Just Go Along With It, Okay?

The latest Monday RPG column from Richard Cobbett covers the narrative idiosyncrasies of video role-playing games and how certain titles address them, with varying degrees of success. As always, it's published on Rock, Paper, Shotgun:

I do like it when games at least consider the details though, especially where other characters are concerned. Knights of the Old Republic II and Planescape Torment for instance are two of the few that offer a justification for why some of the toughest people in the universe have decided to drop what they were doing and go slay and murder on behalf of some passing antihero the Exile's subconscious Force Bond in KOTOR 2, and The Nameless One's mix of drawing souls in torment and unfinished business with party members who just don't fill him in on specifically why they wanted to join until later in the game. Less mystically, the whole point of Mass Effect 2 is that it's a recruitment drive where you're offering people a job, so while it's arguable that you don't need half as many rogues and miscreants taking up space on your ship as you end up with, especially with all the DLC, it's at least easier to treat it both as a win and just assume that details like pay and whatever are being dealt with behind the scenes. The joy of having a very rich patron backing the journey.


The current King of all this is of course Undertale, a game I love very much and don't care if you don't. As with much of its genius, it doesn't really come through on the first playthrough when you're still picking up all of the details. Going back though, it's wonderful to see how well thought out it all is, and how subtle that opening boss Toriel doesn't want to hurt you, so when your health gets low, she switches to a bullet pattern that can't hit you (though it is possible to die, it's by accident, and she has a special shocked face for if it does), or that skeleton guard Papyrus, whose job is to capture instead of kill you, will actually do that lose his fight and you wake up in his doghouse because he doesn't really know what he's doing. It also works on its own definitions of terms like Lv. and EXP Level of Violence and Execution Points, described as (A way of measuring someone's capacity to hurt.)