I think we’ve had this thread before, but I’m pretty sure it was when we were on The Verge, so I thought I’d bring it back. Sorry for the repetition, but hey some people don’t mind that from games. I know I’ve pretty much did the same thing over and over again in Skyrim. Although, that’s not exactly why I’m in love with the game. There are three things that I really want from a game, and if they do at least one of them well, I’m hooked. These three golden attributes are Exploration, Rhythm, and Atmosphere. Also, in the case of RPG’s, relatable, interesting characters are another of my greatest desires.
Exploration is pretty obvious. I like games like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim, Fallout 3, etc. because of the huge worlds they let me explore. Even after I’ve "finished" them, I still come back every few months or so because I just got absorbed in them that much. See, when I was a kid, I used games as a way to escape from a world of yelling, anger, and my life falling apart as my parents got divorced. I could play games like the Pokemon and Zelda games and go on the adventures I couldn’t go on with them anywhere because they were too fighting with each other. Even today I find myself in the middle of nowhere without much means to explore, but I still have games to let me trail new pastures.
I mean, it’s not JUST that idea of going on the kind of epic adventures that I can’t have in this poorly designed game called "real life". It’s the multiple level exits in Super Mario World, it’s searching every nook and cranny before moving on to the next town, hell, it’s breaking the game and finding some closed off area the developers didn’t intend you to find. You can find this sort in so many different genres that people find it odd when I profess my disappointment in games like Prince of Persia (2008) for not having what I want out of a platformer. It’s not just that I want exploration in platformers, it’s one of the main things I want out of nearly any game.
At least it looks nice.
Rhythm requires a bit more explanation. When someone hears "rhythm" and "games", they’re thinking "rhythm games" and those are totally a part of what I’m talking about. Elite Beat Agents is one of my favorite DS games and I’ve been enjoying THEATRHYTHM: Final Fantasy thus far. However, I’m talking about games that USE rhythm in their design. Yeah, some of these are more obvious, like playing to the beat in The World Ends With You or Space Invaders Extreme. However, there’s also the flow of the battle system in games like Dragon Age II, the Dragon Quest series, and even, Final Fantasy XIII. Some people would argue with me that those games don’t have as keen a sense of strategy as other RPG’s. I’d honestly agree that they aren’t AS strategy focused as other similar games, but I also wouldn’t discount their use of strategy either. They’re unique blends of action and strategy (Well, perhaps not much action is going on Dragon Quest) that I find to be more engaging than their contemporaries. It’s all because of how the combat feels more like a dance than micromanaging things. What can I say? I like getting down more than doing spreadsheets.
Press A to Action.
Atmosphere is another one that’s pretty self-explanatory. I’m sure the snow in Skyrim or Fallout 3’s general dreariness comes to mind. But, let’s ignore some of my favorite games and go to one I more casually enjoy, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. I can’t stand the mainline Final Fantasy game this span out of, but I love Crisis Core. Why? I mean, I just went over loving exploration and the Final Fantasy series really lacks it. Some would say Crisis Core has even less than Final Fantasy VII, but I’d say that they’re about on par with Crisis Core merely removing the ILLUSION of freedom that is so prominent in JRPG’s. Anyway, as for why I like Crisis Core, I didn’t really dislike Final Fantasy VII so harshly up until I left Midgar. Why? That place had some wonderful atmosphere going on. It was a really cool cyberpunk world with a lot of allure. Once I left, so did all the appeal. In Crisis Core, that’s where you spend most of your time. Many of the same beats from FFVII remain, but now they’re more tolerable. Crisis Core has the atmosphere from FFVII I loved, but packaged in a game I can enjoy.
Now, the characters thing isn’t really something I need from every type of game, which is why it’s a bit of an exception for me. However, in an RPG it’s a pretty big deal. I can get through a game with terribly bland characters like Fallout 3 or Skyrim (I sure am citing these Bethesda games a lot) if they have one of the former attributes, but if they fail at those AND characters, I see no reason to continue playing. Games like the Paper Mario series, Fallout: New Vegas, and Dragon Age II have great characters in spades. And that characterization is crucial in an RPG. You can have the most bland story imaginable, but if I’m living through it with someone I like, it’s all the worthwhile.
This series gets a lot of flack for it's two-dimensional characters, but my positive opinion of them won't fold.
So, I ask you Polygon community? What do you like in games? Everybody has a different idea of what a game SHOULD be. Heck, it’s not just games, it’s genres, or specific series. I know that what I want out of a platformer (As previously mentioned) or The Legend of Zelda series isn’t what everyone else wants. I look forward to people telling me how wrong everyone else is in what they want.