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The Worst RPG Tropes in History
I recently started playing through Xenoblade Chronicles. Even more recently, I stopped playing it. No disrespect to the game, but between it’s insane length, plethora of insipid sidequests, and the plot taking entirely too long to gain momentum, I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. More importantly, it got me thinking about the worst RPG tropes that suck the fun out of the game for me. For your convenience, I have compiled such a list. Read along, and feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.
Though this list is in no particular order, this is by far the worst trope that many role-playing games are guilty of. The aforementioned Xenoblade Chronicles is arguably the biggest offender in this category (though Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is a huge contender). Whereas Japanese RPGs in the 90s often featured sparing side quests, most of which netted you optional characters or rare gear and often served to further flesh out the story, filler quests comprise of boring, run-of-the-mill fetch quests or kill quests, which require you to track down and kill a certain number of a certain type of random enemy. Then there are collection quests. I won’t even talk about those. Needless to say, they’re all terrible, tedious, and make me feel like I’m dong chores.
I prefer role-playing games that take about forty hours to complete (excluding side quests). Anything over fifty and I tend to lose interest. I was never more aware of this than when I played through Bravely Default. I won’t spoil anything here, but for those of you who have braved (har har) the entire game, you understand just how the developers, Silicon Studio, artificially bloated the length. If a game’s main quest naturally takes longer to complete (like Final Fantasy XII, which I believe took me about seventy hours) I can forgive it, but developers bloating the length for the sake of having a longer game drives me nuts.
Villains who just want to destroy
This one can be traced all the way back to Final Fantasy III (if not further). Sure, a villain not merely wanting to conquer the world but actually reduce everything to “nothingness”—a term often used when these villains explain their aims—sounds incredibly evil, but it’s also incredibly one-dimensional. Neither is it innovative or revolutionary after the first time. Exdeath (Final Fantasy V) is a great example of this. Thankfully, Squaresoft was able to pull this trope off with Kefka, using the character to explore nihilism to a bleak extent, and ever since they seem to have broken away from this awful excuse for a plot device.
If there’s a religion, you can bet it’s the evil behind the game
Whatever your feelings on religion, this one gets a bit old after a while. It’s kind of like how Hollywood is constantly pushing the evil corporation agenda. Whether it’s true or not becomes irrelevant; just show some creativity! JRPGs treat religion the same. It’s not that the points aren’t valid; it’s just annoying when a game starts out with a religion everyone is obeisant toward and you know somewhere down the line that the religion is going to turn out to be the greatest evil and you’re going to have to take it down. In a word, it’s just predictable.
All-powerful entities that somehow only the protagonists can defeat
I’ll admit: I’m a sucker for ridiculously powerful antagonists. That doesn’t change the fact that RPGs abuse this to no end, and it crosses the line of being completely absurd. When you introduce a deity that has the power to create and destroy and is basically invincible but is then defeated by a band of rebellious heroes, you’ve shattered my suspension of disbelief.
Instead of just griping about this one, I’ll propose an alternative. I have no problem with a difficult RPG. I have a huge issue with RPGs that are difficult for the wrong reasons. The original Final Fantasy is a prime example. Instead of featuring bosses that required unique strategies to overcome, it was usually a matter of spending hours grinding levels to simply overpower them. I would much rather be given the option of either suffering through level grinding or exploiting a specific strategy to defeat the boss. Seriously, forcing your audience to grind creates for a snoozer of an experience.