed today because of how complex she is. It is said the people at Obsidian read every Star Wars thing there was -the entire Expanded Universe- but they weren’t impressed.

    EDIT: Also, if anyone wants to pick it up now, it’s better than ever. The mod that restores all the cut content is finally done. It is truly a much more fullfilling game now than it was at release.

    1. Thomas says:

      I’m very much a KotoR 2 avid fan (it’s one of my favourite games), but I think KotoR 1 deserves the spot on the list. It’s less controversial and it has a huge place in history by basically being the one game people mean when they say a ‘Bioware style game’

      Jade Empire was like Bioware copying KotoR again. I don’t think Jade Empire actually helped solidify that as the Bioware archetype.

      And I’ve said fairly recently on the forums that I think KotoR was essentially the game that killed of Baldur’s Gate II complexity in RPGs for a long time. It was really the progenitor of the simplification era. For worse _and better_ because being simple is unrelated to being bad.

      1. lurkey says:

        Yeah. I don’t even like KOTOR (unless I play as a Chaotic Stupid cackling idiot to match everything else), but it indeed captured “starwarsiness”. The sequel was basically “Star Wars: Subversion: the Force sucks and so do its users”, which I imagine is not for everyone’s tastes.

        I do, however, liked some storylines of SWTOR. Even a few non-subversive ones.

        1. Thomas says:

          I still think KotoR2 can work with supporting the force, it just pushes you to think about it a little first. In some ways, I felt it shored up the reasons why the Jedi shouldn’t get involved in the Mandalorian Wars and stuff.

          But it just depends on whether you assume that certain characters are author avatars or fallible humans

    2. Hal says:

      A big part of the lingering grudge against KOTOR2 is the raw nature of it. It was a premature birth, delivered to store shelves mostly finished. Between that and a rather “abrupt” ending, most people don’t remember it for narrative/setting elements or mechanical improvements from its predecessor, but for having broken quests and an unsatisfying conclusion.

      1. Patrick the 4th wall destroyer says:

        That is exactly how I remember it. The revelation that you are Revan in the first game was video game nirvana. The “twist” at the end of KOTOR II felt more like a contrived attempt to one-up its predecessor.

        Beyond that, Kreia was ridiculously over-powered. One minute you are having a conversation with 3 Jedi masters, Kreia walks in from nowhere, snaps her fingers and they all drop dead? How does THAT happen? Not even Palpatine or Vader could pull that shit off. And don’t even get me started on the whole “shutting you off from the force because you are too strong” BS.

        In the mold of Spinal tap, this game was “turned up to 11”.

        1. WILL says:

          The idea was that Kreia knew the Sith Techniques where you just drain the force from things. Nihilus does this naturally on the scale of worlds while the Exile can do it naturally but he hasn’t been “feeding the hunger/black hole” because he decided to roam alone without, you know, eating worlds. It’s also why Nihilus can’t just outright kill the Exile – there’s no force in him/her to drain.

          The last 3 Jedi in the academy are fools, completely and utterly devoted to a code that weakens them by attaching them to the Force. So when Kreia can just drain the force, they’re powerless. It’s why the Jedi are so rare in KotOR 2 – the sith assassins of Nihilus/Sion learned Force-countering techniques while the Jedi just hid.

          As for shutting you off from the force because you are too strong, it’s not that you’re too strong – you’re literally an anomaly in the code of the Force, if left unchecked you could become like Nihilus (consumed by hunger, killing thousands), so they have to make sure you are completely and utterly blind to the force. So you can’t suck it out of everything ever. Like Kreia said – the remaining Jedi Masters are fools and can’t learn anything new, like living without mystical voodoo magic.

          I also would not say there was a twist at the end of KotOR 2. Kreia is obviously evil and will outright tell you if you have enough Intelligence or influence.

          Meanwhile in KotOR 1 the big bad has a dark side army-making machine and is going to rule the world. I believe at some point he laughs like an evil maniac.

          1. lurkey says:

            I believe at some point he laughs like an evil maniac.

            At some points – plural. I’m pretty sure the only reason we don’t see him with a fluffy white cat around it’s because he set the poor thing on fire and ate it.

            S’more about Kreia — she doesn’t really kill those three stooges. What she does, is cut them from the Force and, since they are completely dependent on it, they just keel over. How could she do that? Nihilus and Sion did the very same thing to her. Add some research to her first hand experience, and it probably wasn’t that hard.

    3. syal says:

      KOTOR 2 was more interesting philosophically and character-wise, but KOTOR 1 was tighter. KOTOR 2 had dead worlds with dead story arcs where you got to choose the level of deadness, while 1 had the feeling that things were still alive and changing by the end.

      Also Kreia’s not that complicated. “Doing things sucks, you shouldn’t go around doing things.”

      EDIT: Also KOTOR 1 had the “Fat people always lie” option for the test of reasoning.

      1. Mersadeon says:

        That’s not really true – Kreia’s deal isn’t you shouldn’t do things (although that might seem like it is because of that one time where no matter what you pick, she will lecture you). You know how you get into her good graces? Do something she doesn’t like, get lectured and then say “hm, I will think about this”. Kreia doesn’t like it if you just blindly agree. She wants you to think.

        But in the end, she just wants to use you – as a tool against the Force itself. Her deal is “the Force should not exist”, and once you get that, you will see everything she says and does from a new perspective. She can’t help herself letting a bit of her normal personality through, but in the end, she will do everything to kill the Force.

        1. syal says:

          Yes: thinking about things is good, while doing things is bad. Her goal is to stop people from trying to direct the course of the worlds, and she figures if she can kill the Force they’ll stop trying. Her favorite thing about Revan is that he left the Galaxy to deal with itself. (I’m pretty sure she knows she can’t actually kill the Force, but she’ll die trying, and if she does it means you’ve applied enough of her beliefs to stop her.)

    4. Isy says:

      They had kind of a tonal shift between the two. KotoR1 seemed so comparatively upbeat and black and white – not that terrible things didn’t happen, but it all seemed so clean cut. KotoR2 felt like the Han Solo of games. Everyone was worn down and cynical and broken, but (assuming you went the light side path), they all found each other were able to somewhat heal.

      I much preferred the themes and characters in KotoR2 (except Disciple. Ugh. And G0t0 needs to go out the airlock, but at least you can ignore him mostly). I also liked the ways that it challenged conventional narrative from time to time (you mean putting yourself in a vulnerable position to convert your foes doesn’t always work out great? who knew?) but its flaws really hurt it, so I can agree with KotoR1 getting the nod. I don’t even mind the ending so much, but I was extremely annoyed that some of the characters felt so unfinished – Bao-Dur being the big one. So much potential there, but he seemed to have a bigger calibrations addiction than Garrus.

