Thursday, November 22, 2018

It Should Have Been an RPG

Confession time. My lack of entries over the last week has not been because of my usual excuse--work--but rather because all my free time has gone into Red Dead Redemption 2. It's an absurdly large, long, and addictive game. I've been on break all week (no one schedules anything the week of Thanksgiving), and what with the snow and cold here in New England, it's been tough to convince myself to leave my couch and fireplace to go play old RPGs in my office.

Some of you will see my enjoyment of this game, and perhaps even its medium, as a betrayal of the interest that we share. But I can enjoy action games on the console, too. I look for different things when I'm sitting on the couch than I do at my computer. 

That said, it's hard not to play Red Dead Redemption 2 and not wish it had more RPG elements, like character development (a few upgrades to max health, stamina, and "dead eye" don't really count) and a more tactical approach to combat. The game is extremely "realistic" in that a headshot brings down every enemy, which renders all the work you put in to getting better weapons somewhat meaningless. A player would have little problem making his way through the game with just the starting revolver. Yes, this is more "realistic"--it's always a bit jarring when I nail a super mutant in the head with a rocket launcher and it doesn't kill him--but still anathema to an RPG lover.

What Redemption does extremely well--far better than its predecessor--is the game world. There's no question that it would get a perfect 10 in that category if I was rating it on the GIMLET. Most of my joy in the game has come from simply wandering around the enormous map and finding cool things. Some of them are side quests, but a lot of them are just little vignettes. Almost every abandoned cabin has some kind of story to tell, and graphics and sound have advanced enough that you don't need explicit text to tell you what happened. I went to one cabin where there were half a dozen corpses, a couple clearly having collapsed at the dinner table. A hole in the chimney had poured poisonous carbon monoxide into the house. Another cabin had dead flowers on the doorstep, decorated for the arrival of the owner's new bride--only she never made it. His cart is found crashed at the bottom of a nearby cliff, a note on his body indicating that he was headed off to pick her up at the train station. There are dozens of scenarios like this. I can't believe the detail that the developers put into St. Denis--a fictional version of New Orleans--with dozens of back alleys, courtyards, and terraces that have no purpose to the plot and most players will never see.

An ongoing mystery concerns the disappearance, 15 years prior, of a visiting princess. She was 5 then; she would be 20 today. I learned about the enigma from a newspaper article. Later, a random camper in the wilderness told me he was obsessed with the story and heard there were some clues to be found in the town of Van Horn. I spent hours searching Van Horn, heard some cryptic things from a guy in the tavern, found some of the princess's likely belongings in the pawn shop. I'm not even sure this is a real quest--not sure it's even solvable in the game. But simply wandering around looking for clues was more fun than I have in the typical RPG with quest markers leading you from plot point to plot point.

One of the parts that I like best are all the animals. As you discover them, a compendium fills in information. You don't have to kill them; you can study them from afar with binoculars. They act about as realistic as any animals I've ever seen in a game. Beavers come out at dusk from their dams and head into the forest for wood. Deer cautiously approach riverbanks to get a drink. Cougars and wolves stalk deer. Eagles swoop down to lakes and carry away fish. If the only mission in the game had been to observe every animal, it would still be enormously fun.

Another thing it does particularly well is in the area of enemies. I'm often challenged by foes in RPGs, but it's rare that I actively fear or hate them. Redemption has some foes that I go out of my way to avoid, and some that I go out of my way to kill. The prime example of the former is a clan of creepy cannibalistic hillbillies in the northeast corner of the map, an area clearly meant to represent Appalachia. The whole part of the world is dreary and depressing. There are ruined coal towns with unemployed hobos asleep in every alley and a mining town where everyone has black lung. But the worst part is wandering into the woods at night and getting attacked by a group of overall-clad lunatics. You don't camp out in this part of the world.

