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Debate, Gameplay vs. Story

  • March 6

    So, I was spurred on by the recent release of Torment: Tides of Numenera, one of the most highly raved about RPG's that I've been keeping half an eye out for recently (the others being Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Pillars of Eternity 2) and while I haven't been able to play it yet (I'm pretty much broke and need to finished D: OS and PoE) but from what I've been able to tell it's been facing some really heavy criticsm for one particular feature, or perhaps a lack of a feature.

    Tides of Numenera is pitched as an RPG and one of the largest complaints I've seen so far is that the game is pretty much all story, with no focus on gameplay or combat with some people saying the story is only mediocre. I can't personally comment on the creativity behind the game or how good the story is, but it raises an interesting point. Is story more important than combat in an RPG? 

    For me, I think I prefer the idea of a story-based RPG more than I enjoy playing it. For example, out of any RPG that has been released (other than Skyrim SE) within the last couple of years I'd have to say I've enjoyed Divinity: Original Sin more than anything else. The Witcher 3 is what I'd arguably call the greatest modern RPG (that I've played, Tyranny seems like it might beat it out). But the reason that Divinity: OS is the most enjoyable for me is that it does something kind of new with the genre, or should I say it is the only game I've played to date that perfects the blend of Turn-Based Strategy and the Roleplaying genre, and makes environmental effects more of a part of the gameplay than anything else that's recently been released (Except perhaps Breath of the Wild). 

    However, if you ask me what my favourite RPG is, I'm going to say either Skyrim, Neverwinter Nights, Morrowind or the Witcher 3. You won't get another answer out of me unless I'm drunk as shit (which is unlikely to say the least). Divinity is the most enjoyable for me, but not the best. 

    Anyway, where am I going with this (I usually lose people when my discussions get this long :P). I have a complex little question to wrap this all up in a tight little bow and call it a day.

    Do you prefer your RPG's to have a focus on Story, Gameplay or Something Else (Graphics...or whatever) and why? 

     

     

  • Member
    May 4

    Atmosphere. An RPG should make me feel like I'm in the game... I can play games like the Last of Us or Telltale games if I want story; I can play Paladins or Mortal Kombat if I want gameplay.

  • Member
    May 14

    I think all three should play into each other seamlessly. I'll use Dark Souls as an example.

    Dark Souls is a post apocalyptic game in which your decisions really make little to no difference in the grand scheme of things. You are no hero, if fact, you're just one of many other undead seeking a cure for the Curse. This is reflected in atmosphere, story, and gameplay as I will describe below.

    Gameplay: The Souls games are some of the most difficult games I've played, and I've played a lot of difficult games. It makes it feel as if you aren't very strong, and you aren't. As I said, you aren't no superhero ready to save the day, you are a number. You are a mere human and your abilities are only human in this world full of dragons and giants. There are no map markers so you must find your own path and tread headlong into danger at times. The only thing carrying you forward is your willpower, and how long will that last before you hollow out of despair?

    Story: The lore of these games are shrouded in mystery. In the first game you can only go on the words of Oscar, the undead who freed you from the asylum, that there's some kind of prophecy and you're involved somehow. Only after you ring the Bells of Awakening do you learn the true meaning of it. You are then sent off to kill 4 immortal beings and claim their souls for your own. Even after learning this you are still left in the dark about many details in the story. There's many side stories in these games, for instance, black iron tarkus is an enigma your first time around when you summon him to help with a boss but when you pick up his armor set in the next area you slowly learn more about him. Same with many other minor characters.

    Atmosphere: It feels like a post apocalyptic game. From the desolate valley of drakes to the splendor of Anor Londo all you find is death and despair. Everywhere you go you don't find a single living soul who doesn't attack you on sight. They are all hollowed, deprived of purpose, and you are alone. Your only respite from this is the warmth of a bonfire where you stay just long enough to refill your estus flask before you return to your suffering.

    And the entire time you don't really know WHY you are enduring this, just that you are... For that is your fate...

