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February 12, 2003 9:19 AM   Subscribe

How to survive any RPG - a 'one size fits all' guide to Role Playing Games. As anyone who has played the Final Fantasy series knows, RPGs are full of cliches. In my opinion, the best RPG I ever played was Chrono Trigger, (its referred two quite a bit in those two lists) and modern game such as Neverwinter Nights don't seem to hold my attention. Perhaps the way forward is to cross genres, mixing RPG with other games, such as First Person Shooters and Real Time Strategies.
posted by Orange Goblin (36 comments total)
More of an action RPG than an RPG, but the Zelda series was always one of my favorite games. I loved the first one, and played it for weeks and weeks on end. The second one sucked, and the third one went back to the formula. Then there was a gameboy version that kept the formula. Then they went 3D. They lost me there. Every game doesn't have to be 3D, I don't think. I miss the old days.
posted by benjh at 9:28 AM on February 12, 2003

"Only important people have names. If there's somebody you need to speak to regarding your quest to find the Ice Ankle Bracelet of Compounding Interest Rates, you should speak to Huzariao Freemont. If you want to find out somebody's opinion of the weather today, you talk to the person named "TOWNSPERSON" wandering aimlessly around the courtyard, staring at the trees and houses."

Preach it.
posted by Cyrano at 9:31 AM on February 12, 2003

The only way to survive an RPG is to load your twenty-sided die. If it doesn't require a twenty-sided die, it's not worth consideration.

You kids and your highfalutin computers...
posted by COBRA! at 9:31 AM on February 12, 2003

Amusing, but it doesn't hold a candle to the Dictionary of Cliches. Required reading for any would-be game designer, I'd say...
posted by wanderingmind at 9:34 AM on February 12, 2003

This has been done before. Here's the classic Grand List Of Console Role Playing Game Clich├ęs. Wait! That Was A Load-Bearing Boss!

On preview: done before many times.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:36 AM on February 12, 2003

Damn, beat me to the Load-Bearing Boss.
posted by devon at 9:43 AM on February 12, 2003

Props to COBRA!

Pen and paper games are where it's at. Changing colored pixels have exactly 0 reward for me and my limited spare time. Getting together with my gaming group and using my imagination is much better.
posted by Irontom at 9:44 AM on February 12, 2003

What about live action RPG's?
posted by snez at 9:47 AM on February 12, 2003

The only way to survive an RPG is to stay inside a reinforced concrete bunker and............oh, erm nevermind.
posted by reidfleming at 9:50 AM on February 12, 2003

Hmmph. Chrono Trigger was great, I will give you that. But Secret of Mana, for it's time, was one of, if not the first, truly multiplayer RPG's that still had a great plot. And Grandia 2 tended to poke a lot of fun at itself and all RPG's: The beast character Mareg would spout ridiculously over-poetic lines, with all the other characters being like "Huh?", and the main character would refer to the cliches direcctly: "You call that bad, I call it a swirling vortex of evil".

All this said, Final Fantasy 7 was my favorite.

As far as the tabletop RPG's go, you can't really compare the two. Videogame RPG's already have a set plot, with set character development. In tabletops, we can make our characters whatever the hell we want, and go do whatever the hell we want. Of course it's superior!
posted by lazaruslong at 9:54 AM on February 12, 2003

"All legends are 100% accurate. All rumors are entirely factual. All prophecies will come true, and not just someday but almost immediately."

posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:55 AM on February 12, 2003

Chrono Trigger!!


The follow up on Playstation, Chrono Cross, was very good as well.
posted by xmutex at 10:02 AM on February 12, 2003

secret of mana pretty much owned in terms of... well, everything.
posted by lotsofno at 10:09 AM on February 12, 2003

I could never really understand the appeal of RPGs on consoles. I grew up feeding on the imagination of PnP gaming, and later interactive fiction games on the computer (ala Infocom, et al). The limitations placed on console games simply through the simplified interfaced always toned down the appeal for me.

The appeal of Neverwinter Nights is its customization capabilities, and not the stock storyline. Sure, you can spend the 100+ hours running a character through 20 levels in the packaged storyline -- but I can assure you that you won't be experiencing anything revolutionary. If you find yourself in need of more "go and fetch" quests, then be my guest.

The toolset that's included with NWN is fantastic, and has a very low bar for entry. The official website has a ridiculous amount of home-brew modules ready for download. The multiplayer capabilities and Dungeon Master mode allow for a customized playing experience that comes as close to throwing the 20 sider around that you're going to get on the computer.

