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RPG Elements

You're not playing an RPG. However, your character gains experience and levels as if you were. Instead of being a mere test of skill, in which the only thing that makes the game easier or harder is your ability as a player, your control over the Player Character is abstracted so that you must build a unique path for them. Often their talents improve the more you practice or train, maybe there's a class system, or some sort of system that allows for tweakable abilities.

Well-implemented, this will give a game added depth and customizability, or allow players who might not be as good to spend a little time leveling up to make the game easier, creating a roundabout way of introducing Difficulty Levels to the game. Badly implemented, it seems like tacked-on attempt to appeal to a broader demographic, or be seen (critically) as a better game.

These have been around almost as long as console and computer RPGs have, and became more common during the mid-90s, which time a HUGE number of developers seemed to want to add more complexity to their games (and they hoped increased sales thanks to the prestige that came from having "RPG Elements" printed on the back of the box), even if the elements in question weren't anything more than Hit Points. Generally ignored is the fact that these "RPG Elements" are not even universal to actual RPGs.

Popular RPG Elements include:

An interesting outlier is the numerical display of an attack's damage (measured in Hit Points); while not an RPG element in and of itself, as a visual indicator it's strongly associated with the RPG genre nonetheless, as it implies there's a behind-the-scenes damage formula (incorporating attack and defense powers) in play.

Seems to occur most often in FPSes, strategy games (usually Veteran Unit), sports sims, and the occasional Fighting Game, especially those that allow you to build your own character from the ground up. Compare Common Tactical Gameplay Elements. Not to be confused with Elemental Powers used in RPGs.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • There's an Infocom text adventure, Beyond Zork. Your character had various stats, could use potions and herbs, and even attack monsters, yet it had all of the trademarks of the previous Zork games (including the mindbending puzzles). Surprisingly, it worked.
  • The Breach has a level up mechanic, each level increases Sergei's Rate of Fire and damage by 8%, and his health bar and shield regeneration by 5%.
  • Castlevania has firmly entrenched RPG Elements into its gameplay ever since Symphony of the Night came out, about the same time it adapted the free-roaming environs popularized by the Metroid series. It tried free-roaming gameplay with RPG elements before in Simon's Quest, but the results led to mixed reactions among fans and critics alike.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Majin And The Forsaken Kingdom had its characters gain experience for defeating enemies and using special combos. Their health and strength could then be raised, while majin’s abilities were improved through feeding him specific types of fruit.
  • ODT. - Escape...Or Die Trying by Psygnosis had an experience bar. At first, it could be distributed into armor (hit points), weapons (allowing to learn upgrades), or magic (allowed learning spells). Once these were topped, each fully filled experience bar gave you an extra life.
  • In Ōkami, when you do a good deed (from making trees blossom to helping cook the ultimate dish) you are rewarded with so-called "praise spheres" which more or less function as experience points, allowing you to increase your ink, your solar energy or your number of stomachs. The health is also partly increased with hidden solar fragments.
  • Remember Me had Nilin gain PGP points for defeating enemies, several abilities unlocked as she gains levels as well the Game Codex and several types of Rare Candy hidden away for Sidetrack Bonus.
  • Swim, Ikachan! has experience points earned by either killing enemies or eating a limited supply of fishes that increase player's maximum hit-points when enough is collected.
  • The Ys series, though some would declare them straight Action RPGs. The gameplay, mostly in the style of Zelda II, is too far afield to accept as a true RPG for many, though.

    Action Game 
  • Crimsonland had your character level up and receive a point that could be used to purchase one of the five abilities randomly drawn from a pool of 20 or so each level.
  • In Evolva, you must absorb the DNA from your enemies to mutate again and improve your weapons, making DNA something like Experience Points. Besides, you're allowed to customize your characters and choose which attacks and skills you want to improve.
  • How To Survive allows a choice of multiple characters with unique skill sets, and the Experience Points to either unlock more abilities or provide passive improvements for some of your characteristics.
  • Scurge: Hive is an isometric Action Game-slash-Platformer with experience points, character levels, and Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors. Oh, and Expys of the Metroid Fusion cast.
  • In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, defeating enemies earns you points you can spend to upgrade your Force powers.
  • Strangely, Square's World of Mana series started out as a straight action-RPG, but every game since the Japanese-only Seiken Densetsu 3 has had fewer RPG elements than the previous title. Dawn of Mana manages to be a straight-out third-person action game with fewer RPG elements than Ratchet & Clank.

