So my game playing volume has been down quite a bit of late. I still have a huge backlog of games to try and get through in the near future, but of late my playlist has largely been comprised of:
- Record of Agarest War
- Neverwinter Nights 2
- Lunar: Silver Star Harmony
- King's Bounty: Crossworlds
Pretty healthy list of games really, but what do they all have in common? They're RPG's - or perhaps, they have RPG elements to them. I've been thinking about this topic since Dragon Age 2 came out (a game I bought immediately, played, thoroughly enjoyed though perhaps not quite as much as the original, which I am playing now again).
Ultima: Exodus and Dragon Warrior were my first two RPG titles back on the NES. I was hooked. This was back before I had played tabletop RPGs or even collectible card games. There was something I found very addicting to the entire system though - I loved the fact that storylines were a part of the game itself and not just some filler in an instruction manual. I got every excited when I gained levels and gear - feeling that there was a true sense of progression beyond just improvement of my own skills or the temporary powerups found in action or shooter titles. I was someone who played and beat some of the tougher games out that generation that tested my reflexes and memorization - titles like Contra or Ghosts n' Goblins. But I appreciated the strategic, slower pace of RPGs.
Ultima: Exodus - one of my first RPG experiences. Turns out, it was lacking in RP
Thing is, it was not until much later that I realized the RPG titles I loved were lacking something. Turned out, the role-playing games lacked... role-playing for the most part. Sure, you could walk around different areas, maybe do this side objective or that one, but the storyline was a very static thing - you were just along for the ride and there were no consequences of weight. I think one of the first titles I played that really made me feel like I have choices that could impact things was Neverwinter Nights on my PC.
I spent a lot of time doing this in college
Other titles have certainly taken this to heart, such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect - and I find myself absolutely fascinated with seeing where stories might go or what alternate choices may do. It's amusing, because I've always been someone who saves lots of game states. I used to do it to help in case of a corrupted save file. Now? Now I do it so I can load up a prior save state and try something different.
The conversation wheel of Mass Effect gives you actual choices to make
The best strategy games seem to have adopted this sense of choice as well. Record of Agarest War is a title I was a bit hard on when I first reviewed it, and I've since come around quite a bit. I like that my choices have an affect on the end game. Titles like the Witcher did a great job of incorporating choice into the narrative and I'm looking forward to eventually trying its sequel.
RPG elements have found their way into a lot of games, most commonly through progression systems. Even first-person shooters like Modern Warfare have a leveling/unlocking progression system in place for online play, and I think it is awesome. I still enjoy a traditional RPG title like Lost Odyssey now and then, but once I beat those titles, I seldom play them again. They usually wind up traded or sold. It occurred to me that the Mass Effect and Dragon Age games are still on my shelf though, and still get played through multiple times. Some would argue that Mass Effect is more 3rd person shooter than a true RPG, but I suspect that depends on what you find more defining to the genre - and for me it's the weight of choices, immersion in the world and the feeling that I am impacting the world myself - not just my character.
This text-based beauty is the MUD my wife and I have run for over 12 years.
So much freedom of choice. No real graphics. Not for everyone, unfortunately.
This desire to create and to role-play and to have freedom of choice was a large part of what my wife and I both loved about the MUD community. Most people do not realize just how heavily the MUD community has influenced modern video games, but if you look closely enough at Everquest, World of Warcraft, Dragon Age, Ultima and more, you can see the DNA of MUDing in there. MUDs are a topic I could go on and on about - over a decade of running one will do that to a fellow. If you're curious? Our website's here, and I can answer any questions you'd have on it. For me personally? This is the truest video game forum for role-playing I have been exposed to, but so many other games like Dragon Age: Origins and Neverwinter Nights do an exceptional job as well.
That is why a title like Final Fantasy XIII was one I enjoyed thoroughly but traded away nearly a year ago, while I'm still planning to put in Dragon Age 2 (again)after I clean up a few of the games on my backlog soon.
What about you? Are you a fan of RPGs? If so, what about them most appeals to you? Do you prefer more linear titles, or ones with choices? Turn or action-based?
Game Deal I figured I would share:
And on a related note, while I am talking about RPG titles and choices - Good old Games has a deal right now for the well-reviewed Witcher 2 and Witcher Enhanced Edition for $23.99. I have not yet played the sequel, but I was quite fond of the original which I reviewed here for those who missed it. I figured I would go ahead and put this out there for anyone who might be interested - the deal is only good through Dec 10th, 10:59 GMT.