If you told Belgian developer Larian Studios that they were going to give new life to an entire genre that had been lying dormant since the release of a niche little game called Baldur’s Gate 2, they probably would’ve laughed at your face.
Or more realistically, given the ambition of the studio and the result of the same ambition, they would’ve told you they were going to do it regardless of past attempts.
And boy did they ever deliver.
Launched in Autumn 2017, Divinity instantly owned the market and was declared by many as the best game of that year, one that shaped and changed the perspectives and experiences of millions who played and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Unlike most other studios, Larian was brave enough to decide that they were going to go for the simple things. Find perfection in it.
And while no product is essentially perfect and none will be, Divinity comes pretty damn close, building off the legacy of Baldur’s Gate and the many that came before them.
With a rich, deep lore, revolutionary combat and build crafting system, and unscrupulous love towards the subgenre, Divinity is a sight to behold every step of the way.
In this article, we look at some of the other attempts at revamping a dying subgenre of RPG; the isometric adventures that ate away at our waking hours, just like Divinity 2, and for good reason.
Best Games Like Divinity Original Sin 2
11. Wasteland 2
Brian Fargo, when it comes to RPGs and more specifically alt-RPGs, is considered video game royalty.
And deservedly so, as he was behind almost every genre-defining isometric you could think of, including Fallout, and Planescape Torment, two of the absolute best ones.
So why was the Wasteland series so forgettable even after inspiring what came to be known as Fallout?
It is a shame, however, that the Wasteland series so far has never truly taken off with regards to mainstream acclaim, despite the fresh new ideas that Brian and his team over at InXile Entertainment put their collective faith in.
From the live-action opening to the innovative premise, and going with lines of text over big-budget voice acting to truly invoke a feeling of the days of CRPG glory, Wasteland 2 almost manages to do everything right.
We say almost because the game almost falls apart if you decide to pick a few aspects out of the ordinary, which for example include the lack of a sense of navigation. Exploration is rewarding, wandering is not.
Despite its shortcomings, however, Wasteland 2 is a brilliant callback to the core fundamentals of the isometric subgenre and is a great pick if you ever decide to go that route.
- Developer/Publisher: inXile Entertainment/inXile Entertainment
- Release Date: 19th September 2014
- Platforms: PC, MacOS, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
10. Torment: Tides of Numenera
Torment: Tides of Numenera is what happens when you take one of the greatest sources of inspiration for what you are trying to create, and then manage to attract the fancy of an audience that wasn’t around to experience the source.
While we could write whole theses on why you should still go back and play Planescape: Torment, Tides of Numenera provides for a solid, grounded, and well-written spiritual successor, while also admirably trying to set an identity of its own.
While the voice acting leaves a lot of quantity to be desired, or quality to be desirable, the amount of context you get through reading the massive amount of dialogue choices helps mitigate the tens of hours that you will spend just finishing the campaign.
What’s also interesting is that the titular tides are not just another attempt at setting quirk, but rather very closely affect how your gameplay experience is going to be.
And regardless of what ”tides” you choose to go towards, said gameplay experience is going to be very rewarding, especially if you are coming back from Planescape.
With a simple but charming cast of support characters, Torment is a great choice for veterans and newcomers alike to dip their toes into.
- Developer/Publisher: inXile Entertainment/Techland
- Release Date: 28th February 2017
- Platforms: PC, MacOS, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
09. Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem
Coming out of early access hell is a challenge that most newcomers to the industry face with their new titles, no matter the scale.
However, Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem, fortunately, was not one of them. But despite doing very well at launch, going up to more than 150,000 concurrent players, and having continued critical and commercial success keeping in mind the influence that Diablo had over it, Wolcen was plagued with numerous bugs, feeling really good and really unfinished at the same time.
But now, in 2021, the game is in an excellent state and has been for a while. The new update, Bloodtrail, brought with it a host of changes and is a great way to start afresh playthrough both for beginners and for longtime players of the game.
The new Bloodtrail mechanic is quite effortlessly added to the bulk of the game and is fairly satisfying to experience, with you randomly coming across a bloodtrail to follow to go on a hunt along with your new pet, another new mechanic that has been included.