    Adventure Game 
  • Sierra's Quest for Glory series, though officially a graphical adventure, allowed you to improve various stats (both physical and skill) by taking related actions. Some tasks could not be completed (at least, not in a particular way) until your character reached a certain skill level.
    • Though the fifth and final game is more of an inversion (an RPG with adventure game elements).
  • Used very loosely in The Spellcasting Series. Ernie gains XP and levels by solving puzzles and learning new spells, but since it's a text adventure game without a smidge of combat, the process is mostly for show. Some spells DO require a certain level to be cast, but progressing through the game normally will take care of that problem on its own.
  • The Yawhg is mostly a Choose Your Own Adventure game, but the stats you raise in the six weeks prior to the YAWHG's arrival are critical to determining the outcome of various choices you make.

    Beat 'Em Up 

    Card Battle Game 
  • Unusually, the Yu-Gi-Oh! video game franchise has RPG Elements in them, to some degree, possibly as a way to gauge the player's growing skill at the game. Unfortunately, some games take this concept too far, and actually prevent you from using cards above your current level, placing unneeded — and unwanted — restrictions on one of the most appealing parts to the card game: building and customizing your deck(s).

    Driving Game 
  • blur has you earn fans for finishing in a given place, pulling off stunts, wrecking other cars, etc. Get enough fans, your Fan Level increases, unlocking new cars and, in multiplayer, new car mods.
  • Euro Truck Simulator 2 features experience points and levels, which are tied into both unlocking new trucks and customization options and the game's skill system, which serves the dual purpose of unlocking new routes and making said routes more profitable, which in turn lets you afford the new trucks and customization options.
  • Midnight Club: Los Angeles is a racing game that uses levels, albeit three different leveling scales. One is raised by driving certain types of cars, which unlocks parts; the second is for using special abilities, which unlocks more storage for special abilities, and the third and most important one is for racing in general, which unlocks more missions.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Borderlands is a First-Person Shooter with separate classes with a specific action ability and passive skill trees, as well as Character Levels - unlike other examples of An Adventurer Is You, weapons are not by any means restricted by class though, specific classes just have ways to make certain weapons better.
  • Call of Duty 4. See this comic. For clarification: as with an RPG, every kill you make rewards you with experience. Gain enough, you rank up and get access to more equipment. As it's Call of Duty, this has become very popular in multiplayer shooters since then.
  • A pair of games known as the Crime Crackers duology were released by Media Vision as Japan-only titles for the PlayStation (one of them was even one of the first ten games ever released for that console). These games used anime-style art for the characters and environments made by Kokomai of "Akaijutsu Club" and used an engine that was more of a middle ground between Wolfenstein 3D/Blake Stone and Doom's engines, but also allowed things like transporting elevators to give the illusion of multiple floors in the same map (like Duke Nukem 3D which included elevators that teleported you as one of its mapping effects), a specialized guarding system for blocking attacks from enemies, the ability to level up via Experience Points (the second game only), and probably one of the least used RPG elements in First Person Shooters, a multiple-characters-in-the-same-party set up (3 in the first game, 4 in the second game with the option to switch characters at the start of most levels). Some environments could even damage all of your characters simultaneously, and of course if all of them died, it was game over. The targeting system is also a bit out of place compared to other first person shooters, stopping you in place while you aim a crosshair at anything on screen and your shots will shoot towards the crosshair instead of straight ahead]. It was probably not the biggest thing since sliced bread, but it's existence was the inspiration for another FPS modification for Duke Nukem 3D with far more build up on the RPG Elements (among other things) so far.
  • Daikatana was (infamously) supposed to be an innovative blend of RPG Elements and the Quake FPS system. Delays, developer infighting, and just plain bad design resulted in the final release being... schizophrenic, to say the least.
  • An Older Than the NES example: Dungeons Of Daggorath for the Tandy Color Computer 2- ostensibly an early first-person dungeon-crawler, but deeper. Killing creatures increased your strength, and therefore both your health and damage; your strength was also the factor in "revealing" magical items that were more powerful than mundane ones once revealed. You were free to roam through the first three levels of the Dungeon at will, but as the second level's creatures would splatter you in one hit, and the third level had magical creatures that you couldn't even see without a magical torch, you were far better off hunting down every last creature before moving on.
