BioWare: Final Fantasy XIII is Not an RPG

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Oh, look, another game designer who believes he is brilliant enough to define, in absolute terms, what fits a genre or doesn't! Who has made a few successful games, but didn't make the ones he's talking about!

Let's think about this in a fairer way. BioWare games aren't "RPGs" either. Look, I'll point out the ways in which they differ from RPG tradition in a mildly hysterical questioning fashion:

Enemies that level with you? Houses that you can't enter? People who you can't click on and talk to, despite having absolutely no reason to do so? You don't wake up in a bed in every game? You can be evil? Little or no random battles?

This is all bloody nonsense, and typical rhetoric from someone who does nothing but promote their game and how excellent it supposedly is, meaning badmouthing every other respected franchise just to get controversy and therefore media coverage. It's a bad case of PR talk, and the fact that people are seriously discussing the comment is just not a good sign.

I don't even own FFXIII and I still think that what Erickson's said here is stupid. Genre is, by definition, a wide concept, that is meant to be open to a great deal of interpretation. Being strict with your categorisation may help with your filing cabinets and paperwork, but it doesn't make any sense in an entertainment context.

Games are more than zeroes and ones, and they can be more than just an RPG or just an Adventure game. That's what combinations are for, BioWare.

To be fair, though, the term "RPG" covers a ridiculously broad array of games: games based heavily on tabletop RPG systems, games that allow character customisation, games that allow weapon and skill upgrades, games that don't allow you to roleplay your character at all but still use an experience points system, etc. It's sometimes hard to tell what type of game something is if it's just described as "an RPG" or "containing RPG elements". Perhaps someone ought to start drawing a line and come up with clearer terminology.

Besides, if Squenix themselves mentioned that they weren't really going for an RPG feel, why does it matter if someone else points it out?

Well, I for one agree that FF13 doesn't fit the typical RPG mold. Succinctly put, mainly because you have no control over how you react to the story unfolding around you. I don't think you need to be able to change or affect said story for it to be an RPG, but you should be able to decide how your characters react to it.

In elaboration, consider a playthrough of FF13: There is no point in the game where the player can in the slightest affect how the characters behave or feel. Their personalities and relationshyips come predefined and evolve along the same path each time you play the game. You cannot, f.inst. decide that Lightning should smack Snow more in the face than she already does (much as you might want to).

You have a limited choice in what weapons to use. It's limited and of small, though at least some, consequence, but it's there. I'll grant them that one.

Your ability progression is, at best, an illusion of choice. During every chapter you will, some time before the end of it, have enough CP to buy everything. The prerequisites on the crystal grid also means that bar a few key abilities, you are going down the same path, and in each playthrough, at about the same pace every time. The prohibitive cost of the unlockable roles means you are deliberately handicapping yourself if you stray outside the predetermined roles. The setup of required roles for living through fights also means that the choice of which characters to use is down to a handful of viable combinations.

More to the last point: what characters you use, when you get to choose, has absolutely no bearing on what happens in the story or how they react to it.

Replayability is a major attraction of RPG games: you want to try the same story and do it in a different way. It doesn't have to be a completely different story that comes out of it, but you want to see all the little differences that comes with f.inst trying to be a bastard instead of a good guy. FF13 doesn't have this.

To make a quick contrast to Mass Effect 2: You do indeed play through the same story every time. The weapons are quite restricted, and with DLC, it's pretty easy to get "the best ones" early on. The rate you aquire research also means that the progression is going to be very similar each time around.

However, a key difference is that you have control of how Shppard reacts to events. You can push that guy out the window, or appeal to his common sense. Your choice, and yes the end results are more or less the same (you find the guy you were looking for), but the player feels he has impact on the story and how the character develops. The fact that you save the galaxy (for a bit) each time is really a minor point. It's about what the road there looks like. And playing as a renegade rather that paragon is a noticably different road.

Mass Effect 2 and FF13 are both brilliant games in my mind. One of them is just more adventure game than rpg.

An interesting arguement from Bioware there. Been reading a couple of select posts (some I feel went off the subject slightly, but that's besides the point) and my view is, yes, if you want to go with the dictionary term "Role Playing Game", you're right, Final Fantasy XIII is an RPG, but then so would Super Mario Galaxy, Quake 4, Bayonetta, God of War etc. You're playing the role of a character, albeit several different characters as opposed to one.

It's been said many times that the RPG genre is the loosest defined genre in gaming, and I whole heartedly agree with that. Final Fantasy XIII is similar to most Final Fantasy games but falls over on some of the core values. Would I say it's a typical Japanese RPG? Most certainly, it just lacks certain components that are often associated with that sub-genre.

But I think the word "typical" is what pretty much defines this debate. The Japanese and Western cultures have different takes on the genre. Ignoring cultural references, would I agree with Bioware? Yes and no, and I will tell you all why.

Roleplaying Games began in pen and paper format, such as Dungeons and Dragons and Runequest, and so this is where I will take my logic from. These were defined by taking part in a prewritten, expansive world in the form of a made up avatar. Contrary to popular beliefs, levelling doesn't necessarily make something an "RPG", Runequest didn't use levels for example, but the character always evolves in some way, which Mass Effect 2 and Final Fantasy XIII both tick the boxes on.

Ok, so far so good for both sides, now here's the kicker. In pen and paper RPGs, almost every campaign involves making decisions, and it in turn affects the world around them and evolves the story (it's usually dependant on them too). Mass Effect 1 and 2 both do this to great effect. This is what sets the genre apart from, say, shooters such as Bioshock, which utilise a levelling system but aren't really seen as an RPG generally. You are in a world that feels alive, where you change what happens and affect what happens around you. Final Fantasy tends to barely scrape the barrel on this, but that by no means is necessarily a bad thing.

In the end, it comes down to personal opinion and what you determine an RPG is, I've just thrown out an idea to think about. Would I say Final Fantasy XIII is an RPG in a Japanese cultural sense? Most definitely. Would I say it's a defining title in the genre as a whole? Not quite.

Onyx Oblivion:
Does it have stats and leveling as a focus in combat? Then it's an RPG.

Unless he's also saying that stuff like Diablo and MMORPGs aren't RPGs?

Besides, when the genre was named, anything with dialogue and a plot above "Eat Dots" was pretty much an RPG.

The fact that you think that the genre was named in a time when games were even so advanced as Pacman shows how little you really know about RPGs. Granted I'm not some Pen & Paper vet who's been playing RPGs since before you could even wipe your own ass, but at least I know my own hobby's history before I start spouting my mouth about it.

As for your definition of what makes a game an RPG, I think you basically just described approximately 70% of games currently on the market. Heck, by your definition, I could argue that Modern Warfare is an RPG. Now, I haven't played Final Fantasy since FFX sullied my faith in the series, and FFX2 did to my faith in the series what a rock does to glass. So I won't lie and claim that I've played FFXIII (though I'll admit that early trailers made it look promising before the later trailers came along and spoiled it), and I also won't claim whether or not this guy is right. But let's at least admit one thing: This guy probably knows just a little bit more about RPGs than either you or I. So you can have your opinion, but if it's this guy's opinion that FFXIII isn't RPGish, then I'm probably going to take the word of the guy who's had a hand in making RPGs over the guy who doesn't even know how RPGs got started in the first place.

