11 Things All Great RPGs Have in Common
What do all great RPGs have in common?
In the RPG market, there are a few elements of gameplay that make the amazing games stand out from the decent. This list touches on the elements that draw gamers in and hold their attention for the countless hours that we engage with the vast worlds of RPGs.
11. Great Story and Lore
The story and lore is one of the key hallmarks of a great RPG. A world to explore is nothing without the stories that surround the people, the places, and the relics. The lore and story is part of the reason why some games are so easy to return to time and time again.
The Dragon Age universe offers an example of this. The world is not (figuratively) flat, there are places and people that build it, there is a backstory that the player can learn that makes the places real.
Then, on top of all of the history of the world, the player gets to engage in a story that, oftentimes, helps to form or change the world that the character is a part of.
Final Fantasy 7 Sephiroth
Take Final Fantasy VII, for example, this game offers a world of depth with history (such as the Ancients, or Cetra, as they are sometimes referred to) and interesting characters. But, on top of that, Cloud is fighting to save the world from disaster and you get to be a part of that epic story that unfolds.
10. Many Hours of Playtime
World of Warcraft
The vast nature of RPGs allows for hours upon hours of engaging play. In great RPGs the player will rack up hours and not even be aware of the hours flitting by because of how engaging the world is.
What makes the many hours of playtime a great RPG is that even though there is a high quantity of content, you are continually drawn in and engaged by the quality.
Many hours of playtime can sometimes just become a grind but in a truly remarkable RPG the hours are an experience of exploration, adventure, and engagement.
9. Interesting Classes
Another mark of a great RPG is the class system. Being able to choose a class or a mixture of classes and then developing your skills with that class add an element of challenge and replay-ability as gamers try new classes and level up different characters.
Dark Souls 2 Mage
Class systems help to give characters strengths and weaknesses. This causes the game to be more and less challenging at times as it plays to your strengths and attacks your weaknesses.
8. Good Combat
Combat is another core piece of any game but it can set apart the good RPGs from the sub-par ones. Combat presents the majority of the challenge in a game but in order for it to be effective it needs to be balanced and interesting. If it’s innovative and unique, that’s also a huge plus for the game.
Fallout 4 Combat
Combat is typically made up, depending on the game, of a mixture of different, common elements. What makes combat good is how effective and interesting that mixture is. Regardless as to if the game is hack-and-slash, firs person shooter, turn-based, or any other form, it has to stand out in some way to be considered great.
Great RPGs all take combat and make it into something unique, interesting, and fun.
7. Exciting Quest Lines
Elder Scrolls Online
Exciting quests lines are the bread and butter of the RPG world. They are a large part of what keeps gamers returning to the world. Not only does the player get to follow a story, they get to engage in it. Be that a minor story, perhaps a fisherman’s need to get a few fish, or an epic quest line that will one day bring you against your greatest adversary.
These stories can accent the world or they can make up the world’s biggest problem but what is most important is that you get to engage in them - working to solve problems or create problems, if you so desire.
6. Interesting NPCs
NPCs often make up some of the most iconic character in games. If they are interesting and have backstories to be discovered, the NPCs are a definite asset to any RPG. NPCs can help push an RPG from basic to above and beyond.
World of Warcraft (Tyrande Whisperwind, Malfurion, and Illidan)
The NPCs of World of Warcraft, for example, have entire novels built around them and even if you don’t know their story, you learn pieces of information about them as you play. The stories of NPCs have a way of connecting you further to the world and drawing you into the game more.
Another example is, again, from Dark Souls 2. Characters like the Emerald Herald or Lucatiel have very interesting stories attached to them. But what makes them all the more engaging is that you have to dig for their stories to understand who they are and where they come from.
The NPCs have the effect of making the world more real and not just populating the environment but accenting it, characterizing it, and creating it into something more significant. If the NPCs do this, then they help to improve the RPG.
