There is a considerable difference in the RPGs of today, with the RPGs of the past. Of course, I’m not talking about direct Dungeon and Dragons board type role playing. I’m speaking of the Computer, and Console generation of RPGs. The generation that has an interactive story told to them, that is an attempt to immerse yourself in a world that is not your own. This is still role playing, but is not the traditional style, such as Live Action Role Playing.
The computer RPGs of yesterday were clever in the story, because that was all that they had to entice you with. They didn’t have attractive graphics, busty females, or music that could sway you with it’s artistic beauty. They had the story, and the game play. They could immerse you with simple words, and the actions of the protagonists.
Games like Fallout 2, Star Control 2, Baldur’s Gate, the King of Dragon Pass, and Planescape: Torment all stick out in my mind like a sore thumb of great Computer RPGs. Games like Final Fantasy IV amp; VI, Chrono Trigger, the Secret of Mana, and Seiken Dentetsu 3 stick out as some of yester-years greatest console RPGs. While the latter in the category lacks the depth and imagination that the former has, they were still purely story based games that relied on their game play to entice a player.
The latter of the former category likely is more to blame for the current state of RPGs than the computer RPG class. Massive Multi-player Online games seem to draw from the formula of the Console RPGs more than the formula of the computer based RPGs. The simple formula, grind and reward – grind and reward. Battle after battle after battle, with seemingly no real story reward. At least that’s the way it was with EverQuest. Some might say that World of Warcraft is not the same in that respect.
To those that claim that World of Warcraft is not like every other MMORPG ever made, what do you spend the majority of your time doing in the game? You want to become the highest level possible, so that you can get whatever special item you want to use, so that you can kill things more easily, and complete quests. That doesn’t really sound that enticing, but it’s a formula that all console RPGs have used.
For those of you screaming at the screen that Final Fantasy is still the best RPG series, you really should expand beyond that. If you’ve played every Final Fantasy, while never playing any game that SquareSoft didn’t make, you don’t have any idea what kind of games you’re missing out on by doing that. While the Final Fantasy series was a good RPG series until after Final Fantasy 8 – SquareSoft is no longer the same company that they were several years ago. They’ve reduced themselves to ‘J-Pop’ levels.
A true RPG of today would be something like Neverwinter Nights 2, Knights of the Old Republic, the X3 series or even something like Indigio Prophecy. There aren’t many great RPGs made in current times that are great stories, or could even be considered RPGs. There are many good RPGs made in the older isometric graphics style that some still enjoy, but games like Halo, Crysis, and Final Fantasy X have expanded the graphics of the gaming world – and have made it harder and harder for new players to experience good stories without having attractive graphics.
RPGs shouldn’t be about the graphics, or the grind involved to make levels. A RPG should be about the story that is told. It should be about the meaning behind the story, and the feeling that it gives you to get to the next part of the story. It should be about the smaller stories that circle around the main story. It should always revolve around the story, and not the grind – because games don’t have to fall to that restriction anymore. The more we buy and pay for games like the World of Warcraft, Warhammer Online, and EverQuest – the more we lose out on truly enjoyable creative experiences like Knights of the Old Republic, Star Control 2, Fallout, and Arcanum. Because the more we fund the MMOs, the less funding goes to the Single Players.