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The Replay Value of RPGs
Editorial - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Mon 19 July 2010, 11:08:00Tags: BioWare; Mass Effect 2
What would be more appropriate than to research this issue by example of two of the greatest Roleplaying Games of all time. Mass Effect 1 and Mass Effect 2. At least such is the approach of Bitmob.
Should developers worry about how replayable an RPG is? Should it be a concern at all when what really matters is whether their fan base buys the next sequel in the series or not? More importantly, how many people replay games and what elements do most players find lend themselves to replayability anyway?
I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but I do know an RPG with replay value when I see it. And while I played the original Mass Effect, as well as Fallout 3, Dragon Age: Origins, and Alpha Protocol, all multiple times, I didn't play Mass Effect 2 more than once. One play through and the game's mysteries, mechanics as well as story, were laid bare, and I couldn't even force myself to play it again.
But beyond my own personal need to replay Western RPGs, there's also the issue of downloadable content (DLC). Bioware has pushed DLC hard for both Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins, with frequent releases that add new characters, quests, and items. And while I have purchased and played all available DLC for Dragon Age: Origins, I have yet to play any of it for Mass Effect 2.
Why is this? If the story was worth experiencing once shouldn't the DLC also be worth checking out? I think it comes down to the same reason I don't ever play action games more than once and almost never buy single player DLC for them. After I've experienced the game world, learned the controls and game mechanics, I don't want to go back.
A relatively complex Western RPG has enough depth to make experiencing it more than once compelling, and furthermore, it lends itself well to DLC, which might deepen or change the experience even more. An action game like Mass Effect 2, on the other hand, has already played all of its cards, so unless you typically enjoy playing the same experience over and over again, it holds little intrigue.
But I have a hard time believing a developer like Bioware is concerned with a small segment of its fan base and their need for complex role playing experiences. They see the action genre as the place where the money is, and they are streamlining their games to tap into it. If that means Mass Effect 3 or Dragon Age 2 are single shot experiences, so be it.
The only bright spot in all of this are those developers who have yet to abandon such RPGs. Bethesda Softworks, for example, the developer of Oblivion and Fallout 3, both highly replayable action RPGs, seem firmly committed to continuing to give players complexity and depth in their games. I for one will continue to give my money to the developer who does likewise, while I'll likely only rent games from developers whose games offer little replay value.
Well, a man with such an impressive RPG back catalogue certainly knows an RPG with replay value when he sees it.
Spotted at: GB