Role-playing games are among my favorites to play.
There's something special about spending dozens of hours in the same world, wrapped up in its lore, playing a pivotal role in how the story shapes out. It's addicting committing to a character you create and shape and see his or her personal growth throughout the game.
There's no such thing as a perfect game, role-playing or otherwise. But what if there was? What would it be like?
Here's what my perfect RPG would look like, the games it would be based off of and the developers who could help make it in a reality.
A man can dream, right?
“THE ELDER SCROLLS'” WORLDS
A role-playing game can be set in any time period or setting, but RPGs really got their start in the fantasy realm with the tabletop game “Dungeons & Dragons.” I've had a fascination with fantasy settings for as long as I can remember, so naturally, my ideal RPG would be take place in a fantasy world with swords and magic. And no one makes better fantasy sandboxes than Bethesda.
“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” came out more than five years ago, and I still have only explored a fraction of the secrets its world contains. After every few yards, you'll run into a new bandit hideout to raid, ruins to explore or a cave to spelunk. The country of Skyrim isn't that big, but it's so densely packed with locations and secrets that it feels as if you could explore it forever. Not to mention Bethesda is a master at using tricks to cleverly mask a world's small size and make it feel like a living, breathing environment.
“DARK SOULS'” COMBAT
Anyone who's been paying attention to my column this past year knows I'm a new “Dark Souls” junkie, and there's a reason for that: When it comes to combat and genuine challenge, nothing even comes close to matching the “Dark Souls” games.
My ideal fantasy game would be in third person and feature “Dark Souls III's” methodical combat. Every hit would have weight, parries would be difficult to pull off and counterattacks would do catastrophic damage. Each fight would carry the possibility of death, and each victory would be as satisfying as the last. Naturally, the game would be packed with giant monsters that players could fight akin to “Dark Souls” bosses.
BIOWARE'S WRITING AND CHARACTERS
“Mass Effect” and “Dragon Age” are BioWare's two flagship series that aren't known for their combat or level design. Instead, they're beloved for their stories and memorable characters.
Not counting the third game's controversial conclusion, the science fiction “Mass Effect” series features the continuous adventures of Commander Shepard and her loyal crew of human, alien and robot allies. Each character is fully fleshed out with side missions and possible romance options, and how Shepard treats them affects how the games end. The same can be said for the fantasy “Dragon Age” series.
Of course, the different endings based on the players' choices give the games replayability and make each playthrough feel unique to each player. The lengthy games are packed with detail and lore that make the stories come to life.
“FINAL FANTASY'S” MUSIC AND EMOTION
I'm not a huge “Final Fantasy” fan, but playing through “Final Fantasy XIII” years ago is vivid in my memory for one reason alone: the emotion the music evoked.
Video game music is powerful, and the orchestral soundtrack of “Final Fantasy XIII” perfectly captured the game's theme, sense of wonder and adventure, combat, challenges, highs and lows. I'm convinced the game wouldn't have been nearly as impactful had its music not been as incredible as it was.
My perfect game would feature a stellar soundtrack that grabs players by the hearts and won't let go until the credits roll. Every emotional moment in the game would be accented with the perfect song to drive the feelings home.
It's not really a role-playing game if there's not weapons and gear to collect, and it's hard to top the loot grind of the “Borderlands” series.
In this shooter RPG, players kill baddies and collect guns of varying rarity from their corpses. There's literally millions of unique guns in the game, and that means you never know what you'll get.
Bosses drop rare, powerful weapons along with sometimes hundreds of different guns, resulting in a sea of colorful weapons that litter the ground. There's something immensely satisfying about killing a boss, seeing him burst into dozens of weapons, spending a full minute picking each of them up, re-equipping your character with new gear and then repeating the process all over.
The perfect fantasy RPG probably wouldn't have guns, but it would have thousands of different weapons with which to loot and experiment.