The Balancing Issue With WRPGs


94800-hiAs I was beating the snot out of Corypheus in Dragon Age: Inquisition I noticed something frustrating. My character was overpowered in comparison to the final boss. The game felt too easy, as if it took me no effort to become more powerful than the strongest enemy in the game. I’m sure there is some kind of poetic justice to why my character who was “just a dwarf” was able to defeat death incarnate; but it created an incredibly disappointing ending.

If you are a regular on Armed Gamer you would know that I am not the biggest fan of DA: I, but I did decide to fully give the game a chance and I completed the main story. I guess my biggest problem with the game was how boring it was. The biggest slap in the face (or lack thereof) was how every “twist” was handled in the game. It always seemed to fizzle out instead of erupting in a glorious wave of greatness (like everything in Mass Effect). I didn’t feel like I was defeating an undefeatable enemy. I feel like I could have beat him all along without having to muster the entire Inquisition.

However, this is not a review for DA: I, just an article about the recurring problem with AAA RPGs, unbalanced character progression. I first noticed it in Skyrim, when I would not hardcore quest, I would casually do things at my convenience. I hardly went out of my way, I usually save questing after I complete the story. I like to think it gives me a reason to play after completing the story, but it also prevents me from burning out on the game too soon.

yQPckI became too overpowered in Skyrim with almost no effort. This was also the case with DA: I. I did the side quests that I saw fit and relevant for the situation. I didn’t excessively go out of my way to fight everything and do every quest. A demon was rising out of the Fade aiming to enslave the planet, ain’t nobody got time to race horses. Or a dragon was flying around bringing dragons back to life, I don’t care about your relationship problems random Argonian.

It isn’t just WRPGs either, it’s in games that have RPG elements like Far Cry 4. You seem to resemble a vengeful deity laying waste to your enemies and your path to get there was paved in sunshine and gold. The game eventually becomes too easy to play. Sure, you can increase the difficulty level, but what’s that really going to do? Oh instead of casually breezing through the game you will have to grind for levels. And that means doing every possible quest and killing nearly every enemy you come across. All because the enemy has been beefed up so much it may as well be using cheat codes.

That isn’t making a game difficult, that isn’t making the game balanced. It doesn’t feel rewarding to somehow beat an AI that only has those stats because your character progresses at a much faster rate than the enemies. There’s no skill involved in that. I guess that’s why games like Lords of the Fallen and Dark Souls actually deserve praise. Hell, even Fallout New Vegas. These are games that give you character progression. They give you ways to increase your stats. They give you the tools to be a god. The catch is that they make you work for it. They require a level of skill when it comes to the combat.

When you have a games that just hand you skill points and character levels like DA: I or Skyrim, you lose that challenge because there isn’t any skill involved to become stronger. I would like to think of a solution but I don’t really have one. The only conclusion I was able to come up with is this.

WRPGs have a lot of quests, all give you EXP, Gold, and/or an item. If you do all the quests, you get all the EXP, making you stronger. My solution would be that not all of the quests give you EXP. DAI: I has something similar, but most of them were the quests you gave to Josephine, Cullen, and Lilleana. When I played the more entertaining WRPGs like Wasteland 2 or Divinity: Original Sin, they were games that made you work to become strong. Not everything gave you EXP and you weren’t given powerful weapons like they were political campaign donations.

The genre needs an overhaul. Too many WRPGs lack the great and engaging experiences for completing endgame fights.

About Zach Martinez

Freelancer here at Armed Gamer, North American Video Game Correspondent for Following the Nerd, and a regular on Examiner.com, Zach has made somewhat of a name for himself at the age of 23. He has been writing professionally for just over 5 years now. He doesn’t care about resolution or frames per second, he cares about what matters most, the games. You can reach reach him directly at zach.martinez09395@yahoo.com.

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  • Kailen Lee Mitchell

    I can see some truth to this as I to have found more than once I was more potent than the end boss of a game. However I prefer that developers have chosen to allow players to do so. To progress and be over powered. There are some older games out there that I have never finished. In the past designers have made games so difficult as to be unbeatable with out being master of and eye coordination, or master tactician or use cheat codes. In todays gaming community many people are not master tactician or do not have the hand eye coordination of a terminator from the year 2087. This option/design in western RPGs is a welcome design feature for many players. Yours is likely a declining personal preference in gaming. I for one thought console shooter were utter crap when they first started coming out. I was hard core quake and unreal player. Halo was for chumps. Now halo and call of duty are the dominant preferred format. Get used to change. I for one expect in 2-3 more years we will see some great improvement in game play from the new hard ware advances out there.

  • Thomas Lee Howard

    As long as your only talking about mass effect 1 I agree that that game had pretty BA twists and rare occasions where your character gets overpowered. There was nothing really surprising in the later mass effect games and they became ridiculously easy. Skyrim I’ve always noticed has a more effective difficulty balance when you increase the difficulty from apprentice to adept at lvl 15.then to expert at 30. master at 50 and legendary whenever you feel the need. Theres also a lot more difficult enemies than Alduin in Skyrim (such as the fight with Mirak).

  • Larry Liebman

    Just looking over your Skyrim trait tree pic: Of course it’s easy to get too powerful in Skyrim when you get 100s in multiple skills, but don’t apply 170 perk points, thereby staying at level 7 and marching through content like Sherman through Georgia.

    • Eric Alvarez

      Sooooo, you should excuse the game’s awful balancing issues by never leveling up? Alright, back to Morrowind. Fuck Bethesda, Fuck Oblivion, and Fuck Skyrim. They’re cheaters, liars, and thieves.

      • Larry Liebman

        I suggested just the opposite: by refusing to level up you make the game incredibly easy. It has nothing to do with balancing. I will not comment on the rest of your post because you offer no evidence that Bethesda are [sic] “cheaters, liars and thieves.”

  • MaximHunter28

    You should look at the two worlds 2 final boss :/

  • marcusmaximus04

    I actually went into DA:I directly on hard(still playing through). I can definitely, 100% say that it doesn’t just add grinding(actually, I haven’t done any, other than completing side quests for “power”). Rather, it adds a kind of meta-game where you start seeing, in many situations, your characters as resources that have to be carefully balanced.

    This is especially true with my character as a rogue archer. There’s been a few boss battles where I had to quickly go into stealth and carefully rearrange the battle so I could resurrect a key teammate. If you think the game is too easy, I’d definitely try a higher difficulty level. It becomes a completely different game.

  • Issac

    Some people like a challenge, but most people don’t like having to grind for hours on end to get a weapon that is good enough to beat a final boss. You want a more difficult time, increase the difficulty on the game, that’s what it’s they’re for. If you want to have to actually work for what you need to get to win, I.E. grinding, then you’re playing the wrong game type.