I am a gamer of many tastes. I play all different types of games; from JRPGs to First Person Shooters,Platformers to Puzzle games, I generally like it all. Now that’s not to say that I like everygame I play, but rather that I generally like at least one game in every genre that exists, even if it’s an exception. For example, I generally do not like racing games but I do have a soft spot in my heart for Burnout 3. So with enough trial and error I’m usually able to find at least one game in a genre that I like. Although this is true, there is still one type of game where I have failed to find a game that I can enjoy start to finish. As you’ve probably surmised from the title of this blog, that genre happens to be the Strategy Role Playing Game.
For those of you who aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about, let me clarify. Now I’m not talking about a Real Time Strategy Game or something along those lines, but rather a Strategy RPG is usually characterized by moving around a number of units across a grid plane. Then, once positioned close enough to an enemy you can attack them and vise versa. This of course leads to very strategic choices in movements in order to avoid confrontation with enemy units that can kill you or for better positioning so you can gang up on a unit you must defeat to win the level. Of course, those are just two examples of the strategic element in the game. These games are quite complex which leads to a high level of difficulty.
As a gamer I have made two valid attempts at getting into Strategy RPGs in my life. The first being Fire Emblem for the Gamecube and the second being SMT: Devil Survivor for the DS. So let me take a moment here to chronicle my experience with Fire Emblem.
Now I didn’t get very far into this game. While I only spent a couple hours with the game, I feel like I had experience enough to make a valid judgment. I had a lot of fun with the first couple levels and it was fun to move my guys around the level and then destroy all the enemies that got in my way. Then, of course things got more complicated. More enemies lead to more strategy, but I was still having fun. I was able to beat the levels even though it required some thought now.
Then I got to a level where you had to defend a castle entrance I thought, “No problem, I’m getting into the groove of things now”, boy was I wrong. The level took my about four tries to complete, each lasting about a half an hour. By the time I got to the next level I had lost all motivation to play the game. Now this lack of interest was born of pure frustration mixed with the knowledge that there are battles later in the game that last for three hours, which I couldn’t imagine myself losing. So in the end, I liked the gameplay but was not a fan of the frustrating difficulty and length of the battles.
My second foray into the genre took place about a year ago with the release of SMT: Devil Survivor for the DS. There were two reasons I got this game. One was that I wanted to give strategy RPGs another shot, and two, if any series was probably going to do it, it was going to be the SMT series. Being a huge fan of Persona I was well aware that Atlus is perfectly capable of making a good game. Now I probably put in around 6-7 hours or so into the game so I got a fair amount in (well by my standards anyway).
Devil Survivor worked a tad differently than Fire Emblem. Instead of the units you’re moving consisting of one person, each unit is made up of one human and two demons to fight along side them. When you move and engage enemies, instead of just hitting the enemy as in other strategy RPGs, you enter into a battle screen that works like a regular turn based RPG. You and your enemy both get to attack in this mode with extra turns being awarded for critical hits and hitting weaknesses. Now I was moving along at an OK pace and enjoying myself. If I got too stuck there were always free battles I could grind so I could level up enough to beat the story mission. This worked fine until one specific mission.
It seemed easy enough as it was no different than prior levels. The only issue was that every single demon I was fighting against had fire based attacks. How is that an issue? Well, four out of my six demons were weak against fire attacks. My entire party got wiped out in a matter of four or five turns and there was nothing I could do about it. I tried to swap in other demons on my team, but that required an absurd amount of grinding on the free levels due to their low base levels when acquired from the auction. So I really liked that it was different, but once again, frustration led me to give up on the game.
So in the end, I don’t know if I’ll ever find a Strategy RPG that I like. From what I’ve surmised from doing this blog, is that there would have to be some serious changes before I found something I enjoyed. For example, my ideal game in the genre would have battles that only last about 30 minutes, a way to level up units quickly to deal with new threats, and finally a difficulty that makes you think but doesn’t lead to frustration. I doubt a game like this exists as people who play strategy RPGs pride themselves with being able to cope with their extreme difficulty. Oh well, I suppose it’s just not for me.