AU Diary: RPGs Are Just Too Damn Long

AU Diary: RPGs Are Just Too Damn Long

I started playing Tales of Vesperia over the weekend, playing just enough to feel its hooks beginning to sink in. Then today, a package arrived in the mail.

It contained another RPG, Star Ocean: The Last Hope.

So here I am, several hours into one epic adventure from Namco Bandai only to find Square Enix teasing me with the prospect of dozens of hours of even more epic adventure.

Then I realised, I never finished Lost Odyssey, despite giving it a good twenty hours. Nor did I ever finish Infinite Undiscovery. Nor Persona 3 FES.

I still haven’t seen the Broken Steel quests in my now on-hold second play-through of Fallout 3. I’m pretty sure I spent more time finding and installing mods than actually playing Oblivion. And I have yet to find out what happens to my dog at the climax of Fable II… although as far as that game goes I’m not overly fussed, to be honest.

It didn’t used to be like this. Back when I didn’t have a job, I used to be able to finish an RPG. Nowadays I really struggle to find the time.

We talk about prizing value for money, but how do you find the time to complete games that can last for 50 or even 100 hours?

Are RPGs too long? Or do I just need to be more selective and stick to one game rather than trying to sample everything?


  • Stick to one game. I personally find that if I am in the middle of an RPG, I try to finsih it before starting anything else. It’s easy to pick up and play an action title that you haven’t touched for a month or two but when it’s heavily plot driven like an RPG, it’s almost impossible.

    • I am actually a new commer to RPG’s. Fallout 3 was the first RPG I have played and i was gaming since Atari 2600 days. I put in 85+ hours and finished all missions and acheivements for main story and the same for broken steel. I now have level 30 and am loving it. I work and commute over 2 hours a day and have a 5 month old son. I certainly agree that you need to stick at it and the obsessive compulsive disorder thing helps.

      I actually think the question is more about whether or not the game can carry the story for that amount of time. If the game is good and you feel compelled to continue then there is no reason for them to be any shorter. Great value for money and very rewarding. By comparison it makes you look at other games adn think they could have done more!

  • I find that a healthy amount of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is what is required in order to really knuckle down and finish a series of RPGs.

    I try and play just one game exclusively, and refuse to touch anything else until I’ve finished it.

    The good thing about RPGs though, in particular, is that the longer you play them, usually the better they get; the main character will finally become a badass, or perhaps you’ll finally get that last party member, or the boss battles get insanely awesome – so your time investment is usually rewarded.

  • Maybe it goes with your game-related journalistic territory, David?

    My mind is to pick one of these types of RPG’s and just dedicate myself to it solely. Sure, maybe a brief respite with a gimmie FPS or action game, but I think you’re jumping around too much from one RPG to the next.

    Take something like GTAIV…not even an RPG…I played that solely ’til its end and racked up 150hrs on it straight, over the course of a few months.

    But hey, that’s just my play-style. You’re obviously different in that regard.

  • You can say that again. Put 70+ hours into FFVII and you know what? Still haven’t finished it yet. I kinda gave up on it. But take Mass Effect. Being an action RPG you can finish it within less than 20 hours. Fallout 3 on the other hand I’ve achieved level 14 and haven’t even reached Galaxy News Radio 😐

    I think they can be a tad too long but you know, bang for your buck cannot be better than RGPs. And speak of which, started playing Diablo II the other day over Still love the simplicity of it and the sheer quality of the whole game

  • The only RPGs I seem to finish these days are on the DS/PSP and that’s only because I play them while commuting. I don’t think RPGs are too long in general, just too long for those of us with work to do.

  • JRPGs are too long yes because they force you to spend too much time in one goddamn dungeon through the irritating amount of encounters. If the game allows you to skip too many (shows enemies on screen) then you pay for it later because the bosses spike in difficulty.

    FF8 I played through to Ultimecia’s castle twice and lost my save files twice because I got so burnt out by that time I took a break.. and 6months and a format of my computer later my game was gone :/

    Enchanted Arms I took a long break from then finished it a few months later (same with Oblivion actually).

    I got the the final disc of lost oddysey and I stopped. Yet to go back

    I got to the end of eternal sonata, then had to do the secret dungeon to get “the real ending” and got bored because that place doesn’t have enough save points

    Slowly making my way through Star Ocean hoping I don’t get burnt on it like the others ;_;
    The combat system is more lively I’ll give it that.. but sweet jesus this game felt like it was dragging on pretty soon into it. It picks up later but then you get stuck in mud again. Cardonian mothership = +3 hour long dungeon of mundane angst.

