Culture Feature

The 6 Strangest Role Playing Games of All Time

Here are some of the quirkiest stories ever told in RPGs over the years.

Persona 3

Out of all the various kinds of video games, RPGs have become the most synonymous with expansive stories and complex characters.

Whether it be located in a massive fantasy world or a post-apocalyptic wasteland, detailed narratives and complex world-building are at the foundation of every great RPG.

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CULTURE

Hasbro's Meeting for "Ms. Monopoly" Probably Went Like This

Is feminism the one where people point out that Hasbro's executive management team is made up of seven white men, one white woman, and zero minorities?

Hasbro

I have very mixed feelings about Hasbro's Ms. Monopoly game.

I realize that those mixed feelings are entirely by design. By writing about this, I'm playing into the hands of the exact breed of late-stage capitalism that Hasbro thrives on, the same one that Monopoly's original inventor aimed to lambaste. In fact, the history of Monopoly itself is a perfect example of the sexist culture Ms. Monopoly allegedly tries to tackle—since Lizzie Magie, a talented, innovate female game designer, had her hard work stolen by a man who took all the credit and profit (although Ms. Monopoly probably won't cover that).

Lizzie Magie

The premise behind Ms. Monopoly is simple: It's just like regular Monopoly, except women start with $1,900 (men start with $1,500) and collect an extra $40 every time they pass Go. Also, all of the buyable spaces are replaced by inventions made by women, which players can invest in. It would be a pretty cool concept if Hasbro wasn't so obviously looking to profit off important social issues.

After their short-lived Socialism Monopoly edition, which seemed designed to pander to alt-righters whose whole understanding of economic systems starts and ends at "LOL SOCIALISM BAD," Hasbro wanted to get money from the left, too. So they gathered in a boardroom and had a conversation that probably went as follows:

white guy office Hasbro Corporate, basically.

White Male Hasbro Executive #1: "What do liberals like?"

White Male Hasbro Executive #2: "I don't know. Feminism?"

White Male Hasbro Executive #3: "Oh right. That's the one where people point out that our executive management team is made up of seven white men, one white woman, and zero minorities, right?"

White Male Hasbro Executive #4: "Yeah, but let's just focus on the part about how we pay our female employees less."

White Male Hasbro Executive #2: "So what if we made a Monopoly variant where we just pay women more than men? And call it 'Ms. Monopoly' because women and stuff."

White Male Hasbro Executive #1: "It's genius. The feminists will eat this sh*t up."

Thus, Ms. Monopoly was born. It's regular Monopoly, except with a "fun spin...where women have an advantage often enjoyed by men."

And oh God, Hasbro's marketing is just all over the place.

Right off the bat, Hasbro seems to take a reductive approach to feminism. Their new "women start with more" rule arguably propagates the old straw man argument that "feminism is about putting women above men in society!" —the one you often hear from Very Angry Men™ who don't actually know anything about feminism.

Now contrast this messaging with the Ms. Monopoly promo spot, focusing on three teenage female inventors, each of whom Hasbro awarded with $20,580 to help fund their future projects or endeavors. To be clear, these young women—Sophia Wang, Gitanjali Rao, and Ava Canney—are doing amazing work to better the world, and even if Hasbro's intents are less than genuine, I'm happy to see them receive public recognition.

Ms monopoly promo Ava Canney in the Ms. Monopoly commercial.Hasbro

But while the commercial tries to take a serious tone, showing the hard work and passion these teens put into their fields while simultaneously discussing the gender pay gap, it ultimately shifts to "buy this 'fun spin' on Monopoly!" In short, Hasbro's corporate greed is so transparent that even when they do something that seems nice, their intentions are too transparently douchey.

Then again, if people playing a Monopoly variant whereby they start with less money than other players shocks one or two people into realizing that the gender pay gap actually exists (more so than years of research), then okay, I'll be happy to stand corrected.

Also, I do sincerely like the idea of a Monopoly variant whereby all the purchasable spaces are real things invented by women.

With all this being said, Ms. Monopoly seems like yet another prime example of corporate wokeness, that awful aspect of late-stage capitalism with companies attempting to leverage real, important social issues for profit. That's not to say boycott Ms. Monopoly or anything. The game's angle of educating players about female inventions could be a great learning experience for many children, and teaching kids about the pay gap is probably a good way to help ensure that they won't grow up into the aforementioned Very Angry Men™.

But don't think that your $20 is going to support a cause you believe in...unless that cause is Hasbro's profits.




Gaming

ROLE PLAYGROUND | Why is Final Fantasy XII so Misunderstood?

I actually really liked this game?

Make no mistake, Final Fantasy is one of my favorite video game series of all time. It's had its issues - up until recently most of its major installments have been questionable in terms of quality. Final Fantasy XIV was definitely one of the most disastrous releases in a long time. Final Fantasy XIII had so many issues that it deserves its own article. But there have been good games - the series didn't die with PlayStation One.