      1. lurkey says:

        I liked G0T0; thought him to be pretty accurate representation of evils of bureaucracy. I also was really impressed by how they made Hanharr interesting. Mira, however? Probably my most loathed companion NPC ever. Worse than Miranda. Ugh.

        1. syal says:

          The main problem with G0T0 was you just spent an entire chapter trying to kill him, and then he jumps aboard your ship and you can’t do anything about it.

      2. Thomas says:

        I loved G0T0’s backstory reveal though. Now that was a cool twist

    5. Henson says:

      KOTOR 2 is a wonderful mess of a game. It asks hard questions and demands our attention, yet you don’t really know what the story is really about, even after finishing it. It’s much more intricate and interesting story, but also uneven and less polished. And, perhaps most puzzling, despite being about the nature of the Force, the Jedi, and the Sith, it just doesn’t feel like Star Wars.

      1. syal says:

        I think the standard Avellone theme is “You can’t change the world, but you can make a place for yourself in it”. Planescape: Torment, Mask of the Betrayer, and KOTOR 2 all follow it. Someone takes something significant away from you, and the goal of the game is to make yourself whole again.

        It’s not a hugely common theme in gaming (though Dark Souls is similar), and it runs counter to a lot of the more prominent themes, especially high adventure settings like Star Wars which is all about overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges through optimism and strength of character.

    6. Otters34 says:

      It’s hardly a sign of deep learning or thought to be aware that Star Wars tie-ins aren’t very good. The best of them rely on blindly groping for whatever it was that made the movies they draw from so relatable and interesting to people back in the day.

      The problem with trying to take Star Wars(consider that title) seriously all stems from something Mr. Young’s stressed a LOT over the years: Star Wars is a simple tale. A grand total of four or so times do things not go as hoped for or planned, people who seem sketchy are all sketchy, people who seem good are all good. Its magic, a mysterious, dharma-like Force that binds and courses through all life, has extremely lax and vague rules and results. Its protagonist is a fresh-faced farm kid who linearly becomes a superhero wizard knight, along with his trusty politico damsel sister, smirky and sarcastic Not-As-Good Best Bud, and a walking carpet who talks in growls. Also some robots, who are basically a nervous talkative tall thin guy/ laconic short fat guy comedy duo.

      There is one, ONE moment of real ambiguity, where the Wise Mentor admits that he wasn’t totally above-board about the fate of the Hero’s father. And that’s it. This is not a series that has thrived on complexity. There are a few places whee more than one layer exists, but it’s only for a couple of the characters, not for the setting, the technology, and certainly not for the Force.

      What Obsidian did, and despite remarkable success seems like a real mistake to me, is approach Star Wars like it’s a Tolkien-esque fantasy world, taking apart its various tropes and assumptions and rooting through what they found to try and come up with something interesting. But…the Galaxy ISN’T like Middle-Earth. If anything, it’s more like the old chivalric romances, or the really old national epics of yore. In those stories, the point was the people and their adventures, not the world around them or how it worked. I mean, just look at the kind of stuff Roland did when the Italians got their hands on him. He was fighting wizards and mad Moslems and going crazy for lost love and having his common-sense brought back to him from the Moon, stuff that had as much to do with local history or geopolitics as my telling a story about a bull knocking down a fence has to do with agriculture and architecture.

      To get to something like a point, the Force, the Jedi and Sith don’t benefit from any kind of in-depth analysis because they don’t HAVE any depth. It’s all mumbo-jumbo and New-Ageisms and borrowed Hindu and Buddhist religion. I can see the appeal. The way we’re told how stuff works is easy to take as too simple, too easy to be the real truth, and flipping things on their head has been Black Isle’s specialty for decades, but…it just doesn’t work with something as blithe and child-like as Star Wars.

      It also doesn’t help that the end result is so…drab and dull and unexciting. The central hook of the game is that both sides of the Force-users are fools, and that the Force itself is a bad thing that hinders the galaxy. Now, that’s a perfectly sensible take when going by the Expanded Universe. There you have the Sith as this pool of ready-made supervillains hauling evil stuff out of Korriban’s basement every family reunion, and the Jedi as this appallingly feeble bunch of ninnies who can neither walk nor chew gum at the same time without help from the Force. But that’s not Star Wars. That’s what people with bad ideas have made it into, so in that light The Sith Lords is a great jab at that landfill of fiction.

      The Force isn’t a magic system, or parasite, it’s a metaphor. A very open and bland one. It is a literal force that all living things are part of, and with the exercise of the intellectual or passionate will people can use it to affect their world.

      1. Mersadeon says:

        Apart from your other points, I would like to say that there ARE Star Wars EU novels that actually are really good without getting too close to the main stuff. I personally love Han’s Adventures – and like you said, that’s because it’s SIMPLE. It’s Indiana Jones-style pulp on every page, while not actually having anything to do with the main stuff (except for setting up Han’s later character development).

    7. John says:

      I can see why some people might prefer KOTOR 2 to the original. I mean, it’s a question of taste. Do you prefer a really solid pastiche of the films, or a revisionist take on not only the films but RPGs in general? A lot of people fall in to the latter camp and I don’t blame them. For the record, I prefer the first game.

      My personal secret theory is that KOTOR 2’s general unfinished-ness is actually a contributing factor to a lot of people’s appreciation of the game. The game may end abruptly, but that just means that it doesn’t get the chance to end badly. You get to imagine your own really awesome ending that totally makes up for everything else.

      My point, I guess, is that when people talk about the Sith Lords it often seems to me that they are talking about a hypothetical game that might exist if Obsidian had only possessed infinite time, programmers, monkeys, or typewriters–and not the game I actually purchased.

      1. Isy says:

        I actually liked the KotoR2 light side “ending” – or at least concept of the ending handed over at the end of the game. You’ve spent all this time with these lost, wounded people (you yourself being the ultimate expression of “wounded”) – yet by coming together, you’ve all healed in some way, and found something beautiful in all the darkness and cynicism. And then they come together to form the new Jedi council, as a counter to the high flying idealists who in some ways had lost their empathy in exchange. Yeah, I wasn’t happy to have it spouted to me in voiced text paragraphs by Cryptic McBackstabby, but it felt like a good conclusion to the whole story.

        All the stuff on the final planet UP to the ending was pretty rubbish, though. Fair is fair, though – I don’t really care for most the KotoR combat anyway, so it’s not like plowing through five million dudes on the final planet was any different than plowing through the five million dudes on all the others.