Soviet Heavy:
I'm a fan of Bioware, but aren't they also the people who are refusing to address homosexuality in Mass Effect 2 because they consider it like a PG-13 action movie?

It's more that they don't have homosexuality in Mass Effect 2 because they felt it doesn't fit with the character of Commander Shepard. Frankly you'd probably have more of a point in claiming Bioware to be homophobic if it wasn't for the fact that their other major title currently on the market does allow for same-sex partnering. So if you're really that pent-up to see some man-on-man action in your games, just play the other Bioware game.

BrotherRool:
I disagree completely because only in the most infamous FF (X-2) was choice and even character building really a focus. I can't see where this has gone off the rails.

FF's have always defined their RPGness as turn based combat, high customization of equipment, story based focus and creating a huge new world.

FFXIII does all this exactly like it's predecessors. The only real difference is a lack of towns and sidequests, which I don't feel define a JRPG but are far more valid

Firstly, you're only about half-right about customization of equipment. From Final Fantasy 7 and upward the only equipment you got was one piece of armor, one weapon, and maybe a couple accessories (though even those went away eventually). In fact, the only FF titles that have any customization in it's gear was FF2 and 6 where any character could be geared-out any way you wanted them to. In every other FF title your character's gear was based purely on his class.

I would also like to point-out that you're rather wrong about jRPGs not being defined by exploration and side quests. Nearly EVERY jRPG I've ever played has had plenty of exploration. In fact, I can't think of a single jRPG that was lacking in side quests and exploration. Granted I haven't played many modern jRPGs, so maybe they've taken a rather sharp downhill slide with the PS2 era, but having played countless jRPGs during their glory days, I think I'd know a thing or two about what defines them and what made them fun. If you're telling me that a jRPG isn't defined by some level of exploration, then I'm telling you that I'm glad I stopped playing them after FFX.

Final Fantasy XIII may or may not be an RPG, but at least Square actually create new worlds, races and stories with each of their games. While Mass Effect may or may not owe a lot to Star Trek, what I've seen of Dragon Age puts it firmly in Lord Of The Rings knock-off territory. Not even because of the stock fantasy setting (though God only knows I've seen enough of them by now). One of the trailers I saw was, shot for shot, a rip off of Helm's deep. It's bad enough that there's yet another WRPG riffing on Tolkien (complain all you want about JRPGs, at least they avoid orcs, elves and dwarves, and do so avidly), but to swipe wholesale from the LOTR films as well? Bah, says I!

And as for the whole WRPG vs JRPG linearity/non-linearity thing... first, bare in mind that non-linearity is a comparitively recent development in RPGs, at least to the extent we see nowadays. Believe it or not, there was a time when RPGs, both East and West, didn't give you the starting option of choosing whether your character was raised in an orphanage, born out at sea or sired by a demon goat. There were western RPGs every bit as linear as Final Fantasy. I know, I know, shocking...

Secondly, the single best non-linear RPG I've ever played is Legend Of Mana. That's the only game I think has ever got the 'whole free roaming, choose your character, do the quests in whatever order you like' thing done right. And it's a Japanese game. Made by Square. Go figure.

Role Playing Game is kind of a dumb term linguistically, because you're playing a role in every game. I have no idea what it actually is supposed to refer to...games where you uprade character equipment? Why does that mean you are playing a role more than...say...guiding Chell through an Aperture science obstacle course.

This Bioware quote is suffering from a bit of annoying pretentiousness...I hate FFXIII as much as the next guy, but it seems like they're not actually critiquing it so much as they're pointing out random features that it doesn't have and trying to label it as a non-rpg to try and push away fans who care about such labels.

I would have to agree with this. Final Fantasy may have stats and such but the roleplaying aspect of the games has long since disappeared from the series. They are action-adventure games.

All I have to say is ... I feel like I watched a really bland movie that I had no idea what was going on in it. After about two hours I turned it off, I haven't even bothered with it since. SE needs to take a look at their selves in a mirror and decide if they want to make CGI Movie games or good RPGs, like FF6 or FF7, heck didn't care for FF8's story but the battle system was solid!

Honestly, if you define RPG as a game where you can evolve your character into a different role, he's right.

In ME/DAO/KOTOR, you can play as a Bad / Neutral / Good guy, and occasionally something in between.
In FF you cannot do that, the main character has a certain story and you can't influence his personality at all.

It doesn't matter that ME/DAO/KOTOR do not have a great many different endings based on your every choice (this is obviously impossible because of constrictions in how you can make a game), the fact that you can influence the main characters personality while you play is enough.

If you define a 'role' as something a certain character takes on stat / build / class wise, then FF is an RPG however.

But then again, many games would be.

FFXIII is not a RGP, Because A) you make no real decisions. B)Characters don't evole.and C) It is completely linear. Thats not to say that it is a bad game its just not a RGP

FFXIII Y=mx+b

RPG Y= ax˛ + bx + c

s69-5:
As I said in another thread: Erickson can shut the fuck up.

Opening this can of worms is NOT what I needed today. Stupid garbage debate that never does anything but produce MASSIVE flames.

That's all I'm going to say even though I know this thread is going to irritate me. Maybe I'll just ignore it.

Bottom line:
Bioware = -25 pts for douchebaggery.

Final Fantasy XIII is an RPG (FF is one of the oldest RPG franchises - methinks Bioware is just trying to create some controversy to get attention).

JRPGs are RPGs. WRPGs are RPGs. Can't everyone just get along?

Fix'd.
What you said reminded me of the G4 controversy between Mario platforming and Ratchet platforming. Morgan Webb said that a Mario platforming is for kids and Ratchet platforming is for adult because it has guns and a story. That site had so much traffic because people were making account just to curse her out.

to qute the Nostalgia Critic:"They took something famous and turned it into something even less then nothing!"

FFXIII is a brave title by Square-Enix. They took a punt at trying something new - deviating greatly from their typical FF RPG template. A lot of people like it and a lot of people hate it. It won't go down as a classic but I don't think it's the worst in the series (Mystic Quest anyone??). I just think it is a really brave effort - hopefully FF Versus XIII will be a HUGE improvement and put Square-Enix back up the RPG ladder.

Onyx Oblivion:

Optimus Hagrid:

Tom Goldman:
You don't make any choices, you don't create a character, you don't live your character... I don't know what those are - adventure games maybe?

No, they're RPGs, silly. You are just Role Playing the lead character. In Game format.

/does not play many RPGs

No. As an avid defender as JRPGs. This defense is wrong. Saying that you are playing a "pre-defined" role makes nearly every game an RPG.

Well, if you define the words one-by-one, that's actually what it is. All games are RPGs.

And I think the universal two phrases to describe an RPG should be character 'customization' and 'progression', and by progression I mean levels, equipment etc.

Actually, taking by the definitions of the words that make up the name, I'd say Bioware's games are less RPGs, since you don't so much as play a role, as you create one. The more freedom and choice you have, the less it is playing a specific role.

It's a game, one I enjoy much like I enjoyed Dragon Age. I don't care what you call it, I call it fun.

