seeking non-grindy videogames with excessive cutscenes, good voice acting & good writing
February 8, 2010 5:35 PM   Subscribe

I enjoyed the hell out of Dragon Age: Origins and am looking for more games like it. Platform: PS3, Mac. TL;DR list of likes/dislikes in game after the jump.

I've always been more of a JRPG fan than one of Western games, because I prefer games that have interesting party members, romantic subplots/sidequests, and aren't very hard.

The stuff that I like about Dragon Age, in order of importance:
-Romance options. Particularly gay ones. For both sexes. (I'm still irritated that the prostitutes in Neverwinter Nights would only sleep with partners of the opposite sex. Also, that is the only thing I remember about Neverwinter Nights.)
-Voice acting. I've never played a game that was entirely voice acted and that bothered to hire more than four people to do the voices. (I'm looking at you, Bethesda.)
-Funny, snarky characters. (I'm a veteran player of the Tales Of series, with my favorite being Tales of the Abyss PURELY because of the inclusion of Jade-- having someone who walks around lampshading how ridiculous stuff and making fun of the entire cast makes me adore games.)
-Piles o' cutscenes. Bonus points if they're voiced by good actors. (Saints Row 2's use of Eliza Dushku and Neil Patrick Harris is great, as is LittleBigPlanet's use of Stephen Fry. I'm a sucker for those big geek names in my games.)
-Subversion of standard genre cliches (read: thank god for dwarves that aren't Scottish and make shitty booze)

Stuff that I tend to dislike in other RPGs/games with RPG elements:
-Grinding. I adore the main quests in the Final Fantasy games-- I'm a huge sucker for the ridiculously cliche, angsty main character, but I refuse to spend that much time in random battles. This is alleviated to an extent when the other characters give interesting commentary during the random battles, or when the random battles are followed up by interesting cutscenes, as in DAO. (A game only loses half the amount of points if they make you grind but allow you to cheat; I wouldn't have even bothered finishing NWN if I hadn't been able to give my characters a pile of extra levels with cheat codes. It's also fine if it lets you change the difficulty so you can get by with lower-level characters.)
-Sandbox RPGs with no personality. I like running around in games like Oblivion and Morrowind-- it amuses me for a little while-- but there's no real advantage to running around there instead of in, say, Saint's Row 2, where the characters have personality and I can blow up cars.
-Turn-based fighting systems. I'm totally happy to play with the Gambits/Tactics style systems where you get some control over character AI. (Skies of Arcadia was an amazing game, but I don't have the patience to play games where you can get up and make yourself a cup of tea while your characters all stab the bad guy and you get stabbed in turn.)
-Being too hard. I am too stupid for Legend of Zelda. I love Portal but I need to have someone else there to help me with puzzles or a walkthrough. I have no shame in using walkthroughs-- and I need them even for games that Are Not Hard (Tales of Symphonia, Wind Waker), but I hate having to have one open for an entire dungeon. (I had to do this for the Fade part of the Circle quest in DAO, it's my least favorite part of the game.)
-Being too twitchy. I can't play Half Life 2 for more than about 20 minutes without getting scared. I never developed the FPS mentality that makes people not jump out of their seat when someone comes up behind you and makes a noise. (Most horror games are, unfortunately, out for this reason, but if there are any that lean more toward psychological horror rather than zombies coming out of the walls, I'd be glad to hear of them.)

Bonus points for:
-Map/quest markers, especially when you can place them yourself and you can see them outside of their immediate area (as in Oblivion.)
-Quick travel
-Short dungeons
-Girls that don't have boobs the size of my head
-A good synopsis/quest log (most games have this these days)
-Local co-op
-Volume control of sound effects/music/volume separately (again, most modern games have this)
-Ability to control each member of the party individually while the AI takes care of everyone else
-Having a fandom (I tend to lean toward games that people are able to get *totally obsessed* with)

I don't have any setting (fantasy/sci-fi/whatever) preferences, and I'm totally content playing games where you're forced to play a premade character (JRPG style). Older games are great too. (Please not Icewind Dale-- I like the fighting system, but after I got over the fact that I could name my party members after different types of fruit I got bored with their lack of personality.) I've been told that Mass Effect might be the kind of thing I'd enjoy, but I'm so unfamiliar with the "action RPG" genre that I'm not sure if I should go for that.

