The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
It used to be that if you wanted to blow off steam blowing things up you chose an action game and if you wanted a well-written, character progression heavy experience you chose an RPG... Over the last two generations of hardware I've seen the line between these genres shrink and shrink to the point that they've nearly intersected.
It hasn't been that long, 20-30 years, since RPGs were still considered very niche when it came to gaming, which itself was still in it's infancy as an industry. For the most part, fans of leveling up had to roll dice in somebody's moms basement, or put final fantasy away to play double dragon when your friends came over. Now I hear kids discussing Skyrim at work in the same conversation that includes dates and cars! So I started wondering... What games really broke ground in bringing the grind to modern action games? Before answering that, I had to decide which games I thought brought the grind to the players.
No game was more successful at bringing new gamers to the RPG genre than Final Fantasy VII. While there had been several that gained massive sales and critical acclaim, FF7 gave gamers that weren't as interested in maxing out materia something to latch onto as well, the story, graphics, and beautiful (for the time) CGI videos. I've known several gamers, females in particular, who list FF7 as the first RPG they played and would be willing to bet you all do to. Many more fans claim it to be among, if not at the top of, their favorites list.
DISCLAIMER!!!: I'm aware that Diablo wasn't the first PC game to introduce people to the grind. The PC market has been successfully pushing RPGs onto the market for considerable longer than any of the consoles. That being said, Diablo did bring many players who were previously interested in sims, puzzles, or 'pure' RPGs into the action fold with its ingenious mix of leveling, looting, and maxing out abilities.
Resident Evil 4 did similar things to the Gamecube and Playstation 2 crowd. Fans of survival horror and action games grew to like cash awards and shops where you could upgrade your weapon. Maxing out Leon and Claire's health added another level of control to your characters fate that appealed to all gamers.
Now, the great granddaddy of the genre mish-mash was Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. A full-blown action game, racing game, stat-boosting RPG, and dating sim, GTA San Andreas broke ground in ways that would have seemed impossible on paper to most people outside of Rockstars' offices. Somehow it all came together to create something grand and the RPG elements stand out the most to me. They're also the ingredient I felt was missing from 4 and my most anticipated possible addition to 5.
Whether it's been adding health and weapon upgrades, an evolving attack system, or scads and scads of loot, RPG elements appear to not be leaving soon in regards to modern action games.
Consider Fallout New Vegas. It could be dubbed an 'open-world first person shooter with AI squads, iron-sight aiming, and upgradeable weapons' or a 'stat heavy, conversation driven lootfest RPG' with neither being wrong, or completely right. Bethesda has arguable done the most to bring action elements to our RPGs, or RPG elements to our action games. It becomes a bit difficult to choose a genre when they're blended as well as done with this and the Elder Scrolls series.
The recently released Dragon's Dogma does similar things on the 3rd person action front. Its mix of upgradable skills, AI pawns, and loot could woo strict action gamers in as it's so slickly implemented. Like Borderlands did for FPS's, this will be copied and re-iterated by many companies in the coming years.
Some series have gone in the opposite direction with Final Fantasy XIII being the best example. By bringing a combat system deep enough for a fighting game to their most valuable franchise, SquareEnix added a level of urgency that had been missing from the series for several installments. While hit or miss in other areas, the battle system was the most enjoyable since 10 and Final Fantasy fans are sweating as they change paradigms and spam the auto-attack button.
The future of the RPG, fighting game, FPS, relationship sim, driving game, choose your own adventure genre is bright... With games like Borderlands 2, Resident Evil 6, Bioshock Infinite, and more on the radar, gaming fans of all genres will be playing 'RPGs' for the foreseeable future... For a lifelong nerd who still throws the occasional die that is a dream come true!
With that, I wish you all a happy...