There is no proper definition for a Role-playing Game regarding Video games itself. If you're attempting to define the genre, then you'll only encompass a myriad of games since the definition itself seems to be a much broader scope. Playing the role of another character is one of the very first features we are almost able to do in any game today. The genre is open to interpretation and it's mostly a coalescence of other gameplay elements outside of itself. We commonly draw a demarcation on the genre and have two types of RPGs with their first letter reflecting their cultural influences: WRPGs and JRPGs. A western Role-playing game will more than likely focus on the character as an agent, the ability to actually affect world around them and change the faint presence of destiny. The narrative in many western RPGs follow the same template: The world revolves around the actions of the character and fate is weaved by the player themselves through decisions. The storyline is usually loose and inconsistent when this type of freedom is given. You'll build your character through a progression or skill system while either forging or buying weapons.

The paramount element in Japanese Role-playing games is narrative over gameplay. Developers usually have 'a story to tell' which contributes to the reason of orchestrating most aspects of the plot. Social structure is usually dominate and it manifests itself through your typical 'rebellious party' comprised of various characters. Developers utilize this type of RPG to deliver an enticing plot with character dynamism (usually predetermined). With regards to the vicissitudes of the Final Fantasy series, players were never given the direct option to 'create a character' (other than change the character's name in older titles). In some instalments, players had control of the character's stat growth and abilities. These instruments all coalesce to give us an imitation of Character Progression under our guidance. Clearly, the comments regarding 'create a character' was inaccurate and ignorant. In the end, both types are structured differently, but XIII's influence can obviously be seen as a story being told. Despite the fact that Kitase mentioned there was no specific RPG Template they were following, people still choose to bash the game out of weirdness. (In my opinion, I thought Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI implemented both types of RPGs exceptionally).

Time changes and it waits for no one. I'd rather not play an RPG with the same template and the fan base of Final Fantasy is polarizing. There are nutcases impugning the directors and writers themselves with the audacity to complain about the direction of a series. Whether fans like it or not, success is measured by revenue.

Blah..

Brad Shepard:
Im sorry, I love Bioware and all, but they need to shut up.

Square might have missed the bullseye on ff13 a bit, but its still a awesome game with a awesome story.

Dont insult your elders, if you get what i mean.

I knew someone would say this.

Explain how BioWare insulted Final Fantasy in anyway.

PROTIP: You can't.

Falsate:
There is no proper definition for a Role-playing Game regarding Video games itself. If you're attempting to define the genre, then you'll only encompass a myriad of games since the definition itself seems to be a much broader scope. Playing the role of another character is one of the very first features we are almost able to do in any game today. The genre is open to interpretation and it's mostly a coalescence of other gameplay elements outside of itself. We commonly draw a demarcation on the genre and have two types of RPGs with their first letter reflecting their cultural influences: WRPGs and JRPGs. A western Role-playing game will more than likely focus on the character as an agent, the ability to actually affect world around them and change the faint presence of destiny. The narrative in many western RPGs follow the same template: The world revolves around the actions of the character and fate is weaved by the player themselves through decisions. The storyline is usually loose and inconsistent when this type of freedom is given. You'll build your character through a progression or skill system while either forging or buying weapons.

The paramount element in Japanese Role-playing games is narrative over gameplay. Developers usually have 'a story to tell' which contributes to the reason of orchestrating most aspects of the plot. Social structure is usually dominate and it manifests itself through your typical 'rebellious party' comprised of various characters. Developers utilize this type of RPG to deliver an enticing plot with character dynamism (usually predetermined). With regards to the vicissitudes of the Final Fantasy series, players were never given the direct option to 'create a character' (other than change the character's name in older titles). In some instalments, players had control of the character's stat growth and abilities. These instruments all coalesce to give us an imitation of Character Progression under our guidance. Clearly, the comments regarding 'create a character' was inaccurate and ignorant. In the end, both types are structured differently, but XIII's influence can obviously be seen as a story being told. Despite the fact that Kitase mentioned there was no specific RPG Template they were following, people still choose to bash the game out of weirdness. (In my opinion, I thought Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI implemented both types of RPGs exceptionally).

Time changes and it waits for no one. I'd rather not play an RPG with the same template and the fan base of Final Fantasy is polarizing. There are nutcases impugning the directors and writers themselves with the audacity to complain about the direction of a series. Whether fans like it or not, success is measured by revenue.

Blah..

Finally, someone who said something rational and unbiased. That's just pure logic. I've seen so many people in this thread implying that even games like Chrono Trigger shouldn't be called RPGs (no one said this directly, but many said "JRPGs shouldn't be called RPGs". WTF? That's just saying you should't call orange juice orange juice if the juice looks yellow.

I only disagree with the part you said "success is measured by revenue". If you added "commercial" before "success", I'd agree, but games can acheive critical success without achieving commercial success.

First, a small side note. It is one thing to claim FXIII is not an RPG; it is another to claim it's an Adventure game. Adventuring in a game involves venturing and exploration. Something which is certainly not present in FFXIII, as any time spent out of battle involved walking in a straight line.

But let's get back to the real topic here: the general confusion over what games should be labeled RPG game. It is not a new problem, the term RPG has changed meanings several times over the years, let's go over the history.

In the beginning there were just Adventure games, which were never really well defined, but can be described as games were players explore environments to collect items that further advancement in the game and increase the functionality of the protagonist. At some point a subcategory of Adventure games were given a different name. These games have parties of heroes players equipped and controlled, combat involved entering a battle mode and the main focus of the game were to win these battles to further the plot. The games were called RPG games, after RP games (like D&D) which had a similar game play when it came to battle mode and the character stats involved. However, when this new category of RPG came out, the meaning of the word Adventure game change to mean what we would now consider to be Action/Adventure games. For a while true Adventure games were even label as Adventure/RPG games. When people stop using the term Adventure/RPG a ton of different types of games got pushed into the category of RPG. All the while, new games that fell between classical Adventure and RPG games were being made. The term RPG met its next challenger in MMORPG games, which wanted to shorten its name down to RPG and then found they had to re-label games previously called RPG games, when it was apparent the two were nothing alike. Then single player games that played more like MMORPG games were made and were just called RPG games, which brings us to our present confusion.

The major issue is the term RPG has been used to describe two distinctive genre's of games. Since there no good terminology let me just call traditionally defined RPG's as Armada games, and the RPG games Bioware makes as Avatar games. Let me define the two:

Armada: Enter battle mode segments while traveling, in which opposing armies determine how to utilize their limit resources to defeat the opposing side. Outside of battle you can outfit your army.

Avatar: Journey around as an alternate individual whom you can outfit for combat and complete various quests, determining who the individual is with your choices.

It is clear from this definition that FFXIII is not an Avatar game, but it fits perfectly into Armada game. In fact, FFXIII's only game play is the distinctive game play that originally defined RPG games. It is perfectly fair to point out that Avatar games are truer to the full experience RP games provide, but that wasn't how people originally used the terms when talking about games. It is a bit more silly to use the definition of the words 'role play' to define what an RPG game is, as the feature that distinguishes video games form other media is that your playing a role in it. Most classical RPG games involved you controlling multiple characters, therefore you often never took on one particular role anyways. Bioware's definition of an RPG game really fails fit the definition people have been using for the last couple of decades. Instead they listed out traits of Avatar games they have made, and pointed out that it is not the same as an Armada game, which every single Final Fantasy game would fall under. Maybe the time has come that we name a new genre for videogames, but I think it is a little much to claim that a series that has help define the genre of RPG is no longer an RPG game when it clearly hasn't step far out of the bounds of the game play seen in every game of the series.

