Like its spiritual predecessor, #PlanescapeTorment, Torment: Tides of Numenera evokes a distinct brand of western roleplaying, the sort of story-dense, mechanically driven isometric experience I grew up loving.
But even if you’re not, as I am, captured by nostalgia and reliving your childhood when you delve into Torment, it’s a tremendous game, with unique systems driving both its combat and its storytelling, and tremendous depth in its setting and its rich and varied character
I’d forgive you, then, if you burned through its (admittedly ample) content during launch week, and are now hungry for something similar to fill that niche. If you’re looking for a similarly deep roleplaying experience with an interesting story and robust turn based combat, worry not, these three indie games will more than scratch that itch.
Pillars of Eternity
The first and most obvious recommendation is Obsidian’s excellent #PillarsOfEternity, another deep isometic RPG set in the grim fantasy world of Eora. In the role of Watchers, players are tasked with unraveling the mystery of the hollowborn, children born without souls, as well as the secret of their own awakening to a mystical, empowered state.
On the solid foundation of similar games like the aforementioned Infinity Engine titles, Pillars adds a number of its own unique spins. Instead of the traditional route of awarding experience points for slaying enemies, Pillars only reward players upon the completion of quests, meaning that approaches that emphasize stealth or diplomacy are just as viable as combat.
And Pillars also introduces a number of mechanics based on its central idea of the importance of the soul, such as the cipher class which can manipulate an opponent's soul or even wield as a weapon against them.
Pillars was a powerful statement about the viability of these kind of isometic RPGs in the modern market and continues to be one of the best-in-class.
Another Obsidian title, #Tyranny shares a lot of common DNA with Pillars of Eternity, but takes the formula established by its predecessor and other games in a similar vein and plays with it in curious and inventive new ways.
For one, Tyranny puts you in the shoes of the villain, a crony of the mighty Overlord Kyros who seeks to complete their total dominion of the world of Terratus as civilization progresses from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. But Tyranny also places unprecedented importance on decision making and the impact of the player’s choices, letting them drastically alter not only the events of the game but the shape of the world that results from their interference.
This decision making is evident from the very start of Tyranny, when players engage in a board-game like mode called Conquest where they shape how the land was conquered during Kyros’ various campaigns. Decisions players make during this phase, which ties in closely with character creation, echo throughout the game, affecting how other characters react to the player and mirroring the way that in-game decision making can also change the course of events.
Sequel to Brian Fargo’s legendary original, #Wasteland (the game that spawned franchises like #Fallout and defined, in many ways, western takes on turn-based roleplaying), #Wasteland2 takes place in a future United States shattered by meteor impacts and global nuclear war. Set in the deserts of the American southwest, Wasteland 2 tells the story of the Desert Rangers, an organization formed from a battalion of U.S. Army Engineers and survivalists.
After one of the Rangers disappears investigating a mysterious broadcast that speaks of the fusion of man and machine, the player’s character and their band of allies are sent to investigate, sparking a series of events that have wide-ranging consequences for the Rangers and the entire wasteland.
Wasteland 2 emphasizes some of the strongest parts of turn-based roleplaying, challenging players from the beginning with difficult combat scenarios and putting them at the head of a party of individuals each of which has their own personality and agenda. It’s a perfect modern follow-up to the storied original, and a fantastic way to scratch your isometric roleplaying itch.