(I know there's a similar question that's been asked before, but my preferences are pretty different-- I adore sci-fi and am on a different platform.)
posted by NoraReed to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (25 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Correction: I just figured out that Mass Effect isn't available for PS3 or Mac. So never mind on that one!
posted by NoraReed at 5:41 PM on February 8, 2010

You basically described Fable II. It even has Stephen Fry.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 5:59 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I should give you some details. Male/female character options, and you can sex up characters of either gender regardless of your choice. The combat system is very simple Some hardcores complained it was too simple. Whatever, I thought it was fun. The dungeons (I use the term loosely, there aren't dungeons so much as quests that take you different places) are fairly short and straightforward. While there aren't map-markers like Oblivion, there's a handy little trail that tells you where you need to go next for your quest, and you can control it's brightness to suit your needs at the time.

It's got quick travel, but I think it's kinda light on your other bonus options. The setting is pretty generic fantasy, but it's aware of what game it is and has a pretty good sense of humor about itself.

Basically: Rent Fable II, I think you'll dig it.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 6:05 PM on February 8, 2010

I don't think Fable II is available for either the PS3 or the Mac.
posted by curse at 6:09 PM on February 8, 2010

Best answer: i can only think of older stuff so apologies if you've already played these. gonna assume that you've played bioware's previous offerings.

have you played the shadow hearts series? it's one of my faves, and if you have a ps2 you should definitely grab shadow hearts & shadow hearts 2. shadow hearts 3 was only ok. has got your share of fantastic snarky characters, a fun battle system. also love suikoden 2 & 3

both parts of persona 2 were fantastic but i'm not sure if they were both released in the US? not sure, i played them in japan.

i also liked the summon night games, but again, not sure if those were released in english.

you can play the penny arcade games on mac and they're pretty amusing. it cracked me up that you kill mimes AND hobos. so wrong.

(do you like adventures games? indigo prophecy was fantastic (cutscenes, great acting, romance)- if you have a ps2 you should definitely grab a hold of that one. there's a battle system, but not in the way you'd expect. you'd probably also enjoy the studio's upcoming 'heavy rain' on ps3.)
posted by raw sugar at 6:12 PM on February 8, 2010

They don't fit all of your extremely specific criteria but you should play fallout 1 and 2 because they are awesome.
posted by tehloki at 6:30 PM on February 8, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, I'd highly recommend going the bootcamp route and playing both Mass Effect and Jade Empire, both previous efforts from Bioware have all of things you love about DA with less grinding.
posted by Oktober at 6:31 PM on February 8, 2010

I imagine other Bioware games like Mass Effect 1 and 2 or Knights of the Old Republic would fit the bill. Mass Effect 2 has less of the elements you dislike. Less grinding, no inventory, etc.

You'll probably also like Fallout 3 as its a similiar style game, but slightly more focused on battle. The characters and the world it builds is pretty incredible.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:33 PM on February 8, 2010

Best answer: You'll probably also like Fallout 3 as its a similiar style game, but slightly more focused on battle. The characters and the world it builds is pretty incredible.

i pretty much could've written this question (except for the zelda part, as i love all zeldas) and i have to say that, like me, you will probably hate fallout 3. i loved fallout 1 & 2 very much back in the day and fallout 3 is a different game entirely, it's basically a fps and thus not enjoyable to me in the least.

you might want to consider getting a ds, as it's got lots of wonderful rpgs you will probably love. granted, the cutscenes are not so wonderful on the tiny screens and there is little to no voice acting, but man, when the games are good they are so good.

