It’s Thanksgiving week here in America, and if you’re anything like us, you’re in a turkey-induced haze, ready to log into your favorite video game. It’s also a time of year to reflect and think about all of the things we’re grateful for. This week, the RPG Files is taking a break from its usual format to bring you the ten things we’re thankful for in modern RPGs.
Roleplaying games are great aren’t they? I’m not just talking about video games; table-top and live action roleplay are rich and wonderful in their own way. It is a brand of play that tugs at our imagination, begging us to weave a character and knit it into a tapestry of story. A good roleplay is like the best kind of Choose Your Own Adventure novel, making you the director of your own destiny.
Over the previous decade, technology has advanced and pushed RPGs to the forefront of game design. Their scope, their freedom, their intelligent reaction to each important decision the player makes… these are things that entrench them and solidify their place in the pantheon of Genres That Will Never Die. Without further ado, here are our top ten RPG features we’re thankful for.
1) Living Worlds
Without a doubt, the breadth and scope of today’s RPG worlds is impressive. Skyrim comes to mind, a map large and peppered with towns and cities, rich and alive with citizens going about their lives, looking to you to make a difference. When you do, for good or evil, the world reacts. A good RPG makes you a visitor to an alien world and then makes it conform around you.
2) Tons of Reasons to Explore
A game world is only as good as its reasons to be explored. It can be big and beautiful, but if it’s also empty, why bother (erm, Destiny)? We love our collectibles. We love hidden side-missions that you can only stumble upon. We love codex entries, and hidden puzzles, secret caves of monsters and treasure. These are the things that lure you off the beaten path to forge your own adventure.
3) Action AND Strategic Combat
Sometimes we just want to play and button-mash through encounters without thinking about them. Other times, we want to take our time. We’re thankful for games that blend the best of both worlds, either through action combat that’s also strategic or by allowing us to freeze time and choose our next move. As RPG players, we want depth and accessibility. In 2014, more and more games are finding ways to offer both and that’s definitely something we appreciate.
4) Conversation Trees That Matter
The best RPGs understand that adventure isn’t all about killing. They allow you to soak in the world and invest in its characters through conversation. Players have been able to choose their responses forever, but we’re most in love with how these choices can impact the game. Take Mass Effect or Dragon Age, characters can leave if they disagree, fall in love with you if they don’t, and everything in between. That’s the essence of roleplay.