5 RPGs That Start Great And Then Turn You Into A Lame Dork
Role-playing games allow you to live out the fantasy of being a silent yet cool warrior with a dark past, or a half-goblin princess with a hatred of pants. While many video games rush you through an alien onslaught, role-playing games take the time to ask you "Fighting is fun, but what are the best shoes to wear when you take on the invading Zorg?"
And though I find myself lost in these games, sometimes I wake up for a second and realize "What happened to me?" You see, beneath the rad exterior of these games lies a significantly less rad underbelly, one that consumes you just as much as the strategy and the fashion tactics. These are five RPGs that you enter as the person who will save the world, and leave as an expert in the delicate art of lameness.
Monster Hunter Has Made Me A Cat Outfit Aficionado
In the world of Monster Hunter, whenever someone does anything, a monster drops by to fuck it up. The villagers in that game are a constant stream of "I was going out to draw pictures of flowers, and a GIANT SNAKE nearly scared me to death." So it's my job, as the only competent person that exists, to slay those beasts and bring peace back to a universe that is built completely around making sure that I kick as much ass as possible.
As it turns out, when the most common predator is the size of a goddamn barn, there are very few defenses.
It's a game plot that's so perfect that it might as well be the only game plot. It gives itself so little wiggle room to fail. There are very few twists, unless you count the fact that when you beat a monster in the head for long enough, it will go from "slightly furious" to "intensely furious." Like Teddy Roosevelt, you use the body parts of those monsters to craft better weapons and armor pieces. When you play online multiplayer, you can tell who plays it casually and who is dedicated by what they wear. The dedicated are suited in a matching set of monster scales. The casual, like me, are dressed in a random array of fins and hides, serving only to tell the non-playable characters, "I have murdered most of your ecosystem, and I did it myyyyyyy waaaaaayyyyy." And then there are your warrior pets.
In Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter Generations, my right-hand man is a really industrious cat. Called "Palicoes" in the game, these guys follow you around, find items, and help out in battles with animals 200 times their size. These cats aren't scared of anything. Their only response to facing down a 12-ton mega spider is a hearty "Charge!" as they barrel into the fray. Aside from that, they "MROW" constantly, as do all the wild Palicoes that you encounter. I know it sounds like a weird addition, but there's something comforting about having a cat purring around when you decimate any example of wildlife that's taller than you.
Just look at him. I'm gonna name him BLOODLUST.
Now, if you've never played this game, what I've described might look like two paragraphs of awesome and one paragraph where I told you my plans for my new young adult novel Cat Battle 7: Meowssacre. But it comes together so well that you don't even notice when you become really cautious about what your cat is wearing. You get a sense of "Oh, I bet you think you're sooo great" the first time you go into the multiplayer lobby and see someone else's cat dressed in a nicer hat than yours. I don't want to embarrass him in front of the other Palicoes. Plus, he's going to look so stylish when I give him a little cape that flows behind him as he throws tiny cat boomerangs at every Godzilla in the continent.
I Would Rather Groom My Pokemon Than Battle With Them
EVERYBODY IN THE BUILDING WHO GOT POKEMON SUN, THROW YOUR HANDS UP.
I got Pokemon Sun. That's why I did that. I am the Fred Durst of Pokemon, whatever that means.
For the diehard Monster Rancher fans out there, Pokemon is a game series in which most political and economic decisions are decided through forcing animals to duel. If I wanted to be president of Kanto or Johto or where ever, I'd simply walk up to the current president, catch his eye, and then beat his Pokemon into unconsciousness with my own. It's a simple system, and it seems to be effective, since the only troubles that the Poke-Utopia faces is when a bunch of morons decide to color coordinate and throw Ekans at you.
Look, guys. I know you put a lot of effort into your costumes, but maybe go home and rethink some stuff.
Later entries in the series have added a few things, because presumably, fighting forever with magic pets just wasn't enough of a draw. Pokemon games from Ruby and Sapphire up have had little contests, ranging from athletic competitions to fashion shows , and they all fall under "Maybe I should've gotten the new Mario instead." Look, it's 5 a.m., Pokemon. You've rendered the entire concept of time meaningless for me. Just let me trample the dreams of other trainers, unimpeded by your attempts to shoehorn a talent show into my journey.
