The past couple of years have given us fantastic role-playing games. Skyrim, The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, to name a few. These are all excellent RPGs in their own right but, there is something these games have caused, and that is RPG-laziness.
RPG-laziness is a syndrome that is caused by role-playing games that constantly holds your hand throughout the adventure, making games that you are supposed to "live in" feel like just another piece of digital entertainment. Now, I'm no expert on the matter, but this is a real and game-threatening condition. Believe me, I have suffered from it for a very long time. Let me break down the symptoms for you.
It all starts with a grunt. Yes, you read that correctly. If you have ever let out a big old grunt once another quest, be it a side or main quest, pops up in your game, you are probably on your way to full-blown RPG-laziness. This first happened to me in 2015 when Mr. Preston Garvey told me yet another settlement is in dire need of my help. I let out a grunt, accompanied by the mandatory eye-roll and mosied on over to the settlement. The settlement, turns out, wasn't in such dire need after all. They only suffered the wrath of a few crabs. Fallout 4 was fun, sure, but the weight of all the generic RPG tropes (fetch this, kill that, build this, help them) got to me after about 10 hours. Sadly I never finished Fallout 4, stuck around for 20 odd hours, then left it to backlog oblivion.
"Information frustration" is a very real and ever-present danger in RPGs. Ever felt that a game spent so much time explaining everything that it starts to feel like reading a book? Then you have had a case of "information frustration". An isolated case of this was when I played Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. I actually reviewed the game and enjoyed it a lot but the tutorial pop-ups of all it's different mechanics felt a bit much at times. Want to fight? Here's a tutorial pop-up you have to read through. Want to assault bandits in a skirmish battle? Here's another couple of tutorial pop-ups for you to read through. Heck, pick up an item? Well, here's one more tutorial pop-up for you to read through. The last one isn't actually true but I wouldn't be surprised if it happened, just frustrated by all the information. A serious case of "information frustration" can get as bad as skipping through all the legible parts of your game and ending up wondering what the heck you are supposed to do. Once this happens, and it surely will if severe enough, you will probably lose interest in your book... err... game.
Audibly grunting at your highly anticipated RPG or getting frustrated by the constant barrage of information you have to slog through is not only tied to Fallout 4 and Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom, no. These symptoms can occur during any given RPG, triple-A, indie-developed, linear, open-world game; RPG-laziness effects indiscriminately. There are a couple of RPG design choices that professionals are still researching. The symptoms these game design choices induce have not been identified yet, so if you have identified the associated symptoms, feel free to inform us in the comment section of this article. Things to look out for are - graphics so sharp they presumably cut the game's content, a tale that has been penned by drawing story-beats from a top hat, combat so clunky it makes Kingdom Come: Deliverance look good and, finally, voice acting so bad it makes you wish you had an ear infection (ed - Resident Evil on PS1 says hi).
If you managed to stumble onto this article in search of treatment or professional advice for your psychiatric syndrome, you have been stumbled into the right place. As an RPG-laziness sufferer in remission, I can confidently recommend a treatment for it.
The friendly professionals over at Larian Studios have developed a treatment for us. The first batch of the treatment was released to the general public back in June 2014. They called it Divinity: Original Sin. Sadly, I missed out on this but I did get the much stronger and highly effective follow-up treatment when they released Divinity: Original Sin 2. To be honest, Original Sin 2 also contains loads of side-quests but none of them tread familiar ground. A simple fetch quest can expand into a town saving affair, or a mundane kill X amount of creatures can escalate into a murder mystery. It always kept me enthralled.
The combat, although tricky at times, provides a healthy dose of turn-based action. Combat provides you with excellent tools to vanquish your enemies. Electrocute a pool of water or combust a cloud of poison, the combat system rewards creativity. Divinity: Original Sin 2 does have tutorial pop-ups but in a non-intrusive way. Small tutorial boxes invade your screen when a new mechanic is introduced but these are optional and easy to disable. After a couple of days, self-medicating on Divinity: Original Sin 2, I can already feel my symptoms clearing up. Information frustration is no longer as intense, and the last time I audible grunted at someone was at Mr. Another-Settlement-Needs-Your-Help. If you haven't yet, I urge you to get Original Sin 2 and administer liberally. If you can't find this specific presentation, other companies have released similar treatments for folks. Pillars of Eternity, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, Wasteland 2 and Tyranny, to name a few.
Now before you sharpen your pitchforks and plan my flogging, be reminded that RPG-laziness is not some creatively invented syndrome - it's very real and should be treated without delay.
Kingdom Hearts devotee, From Software fanboy and aspiring Audiophile (the good kind that believes in FLAC files). Vincent enjoys writing about games almost as much as playing them.
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