As an avid RPG fan, I’ve had my share of outings to save the world, princess, universe — you name it. Though, no matter the quest, there are a multitude of instances in every title that you can count on to be present 90% of the time. If you give it proper thought, it’s almost comforting, in a way — you always know what to expect. It’s still quite foolish of creators to slap the same old locations, situations, and plot devices into new RPGs over and over. Lazy? Certainly. Uninspired? You know it. The key word here is "annoying." With that, I present ten of the most prevalent RPG cliches.
It’s inevitable that you must traverse dank, dark sewers in order to reach destination X, or because Town X’s bridge is out, leaving the sewers to be the only real way to get where you need to go. Now, with the collective imaginations of all the creators in the world, you’d think that one person could come up with a more awe-inspiring (or at least less dark) location. Not only are the sewers some of the most boring, confusing, and frustrating locations to navigate, but they can be counted on to house creatures who cast poison, or at the very least there is a prevailing poison mist. Beginning battles with a poison status effect: fantastic! Color palettes that wouldn’t look out of place in the toilet, frustratingly frequent random encounters, and confusing area design make sewers into something more resembling homework than an actual RPG.
Forced Party Substitution
Some characters are just meant for permanent reserve. Their stats may be laughably low, their arsenal of attacks are useless, or maybe they’re just pathetic excuses for party members. These throwaways, even if they are integral to the story at some point, are so easy to throw to the side and draw from a pile of more suitable fighters that you tend to forget about them entirely. When you reach a certain point within your quest that then requires usage of your throwaways, you’re up a creek without a paddle. Favoritism never works in your favor, as it’s almost a sure bet that at some point a reserve character will be thrust into your party. Perhaps a heavy-hitter passes away, or your most competent healer must take a short leave from the party. You’re left with the low-levels. While some titles are sporting, and compensate by awarding experience to lesser-used members, it’s a pain to be saddled with those you chose not to use to start with. Because of this mechanic, it’s always a good rule of thumb to level all the characters adequately. You never know when someone will be taken away (or who that someone might be). This variable is likely to add depth and length to otherwise short games, but it’s an enormous pain. Here’s to hoping developers buck this trend.
For some reason, RPGs feel the need to include these scurvy dogs at every turn. In 90% of RPGs (namely JRPGs), you’re sure to find at least one, or a band of pirates. Perhaps they’re benevolent souls who rescue you from certain death after a tentacled monster had its way with you. Maybe the pirate whom you thought to be a man throughout the entire game reveals himself to be a girl. Some pirate crews are comprised entirely of cats. No matter the package that they come in, you can be sure to find at least one pirate lurking in several RPGs. Why is this? We’re not completely sure, but it may have something to do with the fact that pirates will forever be cooler than ninjas. How many ninjas do you find in RPGs? Wait. Don’t answer that.
The Ever-Expanding Map
Some games can’t just come out and give you a real map to refer to when you’re wandering the overworld, lost. No, some RPGs feel the need to drop you right in the middle of an expansive world with no landmarks or any idea in what direction you should be headed. While some may contend that this decision adds to the challenge and turns the game into something much more realistic, I tend to wholeheartedly disagree. It’s never fun, no matter what you’re playing, to wander through a vast area with absolutely no idea of the direction you need to walk in. In a move that seems like compensation, you’re usually given a map onscreen that fills itself in as you explore. Sure, you may feel like you’re channeling Lewis and Clark, but you won’t be getting that much done by way of fighting random encounters every five seconds.
Female Childhood Friends
Many RPG protagonists can’t help having a certain, brutish, tomboyish childhood friend who gets dragged along on the journey for some reason or another. These girls are some of the most obnoxious characters throughout. They exhibit obvious feelings for the protagonist, but never seek them out. Instead, they stand veiled behind childish pouting, angry demands, or obvious jealousy shown whenever the (usually) male lead shows any sort of romantic feelings for additional female characters he may meet along the journey. While it’s understandable that they’re meant to be the "rock" amidst stereotypical healers and waifs of girls, their personalities tend to grate on the nerves thirty hours in, when she still has difficulty coming out with the fact that she’s in love with Lead Character. Oy.
A good portion of RPG characters tend to have "ultimate" tools of destruction hidden somewhere in the world. These weapons are said to have devastating destructive powers, as evidenced in their descriptions. If so, why aren’t they being put to good use to combat whatever evil is plaguing the in-game world to start with? They must not really be so "ultimate" after all then, should they?
Since when has being hopelessly evil been synonymous with hair-flipping, metrosexual tendencies? Kefka, Kuja, Zophar, Sephiroth (just to name a few), wouldn’t be out of place as male models. It’s almost as if being a heartless bastard has become glamorized by way of creating such gorgeous characters — they’re beautiful so their crimes can be excused. This has also become a rather reliable way of predicting which way the story will be going. The first beautiful man you take note of is likely hatching a scheme to enslave the world or to return it to a period of darkness. Just sayin’.
Carbon Copied Towns
How many towns do you know of that have the exact same structures with nondescript exteriors save for one sign proclaiming what’s inside? Oh, that’s right. None. Case closed.
Forced Socialization with NPCs
In order to get anything done, you’re always expected to grill the locals in every single town. No matter where you go or what you do, the easiest way to figure out where to get next is to simply run around asking random questions and snooping into residents’ everyday lives. Of course, they’re always brimming with information. Someone has gone missing. Someone’s lost a precious item that needs to be recovered. There’s always some sort of juicy gossip that will point you in the right direction. How about, just once, a town that has absolutely no idea what’s going on? That may not help gamers out as far as completing the game goes, but at the very least it’d be a little bit refreshing.
No, seriously? If you’ve ever played just one RPG, you have to know what’s going on here. Whose bright idea was it to toss over 9,000 enemies at you whenever you take a few steps? When you set foot into a jungle, are there bears and tigers prowling around at every turn? Do they randomly decide to whittle away your health until you’re unconscious as soon as you set foot into the greenery? No. While I can understand the technicality of the mechanic, RPG creators need to get a bit more creative with how characters grow and develop aside from soulless grinding and obnoxious, far-too-frequent random battles.