  • Done surprisingly well in Hexen 2, which had a fair number of stats and leveling up did have an impact on the game. Leveling up was properly paced so that if you went with the standard combat tactics (kill anything that moves and some things that don't), you would never have to grind, making the RPG elements almost invisible.
    • The Deus Ex series. The repercussions of a lot of your actions in the first game are extremely subtle changes down the line. Many characters do react differently to you depending on how you handle yourself during missions. They aren't open world games, but they also aren't far off from how many table top RPGs conduct themselves (you can't really wander away or completely ignore the overall mission, but how you handle yourself and act does impact the mission further down).
  • Star Wars: Dark Forces II and later. The player gets to pick force powers as the game progresses and can drift towards an evil/good character.
  • Strife, based on the Doom engine, gives your characters two stats {Accuracy and Stamina—determines maximum health) which you can upgrade throughout the game by visiting specific trainers. You can also find and carry around gold to buy stuff in shops.
  • Parodied in Team Fortress 2 - some weapons level up on the loadout screen as you play, but it has no effect at all on gameplay.
    • More specifically, some items are assigned static "levels" on acquisition, (e.g., Sandvich is a level 10 lunchbox) leading to some players collecting multiple levels of the same item to no additional benefit. Then you have the "strange" items that have kill-counts that persist throughout your career and bestow different prefixes to the name (like "Mildly Threatening Flaregun"). This also has no effect on gameplay outside of showing off how many kills you've racked up with a given weapon.
  • Warren Spector's 1st-person games (Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Deus Ex) had so many RPG Elements, it's hard to tell whether they were FPSs with an RPG's level system, or a shooter-styled RPG.
    • Ultima Underworld is as far from being an FPS is you can get. The only element it shares with FPS games is the first person point of view. There was no such thing as an FPS when it was released anyway.
    • It's a similar situation to Magic Versus Science. Word of God (or at least the advertising material) is that they're RPGs with first-person shooter interfaces.
    • Bioshock, 2K's spiritual successor to System Shock 2, however, had its RPG mechanics scaled back somewhat to simplify gameplay (although the actual world itself contains a touch more complexity (in terms of systems that players and NPCs can interact with) than System Shock 2): Players were invited to enhance themselves by using ADAM to buy genetic upgrades, divided into plasmids (active superhuman attacks that let you fling items around and shoot bees out of your hand among other things) and gene tonics (passive upgrades that enforce the player's ability to deal with enemies, the environment and machinery), which were all swappable at will.

    Four X 
  • In Civilization IV, a "Unit Promotions" game mechanic was introduced, allowing you to use experience gained by your units in battle to buy them special traits that improved their combat values or added new abilities.
    • While picking specific bonuses as you level up is new, units getting better with experience has been part of the series since the original game. It started with a simple binary distinction (veteran vs normal) in Civ I and Civ II and slowly became more elaborate.
    • A somewhat more diverse experience setup was provided in the Spin-Off game Colonization (the original, at least). Through constant use, a Free Colonist could eventually and randomly level up to become an Expert (civilian) or Veteran Soldier, and Petty Criminals and Indentured Servants could both become Free Colonists. Likewise, once your colonies declare independence, your Veteran Soldiers could level up even further to Continental status.
      • The revised version based on the Civ IV engine keeps the "Unit Promotions" mechanic from ''Civ IV', which has the side-effect of forcing your troops to level via combat so they are ready to fight off the Europeans once you declare independence. The "befriend & arm the natives" and "coexist peacefully" strategies from the old game aren't really workable if you want an effective militia in the new version.
  • In Sins of a Solar Empire, capital ships gain experience points, increasing their fighter cap, and granting the use of special abilities, which could be upgraded by throwing a skill point into them.
    • You can upgrade a capital ship twice right out of the space dock if you have enough cash. Three times if you research a certain technology. This gives them an early edge against other capital ships.

