So You Want To / Play A Console RPG
The following is a list of the basic play features of the typical RPG video game
, mostly of the Eastern
type. It includes playing tips. Note that each game is unique and will almost always include features besides the ones listed here:
I. Saving the Game
To stop playing and continue the game where you left later, you must save your progress in a memory unit. In most games, this requires you to take your character to a 'Save Point
', a place within the game that gives you the option to save. More modern games give you the option to save at any place, or use a quicksave feature
that is often deleted when you load, but is nice in a pinch. Especially handy for games on handheld consoles, where limited battery life means you don't always have the luxury of finding a save point before the game shuts down.
- Tip: Save your game right before doing anything risky, and right after doing something important. Examples: When entering a Town, when leaving a Town, before fighting a Boss, and after fighting a Boss. For any game that doesn't penalize you for saving (and most but not all RPGs do not), save any and every time a save point becomes available. Generally these are an indicator from the game developer that something important is about to happen.
A 'town' is any area that is safe to explore, that is, it has no enemies that attack you. It doesn't have to be an actual town, it can be anything from a single house to a whole city.
Do the following things each time you visit a town:
- Find Items: There are usually items hidden around a town for the Player Character to pick up. They're usually inside containers such as chests, barrels, or drawers. Usually you can find each item only once.
- Tip: Check out all the containers in the town before buying stuff at the shops. It might save you some money, or might give you some stuff to sell.
- Buy Stuff: Most towns have shops that sell adventuring equipment. This includes Armor, Weapons, Accessories (pieces of gear that grant special powers) and consumable Items (things that are used once and then are gone; typically these are medicines that heal wounds, cure poisoning, etc.) Often there are separate shops for each type of equipment.
- Try to buy one of every item for sale; odds are you'll need them. If you don't have enough money, you can sell your stuff (see below) or return after having fought several enemies.
- Buy the cheapest stuff first; this allows you to get more things at a time. Besides, the more expensive stuff is usually not needed until later.
- Sell Stuff: You can sell your equipment and items at shops as well; usually it doesn't matter what the shops sell. The price for selling is almost always lower than the price for buying, however.
- Sell your stuff AFTER you've bought new stuff; otherwise you risk running out of money!
- In the vast majority of games, once you sell an item, you CANNOT get it back! So don't sell anything you might need later. In particular, hold onto equipment pieces with rare powers (such as Shields that protect from Fire attacks) and items obtained after difficult quests. Other things to be wary of selling include anything you start the game with and things that sell for an unusually high price.
- If the game heavily focuses on Item Crafting or upgrading equipment, you will want to sell only things you know you can get more of. You never know what may be Permanently Missable down the line because you got rid of something you thought useless.
- Equip your equipment: In most games, equipment is NOT automatically equipped on your characters when you buy it. Don't forget to use the game's menu to equip it. (Items do not have to be equipped.)
- Equip your characters as soon as you are done shopping, so you don't forget later.
- Give your strongest equipment to your weakest characters; they need it the most.
- If you know that certain pieces of equipment will be needed in special areas (for example, Fire-protection armor for an area full of fire-using monsters) equip them before going into it.
- Rest and Heal: In most games, characters will lose Hit Points in combat and/or might be affected by bad Status Effects, such as poison; sleeping usually completely cures these. To sleep, you usually must reach an Inn in a town and pay an amount of money. The game then jumps ahead to 'the next day,' with all your characters fully healed.
In some games, Saving Points will heal the characters instead. And in some other games, there might be Effects that won't be cured by sleep, and might require special items, or visiting special 'healer' characters, instead.
- Tip: Make sure all your characters are healed before leaving for the next mission.
- Talk to other Characters: The NPC (Non Player Characters) you see hanging around a town will speak to you if you interface with them. This is necessary in order to find clues as to what to do next, though not every NPC says useful things. Talking to some NPCs will trigger events within the game, which are usually necessary to advance the game (but are sometimes optional.)
- Speak to NPCs AFTER you've prepared yourself (by buying and resting) in case you trigger an event that keeps you too busy (like a fight with a Boss or a mission that takes you out of town immediately.)
- Some NPCs have more than one thing to say. Keep talking to them until they start repeating the same things. Their lines of dialogue sometimes change after some events take place, too, so talk to all of them again when you return to the town.
- In many RPGs, ordinary townsfolk simply use variations on the same twelve or so stock appearances in order to save design effort or media space. Anyone who does not have a stock appearance is almost certainly important and thus should be talked to last if you want to be sure you don't miss anything.
- Other: There might be other things to do in a town, depending on the game; for example, many RPGs include 'minigames', which are games of a type different from the rest of the game's other activities (i.e., exploration and combat) These are usually optional. Examples include playing card games, messing around with machines in order to get a reward, etc.
