Quirks of gaming: Things you do while playing RPGs

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning  - 877072

Although Sony and Microsoft have yet to respond to the memo sent by Bravely Default and Lightning Returns, we can expect more than shooters and indie titles from the early months of this console cycle. Big series like Dragon Age and Persona have already promised their next installments, and RPG anticipation only has room to grow from here with The Elder Scrolls Online, The Division and Destiny leading the online front. That being said, why not take a look at the role-playing habits we built last generation to see how the two stack up going forward? 

Write it down

You know what

"You know what?"

Whether it’s the crafting system, combat system, quest or boss details, or party combinations (particularly in the case of games like Pokémon and Shin Megami Tensei), it takes serious intricacy to drive players to keep a physical record of their game. After all, in an age dominated by the easy information and pseudo-strategy guides of the Internet, it’s rare to feel the need to do so. So if a game manages to convince you to break out the pen and paper, it’s safe to assume that your current RPG is a damn fine one.

Get the manual

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

Oh wait, I can't get the manual.

Sadly, including full-fledged instruction manuals is now a dwindling practice, with many games opting for a digital option or foregoing manuals entirely (though I won’t point any fingers … at anyone except Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning). However, inside-the-cover cheat sheets have yet to fully disappear and have repeatedly proven themselves invaluable, especially in the era that spawned Demon’s and Dark Souls. While particularly helpful when starting up an unfamiliar series or new IP, flipping through the manual is a good place to start with any RPG, and hopefully won’t be substituted with the infinitely useless digital copy—though I suppose we should count ourselves lucky that EA isn’t charging for them.

Grind eagerly, not reluctantly

Grinding for resources is prevalent in multiple genres, particularly competitive and online games, but never more so than in RPGs. There will always be a skill you’ll want to learn before a boss fight, a weapon you’d love to purchase before leaving an area, or a rare item you simply have to get from that one mob, and repetition is the tried-and-true way to get it. However, running around in circles awaiting the next “random” encounter or reloading a dungeon is less a chore than it is a task in well-designed titles. If combat is engaging, crafting interesting, and exploration refreshing, you’ll scarcely complain about a bit of old fashioned grinding.

Admit to misplays

Dark Souls

"This is my fault. I did this."

Although misplaying is synonymous with card games, the term is plenty applicable to flubbing in an RPG, be it a skill decision or combat error. The distinction here is that, despite your no-doubt frustrating demise, quality RPGs will have by that time shown that the fault falls to you and you alone. Senseless irritation (read: RAGE) is all but non-existent in a fair and well-defined system, meaning “I could have played better—let’s try that again” becomes the logical response to even the most crippling of respawns. FromSoftware carved this message into the thumbs of every Souls player, and we’re hoping to see the same provocation from impending RPGs.

Die (your character, of course)

And what would all that careful recording and grinding be worth if the game itself is an absolute cake-walk? Declining difficulty has plagued the games industry for years now, but the RPG genre is particularly susceptible due to their reliance on player choice. If all your options will carry you through the game, what agency do you really hold? No, RPGs—and indeed, games in general—are far more satisfying when our actions as the player decide how acquainted we become with our most recent checkpoint. As such, palpable challenge is among the most important of qualities to look for in next-gen RPGs—which, by the way, we couldn’t cover all of in this article and would therefore appreciate your help in outlining in the comments below. 

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Austin Wood
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