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5 Things We Miss Most From Classic RPGs

AXE OF THE BLOOD GOD | Where have you gone, overworld map. A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Article by Kat Bailey, .

Axe of the Blood God is our weekly RPG podcast hosted by Kat Bailey and Nadia Oxford. You can find the previous episodes here.

Whatever happened to the classic overworld map? Nadia and I take a break from the Top 25 RPG countdown to ponder this question and more as we share the five things we miss most from classic RPGs [download link here].

A common thread throughout the RPG podcast has been our puzzlement over people calling turn-based RPGs "old-fashioned." It doesn't seem as if there's anything inherently outdated about the more paced out, strategic form of gameplay, but people love to dump on it. Conversely, there are a lot of things we miss from the "good old days" of RPGs. Join Nadia and I as we remember classic RPGs and yell at clouds.

Sadly, we had to skip our Top 25 RPG countdown for this week due to technical problems. We will be back with number 17 soon, though! So please look forward to it.

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Show Description

Nadia and Kat take a break from the Top 25 RPG countdown to talk about what they miss from classic RPGs. Remember overworlds? Large party sizes? Fricking cloth maps? The pair reminisce about those old school features and more in this nostalgia laden episode of Axe of the Blood God.

Music from Axe of the Blood God is courtesy of Lena Chappelle, who has also contributed the themes to Active Time Babble and Roleplayers' Realm. I also use music from the RPG Music Pack over at rpgmaker.net. Check it out!

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 11

  • Avatar for Maxbeedo #1 Maxbeedo 30 days ago
    I definitely agree that more RPGs should have Overworlds, to give you that clear scope of how big the world is. The next best alternative are zone transitions that clearly show the landscape of the next area you're essentially teleporting to, like in FFXII, so that your immersion isn't broken by where you end up. Most big-budget RPGs nowadays have the problem of realistically rendering the true relative size of every town/dungeon, which then makes the outdoors/traveling sections seem small, so they sometimes make those so big that you either have to run for hours to get from place to place, or just teleport/fast travel which can break immersion. Overworlds were a great way to speed up that travel time in the "unimportant/boring" outdoors so you could get to the story content faster without completely sacrificing "the journey".
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  • Avatar for moochan #2 moochan 29 days ago
    Dragon Quest 8 overworld was such a beauty to explore. And better you get to fly above it near the end. It really felt like a 3D version of the SNES RPG. Don't know if DQ11 has something like that (been trying my best to not look into anything) but I do hope they do. Always such an amazing feeling flying over places you been and going back to revisit them. FFX was so linear and when you finally got the airship it was just menu base which was disappointing.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #3 The-Challenger 29 days ago
    I miss jprgs that could be finished in 40-60 hours. Nowadays most are bloated messes that put more emphasis on side-quest hunting than moving the story forward. Which in turn, artificially extends the play time into the 100hr mark.

    Runner up: Replayability. No fucking way will I ever replay a 100+ rpg, no matter how much I adore it.
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  • Avatar for Gamer-Law #4 Gamer-Law 29 days ago
    @The-Challenger - I was planning to offer this same point, but you summed it up nicely.

    35-50 hour RPGs used to be the industry standard. Not sure when we arrived at the understanding that every RPG needs to be 100+ hours in order to constitute a good value, but I am all in favor of dispatching it. The 35 hours I spent with The Last Story on Wii provided better value than many of the games that have dragged on long past their sensible expiration point. The era of 100+ hour RPGs simply means that we are either not seeing games through to their conclusion or we are experiencing fewer of them. Neither benefits fans of the genre.
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  • Avatar for Gamer-Law #5 Gamer-Law 29 days ago
    @kat.bailey - Glad to hear you coming around (if only slightly) on FE Echoes Shadows of Valentia. Among the FE titles released on the 3DS it remains my favorite and I would argue that it is a vastly better game than many give it credit for.

    While I did not care for FE Fates Birthright and found Revelation to be extraordinarily mediocre, I do agree with everything you said about Conquest. The maps in Conquest rank among the best in the series as they provide unique opportunities for strategizing coupled with the challenge welcomed by veteran players. Edited 4 weeks ago by Gamer-Law
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #6 donkeyintheforest 29 days ago
    I still have my baldurs gate clothmap and a bunch of the old lore/information books that came with pc games. The manual for Star Wars: Rebellion is probably the thickest. Pretty fun.

