Good scifi computer game(s)?
April 13, 2006 10:41 AM   Subscribe

I played various RPGs as a kid (D&D, Gamma World, Top Secret, Traveller) and later as an adult (most notably Alternity). My favorite RPGs are scifi. I don't have the time (or team) to play with now and would like to play on the computer. Care to recommend a good scifi (post-apocalyptic, space opera, trader-based or whatever) computer game or two? I'm especially interested in games that aren't just FPS.
posted by jdfan to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Traveller..... Dear lord that brings back memories.......

Galatic Civilizations II is very good. It takes a few games to get the hang of, but it's very good. Not RPG really. I think you'll like it.

For a game similar to those you mention (I can't believe some one else played Gamma World. You are blowing my mind) you might look into Eve Online. That's an MMO game but it has a real Traveller vibe. FYI - It also is rather hard to get up to speed on.
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:49 AM on April 13, 2006

EVE Online has been getting rave reviews amongst the stats geeks in my office -- it's similar to Traveller's deep space stuff. Keep an eye out for Tabula Rasa when it comes out. Another one on the horizon is Hellgate: London.
posted by frogan at 10:53 AM on April 13, 2006

For post-apocalyptic crpg's, I think Fallout and Fallout2 are the standard.

I still have the original edition of Gamma World somewhere too. It clearly influenced the Fallout developers.
posted by Zetetics at 10:55 AM on April 13, 2006

On the older game front, Fallout is a true classic post-apocalyptic game.

You may want to see this thread. It has some good freebies.
posted by blahblahblah at 10:56 AM on April 13, 2006

Oh geez, I'm forgetting about Perfect Dark Zero.
posted by frogan at 10:57 AM on April 13, 2006

Fallout, Fallout, Fallout.
posted by onalark at 11:00 AM on April 13, 2006

Do you have a Playstation 2? If not, it may actually be worth buying one to play Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo). It's my favorite RPG released in the past five years, easily.
posted by Prospero at 11:02 AM on April 13, 2006

EVE Online gets my vote.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:19 AM on April 13, 2006

X3 is also being well-regarded. It is a space exploration-trading-fighting game. Initially reviews were so-so due to a few balance issues, but a new patch is supposed to make it quite good.
posted by blahblahblah at 11:20 AM on April 13, 2006

Seconding the Fallout series. I prefer Fallout 2, but both are very good.

On top of that, try Arcanum, which has a Victorian-ish setting with sci-fi (super clockwork and steam tech) and fantasy elements.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 11:28 AM on April 13, 2006

Fallout, Fallout 2. Avoid Fallout Tactics and destroy those who came up with it.
posted by substrate at 11:38 AM on April 13, 2006

Fallout. Fallout 2 if you have to, but I prefer Fallout. Both are very good, and pretty much the most recent CRPGs made if you don't count all the horrid console-esque titles that are on the market these days, and the RP/FPS combinations that are so popular right now.

If you haven't played through the classics, you should do that now. The classics, of course, are:
  • Wasteland (available at arnold)
  • Mars Saga (also available at arnold)
  • the unforgettable Autoduel (Yep. You guessed it. arnold, although perhaps the Amiga version is better.)

  • posted by majick at 11:40 AM on April 13, 2006

    Oh, and I can't forget Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2.
    posted by CrunchyFrog at 11:40 AM on April 13, 2006

    This list is pretty well-worn territory, because there just aren't that many really good RPGs for PC and consoles.

    Fallout 2
    Planescape: Torment

    Knights of the Old Republic
    Knights of the Old Republic 2
    Jade Empire


    These last are FPSs, sure, but they're actually better at capturing the fun of tabletop rpgs than the others, I think.

    Here's an outside-the-box suggestion: Have you ever considered a Play by E-Mail (PBEM*) campaign? I've done a few, and they generally only take maybe an hour a week, but you get most of the open-endedness and much of the social aspect of playing with your friends.

    *I link to a Google search because the site I've used in the past,, doesn't seem to be loading, and may be down. I don't know what a good replacement site would be, but if you're looking to recapture the tabletop experience without the time commitment, I urge you to consider this option
    posted by Hildago at 12:27 PM on April 13, 2006

    I'm not sure how RPGish it is, but Freelancer is a fantastic trader-based/space opera game.

    You can even set up a persistent multiplayer world on a small server, and have your friends connect on private accounts. Of course, you lose the single-player campaign this way, but it is amusing to fly trading/pirate-hunting missions with your friends on your wing.

    For more pure-RPG types, the Fallout series are probably the best. Fallout 3 is in production at the moment as well.
    posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:34 PM on April 13, 2006

    Fallout and Fallout 2, absolutely. Also, Planescape: Torment. It isn't scifi but you need to play it considering your history with RPGs.
    posted by A Kingdom for a Donkey at 12:42 PM on April 13, 2006

    I have no answer, but I wanted to mention that I have several shelf-feet of Traveller books, sitting sadly unused. *sigh*

    Many of those old pen-and-paper games were pretty seminal and definitely influence a lot of the MMORPGs out there.
    posted by GuyZero at 12:43 PM on April 13, 2006

    Fallout 2 almost made me fail out of high school... I still don't regret it. Also Arcanum is worth checking out (who doesn't love a good steam punk RPG? No one, that's who).

    You might also be interested in the upcoming Auto Assault. I played the beta recently, and it was fairly awesome. It's not strictly an RPG, though, but it's definitely RPG flavoured (quests, xp, equipment, rare loot, etc). Also, it has guns, and things that explode. So that's good, too.
    posted by Drunken_munky at 12:54 PM on April 13, 2006

    Escape Velocity Nova will resonate with any Traveller player.
    posted by jjg at 1:24 PM on April 13, 2006 has a host of forum based RPGs. I don't know if they've got any sci-fi in need of players at the moment, but games start up not infrequently.