    Hack and Slash 

    Platform Game 
  • Freeware Metroidvania Iji uses RPG Elements to level up various skills like hacking or strength (for kicking). They're necessary and change how the player proceeds - concentrating on hacking enemies or destroy them with the most powerful guns? There's a huge amount of choices. It works in-game because the character, Iji, is part-cyborg.
  • Parodied in Kirby Super Star, as pictured at the top of the page. In the "Great Cave Offensive" sub-game, you fight a supposedly "RPG-style" boss known as the Computer Virus, which takes the form of generic Medieval European Fantasy enemies like knights and dragons (as opposed to the Kirby series's more bizarre fare), complete with a little text box at the top of the screen that announces the player's or boss's blocks or attacks and a tinny, 8-bit style rendition of the main boss theme. The player, though, continues to control Kirby in the normal platformer style throughout the battle, so it isn't actually an Unexpected Gameplay Change (it just looks like one.) When you win, the menu awards you various (spurious) spoils, including Experience Points, "hunger points," "happy smile points," "exam score points," and so on.
    • In Super Star Ultra, you are told at the end, "You gain X experience points! (Not that it matters.)". If you're playing as Meta Knight, different stats go up at the end.
  • In Ratchet & Clank, your BFGs level up with use, and your health bar levels up as you score kills.
  • Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic Unleashed implemented a level-up system and experience points that enhances their overall gameplay.
    • Sonic Battle did this first, to an extent. The skill points system is even discussed in-game.
  • Super Paper Mario departed from previous games in the Paper Mario series by being a platform game with RPG Elements rather than an RPG with some platforming elements.
  • Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness saw a lot of derision for its random RPG elements that added nothing to the game, other than a ludicrous way to bar progress until you did something to make Lara arbitrarily gain the ability she needed to progress.
    Lara: My legs feel stronger!
    Lara: My boobs feel bigger!
    • There was also money on the ground at various points that would respawn if you left the area and come back to it. That, and the game had shallow dialogue trees that no impact on the plot, other than a few obvious insta-fail replies.
    • Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light does this subtly with powerups that grant permanent health and ammo capacity upgrades, along with collectible artifacts and weapons that provide bonuses, with superior ones provided as progress is made.