I don't really care that much about FF13 being an RPG. My real question is, is it -good?-

..No, seriously, I'm asking. I haven't played it yet, and am curious.

True, you do level up in FF games, and in FFXIII. However, there's no customization. Sure you CAN (EVENTUALLY) get Hope to learn the Sentinel or Saboteur Class, but they purposely made him weak in those roles so that you wouldn't. There was customization and some role-playing in FFXII with the license board, but not in FFXIII, where for the first 27 or so hours your progress and development are on a ramrod straight linear track. Again, nothing wrong with it, but it's hardly an RPG. I mean, you get stronger in Infamous as well, but you wouldn't call that an RPG (despite the fact that Infamous is closer to an RPG than FFXIII ever gets).

So FFXIII isn't really an RPG. Well, I don't really care. What bothered me was the rubbish story and weak character interactions. FFXIII might not be an RPG, but I'm not sure it's even a Final Fantasy Game. Previous FF games had great stories (especially FFIX) and many characters and well populated areas and well developed worlds. FFXIII has none of that. Yes, things LOOK nice, the worlds LOOK good, but they're soulless and almost entirely voiceless. Why should I care about Cocoon when they never gave me a reason to care? Why should I care about Snow and Serah when the game never gave me a good reason to care? The only character I ever cared about was Sazh and he's pretty much useless in combat unless you spend an age leveling up his weapons.

So it's not an RPG or even a normal FF game. What is it then? Who knows? A mistake? Yeah, I'm going with that - a huge, gigantic mistaken attempt at trying to "appeal" to westerners by making it linear as hell. Please understand this Japan - just because COD and Half Life were linear doesn't mean that all Westerners want completely linear games.

... Didn't this have 600 some posts in it yesterday?

As far as bioware is concerned, yes, their games are more RPGs than final fantasy's rigid, completely linear wankfests. They're also better games, even if level scaling is retarded. The inclusion of some sort of choice is nice, but its still mostly irrelevant, and their systems just become a grind so as not to be locked out of "harder" choices.

Basically, this is essentially a paraplegic making fun of a deaf, dumb, and blind kid. While the only house that made anything close to actual Role Playing Games (black isle), is dead, buried, and (suffice to say) silent on the matter.

And to all those who say that JRPGs focus on Narrative more than WRPGs - maybe for the previous FF games. Not so for FFXIII. The story is pitifully weak. It moves so slow, yet nothing really happens during the course of the story. All meaningful character interaction is either delivered with one or two lines or given in flashbacks AFTER the supposedly tragic event between the characters occurs. Cocoon is NEVER fleshed out, and yes I read all the datalog entries. Villains show up once or twice, die quickly, and are never developed, except for one, and even he only shows up, what, 2 or 4 times in the course of the story.

It wasn't linearity that killed FFXIII for me. It was just the rubbish story. Play other FF games - FFXIII has, no doubt about it, the weakest storyline except for perhaps the first 3 FF games (which didn't really have characters at all). And if you are going to make a game story dependent on cutscenes, please don't make the "cutscenes" just 5 or so lines of dialog, repeated again and again and again and again and again. Yes we know, Snow likes Serah and wants to get her back. FFXIII feels as if it has to remind you of this point at least 60 times. Yes we know, Hope is angry over the injustice meeted out to him. Yet he whines and splutters and makes REALLY annoying little gasping noises for over 18 hours, on the same damn point. You see what I mean?

Also - the world of FFXIII is empty and cold. Pretty, shiny, but empty and sterile, except for perhaps the second to last area, but still no NPCs. Without them, it's the six main character's duty to hold the story and they just don't. Hope is annoying as hell. Lightning is a female Keanu Reeves with Red Hair. Vanille is ridiculous. Snow keeps on harping on about Serah (buddy, we GET THE POINT - you like Serah, stop going on and on about your girlfriend, who looks like she's about 12 by the way, so that's creepy, already) Sazh and Fang are alright but apart from a few scenes, the game doesn't really focus on them and they don't get much dialog.

Deofuta:
If the game focuses upon playing a role. Then its an RPG. The combat system is regardless.

That qualifies every game in existence. Including pong.

Optimus Hagrid:

Tom Goldman:
You don't make any choices, you don't create a character, you don't live your character... I don't know what those are - adventure games maybe?

No, they're RPGs, silly. You are just Role Playing the lead character. In Game format.

/does not play many RPGs

I agree with this. In a literal sense, EVERY single game out there is an RPG.
I've always been a non-participant in this whole east vs. west RPG debate. I don't give a shit where the game comes from or what gameplay style it adheres to. Both types of RPG's can be really fun games to play, and whether or not you agree with this guy doesn't make XIII any less of an RPG, and it doesn't make it any less fun.

antipunt:
I don't really care that much about FF13 being an RPG. My real question is, is it -good?-

..No, seriously, I'm asking. I haven't played it yet, and am curious.

Although the quality of a game doesn't really determine the genre (unless we make 'good game' a genre), I'll risk telling you that FFXIII is a good game. If you have liked previous Final Fantasy games, then you will probably like FFXIII. It ranks among the top 5 Final Fantasy games by my preliminary calculations.

Like all Final Fantasy games it has a very gradual learning curve to it, making it easy. The lengthy 20 hour tutorial at the beginning of the game been the source of a lot of jokes, but I am quick to point out FFVI and FFVII had at least 16 hours of game play tutorial as well. The good news is it has about as many hour of total play time as those games, unlike FFX that was over in around 20 hours.

The story of FFXIII is not bad (very similar to FFX's story), but could be told better. Basic facts are revealed to the player much later than they probably needed to be, to create unnecessary plot twists or force you to replay the game. Like FFVIII's time loop plot, I suspect it will take a year before people chattering on the internet finally agree to what the whole story is really about. The protagonists are well developed (unlike FFXII) and likable for the most part to keep you interested even if the game continually tries to confuse you.

As I said in my last post, there is no adventuring in the game. It is hard to call anything a dungeon or town as you just walk down a straight line path the whole game. I remember Xenosaga 2 getting accused for doing this, but having played through FFXIII I must apologies to Xenosaga 2, I now know what a straight line dungeon is. FFXIII even insults my intelligence by having markers on its map to tell you where to go next, in case you get lost walking down the straight line. That isn't to say game play is completely linear, very late in the game something the equivalent to a world map is opened up with a hundred side quests available.

FFXIII main focus is on its combat system, which is pretty deep and fun to play. You play one of 3 characters and command your party to change their current job class, which you will actually have to change often to survive unlike FFXII (or Dragon Age) where you just sat back and watch the game play with itself. The learning system is a Sphere Grid for each job class, unique for each character, which you do not have access to most of until you complete the tutorial. Equipment upgrading feels similar to Kingdom of Heart games, where items foes drop are used to boost the equipment's level or transform it into something better.

Lastly, FFXIII looks a whole lot better for PS3 than Xbox360, so if you have a choice, get it for PS3. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure you likely know by now whether you'll enjoy the game or not.

ManInRed:

antipunt:
I don't really care that much about FF13 being an RPG. My real question is, is it -good?-

..No, seriously, I'm asking. I haven't played it yet, and am curious.

Although the quality of a game doesn't really determine the genre (unless we make 'good game' a genre), I'll risk telling you that FFXIII is a good game. If you have liked previous Final Fantasy games, then you will probably like FFXIII. It ranks among the top 5 Final Fantasy games by my preliminary calculations.