Not all of the monsters are human. The swamps of Lemoyne--a stand-in for Louisiana--have alligators everywhere. I can't count the number of times I ended up between an alligator's jaws while I was searching for orchids or egrets or some other quest item that you can only find in the swamp. Unfortunately, it's dishonorable to just shoot every damned one of them. Then there are the wolves. When he reviewed The Grey (2012), Roger Ebert wrote, "When I learned of Sarah Palin hunting wolves from a helicopter, my sensibilities were tested, but after this film, I was prepared to call in more helicopters." I feel the same way after about six unsuccessful attempts to get through the same mountain pass.

On the hate side, the world is full of rival gangs with whom you develop extremely legitimate grievances. Plus, there are lots of racists. Interrupting a KKK meeting with a stick of dynamite never gets old.

The story is fun and compelling, but it bothers me from an RPG perspective how little control I seem to have as to its direction. You have control over a thousand minor things--whether to intervene in a scene of domestic violence, whether to suck the poison out of a snake-bitten victim, whether to shoot the shackles off a runaway convict--but not in the big story moments. I've said repeatedly that actual "role-playing" and "choices" aren't a necessary part of a definition of an RPG, which is true, but they are perhaps part of the definition of a modern RPG, and the lack of any meaningful input into the direction of the story really makes this game's genre clear.

(I should mention that I'm only in Chapter 5, so it's possible that things change.)

This isn't the first time I've played a non-RPG and wished I could change its genre. I felt the same way about the first Red Dead Redemption. Just like the sequel, it had an excellent game world, NPCs, main quest, side quests, and inventory, but little-to-no character development or attribute-based combat. Dishonored and its sequel might just qualify as RPGs in a technical sense, but I wish they'd gone a bit further in those same RPG elements. L.A. Noire--another Rockstar title--left me desperately wanting an RPG in the same setting. 

This phenomenon--wishing non-RPGs were RPGs--isn't a modern development for me. I had the same feeling about Pirates! when it was first released; give me the same game but with some character attributes and an inventory! I remember thinking that Airborne Ranger (1987) would have been better if the character had just gotten a little stronger in between missions. I remember wanting to earn experience in Doom

These fantasies may be misguided. Perhaps these games are perfect the way they are, in their natural genres, and attempts to turn them into RPGs would ruin the balance of gameplay that they already achieve. Nonetheless, the desire is there. What games have you played that you wished had taken more of an RPG approach? 

We'll return to the usual program shortly, I promise. Happy Thanksgiving! 

85 comments:

  1. It should have been an RPG, it should have been released on Windows, and we deserve the far west crpg we never had.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The American West is definitely a unexplored environment in RPGs. I can't really think of a single one, but of course I haven't played most games between 1992 and today. Does anyone know of any good ones?

      As I was writing this, I thought of an old game called Law of the West where you played a sheriff and you encountered a dozen or so townspeople over the course of a long day. It wasn't an RPG, but the one thing it anticipated in RPGs was more extensive NPC dialogue.

      Delete
    2. Well there's Hard West which id somewhat of an RPG, but its structure is mission based and it's pretty combat focused, so the overall gameplay is more like a squad tactics game than a classic RPG.

      It's also set in a weird west setting with fantasy elements, rather than pure western.

      Delete
    3. Westerado has some elements, but again, not quite everything you're looking for.

      Delete
    4. I always think of Wasteland 1 and 2 as Western RPGs. Sure, they have post-apocalyptic elements, but I always felt they were westerns at heart.

      And yes, we need more western themed RPGs. I also wish there were more non-Japanese RPGs set in the modern era. (Cue Shin Megami Tensei Persona reference)

      North American RPGs have aleays been painfully Tolkein/D&D-centric.

      Delete
    5. Wasteland and the Fallout games have a lot of western elements (Fallout 3 being more "The Postman", Fallout 4 being more spaghetti) and some space opera crpgs could be considered space westerns (Buck Rogers) but yes, we are missing a pure one. With a Great Country. With a cattle trip. With trains, hard moral decisions a la 3:10 to Yuma, with scary nature in general.

