Forums Game Chat RPGs that aren't RPGs

This topic contains 5 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  EXE Robo Grand Tanker 1 year ago.

  • #26204

    I do a lot of crawling around the Play store for games, not because I’m at a shortage of things to play, but because I like seeing what people do on the mobile platform. One thing I’ve noticed is just how popular RPG mechanics are. Many, many games on mobile stores have them, to the point where the console-style RPGs that Kemco sells feels uncommon and novel. We have tons of no-name MMOs, tons of battle-only games, card games, clickers, etc. There are multiple mutations on the idea of number-based character progression that marks RPGs.

    But even then, I think there are products that stretch those mechanics too much even for me. I feel that some games on the play store which are marked as “RPGs”, mainly use the genre as a wrapper, a shorthand for “This game has a Tolkien-esque fantasy theme”. What sparked this thought was running in to the games, Heroes of Sky and Dragon Heroes. I have a major soft spot for STGs/SHMUPs, and was looking for a few mobile ones when I ran in to the two forementioned games. Despite it being clear they were always online social gaming affairs, I was curious and decided to give them a spin, along with downloading Danmaku Death and Bullet Hell Monday. The latter also has a progression system, which I will touch back on later.

    Heroes of Sky takes its inspirations from Danmaku shooters like CAVE games (Dodonpachi, Mushihimesama, ESP Ra. De.). I only started playing it a few days back, so I haven’t experience much of the game’s meat yet, especially since it starts you on easy and won’t let you up the difficulty until you defeat all the stages in a given area. This isn’t a daunting task, but it’s somewhat annoying to be limited in that way. The game controls smoothly, your selected fighter following your finger on screen like other mobile SHMUPs. It has the occasional hiccup though, but will slow down the action for a while if you take your finger off the screen, giving you some time to readjust yourself. The game certainly looks pretty as well, enemies and characters are well drawn and animated, bullets are easy to detect, etc. Levels are very short, lasting about a minute for each one, and the game can easily be picked up and played (Assuming you have a decent connection because it’s always online). The game is pretty easy, your ship is easily able to blast through stages without doing too much dancing around bullets, but the game is on easy right now, so I don’t think it’s fair to judge its difficulty yet.

    Take note that I haven’t mentioned anything about RPG elements or anything that resembles an RPG. That’s because much of the “RPG” stylings the game has are either theme (Fantasy characters, magic, etc), or upgrading your ship. You gain levels in the game, but they seem to act more as a limit to how much you can upgrade your various attacks (Shot, Charge Skill, Bomb). The enhancements are made using gold, as well. Before I forget, there is a Gacha system as well, though there aren’t that many characters, and the characters you do have can be upgraded to the highest rank through gold, which is nice. But aside from upgrading, this game isn’t much of an RPG thus far at all, to me at least. I mentioned Bullet Hell Monday earlier in this post and I bring it up because, like Heroes of Sky, it has an upgrade system. Unlike Heroes of Sky, B.H. Monday doesn’t have a leveling mechanic. All its upgrades are done through points that are earned through gameplay. This is not much different that the way gold is used in HoS, only B.H. Monday does not tag itself as an RPG, it’s a shooting game. This brings me to an idea: If we stripped the experience system, the theme, and leave in the upgrades and other things, I don’t think HoS would be a very different game. The RPG elements seem to be a flair or dressing to the core game, which is a SHMUP.

    I have more thoughts to share, but I think this post has gotten too long. What it comes down to is this: Have you guys ever ran in to a game that was tagged as an “RPG” but didn’t feel like an RPG at all?

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    Well, as for my personal opinion, RPG stands for Role Playing Game.

    If in a game I can take a role and play using that role, that is valid, even if it does not have RPG-like features (but without that features, it would probably become and be tagged as a novel…)


    If a game have all RPG features (progression-like features), but lacks role play, that is not a RPG.

    It’s an, uhm, how was it called, the games with upgrades? Like Potty Racers, I think. But definitely not a RPG. I do not want only to evolve/upgrade characters/weapons/stuff, use magic, or read a nice story, I want to take the role of a character on the story too. 😛

    Jesusalva / Jesusaves

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    MSG Commander

    It seems to me that mobile developers just throw “RPG” into anything and everything in hopes that RPG fans will then be lured into downloading their game (or at least clicking to read the description).

    I’ve played a couple of flying games (not that the specific ones you mention, but similar concept), and they’re decent games but definitely not role-playing, and I don’t think they belong in the same genre, group, category, what-have-you.

