are free-roaming affairs: Between the scripted cutscenes and predetermined plot points that take place at designated locations, you are free to Take Your Time
, get Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer
, and generally go Dungeon Crawling anywhere your current abilities allow
(assuming it isn't blocked off by a Broken Bridge
At least, until you enter a Plot Tunnel
: A tightly linear, Plot-driven
sequence within an RPG where your usual ability to freely explore areas and perform Side Quests
is denied you in favor of whatever plot-dictated events shall unfold. There are No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom
within a Plot Tunnel
; your only objective is to proceed straight ahead while the plot develops (and possibly twists
). You will be able to return to your usual, player-driven exploration routine only after you've exited out the other end.
Can be considered a gentle form of Railroading
, in that the player has no choice except to Follow the Plotted Line
. When a Plot Tunnel
occurs during the final act of a game, it becomes the Point of No Return
Note that since dungeons come in all shapes, sizes, and lengths, a general guideline for identifying a Plot Tunnel is that it should be at least two dungeons long, with no ability to access the Hub Level or use your Warp Whistle in the meantime.
- Baldur's Gate 2 has a fairly long one once you Get on the Boat. There's a town with some Side Quests, a fairly long dungeon that ends with a Final Boss Preview, optionally a Monster Town, a trip to the Underdark which has two more towns, three more dungeons and several more side quests before you finally return to the surface and can access all other places again. Most of the Underdark section can actually be skipped if you know where to go, but the game doesn't tell you this. The whole sequence covers two of the seven chapters of the story.
- In Breath of Fire IV, near the end of the first chapter you set foot on the Evil Empire's homeland for the first time to search for your missing princess. Although you do have access to the Overworld Not to Scale, you have no Warp Whistle at this point, and the only location you may travel is a nearby town and waterway, which you use to sneak in to the Imperial base in search of the princess. This ends with the party being discovered, captured and deported as the game begins Chapter Two.
- The gate to the Land of the Espers serves as a Tunnel Entrance in Final Fantasy VI. You come out of the (plot) tunnel shortly before the major Point of No Return. The Opera House could also count as it locks Gau out of the Veldt until just before the aforementioned gate.
- Early on in Final Fantasy XII, Vahn sneaks into the Dalmascan palace through the Garamsythe Waterway. This leads to a series of events in which he meets up with sky pirate Balthier, the party is captured and imprisoned in Nalbina Fortress, escapes through the Barheim Passage and must head back to Rabanastre (the Hub Level) from the eastern desert.
- Final Fantasy XIII is rather infamous for putting the player through a Plot Tunnel that starts with the Prolonged Prologue (two chapters long) and ends by Opening the Sandbox... eight chapters after that. That's right, you spend ten chapters out of thirteen with No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom. The base was slightly broken about that, to say the least.
- Final Fantasy XIII-2 contains a tunnel late in the game, when Noel and Serah are intercepted in the Void Beyond by Caius and trapped in a Lotus-Eater Machine, locking them out of Historia Crux until they escape from their respective dreams. Thankfully, the game gives you ample warning beforehand.
- There are a few sequences in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series where you must progress through multiple dungeons without access to the usual shops, the Hub Level, your mission list, or being allowed to recruit new team members.
- In the first installment (Red and Blue Rescue Team), at one point your party is Mis-blamed for the disasters plaguing the world and run out of town on a manhunt, leading to a sequence of five Dungeon Crawls (including two Boss Battles) before the matter is resolved and you are allowed to return home.
- In the second installment (Explorers of Time and Darkness), the Guild makes an expedition to Fogbound Lake (a total of four dungeons and one Boss Battle). Later, an unexpected trip to the future turns the entire plot upside down across a sequence of four dungeons; even after returning to the present time, you must progress through an additional dungeon before you are allowed to return to the Guild and resume your usual routines.
- The entire latter half of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates To Infinity ends up being this way, as once you return from the Great Glacier, you'll eventually be forced to go on an adventure to rescue Munna after a few days pass, and once you get back from that ordeal, are forced to begin your final adventure to save the world. You can, however, use the new Companion Mode to complete missions at your leisure in the middle of these adventures, though without the aid of your hero, partner, and whoever else is involved.
- The Horizon and the Collector Ship mission of Mass Effect 2 count, since both will block all exploration and side-quests after recruiting the fourth and the seventh squad member, respectively, until you complete them. In this case, the Plot Tunnel begins in the respective previous mission, though you don't know that on your first play-through.
- The Mass Effect 3 DLCs "Omega" and "Citadel" operate like this; each is comprised of several distinct levels, but once the player begins, they have to finish the rest of the DLC before returning to the Normandy.
- Suikoden V contains a variant of this. During certain plot events, some allies cannot be sought and recruited.
- Cave Story has a long sequence in the middle of the game, with several major plot twists, taking you through the Labyrinth and Waterway. There is very little room for exploration here, and the teleporters that would ordinarily return you to Player Headquarters are broken or only connect with each other.
- Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has Dreamy Mount Pajamaja. Before you enter, Bowser and Antasma use the Dreambearts to subdue the island's population... which then causes the dream portal back to the outside world to close the minute you enter. Got any sidequests you need doing? Tough luck, you can't get back out until you beat the dream version of Mount Pajamaja in a giant Luigi battle (after finding your way through a difficult maze of puzzle filled rooms and enemies of course). It's not all bad, an item shop does exist in this area in case you run out of supplies, but it's still a good hour or so of gameplay with no possible sidequests or exploration and no choice but to continue with the 'story'.
- Prototype has a variation: After completing one boss fight, your combat-transformation abilities are disabled. You can still free-roam, and you're not exactly helpless, but the (massive) restriction of your freedom for the next handful of story missions tends to have players make their own Plot Tunnel to get their hammerfists back.
- Tales of Vesperia has this in the second act. Once the party boards Heracles, the player has to stick to the plot until Estelle is rescued from Alexei and Zaude arises. During this time, Ba'ul is put out of commission and the Fiertia damaged, leaving the player stuck on Ilyccia until the sequence is complete.
- Most of the DLC's to Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, with the exception of Broken Steel, Point Lookout and Lonesome Road, lock you in until you complete their quest line. Honest Hearts also disables fast-travelling for certain quests. In Dead Money, you can't leave the Casino until your mission there is completed, but afterward, you can freely explore the Villa before returning to the Mojave Wasteland. Raven Rock from the former game also counts, as does the Project Purity battle if Broken Steel is installed, which is otherwise a normal Point of No Return.