  • Had a girlfriend once that whenever we’d order Chinese, she’d order at least 5 different dishes. She was never that hungry, she just liked to taste a little bit of everything. Sounds like RPGs might not be your bag. If I get into a good RPG (like Fallout 3), it can’t be long enough.

  • Do yourself a favour… and don’t bother with Star Ocean… So much potential… so many fatal flaws… terrible AI, terrible party control, no multiplayer (tales games <3), and a “few” of the voice actors are horrid (the little girl, and the winged girl… horrid).
    The game just leaves you feeling angry that the they didn’t just fix any one of the above things. Hell… I’d settle for original jap voices, kaaaaaaaaaaay?

  • I’ve found this for a little while now too. I love RPG’s, but recently games I really want are coming out more quickly than the time in which I can finish a normal RPG. And since I’m and completionist, and only like to have one or two games going at any time before putting them down and playing another title, I’ve found myself a number of times really wishing the RPG I’m playing would come to an end or have less to do! All out of sheer anticipation of the next game on my shelf, which I won’t let myself play until I’ve finished on of the current games I am playing…
    This inevitably leads my ‘now playing’ list to have 2 or 3 RPGs on it, since any other games are finished much more quickly.

    Currently I’m 1/2 finished with The Witcher, and The Last Remnant (as well as TF2 on the side), and I’m really rushing through The Last Remnant as I have heard great things about Prototype.

    I’ve found with the DS that becuase of the much lower number of titles that I want to play, I do stick on one game for much longer than I would for a PC game, and despite them normally being the ‘shorter’ game, I play them for a lot longer (ie The World Ends With You has taken up a lot of commute time, collecting and maxing out Pins).

  • I find that I don’t mind RPGs being long if the gameplay and story is good enough to compensate me for my investment of time. Tales of Vesperia certainly qualified, and Star Ocean 4 absolutely did not.

    However I didn’t end up finishing ToV (I have a JP 360 so I was able to import the Asian release last year) simply because the PS3 version got announced and I decided to wait and play the definitive version.

  • The problem with JRPGs is that they are 10 minutes of actual game for every 50 minutes of filler, like random battles over and over and over. If you cut out the flab then these games would have maybe 5-10 hours of story at the most. I don’t understand why gamers let Japanese designers get away with ti- imagine if CoD or Halo was 50 hours long, with 40 hours of that being in the same couple of rooms fighting the same type of enemy over and over? It’d be considered the worst game ever. But somehow JRPGs convince people that grinding through pointless battles against generic recoloured killer rabbit #43556 is interesting…

  • I hold off, I know you have to be upto date with the gaming scene, but without that pressure there is usually a lull in titles heading up to Christmas so I kinda put each title on a waiting list per se, as when the lull cometh I rather have quality to play rather than be scratching around crappy titles.

  • I usually stick with an RPG one at a time no matter how long they are, and I think they’re great value for money given how much gameplay you can get out of them, but I think the perfect RPG to cater for everyone’s tastes nowadays would be one that has a 15-20 hour “main storyline”, and many times that in optional content. It’d take an extremely skilled developer to ensure that you don’t end up with something like Oblivion in that regard, but if they got it right everyone would be happy with it.

  • I find that when games are too long, it’ll often put me off giving the game a chance to begin with. I mean, if I know a game is going to take me 50 hours to complete and I know I don’t have 50 hours to devote to it, then I’m probably not going to bother with it because I’d never be able to see the end of the game. I’d never be able to experience the whole thing. I don’t consider that to be value for money at all. After all, would you rather go out for a massive meal that you can’t even finish because it’s so big and makes you feel a bit sick afterwards (not to mention wasteful), or would you rather have a smaller, more satisfying meal where you can taste the end?

    When it comes to value for money, I don’t use time as a measurement; it all comes down to how much fun I can get out of a game. If a game is capable of delivering something compelling without requiring me to spend tens of hours on it, then I think that’s a good thing.

    Miaow miaow miaow, games tourism. Miaow.

  • This is why i don’t play a lot of RPG’s and i know that i’m missing out but its the whole, finding the time.

    I really like to get real into the games and get involved. Doing side quests, main storyline and all that. And it does take time, but thats what RPGs are good for. However, i don’t always have the time to play a few hours at one time which is why they can take ages for me to play and during that time a new game will come out & i’ll play that or i’ll want some Online Multiplayer action with COD or Halo and i wont play the RPG anymore.

