Experienced Points

Experienced Points
But, I LIKE this Cliché!

Shamus Young | 11 Dec 2009 17:00
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Last week I mistakenly left everyone with the impression that I was unhappy with the way BioWare re-visits ideas and does a certain degree of... recycling. Just so we're clear: I don't think this is a bad thing at all. RPG games are my bread and butter, and I'm pretty much guaranteed - perhaps even compelled - to buy anything with the word "BioWare" on the cover. They make great games. And even when it comes to non-BioWare games, for the most part I'd rather play a mediocre RPG than (say) a really good action platformer. That's just where my heart is.

Not all clichés are bad. Sometimes games re-use ideas because they're fun. Keeping this in mind, let's drag out a few tropes that end up in a lot of RPG games and make fun of them.

The Arena

Remember the arena in KOTOR, Jade Empire, Neverwinter Nights 2, Oblivion, Morrowwind, Fable, Fable 2, and Dragon Age? You can hear the roar of an immense crowd, even though you never see any spectators. The announcer speaks with a booming loudspeaker voice, even if you're in a primitive fantasy world without amplifier technology and they have no discernable way of seeing what you're doing. This reached the zenith of silly in Fable 2, when you moved from one fully enclosed room to another and the unseen announcers acted like it was a television show.

It's a great trope. You get a lot of "gameplay" out of what is essentially a single primitive room. It also lets you set up oddball fights that might be fun but would be hard to justify in any other context. A displacer moose, two dire penguins, a rabid elephant and a bullsquid? Of course those animals would work together! They were trained to! For the arena!

You Are Captured

This one can be a little annoying if done wrong. (As in the Fable games.) Nobody likes to see their avatar suddenly surrender to a couple of mooks in a cutscene. But if the game can justify you being captured (or entice the player to choose to surrender) then this can be a nice way to mix things up for a little while. You get to learn about the bad guy - maybe even meet him - while in the dungeon, and you get some varied combat because you won't immediately have access to your epic gear while you're breaking out.

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