Grinding is a major part of this genre. As you play through a game your team of characters level up, usually by engaging in battles and not getting knocked the fuck out in the process. As you level up, your characters’ stats for their health, strength, speed, defence, and so on, will increase making you less likely to be the knock the fuck out-ee and more likely to become the knock the fuck out-er. Basically, your boys become bigger, badder, and more boss as their levels increase. As you progress, you’ll be able to challenge stronger and stronger foes. Defeating these, in turn, will level you up even further. These seem to be most basic of core fundamentals for this style of games. This usually works pretty fine, and depending on both the pacing of the game and the play style of the player, you should be moseying along just grand. As you encounter more enemies and bosses, your levelling should be subsequent enough for the fights to be winnable, yet still challenging enough to not be a breeze. However, given the mount of customization, personalization, and the wide variety of choices at the player’s disposal here, this is not always the case.
When it comes to not having your characters at the appropriate level, you must involve yourself in some good old fashioned grinding. This has nothing to do with rubbing yourself up against a lady in a nightclub to the sound of slow bass jams, not matter what R Kelly might tell you. Instead, it includes working your team on overtime. Finding a section of the game’s over-world where you can freely engage in battles at will with enemies that do not pose too much of a threat. The reason for doing this is to earn EXP, and level up. In theory, this sounds handy- batter a few guys, earn your points, and get back on track to the boss that you weren’t strong enough to face before. Unfortunately though, this can take a very, very long time.
You see, the problem with grinding is the sheer time it requires. This is one of the reasons RPGs are such long endeavours. Battling until you’ve created your dream team can suck hours, even days out of your life. Fighting the same fight over and over can become monotonous and boring, but it’s often the only way to achieve what you need in order to advance through the game. If you don’t indulge in a spot of grinding at some stage, you may find yourself at an impassable section that you’ll just never beat. In some games, depending on where you last used a save point, this could even render your file useless, and force your to restart the whole thing again from the very beginning. When this happens, you may as well take your last 50+ hours and flush them down the toilet, because they’ve amounted to nothing. In other titles, grinding seems to be all there is to do. Fucking fetch quests as far as the eye can see. Sure, they can be disguised quite nicely as something more exciting to play and relevant to the story, but in reality they’re just candy coated fetch quests.
The RPG series that I’ve played most throughout the years is Pokémon. I absolutely love this adorable little light-hearted franchise, but I’m well aware that it can be a fucking grinding nightmare at times. Again, the customisation and choice actually bite the player in the ass here. Being able to build your team from any of the hundreds of controllable creatures available does sound like a fantastic idea; giving the player endless opportunities to personalize their crew as they see fit, and for the most part it is. Training each of these in a different manner, so that they acquire the essential moves and stats is great fun but hugely time consuming. By the time the story is completed in any of the games in this series, your team of rough, tough, and ferociously cute animals will barely be hitting the halfway mark towards their full potential. They can be raised up to level 100, but I don’t think any of my teams have ever made it that far. They’d already became an unstoppable force by the time they’d hit 80ish. At this stage all the AI controlled pokémon and trainers became nothing more that one-hit-Kos for them.
Everyone has something they hate about gaming. Some people’s issues are bigger than others’, and some can even get by with ignoring the parts they dislike to dig the parts they do. I enjoy RPGs. I think it’s a fantastic, rich genre, and the more I play it the more I want to. I want to get involved in more RPG franchises. Throw caution to the wind, dive face first into their stat-based strategic glory, and bathe in hundreds of hours worth of fantastic storylines filled with silly haircuts and oversized swords. It really is a genre that I could see myself getting really involved in. The only thing that pulls me away is the fear of a less than graceful belly flop into another grind fest. Running in circles for hours on end in increase my team just takes a lot of the fun out of playing, and puts a great big wall in the way of enjoyment. The story stops dead in it’s tracks and waits there for me to build enough strength to catch up. Perhaps, I don’t play these games correctly, or maybe it’s just a consistent design flaw. Either way, it keeps me incredible weary about which games I approach and which I leave on the shelves, which probably means I spend just as many hours doing laps of my local games store like an eejit, hunting for something worthwhile, as I would grinding my way through a game.