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Great Computer RPGs With Hand-Drawn Graphics


A look at a set of computer roleplaying games that uses hand-drawn character animations and painted backgrounds to bring their worlds to life.

Some computer roleplaying games are master-pieces of 3D visual design with cutting edge graphics, while other cRPGs use retro 8-bit graphics in the style of classic 1990s games like the early Final Fantasy JRPGs. Ss the fidelity of video monitors and the power of gaming platforms increase, a greater number of indie game developers have elected to use hand-drawn graphics in their video games, employing techniques such as cartoon animations and landscape painting to bring their worlds to life. Listed below are some quality computer RPGs that use hand-drawn assets and backgrounds to make players feel like their characters are wandering through living illustrations.

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As video games comes into their own as a medium capable of producing great works of art, more and more auteur game developers are using traditional artistic techniques to create the visuals of their games. The most notable recent example of this type of game production is Cuphead, a 2D platforming bullet-hell game themed after classic 1930s cartoons. This particular game was the product of two developers who hand-drew every character, background, and special effect in their game using traditional animation techniques.

Related: Best Hand-Drawn Video Games

The following computer RPGs each feature graphical assets made using traditional illustration techniques, ranging from classic cartoon animations like those seen in Cuphead to oil and watercolor paintings. Besides creating a unique look for players to experience, these roleplaying games also forge a link between modern and traditional forms of entertainment, pioneering new ways for traditional artists and illustrators to apply their talents.

Hand-Drawn Computer RPG – Book Of Travels

Book Of Travels Screenshots 1

Book of Travels, an upcoming “TMORPG” (short for “Tiny Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game”), is the latest title in the works from Might and Delight, a Swedish game studio famous for games centered around atmospheric exploration. Set to be released sometime in 2021, Book of Travels will take place in a world of magic, mystery, and wandering adventurers, but will place more emphasis on exploration, trade, and discovery over linear narratives about saving the world. The watercolor painted characters, items, vegetation, ruins, and environments of Book of Travels strengthen this theme of atmospheric exploration, making players feel like they’re walking through a painting.

Hand-Drawn Computer RPG – Pillars Of Eternity I & II

Pillars Of Eternity and Pillars Of Eternity II: Deadfire both owe a lot conceptually to the Baldur’s Gate franchise of isometric RPGs, where fantasy heroes from the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons & Dragons navigated their way through beautifully pre-rendered map environments of forests, ruins, towns, and temples. To make this isometric map presentation work well on modern computers, artists at Obsidian Entertainment drew inspiration from the pastoral landscape paintings of the Hudson River School of painting, using pixel shading software to overlay two-dimensional textures over 3D assets and thereby create a “painted world” filled with motion and life.

Hand-Drawn Computer RPG – The Banner Saga Trilogy

The Banner Saga 1, 2, and 3, a tactical RPG trilogy heavily inspired by Norse mythology, takes place in a world where the gods are dead, the sun is frozen in the sky, and an alliance of human and giant nations desperately hold the lines against creeping forces of darkness seeking to swallow up what remains of the world.

Related: The Banner Saga: Interview With Co-Creator Alex Thomas

While designing the cinematic cutscenes and characters for this series, developers at Stoic Studios “drew” inspiration from the visuals of old Disney movies like Sleeping Beauty. Key animations in The Banner Saga trilogy even use traditional 2D animations tricks such as rotoscoping.

Hand-Drawn Computer RPG – Dragon’s Crown

The Japan-based game studio Vanillaware, founded by 2D graphic artist George Kamitani, has built its reputation on making computer games with beautiful and extremely detailed 2D artwork. Their newest game, 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, is a blend of real-time-strategy and visual novel gameplay about teenage high school students warping between different time period and defending cities from Kaiju with giant mech suits.

The studio’s previous game, Dragon’s Crown, is a traditional 2D fantasy action RPG with co-op multiplayer gameplay inspired by classic beat ’em up titles like Golden Axe or Dungeons & Dragons: Tower Of Doom (along with early Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy titles). Players choose from a roster of fantasy heroes with titles like The Amazon, The Dwarf, The Elf, or The Sorceress, questing and fighting their way through the kingdom of Hydeland to uncover the secrets of the titular Dragon’s Crown.

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