    Puzzle Game 
  • DROD RPG is a Puzzle Game with RPG Elements, not actually an RPG. The player and all enemies have HP, attack and defense stats that mathematically determine the outcome of any combat, and the puzzle is to choose what enemies to fight and in what order so as to gain power-ups and progress without running out of HP.
  • Puzzle And Dragons: You must defeat monsters using your own monsters to advance. To attack, you have to match three pieces, and the formula for attacks and such are all based on stats. You can level up and evolve monsters by using the monsters you don't need on the ones you do.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • In Age of Empires III, your CITY gains experience. And can buy lots of cool upgrades.
  • Similar to both the above, MechCommander features pilots that gain experience as you progress through the game. Additionally, said pilots can be injured during missions and, although they do recuperate over the course of multiple missions, they can receive sufficient injury to kill them.
  • Command & Conquer:
    • The games allow normal units to gain experience and 3 ranks of veterancy that makes them stronger and more durable. The highest ranks sometimes get special abilities such as slow self-healing. In most cases however, the game does not allow the player to carry their most experienced troops over to the next mission.
    • In Command & Conquer: Generals, the player can level up by killing enemy units and demolishing enemy structures. Then the player can spend the skill points for special units and superweapons.
    • Taken to its extremes in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Twilight, where players have to gain experience from playing within their profiles, which is necessary to unlock new units for use in both campaign and multi-player mode. This has resulted in a need for grinding to unlock the powerful units and superweapons.
  • Dawn of War: Dark Crusade's campaign mode allows the player to equip their chosen faction's commander with various pieces of Wargear, which offer various stat boosts, as well as other bonuses, while also looking cool to boot. This carried over into the next expansion, Soulstorm. This carries over to DOW 2, with the "standard" campaign troops gaining experience and wargear choices.
  • Often overlooked RTS Video Game/Dragonshard, being based on the Eberron campaign setting of D&D, has RPG elements out the wazoo. In addition to requiring gold and crystal shards for building, killing enemies also gives you experience points, which lets you make certain unit types stronger. Not to mention the levelling up of hero characters and the meticulous inventory management aspect. In fact, it can get so complicated that micromanaging becomes a requirement, and failure to do so results in a quick death from the computer AI.
  • Quest 64 is often accused of this, instead of being considered a true RPG.
  • Probably one of the first RTS to have levels for units was Seven Kingdoms. Every unit had a Combat Skill and a Leadership Skill (which only mattered when they were Generals) and spies additionally had a Spionage Skill. Each of these rose over time either when training in a Fort or in Combat (except for Spionage). Some items or special events could also affect these scores. The first game in the series also had another skill for workers, but that was dropped in the sequel.
  • Spellforce walks the fine line between being an RTS with RPG elements and being an RPG with RTS elements, depending on whether one is playing Free-Roam or Story mode. (Story mode focuses mainly on the RPG angle; in the "Breath of Winter" expansion, this leads to a massive difficulty spike when the encounters suddenly become ten levels too high for your hero to effectively deal with).
  • In the Total War strategy series, units can gain experience, making them more effective in combat. Furthermore, you can also upgrade their weapons and armor by retraining them in settlements containing Blacksmiths and Armories (or whatever the game-specific/faction-specific equivalent is). Finally, since the first Medieval incarnation, your faction's commanders all have stats that can be leveled up (or even leveled down) by gaining certain traits in the course of the campaign. This aspect of the game is significantly more prominent in the franchise's next installment, Shogun II. In previous games, the abilities of characters were listed in a handful of basic skills, as well as traits that gave them advantages or disadvantages in certain situations. In the subsequent game, however, generals and agents have special abilities, skills and talent trees made available to them when they gain enough experience, which allow for the player to specialize them in certain ways.
  • In Warhammer: Dark Omen the regiments improve via veterancy, upgradable armor and equipable magical swords / shields / banners, and are carried over from one mission to the next.
  • The Warlords Battlecry games not only allow basic troops to gain about ten levels of experience, but also allowed the player take a few choice units with them from battle to battle. Of course, these games also featured a hero which had a full RPG leveling system, classifying the games entirely as an RTS-RPG.
  • In Wiggles (also known as Digglesnote ), the eponymous dwarfs learn abilities similar to RPG characters, but for a change by actually doing stuff related to the ability, e.g. gaining one point in "wood" by building something.

    Rhythm Game 
  • The beatmaniaIIDX series has been ramping up the use of this trope ever since its 19th installment (Lincle), with extra stage unlocks involving a world map and a little avatar fighting on-screen demons.
  • The third Taiko No Tatsujin game for the DS, Dororon! Yokai Daikessen, includes an RPG mode. From what's normally a rhythm game series. You travel a world map, get into random battles, gain level ups, visit towns, buy equipment, and fight bosses, just like a regular RPG. The main change is that battles is presented like songs are in the games. Every correct note you hit causes damage to your opponent, but enemies will sometimes use tricks to try and obscure your vision or generally make it harder to hit notes.

