I love video-games, as do you, I would imagine. The best thing about being in love with video-games is the variety of choice. Having other hobbies is great, but there’s only a few ways to bake a cake, or build a shelf, or play a sport. Having video-games as a hobby, however, means that the virtual world is quite literally your oyster. With the click of a button, I could be storming the beaches of Normandy on Call of Duty 2, or scoring a Champion’s League winning goal on FIFA 15 – the possibilities are almost endless. However, for all of my love for video-games, there’s always one genre that I enjoy playing the most. There’s only one genre of game that gives you ultimate freedom; that lets you discover new worlds, fight fantastic enemies, take part in memorable stories and, most importantly, do it all in your own time. Most other types of games are quite linear, but RPGs give you an amazing sense of unbridled freedom.
It’s that sense of freedom that I believe gives the RPG genre its edge. You can’t really get that sort of freedom in other game genres. Sure, you can play different types of game modes in sports simulation games, or you can fight in different time periods through most FPS games, but it’s the open world aspect of certain RPGs that gives you a freedom of choice which isn’t present in more linear games. There’s only a few ways of scoring a goal in FIFA, and there’s only one way to defeat the Nazis in COD 2. But when you look at games like Oblivion, you can see why those sorts of games can steal someone’s time. I sunk an unimaginable amount of time into Oblivion, and it was solely down to the fact that there was so much freedom of choice in the game.
Freedom of choice is one thing, but there’s also something transformative about assuming the role of a character in a video-game. With RPGs, though, quite often this character has been built by you. You choose their gender, race, facial features, body type, clothes and sometimes even their backstory. You can craft a whole identity for the character, and almost create an extension of yourself. You can take that character from rags to riches, and have them on the pinnacle of power or swaying between good and evil. Not only that, but you can decide how that character progresses. Do you want them to be a powerful mage, an unrelenting warrior or a charismatic leader? As always, the choice is yours.
Character creation and progression isn’t necessarily unique to the open world RPG genre, but there is something unique about the way that the genre handles it. Most of this is because of the traditional levelling and abilities system, which is usually unique to RPGs. As you play an RPG, you’ll usually gather experience points for your character. These points are then spent on special abilities, or more general abilities; like their strength or stamina. It really furthers that sense of control, but not only that, it also gives you a sense of achievement that’s quite unique to the genre. Grinding away to hit a high level is always an achievement in itself, separate of the story or quests. Hitting the max level is often something to be proud of, and it’s an accomplishment that comes with its fair share of hard work and dedication. When you combine that with the fact that the playable character has often been created and customised by the player, it means that these sorts of achievements are often very personal, and unique to your own experience.
But the thing that I enjoy the most about open world RPGs is that you can influence the world yourself, and it’s an experience that I rarely have with other genres of game. Whilst your choices might not impact the outcome of the story, they still usually play a role in how your character is perceived in the game. Take Oblivion again. In that game the story was very set in stone, but your actions still made a difference to the world around you. I used to take great pride as I could hear the NPCs whispering of how I was the “Champion of Cyrodil”, as I strutted past. Or my head would swell whenever anyone referred to me as the “Grand Champion” for defeating everyone in the Arena. Of course, they’re just computer generated characters – why should I care about what they think of me? But I think that when you combine the aspects of character creation and progression, with the diverse story and quests and then top it off with a world that feels alive; it’s quite easy to get a little lost in the moment. That’s not a feeling I get in other games, but maybe it’s because when I play an open world RPG I feel as though I am the hero. Whereas when I play a game like The Last of Us, I feel like I can connect with the main character, but I would never say that I was the main character. In other genres of game, the story is usually told and experienced through the characters, whereas in an open world RPG, the story is told through your character.
But you know what, these types of games aren’t for everyone. They take a lot of effort and dedication to play at times, and sometimes it’s the sort of commitment that some people wouldn’t want to make to a game. How do you feel about open world RPGs? Do you agree with my opinion? Or do you prefer a different type of game? Discuss in the comments below!