Best Real-Time With Pause RPGs

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Best Real-Time With Pause RPGs

  • Real-time-with-pause combat is a niche feature in CRPGs but successful in games like Mass Effect & KOTOR.
  • Arcanum offers a unique industrial-fantasy world despite clunky combat mechanics.
  • Tower of Time provides a combat-focused dungeon-crawling experience with options to control time.

Real-time-with-pause combat is a point of contention for many RPG fans. Turn-based and real-time combat both have their places in the genre, but real-time-with-pause is often a smaller niche. Larger games such as Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic have had success combining third-person combat with tactical pause, though pausing is arguably less necessary in these titles than in the abundance of CRPGs that make use of it.

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From Dungeons & Dragons dungeon-crawlers such as Icewind Dale and the unique settings of games like Arcanum all the way to newer indie titles like Tower Of Time, there are a variety of real-time-with-pause RPGs available today. While combat is not the main selling point of all these games, each of them features real-time combat with a tactical pause feature.

Arcanum: Of Steamworks And Magick Obscura

A Unique, Industrial-Fantasy CRPG

Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura

Platform(s) Microsoft WindowsReleased September 26, 2000Developer Troika GamesGenre(s) Action, RPG, Adventure

While its real-time-with-pause combat is far from its strong suit, Arcanum is a well-crafted and affordable CRPG that's still readily available today despite its age. Arcanum was developed by Troika Games, the team behind games such as Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines and The Temple of Elemental Evil.

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The prowess of this studio is on full display in Arcanum's world-building and level of player agency despite a frequently clunky user interface. Players looking for a more combat-focused dungeon-crawler may want to look elsewhere, but Arcanum's unique, industrial-fantasy world is worth exploring.

Icewind Dale

A Combat-Focused Isometric Dungeon Crawler

Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition

Platform(s) Switch, PS4, PC, iOS, Android, Xbox OneReleased October 30, 2014Developer(s) BeamdogGenre(s) RPG

Icewind Dale, similar to games such as Baldur's Gate, is a dungeon-crawling RPG set in the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons. Icewind Dale can also be a challenging experience, especially for those unfamiliar with both the genre and the workings of old-school tabletop RPGs, such as the second edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

Players who don't enjoy the old-school combat of isometric CRPGs from that time will likely bounce right off of Icewind Dale, but the dungeon-crawling experience on offer is a nostalgic one. Furthermore, the party-building aspects of Icewind Dale are extremely important to success, allowing players to deliberate over their party in between combat encounters.

Tower Of Time

A Modern Take On RPG Dungeon-Crawling

Tower of Time

Platform(s) Switch, PS4, PC, Xbox OneReleased April 12, 2018Developer(s) Event HorizonGenre(s) Real-Time Strategy, RPG

This more recent real-time-with-pause RPG is a combat-focused dungeon crawler that allows players to slow down and even stop time at their leisure. This allows players to think out their moves carefully while still enjoying the fast-paced action of real-time combat.

Tower of Time does feature a relatively engaging story, but its combat is arguably one of its stronger suits. Thankfully, players looking for a more combat-orientated gameplay loop can play through the game's "RPG-Lite" mode, which reduces the story content that players are required to wade through.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker

An RPG With A Focus On Party-Building

Pathfinder: Kingmaker

Platform(s) PS4, PC, Xbox OneReleased September 25, 2018Developer(s) Owlcat GamesGenre(s) RPG

Taking inspiration from games such as Arcanum and Baldur's Gate, Pathfinder: Kingmaker is an ambitious party-based isometric RPG. As with many tabletop-inspired RPGs, success in Pathfinder: Kingmaker's combat is more about efficiently building characters and creating a balanced party rather than micro-decisions made in combat.

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Thankfully, the variety of diverse classes and spells allows for plenty of options. One of the major downsides to Pathfinder: Kingmaker's combat is that it relies heavily on the roll of the die, which can be frustrating at higher difficulty levels.

Baldur's Gate

An Iconic Pioneer Of The Party-Based RPG

Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition

Platform(s) Switch, PS4, PC, iOS, Android, Xbox OneReleased November 28, 2012Developer(s) Overhaul GamesGenre(s) RPG

As one of the pioneers of the isometric, party-based RPG, Baldur's Gate is an iconic real-time-with-pause role-playing game based on Dungeons & Dragons. The game sets players off on an adventure set in the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons, using adapted rules from the 2nd edition of the classic tabletop RPG.

Despite being a little rough around the edges and not quite as smooth of an experience as the RPGs that succeeded it, Baldur's Gate succeeds with its well-told narrative and dense world. Combat is frequently challenging, especially on harder difficulties, and familiarity with 2nd edition Dungeons & Dragons does help in understanding how stats and equipment work in the game.

Tyranny

A CRPG With Meaningful Player Choices And Tactical Combat

Tyranny

Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, macOS, LinuxReleased November 10, 2016Developer(s) Obsidian EntertainmentGenre(s) RPG, Adventure, Strategy

Tyranny is a dense, narrative-driven fantasy RPG with meaningful player choices, each of which can have a major impact on the game. Tyranny's world, characters, gray morality, and overarching narrative work together to offer a rich and immersive experience.

The real-time-with-pause combat of Tyranny is also a frequently engaging and, at times, challenging system. Like most real-time-with-pause RPGs, Tyranny is party-based and isometric, tasking players with managing each of their companions in real-time battles, using the pause feature to plan their next volley of attacks. Casting spells, assessing threats, and positioning units are cornerstones of Tyranny's combat, resulting in an experience that's often strategic.

Pillars Of Eternity

A Text-Heavy, Story-Rich RPG

Pillars of Eternity

Platform(s) Switch, PS4, PC, Xbox OneReleased March 26, 2015Developer(s) Obsidian EntertainmentGenre(s) RPG

Developed by the legendary Obsidian Entertainment, Pillars Of Eternity is a text-heavy isometric RPG that takes inspiration from games such as the original Baldur's Gate. Like the games it's inspired by, Pillars Of Eternity is party-based, tasking players with controlling an entire group of heroes in real-time combat.

Pillars Of Eternity is driven by its narrative, filled to the brim with interesting characters and an equal number of text boxes. Players who don't enjoy a good story, or reading, for that matter, are far less likely to enjoy Pillars Of Eternity; while the real-time-with-pause combat is certainly engaging, the world and the characters within are this game's greatest strengths.

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