Pokemon Sun and Moon even give you the option to groom your Pokemon after every single battle. No, you don't have to go to a certain building or buy a certain item. When you get done taking the money of a seven-year-old in swim shorts, the game lets you brush or blow-dry your 'mons. This often helps to cure your team of afflictions, whereas in earlier games, you bought a paycheck's worth of antidotes before you walked into the forest because you just knew that a Weedle was going to rain poison death on you.
At this point, all of the bullying at school doesn't seem so bad.
Now you can just groom the sick out of them. And at first, it kind of feels like an addition that someone would be fired over. "You know how you wanted to make this a breezy, accessible role-playing game, Mr. Tajiri? Well, I added a part where you have to comb the creature's fur for a minute if you want something to happen. I'll pack up my desk now, sir. Yes, an idiot. Yes, sir."
But I'd be lying if I said that I don't dig it now. I started playing Pokemon in April of 1999. I've invested 18 years of my life in these games, and it wasn't until now that I've started having any kind of warm reactions to my Pokemon. They're fictional laser critters. If anything, the thoughtless Pokemon tendencies that I had as a child should've warped me into a warlord by now. "DON'T BE COWARDS. SOME OF YOU MAY FAINT, BUT IT'S FOR THE GOOD OF THE COLONY." But now, at 27, I'm literally saying "Aww" at my 3DS while I clean the dirt off Dr. Beaksby. Don't look at me. Look away.
Dr. Beaksby. He has a doctoral degree in Being A Bird.
Fire Emblem Has Turned Me Into The Lamest Cupid
Both Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates allow you to guide groups into battle. Knights and wizards and teenagers with pots on their heads -- everyone you could ever want to take into a war with you is there, and you choose and raise the elite among them to smash down the forces of evil with you. And if you have two characters fight beside each other for long enough, they come to strengthen each other.
Yeah, yeah. Camaraderie. Great. Let's get to the important part.
And then you totally make them do it.
I've never been a good matchmaker. Whenever I have a single friend who asks me if I know any other single friends, I clam up, because there's no way to make the encounter seem natural. One person is lonely, and the other person is getting invited to the human exhibit. "Hey, you wanna come over and see if their personality qualifies for your love? It's BYOB." So I stay away from it. If a single friend asks me if I know any other single friends, I sound like an after-school show host. Impressing people is fun, dude, but you know what's even more fun? Reading a good book.
So now that I'm able to play god among soldiers, I will stop at nothing to make any match that seems feasible. Hey, wizard dude. You look mighty lonesome standing over there in the corner of this lava field. Try hooking up with this ax-throwing barbarian woman. Nothing has to be serious. Just kill a few dragon riders, annihilate a few waves of enemy troops, and see if anything purely casual sparks up. And then have babies who will one day fight for ME.
That's good. I think he'll be into that. Your children will know nothing but a life of war.
It doesn't help that you strengthen bonds through interactions that are all culled from your favorite schoolgirl anime. Two scarred, war-hardened mercenaries will bumble and blush their way through a conversation about peeking on each other while they did laundry. You just cleaved a dozen men in half, and your only method of flirting is a stutter and a "Tee-hee"? No matter. I'll do whatever it takes to come out on the winning side of this conflict, even if what it takes is "Will you go to the dance with me? Check Y or N."
The Witcher III Lets You Live Out Your Fantasy Of Being A Douche
I like The Witcher III. Yes, it's got the pacing of a meatball rolling across the desert, and Geralt, the protagonist, will die if he falls off of any ledge that comes up higher than his knees. And yes, it's sometimes annoying to be travelling to your next destination, only to be assaulted by creatures that you were meant to fight a hundred more hours into the game. But there's something so satisfying about taking down rock ogres or watching a bunch of bandits armed with rusty swords come running toward you while knowing that you will literally light all of them on fire at once.
EAT SHIT, MYTHOLOGY.