5. Massive World Map
The massive worlds of RPGs encourage exploration and adventure - an activity that every RPG gamer loves to engage in. Discovering hidden regions, reaching the top of a mountain, and taking long treks through amazing scenery are all parts of a well-crafted RPG experience.
Elder Scrolls (Skyrim)
The Elder Scrolls games are notorious for their beautifully crafted landscapes along with games such as Dragon Age: Inquisition and Witcher 3. The realism and stunning, picturesque views are part of what makes these games stand out among all other RPGs.
World of Warcraft (Shadowmoon Valley)
World of Warcraft is another example. Although the world is a more unique art style, it offers a vast, engaging world that continues to grow and encourage exploration.
4. Epic Weaponry and Gear
World of Warcraft
Weaponry and gear serves many purposes in the worlds of RPGs. Mainly, you can become more powerful while also trying to look as epic as you can. It's a universally great feeling to pick up a piece of gear that you have been searching, grinding, or hoping for.
The crowns from the DLC of Dark Souls 2 are great example of good gear that looks great while also taking effort to acquire. The thrill of finishing the DLC and obtaining the gear is unmatched as you imagine the amazing possibilities that come from the new piece.
The crown of the Old Iron King is a personal favorite as it allows my mage to get back a few spells every couple minutes which is very helpful in such an unforgiving world.
The late-game and end-game gear can give a gamer a goal to reach for as their playing through an RPG and is a great element of an RPG game.
3. Enemy Variety
Dark Souls 2
All gamers have played games where it feels like they are fighting the same enemy over and over again. These games dry up with their monotony and are frequently abandoned by the player.
Great RPGs, however, have an element of enemy variety and purpose that, instead of alienating the gamer, engages them.
Dark Souls 2 is a great example of this variety and purpose. The gamer never knows what’s around the corner, behind them, or down the next hallway and the variety adds to the anticipation, excitement, and engagement of the entire gaming experience.
Dark Souls 2
Not only are they diverse in appearance, the enemies are diverse in actions and abilities.
Again, Dark Souls 2 is a prime example of this diversity. I remember while playing through Dark Souls 2 with friends of mine many occasions when we would go in to fight a boss a second or third time and the boss would suddenly do something that we had never seen before. This gameplay element kept the game from getting dry and allowed each new battle to be fun and exciting.
2. Variety of Villainous Bosses
The villains of RPGs are often so much more than meets the eye. Although some might be the basic “bad guy”, gaming companies have also been creating engaging villains with depth and meaning behind their actions.
Take Riku in Kingdom Hearts, for example, a character that grows to be Sora’s biggest adversary (or the anti-hero) after being one of Sora’s closest friends. Although the gamer might not like this change, it is one that is led up to in a progression of story; the villain has a reason to be the way they are.
Riku from Kingdom Hearts
The mark of a good villain is someone or something who the gamer can acknowledge as having reason for their pain. The villains have motivating factors or a reason for their actions. Great RPGs have this degree of character development for their villains in addition to their main characters and that makes the game better.
Not to mention, of course, the bosses simply having interesting mechanics and looking terrifying, interesting, or simply different.
The Butcher from Diablo is a great example. While fighting him for the first time, it’s surprising and interesting when the ground beneath your feet suddenly lights up and you rush away to avoid the fire exploding beneath you while avoiding the attacks of the Butcher.
Butcher from Diablo 3
1. A Great Adventure
Dark Souls 2
The desire for adventure is part of many gamers and what draws gamers to RPGs in particular. In a great RPG, you’re set right into the adventure of a lifetime and you get to not just witness this adventure but become a part of this adventure.
The truly great RPGs give you an adventure that you can make into your own with your choices and how you handle your character. Adventure is a very human desire and the best of RPGs will give you the opportunity to become a part of something greater.
What great RPGs are coming out in 2016? Check out our article 11 New RPGs Coming Out in 2016.
Come see another list of what makes an RPG awesome.
If you want to know more about Why We Love RPG games check out our other article.