        1. syal says:

          Unless you run past them, and find out you now have to kill them with a 1d3 attack. Malachor V sucked.

          I said it was dead above, but “wounded” is the proper word; every good guy, every bad guy and every society is wounded in some way, and you can’t heal the wound, you can only influence how they deal with it. None of the quests end happily but they can all end hopefully.

  7. Infinitron says:

    When people talk about “classic BioWare” they're only really talking about three games: KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect

    Well, the people who funded Pillars of Eternity with over 4 million dollars disagree with you.

    1. Shamus says:

      Put it this way:

      On a big games site, the reviewer is talking about a game with dialog trees and says, “It feels like a BioWare game.” 99% of the time they mean it feels like KOTOR et al. and not BG or NWN.

      1. DrMcCoy says:

        But NWN’s dialog trees were way more tree-ish than KotOR’s!

        1. Shamus says:

          I know, that’s what I’m saying. A modern fight-and-talk feels more like KOTOR than Neverwinter Nights.

          Okay, since everyone is getting defensive about this: I AM NOT SAYING THAT BOULDERS GRAPE IS A BAD GAME OR THAT IT SHOULDN’T BE REMEMBERED. I am saying that it isn’t as broadly remembered or referenced. This makes sense, yes? More people have played, heard about, or seen screenshots of KOTOR than have been exposed to BG.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Technically true.But keep in mind that most of them arent the fans of bioware,but rather of star wars.

            Of the smaller subset of bioware fans that have played kotor,most have also played bg2,and will always pick that one as the classic bioware over any of the later incarnations.

            1. Felblood says:

              I was a Star Wars movie fan as a kid, thanks to my mom.

              I was into it enough that I read a lot of EU novels in high school, but eventually the poor editorial practices led me to drift away from the IP.

              KOTOR is the thing that brought me back into the fold, and is probably the main reason that I am so forgiving of the prequel films. (Ep. I wastes too much time, that Ep. III is brutally hamstrung trying to make up for, but II earned a special place in my heart for tying together the Old Republic the Original Trilogy so well. If the prequel trilogy were to come out today, it might have been given the Part 1/Part 2 treatment for episode III and been better off for it.)

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Funny,but kotor made the prequels even sillier for me.Heres a game where you have all these neat force powers flying around,showing off how cool jedi are,and that they dont rely just on their laser thingies.And the prequels finally have the cgi needed to include all these crazy powers in a live action movie.And they gave us….double edged laser swords and pinball yoda.Yawn!

          2. Felblood says:

            I don’t think anyone (anyone sensible anyway) really feels that BG need to defend itself against KOTOR. They are both really strong in a lot of the same ways, and there’s room for both in each of our hearts.**

            What’s really setting people off is the whole “When you say X, What you mean is Y” assertion, which is problematic because a lot of us really are referring to a broader definition of X. “Classic” is one of those words that has a particularly weird shaped probability field.

            (I would argue that their relationship in my heart is a lot like the way you describe Thief 2 and Thief 3. KOTOR is better paced and better looking than BG, but once you have played BG, it just feels small and confining.)

            1. Steve C says:

              Blank? Blank!?! You’re not looking at the big picture!!

          3. MichaelGC says:

            It was Jade Empire which made me raise a welcoming, friendly, entirely non-defensive and very huggable eyebrow, rather than KotOR. I’d say Bilious Gripe is mentioned/referenced much more often than Jade Empire, but then in my (personal/limited!) experience Barbie’s Mall Adventure is referenced more often than Jade Empire

            (In fact, this is the only other place I’ve seen Jade Empire being mentioned! Cool site: all you good folks should check it out…)

          4. ehlijen says:

            Boulders Grape sounds like a weird mix of Pac-man and indiana jones; run the maze, collect the dots and fruits, but watch out for rolling boulders!

            I have no doubt KOTOR will be remembered the longest of the great Bioware games, I just think BG2 shares a lot of the golden age features you mention:
            -a well characterised and voiced antagonist
            -party members with character, side stories and missions, many of which set what have become known as the bioware archetypes
            -worldbuilding and epic story
            -horrible combat mechanics (negative AC is better? huh?)
            -romance options (first bioware game to have them, I believe?)
            -Jennifer Hale (not as an iconic role, but present)

            Due to NWN sitting between BG2 and JE it isn’t really part of the same uninterrupted era, and its age related technical limitations are certainly an impediment to fame. I just think it’s actually part of that bioware gold standard.

            Sadly, I think as of now, BG2 is easier to get to run on modern systems (thanks to the EE) than KOTOR :(

            1. C.C. says:

              At this point, KOTOR is pretty accessible since was finally able to cut a deal with Disney for a sizable chunk of the Lucasarts archives. I have a copy of it sitting on my Windows 8 desktop as we speak.

              1. ehlijen says:

                Any hints on how to get the old CD version running?

                1. Supahewok says:

                  Mrrm. I’ve tried in the past to get my disc working on Windows 7. Very bad graphical glitches even on the main menu. I don’t know if anyone’s ever made a workaround. Some googling would probably tell you.

                  Me, I just bought KOTOR on Steam for 10 bucks or so. However, even then, the cutscenes wouldn’t work. I didn’t mind, since I’ve played the game several times and know their contents. Plus, if I really wanted I could look them up on Youtube.

                  GoG now has a version for $12. Since they actually do work to make their games compatible, that may be your best shot. Plus I hear they’re good at refunds if you tell them it doesn’t work for you.

                  1. ehlijen says:

                    I was kind of hoping to only get a patch/workaround without having to rebuy the game :(

                    Ah well, just playing the soundtrack during our star wars RPG will have to do…

                    1. Supahewok says:

                      Pen and paper? Damn, I want to play :P

                      KOTOR has always been a fiddly game. Even on release I had trouble (well, my dad had trouble) getting it to run. It was picky about graphics cards then and it’s just a hell now.

                      Wishlist it, keep an eye for sales. It often gets put into Star Wars bundles.

          5. Supahewok says:

            I know that at least 50% of the comments so far are about the exclusion of any mention of BG2, and a couple of them are jumping down your throat so I will refrain from that. (Even though when I read the line “When people talk about “classic BioWare” they're only really talking about three games: KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect” my mind began screaming in horror :)

            I would like to gently prod you into considering that it’s not so obscure as you seem to think it is. I mean, when talking about Dragon Age, I believe the developers specifically said that it was a spiritual successor to the BG series. Not KOTOR or Jade Empire, BG specifically. The kickstarter for a more faithful spiritual successor was one of the most successful and possibly the highest profile (video game) kickstarter of all time. The BG series are two of GoG’s best selling games. The Enhanced Editions are out and have done well enough that Beamdog is now on the Icewind Dale series.