All of that having been said, I think it's a crime that no one has yet mentioned Planescape: Torment. With a gripping storyline and surprising replayability, this is probably the best computer RPG that you're bound to find the bargain bin today. My son and I played through most of it together, and he and I both got choked up at the end-game cinematics.
posted by thanotopsis at 10:29 AM on February 12, 2003

My son and I played through most of it together, and he and I both got choked up at the end-game cinematics.

Bless you, my friend. Bless you.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:37 AM on February 12, 2003

posted by linux at 10:40 AM on February 12, 2003

My bad, Orange Goblin, should have clicked through all the links first. [hangs head]
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:46 AM on February 12, 2003

Hey, Linux, you beat me to it! Wasteland indeed. I recently loaded it up on an emulator on my PC and beat it, guns and proton axes blazing.

So for your reading pleasure, my favorite quote from Wasteland:
The pamphlet contains two tips for the wise: "
1. Buy an AK-97 assault rifle.
2. If there's someone hanging around your neighborhood you don't know, shoot him."
posted by woil at 10:47 AM on February 12, 2003

All of that having been said, I think it's a crime that no one has yet mentioned Planescape: Torment.

Oh so true. Torment was one of those games I would play until daybreak. Then, when I would finally go to bed I'd still see the game and hear the music. The Elder Scrolls games (well, Daggerfall and Morrowind) also almost killed me.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:51 AM on February 12, 2003

What RPG cliche thread would be complete without a link to the 100 Top Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord list?
posted by Cerebus at 11:18 AM on February 12, 2003

OFF TOPIC --- How do you do rollover text links like that? That is awesome Orange Goblin.
posted by banished at 11:21 AM on February 12, 2003

From Something Awful:If you're playing a pc game, then your main character will be some utterly generic, homogenized boring guy voiced by the same jackass who reads out movie previews

That's my main complaint of a lot of PC/American rpgs, weak characters. Boring muscular square-jawed guy, (especially the Ultimas). At least console games will give the main character some past, stylish clothes, and some effeminate qualities.

FFVII is a favourite of mine, but the console cliche list just made me realize that Hironobu Sakaguchi basically just makes the same game over and over again.

As for obscure games, anyone play Septerra Core? A pretty good attempt at trying a console type game on a pc, a little too linear but at least the graphics and voice acting were good. And the character designs were memorable.

Perhaps the way forward is to cross genres, mixing RPG with other games, such as First Person Shooters and Real Time Strategies.

I think Anachronox tried combining RPG and FPS, the demo was pretty good and humorous but I never got around to the game.
posted by bobo123 at 11:32 AM on February 12, 2003

OFF TOPIC --- How do you do rollover text links like that? That is awesome Orange Goblin.

You put:

title="What you want to say."

right after the

a href="http://location"

inside the anchor tag.

Just like this:
This link goes nowhere.

Just check the source code for this page and search for "title".

(note: I learned this trick 30 minutes ago myself by examining the front page where mathowie does it on the side bar)
posted by grum@work at 11:42 AM on February 12, 2003

I personally liked Final Fantasies 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10 the best.. That's followed closely by Chrono Trigger, Star Ocean 2, Grandia 2, Xenogears, and Tales of Phantasia. I don't like non-square RPGs much, and I think anything computer-based using dungeons and dragons systems is utter crap - I hate games which involve large amounts of dice-rolling and probability in combat, and I also don't like the fantasy genre as a whole. That said, there were a lot of knocks on the conventions of the FF series there, but I think the cliche list was better executed than the something awful thing...

Oh, btw, GET XENOSAGA AND STAR OCEAN 3. You might never have heard of Star Ocean 3, but it's coming out SOON, and Star Ocean 2 was one of the most innovative and utterly awesome games I've ever played in my life, so I'm expecting good things from Tri-Ace.
posted by Veritron at 11:43 AM on February 12, 2003

Banished it looks like there is a javacript function of MF that does that. You just put nicetitle='' in the link tag. It didn't work on preview though, so it might just be a main entry thing.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:45 AM on February 12, 2003

FFX (great sound, storyline and graphics, but weak gameplay) had the hero with the most annoying voice ever recorded. Every time Tidus whined about something, which was often, it was like hearing nails scraping a blackboard. It also had the hero with the best voice - Sir Auron. Very sexy.
posted by iconomy at 11:48 AM on February 12, 2003

I dunno, I've played halfway through a LOT of console RPGs, and given up on all of them because the gameplay is always nearly exactly the same, while I like that style of gameplay alright, it's not enough on its own to hold my attention for 40 or 50 hours. You need a good storyline to make a good console rpg - and I've given up on trying to tell from reviews whether or not a given game has one. Honestly, have these reviewers never heard a compelling story told in any medium? The trash I've heard called "good" blows my mind.