      Delete
    6. Law of the West was one of THE games of my childhood on the C64. The setting really does so much for the very simplistic game.

      Delete
    7. If console RPGs count, there is the Wild Arms series -- that has a Wild West-meets-Fantasy setting. It started on the original PlayStation, and was continued on the PS 2.

      Delete
    8. SSI gave us Wizard's Crown combat meets the old west in a game called, Six Gun Shootout (Atari/Apple/Commodore) It had built in scenarios, some were based on classic movies (Magnificent Seven being one of them) And Law of the West was always fun to play, but it was more Choose Your Own Adventure than RPG.

      Delete
    9. West of Loathing
      Perhaps at least I thought it was fun
      RPGwatch review
      hxxps://www.rpgwatch.com/articles/west-of-loathing-review-444.html

      Delete
    10. There's an anthology-style Super Famicom RPG called Live a Live that has a Wild West story.

      Delete
    11. Yeah, thought about Live a Live, but this is crpgaddict :(

      By the way, had one of my usual brain shortcircuits: when I said Fallout4 I meant New Vegas. Haven't tried Fallout 4 so far but I guess that it has the same western elements.

      Indeed whenever you do some post apocalyptic scenario the western comes up naturally, just because one of its main themes is fear of wild nature and the pioneer spirit. Also, if you do any film in Australia and it is not based on a main city it turns out to be a western.

      I REALLY want to play West of Loathing.

      Delete
    12. There is the Wild of Arms series too, but is a j-rpg with cience elements.

      Delete
  2. Everything I've heard about this game sounds good, and I especially like the lost princess quest you mentioned. Allowing the player to find things by himself is such a rarity these days, the quest markers that plague modern RPGs are one of the worst features to ever make it into gaming. This is why Morrowind will always stay my favorite Elder Scrolls game, as all the ones after it have quest markers.

    I won't get to play the new RDR until it's released on PC, though, because I don't own a console and the few times I tried to play on one I just couldn't handle the controls. I need a mouse and keyboard.

    As for wanting RPG elements in other games... actually, I'm the opposite in that regard. I feel a lot of modern open world games introduce RPG elements just because, even though it doesn't really fit the gameplay. Games like Far Cry and Assassin's Creed introduce RPG elements, as do some indie platformers, stealth games, etc etc. And it doesn't really fit. While RPGs are my favorite genre and I wouldn't mind seeing more hybrids, some games are better off without levelups forced into them. Outside of RPGs, some of my favorite games are Quake and Thief - and I wouldn't want either of them to have RPG elements. They're perfect as they are, elegant in their gameplay and giving the player the perfect amount of tools to deal with any situation. Levelup systems just wouldn't fit into them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I absolutely agree with the fact that RPG elements have become just a thoughtless formula in many games, like crafting.

      Delete
    2. Crafting seems to be prevalent in mobile cRPGs, which are in fact money making machines. It is crucial to farm, grind and crunch for resources, at it is oh so easy to just pay a few currencies to shorten this time. So I'd say it isn't thoughtless, it is deliberate and carefully designed element. Just like difficulty curve in each and every "free" game.

      Delete
    3. But crafting also appears in a lot of normal single player RPGs and MMORPGs without microtransactions, often as a tacked on feature that just exists because it's become "expected" in the genre (meaning, everyone else is doing it so we have to, too).

      The newer Far Cry games are great examples of this. They have character development and crafting tacked on for no reason other than that's what games do these days. It's included because it's on a checklist of features, not because the designers have put some actual thought into the systems.

      I guess it might have started with Skyrim including crafting, and combined with the boom of Minecraft clones and survival games in general, it led to developers thinking "every RPG needs crafting now!!"

      Delete
    4. I think crafting may have even begun earlier. Ultima VII (1992) was famous for the ability to bake bread. You could also shear sheep to make wool. You could do other things to sheep in Ultima VII Pt 2, but we won't discuss that.