            What I’m getting at is that’s a lot of love. I have trouble thinking of anybody, both in my life and in the video game press at large, who would know of KOTOR but NOT BG. Even if they haven’t played it. Of course, being more connected to journalists your experience may differ from mine and if so I bow to your experience :)

            If you haven’t played the BG series, you should try them! If you got through Planescape and enjoyed KOTOR and Dragon Age, then you should be set for BG2 at least. It has better game mechanics than Planescape and equal (or better!) writing than KOTOR and DA. (though not better writing than P:T of course) And there’s never been a better time to try it than now, with the Enhanced Editions incorporating a lot of the mods that help run the game on modern machines.

          6. RandomInternetCommenter says:

            “I am saying that it isn't as broadly remembered or referenced. This makes sense, yes? More people have played, heard about, or seen screenshots of KOTOR than have been exposed to BG.”

            I think you’re letting your own appreciation for the game cloud your judgement, and you see defensiveness when it’s really doubt about the validity of your claims.

            BG 1 and 2 each sold over 2 millions units at a time where the PC market was much smaller, they were cultural phenomenons on par with Starcraft, Doom, Diablo and Half-Life.

            In most gaming communities Baldur’s Gate is fondly remembered as a cult classic by just about any kind of player, while KOTOR is something only more dedicated SW/RPG fans will bring up.

            You mention the dialogue wheel; sure, this is a very characteristic visual element that is easy to identify and relate to. It’s the kind of shortcut you can associate with BioWare, but this isn’t the same as saying the first game showing this feature is *classic* BioWare. I don’t think people would look at shoulder pads and exclamation points over NPCs and go on to say when people talk about “classic Blizzard”, they think of World of Warcraft, even though that game popularized those trends.

            There is a bit more to either of these studios than little signatures. I would propose, for example, people might think of classic BioWare as defined by lots of writing, interactive dialogue, immersive fantastic worlds, tactical turn-based combat, and they might think of classic Blizzard as real-time games with fine-tuned balance, simple to pick up yet hard to master.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        If they arent younger than me,then they definitely do thing baldurs gate 2 first and foremost.Unless they endured nwn vanilla and still played hordes of the underdark,in which case they definitely think hordes of the underdark.

      3. Cilvre says:

        if only they saw how long and complex the trees were in those games, they might say it pales compared to a bioware game instead of it feels like a bioware game.

  8. tmtvl says:

    Final list inbound, can’t wait to be disappointed. On a serious note, though, Bioshock is far higher (I mean lower, by which I mean closer to 1) on the list then I’d thought.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “When people talk about “classic BioWare” they're only really talking about three games: KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect[4].”

    Not really.Classic bioware is baldurs gate 2,kotor and jade empire.

    Neverwinter nights is a bit of an oddity there,because while it had great expansions,original was crap.Though it is the skyrim of the day,thanks to the awesome aurora toolkit.

    Mass effect 1 already was a deviation from their norm,but thankfully not by much.

    “Earlier games aren't as celebrated and don't have those quirks that we came to associate with the BioWare name.”

    As for celebrated,your lack of baldurs gate playthrough shows the flaw,but we forgive you.

    And they pretty much have those quirks associated with bioware name:From the so-so to terrible main story to the great characters,the weird and often infuriating,yet strangely functional combat,and the quests aplenty.

    1. Groboclown says:

      NWN had an incredible, easy to use toolkit for creating custom content. There were some great custom modules written for it.

  10. Thomas says:

    I’d put Arkham Asylum over City everytime. It felt the most cohesive, it did the most interesting things and City’s story was actually kind of rubbish. Particularly the ending of City which really stretched an idea waaaaay too far (sure Batman probably has a complicated relationship with the Joker. But mourning the Joker’s death whilst his girlfriend’s dead body lies right next to him?.

    The setting of Arkham was really interesting to explore, whilst City really stretched belief. The way Arkham takes place over one day and you see time progressing and Batman becoming more and more worn down was genius… and then in City they just do exactly the same thing again. And it’s not even a story or environment where it makes sense to do that.

    The way the guards get overwhelmed in Arkham as the game goes along created a surprising amount of tensions. When they did it in City it was barely noticeable. If they were going to do gang warfare then they should have let Batman control the flow. And there should have been civilains. And it shouldn’t have been a prison colony…

    All those little details were part of what made Arkham perfect. City just kind of copied them without thinking about what was going on behind it. City could have been a great No Man’s Land game, but they altered things for the worse to stay inline with Arkham (the whole reason why the City was abandoned being one of those things).

    The open world exploration was fun, but they don’t even tell you how to do the major travel mechanic until you complete what look like entirely optional and completely rubbish sidequest missions.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “(sure Batman probably has a complicated relationship with the Joker. But mourning the Joker's death whilst his girlfriend's dead body lies right next to him?.”

      It has to be linked.

    2. Isy says:

      I kind of feel like there’s a competition to make each Batman grittier and more screwed up than the last. The guy in the 90s cartoon still had issues, but was basically a good role model. Now it feels like an experiment to see how crazy they can make the protagonist before people stop liking him (answer: there is no level of crazy that makes people stop liking them).

  11. noahpocalypse says:

    Baldur’s Gate hasn’t appeared on this list, there’s still time! What a troll that would be if Shamus did actually play it just before making this list!

    On a more serious note, I don’t think I’ve seen Deus Ex anywhere on this list. I wonder which will take the spot in Shamus’ mind- the first or Human Evolution?

    On another much less serious note, “But Shamus, you can’t put two games of the same series in, so you can’t put System Shock 2 in the list anywhere now that you put Bioshock in!”

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Shodan is booker.

    2. jawlz says:

      That would be some next-level trolling. I therefore now fully expect to see Baldur’s Gate II as the #1 entry when we get there.

      1. ehlijen says:

        I think Good Robot is a more likely No 1. Or possibly a No 0? Just to drive home the ‘this is subjective’ point of the intro blurbs.

      2. poiumty says:

        I would probably have some sort of mild heart attack.

    3. krellen says:

      I’m going to be the guy: Baldur’s Gate, 1 or 2, doesn’t belong on this list. Not only is it Shamus’s personal list, it’s also just not that good a game. Mediocre at best.

      1. Supahewok says:

        Them’s be fighting words!

        Or they would be if I couldn’t acknowledge that the 2nd Ed D&D rule system is not for everyone. Was that your main criticism, or were you not a fan of the writing? I’m kinda curious.

        1. krellen says:

          The writing wasn’t that great. I mean, it did have an excellent performance from David Warner as Irenicus, but it was a performance by David Warner, so great goes without saying.

