Qualities of good and bad SRPGs

I’m still working my way through Mouri Motonari; the next post after this will be the conclusion of that game, although it may not come out next weekend (perhaps a few days after that).

I was thinking of doing a filler post of some other game, but I didn’t want to take away any time from MM. Instead, I thought of writing this reflection post — I’ve now played 82 strategy RPGs for this blog, which is far more than I had ever played before I started writing it. I’m getting a better picture of the kind of SRPGs I like, at least when it comes to these older titles. So here are some qualities that seem to make a game enjoyable, or not enjoyable, for me. I’m trying to pick categories here that don’t apply to just a single game.

Character Differentiation and Growth

I like when the characters have significant differences between them (or at least characters of different classes). A bad example is Farland Story, where everyone just attacks either 1 or 2 range (even the mages), and the cleric heals 1 range. You can use different weapons but it just makes the numbers go up, and they don’t learn any skills or powers as they level. The game doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-on FFT job system but I like to have a party that feels different on stage 20 than on stage 2.

Map size

A big map is not a problem — FE4 was a good game and it had maps that were quite large. What I don’t like is when the maps are needlessly large, and you have to spend a significant amount of your time on the map just moving your characters forward until they get close enough to fight the enemies. If there is some strategic value in this that’s fine (although I’m not sure I can think of an example), but in many of these cases there isn’t. It’s even more annoying when overall movement rates are slow, or when different characters have such different movement rates that you have to deliberately move the faster ones more slowly so they don’t get too far ahead.

Map construction

Memorable maps that are constructed with some thought are a good thing. Generic enemies on generic maps (e.g. Shining Force II) are not good. I like to have a situation where you can remember stage 11 because it’s the one where you have to deal with the initial onslaught of horsemen, then defeat General McAdams in the fort before you can move on to the narrow mountain pass with the archers, etc.

Level difference between combatants

I don’t like it when characters cannot fight well if they are below the defender in levels. This just forces grinding or focusing your party on a few people. This was a big problem with Tactics Ogre and Arc the Lad. Although strangely, Summon Night 3 and 4 have this but they are two of my favorite SRPGs

Opaque systems

For some reason it took designers a long time to figure out that it was OK to give the player a lot of information about how the system works. You can show how much damage the attackers will do, specify exactly what having elemental compatibility will do, and such. Few games I’ve played so far have had this, unfortunately.

Any thing you all dislike or like in SRPGs?

6 thoughts on “Qualities of good and bad SRPGs

  1. JohnMatthews

    I am glad you mentioned opaque systems, because for me, that is one of the biggest things a SRPG needs. Maybe I’m just spoiled but I find it hard to go back to older games sometimes since in a lot of them, such little info is told to the player.
    Also, something I really dislike in SRPGs is when certain characters are capable of getting so strong they can just juggernaut the rest of the game (A lot of Fire Emblem games immediately come to mind). Makes it so dang boring. It bothers me when developers don’t even TRY to think of ways to stop people from using this type of strategy, and it seems like some games are intentionally designed to encourage juggernauting!

    1. kurisu Post author

      I remember FE4’s maps at least having enough content on them that you weren’t spending a ton of time just moving your forces, but maybe I’m just forgetting that part.

  2. João Guilherme

    For me I think a really important aspect in a SRPG is it speed, if the game runs fast it makes the experience much better and much more enjoyable, for me a slow SRPG is a deal breaker because they are long game that have punishing mechanics and some times you have to restart long battles if the game for example has perma death.

  3. MC50

    I think the biggest thing I enjoy in SRPGs is character variety, and the player having cool reasons to want to deploy a unit. Like “Oh, this guy can move 10 tiles when everyone else can move 5”, “this guy does massive damage but only has 1 range when everyone else has 5”

    That sort of thing. Even if the balance isn’t perfect, if every unit feels fun to use I think that’s important. That, and like you said, having the systems not be opaque!!

  4. Nick

    Don’t think of this post as a filler. You’ve played a huge number of these games, I think your reflections are important to discuss. I would love if you posted more like this. Thanks for your effort so far.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *