Friday, June 24, 2022
Selecting a CRPG
There are now over 50,000 games on Steam, and a lot more on other platforms. I don't know what percentage of these games are computer role-playing games, but it isn't exactly a rare category, so there are a lot of those. The "top sellers" and "top rated" tabs under the RPG tab on Steam each show over 1,500 games. And given that any CRPG takes a good number of hours, it is obviously impossible to play them all. So how do you decide whether a CRPG is right for you?
I just uninstalled Weird West, and was thinking about why that game wasn't right for me. My simplified model of CRPGs is that there is a repeating core activity, usually combat, embedded in a system like quests and/or story which drives you from one combat to the next. And quite often how enjoyable the repeating core activity is determines whether you are having fun or not. There are some cases where combat is okay-ish and gets old after a while, in which case you might be playing on a bit for the story. But if you don't like the combat system at all, no story in the world can keep you playing.
In Weird West the twin stick shooter combat wasn't to my liking at all. Not only was I not very good at it, even on easier difficulty. But even when I won a combat, I wasn't enjoying myself. I'm generally not a big fan of action combat in CRPGs, but some systems are still okay, e.g. Diablo-style clicking on enemy to attack, or the reasonable paced regular combat in World of Warcraft (outside raids). But twin stick shooting was both too hectic for me, and offered not enough options for decision-making.
Beyond combat, there are certain key elements in a CRPG which tend to be frequent enough to be bothersome if not done right. A prime example for that is the loot system. Fun CRPGs tend to have interesting loot, and a user-friendly inventory management system. Weird West has neither: The overwhelming percentage of loot found is junk or weapons for scrapping, and the limit to 48 inventory slots (notwithstanding the option to store some items in the bank or your saddlebags) is quite frequently annoying, because half of those are already full at the start of a dungeon with your weapons, ammo, and other gear you need, like shovels and pickaxes.
CRPGs by their very nature are games in which you repeat the same activities over and over. Thus these activities must be at least minimally enjoyable, otherwise they get on your nerves pretty quick and make you quit the game.