    Also, Fallout, Fallout2, Arcanum, all rock. play Fallout before Fallout2, or you'll miss some good jokes in the sequel.
    posted by Shutter at 1:29 PM on April 13, 2006

    For a cheap RTS, Homeworld is quite good, as is Starcraft. Homeworld was especially good at getting the feeling of space.

    Space Rangers 2 is an RTS/Turned based/Adventure hybrid that is quite nice.
    posted by zabuni at 1:47 PM on April 13, 2006

    Ugh. Leave Arcanum alone. It's got one of the coolest settings I've ever seen, and it would make an absolutely fantastic pen-and-paper RPG, but the actual programming and game mechanics are so wretched as to make it almost unplayable. A damn shame, really.
    posted by Faint of Butt at 1:56 PM on April 13, 2006

    If you want cheap, and you don't mind the idea of running a DOS emulator, then...

    I'm gonna give a shout out to the classics of computer RPG's. You want post-apocalyptic that really captures the feel of a throw-the-dice RPG, then you can't go wrong with Wasteland.

    Sure it's old. Sure the graphics are EGA. The story is fun, the character development is true to the spirit of table games, you control a whole party in turn-based combat. And, best of all? It's abandonware. Hoorj for free games!

    If you like that, another (lesser-known) sci-fi RPG from the same time period was Centauri Alliance. This one was from Michael Cranford, the creator of the influential Bard's Tale series. This one was ambitious and really good, featuring a unique hex-based battle map. For some reason, it slipped in and out of the game market almost completely under the radar. Pity, as it was a great game. Also abandonware.

    Yeah, you're not gonna get fancy 3D graphics on those, but if you're looking for sci-fi computer games that really accurately bring the feel of pen-and-paper, there you go.
    posted by kaseijin at 2:07 PM on April 13, 2006

    Worth noting as an addendum (as people mentioned it above) is that the Fallout series sort of grew out of Wasteland as the devs moved on to other companies when Interplay folded. While Fallout is a beautiful game, I still thing Wasteland feels more like pen/paper. Plus, it's free.
    posted by kaseijin at 2:09 PM on April 13, 2006

    ditto fallout, fallout 2.

    Worth noting as an addendum (as people mentioned it above) is that the Fallout series sort of grew out of Wasteland as the devs moved on to other companies when Interplay folded.

    Yeah but the fact that certain descriptions had to be looked up in a book/pdf/txt file makes it unplayable for me. that plus the ui is noticably aged...well let's just say it doesn't let you use a mouse as far as I can remember. Swapping inventory items around using keyboard alone sucks.

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned star control 2 despite it not being an rpg. remade as the ur quan masters. the original pc version is also around on various abandonware sites.
    posted by juv3nal at 2:56 PM on April 13, 2006

    Star Control 2 is indeed excellent.

    Another really GREAT game that's not widely known (yet) in the US is Space Rangers 2. They're apparently redoing it for a true US release... I believe this is the European import. The translations in this game are a little wonky (the actual devs are Russian, I think), and it uses StarForce copy protection, which really sucks.

    However, it's one of the best games I played all last year; it's a galaxy-in-a-box. Like most of these games, you start out in a wimpy ship and with wimpy weapons.... and there are also hundreds of NPCs starting pretty much the same way. And you are all competing with each other for money and resources, trying to get ahead. Some NPCs will turn to piracy, some will become merchants, some will work for planets as space patrols, some will hire out their services to the merchants.

    In the middle of all this is an overarching storyline, wherein the local sector is under attack from three different kinds of Mighty Evil Robots; at first, all you can do is run like crazy from them, but later in the game you can survive and even fight back. You can help defend systems against machine incursions, and get some good loot, if you survive. You can join up with strike forces that assemble to try to retake lost star systems, or possibly organize your own strikes. It's a sector-wide dynamic war, and your actions can make a significant difference, but you are by NO means the only force in the area that matters.

    There are a lot of different subgames in it too, from text adventures to arcadey other-dimensional combat to ground-based RTSes. (I kid you not). This thing probaby has a piece of every gaming genre except FPS, and somehow they all work together.

    Starforce sucks, but if you can swallow your bile long enough to get past it, Space Rangers 2 is a great game.
    posted by Malor at 5:42 PM on April 13, 2006

    Pretty much anyone on the planet who has not played Starcraft really should. (And, no, I don't work for Blizzard.)

    The following two aren't sci-fi, but Neverwinter Nights was good fun, using D&D rules, and Diablo 2 is pretty much 198-proof distilled PC RPG hack-n-slash joy, in a box.

    All are widely available on-the-cheap, fun, have good graphics, and should run really well on modern hardware.
    posted by blenderfish at 2:09 AM on April 14, 2006

    StarFlight II is probably my favorite space RPG. I played the Genesis version (available via emulation) when I was a kid but it was a port of the PC game.

    You can find information about the entire series (StarFlight, StarFlight II, and the long awaited StarFlight III) here.

    There were also two very good versions of Shadowrun made for SNES and Genesis. I vastly prefer the SNES version, but the Genesis one is supposedly more faithful to the pen and paper RPG. Both of these are available through the wonder of emulation as well.
    posted by ducksauce at 8:48 AM on April 14, 2006

    Thought I'd tack this on here for anyone interested: apparently Toys for Bob, developer of Star Control 1 & 2 (but not 3), is considering doing a true sequel to Star Control 2. (link to toys for's the april 11 news post, but the whole thing's flash so I can't point you straight at it).
    posted by juv3nal at 4:29 PM on April 16, 2006

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