I recently played Chrono Trigger for the purposes of review and if you’ve been following this website for a while, you probably noticed that I’ve been meaning to play the game for years (in fact, the game was featured on my annual “Pile of Shame” list several times.) Although you’ll be able to read my thoughts on the game when I post my review in a few weeks, playing Chrono Trigger made me realize that I have some strong opinions about the RPG genre. There are some things I love and some aspects I hate about RPGs, which inspired me to write a two-part article in the form of lists. Since we all go to RPGs for different reasons, I’ll leave you with a couple of questions: Do you play role-playing games? What draws you to them? What do you love or hate about them? As usual, leave comments and ideas in the comments down below.
You’re part of a grand story
I usually complain about how most RPGs (especially Japanese ones) rely on cliches and repetition. Although that’s really annoying, the fact that you usually assume the role of a teenage boy who has to save the world from an evil force definitely has its advantages. For starters, it makes you feel important and that what you do in the game has meaning. Also, by the end of the game, you get a feeling of reward and gratification.
Most of them are great “podcast games”
Some people like grinding and that’s OK. Unless I find the combat system remarkably entertaining (such as Final Fantasy XIII,) I think this particular aspect is boring and repetitive. But when that happens, I grab my iPod and start catching up on all those podcasts I downloaded months ago and never had the chance to listen to. Suddenly, a boring RPG gives the feeling that I’m making progress in two different things at the same time and that’s amazing.
Boss fights are used as tests
So you’ve learned all this mechanics and you’ve tried combining different party members, equipment, items and spells in the best way possible? Well, I guess we’ll see about that when you have to face the next boss. You might think you’re doing great in an RPG, but that’s usually determined by bosses.
In some cases, you get your money’s worth
I started playing RPGs because for not that much money, I could buy this cartridge/disc that gave me hours and hours of playtime. At the time, the genre meant a lot because I didn’t have that much disposable income, so I could purchase an RPG and know exactly what I was going to get: a long game that I was going to be able to play alone or with friends.
They are great for marathon sessions
Another memorable experience was spending a lot of time playing RPGs with a friend. Some of the most annoying parts about playing Final Fantasy X was during the side-quests (collecting blue butterflies and avoiding red ones to unlock a legendary weapon is the one that comes to mind) and while I would have never done that by myself, taking turns to beat that part of the game was a great experience at the time. It might have taken a few hours, but at least, I felt more prepared for the final boss.
There’s a lot of content
When you don’t have much money in your pocket, you buy one game and that’s what you’ll be playing for months, so it definitely helps that you can play both main quests and side quests. Of course, some games have better side-quests than others (for instance, I’ve always enjoyed my time with the side-quests in Final Fantasy games,) but the fact that they have any means that I was going to spend extra hours doing them.
You can customize characters accordingly
Most RPGs excel when it comes to options which means that you can customize your party in the way you want. So two people could be playing the exact game and have different experiences and this is determined by how much time you spent in random battles, the equipment you have, the items you’ve found and so on and so forth. To me, that has always been an amazing part of role-playing games.
It’s all about an open-world
This wasn’t always the case, but as soon as the genre started adopting open-worlds, the genre started feeling fresh again. Some of my favorite RPG experiences were the ones that had an open-world and they include games like The Elder Scroll V: Skyrim, Dragon Quest VIII, Final Fantasy XII and the list goes on an on.
They let you escape to another world
Sometimes you just want to go to your house, turn on the PC, put on a CD/cartridge on your PC/console and get lost in a fantasy world where you’re not you. That was certainly the case of 15-year-old me, where I spent a lot of time playing Diablo 2.
You don’t have to have great reflexes to win, you just need to be smart
Some people really like “twitch” games, but if you don’t have good reflexes, RPGs might be your cup of tea. Usually, RPGs are games where you spend more time thinking about what you’re going to do, that doing it fast and that certainly draws a lot of people in. Quake III this is not.