Going RPG Crazy

RPGs are a diverse and entertaining genre - here's three of them

8th July 2010

I'm going to cover three separate RPGs that have dominated my gaming life over the last 6 months, all of which are three vastly different styles: Final Fantasy XIII, Fallout 3 and 3D Dot Game Heroes.

FFXIII follows a more traditional style of RPG, with battles separated from the main world and stat building more easy to track and modify. 3D Dot Game Heroes follows a different style, which is more action-based and free-flowing, but does not use the concept of 'levels' rather utilizing various items and weapons found in the world to solve puzzles and fight with varied degrees of power. Fallout 3 is a modern take on these styles and incorporates elements from typical RPGs such as statistics and numbers but plays more like a First Person Shooter.

My friend Megasin1 compared this to a Banana. FFXIII is your standard banana, peeled and eaten from top to bottom, no frills, full of potassium and goodness. 3DDGH is a banana sprinkled on top of cornflakes - something a little bit different, but it works. Fallout 3, on the other hand, would be some mutant cross between a banana and an apple that for some bizarre reason is very tasty. Personally, I hate bananas, but I like the analogy.

As for the quality of the games themselves, they are all fantastic pieces of game engineering. FFXIII, while far from being the best Final Fantasy, includes a very good battle system that forces you to think constantly and runs very quickly and smoothly. As for the story, I felt that the setting and the backstory was a lot better than the plot you play through the main game. It is also far, far too linear (which many critics have mentioned) - while Final Fantasy games are often fairly linear, FFXIII goes a step further in that there is only one route to take for the first 40 hours of the game. When the game does open up though, it gets a lot better, and the missions are challenging enough for you to feel the need to grind up some experience to tackle some of the tougher ones. The graphics are absolutely out of this world astonishing, and I could watch the cutscenes over and over and over and not get bored. Lifespan is typically epic, especially if you're going to go for that all-elusive platinum trophy - you're easily looking at 100 hours plus. The only gripe I have is with the experience system - it draws from the sphere grid but is a lot less confined and tries to give the illusion of customisation when really, there is basically none.

3D Dot Game Heroes is basically Zelda with an absolutely awesome artistic twist in that everything is made of giant pixels. The humour in the game is fantastic, and the puzzles and dungeons are actually better than most of the 2D Zelda games. It takes the piss out of typical Zelda storyline elements (the Master Sword, collecting various gems, all that stuff) but stay so close to the actual gameplay that you feel like you're playing a new Zelda game. All the items are there - boomerang, hookshot, magic rod - and all work in the exact same way. Some may seem this as a rip-off, but it's far from it - it's the biggest tribute to A Link To The Past that there could possibly be. The world is large but not so big that you can't find your way around, and there are plenty of little sub-events that are entertaining and take your attention away from the main story for a bit. There are also a ridiculous amount of swords, each more stupid than the last, and each customisable in multiple ways. Although the main game is not as long as FFXIII, there are many side-quests and tasks to perform (such as the pain that is the Bestiary) that make the game stretch out for still a long time. And then for those artists, the character editor will provide hours of fun making new characters, although the default characters are pretty awesome too, including a tank, a ninja, and Santa (!?).

And now we come to my favourite of the three - Fallout 3. I have always loved the Fallout games for their setting - a post-nuclear world where half of the inhabitants are mutants and the other half are evil, twisted bastards, and you always play as an unnamed protagonist that can either be a guy that saves the world by giving it clean water or (the more fun way) be an evil, twisted bastard. The Karma system is great, affecting several major things (for instance, if you're evil, you will be hunted down for execution, and several instances in the main storyline) but also tiny little things in conversation that just make you laugh. It's a simple system that gives a lot of satisfaction. The game world is absolutely massive. After a good 60 hours of playing, you probably still won't have been to every part (even if you've completed every major quest). It plays like an FPS but it feels like an RPG, which I have decided is the best combination since someone put meat in bread. That's what Fallout is - a massive sandwich of awesome. Whilst not as graphically stunning as FFXIII or as stylistic as 3DDGH, the scope of the game makes your jaw drop a little and the attention the detail is fantastic. And the best part of having a game world so big is the room for expansion, which Bethesda have pounced upon and I am very glad they have.

RPGs are awesome. But they're moving forward, and I'm glad of this. Although FFXIII is not the best Final Fantasy it has an insane standard to stand up to and it is still a fantastic game, 3DDGH is better than the games it is tributing, and Fallout proves that genre borderlines can be crossed and should be more often.