Back in the late 90s through the early 2000s, a style of role playing game called “isometric” was popular. This means the games were top-down with a slightly slanted view point and had 2D hand-painted backgrounds.
The most popular, like the Baldur’s Gate trilogy and Icewind Dale, were set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, and are often referred to as a group as the “Infinity Engine games,” because they used a game engine called “Infinity.” These are still remembered as some of the best fantasy role playing games of all time by the RPG community.
The games were known for their in-depth, complex stories, tactical combat, and memorable characters. As one plays the games multiple characters are controlled, with different types called “classes” like fighter, mage and thief, up to six in your “party.” Sometimes all the characters are created by the player, and sometimes they are NPC’s with scripted dialog that interact with the player.
Eventually, as graphics and computers improved this style of game faded out of fashion, in favor of 3d first person games. Now the isometric role playing game is starting to make a comeback, with classics Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale getting reboots as “Enhanced Editions,” and three original games coming soon. First, “Pillars Of Eternity” is a completely original game from Obsidian entertainment, creators of the “Fallout” series and “South Park: The Stick of Truth.” It will release March 26. Second, “Torment: Tides of Numenera” from inExile Entertainment, set to release late this year, is the spiritual successor to the classic “Planescape: Torment,” known for being so heavy in reading and novel-like descriptions of the scene in the dialog it’s often called an interactive novel. Lastly, an entirely new game from Beamdog, the creators of “Baldurs Gate: Enhanced Edition” only labeled as “Adventure Y” is in the works and is speculated to be a bridge between Baldurs Gate 1 and 2, though this is unconfirmed.
Both “Pillars of Eternity” and “Torment: Tides of Numenara” were crowdfunded projects, mostly using Kickstarter campaigns, with “Torment” raising $4,795,608 from 88,297 backers so far, and “Pillars of Eternity” raised $4,163,208 at the end of it’s campaign.
These games are mostly playing off nostalgia for the old infinity engine games; now-adults who played them as teenagers in the 90s, but after an unprecedented (so far) success of their fund-raising campaigns and actual success of the Beamdog reboots, isometric is becoming mainstream in the fantasy game community again, and modern graphics and original settings could spark this generation of gamers interest.
Both game developers see crowdfunding as a way to get away from the demands of a publishers, and make more serious, honest content rather than money-grabbing mass appeal.
“I can tell you that one thing I’m looking forward to with Kickstarter is the opportunity to make an M rated game. I think many publishers steer clear of that these days and I think that there’s a lot of themes we can explore,” Tim Cain, lead programmer at Obsidian, said in the “PoE” kickstarter video.
But it’s uncertain if that will be enough to attract a younger audience. A prominent member of the online Baldurs Gate community known as CrevsDaak said, “I won’t say no teenagers will play PoE/T:N, first because I, as a teenager, probably will play at least one of them, also because they’ll become popular and teenagers have a thing with their stupid social lives and doing what their friends like” though CrevsDaak still has his doubts about whether these can become mainstream.