    I usually, if i really want the RPG, i won’t get it at launch and wait til its price is dropped. That way i can find the time to play it. But NEVER play more than one at once.

  • I don’t think that RPGs are too long per se, but rather, limited in a player’s ability to play sporadically. My ideal RPG should be able to be played in 20 to 30 minute blocks, and achieve some congruency between the player and the current objectives/story if the game is left unplayed for some time.

    That’s not really possible with most RPGs for the following reasons:

    1. The next save point is when?
    Hopefully a dying trend in RPGs is the marathon effort required just to get to the next save point. Nothing would freak me out more when I was younger then having my epic FF7 play session interrupted by a call for dinner – NOW! “But I need to save!” Too bad, I lose.

    In contrast, and as an example, is the Legend of Zelda series which allows saving at any time.

    2. I’m doing what when now?
    – Either because I’ve been engaged in too many side quests, very non-linear play, or it’s been a month since I last played the game, it’s so easy to forget what you supposed to do. And there is a difference between what my current side-quests are, and my main story objective. Often I find it’s only the most current activity (i.e. side-quest) for which the current objective can be displayed.

    3. Why am I doing this?
    I usefully play RPGs for the stories/narrative. Yet most RPGs encourage, nay, reward spending obscene amounts of time doing side quests. All this activity only slows down the narrative, which is usually only revealed in cut scenes at certain milestones reached in the game.

    This may be personal experience, but for this reason I usually lose the motivation to spend lots of time playing the RPGs.

    4. Side-quests vs Replay Value
    This may be more of reflection of my personal play style then something generally applicable, but I don’t feel like I’ve finished a game until all the side quests are done. Often games will even keep track of progress as a percent complete. However, how often have I read in a game review stating that a game has lots of replay value because there are lots of side-quests to complete? Nuh-uh! If I’m spending 60 plus hours on a game, then there is no going back. Either I complete side-quests now (first time), or not at all. After all, what’s the difference between me spending 100 hours the first time to finish the game 100% as opposed to playing the game through twice at 50 hours each?

    Unfortunately this normally culminates in me feeling like a failure because either I didn’t finish the game 100% the first time, or I spent too much time doing side quests and lost interest in finishing the game at all.

    What I love about the Legend of Zelda series is that (bar a few minor exceptions, i.e. some photographs in Link’s Awakening etc.) there are no limitations or expiry on finishing all the side-quests. From heart pieces to inventory items, you can get them all. You don’t have to worry about having reached some milestone in the game beyond which side quests are lost – they are still there.

    In contrast is FFX-2 to name a specific example; very non-linear episodic levels, the completion of which is triggered sometimes unexpectedly by player actions. And when a level is over, there is no going back. I remember restarting FFX-2 half-way through because I realised I hadn’t got Pain’s special dress sphere in Chapter 1. And when I realised in Chapter 5 that I had only collected 9 out of 10 crimson spheres, having missed a sphere in Chapter 3, I just stopped playing. It was the slap in the face I didn’t need. And it made no sense to me. Why was I being punished? I didn’t miss it because I wasn’t trying!

    Here’s what it will take for me to finish an RPG:
    • Allow sporadically game play:
    – Save when you want to.
    – Play for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
    • No expiry of side-quests
    – Side-quests that can always be finished, even at the ‘end’ of the game.
    – Motivation for doing the side-quests (early) should only be to make completing the rest of the game easier, or because they are enjoyable in themselves.
    • Clear Objectives:
    – The ability to easily bring up the current objective/s
    – Objectives of the main story, and current side-quests should be easily distinguishable.
    • The story so far:
    – Some kind of system for recapping the story so far.
    – Maybe something like a story diary/journal, or unlocking of story cut scenes to play as a continuous film as a refresher. Perhaps even making personal notes within the game as a reminder.