      Delete
  3. Doom + a tiny bit of character development + inventory (health & armor, mostly) + NPCs and shops = Strife. That is the game I wished to be an RPG with a larger and more detailed world and plot.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, and Pirates! with stats is the Uncharted Waters game series. Forgot about it, thinking about Strife.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I wonder if spending so much time playing older games makes you appreciate these things in modern games (lots of details, animal/NPC activity, etc.) more than most people.

    I'd love to see a Western RPG, and it sounds like this would have just taken a few nudges to get there. Maybe someone will get their hands on the Deadlands license someday, but I don't think any existing franchise really has the weight to carry a game. A completely new IP would probably be better in the long run. A steampunk game would scratch some of the same itches, but no one seems to be embracing that these days, either.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Racking my brains for something like a Western RPG. Until we get way past Chet's "will never reach this era" line and see titles like Tin Star and West of Loathing, I think that Oregon Trail (which, let's be fair, is not an RPG) may well be as close as we get.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. For a short while here I though you were going to say that Snakes and Ladders should be an RPG.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that would be awsome though

      Delete
    2. think about it collecting ropes and bettering your climbing stats with every level and random encounters making the inneviteble battles with the slimey snakebosses easier after you collected enough gold to afford the serpent-slayer. You will truly feel like a hero after you finaly bested the notorius dungeon of snakes and ladders.

      Delete
  9. I have a completely unrelated question, what's the best game you've played for this site that was published before 1985?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Do you mean that he hadn't previously played? Because the answer is almost certainly Ultima III otherwise.

      Delete
    3. Kenny, I'd direct you to my spreadsheet of games I've won in the sidebar. Ultima III is the clear winner in terms of the actual rating, although Wizardry arguably had a greater impact.

      Delete
  10. One of my all time favorites is the Thief series, and you've now got me thinking if they could work as RPGs. There could be some stats(health, quietness, jumping) & levelling, more xp for knockouts instead of kills for example, or a big chunk for each guard you leave entirely untouched at the end of the level. The more I think about it though, I'm not convinced it would make a better game, I just can't come up with a good case for a game to be an RPG when it's advantageous NOT to kill enemies. It's a shame you won't be touching them in this blog though, they are classics made by the Ultima Underworld crew with a brilliant atmosphere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thief is exactly the kind of game that wouldn't be better with RPG elements. Thief works because its design is so elegant. The gameplay is simple but follows complex underlying systems of light and sound propagation, AI behavior, and environmental interaction. You can jump and mantle and use rope arrows, surface type determinesthe loudness of your footsteps, and light determines your visibility. The tools you have at your disposal all have a clear function.

      Adding RPG elements would ruin the perfect balance of the gameplay, and would also make mission design a bit harder since player capabilities aren't constant anymore. If you want to create a room that's a challenge to sneak through, use marble floors, bright light, and tight patrols. But you still need to make sure the player will be able to get through, and since every player has the same tools, you can easily design the perfect challenge.

      If there were RPG elements where you could upgrade your stealth skills, the whole system becomes less elegant in its design. It just doesn't fit to Thief. Especially since Garrett is a master thief, the best in his field. It wouldn't make any sense to start him out weak and then let him gain XP during the game. He already went through the Keeper training and is a master of stealth when the game starts.

      Delete
    2. There is a rather obscure real-time tactical RPG Cold Zero: No Mercy. It awards experience for missions almost exactly as you proposed, as it can be seen on this screenshot. It seems, that the enemies that was left alive worth less exp then the knocked out ones.
      https://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/cold-zero-no-mercy/screenshots/gameShotId,77045/

      Delete
    3. If you'd like a stealth game with light RPG elements, there's a pretty good example in a 2D game Mark of the Ninja. It supports very well both kill'em'all and total pacifist play styles. (And the experience is quite different for both, so it's worthwhile to play through the game twice.)