  • Member
    May 14

    I like a balance, as I'm sure most do. Historically speaking, I've not really gotten down with story-driven RPGs like the Witcher. To me, the "role" in "role-playing game" has meant a player-defined role. But Garrus or Garuk or whatever the silver-haired witch man is named -- he is a defined character. And at that point, it doesn't much matter to me how deep or complex the leveling, crafting, and adventuring systems are. It's an action game. And I don't seek the same things in action games that I do in RPGs. Gollum...er...Goblikon, and Ebonslayer mention atmosphere, and that's certainly part of the balance. New Vegas is a standaout example in my mind of a game that strikes that story/gameplay/atmosphere balance. 

  • May 14

    That's interesting Ebonslayer, for me Dark Souls has always been one of those games that might 'technically' be an RPG but I never really saw it as such for me. The fact that the story always felt like a side point of the game made it feel more like an action game to be, that just had a really complex loot system and all that. I don't know if that's a common view on the game (and it doesn't mean I don't love the series), it's just for me the game doesn't have, I guess as Legion said, the right balance of Story, Gameplay and Atmosphere just isn't there for me. Though to be fair that could entirely be based on the fact that I've never gotten more than 10 hours on a single character so I haven't explored enough of the world to pierce together the story by picking up 8000 items or however it's done.

    @Legion

    Ah, the infamous pre-defined character. For me it really depends on the game but Bioware does it really well, and has the character be pre-defined but also completely shaped by you. I mean, a good example is my Pathfinder in Mass Effect, sure I have a past and it isn't hidden away from me. I know that I did some stuff in the past, travelled away from earth for...oh wait, I get to decide why, which is where the game really shines. The Witcher isn't quite as good (I blame the lack of a party of travelling companions) but you can still shape...Witcher-man who's name is momentarily absent from my mind, to be a completely different character depending on what you do.

    For me, the benefit of these games is that they can focus more on the story. I mean, comparing Skyrim's story to the Witcher's is like... the only thing I can think of right now is $1 coffee from a gas station and coffee from a cafe, basically two completely different drinks and the stories for the games are the same (obviously...I need more coffee).

    Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that by having that defined character it allows you to focus on things that juist aren't present in the 'Do-Anything style games' I mean, to be fair then you do occasionally get games that would probably be better if they allowed you to be free *cough* Fallout 4 *cough* but that's a whole other discussion.

  • Member
    May 14

    +Dragonborn1721 I'll admit, most of the game is gameplay instead of story but that's what I like about it. It doesn't forcefeed you all the lore and story. If you want to learn you have to make an effort. Half my time playing was just reading item descriptions and piecing together theories, and that's what most of them are, theories.

    The creator, Hidetaki Miyazaki, was a child of a poor family in Japan. He loved reading but some of the text was beyond his basic reading capabilities so he used his imagination to fill in the parts he couldn't understand. He incorporated that into these games so that every piece of lore is to be deciphered individually by each player. He gives you the basic outline of a piece of lore, like, for instance, Black Iron Tarkus.  He was the only man to get through Sen's Fortress alive and reach Anor Londo before the PC. Once there we find his corpse in the bottom floor of the Anor Londo chapel. That's where the theory diverges. Some people believe he fell from the rafters to his death, others (including myself) think he managed to get down there but was overwhelmed by the painted guardians. There's also some theories about him getting killed by a Blade of the Darkmoon or even Gwyndolin himself.

  • Member
    May 14

    Dragonborn1721 said:

    Ah, the infamous pre-defined character. For me it really depends on the game but Bioware does it really well, and has the character be pre-defined but also completely shaped by you. I mean, a good example is my Pathfinder in Mass Effect, sure I have a past and it isn't hidden away from me. I know that I did some stuff in the past, travelled away from earth for...oh wait, I get to decide why, which is where the game really shines. The Witcher isn't quite as good (I blame the lack of a party of travelling companions) but you can still shape...Witcher-man who's name is momentarily absent from my mind, to be a completely different character depending on what you do.

    For me, the benefit of these games is that they can focus more on the story. I mean, comparing Skyrim's story to the Witcher's is like... the only thing I can think of right now is $1 coffee from a gas station and coffee from a cafe, basically two completely different drinks and the stories for the games are the same (obviously...I need more coffee).

    Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that by having that defined character it allows you to focus on things that juist aren't present in the 'Do-Anything style games' I mean, to be fair then you do occasionally get games that would probably be better if they allowed you to be free *cough* Fallout 4 *cough* but that's a whole other discussion.

