Unfair Leveling RPGs
The ultimate goal of an RPG leveling system with multiple builds or classes is to offer the player multiple equally effective but varying play styles. This makes the game feel more personal, as it lets you feel like you’re shaping the experience. It also adds replay value, since you can try out each of the different play styles and builds and see how they all go.
Of course it’s very hard to balance all of the different builds just right, especially in a game that gives you a multitude of choices rather than just a few different classes, but I figure that if one build makes you worse in nearly every conceivable way than another, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
So here’s to all the games that failed in that regard. Here’s to the games that cheated, humiliated and wronged us. Here’s to the games that effectively cripple anybody who had the sheer audacity to not make the correct choice at the start of the game.
System Shock 2
I already mentioned this in a previous post, so I’m going to keep this concise. Basically, this game completely favors “regular” weapons over energy weapons. Energy weapons are only effective against robotic enemies, and virtually every major threat in the game is organic. I hope you didn’t want to go Pew Pew, because if you try you’re just going to go Q Q.
Fallout: New Vegas
The weapon category imbalance was an extremely sore spot for me in New Vegas. There is simply no reason to specialize in Guns or Energy Weapons rather than Melee or Unarmed. Guns deal less damage, require more maintenance because of ammo, weigh more (especially in hardcore mode because of the addition of ammo weight), and are constantly at risk of jamming if you don’t keep them at high condition. Guns are worse than melee attacks in every conceivable way, except for the fact that they look cooler.
Mass Effect 2
Bioware took the easy road with this game by simply giving you six classes rather than letting you make your own build, and yet it still completely fumbled. I remember attempting a playthrough of Insanity, the highest difficulty, as a Sentinel (cross tech/biotic) and reaching a point where I couldn’t win no matter what I attempted.
I suspected that this might be more than just me sucking at the game, so I looked up online walkthroughs and found that if you’re playing as any class other than Infiltrator (the designated “sniper” class) you most likely won’t get through the game on Insanity without utilizing exploits or glitches. The Infiltrator gets a temporary invisibility spell, which apparently helps a lot with exploiting enemy AI patterns.
At the start this game appeared to have a lot of promise. It was going for Deus Ex style espionage gameplay where you can choose to shoot the baddies down, sneak past them, hack machinery or utilize whatever other strategies might be lying around in the room.
However, unlike Deus Ex, this game blatantly favors certain skills over others.
To anybody who doesn’t believe me: I challenge you to specialize in stealth and melee combat and get through the game without becoming thoroughly frustrated at least five times. I think what really killed it was the unskippable boss fights. I don’t think I need to explain why mandatory battles with powerful enemies is a bad idea in a game like this.
I’ve read that Deus Ex: Human Revolution (which is coming out in just a few days, by the way, and which I’m totally psyched about) also has mandatory boss battles, which begs the question: Holy shit, how have RPG devs not figured this out yet?! How is it not completely counter-intuitive to force the player into combat situations in a game that encourages — nay, boasts — combat alternatives like hacking and speech?
Christ, that game had better not suck.
I read about character builds in Fallout 1 and assumed it would have the same unfair inanity. After hearing about the hilarious brokenness of Barter and the depressing uselessness of Outdoorsman, it was hard not to come to such a conclusion. Judging from the almost universal objections I’ve received, I may have been wrong in my assumption. Maybe the game really does let you play however you want.
But I thought it would just be fair to point out that I don’t always have to have the most powerful build ever. I like a challenge, and I like to play by my own terms. I just don’t want to be gimped, and I’ve been gimped plenty of times in the past. And this definitely is not a complete list.