      You get equal XP for either killing enemies, or ghosting by them. But you have to commit to one style, if you start killing enemies in the level, then you need to kill everyone, if you start avoiding enemies, then you should avoid everyone. Halfhearted attempt gets you much less XP than fully committed assassin or pacifist.

      And the skills you buy with your XP makes it easier to do one or the other.

      Delete
    4. Dishonored is essentially Thief with light RPG elements. The new Deus Ex games do something similar, with choice between stealth and brute force, with lethal and non-lethal options. Its possible to create these style of games with multiple playstyles and unlocks and still keep it balanced, though it certainly makes level design harder. The issue I would have is that Garrett is clearly a stealth guy/non-lethal guy so creating additional playstyles would ruin his character.

      Delete
  11. I wish that every game was an RPG. As someone who has spent more than 20 years trying to beat every RPG, every time an amazing game comes out and I skip it because it isn't an RPG and I shouldn't be wasting precious RPG time on it, I die a little inside. Especially when the game could be an RPG with only a little change like the previously mentioned Red Dead and Thief games.

    I will agree that some games would lose what makes them great by changing them into RPGs, but one can dream.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I find sometime the need to refresh my interests by turning to something different for a time. In music, food, TV, and other things this can be good in wiping the slate clean so that your creativity can get going again. Also, you seem to be having fun and this is a Great Thing to have.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've liked what I've seen of RDR2 on commercials. If I owned a modern console, I may have got it myself. :)

    You definitely need to break away and enjoy some hobby time on different things. For myself, I've been playing World of Warcraft to supplement my work on my vintage CRPG. (Working in assembly language and trying to debug it gets VERY frustrating at times.)

    It's a guilty pleasure; one can easily argue the gameplay in WoW has barely changed in 14 years, and it's still rife with "time-wasters" like rep grinds and daily quests. But what can I say? It's fun. And I'm actually interested to see where some of the storylines are going.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Back in the flip phone era, Doom, DoomII, and Wolfenstein had RPGs for the phone. I would really like to play those again.

    ReplyDelete
  15. "Some of you will see my enjoyment of this game, and perhaps even its medium, as a betrayal of the interest that we share."
    So RPGCodex is still reading your blog?

    ReplyDelete
  16. In the early days, there was no genre distinction between RPGs and Adventures. And indeed, in the earliest days of computer games, the genres were only emerging. Spectrum developers might have been producing a game in a particular genre, but I guarantee they never once cared about that.

    Maybe now the process is being reversed, and the best elements of different genres are being mixed?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except that RPGs predate computer games. And the "adventure" computer game genre.

      Delete
    2. This is true in the sense that both Wizardry and Zork were attempts to adapt PnP roleplaying games, albeit with wildly different approaches. Zork was trying to adapt the 'improvisational problem solving' that PnP games excel at but which cRPGs are not well suited for.

      Delete
  17. I've seen a bit of Assassin's Creed: Odyssey and that looks similarly like it's hitting the edges of being an RPG, with a bit more character development many of these recent open-world games could qualify.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Enjoy the game and don’t worry about us. At least those of us who have Pathfinder to tide us over, the game just sucked 200 hours out of my life and I am only in chapter 4... ;)

    ReplyDelete
  19. All the Bioshock games spring to mind. Would have loved if they had been more Rpg-inspired instead of action shooters.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love if they had been pure first person adventure games based on digging up hints. It reminded me so much of an older adventure called "Morpheus".

      Delete
    2. I agree, especially with regard to Infinite (Booker is a vastly more developed character than either of his predecessors.) I've been told that Ken Levine said in an interview that the form of a largely on-rails shooter was necessary for the narrative that he wanted to convey (I haven't been able to find this interview myself.)

      Delete
  20. I feel like we've had these discussions before about the characteristics of an RPG with character creation, story/narrative, attribute-based combat and equipment variety being the most prominent. The various RPG hybrids do seem to me to lean most heavily on the last two while sticking to a tight narrative, similar to what the Japanese branch of RPGs do.