    Gerlat! That's the Witcher-man's name. Honestly, I've always had difficulty classifing Mass Effect as an RPG. I mean, you can be good Sheperd or bad Shepard. Both get shit done. What you can't do is be morally grey Sheperd. I love the series (at least 1 through 3) and all the characters contained therein, but good god damn do I have trouble replaying it. I've played ME2 and 3 enough times to experience most of the playstyles but it doesn't offer much beyond that to me. It's still the same quests, same decisions, taken in the same order. I'd say it's an action game with RPG elements, but an RPG in itself? Eh. Not so much. Now, I understand my perspective is a bit warped. Skyrim was the first RPG I truly loved, and nothing has measured up since. So everything I experience, I compare to the holy, the unassailable, THE UNERRING SKYRIM. 

    But I see your point. Giving the player a defined character presents an opportunity to tell much richer and complex story. In the end though, that's all the game can do. It can only tell its story. It will never let the players tell their stories. And to my mind, that's really what counts in an RPG. The blank slate. No army man, no lawyer, and no stupid kid who grew up to be the wasteland's number one most wanted jackass.

    Okay, I'm done. Stepping off my soapbox. Apologies for the derailment, but it seemed adjacent.

     

    @Ebonslayer

    That's actually pretty fascinating. It explains...literally why all of Dark Souls lore is the way it is. I've always loved the atmosphere of the game but never dove super deep into the lore. I admit that knowing that bit of info makes me want to learn more about it. 

  • Member
    May 14

    +Legion You mentioned the flaws of Mass Effect and I, being the diehard fan that I am, must defend it.

    1. Morally grey Shepards are possible and are probably the most common way to play. They are called 'paragade' and 'renegon'. You can roleplay your Shep in countless different ways. You can read my previous Shepard playthrough on the following reddit page. I'm the OP. https://www.reddit.com/r/masseffect/comments/6b1dnc/favorite_shepard_me_13_ot_spoilers/

    2. I'll admit the quests are kind of repetetive, especially in ME3 but in ME2 there's ot many of them and all are unique. In ME1 they are all very similar but they are backed up by semi-interesting characters (kinda similar to Skyrim's except these characters are better designed).

    3. I find that the story in this game isn't really about Shepard (they already did that with DA) but about the interaction with squadmates (which DA comparatively lacks in). My favorite times in the games is talking to every squadmate periodically and seeing what they had to say. I can happily say Garrus is the best bro in the galaxy and if I had a waifu it would be Tali. The interaction between the PC and NPCs is the best I've ever seen in any game.

    4. I actually believe the backstory choices aren't really detrimental to playing Shepard. I find they are merely and outline and offer a lot of interpretation. Especially Sole Survivor who you can headcanon as being afraid of thresher maws or wanting vengeance for his/her squad, and more, you can add a lot of ideas with an event that offers so much emotional stress as that. Ruthless also doesn't necessarilly mean evil. One of my favorite playthroughs was a Colonist/Ruthless as a kind and fair person but when he even hears the word 'batarian' he flips the fuck out. You can also treat the events of ME as some kind of 'redemption' story for all those deaths on Torfan.

  • May 15

    Wait, I thought we were supposed to not care about the quests in Mass Effect games unless it leads to us banging aliens. I've been playing Andromeda all wrong then (or getting feats/powers/skills/whatever from being really good friends with someone) :P

    Don't worry Legion, it's a debate, we're supposed to get all off track and go off on tangents :D I do get that idea, I mean until The Witcher 3 the only game I think I'd played where your character is pre-determined was Dragon Age Origins, and at least then you literally get to play the Origin Story and basically deal with it however you want (and the possibilies for some of them are rather interesting, like the City Elf) other then that I was a hardcore 'no backstory' or 'vague backstory' RPG kind of player so I definitely get your opinion on them.

    Ebonslayer, I definitely agree, I haven't played any of the original games so I won't comment much on the differences between DA and ME (though, I have to say that Dragon Age has some bloody brilliant companions) because, well I can't compare really. 

  • Member
    May 15

    +Dragonborn1721 Don't worry, you aren't playing wrong. That's just one way to go about it, I personally don't like my shep being a whore but I can see how that would be appealing. As for the original games do you mean the Original Trilogy? If so then I must say you have to save up $20 to buy the trilogy pack. I can undoubtedly say it is the best series of games that I've ever played, even better than TES and DA combined.