Role-playing games, or RPGs, are a popular video game genre that is difficult to describe precisely. There are many different sorts of RPGs, including sub-genres, and some games incorporate RPG features without really being RPGs.
Let’s look at the RPG genre to have a better understanding of it. We’ll look at the genre’s history, build the groundwork for what an RPG is, and look at several various sorts.
The Origins of Role-Playing Games
Role-playing video games may be traced back to its offline tabletop roots. Dungeons & Dragons, originally published in 1974, was the first mainstream hit in this field and popularized RPGs, therefore it is a fantastic example.
Players in games like Dungeons & Dragons build their own character with numerous attributes. These characteristics, such as strength and intellect, influence their abilities in a variety of fields. Players go on an adventure led by a Dungeon Master, who controls the flow of the game and the tale.
Each character’s distinctive build influences how they cope with problems in the game, such as being attacked by creatures or having to pick locks. Players get experience points as they continue through the game, enabling them to level up and improve their talents while maybe learning new ones.
Related: 17 Essential Online Tabletop RPG Software and Tools
Electronic RPGs that followed many of the same principles as video games became increasingly popular on both personal computers and home consoles. Of course, instead of rolling dice to calculate stats and having a Dungeon Master progress the tale, video games offer the benefit of letting the programming handle everything.
What Defines an RPG?
Now that we know where RPGs originated, how can we define a role-playing game? To be deemed an RPG, a game must meet the following criteria:
- There must be some kind of character development in which your character becomes stronger as you play. This often entails increasing your health, experience points, stat qualities, or something similar.
- Your fighting experience must be influenced by your character’s characteristics, at least in part. This might imply that your damage is affected by your player’s strength or agility, for example. Items’ combat effects or the player mastering inputs do not count.
- Your character should have a diverse arsenal of weapons, armor, spells, healing supplies, and other things to utilize as you see appropriate. Items required for puzzles do not count toward this.
While some RPGs incorporate extra features, any game that lacks all three of these criteria isn’t a true RPG. To put this into reality, consider two examples of games and define them as RPGs or not depending on the criteria outlined above.
After surviving the fallout in a subterranean vault, you explore a radioactive wasteland in Fallout 3. At the start of the game, you allocate skill points to different attributes for your character. You get additional skill points to allocate as you level up as you accomplish objectives and earn EXP. This satisfies the first criterion.
While Fallout 3 may be played in both first and third person, your player stats have a significant impact on combat. Your strength stat, for example, and the melee weapons skill influence how much damage you do with weapons like swords. This meets the second criteria listed above, since your fighting performance is determined by numbers rather than choices and physical performance.
Finally, you may employ a number of weapon types, healing supplies, armor, and other equipment in Fallout 3. These are available for the player to choose and most aren’t necessary for anything particular, therefore #3 is met.
Thus, Fallout 3 is an RPG.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Many people consider the Zelda games to be RPGs, but when we compare them to the aforementioned criteria, we can see why this isn’t the case.
In Ocarina of Time, Link may collect hearts by completing dungeons, but this is not inherent advancement. Link does not have stats or a player level that improves as a result of beating opponents or completing missions, hence point #1 is not met.
For the second argument, although you may get a better sword via a quest, battle in Zelda is entirely dependent on your actions. Point #2 is also not included in Zelda since there are no particular metrics or traits that can be seen or tweaked.
Finally, although Ocarina of Time has a wide range of goods, almost all of them are essential to continue through the game and solve puzzles. Because there aren’t as many weapons to choose from as there are in Fallout, point #3 doesn’t apply to Zelda.
Ocarina of Time is clearly not an RPG. The majority of Zelda games are action-adventure titles, combining the puzzle-solving and plot of adventure games with the combat and mobility of action games.
More: A Complete Guide to the Legend of Zelda Series
Western RPGs vs. Japanese RPGs
Early computer RPGs, such as The Bard’s Tale, were distinct from console RPGs, such as Dragon Quest. Over time, instead of referring to RPGs by their platform, people began referring to them as “Western RPGs” and “Japanese RPGs” (JRPGs).
This is an essential difference, so let’s go further into it.
Western RPGs, so named because they are primarily created by teams in the Americas or Europe, are more open-ended. Most of the time, they provide you options for how to approach tasks and in what sequence to complete them.
They often let you to start the game by creating your own character, who is a “blank slate” that you influence. Western RPGs may also offer a plethora of dialog choices that enable you to affect the story’s events, even allowing you to choose between moral and immoral acts.
Furthermore, Western RPGs are frequently more serious and feature older characters than their Japanese equivalents. Typically, their battle occurs in real time on the same screen as the rest of the game.
The Mass Effect trilogy, Skyrim, and The Witcher 3 are examples of notable Western RPGs.
In a few significant aspects, Japanese RPGs vary from their Western counterparts. Typically, JRPGs offer a more charismatic protagonist that you can’t, if at all, change. The pace is also significantly more streamlined: rather than an open world where you may take up tasks as you see fit, Japanese RPGs are rather linear.
Their warfare systems are also very different. Most Japanese RPGs use turn-based combat, in which you pick instructions from a menu rather than fighting in real time. Instead of seeing foes in the field, many JRPGs, particularly older ones, incorporate random fight encounters on a separate screen.
JRPG characters are often younger, and you may travel with a complete group of people (instead of being alone, which is common in Western RPGs).
Popular Japanese RPGs include the Final Fantasy, Persona, and Chrono Trigger series.
Sub-Genres of RPGs
You now understand what an RPG is and how to differentiate between the two primary varieties. But the genre’s ambiguity does not stop there: RPGs have sub-genres as well. Some of them have previously been mentioned in passing, but let’s go through some instances so you’re aware of them.
Action RPGs are role-playing games that place a strong focus on battle. These include games like Skyrim, where your real-time actions during battle play a significant role in your success.
Shooter games featuring RPG features are known as role-playing shooters. As you level up in Borderlands, for example, you accumulate points in numerous attributes.
MMORPGs, or massively multiplayer online role-playing games, are RPGs that allow you to interact with other players online, such as World of Warcraft. Unlike single-player games, these games continue to run even when you are not playing.
Read More: The 10 Best Free MMORPGs That Require No Download
Tactical RPGs blend plot and stat components from RPGs with features from turn-based or real-time strategy games. Disgaea and Fire Emblem are two examples.
There are more genres that are hazy, but these are some of the most prominent.
Enjoy Role-Playing Games Today
RPGs are a diverse genre due to their lengthy history and incorporation with other game genres. Many games have RPG aspects, but true RPGs are simple to spot if you know what to look for. They’re a terrific game style if you love immersing yourself in a character and stat-based gameplay that doesn’t depend as much on your physical ability.
There are several additional video game genres that you may be unaware of, so why not investigate some of them next?
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