Friday, October 10, 2008

Exploration!

Nonlinear gameplay is something usually associated with western RPG's. Their Japanese counterparts are usually very linear. Not that that is a bad thing, it enables the developer to give the player a very controlled experience. But I was surprised by the nonlinearity of Dragon Quest IV, my latest obsession.

The Dragon Quest series is the series that all Japanese RPG's are modeled after. It established the standards for the whole genre. Its the last place I expect to find such "western" game design.

After the games very lengthy introduction (which took about 10 hours to complete) the game opens up completely. Everyone in your village is killed and you are left to figure out what to do and where to go, with pretty much the whole world open to you. You will have to travel around the world and talk to every NPC. Some random guy in a bar might be the one who gives you an essential clue to what to do. There are no cut scenes and very little dialogue, you have to figure things out yourself. Traveling back and forth between towns, not always certain what your next objective will be.

The game manages to give me a real sense of freedom and exploration while not making me feel completely lost. Its a nice variation from games like Final Fantasy which opens up one part of the world at a time for you with a clear objective to achieve.

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