AS GAMES GET DEEPER, THERE’S ONE CATCH-ALL TO ADD SPICE TO ANY LIFE: A LIT­TLE BIT OF ROLEPLAY NEVER HURT ANY­ONE.

For bet­ter or worse, these days ev­ery­thing’s an RPG

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - OPINION - Os­car Tay­lor-Kent

But isn’t any game where you play as a char­ac­ter an RPG?” That’s my dad. He knows damn well that’s not what I mean, as I ex­plain to him yet again what RPG is short for, and why I’m play­ing so many of them. In a sense, he is right. When we in­habit the sneaky, foot­print-leav­ing boots of Solid Snake we are in­hab­it­ing his char­ac­ter, but Me­tal Gear Solid still isn’t a role-play­ing game.

As time’s gone on, though, my dad’s be­come more and more right. As tech­nol­ogy’s moved for­wards and things you can do in games have grown deeper, the way you play around with char­ac­ters in these dig­i­tal realms has had to get deeper too. Nar­ra­tives and char­ac­ters can have much more fidelity these days, but how do you fit this seam­lessly into a game and im­prove a player’s con­nec­tion with that world? What bet­ter way to im­prove your re­la­tion­ship than with a bit of harm­less role-play?

As­sas­sin’s Creed is a series that’s been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some changes lately. What was once a tower-climb­ing, hay-jump­ing ac­tion ad­ven­ture has mor­phed into a more level-driven, RPG-lite ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially with all the changes brought to last year’s As­sas­sin’s Creed Ori­gins. This year, fol­low-up As­sas­sin’s Creed Odyssey is tak­ing the Ori­gins tem­plate and dou­bling down on the RPG el­e­ments. On top of the changes play­ing Ray­man Ju­nior back on the orig­i­nal PlayS­ta­tion for all my RPG needs (Level 3, ob­vi­ously).

While the num­bers help, the heart of a good RPG is more of a feel­ing than whether it ticks off a check­list def­i­ni­tion. A great RPG pulls you into its world, and al­lows you to in­habit it. That’s why ex­plor­ing An­cient Greece holds so much ap­peal in Odyssey, or the streets of Night City in Cy­ber­punk 2077. Not just be­cause we level up or choose a spicy or mild re­sponse to some­thing our friend says, but be­cause they use the lan­guage of games to hook us and draw us in, to make us re­ally feel like it’s us down there do­ing the ex­plor­ing our­selves.

With ad­vance­ments in hard­ware, some tricks won’t work on us in the way they used to. Switch­ing up to 4K is nice, but it lacked the mind-bend­ing punch of that first move away from the blocky poly­gons of old to smoother vi­su­als, or the brain-Men­tos buzz of get­ting a high-def­i­ni­tion telly for your PlayS­ta­tion 3 and gain­ing a new level of ap­pre­ci­a­tion for Nathan Drake’s not-so-hid­den rear trea­sure. Big worlds just aren’t go­ing to cut it any more. We’re al­ready well-trav­elled enough. What’s truly im­pres­sive now is how de­tailed you can make a world. While Red Dead Re­demp­tion 2 might not be a tra­di­tional RPG, Rock­star’s com­mit­ment to adding depth to the set­ting adds a new layer to it as an open-world game, one you ex­plore as Arthur Mor­gan. It’s not what you’d think of as an RPG at all, but if I can feel like I’m Mor­gan, pot­ter­ing around ex­plor­ing cup­boards and forg­ing re­la­tion­ships, what’s the dif­fer­ence? The fu­ture is RPG.

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