The Problem with WRPGs
Role playing games have been around for decades, starting as early as tabletop or pen-and-paper games. The genre has proven incredibly popular in the video game space, even spawning multiple sub-genres. Among the most popular options lies the Western Role Playing Game. This genre has been available for years, having many fans before a steady decline, but it didn’t really gain traction until The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind released back in 2002. Bethesda created a large open world for players to explore, giving them nearly endless possibilities. Morrowind inspired many others like it to follow, thus creating a larger problem with WRPGs. Long story short: it’s wasting time on distractions.
It sounds simple, but distractions are no strangers to video games. Sometimes it can be a mini-game, others it can be a sidequest. WRPGs are unfortunately full of the latter, and some even have mini-games. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an amazing game full or detail and content, but even it has its distraction in Gwent. Sidequests aren’t the only distraction though, and they’re not the worst offender either. When it comes to games like Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, or even the recently released The Outer Worlds, the problem comes from scavenging. These games simply have too many things to collect, and too many reasons to collect them.
As I work through The Outer Worlds for our review, I’m running into my long-time nemesis in WRPGs. I’m a hoarder. If I go into a building, I’m going to loot the hell out of it. Searching every drawer, every container, every corpse until I find every last item. You never know when you’ll come across a sweet new weapon or some useful armor. While a lot of it can be junk, there are many situations where these items can be useful. Maybe it’ll help earn some extra cash? Another reason might be for a future sidequest where these items can be cashed in. You never know with these games without doing extensive research. This doesn’t make these games bad, but it does have an effect on how long it can take to complete the game.
As someone that reviews games often, a good majority of my free time goes to games. Given how often I have to do reviews, a lot of times, I have to go against my moral code and rush through a game to finish it. As a completionist at heart, this hurts a lot more than you would think to skip certain aspects of a game. Despite this, for some reason, I can’t ignore my compulsion to collect everything in WRPGs. I’ve already accepted my fate of skipping sidequests long ago after my experience with Fallout 3. When you’re given these large open worlds and constantly generating loot, it creates quite the predicament. It often means that I don’t even finish the main game.
Looting doesn’t just come from items scattered around the environment. It can often come from fallen enemies as well. Sometimes you finish a group of raiders and you have to search their corpses for anything they may hold. This can often be time consuming too, as some games might make searching for corpses a chore after an intense battle. This can especially be true if the game has bugs or glitches that make bodies clip through environments. It can be difficult to track things down already as it is, so it doesn’t help when the game fights against you. Don’t even get us started on the games that offer the ability to pickpocket from NPCs.
Of course, scavenging is only a small part of these distractions. As mentioned earlier, sometimes we gather these items for sidequests. It can save a lot of time to collect potential quest items before a sidequest even prompts. Of course, this creates a guessing game too, as you’ll never know what items can be used in a quest. It’s even common where games will have specific items only available when accepting a quest. The open world aspect of many WRPGs make for tons of possibilities… too many some might say.
Sidequests themselves are a distraction to the main game too. Of course, it often benefits the player, offering valuable amounts of experience, special items and other perks. Sidequests are common in many video game genres, but the WRPG is notorious for being able to overwhelm players with them. Sometimes it feels like every unique looking NPC will offer one, further tempting players to stray away from the main quest. Sidequests can often be as lengthy as any main quest objective. Add scavenging for loot on top of that, and you’re in for a large time sink.
Of course, some games in the genre handle sidequests very well. Mass Effect 2 is a good example of a WRPG that balances sidequests with the the main game. Many of the distractions in that game are either on the way to the next objective, or they’re beneficial enough to affect the game like a main quest. This is partly due to the more linear and action-oriented structure of the game. It also helps that Mass Effect has less to scavenge, though just enough to make exploration valuable. Similarly, Dragon Age: Origins has tons of sidequests that players will want to tackle so as not to miss something. Even companion characters are possible to miss in that game, so it makes them even more vital.
One final distraction that causes the problem with WRPGs is the character creation. Going as far back as the pen-and-paper games, character creation is always a time consuming feature. Even if you go with default appearances, there’s still changing stats, picking perks, and more. With the amount of aesthetic details in WRPGs these days, many will still spend hours fine tuning their character’s appearance. Many titles like Fallout or The Outer Worlds offer many face appearance options, but some games take it even further. The Elder Scrolls or a game like Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning throw in the ability to change race as well.
For many people, these are minor issues. Some people live, breathe and eat games like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. Every time titles like these emerge, it always gains the interest of this fanbase. Despite this, I’ll always see these distractions as a problem with WRPGs. That doesn’t mean I see it as a negative aspect, but a nuisance for me nonetheless. Regardless, I’m going to go against my nature as much as possible while reviewing The Outer Worlds. I’m committed to finishing it, unlike Fallout or Elder Scrolls titles, among many others. We hope you look forward to what we think of Obsidian’s new IP.