Like all Final Fantasy games it has a very gradual learning curve to it, making it easy. The lengthy 20 hour tutorial at the beginning of the game been the source of a lot of jokes, but I am quick to point out FFVI and FFVII had at least 16 hours of game play tutorial as well. The good news is it has about as many hour of total play time as those games, unlike FFX that was over in around 20 hours.

The story of FFXIII is not bad (very similar to FFX's story), but could be told better. Basic facts are revealed to the player much later than they probably needed to be, to create unnecessary plot twists or force you to replay the game. Like FFVIII's time loop plot, I suspect it will take a year before people chattering on the internet finally agree to what the whole story is really about. The protagonists are well developed (unlike FFXII) and likable for the most part to keep you interested even if the game continually tries to confuse you.

As I said in my last post, there is no adventuring in the game. It is hard to call anything a dungeon or town as you just walk down a straight line path the whole game. I remember Xenosaga 2 getting accused for doing this, but having played through FFXIII I must apologies to Xenosaga 2, I now know what a straight line dungeon is. FFXIII even insults my intelligence by having markers on its map to tell you where to go next, in case you get lost walking down the straight line. That isn't to say game play is completely linear, very late in the game something the equivalent to a world map is opened up with a hundred side quests available.

FFXIII main focus is on its combat system, which is pretty deep and fun to play. You play one of 3 characters and command your party to change their current job class, which you will actually have to change often to survive unlike FFXII (or Dragon Age) where you just sat back and watch the game play with itself. The learning system is a Sphere Grid for each job class, unique for each character, which you do not have access to most of until you complete the tutorial. Equipment upgrading feels similar to Kingdom of Heart games, where items foes drop are used to boost the equipment's level or transform it into something better.

Lastly, FFXIII looks a whole lot better for PS3 than Xbox360, so if you have a choice, get it for PS3. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure you likely know by now whether you'll enjoy the game or not.

Thx for the input

AndreyC:
The main problem is people keep comparing WRPGs to JRPGs like they're the same genre. They look like they are (wow, the names are almost the same!) but they aren't, really. The thing is: Role Playing Game was "invented" in america, with "pen-and-paper" Dungeons and Dragons. Back in the days, RPGs didn't have that much focus in "choice" and "character creation" from a plot standpoint. You had choices, but they were all pretty much related to combat and survival in dungeons (choosing attacks, customizing equipment). In truth, there was not a lot of plot development, really. It was all about killing big Dragons and getting XP. The RPG was then transported and localized to Japan, in the form of eletronic games. See, for them, RPGs were pretty much created as videogames (pen-and-paper RPGs weren't that popular in Japan). For japanese people, the "template" for what RPG means is Dragon Quest I, Final Fantasy I, Phantasy Star etc. They evolved from that primitive dungeon crawling into creating memorable characters and stories... All the "Non-linear plot, non-linear character creation, huge amount of interaction with the player etc" was not what defined a RPG back then, that's what define more recent pen-and-paper western RPGs, and that's what Western Eletronic RPGs try to simulate.

The thing is: although the JRPG genre was created inspired by the first western pen-and-paper RPG adventures, it gained a life of its own. They only took reference for the first games, and after that, evolution in JRPGs was totally independent from the evolution of western RPGs, eletronic or not. But when it comes to western eletronic RPGs, they're highly dependent on their "pen-and-paper" counterparts even now.

"Character creation", back when RPGs were invented, meant basicly to choose classes/abilities for your character. "Character interpretation" meant basicly to govern your character through a Dungeon, not to make moral choices that affect your karma or anything like this.

More recent additions to the pen-and-paper RPGs changed that paradigm. Systems like the "storyteller" (introduced in 1991, way after eletronic RPGs were introduced in Japan) had a heavy emphasys on interpratation and interection between NPCs and the player. The focus of this system is basically to build a character from scratch and to interpret him deeply, even psychologically, and from the interactions between players and NPCs, construct a plot, a "chronicle". That's pretty much what western eletronic RPGs have been trying to simulate until now, and that's the reference western people have for the term "RPG".

TLDR: Bioware is dumb to compare a JRPG to a modern Western RPG template. Period.

I was going to post, but this post summed up everything I could have possibly said.

Playing through it now. Not sure what to call it, to be honest.

I'm coming late to this thread, but, in my opinion, you all are arguing over things you've never really had in the first place; you've only had the illusion of having them. All Final Fantasy XIII has really done is strip away these illusions that have been put up by more traditional RPG video games up to this point and present the abstractions in a more raw form. We've always been traveling linear paths through the games; towns have always been little more than a shopping stand(you just had the tedium of moving between vendors to create the illusion) with a few cut-scenes and action points thrown in(something happens, the characters have a conversation, or a quest is given); we've never really had much choice in how the character progresses, and when we have had such choices, it really was nothing more than the linear graph with some branching that the crystarium system in Final Fantasy XIII presents. Until very recently, we've not had the ability to chose the appearance of the character or characters in the party(and those choices are still fairly limited), and the party has almost always been limited to a small(3 to 6) predetermined number of characters; in many cases, you had no choice at all of who was in the party.

Even more so, the story, even in today's games, has almost always been fixed. There usually is only one path along which the story progresses, and the story does not progress until the player takes particular actions. More games today are being designed with branching story-lines, however, I personally consider this non-linear because there is still a fixed order and pacing to the progression(very, very few games have an out-of-order progression with pacing that doesn't depend on the player executing a particular action). You are still proceeding from a point A to a point B to perform action C, and the story does not move forward until you get to point B and perform action C.

The closest I have seen to a true RPG these days are the MMORPGs(I am more of the school of thought that considers pen-and-paper tabletop RPGs as the more true definition of an RPG). While one can argue the story of an MMORPG is either lacking or largely irrelevant, this is the prime variety of game where the player truly can choose his character to be what he wants, and the player can act out the personality of his character in any manner he chooses.

On the issue of story in an RPG, story is not a necessary element; it is merely a commonly included element. It would be valid to pretend to live the life of a lawyer, a doctor, a CEO, a caveman, or just whatever you want, proceeding episodically with simple day-in-the-life style situations. There need be no overall story tying it all together; you only need that you are pretending to not be you.

Most video game RPGs seem to have in mind the singular goal of telling a story by allow the player to play through that story. Yet, the story itself remains fairly fixed(many tabletop RPG GMs take this same approach with significantly more variability in the experience because a human being is capable of creativity, whereas a computer and video game are not), even in the case of branching story-lines(the branches never change and have no possibility to do so). Because of this, they tend to essentially suffer all the complaints regarding Final Fantasy XIII. The reason why most people don't notice is because games past have built an illusion that things are otherwise.

Even so, at the end of the day, the only real relevant question is whether you, as a gamer, had fun playing the game, regardless of the genre.

nightwolf667:

Wait... So, the fact that Dragon Age: Origins quite literally visually steals in excruciatingly exact detail major scenes from the LoTR movies makes it not a clone or plagiarist

Hmmm... personally, I didn't notice any blatant rip-offs. I mean, Dragon Age's cinematics are.... conventionally cinematic. Panning over top of battlefields, pointing the camera down the line of an enemy force while they taunt and shout... They're done in the way you would do them if it were a mainstream film. I'm not sure how much ground LotR really broke in that area, and it would have had to break new ground for any of the similar scenes to be "cloned".

