Simplify, Simplify

Using Mass Effect 2, Diablo III, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim as prominent examples, Save and Quit editorializes about the rampant "streamlining" that has seemingly taken over our beloved role-playing genre.
While only the rabid fringes of The Elder Scrolls fandom are throwing a fit over the combination of cuirass and greaves into a single armor item, there have been much more reasonable gripes about the removal of skills such as hand-to-hand combat. Game Director Todd Howard has argued that this isn't a move to dumb the game down and make it more accessible to newbies, but a way to remove confusion for all players and make it so you can build a great character from the get-go without playing for hours before you realize picking athletics as a skill was a mistake. It's not so much about removing options for players as it is removing unnecessary choices that don't contribute any real depth to the game.

A good example of this can be found in Bioware's Mass Effect 2. The game had the loot system of its predecessor removed and the number of powers and abilities available in character customization greatly trimmed down, raising the ire of the traditional RPG crowd and fans of Mass Effect. These detractors were unhappy with the apparent stripping down of the game's systems, but these changes did make for more meaningful, if fewer, choices as to what weapons you wielded and what powers you purchased when leveling up. Yes, some players do enjoy sifting through the fifty different assault rifles in their inventory to find the one that does the most poison damage (don't get me wrong, I'm one of those players), but it's not a finely honed game mechanic, and it certainly isn't welcoming to newcomers.

Yet more streamlining can be seen in titles like Diablo III. Portions of the DIII community have raged about Blizzard's alterations to the formula that produced the holy grail of ARPGs, Diablo II, such as the removal of potions in favor of health orbs and the automatic assignment of trait points to your character. Notice a trend? These games are all sequels in a franchise, and all of the streamlining taking place is changing an element present in the game's predecessors. Of course this is worrying to fans of the previous games. I'll admit I like to equip mismatched pauldrons in Morrowind as much as the next person, but the lack of a pauldron slot in Oblivion didn't keep me from getting that game, in the same way that Skyrim'˜s lack of a greaves slot won't keep me from buying it on day one.