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The latest of Richard Cobbett's RPG Scrollbars features revolves around all the underutilized ideas in RPGs. This particular column doesn't talk about general things that are often overlooked, like good inventory screens and whatnot, instead it tries to remember the minor things some games had that never really caught on. As a sucker for creativity and out-there ideas, I tend to agree with the general premise, if not with all of the examples provided. Here are a few of them:
Clothes Matter – Hard To Be A God
Clothes are important in most games, though it’s been a while since games routinely let you run your characters around in their underwear just to see what the NPCs had to say about it. For the most part though, that’s all they’ve typically cared about. In something like Fallout for instance, nobody cares whether you’re dressed as a dapper chap or a blood-soaked bandit, unless you count a minor Charisma penalty. Hard To Be A God is one of the few to really understand that in a dangerous world, people are going to make snap judgements. You dress as a bandit, and people will treat you like one, be it refusing to serve you, or allowing you into their camp. Finding the right outfit made for an excellent mechanic, minus the slight problem that like most… it forgot to factor in ‘just underpants’. Very awkward when talking to old ladies.
Fight To The Defeat – Risen
Earlier games did this too, but Risen is the first where I really appreciated that the human characters weren’t your usual RPG psychopaths with exactly two settings – “Hello, Friend!” and “WE MUST FIGHT TO THE DEATH!” For the most part, they don’t want to kill you, and if you get into a fight, they’ll deem honour satisfied by knocking you on your arse and stealing your wallet. It’s a small thing, but it goes a long way to making the world more believable. Of course, if you actually do push them, all bets are off. And fair enough. But I’ll still take falling down over every world being just one accidental shove away from turning into Falling Down.
Inconvenient Magic – Ultima / Original World of Warcraft
Okay, I’m definitely losing some of you here – but bear with me. I love magic users in games. They’re my default, go-to class. However, while part of the appeal is the surface level hurling of fireballs and whatever, a deeper one is the sense of a character being connected to something important, something awesome, something primal. The more it comes down to just ‘click an option from a list’ or ‘click the left mouse button’, the more that’s lost. Annoying as it sometimes was, I miss hunting for reagants in Ultima VII (take a shot) or the need for soul crystals in World of Warcraft. The latter especially, yes, I understand why they went bye-bye. But I still miss that sense of needing to prepare, along with other elements that make it a little riskier, like Wild Magic in D&D. I still think it’s a shame that even The Witcher 3, a game I otherwise love dearly, didn’t really have the guts to enforce the need for alchemy on anything but its highest difficult levels, and generally treated going up against something like a Vampire with the right equipment as cause for a damage bonus rather than an essential thing.