Pillars of Eternity is the ultimate evolution of the Infinity Engine RPG to date. It only exists thanks to the groundwork laid by classics like Baldur's Gate. But rather than entirely excel at one particular facet of games from that era -- like the mechanical focus of Icewind Dale or the narrative excellence of Planescape: Torment -- Pillars of Eternity hits every note with all-around polish that wasn't possible in the 90s. Its story of evil cultists and missing souls is intriguing. Its combat is tactically demanding (at times gruelingly so). It's the total package.
Of the Diablo games, the third title in the trilogy will likely always have the most complicated legacy. First came the controversy about the game being too "colorful." Then there was the (more justifiable) ire over its real-money auction house. But with the games expansion pack, Reaper of Souls, came "Adventure Mode" -- a new and unlimited way to blast demons and grind gear. The semi-randomly generated missions deliver the series' (and the genre's) classic loot loop in its purest form. It's a final product well worth the early stumbles, even if some fans will never find room in their hearts for it next to Diablo 2.
If there's one thing Bethesda games do well, it's scale, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the biggest of the big. You could spend months just collecting every cheese wheel from the game's virtual pantries, or decoding the shout-y language of dragons to master their magic. There are guilds to join, monsters to hunt, potions to brew, and real estate to buy. Skyrim isn't so much an adventure you go on as a world you live in. And its viking-infused aesthetic makes it a much more intriguing world than its immediate predecessor, at that.
The entire Fallout franchise trades in one of the most unique aesthetics in games. It's post-apocalyptic retro-futurism with a flair for the absurd. But all of that is only a backdrop to ask questions about power: who wields it, how, and for what purpose? No game in the series does that better than New Vegas, in which bandits and raiders are tempered by sci-fi capitalists and neoreactionaries. You can also pal around with a half-amnesiac, eight-foot-tall, invisible grandma. New Vegas is all the very best parts of Fallout in one place.
If there's a single word for Undertale, it's "earnestness." The pixel art RPG sports an unforgettable cast of goofball monsters just living and loving the best way they know how. And while Undertale borrows heavily from 8-bit JRPGs, the emphasis is decidedly less about grinding and more about conversation. Killing creatures on your journey isn't forgotten -- or forgiven -- and instead the "best" way to play the game is to engage in minigames that let you see yet more of the game's bizarre, wholesome, and only fleetingly tragic world.
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