The more common complaint I hear is that the world is obviously Tolkien inspired. I suppose. It's more built upon settings like Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk (which, yes, were Tolkien inspired), but thematically I'd say it's a bit more George R.R. Martin.

Tolkien, a Cambridge professor who was extremely well versed in Norse mythology and Anglo-Saxon literature, who very lovingly took themes from something ancient and rebuilt it into something different.

Wait, so is it different because it's different or because Tolkien himself is beyond reproach?

I don't like Bioware because the writing is bad

Compared to what? I play a *lot* of video games, and the writing seems vastly better to me than the vast majority of them.

and they reuse the same characters over and over. (This you will not agree with

Nor I. But I suppose you'll have to be more specific if I'm going to truly entertain the notion.

I like having choices and I don't like being forced to have my character make a moral choice between "a stupid decision" and "a very, very, very stupid decision" like I must do in both Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins.

Hmmm.... I don't recall many stupid decisions being forced upon me in either game. What did you have in mind?

Dragon Age: Origins ends up the worse offender because Mass Effect 2 at least gets to say that it's a shooter with RPG elements. And I mean stupid decision, not that I simply don't like the choices presented (which I don't). But the majority of decisions I must make either as Shepherd or a Grey Warden give me the feeling that the character I'm playing has the intellect of 2 and is a rolling, drooling, incompetent moron. (Especially Renegade Shepherd in Mass Effect 2.)

Majority, eh? That's one of the things that can make a discussion like this challenging. That just about has to be hyperbole. I mean, if I tried really hard, I could probably come up with some times where I was substantially disappointed with the options I was presented, but it would be the rare exception. You make it sound almost as though we played a different game altogether... or perhaps there's some communication gap here.

Starke:
As for Mass Effect being your own story? I really end up in X-Files territory here. I want to believe, but there are way too many instances in the game where you are presented with a choice, and regardless of your selection, you don't actually get to have any effect. Your first dialog on the Normandy after Eden Prime comes to mind. There are precisely three dialog nexus you can have an influence on (of those one is just a question set, and another lets you choose to badmouth the Doctor at random, the final one is a standard investigation nexus). The other four (I believe) all funnel you to either say identical things or provoke Captain Anderson to say the same thing regardless of which choice you made. While I would accept that what you say to Anderson in the Medlab shouldn't radically alter the game (though, it could, theoretically), that the game presents you with a choice that you quite literally cannot make says volumes about the game in a larger context. If it were an isolated example, I could forgive it, but it really becomes endemic of the design philosophy of the larger game.

I've DMed quite a bit in the past, and I always found that whenever my players left the rails of prepared content into improv territory, the quality of the content suffered. It was fun, largely because we were exercising actual freedom rather than just nodding at the illusion of it, but in the prepared content, the characters were always better fleshed out, the scenarios were more clever and inventive, and the result was generally more rewarding. This comparison bears out between Bioware and Bethesda games as well. You can run around in a whole world of "not a lot going on" in Oblivion. While it's fun, the prepared "rails" content of Mass Effect is far higher caliber.

Furthermore, the comparison bears out *within* Mass Effect. You *can* blow off the main quest and go explore the galaxy. And you'll find a bunch of (mostly) empty planets with cookie cutter buildings full of barely characterized villains to shoot. There's freedom, but the experience is comparatively empty.

I think I prefer the illusion the game creates. I can choose what Shepard says. It may not mean I go to another planet or have to shoot a different main bad guy, but it defines *who* Shepard is in my mind. I can even play Shepard wildly inconsistently and the game won't care (which goes back to your beef with how little is actually remembered... though remembering anything at all between games in a series is borderline unprecedented). But basically, I create my own reward in playing Shepard consistently in such a way that I feel like I get to know and relate to the character. And it is extremely rewarding to me.

By changing the dialog system so that it reflects your/Shepard's gut reaction to things, it makes it much harder to realize your freedom of choice the game is presenting you with is actually much more of an illusion than it appears to be.

Yes, but you don't think it's a bit too much to expect that a story that spans three games would have wildly divergent plot paths in what amounts to the first act? Besides, they do a good job of making it look like the *situation* railroads you more than the game. There are a lot of ways to complete Nouveria and a lot of ways it can turn out, but yeah, you can't just neglect to go there altogether. But if you don't go there, you'll have no way to find Saren, and the only possible outcome of the game is a horrifically bad ending. I guess they could have mocked one up, but why bother?

There's multiple kinds of campaigns a GM can run. They can run you on rails, as FF does, they can run you on rails and give you the ability to shift the rails around a bit, off hand Deus Ex comes to mind, or they can simply turn you loose the Fallout or TES games are good examples of this. Now, Bioware keeps claiming they're on rails with the ability to shift, but, from where I'm standing, shifting around doesn't really result in any change.

In terms of the main plot, perhaps you're right. But I'm sure Kaidan, Ashley, and Wrex care what decisions you make. I always enjoy these sorts of things more for the characters and relationships than the plot. The plot of Mass Effect is really just a contrived situation so we can have tension, threat, danger, thrills, and so on and so forth. Unless Mass Effect 3 surprises the hell out of me, there won't be any profound revelation that will make the Reapers into compelling, fascinating villains. They're just the classic "frightening alien" foil for our intrepid heroes. What makes Mass Effect interesting is how the characters handle the situations they are thrust into. Both games have been emotionally affecting to me, not because I am so relieved for the galaxy and the doomsday that was averted, but rather because I care about what happens to the people.

And in Mass Effect 2, any of them can die, even Shepard (though you really have to try, admittedly). So, if you're a person like me, who cares about the characters, the fact that any of them can live or die according to your choices makes for a profound feeling of influence and control over the outcome.

The problem is, starting with Dragon Age and to an even greater extent in Mass Effect 2, their writing is... well... bad. Especially when held up to the hype they've put into the games.

Can't really speak to the hype, but "bad" seems like a wild overstatement. I mean, compared to what, exactly? Had you said "adequate" I would have disagreed but I could see how we might look for different things in a game or that you might have very exacting standards, but bad?

Dragon Age has an egregious disparity between the hype it received, "an innovation in dark low fantasy," and all that bullshit, and a product that ends up, on the whole as a (relatively) kid friendly high fantasy version of Lord of the Rings.

It's significantly darker than Lord of the Rings. The closest Lord of the Rings comes to killing off a beloved character is Boromir, and I would say that it it is the manner of his death itself that redeems him to the point that losing him is a tragedy.

We lose Gandalf, sure, but then we get a "psych! just kidding!"

Cailan may be a bit of a fool, but he's a lovable one, and his death and desecration is graphic and shocking. Much worse than he deserves, both by its mechanical nature and the root cause (betrayal).

Worse yet is Duncan, who was a father figure to the main character and Alistair. Alistair himself can be executed if you betray him and allow Anora to rule. The honorable Harrowmont is up for summary execution if you side with Bhelen and permit it. You can coax the werewolves into viciously slaughtering the elves. You can convince the templars to execute the mages, including the grandfatherly Irving. You can knife a child to death, or, alternatively, blood sacrifice his mother in order to save him. The human noble origin leads off with your parents, your sister in law, and your child nephew all being murdered. Your parents, according to Howe, were tortured first.

