The Loneliness of the long-distance RPGer

For a while there, I was deeply in love with Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey of the Cursed King. Western RPGs like Fable and Jade Empire had made me soft, and I was itching for some stone cold dungeon crawling, the type made famous by the Dragon Quest series. Classic RPG gameplay, the likes of which I have rarely seen in this generation of video games. All this certainly isn’t hurt by it’s beautiful aesthetics: character design by Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball Z, and the most perfect cell-shading this side of Wind Waker. A beautiful, beautiful game, on many levels.

But having spent a few days away from the Playstation, I’m starting to wonder if I’m just experiencing a mild form of Stockholm syndrome.

I love the fact that it’s all stats. It’s a huge numbers game, knowing which monsters to battle and with what strategy. I love the fact that, if I was so inclined, I could bust out the graphing calculator and compute the outcome of any battle before I even start it. Guitar Hero it ain’t. Ikaruga it ain’t. But it’s still got this wicked, twisted appeal.

Unfortunately – and this is where I think I’ve been spoiled – I’m tired of spending 2 hours a night just running around outside a particular village leveling up. Once I’ve finally reached a level I think is acceptable, I can tackle the quest I’m supposed to be working on, and this might just take a half an hour to complete. But there’s still the 2 hours where I do nothing else in the game except repeat the battle-battle-battle-rest, battle-battle-battle-rest strategy. At least games like Oblivion present side-quests to take the grind out of “leveling up” and turn it into something vaguely entertaining. 8 hours into Dragon Quest, I haven’t seen one side-quest.

And that’s the worst part: if I didn’t have to see the look on my girlfriend’s face when I explain to her that I’m coming to bed at 2am because I’ve just spent the past two hours leveling up, I probably wouldn’t mind this at all.

[tags]dragon quest, playstation[/tags]