    Roguelike 

    Shoot 'Em Up 
  • In Light Gun Game Elemental Gearbolt, points scored in a stage can be allocated into experience, allowing the player character(s) to gain levels for increases to stamina and damage output. Points allocated in this manner are deducted from score, which was significant back when there was a $10,000 high score contest going on. But now, it's just for Bragging Rights.
  • In the Flash game Epic Battle Fantasy 3.3: Bullet Heaven, you can collect coins from killed enemies and buy upgrades like more lives, stronger and faster shots, etc. Of course, these stats cap at a certain point; it seems to be more of a way to let newcomers to the Bullet Hell genre start out slow and work their way up. Any non-hardcore player will need max upgrades to survive the later levels and bonus levels.
  • In Mars Matrix, collecting golden cubes will give you Experience Points and levels. Leveling up increases the power of your main shot.
  • The Playstation port of Point Blank is a collection of minigames in which you use a gun controller (like Duck Hunt). It has a one-player RPG mode that replaces regular RPG battles with the minigames. The stats don't affect the actual minigames, but determine which ones you play, how many losses you can take before Game Over, etc.
  • One game, simply titled SHMUP, is your average vertical-scrolling, top-down Space Fighter shooter, however, most of the enemies you kill grant you EXP; upon level-up, your damage, speed, and HP increase by approximately 1% (and it's got Anti-Grinding features, in the form of diminishing EXP returns when playing through a completed stage), and between missions, one can visit the "Docking Bay", which is like a shop, stats screen, and equipment screen all rolled into one. Defeating an area boss grants you another gun slot.

    Simulation Game 
  • War Thunder, a World War 2 multiplayer air combat game, uses these for progression. As players build up experience flying for various countries, more plane options are opened for them. Further, characters accumulate "Silver Lions" which function as currency, and any new plays must be bought. The plans themselves can be upgraded with more of this currency, with new weapons or upgrades, but only after passing certain experience thresholds for each plane. On top of that, the plan crew accumulates experience, which can then be spent improving their skills, allowing them things like greater tolerance for G forces or the ability to identify and lock onto targets at greater distances.

    Sports Game 
  • NBA Street from EA Sports Big made it so getting 5/5 in stat made a silver crown appear for that stat, but then you could upgrade to gold crown (essentially 6/5). The catch is only one stat can get a gold crown; through lots of play, you can get 6/5 on one stat and 5/5 on all others.
  • The Game Boy Color version of Mario Golf. You'll gain Experience Points from completing events and winning tournaments in-game, which you can use to level up your character and increase stats like distance and straightness of your shot. In fact, any portable version of a Mario Sports game made by Camelot (Mario Golf and Mario Tennis series) so far has had RPG Elements and a Story Mode in them where your goal is to become the greatest player ever by defeating Mario. However, Mario Tennis for 3DS won't have RPG elements at all.
  • The "Quest" mode of Pro Tennis: World Court for the PC Engine.

    Stealth Based Game 
  • Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops allowed you to collect new 'party members', gave them all unique stats and abilities, and even let you 'level up' their health and stamina with enough play. It felt less Final Fantasy and more Pokémon, though, since there was an element of collecting for the sake of collecting, only one party member was on the field at a time and most of them ended up filling up your Spy Unit (essentially a dump unit).