          1. Supahewok says:

            I can agree that it isn’t great overall. However, I found none of it bad. It was uniformly serviceable, with moments of greatness. That is an accomplishment, given the sheer volume of writing throughout the game.

            I thought the companions were great, too. Even the ones that got on my nerves. They all felt real. At least, more real than in any Bioware game since. Even the ones I don’t like (Aerie, ugh) feel like people I could come across down the street.

            Can’t really argue about the point. I’ve found people on the internet going on about how terrible things I liked were and how great things I considered shit were. I’ve just come to the conclusion that I’m the only one who’s right :P and leave it at that. What a piece of writing means can be debated and be constructive, arguing about it’s quality simply goes nowhere. At least, from what I’ve seen.

            Have fun in the games whose writing you like!

            And yeah, David Warner’s Irenicus was the boss. So was Winnie the Pooh’s Firkraag dragon.

            1. krellen says:

              Mediocre isn’t bad. It’s mediocre. :)

      2. acronix says:

        But I liked it. Therefore, you are completely and utterly wrong! Forever! And ever. Totally!

      3. poiumty says:

        Hey krellen what’s your favorite game of all time

        because it was really bad and you should feel bad

        1. krellen says:

          Steam would have you believe my favourite game is Crusader Kings II, but that’s only because I don’t have Civ IV on Steam. I’m pretty sure my total playtime of Civ IV is in the thousands of hours (although at least half of that is actually in the Fall From Heaven mod).

          Also, it’s great and I feel great, sorry.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Youre doing it wrong.Here,let me help you with that:

          Hey krellen,obsidian is a stupid company that releases nothing but buggy trash.Its worse than bethesda.

          1. krellen says:

            At least they’re not Bioware.

      4. Steve C says:

        I like Baldur’s Gate an I’m a big fan of 2nd ed AD&D. I still can’t finish it even though I’ve tried about 5 or so times now. I just kind of drift away from it right around the point I kill Drizzt and never finish after that.

      5. Steve C says:

        I like Baldur’s Gate an I’m a big fan of 2nd ed AD&D. I still can’t finish it even though I’ve tried about 5 or so times now. I just kind of drift away from it right around the point I kill Drizzt and never finish after that. So I get what Krellen is saying.

      6. Csirke says:

        Yeah, I mean, I don’t like Baldur’s Gate that much either, I always got bored a couple of hours in, and never finished it. (Unlike KoToR and Mass Effect.)

        But if anyone says “classic BioWare”, Baldur’s Gate is still the first game that I think of :)

  12. Pensive Dragon says:

    I’ve got a few gigs of data on my machine that says that when *I* think of “Classic Bioware”, I think of Neverwinter Nights (and, as others said, Baldur’s Gate 2).

  13. Patrick the 4th wall destroyer says:

    I’d forgotten about so many games on this list….Masters of Orion. There’s a game i sunk many hours into.

    And Morrowind should have been the top Elder scrolls. I tried Oblivion and was annoyed. I tried Skyrim and was bored. Morrowind, in its day, was cutting edge and groundbreaking. You can’t say the same for either of its it’s predecessors or sequels.

  14. Primogenitor says:

    I’d say classic BioWare falls into “stuff with Black Isle/Obsidian” and “stand alone stuff”. The former is Baldurs Gate and Neverwinter Nights, and stand alone is KOTOR, Jade Empire, Mass Effect.

    There’s also things like Planescape Torment and Icewind Dale, which weren’t developed by BioWare but have the same feel and use the same engines. So you could say that the “ancient BioWare” is actually “Black Isle/Obsidian” feel, and Fallout: New Vegas is closer to that than Mass Effect (esp 2/3) is.

  15. ulrichomega says:

    I just now noticed that all of the pictures have witty mouse-over text. Now I have to go back and reread everything.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      It gets worse:Shamoose has been doing that for quite some time,but not regularly.So even if you stop seeing rollover text on a picture,it doesnt mean older entry has none.

      1. lurkey says:

        Speaking of these, no, no, no – Malak didn’t say “Mrph grmbl phnglui mglwnafh” about Dark Side, that was Darth Nihilus from KOTOR 2. Malak said “Bwahahaha!”

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          He also said “Mmm,droids”.

          1. Gruhunchously says:

            Malak’s totally misplaced faith in his droids is one of the best parts of the Star Forge level.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Though,to be fair to him,who would expect a former sith to use light side droid killing power?

        2. ehlijen says:

          But Malak is the one with the ridiculous gag over his mouth. Hence the gag. Pun intended because I hate people :p

          1. syal says:

            First time through the Star Forge, Malak started talking to people without that thing, and I realized he didn’t actually have a lower jaw; he’d lost it sometime in the past and had to get a detachable, artificial one.

            Then it happened to Bastila and I realized it was just a bug.

  16. krellen says:

    “Civilization is one of those games that seemed to spring fully-formed from the mind of its creators.”

    That’s probably because it’s based (loosely) on a board game.

  17. NotDog says:

    *Sigh* Daggerfall gets left out in the cold once again.


  18. Deoxy says:

    I STILL play MoO2. DOSbox is my friend.

    And yes, I still play MoO2 with the original disk that I got Back In The Day ™. Of course, I copy the whole thing to the hard drive and edit the ini file to read from there instead, as that makes it MUCH faster, but still.

    (And yes, MoO3 went WAY too far. Ouch. And yes, I have MoO1 as well, but 2 is definitely better.)

    Man, I’m an old fart.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      I was playing MoO2 this morning.

      I’ve gone through periods when I thought MoO1 was better – no fiddly build queues, for example.

      But I wound up back together with MoO2. I like to set it up with the smallest map size, Advanced initial tech, and Impossible difficulty. That way, the galaxy is largely colonized right from the start, and you can get on with politics and war almost immediately. Also, you start with a bunch of random techs and have to work with what you’ve got, making things games repetitive.

      1. Deoxy says:

        I found the smallest to be too easy – I never bother to colonize, I just take colonies away from the AI. Not having to build colony ships makes it WAY too easy.

        I play impossible, 1 size up from smallest (sometime 2), pre-warp tech, 8 AIs. Pre-warp gives the AI the biggest advantage, since it can inherently climb the tree fairly quickly, no matter the race.

        I also tend to play creative, which is generally viewed as sub-optimal (and, counter-intuitively, pre-warp penalizes creative the most, as the advantages the non-creative are strongest, relatively, with the lowest tech lever), so yeah, I like a good challenge.