    From a game design perspective, character creation seems like an option that the overall market is not interested in. I remember an interview with Bioware developers regarding Mass Effect where a majority of players just used the default Shepard. If players are not going to use your intricate flexible character creation, then it doesn't make much sense to invest resources in that.

    I think the more interesting concept is in player choice affecting narrative outcomes. Obviously Mass Effect is the poster child for the promise and difficulty of this. The traditional design approach is somewhat limited here again due to resource constraints; if you have to program the outcome of all possible player choices, you either have to have a ton of logic code or limited number of choices. If a developer could come up with emergent narrative (where AI dynamically changes the narrative based on player choice), that would be paradigm shifting. Emergent gameplay has been around for a while (Shadows of Mordor for example), but I haven't seen anyone try emergent narratives.

    PS - I loved Airborne Ranger on my Commodore 64 as a kid!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't thought about Airborne Ranger in years...definitely one of my favorite games on my C64. Wizard's Crown and Summer/Winter Games came a head of it though

      Delete
    2. Airborne Ranger was amazing! (and hard but fun) And I remember the manual was full of historical tidbits, iirc. Gunship was another Microprose classic from that time that was good.

      and with a name like Vonotar, you wouldn't happen to be hiding out in Kalte, by chance?

      Delete
  21. If something doesn't quite feel like an RPG, it drops quite easily into the broader catch-all net "adventure gaming." Even a platform or single-square puzzle game like super bomberman could almost be (or is) in this huge grouping. Monkey Island for pc is a point-n-clicker adventure game--but not an RPG. Role-Playing means you get right into a character's heart and soul, you're on a quest, you get instructions along the way from npcs/letters/signs, you often have a team/party, and you develop experience stats. The difficulty is nearly always against you and there are many alternatives to choose from, decisions to make, not just one road, and the world is complex, a largish map with both simple monsters/enemies as well as various bosses or mini-bosses to put down. Usually there is mystery and a big sense of magic/unknown. In essence playing a role means you're pretty much taking on a life in a very different world to wage-slave reality... you become that character on that big open mission.
    Red Dead Redemption is described as action-adventure. That's where it belongs. Walking around shooting people, even with storyline, just isn't enough to be an RPG, as we all agree.

    ReplyDelete
  22. "Doom + Level Ups = Hexen" - at least that's what I thought.
    After looking it up, I must rephrase this as "Quake + Level Ups = Hexen II":
    - Experience and Level Ups were only introduced in Hexen II
    - Hexen II is the first part of the series to use something other than the Doom engine, namely the Quake 1 engine

    You might still want to check out Hexen II - I have some fond memories of it.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I suspect I would have enjoyed every Sierra graphical adventure quite a bit more if they'd all had a toucnh more Quest for Glory in their design.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I somehow can't imagine King Graham or Roger Wilco ever hitting the gym to buff up.

      Delete
    2. On the other hand, I never felt interested in the Quest for Glory games because of the RPG elements.

      Delete
  24. Traitor ;)
    Enjoy RDR, I will read through some of your older entries in the meantime.

    I always thought Freelancer would be a great RPG. Maybe Star Citizen will take that up?

    ReplyDelete
  25. I would argue that Red Dead Redemption is quite a bit RPG. It's not a mechanics based stats-RPG, but it's a ROLE playing game. You adopt a role, and act it out through your behaviour in the game. So I'm not at all surprised that you enjoy it a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate you taking the time to comment, but your argument is the exact thing that I'm always arguing against. "Computer role-playing games" are not called such because you play a role. You play a role in almost every game. They're called such because they adopt the mechanics of tabletop RPGs, including attributes, equipment, and combat. It's these elements to which I am addicted and not the general concept of "role-playing," although I do enjoy it when a game does it well.