    Third Person Shooter 
  • The Bureau: XCOM Declassified has had both Player Character Carter and his squadmates level up for killing enemies and successfully completing missions, and it was possible to send the squadmates to perform dispatches for them to gain further experience. There were four classes (Engineer, Recon, Scout and Commando) for squadmates, all with their separate skill sets that expanded as they gained levels, while Carter had unique set of skills. Finally, there were dialogue trees and Multiple Endings.
  • Spec Ops: The Line had proficiency bars for the each of the five main weapon types (pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles), which increased with use.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • In Advance Wars: Dual Strike, victories earn your COs experience points which increase their rank. The higher their rank, the more bonuses you can assign to them at the beginning of a battle.
  • Advance Wars: Days Of Ruin has units level up when they kill a unit, going from rank 1, rank 2, and rank V. Each rank provides a very slight power boost compared to the previous rank.
  • Apart from individual units gaining stat points when they kill two or six units units of their own level, the leaders and heroes in Age of Wonders gain 10 skill points every level they gained. They can be spent freely on any of the stats, or on abilities such as spellcasting and combat perks, and it doesn't take many levels to reach the point where they can take down entire armies single-handedly. Especially using items "retrieved" from monsters' lairs.
  • Many small-scope strategy games like Close Combat and Battle for Wesnoth allow you to equip, promote, and transfer troops throughout a campaign.
  • Dark Wizard for Sega CD used units that leveled up, could be equipped with exchangable gear (if they weren't monster types), and even evolved or got class changes, despite being fundamentally a strategy game.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic had heroes commanding armies and gaining levels when enough enemy creatures had been defeated from the beginning, with each game up to IV adding more and more RPG elements to them (II added skills, III modified the inventory system to use an abstract sort of paperdoll system, and IV made the heroes actually fight in battles, and not just cast spells).
  • Silent Storm and its sequels has characters with unchangeable stats and skills that improve or worsen based on the successful use of these skills. For example, a sniper's accuracy skill improves based on successful hits and worsens based on misses. This means that each successful hit improves the likelihood of the next shot hitting the target. On the other hand, each miss reduces that likelihood. Additionally, characters gain XP and level up, at which point the player can select a perk (such as reduced time cost for turning or less bleeding from wounds). These perks are class-specific. Unfortunately, there is an entire branch of perks for the Engineer class that are spoilers for the eventual appearance of Panzerkleins.
  • The Night Watch and Day Watch games have characters learn a new spell per level. The classes are limited to three: Shapeshifter, Enchanter, and Mage. Shifters specialize in spells that turn them into various animals with melee attacks, Enchanters turn ordinary objects into amulets (i.e. support class), and Mages focus on combat spells (e.g. fireballs). Guns are also present, but there's no way to improve accuracy with them, although they can be used if the character is low on mana.
  • The characters in Odium actually gain experience immediately after doing damage to an enemy, and level up during combats. It's a simple Point Buy system. They have stats governing their health, their likelihood of counterattacking, their likelihood of making a critical hit, and how many hits they can take before becoming Enraged.
  • The Firaxis remake of XCOM: Enemy Unknown introduces soldier classes and level perks. All soldiers start at "Rookie" level with standard assault rifles and pistols but can quickly become "Squadies", as all it takes is one kill. At this point, the game randomly assigns the soldier a class (Sniper, Assault, Heavy, Support). Each class has its own primary weapon: Sniper has a sniper rifle, Assault has a shotgun (can use assault rifle), Heavy has a light machinegun (or heavy laser/plasma) and a one-shot bazooka (replacing a pistol), Support keeps the assault rifle. All but the Heavy class can switch to their sidearms. As the soldiers get promoted all the way to Colonel Badass, they get an ability each rank (usually one out of two) related to their class. For example, Heavy class can boost the Splash Damage of their rockets and fire twice per turn. Assault class can get the ability to dodge the first reaction shot by the enemy, as well as other defensive bonuses, so that the soldier can either get close enough for their Short Range Shotgun, or draw fire away from others then take potshots/throw grenades. Support class's abilities can either focus on healing and giving defensive buffs to allies, or, focus on giving excessive over-watch fire (they always get the most kills for players on the harder difficulties). Once the psychic lab is unlocked, soldiers can be tested, and those with psychic potential can get Psychic Powers based on their (separate) psi-rank.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Dead Rising and its sequels have "prestige points" that level the character up eventually, increasing your walking speed, your inventory space, making you learn new attack moves, giving you more health, and in Dead Rising 2 onward, unlocking new Combo Cards for Item Crafting. Note that going on a zombie killing spree is actually the least efficient way to earn Prestige Points; you gain much more for helping survivors back to the safe room.
  • Escape Velocity is an RPG to the extent that you can choose how your ship is outfitted and whose side you're on (and being on nobody's side is a valid choice).
  • In The Godfather: The Game, you can put points from Respect levels into five categories: Fighting, Shooting, Health, Speed and Street Smarts. With 50 Respect levels and 10 levels for each category, you'll max them all by the time you're done; no specialising here.
  • Many fans of Grand Theft Auto were surprised by the number and variety of RPG Elements in the San Andreas entry, specifically the idea that using an ability allowed one to improve it. In fact, one could say that the main character CJ in GTA: SA had a more realistic advancement than many true RPG heroes, as CJ doesn't improve in discrete levels, but almost continuously over time. Most of the titles in the series have some kind of character advancement, but usually in the form of bonuses for completing special missions. Some of CJ's stats include strength, stamina, muscle build, fat build, driving skills, cycling skills, flying skills, and yes, even sex appeal. The skill stats for various vehicles improve your handling of them as the skill set builds up (so when CJ rides a bike for the first time, he will pretty much suck at it and fall from even gentle bumps); meanwhile, your skill with different weapon classes improves as you use them, with some of them allowing Dual Wielding only once you're sufficiently skilled at firing one-handed.
  • Minecraft has this in the form of experience points, potions, and enchantments. Experience points are used to enchant tools and armor pieces for various effects, such as a sword multiplying the number of drops from a mob or a pair of boots that reduces fall damage. Brewing potions can get you various results, depending on what is used, and they can be made into a "splash" form that act like hand grenades. The fanbase is divided as to whether this constitutes Growing the Beard or Jumping the Shark.