Final Fantasy XII was a fun, new kind of game for the series. It's characters compelled me, and its setting had that signature beauty that the series is known for. The battle system had its faults, but in the end, the gameplay had a simplicity and newness that the series desperately needed. It was definitely not traditional, and that both hindered and helped the game.

Now, years later, the Remaster has released and I've gotten the chance to try this game again and I can't help but wonder... why don't people talk about it more?

Vaan and Penello looking at an airship.supercheats.com

THE GOOD

There is a lot going for this game, right off the bat. The License System was an interesting take on the skill tree - getting to choose different jobs that unlocked both unique abilities and stat boosts is not super new, but it's given a nice little refreshment in the game. And with the remaster, you're able to dual class, which (if you pick the right combos) can give your characters a ridiculous amount of power. This gives you a really good outlet for strategy, something that I feel got lost in later titles in the series.

Now the battle system, while filled with problems, also has its good spots. First, it's not turn-based. I don't hate turn-based combat, I understand why some games use it, but nowadays it really gets on my nerves. The monotony of it just bores me to tears. FFXII uses a different kind of system, and allows to move around the screen feely and attack whenever you want. When you target, you have to let your attack charge, and then you hit. It's not hack-and-slash, but it's not turn-based. Another interesting part of this new experience is the Gambit System: You were able to assign characters moves to use, and give them specific circumstances of when to use these abilities. We'll get into the caveat of this later on, but regardless - it's useful.

Some battle action!supercheats.com

There's also a good amount of side quests and opportunities for exploration in this world. There are lots of secret bosses and espers (summoned creatures) that you're able to fight/collect throughout the game. There's also a bounty hunting system that gives you pretty good rewards, not just for bounties but for larger bosses that you fight throughout the game. It gives variety that was noticeably absent from FFXIII, and the series' more linear installments.

And finally, we have the story. The story is typical of a Final Fantasy game, but the strength in the characters. They're written well enough and acted well enough to carry along the very basic story. The chemistry between this cast of interest characters which features two sky pirates, a wannabe sky pirate, his best friend, a little prince, and a usurped princess. I found myself caring a lot about these people, and that's not something I can say about every single cast of characters Square Enix has produced.

THE BAD

See, here's the issue with Final Fantasy XII, and I fear that this may have been the reason for its downfall. You have to pay to use your moves when you want to use them. Through the Gambit System, you are able to assign moves and add qualifiers. Like, if I wanted to have Penello heal, but only when characters are less than half health - I'd be to make that happen. But only if I bought the 50%< Gambit from a store. The gambits are cheap, but it's annoying when a shop doesn't have them or you have somehow spent all of your money and need it.

The Gambit System... venturebeat.com

And the worst part is that this is everything. Without it, you can't really trust the game to control your characters for you. They'll burn through MP, or they'll attack a totally different monster and leave you in the dust. I feel like they were trying to be too innovative, and change to much for no reason. Why was this necessary? You can't the question, because it wasn't.

I can't think of another issue that I have with the game beyond that.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Final Fantasy XII is a misunderstood that suffered because of one game mechanic that managed to ruin the experience some of the time. Unfortunately, when it comes to video games, you can't make that mistake. But I will say that this game deserves another play through. You learn to get over the Gambit System - and if you don't, that's understandable, but please try to give this a second chance.

It's definitely does better than Final Fantasy XIII, but I guess that's not too difficult to do.

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Gaming

ROLE PLAYGROUND | Assassin’s Creed Origins is a Beautiful RPG but is that Enough?

Assassin's Creed Origins takes a dip into the RPG world and definitely makes a splash...

An effective RPG is hard to do. It's an oversaturated market, and you have to work hard to get your game to stand out among the crowd. This hard work can show itself in many ways - world design, combat mechanics, plot progression. No matter what, you have to find some way to be unique.

I have never been a huge fan of the Assassin's Creed franchise. I've played them, because they are important games for someone like me to play. And over the years, I've watched them fall from greatness. Now, it seems to be making a real comeback. It's gone away from it's stealth-action days of yore, instead taking on the mantle of an action RPG. Was this change seamless? Was it effective for the series? Does it stand up to other RPGs of it kind? Let's find out.

Ubisoft Montreal dropped the ball a bit in recent years with Assassin's Creed. Unity released with a crap-ton bugs and poor controls. Not to mention it's poorly-handled gender controversy. They improved with Syndicate; the controls were better, the characters were likable - but it didn't feel as good. There wasn't that magic there that existed in Assassin's Creed II and Black Flag. And I can say, to an extent, the magic is back with Origins.

Ubisoft

First things first. It's open world is amazing. It is larger, and it is freer. It is definitely better than the open world aspects of the previous titles. You to do things at your own pace and explore to your hearts content. The world is vibrant and full of life, and I could go on and on and on about how great these parts of the game are. But there are also problems - Ubisoft tried to mix these new elements with the old, and it wasn't always successful.

