Nov 22 2009
Although massively multiplayer games have received a lot of attention in recent years, there are still popular roleplaying games that focus on adventures for relatively small groups of players. They don't always provide persistent worlds and they often have single-player components. A recent trend has been to create 3D online hubs that serve as meeting places, from which groups of roughly 2-12 players run quests. In the tradition of Diablo, Neverwinter Nights, and Guild Wars, these games typically do not charge monthly fees for online access, although there are exceptions.
Guild Wars gives you an epic adventure akin to those of single-player classics and highly-competitive team PvP battles right out of the box, with no monthly fees. The graphics are terrific and the skill system is quite unique. The Trilogy set contains the original Guild Wars Prophecies, Guild Wars Factions, and Guild Wars Nightfall, each of which is a stand-alone game with a complete campaign. The Eye of the North expansion is not included, but there's still a heap of gaming here for the money. If you want quick action in an immersive world without the huge time commitment, this may be the game you've been looking for.
Based on D&D rules, Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach offers a virtual recreation of Eberron. Players meet in the city of Stormreach to run instanced quests for groups of up to 12. DDO has integrated voice chat, and they've added considerable content to the game since release, including more solo play and PvP. Sometimes classified as a MMORPG, Dungeons & Dragons Online is now also available free of charge.
The second game in a popular RPG series based on D&D, Neverwinter Nights 2 has a single-player campaign as well as a healthy variety of online options. The graphics have been upgraded and, once again, a toolset for building your own adventures is a central feature. So far it doesn't look like NWN2's online component will catch on to quite the same extent as its predecessor, but it's still worth a look for fans of this franchise.
The idea here was to incorporate 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons rules into a fully 3D isometric game engine, and they did an admirable job. Excellent multiplayer options, including a Dungeon Master client, support for up to 64 players, and very sophisticated building tools raised the bar for games of this kind. Some of the community is bound to move on to the sequel, NWN2, now that it's available. The Diamond Edition includes the original campaign and both expansions.
Dragonshard combines concepts from the real-time strategy genre with a Dungeons and Dragons form of roleplaying. On the surface you're constructing buildings and recruiting new units, while underground you're completing quests, gathering loot, and leveling up. The game is set in D&D's Eberron campaign, and skirmish-like matches can be held online for up to 8 players.
Nice 3D graphics and an extremely well-designed interface are two of this game's strongest qualities. The central feature is the linear single-player campaign, but up to 4 people can play on a LAN or using a direct Internet connection. Multiplayer options are rather limited and, unfortunately, there is no Neverwinter-like DM client.
A true hack-n-slash RPG, Diablo is one of the classic titles in this genre. Diablo 2 carries on the tradition, adding character depth and multiplayer support. Although frantic mouse clicking is still required, dedicated Diablo fans wouldn't have it any other way. Hooking up over Battle.net is a breeze and the community is still going strong, even though the game was released way back in 2000. The Battlechest is a huge compilation of all things Diablo, including Diablo 2, the original Diablo, and a bunch of expansions for both games.