All in all, Wolcen is a strong choice for anyone looking to get back into an ARPG, or a returning player looking for something to make their playthrough fresh.
- Developer/Publisher: WOLCEN Studio/WOLCEN Studio
- Release Date: 13th February 2020
- Platforms: PC
08. Last Epoch
Another up-and-coming early access game, Last Epoch is an isometric RPG that is evidence of the sheer amount of effort that the developers put and continue to put into it, with updated mechanics, graphics, balancing, the user interface, everything.
For a game to come out of a beta looking, feeling, and functioning this good is a testament to said effort.
More or less, Last Epoch takes a lot from its competitive predecessors, the much-acclaimed Path of Exile, and the controversial yet successful Diablo III.
Eleventh Hour truly isn’t just a promising dev team, they know exactly what a nostalgia-heavy, hungry audience wants.
The character customization, leveling, and overall grind are extremely calming and rewarding.
The 5 classes and 15 subclasses all come with their idiosyncrasies, and there are multiple builds that you can put your hours into.
Not only that, but each class and their included subclass has been designed with a fresh new perspective, both differing from and conforming to classic ARPG defaults.
Not many games are able to present their isometric game worlds with the amount of incredible depth that Last Epoch has.
- Developer/Publisher: Eleventh Hour/Eleventh Hour
- Release Date: TBD
- Platforms: PC, MacOS, Linux
07. Age of Decadence
Age of Decadence isn’t a normal RPG game. Borne off a divisive interview and determination to prove a point, Age of Decadence is the closest we can get to an isometric adventure that is made for the love of the isometric adventure.
Once you get past the drab, dull color palette that looks more like it belongs in a late-2000s shooter and the bland UI that offers nothing out of the ordinary, Age of Decadence really opens a vast majority of lore, choices, actions, and consequences to you, which makes it a goldmine of replayability.
The premise, which can be confusing to piece together, is that of a post-apocalypse meeting a neo-Roman empire, risen from the fall of the old one.
Similar to other RPGs, you select from eight different classes, well, classes not so much but backgrounds, and their subsequent professions.
Consequently, one might go the route of making their character entirely a pacifist, or a power-hungry brute.
Following the Imperial Scrolls, the game’s lore states that a war between two large factions claimed credit for the destruction of the world, and now much of the new one faces political turmoil amidst a fight for survival.
Don’t miss out on this one.
- Developer/Publisher: Iron Tower Studio/Iron Tower Studio
- Release Date: 14th October 2015
- Platforms: PC
Carrying on the trend of small-budget indie hits, UnderRail is another extremely nuanced RPG that proves that photorealism and visual quality are two different concepts from two different schools of aesthetics.
And if you haven’t noticed already, UnderRail takes a lot of its nuance via Fallout, the game that successfully propagated this whole trend (apart from Wasteland, which started it).
Much like the world of Metro, the inhabitants of the eponymous UnderRail cannot populate the surface because of it being rendered unfit for habitation, and similar to every post-apocalyptic setting ever, the intense political and human struggle lays the foundation for the game’s burgeoning and solid narrative.
But unlike the games that it is based upon, UnderRail gives you no context or explanation as to why this world is how it is; that is something you will have to figure out on your own.
That might deter a few who like context to motivate their action, but in a general sense, you should absolutely have no trouble piecing together the story of the game via the various dialogues and whatnot.
A great spin on the classic but tired apocalyptic genre, UnderRail combines a fresh mix of ideas with great style.
- Developer/Publisher: Stygian Software/Stygian Software
- Release Date: 18th December 2015
- Platforms: PC
05. Pathfinder: Kingmaker
Russian studio Owlcat Games didn’t establish their name to much fanfare, which was to be expected given the buggy nature of their first D&D-inspired game, Pathfinder: Kingmaker.
This 2018 release was the result of years of dedication and hard work, however, Owlcat simply wasn’t going to let this be their legacy.
Freedom can be scary. As gamers, we’ve been accustomed to a level of hand-holding that is simply unprecedented in most other forms of entertainment.