So yeah... waaaay waaaay darker.

With Mass Effect 2 they were comparing themselves to Aurthur C. Clark in their prerelease material. Saying how the game would be deep science fiction and examine the nature of man versus machine. And... it's not.

I didn't see that prerelease material. But I agree that it is not deep, thought-provoking, philosophical science fiction.

It doesn't raise any serious issues the way science fiction does,

*some* science fiction. No reason science fiction can't be more about the story than about a philosophical idea.

it certainly doesn't ascend to the throne of one of the big three of Sci-Fi. It's a fun, light space opera, and that'd be neat, if they weren't plugging it as some kind of masterpiece that it isn't.

So it doesn't sound like you really think the writing is *bad* so much as not up to the standards you expected from the hype. I think that's one of those YMMV things.

Labcoat Samurai:

Starke:
As for Mass Effect being your own story? I really end up in X-Files territory here. I want to believe, but there are way too many instances in the game where you are presented with a choice, and regardless of your selection, you don't actually get to have any effect. Your first dialog on the Normandy after Eden Prime comes to mind. There are precisely three dialog nexus you can have an influence on (of those one is just a question set, and another lets you choose to badmouth the Doctor at random, the final one is a standard investigation nexus). The other four (I believe) all funnel you to either say identical things or provoke Captain Anderson to say the same thing regardless of which choice you made. While I would accept that what you say to Anderson in the Medlab shouldn't radically alter the game (though, it could, theoretically), that the game presents you with a choice that you quite literally cannot make says volumes about the game in a larger context. If it were an isolated example, I could forgive it, but it really becomes endemic of the design philosophy of the larger game.

I've DMed quite a bit in the past, and I always found that whenever my players left the rails of prepared content into improv territory, the quality of the content suffered.

Honestly, on this count, our experience differed. Some of the best experiences I've had as a GM came out of improv territory. Now, the fact that most of my GMing was in the storyteller system, which tends to have a story before gameplay focus could be relevant.

Labcoat Samurai:
It was fun, largely because we were exercising actual freedom rather than just nodding at the illusion of it, but in the prepared content, the characters were always better fleshed out, the scenarios were more clever and inventive, and the result was generally more rewarding. This comparison bears out between Bioware and Bethesda games as well. You can run around in a whole world of "not a lot going on" in Oblivion. While it's fun, the prepared "rails" content of Mass Effect is far higher caliber.

I'd actually debate this on one count. With Morrowind there were a lot of players who became very attached to the life they carved out for themselves on Vvardenfell. You can argue that the content of Mass Effect is much more polished, but I've never heard of someone becoming particularly attached to their version of Cmdr Shepard the way players have to their Morrowind characters. Somehow Oblivion (your example) doesn't quite capture this either, though, I'm at a loss to explain exactly why.

Labcoat Samurai:
Furthermore, the comparison bears out *within* Mass Effect. You *can* blow off the main quest and go explore the galaxy. And you'll find a bunch of (mostly) empty planets with cookie cutter buildings full of barely characterized villains to shoot. There's freedom, but the experience is comparatively empty.

I think I prefer the illusion the game creates.

Actually, thinking back to Morrowind (and Oblivion) and contrasting, I think that may be the primary feature here. Mass Effect creates the illusion for you, while Oblivion and Morrowind require you to create the illusion, and the game supports that. I'm not saying you're unimaginative or anything of the sort, simply that Morrowind is a lot like a novel where you fill in the background yourself, while Mass Effect is like a TV serial where you can turn your brain off and everything will be provided in flickering technocolor. One isn't automatically better than the other, they're simply different experiences.

Labcoat Samurai:
I can choose what Shepard says. It may not mean I go to another planet or have to shoot a different main bad guy, but it defines *who* Shepard is in my mind. I can even play Shepard wildly inconsistently and the game won't care (which goes back to your beef with how little is actually remembered... though remembering anything at all between games in a series is borderline unprecedented).

As I believe I pointed out earlier in this thread, it really isn't. It's been over a decade since this feature popped up before ME, but it did exist in earlier games, particularly RPG franchises back in the mid to late 80s. (KOTOR2 took a stab at this as well, though the results were somewhat mixed.)

Labcoat Samurai:
But basically, I create my own reward in playing Shepard consistently in such a way that I feel like I get to know and relate to the character. And it is extremely rewarding to me.

By changing the dialog system so that it reflects your/Shepard's gut reaction to things, it makes it much harder to realize your freedom of choice the game is presenting you with is actually much more of an illusion than it appears to be.

Yes, but you don't think it's a bit too much to expect that a story that spans three games would have wildly divergent plot paths in what amounts to the first act?

In a sense? Yes, but at a deeper level this does dig at the contrast between what Bioware has said they were doing (and implied) and what they have delivered.

If the goal of the game is to recreate the kind of atmosphere of the choose your own adventure novels, which is sort of what they've suggested is the ultimate goal, then this kind of railroading is unforgivable. And it should have been at the core of the design document. Instead there's claims that this is what it is aiming for, but the game itself fails to achieve that.

Labcoat Samurai:
Besides, they do a good job of making it look like the *situation* railroads you more than the game. There are a lot of ways to complete Nouveria and a lot of ways it can turn out, but yeah, you can't just neglect to go there altogether. But if you don't go there, you'll have no way to find Saren, and the only possible outcome of the game is a horrifically bad ending. I guess they could have mocked one up, but why bother?

To be clear, my complaint isn't that you have to travel to these four worlds in (nearly) any order, to complete your agenda. And the plot coupons that Bioware lays out in Mass Effect are at least unique from one another, unlike KOTOR or Dragon Age, so kudos on that count. What is also present is the aformentioned railroading. Now, as you point out, they usually take pains to try to make it look like it's the situation that railroads you, when in fact it's a limited array of choices presented to the player.

For example: Look at the first two hours of Mass Effect 2. Being forced to work with Cerberus makes sense, as it sets up the structure of the rest of the game. However, it would not represent a massive plot divergence to be able to maintain a hostile and suspicious attitude towards Cerberus, calling the Illusive Man out on some of Cerberus' more dubious actions (for the record, the save does record which Cerberus Missions in ME1 you actually finished.) Instead there is a single line of dialog about how you know Cerberus from before, but you can't even really challenge the Illusive Man in any meaningful way (there are two spoilerific counter examples, the first of which does allow you to chew him out if you want, but then forces you to back down when he responds.) This isn't choice, it's a railroad.

Labcoat Samurai:

There's multiple kinds of campaigns a GM can run. They can run you on rails, as FF does, they can run you on rails and give you the ability to shift the rails around a bit, off hand Deus Ex comes to mind, or they can simply turn you loose the Fallout or TES games are good examples of this. Now, Bioware keeps claiming they're on rails with the ability to shift, but, from where I'm standing, shifting around doesn't really result in any change.

In terms of the main plot, perhaps you're right. But I'm sure Kaidan, Ashley, and Wrex care what decisions you make.

Well... yes, and no. Yes, they would care (I'm not getting into they're fictional characters debate), but at the same time they aren't the ones making the decisions as to whether they live or die, you are. So, in that sense, their opinions are moot (if only after the fact).