      Delete
  26. Red Dead 2 must really be a legit phenomenon, I never would of expected to read Chet talking about it given how demanding his work schedule typically is. I never played the first one and haven't purchased a console in more than 15 years but if Chet likes it, it must be decent right? By the by, Sea Dogs is a fantastic pirate RPG that came out around 2000.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well it's like elder scrolls only with way way less freedom on how missions are supposed to be done and no real character improvement.

      Delete
    2. South Park just built two entire episodes around it (at least partially), for what that's worth (I leave its probative value for you to decide).

      Delete
    3. It's also far more polished than the Elder Scrolls games. Sometimes it's worth accepting jank in exchange for gameplay depth, but the opposite tradeoff is also valid.

      Delete
    4. Well, Elder Scrolls games (as well as Bethesda's Fallout sequels) have been gradually removing gameplay depth in their latest iterations, too...

      Delete
  27. RDR2 however does have one HUGE flaw in it's design and it's that you have to absolutely follow npc X or mission failed.

    This means you end up manually steering your horse for literal minutes and even the slightes deviation from the preplanned route with preplanned events immediately fails the mission and you end up in square one riding the stupid horse again.

    So don't even dare to think of doing any missions with NPC's "the skyrim style" you do it by the numbers and that's it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "the Skyrim style" is when you have to look up console commands to enter in hopes of stitching the game's scripting back together, right? ;)

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I agree, Petri. To me, the scripted missions are the least interesting part of the game. I finished it the other night, and I'm enjoying the postgame open-world exploration a lot more than than the "plot."

      Delete
  28. New Vegas is definitely a western RPG - but I'm guessing you mean set in the old west, and not a future west.

    The opening vignette ends with a gunfight in front of a saloon, you need to find a new sheriff for the first town you go to, and early on it's all dynamite, single-shot rifles, prospectors and cowboy hats. One of the main themes is the advancement of the US gov't (NCR) across the land and the way it swallows up all the independent towns, another is the interaction and eventual exploitation and conflict between the original inhabitants and the nascent states of vegas, NCR and the legion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. By original inhabitants, I'm referring to the 'tribes'.

      Delete
    2. Yes, it's very "western-ish," I grant you. But it also has robots and mutants and energy weapons. I'd like to play a true western RPG and not just one that evokes some western themes.

      Delete
  29. I wished that SWTOR were an RPG rather than an MMO. The exploration, the setting, and the stories were all really good, but the vista was spoiled by the fields of enemiea waiting around to be harvested for kill-quota quests. It's pretty hard to pretend you're having an impact on a place when, thanks to respawning, it's still just as populated with aimless mobs after you carved a path through it.

    ReplyDelete
  30. A very interesting topic. Nowadays, modern games like Assassins Creed Odyssey "import" RPG elements, but it's more a fa├žade. To be honest, I could not name a single "modern" game which could qualify as a RPG, not even Witcher 3.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm curious what games you DO consider CRPGs? Is it only late-90s games, isometric, from certain publishers? I've seen fans of the first two Fallout games refuse to call Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic a CRPG because it didn't contain enough elements they liked from Fallout, a series that came relatively late in the CRPG life cycle.

      Delete
    2. You've got things like Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera, but those are explicit in their retro inspirations, so may not count as "modern" to you.

      Divinity: Original Sin and its sequel probably do count; although the Infinity Engine games are a clear inspiration, I think D:OS moves beyond nostalgia into something new.

      Delete
    3. I think the only way you can say that no modern game qualifies as an RPG is to put too many restrictions on what constitutes an RPG.

      Delete
    4. Especially when Stone Soup and their ilk qualify as modern...

      Delete
    5. @ GamerAim: The Elder Scrolls surely are. Though I didn't like Skyrim & Oblivion, they are CRPGs - the freedom of a chracater to do what he wants, exploring what he wants etc.. Daggerfall was the best conceptual CRPG of the lot.

      Delete
    6. So your definition of CRPG is "the freedom of a chracater to do what he wants, exploring what he wants etc." Assassin's Creed: Odyssey has this, along with many other modern AAA open-world games. Though I agree Daggerfall is an excellent CRPG; even "better" than Morrowind in a lot of ways mechanically.