as an aside: being super picky about what i'm willing to play more than an hour or two of, i've found that a gamefly membership's pretty great because i get to test stuff out and just mail it back to try something else immediately if i don't like it.
posted by lia at 8:05 PM on February 8, 2010

Best answer: You could just get Bootcamp for your Mac and then you can play any PC game, like Mass Effect, which seems to fit all of your criteria.
posted by kenliu at 8:20 PM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: I have not played Bioware's previous offerings, I'm honestly not sure where to start with them. I played Neverwinter Nights back when Megatokyo was good and I found it pretty boring.

On Fable II: How... character-y are the other characters? I know that you have the ability to romance other characters but from what I'd heard the characterization was... more Sims-y. That might be more Fable I than II though. Do you get an adventuring party in II? Are they funny?

On Bioware's other offerings: What should I start with? Given the elements that I like of DOA and other games, should I start with Jade Empire, Mass Effect or KOTOR? I can probably do bootcamp for PC games, so assume those are options.

I'm not sure if I like adventure games-- I haven't played anything that's classified as that, I don't think. Unless Zelda qualifies.
posted by NoraReed at 8:51 PM on February 8, 2010

I would start with KOTOR. I think it is the most similar to Dragon's Age. Also it's my favorite!
posted by meta87 at 8:55 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bioware's Baldur's Gate and Especially Baldur's Gate 2 has a lot of what you are looking for except for the cut screens. It's got romance options (the base game comes with just straight options but there are many gay mods), snarky characters with lots of dialogue, many more than 4 voice actors.

They are definitely older though so the graphics are very dated, but I still find BG2 to be one of the most fun games I've ever played.
posted by Bonzai at 9:34 PM on February 8, 2010

(It's PC btw, so I was assuming you are considering Bootcamp since you marked it as a best answer)
posted by Bonzai at 9:35 PM on February 8, 2010

Best answer: I've always been more of a JRPG fan than one of Western games, because I prefer games that have interesting party members, romantic subplots/sidequests, and aren't very hard.

Wow, I never thought I'd hear someone comparing JRPG's to Western RPG's favourably in terms of character development.

I'm also surprised no one has mentioned Baldur's Gate 2 yet. It is also Bioware, and is arguably, along with the expansion (Throne of Bhaal), the best RPG ever made. It is especially surprising given you mentioned Icewind Dale. Icewind Dale was made after Baldur's Gate, and uses the exact same engine only in Icewind Dale the dungeon crawling/combat was the focus and the story was an afterthought, while Baldur's Gate has probably best writing of any RPG ever made.

You really owe it to yourself to check it out, despite the dated graphics.
posted by paradoxflow at 9:47 PM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: @paradoxflow I think the switch from Skies of Arcadia to Morrowind scarred me as a child.

I'll probably go for KOTOR and BG2, then. Do I need to start with BG1 in order to get the full experience out of BG2?
posted by NoraReed at 9:56 PM on February 8, 2010

Baldur's Gate 2. Baldur's Gate 2 and, uh, Baldur's Gate 2. (BG1 is good, too. It's a little creakier. BG2 starts exactly where BG1 ended, but it brings you up to speed. I'd just read about it). If you like those, look into Icewind Dale 1 & 2. Fallout 1 & 2 and Arcanum also fall into this category.

