You’ve been asked numerous times about JRPGs, so time for something different: what are your favorite *W*RPGs (if any)?
Uh, none. I don’t really like any of them. I guess Mass Effect 2 sort of wins by default? Maybe Deus Ex? Least hated? Actually I liked Fable 1 way back when I was younger. Don’t know if I’d think the same now.
I’ve played at least some of Mass Effect 1 and 2 (beat), Dragon Age Origins (only started), deus ex, dxhr, Elder Scrolls 3 (started), 4 (beat), and 5 (started), Fallout 3 (started), Borderlands 1 (beat) and 2, Diablo 2 (beat), System Shock 2 (started), Planescape Torment (started), Fable: The Lost Chapters (beat), Risen 1 (beat) and 2 (started), Guild Wars, Jade Empire (started), Gothic 3(started), Dungeon Siege, Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines (almost beat), Witcher 2 and 3, and Dark Messiah (beat).
Wait, yeah, Dark Messiah wins, if you count it. It’s kinda borderline.
If I had to sum them up, I think WRPGs have weak action gameplay, they’re a bit too bound to the concept of the character growing stronger rather than the player. The Witcher series improved at this over time, but in my opinion never really succeeded. Some attempted to investigate non-violent gameplay, pacifism, but it came down to just knowing the right dialogue options and sometimes having a skill level high enough, which doesn’t involve much interesting choice or dynamic. Either you can skip this fight or you don’t.
I think if Japanese RPGs are about the joy of growing stronger (grinding), Western ones are about the joy of personal expression (stat investing, character customization, or story choices). Both usually fail in my book, because neither try to really push interesting choices with short term consequences. They’re both caught up too much in the tradition their systems were born out of. Both were presumably inspired by dungeons and dragons and other tabletop RPGs in different ways originally, and since then have followed the tradition of the digital RPGs that came before them rather than really trying to make interesting combat systems, either from scratch (dark messiah), copying arcadey games (zelda, Ys), or using the format they had (SMT).
To me, stat systems like that are supplementary, they augment what you have rather than creating value in of themselves. They don’t have very strong short term consequences or much implication on short term consequence choices, so they’re not very challenging to work with. Sure, it’s cool to work out a new build, it’s cool to grow stronger and find stuff that was originally hard much easier, but both of those things are so far removed from the world of short term consequences, they’re almost outside the game.