You handle your controller with precision. You swiftly chase after your foe, barely catching a glimpse of him running around corners. He stops to camp, and you crack his skull with a tomahawk from behind. A gleaming 3 digit number flashes across your screen, followed by split second explanations for your score, allowing you to get right back into the fight.
This is the shooter RPG system, example a la Call of Duty. This system is incredibly appealing to the player and is worked into many games. For starters, Borderlands. Although the system is implemented, it is done so in a lackluster manner. Shoot enemy with gun A, B, C, or D, activating powers against tougher opponents, rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat….
The system is boring, and a chore. Nearly every enemy fits into class E, F, or G, and is taken down in a flurry of your basic lead. You run into enemies exponentially below your own level, and it’s a waste of time and precious ammo to blast through them. Now look at non shooter RPGs. Kills, kills, kills, repeating the same pattern as Borderlands. Challenging boss fights and in depth stories barely push these games into a positive field.
Again we turn to Call of Duty. Instead of playing solely with kills, the player is rewarded for trying something new or killing in a unique manner. This often leads to endless imitation and endless fun. Players start to stick their friends to turn them into invincible suicide friends or perhaps even fire explosive crossbow bolts into RC cars to make a doubly explosive death machine. I just imagined that last one, proving that creativity breeds more and more interest because of the unique way war is presented to us by Treyarch.
Another important fact to note is that each enemy is valued with the same amount of experience, despite their level. You earn the same amount for killing a grizzly COD veteran as a newborn noob. As you barely stand your ground against legends, your next random match might suddenly turn into a bloodbath, allowing you to release your anger and power yourself up for the next tough guy. You could even have some fun with your prey too.
I digress; I can hear your mental screams of “You can’t compare a single player RPG shooter hybrid to an online RPG shooter hybrid!” I present to you Fallout 3, New Vegas even. Although your experience is subtly rewarded, you still enjoy yourself as you take down mutants. You never feel like you’re grinding to level here either. The level scaling keeps most of the enemies you face a challenge, but there are still many enemies whose pockets you can fill with grenades.
Once you accumulate enough overpowered weapons and finally hit level 30, make a few saves and wreak havoc in any way you choose, or finish the story mode with a bang. Variety is not encouraged in the same manner as Call of Duty because Fallout is such a player developed game. But it doesn’t take too much intelligence to realize you can annihilate any human, monster, or beast in your path for your own entertainment.
We turn back now to the experience ticker. The numbers give us short bursts of success, encouraging us to move on and grow better, faster and stronger. But why, cruel world? Why can’t we enjoy a system like this in-non shooter RPGs, or even shooter RPGs that need a boost in this department (I love you dearly Valkyria Chronicles, but…) After action reports are lame! No one enjoys watching a bar slowly fill before a loading screen, nowhere near your goal and feeling like you will never succeed in reaching those final levels.
I propose a ticker in all RPGs! I’m getting a little ridiculous here, but you get my point. I just killed a zombie with fire, my spell turned into fira when I leveled amongst combat and now I level fields of zombies at a time. Or slicing left arms off gives me +1 to left arm slicing!
Even more importantly, we need to remove the mass of fodder characters, either by level scaling or replacement with fresh, tough baddies. Having a consistent challenge or a consistent reward is so much more appealing, and adds to the value as you slay various beasts. Truly the pinnacle of gaming!
Thanks for reading,