Labcoat Samurai:
I always enjoy these sorts of things more for the characters and relationships than the plot. The plot of Mass Effect is really just a contrived situation so we can have tension, threat, danger, thrills, and so on and so forth. Unless Mass Effect 3 surprises the hell out of me, there won't be any profound revelation that will make the Reapers into compelling, fascinating villains. They're just the classic "frightening alien" foil for our intrepid heroes. What makes Mass Effect interesting is how the characters handle the situations they are thrust into. Both games have been emotionally affecting to me, not because I am so relieved for the galaxy and the doomsday that was averted, but rather because I care about what happens to the people.

In this sense, I found a lot of the characters in Mass Effect, and really in Bioware games as a whole, more than a little shallow. They tend to introduce archetypes, and about the time you realize there isn't really much in the way of distinguishing characteristics between the various reused archetypes, the less appealing they are.

In particular Kaiden and Ashley grated on my nerves severely, hence my assertion that I would gleefully kill the survivor on Horizon in an interrupt if given the choice.

I do think Bioware's dropped the ball a number of times in the Mass Effect series, where moments or dilemmas could have been raised that would have presented a real consequence to your actions, but I'm left with Yahtzee's line from a Gears of War review, Mass Effect is "without a single challenging act, thought or deed, from start to finish." (And yes, I am transposing the acerbic Brit's opinions, and this doesn't reflect his opinion on Mass Effect.)

Labcoat Samurai:
And in Mass Effect 2, any of them can die, even Shepard (though you really have to try, admittedly). So, if you're a person like me, who cares about the characters, the fact that any of them can live or die according to your choices makes for a profound feeling of influence and control over the outcome.

Except, you know, I don't. Okay, Garius, because I fell for that very heavy handed opening, Mordrin because he was the only character in the game who was actually funny, and Legion because the aesthetics of the character design appealed to me. But, for the most part I was highly apathetic towards the various characters.

Honestly, as characters there isn't a hell of a lot that distinguishes Jacob from Garius, Samara from Thane, and so on. (And don't even get me started on why Jack wrankles my nerves.) As a cornerstone of the game, ME2's characters are abysmal.

Labcoat Samurai:

The problem is, starting with Dragon Age and to an even greater extent in Mass Effect 2, their writing is... well... bad. Especially when held up to the hype they've put into the games.

Can't really speak to the hype, but "bad" seems like a wild overstatement. I mean, compared to what, exactly? Had you said "adequate" I would have disagreed but I could see how we might look for different things in a game or that you might have very exacting standards, but bad?

Okay, on Dragon Age, the presented freedom of choice is of marginal difference (moralistically), there's always a take a third option with no downsides. So you can either choose A, B, or A and B. Which undermines the entire concept of making choices.

The Dialog waffles. There's a base line medieval fantasy sect, which is bland, but otherwise unimpeachable except for being uninspired. There's characters like Alistar who just wandered in off of the set of Buffy, and there's characters like Leliana or Zevran who broadcast "I'm pretending to be one thing badly to make up for the fact that deep down I'm a complete sociopath", except, then they never even hint at something deeper (okay, Leliana does, but it made me want to go strangle someone.)

The characters themselves are teaspoon deep. Okay, if Zevran was actually a complete sociopath who had no problems carving his way through people en mass, and used his cheesy approach to get people to underestimate him, that'd be great, except the game (and the devs) make it pretty clear this isn't the case.

This isn't to say nothing works. Logain works in a pulp villain sort of way (though, not as the strategic genius he's supposed to be.) And Stenn radiates the whole noble warrior without table manors archetype pretty effectively. But enough of the party members are terminally shallow enough that the game as a whole suffers. (I did a specific write up of all the characters a while back, but I've no idea where it is, if you're interested.)

Beyond that, the story kinda functions in a very pulpy kind of way, but it has plot holes you can drive a Boeing 777 through. Shamus Young hilariously observed, the second stage to the Redcliffe quest basically involves you going off to find the holy grail on the random thought that maybe just maybe it might help, with no certainty that it wasn't simply a myth, instead of doing something, you know, productive.

Labcoat Samurai:

Dragon Age has an egregious disparity between the hype it received, "an innovation in dark low fantasy," and all that bullshit, and a product that ends up, on the whole as a (relatively) kid friendly high fantasy version of Lord of the Rings.

It's significantly darker than Lord of the Rings. The closest Lord of the Rings comes to killing off a beloved character is Boromir, and I would say that it it is the manner of his death itself that redeems him to the point that losing him is a tragedy.

We lose Gandalf, sure, but then we get a "psych! just kidding!"

Cailan may be a bit of a fool, but he's a lovable one, and his death and desecration is graphic and shocking. Much worse than he deserves, both by its mechanical nature and the root cause (betrayal).

Yeah... I'm not talking about Boromir, though he is a good example. Some other characters who were terminally fucked up by the rings, include all nine Nazgul, Isildur and Golum. And the incedeous nature of the ring almost claimed Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo, and Aragorn. Gandalf, Galadrael and Aragorn were all smart (or wise) enough to realize what the ring would do to them. And Faramir was wise enough to not press the issue. But, beyond the one ring, the setting is littered with all kinds of collapse and shattered kingdoms in the wake of Sauron's influence, Arnor comes to mind off hand.

EDIT: Come to think of it, with the exception of Sam and Tom Bombadil, everyone who so much as touches the one ring ends up irrevocably broken, or dead as a direct result, and a number of people suffer that fate without ever even coming into contact with it.

Labcoat Samurai:
Worse yet is Duncan, who was a father figure to the main character and Alistair. Alistair himself can be executed if you betray him and allow Anora to rule. The honorable Harrowmont is up for summary execution if you side with Bhelen and permit it. You can coax the werewolves into viciously slaughtering the elves. You can convince the templars to execute the mages, including the grandfatherly Irving. You can knife a child to death, or, alternatively, blood sacrifice his mother in order to save him. The human noble origin leads off with your parents, your sister in law, and your child nephew all being murdered. Your parents, according to Howe, were tortured first.

So yeah... waaaay waaaay darker.

Except, in each case (except with Howe) the events are basically irrelevant to the plot. In the Redcliffe example, you want dark? Convince the mother to kill herself because she brought this upon her child (not as part of the blood sacrifice, she views that as a noble death), and then kill the kid, because there is no saving of abominations.

Maybe I've been spoiled by genuinely dark settings like The Witcher and Warhammer, but for me Dragon Age just isn't dark.

Labcoat Samurai:

With Mass Effect 2 they were comparing themselves to Aurthur C. Clark in their prerelease material. Saying how the game would be deep science fiction and examine the nature of man versus machine. And... it's not.

I didn't see that prerelease material. But I agree that it is not deep, thought-provoking, philosophical science fiction.

It doesn't raise any serious issues the way science fiction does,

*some* science fiction. No reason science fiction can't be more about the story than about a philosophical idea.

Fair enough. You can make the distinction between Science Fiction and Space Opera, and that was the distinction going through my head when I wrote that (I think).

Labcoat Samurai:

it certainly doesn't ascend to the throne of one of the big three of Sci-Fi. It's a fun, light space opera, and that'd be neat, if they weren't plugging it as some kind of masterpiece that it isn't.

So it doesn't sound like you really think the writing is *bad* so much as not up to the standards you expected from the hype. I think that's one of those YMMV things.

No, it's bad. The hype only elevates to to an Icarian fall rather than simply sub par video game writing.

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