In every open world game I play, I always start out doing every side quest I can. Side quest are the back bone of these games, and if they suck - the game sucks. It's that simple. It's part of the reason games like The Witcher 3 and Breath of the Wild worked so well. The side quests were relevant and fun - they enhanced the experience.

And Origins' side quests weren't the worst. What they gave me was good, but it wasn't the best. The quests have a weight to them, usually, and you do feel for the characters (due to both the writing and the voice acting, which are superb). Still, there is a certain false variety. The stories change, but you're always fighting guards/bandits and retrieving something and blah, blah, blah. I've been playing the game for a while now, and the formula hasn't changed. The story of the quests are still enjoyable and they have a lot of emotional weight. And that is enough to do the job.

Ubisoft

Early on in the game, I rescued a drunk man from crocodiles. After I retrieved him, he told me a lovely, drunken monologue about how got himself in this debacle. Despite the quest being a standard search and rescue, I had a good time with it. Another quest involved me retrieving a Book of the Dead for an old man, so he could reconnect with his dead wife. It broke my heart, and it made me care. The characters attached to these quests are well done, and they do their job. This should be standard, but even large titles like Final Fantasy XV make the mistake of oversimplifying side quests.

When side quests don't work, the main plot makes up for it. You're the last Medjay (an Ancient Egyptian police officer-type), Bayek of Siwa, who is out for revenge. This quest eventually leads him to become a key player in a political counter-coup. Cleopatra is trying to take her kingdom back from her brother, Ptolemy XIII. The story is grand, as they tend to be in this franchise. From it, you learn the origins of the Brotherhood and the Knights Templar, and you get a sensationalized view of the politics of the time. Is it super historically accurate? Of course not, but this is a video game, so what do you expect?

Still, the moments of historical accuracy add a lot to the experience, Why? Ubisoft did the homework. The characters aren't whitewashed, for one thing. This is another nice change to the open world RPG genre, which is generally very white dominated. (I'm looking at you Witcher 3.) And, you get to learn about Egypt as you traverse it. I can't say how accurate the information is. I'm by no means an expert, but it sounds right. You don't walk out of the game with an expertise in all things Egypt, but you have some random trivia for parties!

Ubisoft

When you aren't learning fun Egyptian facts, you're taking in the meticulously crafted world. Very few worlds manage to do it this well. Sometimes, worlds are too barren. Others have too much flash and not enough substance. This game had a good balance. I played on my Xbox One, so it wasn't as amazing as it could have been. The game still felt so alive. This is due to both design and its amazing AI system. The NPCs feel like people. The world reacts to itself in unexpected ways, and before you know, you immerse yourself.

Character-wise, Origins brings a lot to the table. As a protagonist, Bayek is a little too righteous at times, but he's also tender. He loves children and his smiles are genuine - which is often missing from RPG protags nowadays. He is a fun character, who has been through a lot, but lives his own life. Yes, he is out for revenge, but that hasn't morphed him into some careless, revenge machine. As much as revenge drives him, he still feels an obligation to his people.

His wife, Aya, is something to behold. She is capable, having already killed a man before we even meet her. She is Bayek's equal in every way. The second I saw her, I wanted to know more. She plays an instrumental role in the plot of the game, and at times, you even get the opportunity to play as her.

The only slip up I can think of is Cleopatra, which Colin Campbell covered in more detail over at Polygon. However, this is a common thing with the ancient pharaoh, and while it's awful - it's not surprising. If you want to read more about it, I would suggest the article above.

Ubisoft

These elements are wonderful, but they don't make up for the clunky, familiar gameplay. Don't get it twisted, I do think that the combat system has improved. But, the action-RPG oriented melee system works only works well when you're fighting small groups. The ranged fighting was good - I don't have any problems with that. Most of the problems rear their ugly head when you throw in the fact that you're supposed to be stealthy.

I was expecting a lot more from the stealth in this game, and that was a mistake. They sacrificed more of the stealthier elements to provide more room for action. Usually, that's not a bad thing. In this case, when you're doing a game about stealthy assassins, it sucked. It got a point where I stopped stealthing altogether. You can hide, grapple, and attack from above. But the games new action oriented combat doesn't mesh well - it's better to go in guns blazing. Bottom line, it's clunky and inconsistent, and a real let down for a game about master assassins.

The skill tree was generic at best. It offered some cool abilities, but ultimately, it was nothing new. Still, it was a big step in the right direction for the series. No matter how familiar a skill tree may be - it works as an incentive. And some of the abilities are cool - although I still get annoyed that you have to use an ability point to sit and wait for time to pass.

So, was the change seamless? No, it was not. Origins is still trying to figure out what it wants to be, but that's okay. Was it effective for the series? 100%, even though it's not perfect, this is an amazing move in the right direction for Assassin's Creed. Does it stand up to other RPGs of it's kind? Yes and no. It's no The Witcher 3, but it's definitely on it's way there. It's better than Skyrim, but that's not hard to do. Origins is an amazing first step into a new RPG world, that I hope Ubisoft continues to go in.

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