    • 1. I’ve never really thought about this, since most, if not all of the RPG’s I’ve played on the PC and DS allow saves whenever. I save frequently. I can’t imagine having to battle through to the next checkpoint.
      2. The Last Remnant is horrible for this. It has a quest log, but only for side quests, the only way to find out what your main quest is, is to talk to an NPC. But even then quest descriptions are so vague you often have no idea what you are meant to do unless you happened to write it down when they first gave it to you (ie. Quest giver tells you to collect 20x of some stone, the quest log just tells you ‘find material for NPC’, and often that NPC won’t outline those ‘materials’ for you again…)
      3. I’ve found this too, but I think it’s generally becuase I spend far more time than the average person playing out sidequests (see 4.)
      4. I’m pretty similar when it comes to dealing with side quests. Being a bit of a completionist, I will try to do absolutely everything possible in a single play through. I’m pretty OCD about doing every side quest/activity/collection the second it becomes available before continuing on with the story line (this applies to games like GTA as well). Unfortunately this means when I play the game again, to either try playing as another class, or see if any major choices have long term consequences, the sense of adventure is completely lost (yet for some reason I still insist on doing absolutely everything possible with subsequent characters. After 3 play-throughs of Mass Effect (for the achievement/unlock awards), I never want to drive that bloody Mako again!)

  • Heres my solution to what I think has to be the stupidest issue ever…

    Play another game.

    I for one love these types of old school games, and yes as my life has progressed I have less time for them…

    But there are plenty of games that cater either directly to your tastes or with nice grey areas for you to traverse.
    People who talk about likeing FF and yet hate constantly stopping to have to fight… DONT LIKE FF. They like the nice scenes and story line they got used to in FF7 and never realised that the Western Release was horribly dumbed down.

    If you want to play a different type of RPG for the sake of gaming go play it… because now what weve got is a game producer who doesnt know what they want to do, and a series of games that I no longer have any love of.

    This is from a guy who PREVIOUS to FF7 had played Squares ENTIRE catalogue(at least what had been fan translated).

    Buck up or get out of the pool.

  • Watch out for Star Ocean! It’s really good fun up until a certain dungeon (someone mentioned it earlier, the mothership) and from then on it pretty much dies in the ass for 20 hours until it really picks up for the last 5. That said, now that I’m done with the main narrative, I’m having a blast going through all the sidequests, and I have a strange yearning to go through the game again. That’s my experience, at least!

    Have fun playing! 🙂

  • Definitely a genre where I personally completely agree with your point of view. I am in the same boat with most games you mentioned.

    I have adopted a play one RPG at a time approach now, instead of playing them as they come out. That way, months can be spent with a quality RPG and you can move from finishing that to more RPGs if thats your genre of choice.

    I would hate to attack vesperia and star ocean at the same time. Thus, waiting (jealous of you!) to play this, exclusively, until the next RPG comes along that warrants the time.

  • If you don’t want those RPG’s you can always send them my way 😉

    RPGs can be long. I tend to focus on beating one RPG at a time. If I play one 1/2 way through I find it hard to just pick it up and play because I forget about the story and I don’t know what the hell I’m supposed to do.

    Lost Odyssey is a great game try to finish that one.

  • I just buy one game at a time, and put the rest on wish list instead of buying them right away. It sucks to be “out of the loop” when people discusses their favorite RPGs (for 2 days, before they move on to the newest shinier toy), but I get to finish all my games..eventually.
    To put it in perspective, I’m half way through Xenosaga3 right now. Yeah–I’m that backed up.

  • i tackle rpgs on holidays, like at the moment, just knocked off after a 8 hour shift on valkyria chronicles and its more of the same tomorrow,

    the only way to play rpgs is to replace your life with the life of the character, beats the hell out of reality

    im very similar with books its all or nothing baby pffft playing on the train 2 hours per day is for fags not showering for a week not leaving the bed/couch for days forgetting who you are thats the way niggaAAA

  • It’s hard to tell a game reviewer/reporter to stick to playing ONE RPG at a time. They need to try out each and (nearly) every new game that comes out for all platforms, and play it enough to make an educated report. Don’t feel bad though David, from all the replies given so far, even normal people with time to play rpgs don’t finish more than a handful of them.

    On the topic of RPGs being too long, I like it that way. I’m one of those crazy people that don’t just play RPGs for the story (#1 reason), I also play it for the game mechanic (#2 reason). I devote hours into playing Tales of series because I LIKE the battles, trying to get high combos, use crap moves to see if they’re really crap or not etc. I play turn-based SRPGs (like SRW and Disgaea) because the act of leveling up and dealing inane amounts of damage, or try to go through at as low a level as possible.
    If you stick to the story, most RPGs can be finished in 40 hours, and rarely is there a RPG that requires you to level up a lot (Eternal Sonata and Cross Edge being some of the recent ones) just to finish the game.

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