    But then there are games like Kingdom Rush and the dozens of other tower defense games that followed, that are fantasy-themed, and have upgrades, and a tiny bit of story – still not RPGs, but they do feel like they have RPG elements, and seem like they do actually have something in common with games that I would call actual RPGs.

    It’s kind of like if you were to listen to 80s music – Prince and Michael Jackson obviously go together, but try adding Def Leppard into the mix? (But, hey man, they all have drummers in the band!)

    I dunno; I think some “non” RPG games can easily be grouped (or maybe finessed) with true RPGs, but I think there should be a line somewhere, and I don’t think a lot of these developers know where that line is…

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    As an RPG fan, I love how other genres are embracing RPG elements to the degree that I’ve lately found I prefer those sorta-kinda RPGs to actual classic-style ones. I can get into Kemco and 8/16-bit ones because those games tend to be shortish, but longer modern ones just feel so bloated I have trouble maintaining interest.

    As for trying to define a line, that’s trickier. I think it’d be fair to say (using console games for examples because of personal familiarity) that loot-oriented games like Diablo and Borderlands are pure action games with light RPG elements (gaining levels, skill trees). GTA: San Andreas was the same way, with you being able to improve CJ’s skill with the various guns and vehicles, as well as his fitness. It was a pure action game, but by improving those things, the action could become easier, as you’d aim better and be able to drive more competently with work.

    A more purely open-world action-RPG like modern Elder Scrolls and Fallout could be more considered an RPG simply due to how much freedom you have in character-building and in choosing how you go through the game (in Skyrim, I’ve played as both a burly melee domination machine and a stealthy archer sniper; in Fallout, I’ve focused on guns and destruction, as well as diplomacy, lock-picking and other ways to avoid combat).

    Deus Ex: Human Revolution would be midway between those two, having the ability to handle things in different ways, as in Fallout, but being more linear and on-rails like the pure action games with RPG elements.

    The Souls games have a lot of RPG elements, but kind of seem more a successor to classic Zelda with the difficulty turned up. If you’re a novice, you’ll find yourself herded down a particular path and will likely miss a lot of stuff. If you’re really good, you’ll find yourself in an open world where you can explore places in different orders. Like, in Zelda, I remember challenging myself by going into dungeons just to get the special item and then beating them in reverse order. I know a person, who in Dark Souls, started by doing the Catacombs. A first-time player would get destroyed by the skeletons guarding the entrance because that’s meant to be an area tackled later in the game, but because he’d gained the skill by beating it before, it was a doable challenge for him.

    I don’t know if there’s a hard line for determining what should be considered an RPG or not; I guess I look at it as thus: if it’s pure action with some RPG elements thrown in, it’s not an RPG; but if it leans further with world-building stuff and giving players multiple tactics/choices for solving problems, I’m more willing to at least give it some sort of RPG status. If not a pure RPG, at least close enough to suit my purposes.

    MSG Commander

    I too like that mobile RPGs are shorter/simpler than console games. I don’t really know why, because I have no problem playing 3 mobile games that are each 15-20 hours long – yet if someone told me about a mobile game that was 50-60 hours long I’d think “Man I don’t have the time for that!”

    Maybe it’s something to do with the mindset of playing a game on your phone/tablet, that when I get into that mindset I don’t have the patience to sit through something like FF7 or Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky (I’ve played both those games on Steam in the last 12 months and loved it! But I like that mobile games are seriously trimmed down.)

    As for genres… I tend to think of something like Zelda as being more “action RPG” than just pure action. To me, Sonic the Hedgehog is action, Contra (for old school NESers) is action, GTA is action, but Zelda has enough of an RPG ‘feel’ that it doesn’t exactly fit with other games in the same genre…

    So I guess in part it comes down to personal preference.

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    Maybe it’s something to do with the mindset of playing a game on your phone/tablet, that when I get into that mindset I don’t have the patience to sit through something like FF7 or Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky (I’ve played both those games on Steam in the last 12 months and loved it! But I like that mobile games are seriously trimmed down.)

    I’m wondering if this may have something to do with me ignoring my recent purchase of Final Fantasy Tactics WotL in favor of Dragon Sinker. While I’m absolutely certain the former will be a much deeper, more polished experience (With the added bonus of amazing Ye Olde English dialogue), I tend to gravitate to the latter because I can just jump in and go. I know I have a knack for liking games where I can do that (Dustforce, Spelunky, Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, Sonic, etc)

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