    While overworlds def give me fond memories, what do you all they would bring to the table now? Games like Monster Hunter World have a worldmap that lets you fast travel. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE have the hub and the streets of tokyo are similar to an overworld linking the different areas and dungeons (and has a map for fast travel). Xenoblade 2 has both the map to travel between the various titans and the maps of the individual titans to travel around them; and that game has some scope! (and yet no true overworld map)

    It seems like the only games that have overworlds now (and mostly those of the past) use them for random encounters (optional in Bravely defaults). Do you just want more slow walking in between places for pacing? The option to do so? A partially animated worldmap instead of a static literal one? I'm not arguing against them, I have loved many games with them, I am just curious if it's only nostalgia (which is valid) or if you think they could bring something new?
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #7 MetManMas 29 days ago
    One big thing I miss from classic RPGs? Brevity in dialogue. Like, I don't mind it so much in cRPGs where the conversations are an extension of the gameplay (lots of dialogue trees make things interesting), but jRPGs picked up a lot more words going from NES to SNES to PSone and ever since the genre has had serious problems with games that go on and on forever about nothing in particular.

    Other things I miss in many jRPGs are choreography (I hate talking portraits as a replacement, they exacerbate the boredom of overly verbose dialogue), a more convincing illusion of freedom (Remember when you could bust into almost every house in town? When the walls between you and GO PLACE tended towards the natural (broken stuff, locked doors, guards, brutal monsters) instead of some asshole party member saying "NO YOU CAN'T GO PLACE"? I miss that.), interesting companions (Final Fantasy VII had a dog on fire and an animatronic cat riding a Hulked-out moogle doll, don't tell me that the future of non-Pokélike jRPGs is nothing but samey anime people!), and not being 100+ hours.
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  • Avatar for camchow #8 camchow 29 days ago
    I miss those overworlds for sure. I've said it before and I'll say it again, one of the things that puts Zelda 2 The Adventure of Link so high on my list of best Zelda games is that overworld. It made that really feel like Links biggest adventure, traveling across the land to many towns, seeing how tiny the little section of Zelda 1 was, seeing how some areas of the world were overrun by lizard men with towns in ruins.

    One of the last RPGs I played with a great overworld was the first 7th Dragon on the GBA. It has a great fan translation patch out there and man it just feels like what would happen if you took Etrian Odyssey and put it's class system into a old school JRPG with a huge world, with many towns and dungeons to stumble upon. Check it out if you haven't! It also has great music !

    Music is another thing that I feel like is missing from some RPGs these days... though maybe that's because I have been playing more western RPGs than I did back in the old days. Western RPGs can be great but they never seem to really compare to JRPGs when it comes to soundtracks.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #9 NiceGuyNeon 29 days ago
    The struggle is real, Kat. I have been playing Fire Emblem Heroes since it came out, sometimes 5 minutes a day, sometimes 30 minutes, sometimes numbers I'm too ashamed to admit. But it's so good. Building sets of strong teams to take on tougher challenges is always satisfying.

    It did get me interested to try out Fire Emblem and I downloaded and eventually completed the GBA Fire Emblem with Eliwood. That was a great game!
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  • Avatar for SammyJ9 #10 SammyJ9 28 days ago
    Hey, thanks for talking about this after my email, I feel so special now!

    I definitely agree that overworlds should come back. I really miss this, especially in games that replace them with large empty-ish outdoor 'corridors' like the more recent Tales games. I get that they're going for realism and keeping towns and areas sized more normally, but honestly the last thing I want in my JRPGs is for it to be more like real life.

    Also agree with the innovation and experimentation point. PS1 and PS2 really was a golden age for this, wasn't it? Although one (fairly) recent game that really awed me was Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii. The whole concept of having the game take place on two ancient titans and having the game zones be gigantic body parts was such a cool and unique idea.

    I do have hope that we're entering a bit of a JRPG renaissance with Persona 5, Xenoblade 2, Octopath , Nier Automata and others selling in the millions lately. Maybe if more JRPGs start getting made due to a popularity uptick, we'll also get more innovation along with it?

    And I have high hopes for DQXI! Looking forward to it!
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  • Avatar for victorehunter #11 victorehunter 26 days ago
    There's a point in the episode where you both talk about how you miss having multi-character parties and that modern RPGs have skewed too far towards single-character action. I'm inclined to agree but I think that the series that has struck a really nice balance for me is Tales of. Being able to select three or four characters from a likeable ensemble, customizing their loadouts, stats, gear, etc. on a really granular level, and then still getting satisfying action combat is something that the Tales games still do amazingly well. Though I will admit that the past three or four main entries have suffered from another tragedy of modern RPG design that you touched on; no overworld maps. Just bland interconnected field-like areas. I'll gladly take the charm of a representational world map any day.
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