Turn-based RPGs can take up a huge chunk of your time. While most games in this genre tend to have long stories, the dungeons you explore and the battles you fight in between these plot points will make up most of your experience.
You’re likely to encounter hundreds, if not thousands, of random encounters throughout your playthrough, and this is where some of these RPGs get a ton of criticism. Some gamers will lose interest because it feels like you’re just doing the same thing over and over again when you go into battle. So what are these games doing to turn away so many players? There are just some things that most RPGs can’t get right at all.
Too Much Grinding
I’ll be completely honest here. I hate grinding. It’s the worst thing you can do to artificially make a game longer. For example, classic RPGs like Final Fantasy have a heavy focus on leveling up your characters, and that honestly turns a lot of players away from the genre.
There are better ways to create a difficult challenge for the player rather than just making an overpowered boss that requires your characters to be twenty levels more powerful than they are now. Persona 5 handles this issue incredibly well.
Whenever things get too difficult in Persona 5, the answer is hardly ever to go back and fight a bunch of monsters so you’re more powerful. Instead, the first thing you’ll likely do is look at the different Personas you’re carrying with you. Each one is unique and causes your character to resist certain attacks. Every Persona will also come equipped with different abilities that might be more effective against the enemy.
Leveling is almost never an issue with Persona 5, as the game makes you rethink your strategy rather than your numbers. A simple resistance to an element or lowering the enemy’s defense will go a long way in this series, and many other RPGs do the same. Leveling up should feel like a reward rather than a requirement. The victories on the battlefield should be obtained through good strategies, not through brute force. Other RPGs that make good use of this are Octopath Traveler and the Pokémon series.
Not Enough Dialogue Between Party Members
Some people just want to play RPGs so they can fight monsters with swords and magic. I understand that; I’m sometimes in the same group of players. However, there’s something very special about characters that cheer you on in battle. There aren’t many RPGs that do that regularly.
Maybe I just like words of encouragement, but I feel pretty good when a party member says something like “Good job!” or “You really showed them!” It’s simple and kind of dumb, but it makes the journey feel that much more worth it. It makes you feel like a tightly knit family rather than a bunch of misfits or random travelers.
This is something Xenoblade Chronicles is good at. Your fellow party members support each other with words of encouragement throughout the battle. Other RPGs don’t get enough recognition for things like this. Undertale has a ton of moments where the characters cheer you on to reach the end and save the world.
However, Pokémon has gotten a lot of flack for making friendly characters lately. In the past, Blue served as the main rival for new trainers, always being one step ahead of them and taunting them throughout their journey. But now the series features more friendly characters that just want to see you grow up to be the best trainer you can become. Both types of characters serve as great motivators, but the Pokémon series already has villains that are trying to upset the status quo on a global scale. That’s already one evil force for the player to go up against, so a friendly motivator is needed to balance that out. The new friendly rivals in the series make a great addition, and I don’t think it would be a good idea to go back to the more antagonistic ones.
They’re Afraid to Break Away from Old Conventions
When I hear my friends say they quit an RPG, they’re always quick to blame the battle system for being too repetitive. This is a fair point, as there are a lot of things about turn-based combat that can get extremely boring. So it’s important to shake things up and stray away from old conventions to make each RPG fresh and unique.
Most turn-based games try to utilize a weakness system. This is a good step in the right direction, but the player needs to be rewarded for exploiting these weaknesses outside of doing just a little more damage.
Let’s take a look at the recent Persona games for example. Persona rewards its players for knocking down an enemy with an extra turn. This can be done by finding your opponents weakness or by landing a critical attack. After all the enemies are down, the game lets you perform an All-Out Attack, which causes the entire party to rush the enemies and hopefully finish them off.
Earthbound is another game that was praised for being weird and unconventional. None of the characters handle typical RPG gear like swords, axes, metal armor, or anything remotely close to it. Instead, the charming cartoon characters use baseball bats, frying pans, and other normal household items to face off against alien foes.
This is the kind of weirdness we need to keep the genre alive. While games like Octopath Traveler and Ni no Kuni are still successful with the medieval fantasy setting, we need to see more change and overall weirdness in the genre. Why aren’t there more RPGs that focus on a few neighborhood friends that are just exploring the forest or the mountains just on the outskirts of town?
There’s a reason why games like Earthbound and Undertale have such huge followings. Neither game was afraid to break away from conventions, and they both managed to pull it off in unique and interesting ways. We should be done with stories about four travelers that journey across the globe in search of the four ancient crystals.
Developers have a variety of ways to make their games more engaging than this. The possibilities are endless and only limited to the designers’ minds. A good RPG needs to focus less on grinding, more on supporting party members that relate to each other, and above all else, they need to be different and weird.
But these are just some of my opinions, and I would like to hear from you too! What makes up the dream RPG for you? Is there anything else you would suggest to make a great role-playing game? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!