After playing Chrono Trigger for the purposes of review, I started working on a two-part article with some thoughts on the role-playing game genre. I already discussed at length some of the reasons why I love the genre, but on this second part, I’ll focus on the aspects I dislike the most. Since this is my opinion, you’re likely to disagree with some points, but as usual, I invite you to share ideas in the comments below.
RPGs rely on cliches and stereotypes
It’s really hard to pay attention to the story when you play as a teenager who has to save the universe from an evil presence. I understand that this isn’t the case for all role-playing games, but it was the standard for the story for a long time. Not only do I feel like writers should avoid this from now on, but I also think that they should focus first on the story and then work on the universe that surrounds that story.
They have frustrating boss fights
I understand that boss fights punctuate your adventure, since that’s your opportunity to prove that you’ve mastered some of the mechanics introduced by the game, but sometimes boss encounters can be some of the most frustrating part of the genre. By toning down the difficulty, you probably end up angering the hardcore players, but there should be something for the rest of us mortals. Maybe an easy mode?
They rely on repetitive mechanics
It’s easy to say that your game is hundreds of hours long when that title is forcing you to do the same thing for hours on end. Personally, I have no problem with this when the combat is really entertaining (for instance, with Final Fantasy XII,) but if the game you’re making is a classic RPG and you’re forcing me to play for hundreds of hours and you’re using an ATB style of gameplay, we’re in trouble.
This is similar to the point above. Grinding can be a problem and developers understand that sometimes and try to mitigate it. For instance, Square Enix has added new modes in the newer version of Final Fantasy VII that allows you to level up without having to fight hundreds monsters. Although some purists will probably complain about ideas like that because it removes the challenge, it allows younger players to focus on the story, which is arguably, one of the best parts about that game in particular.
They are excessively long
You’ll notice that some of the points in this article are interrelated and that length is mentioned a bunch of times here. Well, that’s because most RPGs are excessively long and I’m pretty sure this is one of the main reasons why most people stay as far away from them as possible. Of course, there are certain action RPGs where this isn’t an issue, but for the most part, role-playing games are really long.
The story is usually forgettable
There are certainly numerous RPGs with a memorable narrative, but let’s be honest and say that that’s not the case for every game in the genre. In fact, most of them have stories that are so boring that it’s easy to forget why you’re doing it, but you end up doing anyway.
Their length diminishes the story
Whenever I play really long RPGs, I tend to forget about certain characters, my objectives or the reasons for doing what I’m doing. Since you’re constantly going through the motions and moving from point A to point B it’s easy to forget that you have to save the world.
Sometimes RPGs feel like a waste of time
I’m pretty sure a lot of people want to know more about Final Fantasy VII’s story (just to name one of the multiple RPGs which is famous for its compelling narrative,) but simply don’t play the game because they know they’ll be playing for too much time. This is not the case for everyone and some people certainly enjoy performing the same actions over and over, but it’s hard to argue against it.
You better have a lot of free time before playing them
Whenever I start playing an RPG for the purposes of review (with some exception of course,) I have to plan everything in advance because I know I’m going to be playing that title for weeks and on some rare occasions, months. Understand that this isn’t a problem for everyone, but when you have a lot of games to play and little time, role-playing games can be the worst choice and that’s usually why most people don’t even touch them.
There’s a lot of content, but RPGs sometimes follow the “cookie-cutter” approach
It’s easy to say that a game is long when you’re playing the same thing for hours on end. Sometimes games do a great job of disguising them with some visual tricks, but if the players realize that they are basically playing the same dungeon with a slightly different color palett, it’s only a matter of time before they start feeling bored.