10 September 2007

Top 10 Essential RPGs Follow Up

Lots of Dice

Jay recently posted an article about when great games cease to be great which I think is a bit related to the essential RPGs post a bit back. It seems linked to me as the initial question, which perhaps I failed to answer in my post, was What games do you feel that someone really should be familiar with to be considered an expert... on the subject of CRPGs? I pondered this because I'm not really certain that someone needs to have played Final Fantasy IV to really know about the Active Time Battle system that was used there-in. It's been used in other games subsequently, I many cases better, and someone who played a derivative is no less aware of this technique than someone who played the original.

My original list has some games that, personally, were great landmarks in my CRPG experience but aren't particularly fine examples of the genre or bring anything new to it (such as Phantasy Star III). Someone who wanted to learn from previous RPGs would probably do better to look elsewhere for solid gaming experience. The immaturity of the genre in the early years perhaps lead to very primitive story-telling technique and, as I'm no longer a teen, I'm not sure how well these games will hold up to scrutiny. I've certainly found that playing through some of the early Final Fantasy games on the GBA. Bad UI only furthers to put annoy people who have come to expect a smoother play experience from their games. Of course in the article about great games ceising to be great Jay argues the opposite, that it is fun. I'm quite sure that some games will never lose some of their charm. Perhaps the storyline is still strong and the mechanics bearable enough to put up with continuing or maybe nostalgia over the game drives me to play it where a new player would give up (maybe the best way to test this is to try a few of the games others listed that I haven't played and see if I enjoy them).

Of course if it isn't the mechanics that we are playing the old games for (if we argue that just an awareness of those mechanics rather than the origin is enough) and we are happy enough with the concept that most RPG plots are variations of a big list then what do the old games offer us? Perhaps nothing more than the right combination of mechanics and plots with a story that keeps us involved and characters that appeal to us (for whatever reason that is).

Looking back at my list most of the games there are because the characters appeal to me (Baldur's Gate II, Final Fantasy VII and Planescape Torment); the setting appealed to me (Arcanum, Fallout 2 and the creepy System Shock 2); the storyline appealed to me (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic). Leaving Phantasy Star III (which, along with the first and second, brought me into the whole CRPG), Neverwinter Nights (which didn't have the same level of emotional depth as Baldur's Gate II but was the first game to bring a good multiplayer CRPG experience to me) and, Oblivion which appeals to me on so many levels, maybe it hits the exploration part just right (I love it but I can't quite place why, perhaps a few years will tell whether this really is the case). So maybe, with that in mind, old games still appeal just as much to us because they are as strong, for all the right reasons, as new games are.

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