The thing with Pathfinder is that it retains and foregoes that concept at the same time.
You’re given multiple, and I mean a myriad of choices when customizing exactly how your experience is going to be. The difficulty scalar is not only a warning but a line in the sand.
The game tells you that you need to have a certain amount of skill and sustainable RPG experience to get through the grueling campaign that can easily go from 80 to 110 hours on a single playthrough.
Now, no matter what technical difficulties the game might have suffered at launch, it is a love letter to the Pathfinder lore, Dungeons and Dragons lore, and the CRPG subgenre in particular.
The level design and combat cover the basics and then some, and the world is as rewarding as it is unforgiving.
Pathfinder offers two main modes of gameplay, one is through real-time pausing and resuming, and the other is through a turn-based combat system.
But the fun does not stop there. Pathfinder is probably the only isometric game I have ever seen that offers you a deep and rich world-building experience, with chaos and diplomacy at your discretion, as you see fit.
The player character customization is as tunable as the gameplay, and you meet some really interesting characters returning as well as original characters throughout your journey.
The story begins with your player character being recruited by the monarch of Restov, Jamandi Aldori, with your task being to hunt down the Stag Lord and remove him from his position of wrestled authority.
What follows is the closest experience that you can get to a standard D&D pen and paper game.
Pathfinder knows what the fans want and how to deliver it and makes sure that they religiously follow the source material along with adding some of their own flairs.
Quite obviously inspired by Neverwinter Nights and other trailblazing RPGs of the same sort, Pathfinder is an excellent addition to your virtual D&D collection, that is if you decide that the difficulty scalar isn’t above your p(l)ay grade and the immense customization is something you can find yourself lost in.
- Developer/Publisher: Owlcat Games/Deep Silver
- Release Date: 25th September 2018
- Platforms: Linux, PC, MacOs, PS4, Xbox One
- Metacritic Rating: 73
- Final Rating: 81%
Pathfinder: Kingmaker is available on Steam and Amazon.
04. Disco Elysium
Tell me how many times you’ve heard this setting in a video game; a society on the brink of collapse, a land infected through physical or moral means, a mystery that needs solving to unlock the secrets of said land, a protagonist who has no idea how they got to where they are, and characters that have fully embraced the chaos within them, and without.
Disco Elysium wasn’t the first thing on your mind. It was Dishonored, or maybe the Rocksteady Batman games.
But let us tell you how Disco takes all of those painfully cliched elements and manages to design the function of a strategic tabletop RPG around them.
Ever since the days of yore, chanting the success of titles like the original Baldur’s Gate and PlaneScape: Torment was a common practice even amongst fans of the neo-modern consumerist cinematic RPGs like Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
But the faithful always remain faithful, and this faith was seen in ZA/UM, as two recovering alcoholics brought forward their experience and passion for storytelling into ‘steampunk D&D.’
What’s even more interesting is that the game even finds a way to integrate technical real-world aspects and explains them away in the lore.
The usage of real-world limits is fantastic, with the explanation being that the islands, or isolas as they are called in the game, that you and the others inhabit are separated by the Pale, a barrier which when crossed can render you insane.
Disco is an oil-painted dystopia, and as much of a dystopia as Cyberpunk 2077 presents itself as.
But the difference between most tabletop RPGs and Disco isn’t what the setting is, it is the fact that it is so seamless.
The game never lets you notice that this is just fabricated chaos and a simulated mystery that you are a part of; this is instead a very real story, and you are very really invested in it.
At least that’s what they mostly succeed at throughout the long runtime of the game, which sees your player character explore the world of Elysium through their amnesia-riddled eyes.
And with such strong symbolism already established, it’d be wise to not think that is a Travolta simulator, wouldn’t it?
Well, disco here is Latin for ‘I learn’, i.e., you as the player uncover the mysteries and secrets of the world of Elysium through the lens of treachery, debauchery, and macabre humor.
What keeps you hooked then, is you and your fellow characters’ efforts to solve a riddle that belongs more in a BlackSad comic, which is basically perfect for the atmosphere that Disco tries to build around you.