    2. ehlijen says:

      I will give credit to MoO3 for one thing:

      I think it pretty accurately simulates the experience of running an interstellar empire (and thus fulfils its ‘5X’ promise). I just turns out that that’s a pretty paper pushy job and not what we play games for :(

  19. shiroax says:

    I forgot Trask and had to go look him up.

    1. ehlijen says:

      Marauder and Trask – Partners in futility!
      Together, they fight success!

  20. Joveus Molai says:

    “While I'll always love Morrowind for its depth, it's exquisite world-building, its fascinating themes, and its fantastical environments, it also gave us cliff racers. So Skyrim it is.”

    Oof…Cliff Racers are forever going to be Morrowind’s “…but you screw one goat!” joke, isn’t it? All that phenomenal worldbuilding and lore, forever stained by some dumb pseudo-pterodactyls.

    1. syal says:

      Pseudo-pterodactyls that could outrun a character wearing the most ridiculously broken speed item in the game series, and were figuratively everywhere.

      1. Rob says:

        Pseudo-dactyls with a misaligned hitbox that made hitting them with both melee and ranged weapons an exercise in frustration. The ‘every attack has a miss chance separate from actually hitting’ mechanic just made early game Cliff Racers even worse.

  21. “Batman has been in a lot of videogames, and most of them are not good.”

    Actually, in terms of videogames, Batman has one of the best records in the biz. Batman for the NES and Batman Returns for the SNES are bonafide classics and a couple BTAS based games also are fairly fondly considered.

  22. Tychoxi says:

    “Cities, *taxes*, tech tree, accelerating timescale, diplomacy…”

    I miss taxes so much in Civ (those mighty sliders for taxes, science and… something else?)

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Luxuries, was it? Something entertain-ey, anyway, to keep the proles from becoming too uppity.

      1. Sigilis says:

        Remember when we could change styles of government? Those were the days, you know when our civilizations had governments at all.

  23. notacodexer says:

    ‘When people talk about “classic BioWare” they're only really talking about three games: KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect.’

    LOL what ‘people’ are those exactly? 13 year olds that never played or heard of Baldur’s Gate?

    1. Starker says:

      Pfft… Baldur’s Gate? Shattered Steel is the true classic Bioware. Kids these days…

    2. Matt Downie says:

      You think 20 year old gamers remember Baldur’s Gate, which came out when they were four years old?

      1. Supahewok says:

        21 here, and I most certainly do! It actually was probably my first PC game. I would watch over my dad’s shoulder while he played the Goldbox games and Doom, but by the time Baldur’s Gate 2 came out he allowed my brother and me to play.

        He tried to burn a couple more disks of it so we could play Co-op together in the house, but he could never get it to work. Ah, childhood memories… *sniff*

        *Ahem* Er, I also have friends who’ve played it. At least 2 that I know of. BG2 is still remembered at least as well as KOTOR.

    3. Henson says:

      I’m 30, and I’ve never played Baldur’s gate, either. To each his own. I do have fond memories of Ultima 1 and Cave Man Ugh-Lympics, though…

  24. Chamomile says:

    The point about Drew Karpyshyn is the kind of thing that makes me think that we really need to have more of a movie star approach to making games instead of a studio approach. Studios can be infested by mediocre talent, but individuals are unlikely to produce work that is strongly divergent from previous efforts. Sure, some people are Alan Moore and become embarrassingly bad over time, but then there’s also Sid Meier, who has really consistent style and quality and since his name is plastered all over each of his games I know exactly who he is.

    Will Wright is similar. Spore was a huge misstep but laying aside the nightmarish DRM, it was an alright game that really could’ve shown with some iteration, which it might’ve gotten if it hadn’t been so stupid as to strangle itself with DRM controversy (I apologize in advance if this turns into a DRM thread). Was he involved with the latest SimCity? Because it would explain a lot if the reason it didn’t work out is because it wasn’t Will Wright’s SimCity.

    It’s one of the things I’d like to see Patreon make happen. A greater emphasis on what individuals bring to a team. On the other hand, I fear that an emphasis on a team might lead to an individual taking credit for a team effort.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Sure, some people are Alan Moore and become embarrassingly bad over time””

      Really?First time I hear anyone say that.

      But I agree with you.Having a game made by Person is better than having a game made by Company.Though there are exceptions,like valve,but thats only because the person on top is so awesome.

    2. Muspel says:

      Part of the problem is that many of the “movie star” developers have crappy track records when they become the face of a game, possibly because people are less willing to call them out when they’re doing something ill-considered.

      For instance, John Romero’s Daikatana, Peter Molyneux and the Fable series, etc.

      Quite simply, people tend to think that the greatness of a game is largely due to one person, even when it was a team effort. Was John Romero part of what made Doom great? Sure, but that doesn’t mean that if you put him in charge that he’ll make games that are just as good.

  25. Csirke says:

    I love how more than half the comments are about Baldur’s Gate :D I came down to the comments to complain, but I see now that it’s unnecessary.

    Anyway, how come you didn’t embed the Bioshock Spoiler Warning season into the post like you did with Skyrim? You hate that season too much?

    1. Rob says:

      I’m worried that he’ll try it and suffer severe hype backlash. It’s an awesome game (one of the best), but there’s no way it can live up to the reputation people have given it here.

      Or he’s going to try starting with the first one and be even more disappointed.

      Seriously, though, you can safely skip the first Baldur’s Gate. Everything relevant is explained in BG2, and BG1 is inferior in gameplay, story, characters, and even interface. Plus that whole ‘level 1 in D&D is its own circle of hell’ thing.

      1. Jonathan says:

        Yep. Beat BG2 tons of times. I tried BG1/TOTSC, and managed to kill Sarevok once. Chasing him down to the undercity is crazy hard and frustrating (DIAS traps).

        I did most of Durlag’s Tower, and totally didn’t find my way to werewolf island. I found the lack of detail on the map confusing, and there was too much meaningless travel time. BG2 handled it much better.

  26. MadHiro says:

    Alas, MOO3. I knew you well.

    It could have been great, but the suits were terrified of change.

    Stupid, stupid suits.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      That’s what you think went wrong? I never played it, but I was under the impression they changed it too much.
      I think I remember hearing a story about a designer on the project who was trying to make the game convey his libertarian ideals by creating an economy where minimal intervention by the player was the best approach.

      1. MadHiro says:

        As one of the people who worked on the game (albeit in a limited, throwing ideas at the people who were actually making it sort of way), the idea behind ‘rewarding minimal intervention’ was to cut down on required micromanaging. In a standard 4X game, it is always optimal to micromanage what every planet and unit you have is doing every turn to make sure you aren’t wasting a precious hammer. In multiplayer, the guy who won was usually the guy who was most down with tediousness.

