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The RPG Files: Sister Wives - The Tale of the Modern RPG

Columns By Christopher Coke on February 11, 2016

Sister Wives - The Tale of the Modern RPG

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and love is in the air! Don’t tell my secret, but I think I’m have a crush on the cute elf that just joined my party. If I play my cards right, things might go to the level up, if you know what I mean. This is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Sweet, sweet love. Oh, and the occasional completed quest. Today, we’re going to talk about workin’ it and how modern RPGs really seem to hate monogamy.

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Plus, Dragon Age loses its lead writer, Dying Light launches its expansion, Sword Coast Legends is super cheap on consoles, and more Dark Souls 3 footage makes its way to the internet and looks a lot like Bloodborne!

It seems like every major RPG these days has romanceable characters. I find that interesting, but not all that surprising. As kids, who among us didn’t develop some sort of feelings for a game character? Now, I wasn’t scrawling “YUNA” across my notebook (though I know people did exactly that) or writing sad poems for my lovelorn heart, but I would be lying if I said a fictional character never made my pre-teen, just-interested-in-girls feelings twirl, even if it wasn’t technically a “romanceable” character.

It was those early experiences that validated the whole concept of RPG romances to me. I don’t ever recall thinking, “man, I wish I could date Yuna” but that didn’t matter; Yuna was my boo (do kids still say that?) and I cared about her. It drew me in and made the entire game more memorable and touching and fun. I’m sure that’s what they were going for. Mission successful: I will always remember Final Fantasy 10 because of it.

These days, developers have gone all in on the lovin’. All the subtlety of those early days is out the window, and damn it, if you’re going to flirt with somebody, it’s going to be with a big old heart in the dialogue wheel. Some would argue that this robs those connections; that this gamification makes them feel less natural. On the contrary, I think it opens up more avenues to enjoy the game. (And, well, there’s not much wrong with gamifying a video game.)

One of the worst feelings upon finishing a video game is realizing you missed something long after you can go back to fix it. Relationships are content, often enriching the game by opening up whole new quest lines or game altering perks, or, at the most basic “put the RP in RPG level,” being pulled deeper into your character.  Relationships, even if only pursued for the stat boost, allow you to know both that character and your own on a deeper level; they make the game feel more alive, make you care, and keep you thinking and talking about it long after the game is done. There is a reason Mass Effect: Andromeda is one of the most anticipated RPGs on the horizon, and it’s because of how deeply you connect with the characters, even those you aren’t in a relationship with.

Then there’s the other side of it: the sex. There is a whole segment of gamers out there whose sole purpose in a Bioware game is to giggle like schoolgirls when their character drops trou and makes sultry. Now, call me crazy, but I have never been titillated by video game sex. Maybe it’s the “puppets slamming faces” thing; I don’t know, but as gamers have gotten older and the medium has matured, sex is now a regular part of game relationships. It’s natural, and the intricacies add to the story. I get it, I’m just saying that I don’t play The Witcher 3 to admire Geralt’s rippling abs, that’s all.

But because these relationships are content, there is an active incentive to bang out with as many people as possible. You never know what you might be missing! And many games offer few penalties for being in multiple relationships because they know relationships are content gamers don’t want to miss. You don’t often see RPGs that reward you for being a loyal partner because, really, it’s about what’s sexy. Monogamy isn’t sexy; being torn between between lovers is. And being wanted is fun. Even if it does make me feel a little squirmy to sleep around like my apartment’s being fumigated.

So, where does that leave us? Seeking every relationship we can unless something deep inside says, ‘hey, this one’s special” and our guilt eats us alive when we cheat.

Video games, people. We have arrived.

Quick Hits

Speaking of Bioware, lead Dragon Age writer David Gaider has left the studio and signed on as Creative Director at Beamdog. Beamdog, as you may know, is behind Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale’s Enhanced Editions. Gaider is said to be joining the team developing the upcoming expansion to Baldur’s Gate.

n-Space has finally revealed that Sword Coast Legends will be making its way to consoles in Spring 2016. It will come with all of the improvements to the PC version and sell for the low price of $19.99. Even with middling reviews, that’s a steal.

If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check out Rob Lashley’s The Pre-Order War. It’s not limited to RPGs but is a must read to understand the impact of your pre-order. We talked about this on the last Game On podcast: Don’t buy unproven games! It only supports the demand for Day One patches or worse to fix broken games.

Todd Howard, famed for his role in leading the Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchises, will be receiving a much deserved Lifetime Achievement Award at the Game Developer’s Choice Awards this year. Think of all the hours of enjoyment his work has given us. I couldn’t think of a better recipient. Thanks, Todd.

More Dark Souls 3 footage has made its way to YouTube, this time showing gameplay from the Thief class. As Eurogamer notes, it does appear to take some movement and combat cues from Bloodborne, but, to this outsider, still looks a lot like more Dark Souls. Whether that’s good or bad depends on how you feel about, well, everything From Software does.

Lastly, Dying Light: The Following Enhanced Edition has arrived and it’s good. Critical reception pegs it at an 82, highlighting the excellent dune buggy and wide change with the move to a rural location.

That’s all from us, folks. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.