RPGs ain't what they used to be in the popular imagination. It feels like only yesterday (see: 25 years ago) that they were largely associated with geeky gatherings around candle-lit round tables, one super-geek among them wearing a cowl and describing weird medieval-fantasy scenarios for everyone to play along to. But since the turn of the millennium, RPGs have grown to become a dominant video game genre. In recent years, we've seen Skyrim on billboards in trendy cosmopolitan areas of town, and the Polish President giving a copy of The Witcher 2 to Barack Obama as a shining example of the country's creative talents and economic progress (though I understand that Obama never actually played it himself - at least that's the 'official' story). Whether it's to do with video game graphics finally reaching a point where they can convincingly immerse us in rich open worlds, or a growing desire among gamers to tailor their video game avatars to their exact video game fantasies, RPGs are big business these days, and 2015 was a particularly booming year for them.
Most video games that depict a post-apocalyptic scenario take a relatively glamorous 'Hollywood' approach to it. That's not to say that they do it badly, but they never linger much on all the minute details that really make you think about how grim it'd be to live in a ruined world. NEO Scavenger is a post-apocalyptic permadeath RPG that really tries to capture the difficulties of surviving a wasteland. Every single tattered shoe you find, every vagary in weather conditions, and every encounter you have plays a part in your character's chances of survival. The game's visual style is basic at best - a hex-based, turn-based grid that you traverse in search of food, water and warmth - but that helps keep you focused on the game's story, as well as the story you carve out for yourself through your own critical choices. As well as surviving, you can pursue various quests in the world, many of which lead you on disturbing little adventures, while others explore the events that made the world the barren place that it is. This understated gem is more like The Road than Fallout, and offers the most introspective take on a post-apocalyptic RPG in video games. That inevitably means that NEO Scavenger can be brutally difficult, but its cruel world is fascinating enough to keep you trying again and again. Buy NEO Scavenger at GOG
Gamer, Researcher of strange things.
I'm a writer-editor hybrid whose writings on video games, technology and movies can be found across the internet. I've even ventured into the realm of current affairs on occasion but, unable to face reality, have retreated into expatiating on things on screens instead.