RPGs = Peak Fiction

Video games have come a long way in a relatively short period of time, becoming an almost integral part of the human experience. In the space of 45 years, small steps have turned to leaps, and leaps to bounds in cyberworlds.

In 2003, on Sony’s third foray into the gaming ecosystem, the PlayStation 2, a save file for “Call of Duty 2” could comfortably fit on your 16-megabyte memory card alongside all the save files for the other games you had, up till then, invested your time into. The actual game would come neatly stored in a 600-megabyte CD. Now, the download file for the newest “Call of Duty” installation takes a whopping 125-gigabytes to store. Almost 20 years later and more than 100 times larger, the size of the game files growing is indicative of improving graphics and increasingly more complicated computer language to accompany it. 

Many of today’s youth have grown up beholden to innovative technologies, unlike a lot of their elders who played brick-and-mortar games: simple but fulfilling. Their simplicity was mainly in their design, the levels would give little instruction and rely on the gamer’s intuition to progress through mazes.

Saratoga Springs resident Evan Sabatella, 22, remembers his first video game adventures. “When I was 7 or 8, my dad got me and my brothers a joystick console with preloaded Atari video games to play: ‘Ms. Pacman,’ ‘Galaga,’ ‘Mappy,’ ‘Xavius,’ and some god-awful racing game I could never get the hang of.” 

Image of an arcade. Photo by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash.

This tone of gaming would influence his buying choices, until he stumbled upon the production company FromSoftware Incorporated and their post-apocalyptic game series “Demon Souls.” Their 2015 entrant, “Demon Souls 2,” is Sabatella’s favorite role-playing game. It is ironically the first game from FromSoftware he even had the chance to play.

Japan-based FromSoftware have been main competitors since Sony’s PlayStation 1, releasing their first game, “Armored Core,” in 1997. The company’s director Hidetaka Miyazaki would begin to work on a dungeon crawler role-playing game that would have one most important tenet: they must challenge the gamer. That game would be 2009s “Demon’s Souls,” a precursor to the ever-popular “Dark Souls” role-playing series of games. The freedom of character creation and linear game design – which calls for the gamer to explore new areas and defeat bosses to conquer them, achieving rewards and leveling up to become more powerful – made the “Dark Souls” games cult classics almost instantly. 

Although the games were amazingly popular, Miyazaki’s ambition would not allow him to rest so easily. For this challenge he would enlist the help of George R. R. Martin, famed for authoring the “Game of Thrones” series, in writing the story behind this epic saga. In a recent interview with IGN, Miyazaki said that Martin was to be a “guide for the world’s lore.” 

This game would be completely open world. No apparent instruction is given, just a vast map and non-playable characters with whom the player should interact. His following attempt would not only be his largest yet, but it would also set records across the board: in just a month it would sell 12 million copies. His creation would be the “Elden Ring.”

Picture of rings. Photo by Zoriana Stakhniv on Unsplash.

In the coming months, statistics from PC gaming hub Steam gathered by Levvvel.com go on to show that out of the monthly peak of almost a million users, only 7 percent of those have been able to reach 100 percent completion of Elden Ring. An even more disturbing statistic is that a whopping 25 percent of players have yet to pass the first boss in the game, Margit the Fell Omen. The game only has one difficulty level for all players, so all progress is comparable. 

Miyazaki was conscious most would not be able to finish his game. In a 2022 interview with the New Yorker, Miyazaki said: “We are always looking to improve, but, in our games specifically, hardship is what gives meaning to the experience. So, it’s not something we’re willing to abandon at the moment. It’s our identity.”

“The most visually stunning RPG I have ever played. It welcomes newcomers into the Souls genre while still offering a challenging playthrough,” said Sabatella when asked about “Elden Ring.” He recognizes the game as difficult but thinks that because it is open world, it is the easiest entrance into the “Dark Souls” games. 

Sabatella is a tested gamer, with just more than 15 years of experience. When he started playing “Elden Ring,” although difficult, he knew the challenge would be a manageable one.

Man playing an Xbox. Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash.

The challenge in “Elden Ring,” however, was perfectly suited for recent college graduate Joey Gelosi. Gelosi’s preference in video games leans towards role-playing games, having “played everything from Skyrim to each game in the ‘(Dark) Souls’ series.” His experience in these informs his opinion that the games are not necessarily hard, they only require for the gamer to level up in the area they are entering. 

Gelosi started playing video games on a PlayStation 1 with no memory card, repeating the same level of “Crash Bandicoot” on a loop. That repetition is something he would experience again in “Elden Ring.” Regardless, Gelosi would finish that game and enter the 7 percent of players to complete the game with 100 percent completion. 

As a fan of RPGs, Gelosi said: “I don’t think games necessarily have to be open world to make a good RPG. A lot of games are open world but have little substance and vast nothingness in between major points of interest … a game shouldn’t be open world unless that world feels alive.” Although he holds this opinion, Gelosi still thinks “Elden Ring” executed that difficult task successfully. 

Ky Gennosa, 22, compares her gaming ability “to the average golfer.” Although a fan of RPGs, she has yet to play “Elden Ring.” Gennosa said, “I love having freedom to explore outside of the main path in games, but games with too much freedom … tend to make me overwhelmed. I usually lean towards games with a small open world but a clear storyline to follow.”

A fan of smaller worlds, Gennosa likes “turn-based RPGs like ‘Omori’,” but she looks forward to one day taking on the challenge of “Elden Ring.” 

A game exists for everyone, whether as edge-lords, milk-toast warriors, holy knights or supreme sorcerers, an RPG is out there for you to live out your fantasy. What type of RPG appeals to you?

Click here to hear us talk about it in further detail.

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