jervo / Member

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Damn you, Microsoft / When is an RPG not an RPG?

There are rumors swirling about a HUGE Microsoft announcement at CES, most of which involve a new 360 SKU launching this fall that has new internal hardware and features either: (1) a built-in HD-DVD drive or (2) a built-in DVR. There are also rumors of a Wii-esque motion controller, but I'll believe it when I see it.

I'm on my 3rd 360 right now. My first one (the "Pro") RROD'd, and instead of getting it replaced I simply kept my hard drive and bought a Core, which was working fine - but once I got a 40" LCD HDTV, I wanted the Elite, which is what I'm currently using. And in October, I bought the HD-DVD add-on, which I am now hopelessly addicted to and my HD-DVD library has already ballooned to around 15-20 titles. I love my 360 and have never, ever regretted purchasing it - as far as I'm concerned, if you considered yourself a gamer in 2007 and DIDN'T play any 360 games, you are deluding yourself - but GODDAMN, these rumors are driving me crazy. There's only so much money I can spend, Microsoft! Make up your friggin' minds!

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Before I get into the RPG thing, I just want to point out that right now it is easier for me to procure illegal drugs than it is for me to buy a Wii.

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After I finished my 2nd playthrough of Mass Effect, I hit something of a wall; with no new games coming out and my GameFly queue looking stale, I didn't really have anything new to play... except all the games I have that I never finished, most notably Eternal Sonata, which I sorta got back into.

I like Eternal Sonata, but I'm having a hard time really getting into it, and I think part of that is because Mass Effect was still running through my bloodstream. But more to the point - I don't really understand where the RPG is in Eternal Sonata, and to extrapolate that even further, I'm not sure there's a lot of RPG in most games that call themselves RPGs.

Unless I'm incredibly misguided, RPG stands for "role playing game", and I deem that to mean that my player character is something I have an incredible amount of control over - not just in terms of managing stats and armaments, but what they actually do. The problem is that the vast majority of RPGs that I've played really just have you managing stats and armaments - you're still doing what the game tells you to do, and your basic choice comes down to using magic or using swords. Your character invetiably gets caught up in some sort of epic story, but you don't really ever feel like you actually did anything. At least, I don't.

Mass Effect suffers from this somewhat, too, although in reverse - you can do whatever you want (sort of), and you have direct control over conversations, it's just that the inventory management part is terrible. I don't care what kind of armor I wear anymore - I just want the strongest thing I'm allowed to wear, and the best gun.

Really, of all the RPGs I've played - and I'll admit I haven't played that many - only Oblivion really seemed to embrace the concept of "role playing game" to its fullest extent. You literally made your character your own, in every sense of the word - you made it look however you wanted, and you played the game however you wanted - you could spend hours and hours in that world without even engaging in combat, and still have a blast. You could be stealthy, you could be brutal; you could be crass, you could be honorable; you could wander around towns and fields and dungeons and really take control over your experience.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, other than to say that I'm finding myself having a hard time getting into "RPGs" when I don't really feel connected to the role I'm supposedly playing.