Non-video game examples:

    Anime and Manga 

    Fanfic 
  • In The Swarm of War, the Zerg, both individually and as a collective, turn out to be capable of using psionic energy (including that of slain enemies) to mutate into stronger forms. In other words, they gain experience points when killing.
  • In Harry Potter: Monster Girl Quest, Harry gains the power to receives levels, skill points and feats from sexual encounters.

    Meta 

    Web Original 
  • The web serial Memetic Narration (found here) features a group of teenagers who fight turn-based rpg battles against evil embodiments of internet memes within a computer. Their abilities in said battles are determined by "leveling up" their personal relationships.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Foursquare. You gain "experience points" by checking in at places with your mobile device, you may earn various badges depending on the type of place you visit or what you do there, and becoming "mayor" of a particular place comes pretty damn close to "leveling up".
  • The game sharing site Kongregate has something similar, you get points from earning badges and rating games. Once you gain enough points, you level up. It's entirely pointless.
  • Newgrounds has users gain experience points for voting. Higher levels mean more voting power.
  • Digital distribution platform Steam has introduced a leveling system, heavily tied to its Steam Trading Cards. A higher Steam level earns you bragging rights, friends-list slots (useful not only for gamers with a lot of friends, but for Team Fortress 2 traders who like to keep in touch with people they know are reliable buyers and sellers of metal, promos, and unusuals), and profile customization slots (again, not just for showing off - among the Profile Showcases you can earn is a display of items for trade, or an additional text box which can be used to list your services.)
  • To-do list helper Challenge Accepted (formerly GetYeDone) takes this to its logical extreme by applying RPG elements to real life—you can create "quests" (e.g., "Chores") and attach "tasks" (e.g., "Do the dishes") to them. Completing tasks earns you EXP proportional to how difficult said task is, and you have skills (e.g., "Academia", "Bookwormery", "Spawnwrangling") and attributes (e.g., bravery, kindness, responsibility) which increase when you complete tasks. What do these experience points and stat increases get you? Clean dishes. Or a phone call to your parents, a decently-written school essay, a good workout, etc.


Age of Empires IIIVideoGame/Age of Empires    
Romance SidequestRole-Playing GameRPGs Equal Combat
WishbringerVideogame/ZorkZork Zero
Real TimeVideo Game GenresSide View
Rocket Tag GameplayVideo Game TropesRPGs Equal Combat
Cape WingsImageSource/Video GamesSpace Zone

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