Looking for the Right RPG
Sometimes when you try something new, you can inadvertently enter the market at the top end. For example, if the first fantasy novel you read may be The Lord of the Rings or the first RPG game you play is either Skyrim or The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, then you’re definitely dealing with A list products. Although this has the benefit of providing a high quality personal experience, it also comes with a downside. The bar for such content has now been set extremely high and subsequent forays into similar territory may not be as good or enjoyable. To use a clumsy analogy, once you’ve had Châteauneuf-du-Pape, your local stores economy brand may no longer suffice.
I have grown to like RPGs in recent years. I enjoy the open world environments and the scope they offer for epic story telling. When done well an RPG creates the illusion of a living world. This can range from major events that have an impact upon the landscape, all the way down to the banter that is exchanged between NPCs in the town centres. For me the most important factor in all of this is the underlying narrative. I want to like the central character and participate in an engaging story. Effectively, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has spoilt me rotten and I would very much like to have a comparable experience with another title. However, finding such a game can prove difficult.
Recently I revisited Arcania: Gothic 4 and played through the main game as well as the expansion, Fall of Setarrif. The game's mechanics are perfectly adequate and the combat, crafting and skills point allocation have been straight forward. The game engine is not too shabby and ingame world looks quite vivid. The climate changes from sunshine to rain and the wind sways the foliage, producing a pleasant and credible environment to explore. The different zones do feel a little to artificially hemmed in at times, which can break the illusion that this is a true open world but it’s not a deal breaker. Sadly the sea is not accessible and you cannot swim from the coastline due to invisible walls
The character models are acceptable but upon closer inspection are repeated quite a lot within the game. You cannot customise the look of the character that you play, which is a little disappointing. The voice acting is also somewhat patchy and there are dialogue glitches that occur from time to time. The subtitles do not always match what is said, which can be both confusing and hilarious. Which leads me to the games overall story which is sadly an arbitrary fantasy adventure. It not excruciatingly bad and I've endured far worse in the past. It's just very generic with the usual tropes, faux lore and geographical locations. The dialogue is a very stylised form of "Olde English" with liberal use of UK colloquial slang.
It's a shame that there aren't more open world games based in different settings. The RPGs, despite having some high-profile forays in to the science fiction genre, still seems to be predominantly, fantasy-centric. Can we not have a change? This is one of the reasons I like Sherlock Homes: Crimes & Punishment and The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. I love the authentic Victorian world that developers Frogwares have created with its attention to detail and period atmosphere. Such an environment would be ideal for an RPG but sadly these games are not technically of that genre and merely hint at the potential of true open world. The bottom line is that fantasy sells, having a tried and tested track record, so it takes a bold vision to do something different.
Even with the latest technological resources, creating an expansive open world game which simulates a living world, as well as populating it with well-defined NPCs, is time consuming and expensive. As a result, game’s such a Skyrim and The Witcher 3 are few and far between. The PC port of Grand Theft Auto V, despite sporting a fantastically detailed sandbox environment sadly lacked the depth of narrative that I look for. It was a similar story with Watch Dogs. It makes me wonder if the RPG genre will ever reach its full potential, due to the fact that gamers aspirations and developers financial imperatives seem to be at odds with each other. In the meantime, I'll soldier on and try another of the RPGs I have in my Steam catalogue. Let’s see if there’s any mileage in Risen 3: Titan Lords.