Anyway, the two games that stand out in my mind as actually being memorably good are Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears. And even xenogears' good story didn't hold me through to the end of the game - i quit that one early too.

Now the new zelda game... that i'm excited for.
posted by chrisege at 11:54 AM on February 12, 2003

More on nicetitles at

On topic : IMHO Black Isle is the company that pretty much sets the standard for PC CRPGs. Besides Planescape: Torment, the Baldur's Gate series of games is the best example of the art (specifically Baldur's Gate 2).
posted by moonbiter at 12:01 PM on February 12, 2003

I still don't accept the term "rpg" when it is applied to computer or console games. There needs to be some other word. An RPG is where you all go over to a friend's house and eat doritos for seven hours, have one really heated debate about the rules that ends with "it's whatever the GM says," and at the end you split up loot.
posted by Hildago at 12:17 PM on February 12, 2003

What RPG cliche thread would be complete without a link to the 100 Top Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord list?

I was, infact, going to include a link to that in my orignal FPP, but figured most people had seen it before :)

As for rollover links - MeTa has the answer
posted by Orange Goblin at 12:19 PM on February 12, 2003

Unfortunately, Black Isle is really only a publisher -- with a few exceptions (Torment, Fallout) all the rest of the stuff was externally developed -- all the BG's were Bioware, etc.

Then again, Torment and Fallout were the only two RPGs I've played since Wizard's Crown on the Apple II that I went through more than once.

Ah, the love of getting that power armor in Fallout. Everyone should have a suit of power armor handy for those post-apocalyptic days. Plus, there's nothing better than a game where you can wack a shopkeeper and actually get all his inventory, instead of it all just disappearing.

The best thing about Torment though -- the total lack of the standard magic swords, potions, etc of a traditional RPG. I love a game where the best weapon you can get is a dagger (Ravel's Fingernail).
posted by badzen at 12:28 PM on February 12, 2003

Ah, the love of getting that power armor in Fallout

Speaking of powered armor: The Big Metal Unit.
posted by moonbiter at 12:37 PM on February 12, 2003 [1 favorite]

Chrono Trigger was a great game; by far the best ever made for the SNES. Chrono Cross, though...was just pathetically bad. Sure, the cut scenes were amazing, but there was no gameplay. Literally, no game play. It was frigging paint-by-numbers, and they could have saved a lot of tedium by just shipping the cut scenes as a video.

Computer games are great, but they're also all deeply flawed or even broken. I believe that one day, in the far future, there will be a perfect game. Even the best, universally applauded, fantastic games of today don't stand up to scrutiny, and in the end they actually suck.

Fallout 2 did appear to be the best CRPG ever made, until I got the big guns and my NPC followers killed each other indiscriminately. That, and the fact that you realize there's nothing else interesting in the game once you see power armor for the first time.

Arcanum was another great game; but just when I had firmly decided it was great, I realized the game was over. Oh, I was far from finishing the game, but it was clear it had nothing more to offer.

Am still holding out hope for Morrowind. I hate the pathetic attempts at story, and the flat characters. It actually has no characters, so I'm not just talking about "poor character development." (Should note that I do not believe the player should be forced into playing a predefined "character" -- I'm talking about the NPCs here.) It would be completely unplayable without all the mods installed, due to horribly weak variety in...everything. ... Well, screw it. If I think about this any more, I'm going to delete it. It's a fun 3D model to explore.
posted by son_of_minya at 1:08 PM on February 12, 2003

It's a fun 3D model to explore.

Yeah, I think the open-endedness is where the Bethsoft games really score. I'm still finding out about major stuff in Daggerfall (coven quests for instance) that I'd just never stumbled across.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:13 PM on February 12, 2003

It's been said already, but it needs to be said again, and more loudly: Wasteland. And by extension, Fallout. Well, at least Fallout 1.

It seems like most of these cliches seem to come from the Japanese-style adventure games that are being marketed as RPGs these days. There's a lot more out there than the Squaresoft pablum.
posted by majick at 9:37 PM on February 12, 2003

Skies of Arcadia on the Dreamcast was an amzaing RPG, equally as good as Grandia 2 (mentioned above). Spiky hair! big swords! Ladies jumping in the air! Flying boats! Pirates! Arrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
posted by nedrichards at 8:50 AM on February 13, 2003

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