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Definition of RPG – The Distinguishing Elements

Dragon Quest XI PS4 Theme

RPG or role-playing game is a very popular game genre where we will control a character or a group under certain gameplay and mechanism. As one of its addicted fans, I have to admit that playing this genre will satisfy me most rather than playing other genre. And thankfully, it becomes easier now to find a good RPG title than before. But what is the real definition of RPG?

So we all might have tried playing RPG, but maybe not all of us are able to distinguish RPG from other genres. In fact, many of the games are starting to have similar formula as what RPG used. The result is, we can hardly distinguish RPG from the other popular game differ in genre. So let us breakdown each factor and find the distinguishing elements of RPG that makes this genre unique.

1. Role-Playing

NieR: Automata - Key art

Because it is a role-playing game, then it is about playing a role of a character. Basically, this formula is used on every genre, since each of the game has the main hero or heroine. In every title, we we play a role of a main protagonists, sometimes with their groups. This element is easy to be found in every RPG, only you should know that this can’t distinguish RPG yet since every game has this factor.

2. Setting

persona 5 the animation dark sun

How many of you think that RPG is always about races like humans, elves, dwarves, casting spells, killing monsters, surviving with swords and shields, and many other? That is what we call setting. And RPG could take place anywhere, whether it is in medieval times or futuristic world, it is still RPG. With different setting, both Persona games and Final Fantasy games are still RPG right?

3. Exploration

Fire Emblem Awakening Wallpaper

Without a doubt, one of the main attractions of RPG is the exploration. We can search every place for secrets and clues to progress in the game. But not only RPG has those elements; you can enjoy exploration in action games or even in first-person shooters. Besides, exploration itself is not always present in RPG. Fire Emblem games are tactical RPG that include no exploration in its gameplay.

4. Combat

Dragon Quest XI Western

Maybe the turn-based battle is the most popular mechanism that easily depicting RPG. The battle mechanism that was used by Final Fantasy series since long has planted in our head that it is the specific gameplay of RPG. But now, combats in RPG have changed into several styles from clicking to real-time combat. And yet, all those games are still recognized as RPG.

5. Increasing Numbers

Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition - Level up

Fundamentally, RPG is about increasing numbers. What is numbers? Levels, experiences, items amount, player stats, skill proficiency, are the definition of the numbers that have to be increased in RPG. A “click to increase stats” only gameplay can’t be classified as RPG. The increasing numbers have to connect with the characters development, other than that it can’t be called an RPG.

6. Storyline

Ni no Kuni II Revenant Kingdom - Roland Footage

RPG are character-centric, it is all about the progression of the main character. Everything about the main character will become the story of the game. Whether it is happy ending or not the gameplay will revolves around the character. The adventure or the quest that the character has to take is the main plot that will connect the events into one big story. The story is an important aspect, but it is not everything yet.

7. Consequential Choices

Final Fantasy XV Pocket Edition - Skill Tree

We have already 6 elements of RPG, but apparently those elements are not enough to distinguish RPG from the other genre. So we have come to the last element and deciding factor that will clearly distinguish RPG from the other. Consequential choices are the only factor that other genres don’t own. Features such as stats building can’t can’t be found in other genres aside from RPG.

Only in RPG, you will need to choose whether you want to make your characters as a warrior or a spellcaster. You will take time to determine the build of your characters so they can have the specific job skill or final weapon you aimed for. Other genre such as action adventure games or first-person shooters don’t give you a choice to be something. What items or weapons you see is what you can get to survive.

In strategy or tactical RPG, the experience points are given on a character-by-character basis. The party members that are not included in the battles will be left behind, so you will really need to choose that you can divide the points equally or by individuals. At some points, there are times where we will be given choices that determine the course of the story or even the attitude of the townspeople towards us.

Read also: 7 Things in RPG that would be Useful in the Real World

So there is a lot of element in RPG that construct this genre to be enjoyable. Some are shared by other genres, but there are also conditions where it is specific as RPG-only characteristic. Nevertheless, the games are improving and it is a good sign for us gamers including RPG lovers. From time to time, I’m sure that RPG will get even better and even more challenging than it is today.

Do you have another element to add? What is the definition of RPG for you? Please share your thoughts in the comment below.

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Written by
A fellow RPG addict who played a lot of classic masterpieces from Square, Square-Enix, and Tri-Ace. "The epoch may change, but the classics will remain eternal"

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