If you’re looking to take a break from medieval fantasy but are still strongly connected to isometry, look no further than Disco Elysium, for it is as breathtaking as BioShock on drugs and as interesting and deep as Baldur’s Gate.
- Developer/Publisher: ZA/UM / ZA/UM
- Release Date:
- Platforms: PC, MacOS. PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series S/X
Disco Elysium is available on Steam and Amazon.
- Metacritic Rating: 91
- Final Rating: 96%
03. Pillars of Eternity
If Baldur’s Gate 2 was the valiant last stand for the CRPG subgenre, and Divinity was the torch to carry it forward into the mainstream, then Pillars of Eternity was the bridge that allowed this transaction to happen.
The first truly great isometric RPG to come after they saw the collapse and got turned into international console-friendly blockbuster romps, Pillars of Eternity is a whole generation beyond Baldur’s Gate, and yet is the reason games like Pathfinder: Kingmaker and DOS2 even saw the light of day.
And the game couldn’t have found itself in better hands than Obsidian Entertainment, long known for their experience and prowess in top-down role-players such as Fallout 1 & 2.
The crowdfunded project raised a lot of eyebrows, attention, and money as they set the release date, known only as Project Elysium back then.
Raising over 4 million dollars was the most that Kickstarter as a platform had ever seen, and this was hardcore evidence that this was the right job, and Obsidian were the right people for it.
Pillars of Eternity did more than it was supposed to. Receiving universal critical and commercial acclaim upon release, it was one of the few games that lived up to the hype that crowdfunding brings.
And not only did the CRPG genre get a boost to its lifeline, the success of this game also directly resulted in Obsidian continuing to function and going on to make more hit titles such as The Outer Worlds.
The gameplay, setting, and level design were spitting images of the inspiration that Obsidian took from titles such as PlaneScape Torment and Baldur’s Gate, a recurring name in this article, and quite rightly so.
The faithful recreation of a dynamic system with a static image serving as a level in the backdrop evoked a lot of nostalgia for older players and gave newer players some perspective into what the old school used to be like.
Your usual RPG affairs are also present here, with the deep character customization system including multiple races each with their own fundamentally different functions and skill trees that require careful consideration and are incredibly rewarding at the same time.
What you get is real-time-with-pause tactical isometric gameplay.
The plot sets you off into the world of Eora as a Watcher: a being that can connect and communicate with souls, tasked with either the survival or the destruction of these souls upon the game’s ending, depending on the choices that they made throughout the game.
Pillars of Eternity paved the way for a new generation to breathe new life into a genre that was fading away in the interest of hardcore action-focused RPG titles and did it in style.
A single playthrough can last you for tens of hours and is one of the most complex and fulfilling experiences that the industry has seen to date.
- Developer/Publisher: Obsidian Entertainment/ Paradox Interactive
- Release Date: 26th March 2015
- Platforms: PC, Linux, MacOS, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Pillars of Eternity is available on Steam and Amazon.
- Metacritic Rating: 89
- Final Rating: 92%
02. Dragon Age: Origins
Our only fully 3D game in this list, Dragon Age carries such significant weight that it must be included in any RPG game list today, and any discourse on how the genre shaped the industry.
One of the genuinely great games before the Purge of the CRPG for reasons discussed above, Dragon Age Origins shows you exactly how ruthless and punishing it can be.
Things go south as soon as you begin your journey after spending hours creating your perfect character.
As you can guess from the name, Dragon Age: Origins is your origin story, and a brilliantly paced one at that.
A natural disaster known only as the Blight has infested the world, and it is up to you to slay the Archdemon and stop the blight from happening.
Coming along on your journey is a host of support characters who fight alongside you and NPCs that you can interact with. A fairly simple incentive, right?
The charm of Dragon Age lies in the scale that it presents to the player. No matter how dire the situation is, it provides you with the necessary means to tackle it every time.
And everything in the game reflects that, from the gameplay where you have one function and you can rely on your allies, to the immensely inclusive dialogue, never letting you feel alone or left vulnerable in unforgiving times.
