Role-playing Games with Good Narratives

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While match-three games are unbelievably addictive, they are not as engaging as role-playing games. With the mindless matching games, your motivation is to clear as many levels as possible. On the other hand, role-playing games (RPG) get your engrossed in the story.

We know that some RPGs have already been made into movies—Final Fantasy, Lara Croft, Dead or Alive. Here we see the story play itself out without our interventions (and our lack of skills in controlling the characters). But other than movies, RPGs also inspired novels and, conversely, some RPGs were based on published stories or novels.

Without including the games based on the popular Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones novels, here’s a list of some of the interesting RPGs out there. They probably couldn’t compete with Candy Crush in terms of popularity but are noteworthy for their narratives.

Call of Cthulhu

Call of Cthulhu is from none other than the master of horror stories, HP Lovecraft. Lovecraft, who banks on the fear of the unknown, illustrates in Cthulhu the power and evil of something ancient, monstrous making its way into the present.

The game, published in 1981, does not yet have the sophistication as the new horror RPGs like the Silent Hill franchise, but it is difficult as playing it is mostly a game of chance. You roll a die and hope that the percentile you get is enough to defeat your enemy or accomplish a task. Characters lose their sanity—pretty much what characters of Lovecraft are subjected to in his stories—and a lot of the game’s outcomes send characters into mental asylums or to gruesome deaths.

Betrayal at Krondor

The game was developed from the fictional world of Midkemia, created by Raymond Feist in his Riftwar novels. It follows the journey of six individuals fighting against a group that was conspiring to bring down the Kingdom of Isles. Gameplay included battle scenes where the player would choose which opponent to battle. Character development is done through training and procurement of necessary equipment. The game was followed up with Return to Krondor.

Interestingly, Feist wrote a novel, titled Krondor: The Betrayal based on the game some years after. Feist further developed a series—with two additional novels, Krondor: The Assassins and Krondor: Tear of the Gods—that became known as The Riftwar Legacy.

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Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

It is a mystery game where an owner of a bookstore, Gabriel Knight, investigates a series of murders. Later on, the character discovers his historical identity and learns that the events are linked to voodoo, a topic he had been writing on.

The gameplay is relatively easy—you investigate rooms, click on the objects, and piece together the story. It may take you some time to proceed from a site (the game does not have levels, rather the story unfolds as you uncover more clues), but there are no jump-scare episodes. It could end two ways—the main character dying or living. In the novel, of course, Knight survives. Sierra Studios also put up a graphic novel version of the game.

Although the Sins of the Fathers was not commercially popular, the developers released two more games in the Gabriel Knight series—The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery, and Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned.

Myst

For the level of difficulty of this game, you would need a towel to wipe off buckets of sweat. The start of the game opens in an unknown world, which is seemingly uninhabited. There are no guidelines, no prompts, nothing to tell you what to do. You have to figure out how to make things work in that world.

Three novels were released, revealing the backstory of the game—Myst: The Book of Atrus, Myst: The Book of Ti’ana, and Myst: The Book of D’ni. There were also talks of turning the game into a series although nothing big has really come out of those plans.

Role-playing games are fascinating as they challenge you mentally. They also have complicated stories that could compete with any bestselling mystery or fantasy novel. What is even better, is that since you are playing a character, you are more immersed in the story.

It is unfortunate that many games do not require too much thinking and are just repetitive. They are hooking players in by the numbers of the levels they accomplish. There isn’t really anything waiting for the player at the end. Some RPGs can be accomplished by buying points. They don’t really force you to strategize.

Thankfully we still have the relatively recent Silent Hill and Final Fantasy series. At least the new generation will be able to experience what RPGs should really be about.

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