As 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.
I 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.