III. The Outer World
The 'Outer World', also known as the 'world map', is a section of the game that shows you what the region of the game's world that you are currently located in looks like. In older games, it was just a map with an icon representing your party on it (thus the name), but, in more modern games, it's an actual 3D rendition.
- Travel: You must move your characters from one place to another to complete the game. Usually, this means traveling on foot, with your choices of direction limited by roads, mountains, etc. Typically, however, the characters obtain other methods of travel as the game advances, such as vehicles or teleportation methods, allowing them to reach previously inaccessible areas or return to earlier ones.
- Encounters: In most games the Outer World is a dangerous place as you'll be attacked by enemies (also known as 'monsters') There are two kinds of encounters: 'random' and 'fixed'. Random enemies vary in type and number; fixed encounters provide a specific enemy. Random enemies are usually unseen until they strike, while fixed encounters can usually be seen and avoided. Also, random encounters are generally infinite; they'll keep showing up as long as you keep walking in their area. On the other hand, it is usually possible to clear an area of fixed encounters, giving you a chance to explore it more calmly, at least until you exit it (then the enemies will usually reappear). The vast majority of games use random encounters; fixed encounters are usually saved for Dungeons.
In addition, some encounters result in the characters being at a disadvantageous position; for example, a 'Surprise Attack' gives the enemies the chance to strike first, attacking your characters for one round without a chance for them to fight back (except with abilities that react instantly, such as Counterattacks). Another example is the 'Back Attack' which results in the party's battle row positions being switched around (i.e. the ones in front are now in the back and vice versa). In some games, the characters may also Surprise or Back Attack the enemies.
- Fight Enemies: Most RPG combat sequences are either 'turn-based' (that is, the game stops while you input the battle commands) or 'real-time,' in which the enemies attack while you control your characters. Some give you the option of switching between the two modes.
Your characters will usually be arrayed in a row (or two) facing against enemies also arrayed in rows. The rows behind the first are harder to reach or harm (but may also have difficulty striking the enemies.) Some games are 'Tactical' which means the battles take place in a larger field, and the characters and enemies can be moved around it. Often these fields feature obstacles or advantages; for example, rocks that prevent easy access to parts of the field, or magical effects that increase the effects of some spells but weakens others. Typically, you have to try to think ahead a couple rounds. Moreso in a Tactical RPG (in which an enemy could suddenly run right on in through an open spot in your defenses and attack your healer).
Some games also offer an option of 'Automatic Combat' which allows the PCs to fight by themselves. Note that the game's artificial intelligence does not usually allow the characters to fight the best way they can.
- Tip: Use Auto Fighting only against normal enemies (NOT against bosses), and keep an eye on your character's expenditure of items and magic.
The commands usable in battle vary from game to game, but usually include:
- Attack- the character attacks using his equipped weapon.
- Defend- the character block incoming attacks, reducing the damage received.
- Magic- the character casts a spell (if applicable). Note that using magic reduces the character's reserve of MP (Magic Points). Once out of MP, it can cast no more spells until replenished (by using certain items), or by resting.
- Item- use one of the items carried. Most games allow any character to use any item, but some limit each character to carry his or her own provisions.
- Run- the character attempts to flee from the battle. If successful, the fight ends (in some games, however, all characters must escape separately). If the attempt fails, however, the enemy usually gets one round of free attacks on the characters. (This is changing to a "hold button" in some other games)
Some Spells and Special Abilities cause 'Status Effects,' which affect the characters' abilities. Bad, or 'Negative,' Effects cause harm or weaken the character
is a common example. There are also Good ('Positive') Status Effects
, such as spells that increase the characters' resistance to damage. Most Status Effects disappear after a battle, but some may linger on.
If a character is reduced to 0 HP, he is 'dead' (unconscious) and can no longer be used in battle, though he can be revived with certain specific items or spells. Depending on the game, a fallen character may still be unconscious after the battle, or (more typically) is functional but his HP may be reduced.
The battle lasts until all the enemies (or all the PCs) are defeated (reduced to 0 HP). If the PCs are defeated, usually the game is over (though you can restart from your last save). Some battles are 'special', however, and losing them does not end the game; that depends on the game and its story sequence.
- When facing multiple enemies, attack the ones that have the least HP first. That way you'll reduce their numbers faster. An enemy with low HP can inflict just as much damage as an enemy with higher HP, too.
- Save most of your MP and consumable items for fighting the game's Bosses. If a certain ordinary enemy type is nearly impossible to take down with physical attacks, use the weakest spells that will actually work.
- Rewards/Advancement: After winning a fight, you'll get rewards from the defeated enemies. These usually include: money, 'experience points' (EXP), and, occasionally, items or pieces of equipment as well.
As your character accumulates EXP, his/her 'level' goes up, increasing his/her general abilities, as well as learning new Special Abilities (usually specific ones for each member of the party).
In some games, however, alternate systems of character advancement are used. For example, the EXP might be used to 'buy' abilities for the characters rather than simply earning them, giving the players the choice of customizing the characters to their taste. These systems vary greatly from game to game.
