Home > video games > No Random Encounters – Modernizing the RPG

No Random Encounters – Modernizing the RPG

So I recently started playing The World Ends With You, a DS game by Square Enix. In recent years, Square Enix has been trying to address some of the age-old gripes that traditional role-playing games have been plagued with. Today, we’ll look at some of these classic issues and see how they are addressed.

No More Random Encounters

You know you hate it. You like to battle monsters in standard RPG fanfare, but sometimes, it gets tedious, especially when all you want to do is get from point A to point B without another repetitive, droning random encounter.

Square tried to remedy this issue in FFXII by making all enemies visible on the map, much like standard MMORPG style. This isn’t an original idea of course. Many developers have tried similar things, but sometimes, encountering enemies is still unavoidable, sometimes based entirely on timing and reflex. However, the point here isn’t avoiding random encounters, but eliminate the tedium associated with it while retaining the playability so that players can grind when they want to.

Brave Story tries to remedy this somewhat by implementing a “Stealth” system, where the player stops running into random encounters with enemies that are much lower in rank. This eliminates part of the tedium of the boring encounters, but it doesn’t stop the “aw man, ANOTHER fight?!” when the player doesn’t want one.

Magna Carta tries to remedy this with a walk vs run system, where the random encounter rate drops if the player walks instead. The problem of course is that this slows the pacing significantly, and gets the player even more annoyed when they still run into encounters.

This time around, Square tries to deal with the issue by simply allowing the player to choose his battles. Players can “scan” the area and icons of enemies (called Noise) appear on the map. The player can click on an icon to go into an encounter. You can pretty much get from point A to point B without a single fight if you choose. Another advantage is you don’t have to run in circles to try and get into combat when you want to grind. You eventually even get an ability to “chain” combats in succession by clicking on multiple Noise at once, eliminating the need to return to the world map!

You may think “well that’s kinda dumb… then the player can simply breeze through the game. What’s the point in that?”. I think that it’s important to make a game flexible. By designing it in such a way, the player can choose when he wants to fight rather than let the computer control it. The more control the player has, the more fun a game can be. The point is that the player should be having fun. After playing Brave Story (a wonderful game by the way) which is much more of an old-school classic RPG, and playing the contrasting TWEWY, I have to admit, that I’m actually having way more fun choosing my battles, even though I am technically doing encounters way more frequently than any other random-encounter RPG I’ve played! Even if I chose not to fight a single thing, and proceeded directly to the boss fight, I probably wouldn’t progress, or if I did, means I have sufficient ability to proceed to the next section of the game. So letting the player choose his encounters does not ruin the balance of the game. This little feature allows me to fight all I want when I want, and to skip to the next section when I feel I’m ready and done without interruption, eliminating the frustrations of combat and making combat, and the game more enjoyable.

  1. mint
    August 2, 2008 at 9:40 pm

    I agree with you all the way. One thing I hate about the Pokemon games is that it adds needless game time just bumping into random encounters in the grass. If twewy’s ‘scan’ feature could be translated into other rpgs, it would be great. In addition, real-time battles have more flavor in them than slow, turn-based games. I just noticed that Square Enix is releasing more and more games with real-time battles, like twewy, rings of fate, and the upcoming Kingdom Hearts game on the DS. Playing turns into a real task when you go through the same fight sequences, seeing the same static attack effects one after the other… you might as well just stare at the health bar for all it’s worth, if you’re just going to be staring at a non-moving opponent.

  2. August 7, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    Action RPGs definitely have their place. Judging from your username, you really like Rings of Fate / Dewprism! It was definitely one of my surprise favorites in the Playstation days.

    I like how Square did their RPG system in FFXII. It’s somewhat MMORPG-like, but is still command-based, and happens in real time. You get the beautiful visual feedback, it’s not reaction-based, so that even retired people can play it, and there are no random encounters.

    I hope Square keeps trailblazing in this department and solving all those old-school RPG woes of the past.

  3. Brian Ian Goodman
    June 13, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Having a random encounter system in an rpg is frustrating and takes you out of the immersion. It just doesn’t make sense to have random encounters. Think about it, If monsters were real, would they wander about randomly? No, just like any other creature, they would move about with purpose, whether that purpose is to find something to eat, find a mate to reproduces with and other creature activities. Games like Valkyrie Profile, Tales, and Grandia have a much better system. In these games, you find icons of enemies wondering about the field you’re passing through. A battle starts only when you make contact with an enemy icon. This allows you to stun the enemy so you can get away, try to avoid the enemy, and even allows then enemy to set up ambushes and back attacks, making battling them alot more realistic. Other games like these are Earthbound, Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross, Xenosage

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