        Thus, a new resource; Focus Points. Each turn, you only had so many of them, and ‘touching’ an aspect of the game cost them. Sure, you could go down into the planet view and completely choose what was being built, where citizens were allocated, the tax rate etc. etc. But you could only do that for a few planets a turn without running out of Focus Points.

        Instead, you could create a group of planets, like ‘The Core Worlds’, and issue an edict to them ‘All Core Worlds Focus On Infrastructure!’. And they would. So you could direct more planets at once for less Focus Points, but with slightly less granularity. Trade-offs.

        There were a whole slew of other changes, but that was the big one, I’d say. Hotly contested, hotly argued.

        I can’t tell you the reasons why the suits decided against sticking with the design document that had been on the table for ages; all I can tell you is that in the final stretch, basically all of the designers were sacked, the game was gutted and the Art Director was put in charge of game design.

        Thus, Moo3.

  27. Spammy says:

    Funny thing, at least as far as I understand the history, Killing Floor predates Left 4 Dead, having its roots in a mod for Unreal Tournament 2004. But it’s also probable that the retail Killing Floor, which came out after Left 4 Dead, wouldn’t exist without Left 4 Dead’s popularity. So… chicken and egg, I suppose.

    Because it’s required: Money money money! Who needed money? Loadsa money!

  28. Oh, boy! This means Zork made it into the top 8!

    1. Josh says:

      I’m going to try to avoid beating the dead elephant in the room, so I’ll just say it’s sad that the best Bioware can do lately is Dragon Age and its ilk. Clearly, regaining their past glory is very difficult.

  29. Ofermod says:

    I have to say, I’m impressed and gratified by the number of people here jumping in to defend Baldur’s Gate. It’s sad how many Bioware fans I know who have no idea those games existed, or if they do, have no desire to even consider thinking about playing them ever.

    1. Cilvre says:

      i’ve gotten 6 of my friends to try baldurs gate when i purchased it off of GOG for drm free, and all have gone out and picked up bg2 and icewind dale. I wish more would just try the game before writing it off as not as good or not as popular. It’s popular but the players are mostly playing games rather than defending it lol.

      1. Spammy says:

        I bought Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale off of GoG! And I thought that Baldur’s Gate was really boring and uninteresting and I didn’t make it more than a few hours in before I had to go play something that interested me more. Icewind Dale though did. I liked Icewind Dale, just re-installed it. Never re-installed BG.

        1. Supahewok says:

          The 2 BG games are radically different games. And a big part of that is the 2nd ed D&D rules system. In 2e D&D no class is very good until at least 3rd level, when you finally have enough hp that a stray critical hit won’t chunk you. So in BG you have to kinda creep carefully along until you get to that point, when the game opens up a lot. It also doesn’t help that the open world exploration is not that great, in my opinion. (I say that because I know of at least one person who loves it) It’s slow and makes it too easy for an inexperienced player to get killed by a wolf if they don’t strictly follow a certain path.

          BG2, on the other hand, starts off at 7th-8th level, which is where 2e is at its prime. Instead of an open world to wander around in, you just have specific locations to go to for a sidequest. And there are at least 10 very beefy sidequests in addition to the main story, and you are able to do almost any of them right after you’re out of the starting area. (I say almost because I wouldn’t go up against the dragon with a level 8-9 party, but hey, if you can make it work the option is open…)

          If you only tried BG1 and not 2, give 2 a try when you’ve got the extra disposable income for it. The main story is just as interesting but different, the party member dialog is greatly expanded, and it incorporates the sweet spot in the 2e level curve. The only thing you miss out on if you don’t play 1 are the stat bonuses from the tomes and the golden pantaloons, and the game plays just fine without them.

    2. Cinebeast says:

      But why is that sad?

      I’m one of those modern Bioware fans, and I’m not very interested in playing either BG game. Not because I think they’re overrated for some reason — no doubt they’re classics, and modern Bioware wouldn’t exist without them. But I don’t play every classic game out there; I don’t watch every classic movie or read every classic book, either.

      For me, “classic” Bioware doesn’t even extend back as far as Jade Empire. I played it, liked it well enough, and won’t play it again. I tried to play KOTOR, but it’s too old for me. I couldn’t get past Taris. (I think that’s what the tutorial planet was called.)
      If KOTOR is too old for me, what are the chances that I’d be able to enjoy either Baldur’s Gate?

      I simply missed my chance with those games. It’s a cliche to say it, but they’re “before my time.”

    3. Zekiel says:

      I am arriving three days late at the party and am also feeling gratified how much love for Baldur’s Gate 2 there is here. I do also feel sorry for Shamus about how many people have told him his “classic Bioware” comment is wrong though.

  30. Chris Robertson says:

    Do corrections even matter? Eh, as my dad was fond of saying “Here it is if you want it, and here it is if you don’t want it.”

    EDIT: That said, let me know if you want me to knock it off.

    In the Sim City secton: The next three games[1] we all fine entries Substitute “were” for “we”.

    In Left 4 Dead: It was fun and funny completely nailed the direct-to-cable action schlock vibe. Something seems to be missing between “funny” and “completely”. A conjunction, maybe? Perhaps a semicolon? I don’t know for sure.

  31. Coblen says:

    Bioshock is a wierd beast. I absolutly agree with every complaint that you bring against it, and yet it is still one of my favorite games.

    I think a big part is that the things it gets wrong are super easy to talk about, but the things it does right are more difficult to quantify. It just feels right. The combat just feels good whenever I play it. I’ve played it through several times, but I still pick up, and listen to all the audio logs becuase they sound good. The level design just feels good. From the layout to the style to the music, the posters, the decore. The complaints seem so big on paper. Terrible final boss, terrible ending, ect. But when you actually play it they have a lot less of an impact on how the game feels then you would think.

    1. Zekiel says:

      I think its the atmosphere. The sound design is good; the environment is *interesting* to look at; they do a good job of environmental storytelling sometimes. As Shamus points out, the water effects are impressive. Splicers with their weird mumbling feel like interesting bad guys. Rapture is an interesting place to explore, regardless of what the plot is about or whether the combat is good. (Personally I think the combat is quite annoying – being able to dual wield weapons and plasmids in Bioshock 2 made SUCH a difference)

  32. DaveMc says:

    “… and it has Baba Yetu” is an excellent reason to include anything on a list of any kind. I approve. The best Swahili Lord’s Prayer song ever recorded, by far.