- Tip: In systems where you have a choice of abilities, try to have the greatest variety possible, so your characters can handle more types of situations.
- Other: In some games, other activities may be possible in the Outer World (such as finding hidden items) but this is rare.
A 'dungeon' is any area (besides the Outer World) that is dangerous to explore; again, it doesn't have to be an actual 'dungeon'- it could be a cave, an abandoned city, etc.
- Exploring: Nearly all dungeons are maze-like; finding your way through is often necessary to continue the game.
- Tip: To find your way through most dungeons, you can use the "Right Hand" trick. Choose one of your character's hands (not yours; it doesn't have to be the right hand either) and follow the wall that it points to. If you do this, no matter how many turns you take, you'll eventually find your way out. (The reason for using the character's hand rather than your own, is because perspective might change when you enter or leave an area, meaning that your hand no longer points to the same wall.)
- The 'Right Hand' trick can fail in very specific circumstances (if the dungeon is constructed in a specific fashion it can have so called 'islands' that cannot be reached in this way).
- Make sure you check out a room completely before you leave it. Similarly, make sure you've checked an entire dungeon level before you move to the next, as there may still be treasures to claim that you may otherwise leave behind.
- Encounters: There are enemy encounters in virtually every dungeon. They are usually of the random type, but some games use fixed ones instead.
- Tip: In fixed-encounter dungeons, you should clear out a room before exploring it carefully. Note that enemies often reappear if you leave the area.
- Tricks and Traps: These are obstacles that will block your way. Tricks require some sort of action to bypass; a door might need a key that is hidden elsewhere in the dungeon, for example. Some tricks can be very complicated puzzles. Traps are similar, but may actually hurt your character: for example, a weak floor that gives way beneath your feet and drops your character in a hole.
- Some tricks and traps require an item or ability to resolve them; if you can't find the solution, you probably don't have the means yet. Return to this dungeon later and try again.
- If you screw up a complicated puzzle (for example, if you need to reassemble something but can't remember how it was originally set up), leave the room and then reenter; usually, the puzzle will reset to its original form.
- Treasure: Nearly all dungeons contain treasure; it's the main reason for going into them. This can be money, items, pieces of equipment, or objects which have no monetary value, but are important to the story (keys, objects to complete a subquest, etc.). Most are inside obvious chests. Warning: in some games, some chests may be booby-trapped, sometimes with monsters inside!
- Bosses: A 'Boss' is a unique enemy that you only have to fight a limited number of times (usually only once). Most Bosses are important to the story, though some are optional. They are always much stronger than other enemies in the same area. They are also immune to most Negative Status Effects (to keep them from being beaten too easily, but this is being changed in recent years, mostly where they can't be taken out by Instant-Death attacks), though they may have other weaknesses (such as to particular types of attack). Some Bosses also have more than one form- no sooner have you 'killed' it than it changes into another form! This trick is usually reserved for the most powerful Bosses, such as the last one in the game.
V. Organizing your Party
As you advance through the game, other characters will fall under your control, forming a group called a 'Party.' Usually, these characters join (and leave) the party on their own; in a few games, however, you can choose to recruit some characters. The position of your characters in the team usually doesn't matter, except that the weaker characters should be put in the second row. (Keywords there being "Usually", some games don't have a "row".)
- Arrange your characters in order of their speed- e,g. from fastest at the top to slowest at the bottom- that way it becomes easier to remember when each will act in the turn, and plan accordingly.
- Some games have area-of-effect attacks which have decreased damage the further out a character is from the target. In these cases, it may be more useful to put weaker fighters on the edges of the formation, which decreases the damage by decreasing the amount of attacks in range of the weak fighters.
- While it may be tempting to put a fighter in the back row because they can take less damage that way, it's not often a good idea because the downside is that physical attacks deal less damage in the back row. It's a general rule of thumb to put melee fighters in the front row, while spellcasters, healers, and ranged fighters are in the back row, as their attacks are not restricted by rows. However, some melee characters don't have very high defence; so you may wish to watch their health if they're placed in the front row.
- This is also especially more important if this is a Tactical RPG; wherein you have to watch your characters' backs, too. Quite literally, as if you leave a character's back exposed, attacks often deal more damage. Just as how you can exploit the Artificial Stupidity, enemies can and will hit you if your back is turned.
is any mission that doesn't advance the main plot of the game. They can be skipped completely, but often lead to optional bosses, special equipment, secrets revealed about the party members
, or just leveling up the characters more. Sidequests are usually triggered by talking to NPCs.
Other things often featured in RPGs are:
- The option to rename the main character (or more rarely, all of the PCs.) This is rarely important to the game beyond some funny bits.
- The option of which party member is seen onscreen.
- Bonuses when replaying the game (such as optional dungeons).
- And many more.