Mass Effect 1/2. KotOR is beyond good. KotoR 2 is not that great.
posted by GilloD at 10:13 PM on February 8, 2010

Do I need to start with BG1 in order to get the full experience out of BG2?

posted by Bonzai at 10:19 PM on February 8, 2010

There's a reasonable chance that Mass Effect 2 will be coming out for the Mac; all of my DLC for the game on my Bioware account says "PC/Mac".
posted by Remy at 4:31 AM on February 9, 2010

If you're going the bootcamp route, a couple more must-play classic PC RPGs are Planescape: Torment and VTM: Bloodlines.
posted by Bodd at 5:29 AM on February 9, 2010

Just to make sure, before you go the bootcamp route (which I also use and is grrrreeeattt)....I'm pretty sure it requires an intel-based Mac (just in case you have an older one)

Vampire Bloodlines is one of the best cRPGs I played in years. I played through it 3-4 times which is unheard of for me. You do NOT have teammates for it, but the dialogue and characters make up for it. It is pretty combat heavy though. A couple of notes: If you do get it, play through it at least twice. Once as a Malkavian and once as anything else (not in that order necessarily). Second make sure you ferret out the patch or cheat console code. It had a game breaking bug near the late middle.

Also, check out STEAM....which is NOT a game, but a store/game service thingie from Valve. I've found some old games that I'd missed (having been a Mac user for years) for very little money and a few games I'd not heard of at all.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 6:16 AM on February 9, 2010

fallout 3 is a different game entirely, it's basically a fps and thus not enjoyable to me in the least.

I compltely disagree. F3 is a world-building game. It creates an incredible world with lots of history and interesting characters. The story is excellent and many, many steps above your typical FPS. Its not more combaty than Dragon Age, which has a lot of combat itself. DA is one of the few games where the combat got so annoying for me I had to turn the difficulty down to easy. I didnt have to do this with F3.

If anything F3 has the benefit of not managing two AIs all the time as well as your PC. In F3 you'll be able to pair up with one AI but you dont need to micromanage them or worry too much about them. For most of the game you'll be alone.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:44 AM on February 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Planescape: Torment. Same as Baldur's Gate 2 as far as gameplay, but story and depthwise, even better. One of the best games ever made.
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:30 PM on February 9, 2010

I'm all kinds of pleased to see other girl gamers on here, and we appear to have similar tastes and a console in common, so I'm chiming in late to mention a few games which might not fit your criteria, but you might enjoy if you haven't heard of them before.

Thinking about older games, if you haven't tried the Kingdom Hearts series or Psychonauts, you should at least give 'em a try. They're definitely more action-adventure type games rather than RPGs, but they're both oozing with character, have excellent voice acting, piles of cutscenes, and they're not too hard. For brilliantly written characters, Psychonauts is a particular treat, as is the company's earlier adventure game offering, Grim Fandango. If you're not all that familiar with old-school adventure games, man oh man, there's a whole amazing world just waiting for you, chock-full of brilliant writing and ancient graphics!

For more of a JRPG route, I really loved Persona 4. It's turn-based and can get a little bit grindy, but there are tons of great-voice acted characters, and a whole passel of romantic options. It's mostly heteronormative, but there's definitely some boundary pushing, which I appreciated.

For newer games on the PS3, the Uncharted games don't really have any of the RPG-ish elements you were looking for, but they're really pretty games, with outstanding voice acting and tons of cut scenes. They're more like interactive movies, but they'd be worth a rental if you're into cinematic games. I also liked Eternal Sonata, which is about as JRPG as it gets, but it's definitely turn-based and kinda slow. BUT it does have a lot of decently fleshed out characters, reasonable voice acting, and gads and gads of cut scenes.

I could probably go on for days, so I'll cut myself off here, but feel free to memail me if you're looking for a female PS3 buddy.
posted by Diagonalize at 1:08 PM on February 9, 2010

I suck at FPSes. I didn't make it halfway through Half-Life 1. Fallout 3, at least on normal difficulty, isn't very FPS-y: the enemies are almost always in front of you. If you're careful and use your map, you'll almost never be surprised. For the first few levels you'll sometimes run out of AP and have to rely on some FPS skill, but you soon get good weapons and plenty of AP.

On Casual, with maximum auto-aiming, Mass Effect also isn't very FPS-y. It's a silly space opera though. I also found the camera going from 3rd person to 1rst person unsettling at times.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:35 PM on February 10, 2010

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