  33. Lame Duck says:

    I remember really loving KotOR at the time, but after replaying it relatively recently I honestly think it’s a pretty bad game now. Part of the problem is Bioware’s aggressive reusing of the same characters and scenarios in all of their subsequent games has robbed KotOR of a lot of it’s uniqueness for me, but ultimately I think the reason I don’t like it anymore is the player character. As much as people (or at least the sort of people who create content and comments for this site) complain about Shepard not knowing whether she’s supposed to be a character or a player avatar, I feel like KotOR is way worse in that regard. I never felt like I had any agency over the choices that were being made except for light side points versus dark side points and yet the PC had absolutely no personality of their own and it makes the big ending revelation fall super flat for me. There didn’t seem to be any crisis of identity or introspection at all in reaction to the reveal, it was just another opportunity to dole out light or dark side points. It also wasn’t helped by none of the companions giving a shit either; they all already knew or just immediately accepted it.

    I really need to give Jade Empire another play and see if I still like that.

  34. Porecomesis says:

    I’ve been wondering; so that Bioshock wouldn’t end as a downer, how would you give it a satisfying conclusion that still fit with what came before?

      1. Porecomesis says:

        That is an excellent way to end it! I would have certainly liked to have played that. :D I wish my imagination was stronger to have conceived such a scenario.

  35. Adam says:

    Gonna throw my voice in with the chorus surprised at you not counting Baldur’s Gate as part of “Classic Bioware” Minsc and Boo ALONE are more interesting than any new character in ME3, and a fair number of characters in ME2.

    1. Supahewok says:

      EXCUSE ME.

      Minsc & Boo & LILARCOR are the ultimate butt-kicking for goodness team.

      Especially if you’ve got an NPC mod that gives Minsc and Lilarcor extra lines!

    2. Rob says:

      Don’t forget Jan Jansen. I fondly remember the scene where he’s telling one of his rambling, incoherent stories to a frustrated Viconia, and when she turns to you to make him stop you can join in on his story to annoy her further.

      You can find the conversation here, search for “So Viconia”.

      1. Jonathan says:

        WOW… I have never seen some of the conversations on that page.

        Obviously I need to go play another game with JJ in my party.

        1. Rob says:

          Jan’s great for personal entertainment, even if Edwin (or rather Edwin’s horribly broken personal item that grants him extra spell slots) overshadows Jan when it comes to picking a mage for the party.

          At least one of the dialogues on that page (the Imoen+Sarevok one) is actually from the Ascension mod by David Gaider, a Bioware writer who modded a bunch of cut content back into Throne of Bhaal. It doesn’t seem to be compatible with the Enhanced Edition, though.

          1. Zekiel says:

            Fortunately I always found it best to have two mages in every party (you can never really have enough Breach spells!)

            Of course that leads to one of the problems with BG2 – a party where four (or more) out of the six are spellcasters, giving you a completely overwhelming array of options in combat…

      2. Zekiel says:

        One of my frustrations with BG2 is that the companion banter doesn’t trigger often enough, so you even with the right combinations in your party you still don’t get to hear all the wonderful dialogues. They are pretty much my favourite bits of the game.

        (Apparently this is even more of an issue in Planescape Torment)

        1. Rob says:

          There’s a timer that dictates when the next interjection can occur. The worst part about this timer? It’s global, not save-based. If you save right before a dialog triggers and choose the wrong option, quickloading won’t give you another shot. You’ll have to wait the 20-30 minutes for the next timer interval to elapse. Luckily there’s a debug keystroke to start the next banter (control+shift+I with cheats enabled, IIRC).

          I believe the banter is also randomly selected from a pool of the ones you meet the requirements for. If you’re trying to progress in a companion’s plot arc before moving on to Spellhold this can become absolutely maddening.

          The BG2TweakPack has the optional component “More Interjections” that reduces the timer interval to something sane. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be compatible with the Enhanced Edition.

  36. Supahewok says:

    Hey Shamus, from Diecast 73: “These lists exist to either generate controversy or stroke your ego via reinforcing existing beliefs. They're shallow and meaningless and you should never get angry about them. And the last thing you should do is argue with it, because then you have to link it and reward shallow list-making behavior.”

    Consider mission accomplished, eh? :)

  37. Jonathan says:

    Kotor is Classic Bioware? KOTOR is the last Bioware game I’ve played, unless NWN came out after it.

    Classic Bioware is Baldur’s Gate II. KOTOR has less than 1/4 the replay value.

    Edit: I posted this before reading the comments. Sometimes people get ninja’d. I got hit with an academy’s worth of swordsages.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Heh, well put! :D

  38. RCN says:


    I kid. Though I would choose Alpha Centauri if I were deaf.

    And I raised an indignant finger when you chose Skyrim over Morrowind. Then you brought up Cliff Racers and I could do nothing but relent “good point”.

    To this day the most joy that the Elder Scrolls series as a whole gave me was when I had already completely broken the magic system of Morrowind (also known as about halfway point of a normal play through), then I created a big apocalyptic spell that caused all types of elemental damage in a huge radius for a LOOOOOOONG time… while conjuring several Daedras. Then I made a little trip through the Ashlands. As predicted, after walking for full sixty seconds I got eighteen dozen Cliff Racers pecking at my back.

    And that day was forevermore celebrated in Morrowind as “The Great Rejoicing”.

    1. Rob says:

      Saint Jiub, is that you?

  39. rayen says:

    as really mad about skyrim over morrowind until you mentioned cliff racers… and yeah i can actually see that.

  40. Pickly says:

    4x games are wierd for me, in that lots of games do lots of things well, but none seems to do all core elements well and put them together, so figuring out in my own head which is “best” can be tricky to do.

    For MOOII, for me personally, I’d say Galactic Civilization 2 and sword of the stars actually beat at, although each of these are a bit specialized away from certain areas (galactic civilizations with very simple combat, sword of the stars with very simple economy). Unlike most people, I didn’t flat out hate MOO3, just wish it had been done better (maybe a bit of simplifications on the mechanics they’d added, than make things easier for people to see/understand when playing.) Which is what some of the design documents seemed to point to, but oh well.

    On Civ IV: another big advantage is the huge variety of mods that came out for it and really made use of all the features.

  41. Someone says:

    Picture guesses:
    1 – Dungeon Keeper 2
    2 – Nethack
    3 – MOO2
    4 – TF2
    5 – Civ 4
    6 – Prince of Persia: Sands of time
    7 – Tomb Raider the reboot (oddly pixelated)
    8 – Duke 3d
    9 – Deus Ex
    10 – Star wars Tie Fighter
    11 – Pac Man deluxe edition that’s also on the list
    12 – Diablo 2

  42. John the Savage says:

    I was playing in the pit orchestra for a play a few months ago, and during mike checks one night, one of the singers sang Baba Yetu. I knew instantly that this was a guy I had to get to know.

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