      You could argue that many (like Far Cry or GTA Online) modern games aren't "meant" to be played as CRPGs and/or are hybrids of other genres (shooter, Ubisoft-style action-open-world). They include CRPG elements to enhance user "engagement" in the gameplay loop, but aren't generally marketed to the CRPG crowd (that includes everything from Diablo to Elder Scrolls to Pool of Radiance and beyond). Again, AC:Odyssey is a good example of a game with CRPG mechanics tacked on to increase value.

      But as Chet said, you'd have to twist your definition of CRPG obscenely to exclude these games, and in the process do it arbitrarily to the point that you might even exclude CRPGs that pre-date the Elder Scrolls series. I think it's best to just accept that games are CRPGs, even if it's just a shallow attempt to promote user engagement rather than an attempt to create a CRPG. It's less arbitrary that way, and there's no risk of excluding the origins of the genre :)

      Delete
    7. "I disagress, my excellency" (Civ II blurb)
      Yes, you can go in AC_ Odyssey or Witcher 3 to every place you want. But there you will find 1 missions, with 1 up to 3 endings. The mission does not really change much when something in the world happens in a different way. They are not procedural generated, but handmade. And of course there are EXCELLENT handmade missions like in Witcher 3 - but playing these fells more like an adventure.
      Of course, the beste way is to mix GOOD DESIGNED handmade and GOOD DESIGNEDED procedural missions together ...

      Delete
  31. I've even played some RPGs that I wish added more RPG depth, although that's probably true of a lot of console RPGs.

    ReplyDelete
  32. On topic:

    https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-complete-guide-to-taking-a-shit-in-red-dead-redemption-2

    ReplyDelete
  33. I've been splitting my gaming time over the past month or so between this game and Ultima IV. I'm on Chapter IV and I've really enjoyed it so far. The little role playing touches really make the game world feel alive for me, i.e taking a day off from the outlaw grind to go fishing or help around the camp, enjoying a prime rib and a shot of whiskey after a successful score, or freshening up with a haircut and some new duds before going out with Ms. Linton (ain't touching the Grizzly Adams beard though!).

    I like the plot and the scripted missions more than you seem to from your post, but I do think the story is less interesting than the first, less from any dip in writing quality and more from just telling a less "dramatic" tale I believe. While I think it's fairly more complex than the last game, I would also appreciate some more RPG elements as you said, as I can't think of many games that wouldn't benefit from a few more byzantine walls of statistics! I've been mainly doing side stuff where it feels character appropriate to do so, but I think I'm going to save a lot of it for the post-game free roam. All in all an awesome game though, but I took a break today to catch up on some Ultima IV, gotta go to one of those posts to talk about it now! :)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Interesting post about RDR2. I'm still on the side that I don't want too much realism in my games...even though I do like good immersion. I may be in the minority here. However, the idea of modeling the animal and social behavior is fascinating from the programming side of my brain.

    You mentioned wishing some games were an RPG, and I can understand the feeling. I was a big fan of MicroProse games back in the day. I played Pirates (awesome!), Gunship, Airborne Ranger, and F-19 on the C64. When I look back, I notice that most of them were simulations with some story development that give you a taste of some RPG without being a true RPG. Pirates gave a taste of open world in the sense that you could choose what to do and build a reputation. The other true SIMS still gave you that feeling of progression as you advanced and accomplished each mission. I could see them actually making very interesting RPGS, since no one has really touched the modern military world in my experience (very limited, so I could be wrong).

    Wing Commander is another franchise that I would love to see as a CRPG. It gave you some agency over the story sometimes, but not much. Definitely no character development/inventory (a tad in WC3+). Privateer series probably came the closest with it's more open world/quest format. It still needed character creation/development. Of course, this may happen if Chris Robert ever gets his vaporware, Star Citizen, off the ground. I'm not holding my breath.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.