When you ask me what my favorite genre of game is there is never any hesitation before I blurt out 3 short letters, RPG. We’ve all played them and many of you out there love them just as much if not more than I do, but recently the line as to what truly constitutes an RPG has become quite muddled. Some say that an RPG has to have an inventory system and a true leveling system or skill tree, other people say an RPG is anything where you can upgrade your character. So who’s right? Is the My Career mode in NBA 2k13 not an RPG mode built into a sports simulation? To me RPGs are everywhere, some are just overshadowed by the bigger picture.
One could not logically write an article about RPGs and not mention the obvious, the heavy hitters. Of course you have the Elder Scrolls series, Mass Effect Series and the litany of Final Fantasy games that have been put out over the years. You have the monster MMOs like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars and no one is debating that any of these games truly exude everything that a great RPG stands for, story telling, leveling, inventory and so much more. Whether its turn-based like Final Fantasy, real-time combat like the Elder Scrolls games, or ever a 3rd person shooter like Mass Effect, there is no question that these and some of the other incredible titles out there fully embrace their RPG elements and put them up front as the star of the show. As we all know not every game is so forthcoming with such elements.
Some of the deeper RPG experiences there are to be had in gaming are not coming from the sources that you might expect. Right now I am playing through one of the deeper, more involved RPGs currently available. You start by picking one of 6 classes and are immediately thrown into the fire with competitors of varying skills and classes. After this “battle” you are given your destination and quest line, 82 quests just in your first virtual year of play. As you complete “quests” you gain SP that be applied to over 25 skills in one of 4 different overall categories, you also have an extensive list of perks that can be applied in any combination that you want and some of which have 3 branching levels. Everything can be customized from your gear, characters appearance and even your reaction to each completed quest whether it was passed or failed.
This deep expansive RPG does not take place in space, it does not take place in some ancient realm where dragons and mages rule the land… it takes place on the basketball court. NBA 2k and more directly its My Player mode has been tricking sports gaming fans into playing this hardcore RPG for quite a while now and for the most part I’m sure most of them don’t even realize it. I love the fact that my favorite genre can find its way so simply into any game and make itself at home but not scare away those who might not be ready to accept it.
It comes with the territory, if you want to play a certain role or live out a certain fantasy there has never been a more efficient or satisfying method than video games. I think we can all agree that there is no form of media that even comes close to the immersion that games provide. For example, as a kid I spent countless hours on the basketball court by myself pretending to be my favorite players and re-enacting my favorite plays. Even then while I was able to spend multiple consecutive hours playing this role it pales in comparison to creating my own NBA rookie and paying my dues on the way to NBA stardom.
The 2k series isn’t the only sports game that has tapped into this genre either, competitors from the worlds biggest sports have all had their hands in the RPG pot. Madden has Superstar Mode, NCAA Football has Road to Glory, Fifa brings Be A Pro to another level taking players online with club teams and of course MLBs flagship title The Show rests heavily on the popularity of the longstanding Road to the Show Mode. All of these modes have been the reason that sports game have kept themselves in my library on a yearly basis.
It isn’t just sports either, so many games are making their games with a touch of RPG goodness to spice things up. For the longest time I have been telling my friends that I’m sick of the 1st person shooter genre, to me most of the FPS games that have launched in recent memory are highly similar and for the most part forgettable. When Borderlands became free for Playstation Plus owners I naturally downloaded it knowing that this was a FPS with deep RPG elements, and to my surprise I played it for a little while. This for me was quite the accomplishment because I haven’t been able to play more than 20-30 minutes of a FPS for years, for example the last FPS I can truly say I “played” was Modern Warfare 2… and even that came from Gamefly. I found myself immersed in this experience and dying to reach my next level and take my vault hunter to the next level. While I didn’t complete the journey I was impressed that the simple addition of RPG elements could bring my attention to something I did, and still do consider the most overdone genre in games today.
For the most part the games that I have mentioned all sell well to their target audiences and the inclusion of RPG elements hasn’t scared anyone away as of yet… hell it’s probably brought in more fans than the developers and publishers started with. This is an exciting prospect for me as I would love to see video games adopt RPG elements wherever they make sense. Whether its sports, war or even something simple like a dungeon crawler I hope this trend continues so that I can continue playing the role.