Throughout your journey, you meet your regular fare of medieval fantasy creatures such as spiders bigger than oak trunks, actual walking oak trunks, darkspawns, and ghosts.
AI-controlled companions that you can recruit are passable if not groundbreaking mechanics, and you can pause the game in real-time to issue orders to your companions in and out of combat.
The excellent sound design is the cherry on top. Inon Zur, celebrated Israeli American composer, masterminded the dark, gritty, and booming orchestra soundtrack to symbolize the stakes that a player is truly part of.
It is no surprise that one of the tracks went on to win Best Original Song at the Hollywood Media and Music Awards & Conference in 2009.
Released to critical and commercial fanfare, Dragon Age: Origins made ripples in the industry.
The pedigree of Bioware seems vast now, but the amount of pressure they overcame to achieve what is known as simply one of the best games like Divinity Original Sin 2, and of all time, is both admirable and unfathomable.
- Developer/Publisher: BioWare/EA
- Release Date: 3rd November 2019
- Platforms: PC, Linux, PS3, Xbox 360
Dragon Age: Origins is available on Steam and Amazon.
- Metacritic Rating: 91
- Final Rating: 98%
01. Baldur’s Gate 2
When we say that Divinity and games like Divinity 2 wouldn’t ever have existed if it weren’t for Baldur’s Gate 2, it just goes to show how much of an impact Bioware has made on the industry, and how big a role they have in providing inspiration to one of the best games to ever exist.
Developed on the Infinity Engine, the game introduced a lot, and we mean A LOT of changes to the structure, story, and gameplay.
Known widely as one of the best to ever be made, the expansion to the original game,
The Throne of Bhaal introduced a lot more to it, and for reference, that’s as much content as both the Witcher 3 DLCs combined.
Staggering. Although there was criticism that the expansion was cramming hundreds of hours into a single campaign, hardcore fans were glad to see such love towards Dungeons & Dragons.
The appeal of Baldur’s Gate wasn’t the possibility of an 80-hour campaign, which they delivered on obviously, but that there was more than an incentive, more than a drive, more than a desire to see the entire thing through.
There was commitment behind the world-building, as Amn and Tethyr looked and felt very much like real places with real people, real interests, and real stories behind their existence.
The plan with the second installment was simple; fix the repetitiveness of the first game, introduce more dynamic map design, and try to cram as much depth and complexity into the game as possible while balancing player attention.
All the ‘levels’ needed to be flexible and provide some kind of meaning to the player, quests needed to introduce sufficient narrative-based incentives rather than just being about the cool loot that players could get.
Along with that, technical aspects of the game were revamped, as visual elements taken from the first game were outdated, and sandbox changes such as player movement and dialogue had massive overhauls as well.
Finally, the much popular Bioware romance system was introduced, and we know how much of a success story that was.
Baldur’s Gate is mostly condensed inside Amn, with much of the story continued from the first game.
You, as the player character and your companions, are captured. While being in captivity, you are experimented upon, as ‘he’ speaks of you being someone of a higher power and a higher calling.
The plot begins simply enough, most of the runtime sees your party chase down and defeat the wizard that had you in captivity, Irenicus, and complete quests along the way introducing most of the guilds and factions in the game, such as the Cowled Wizards and the Shadow Thieves.
A beautiful experience even more than two decades later, Baldur’s Gate and Bioware are the reason D&D gained such massive popularity in mainstream video gaming, winning multiple game of the year awards from publications such as IGN and Gamespot.
This is the best game like Divinity Original Sin 2, or should we say the other way instead?
- Developer/Publisher: BioWare/Black Isle Studios
- Release Date: 21st September 2000
- Platforms: PC, MacOS, Linux
- Metacritic score: 95
- Final Rating: 97%
The Enhanced Edition of Baldur’s Gate 2 is available on Steam and Amazon.
Innovation comes at a price. The price is sacrifice and faith. A sacrifice of conservative belief when it comes to artistic responsibility, and faith that this sacrifice will not be in vain and alienate an already existing fan base with strong opinions and even stronger decision-making power. But these are the games that stepped beyond the norm to produce some of the best experiences, paving the way for CRPGs today.