An RPG Wishlist for the Perfect Role-Playing Game Experience

RPGs hold a dear spot in many gamers’ hearts. Whether it’s the deep, moving stories, the strategic gameplay, or just the immersion that comes with a 40-plus trip through a computer-generated world, it seems the gaming community can’t get enough. With several recent hits (Child of LightBravely DefaultFinal Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn) and some highly-anticipated titles (Final Fantasy XVDragon Age: Inquisition), I have decided to comprise a wishlist of RPG elements that would comprise my dream RPG. Read along and feel free to add your own suggestions! (Remember, this is entirely based on personal opinion and not meant to represent the “best-of” elements in the genre).

Combat: Turn-based


Where else would we start? For my combat wishlist, I have to go with active turn-based combat. Though I am an admitted Final Fantasy geek, I would actually like to see something more along the lines of the recent—and brilliant—Child of Light. While this game used a variant turn-based combat that hearkens back to Grandia II, it was executed with a lovely element of strategy wherein attacking enemies who are “charging” for an attack are disrupted and vice versa. Throw out Igniculus and put a heavier emphasis on status buffs/ailments, and you’ve got a battle system I can easily sink hours upon hours into.

Characters: Specific Abilities, Skill Tree/Traditional Leveling

Final Fantasy X battle

Contrary to many JRPG lovers, the job class system is the bane of my gaming existence. While later Final Fantasy titles have tweaked it enough to offer moderate enjoyment, the first several games in the franchise to feature the job class system rendered those titles a chore to get through. My preferred system is more along the lines of Final Fantasy IVVIIX, and X, as well as the aforementioned Child of Light. In these games, each character is assigned a certain skill set. A specific character specializes in black magic, another in white, another in stealing, etc. This adds a layer of strategy not found in RPGs where any character can possess any ability, and, to me, gives the individual characters a bit more personality, whereas other systems render them more generic. Of course, this works best when characters can be switched in and out during battle.

As for leveling, I’m a sucker for the traditional approach of the characters leveling numerically (stats receive a minor boost with each level). Coupling this with a skill tree like the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X provides a healthy blend of traditional leveling and choices of how to build your character. Unlike the sphere grid, my wishlist includes a skill tree that branches a bit more, providing even more choices for the player.

Structure: Moderately Linear

I may be in the minority here, but I have never had a problem with linear games. I agree with those who cited it as a problem in Final Fantasy XIII; that game took linear to a new level, and it wasn’t much fun. However, I have never been able to get into games like The Elder Scrolls that emphasize exploration and side quests. I immerse myself in the plot, and though I enjoy the moments when side quests pop up or you’re able to run off and explore, I prefer it to be done sparingly. Nothing kills the momentum of a plot for me more than being diverted by an hours-long side quest that involves helping a random NPC retrieve her cat by engaging in a pain-staking fetch quest.

On that note, playing through the plot without a break until right before the final dungeon is kind of annoying. It was one of my few complaints with Final Fantasy X. By the time I’m that far in a game, I really just want to see how the ending turns out, not spends hours unlocking final weapons and battling optional bosses. Save the strongest and hardest for this point. Everything else should be able to be accessed in intervals as you progress with a reasonable expectation of being completed when they’re first able to be accessed.

World: Open/Explorative, Towns

Skyrim town

This one may not even need to be listed, but I’ll go ahead with it anyway. Who doesn’t love a nice, open world with plenty of caves and oceans to explore? Of course, allowing the player to slowly gain access to more and more of the world is a great transition, first beginning with the classic traveling on foot, then with an animal/automobile, until finally you have a full-fledged aircraft capable of reaching the darkest corners of the globe.

Another staple in my wishlist is having towns to visit. I was deeply saddened when this disappeared in Final Fantasy XIII, as it always provides a nice reprieve and serves to enrich the world, offering an immersion that is otherwise lacking. Chatting with merchants and denizens always seems to delight, even in the grimmest of circumstances…like travelers who take arrows to the knee.

Story: Dark, Avoid Tropes

Aerith's burial original

Yeah, I like darker takes on stories. Though I enjoy the more buoyant and humorous tales (Earthbound, anyone?), I always seem to be more engaged in tragic, emotional tales. That being said, I’m about at the point of refusing to touch a game that involves an amnesiac or cold-hearted protagonist who spurns everyone until s/he meets the rest of the main characters and learns the value of friendship. Also, no off-the-wall, ridiculous, overstuffed plots and twists, a la Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and Xenogears. Again, it’s personal taste.