Etrian Odyssey 3 is really the cop-out on my list. It is the most classic RPG design. When the series was first announced, the lead designer said in an interview that he wanted to bring back classic design, and that he looked at the Wizardry series for inspiration..
Really enjoying this series so far. I don't remember you up front saying this was going to focus on Japanese RPGs, so I'm curious if your more Japanese bent so far is because you're finding it easier to find genre expanding games there or if its because you enjoy JRPGs more?
I think it probably is harder to find experimental RPGs in bigger productions in the west, but there's certainly some weird indie ones
In this day and age I only had the endurance to grind myself through one Etrian Odyssey. The original. I almost lost it in Lost Shinjuku but somehow made it to the "end." The extra optional stratum is pure 20+ hour padding bullshit if you don't use a playthrough guide. I used a playthrough guide to keep my sanity.
The worse part about the optional stuff in EO 1, was that it forced you into taking the defender (I think that's the class) that has the anti element spells. As the dragon bosses would basically kill your entire group in one hit unless you use them to cancel it out.
That's a great point, Porous. I don't think Josh will mind me spoiling that all five of his choices are Japanese. But I'd love to see a series like this focusing on Western RPGs. What games would be viable candidates? Borderlands? Alpha Protocol? Red Dead Redemption?
It's funny, I didn't realize when I first started writing this that it was mainly about Japanese RPGs. As a bit of foreshadowing for the last diary, I'm not a fan of the traditional Japanese RPG design which comes from one certain studio.
As you said, Japanese RPGS appear to have more variety in the design compared to western rpgs. For me, I prefer interesting gameplay over epic storytelling and grand plots. Each game in this 5 part diary, goes somewhere different with its game design and tries to do something unique.
I've tried to get into games like Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Bioware's titles, but their gameplay just doesn't do anything for me. If the minute to minute gameplay doesn't hook me, then all the major decisions and character development are for moot.
I think both The Witcher and The Witcher 2 qualify for having some exceptionally strange systems that to me don't feel like traditional RPG fair. For instance the alchemy/potion system requires you to buff before an encounter meaning you have to know what you're facing before you're going into it, which usually means it only helps you on reload. Alpha Protocol is great example, it's all around strange as a game because of how it moves from being a difficult stealth/action game to an easy almost MMO-whack-a-mole feeling by the late game. I'd also point out the recent Serious Sam: The Random Encounter game, which is arguably not an RPG but definitely messes with RPG mechanics.