And because it's so cool, it pains me to say that Geralt might be the lamest protagonist I've ever controlled. I know. He's got those scars and that white hair, and all of the characters around him are idiots in comparison to him. But every interaction that Geralt has with a woman who isn't screaming "THAT SWAMP BEASTIE STOLE ME HUSBAND AND ME CHEESES" is painful. Geralt eyefucks everything in a dress, and can't go a minute without uttering a sultry "Hmmm" grunt. And for someone who makes a big deal about wanting to get his wife back, all of Geralt's dialogue options fall into the category of "Fuck Now" or "Fuck Later."
"I love my wife. She wouldn't like this, and that makes it so hot. But my wife, she's just the best."
A cool thing in Red Dead Redemption was the fact that badass John Marston, when he wasn't shooting every misdemeanor factory in New Mexico and standing up against those who would eat babies, wanted nothing to do with the requisite prostitutes that Rockstar Games shoves into every project. Grand Theft Auto added countless ways to sleep with and then murder sex workers, because haha, I am 12 and sex is never. But John Marston had a moral code. Other main characters in the game would hit on John, and he'd tell them that while he was flattered, his dick should stay desolate for the time being. That's a cool character trait. Way better than Geralt "I love my wife but I'll send you a dick pic three sentences into the conversation" of Rivia.
Sure, all the sleeping around kind of bites you in the ass in the end, but Geralt is such a wish-fulfillment character that Witcher III may as well be renamed That Girl In Your Accounting Class Is Secretly Super Into You As Well. When he doesn't bone, he gets just on the cusp of it, and all of the cleavage zoos in Novigrad pout about it. "Well, Geralt, you're missing out." And your only option is to continue with the assumption "God, I'm so cool. Married and all the ladies still want me. And I have this sweet swor- SHIT, A GRIFFIN. AGH. SHIT. SHIIIIIIIIITTTTTTT."
Life is pretty good when you're apparently the only fuckable thing in a thousand-mile radius.
Fallout 4 Forces Me To Be The Only Guy In The Group Project Who Does Any Work
Fallout 4 is like someone tried to make a movie out of Fallout 3. It has all of the familiar "We need to make this more appealing to a wide audience" qualities, like fewer moral grey areas, less nihilistic and ironic dark humor, and more winking. So much more winking. Look, I'm glad that the apocalypse has such a good grasp on self-awareness, but reminding me about how crrrazzzzy the wasteland is while I'm trudging through it is the "If you're serious, I'm serious, but if you're kidding, then I was also kidding" of video games.
On a side note, it's a great game, and while it lacks the atmosphere of Fallout 3 and New Vegas, it makes up for it by ensuring that I'm mobile enough to not get trapped between rocks whenever I'm being pursued by a family of scorpions. The number-one cause of death in Fallout 3 is frantically twisting in your crevice while raiders replace you with bullets.
Honestly, it was all going pretty well until my character got stuck on an old fence and was decapitated.
But Fallout 4 also forces you to enjoy being the one guy in the group project who gets stuck with the terrible job. Throughout high school and college, I worked on numerous things with other people, and it always felt like a mad dash to prove that when you divided up all of the tasks, you were still being somewhat useful, even though you got the easiest possible job. "Hey man. I have to organize all of your separate papers and then copy and paste them together." This would inevitably leave someone with, objectively, the worst job. Someone named Tim that would have to do the last half of the paper, all of the citations, and construct the PowerPoint.
In Fallout 4, you're Tim. Every group that you hang out with is the laziest piece of trash in Boston. "Hey, we need you to go walk 60 miles to collect these pieces for a machine that you'll have to build yourself." "Is there any way you could try and find this dude? I'd find him, because I know exactly where he is, but I can't, because I'm not going to." "Is there any way that you can go protect that settlement? I'd go myself, because they love me, but I think I'd be better off here, watching everyone else do nothing."
Yes, Preston, like anything at all.
You're not a savior of the wasteland; you're just the only person with any hint of motivation left in it. And while you can bring allies with you, like a killer detective robot or a dog, there are still countless people who are all about joining Team Sole Survivor because they know that you'll be the only one doing any work. Fallout 4 is the epic story of what happens when the most driven person in the world is also the most gullible one. Sure, I'll try to find your son in that abandoned building with all of the flaming dead bodies strung up around it. 10 bottle caps for the job? No way, mister. You're being too kind. I'll do it for free!
Daniel has a blog.
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