Ten Frustrating Things about Role-playing Games

I’m a huge RPG fan. I love the storylines, the strategic gameplay, and the feeling of going on a journey that you don’t get with almost any other type of video game. But there are some things that will annoy me even as I play my favorite genre of games. Here’s ten things that bug me whenever I see them in an RPG.

1. Not enough gameplay

RPGs will almost always have more storyline than other genres. The point of the game is to play a role, after all. But when an hour or more passes by of moving on rails from one cut-scene to another, I start to wonder why I’m not just watching a movie or reading a book instead. Games are supposed to be interactive. Let me play!

2. Extreme difficulty spikes

I’m not opposed to hard games. They give the player a real challenge along with a sense of accomplishment upon completion. But it’s annoying to spend hours developing my character through a bunch of small battles only to have him killed in one hit from a boss. Why am I the hero again? It seems like I’m not cut out for this career. Maybe I should switch to making crates and barrels. There’s always a market for those in these sort of games.

3. Abrupt endings

With the possible exceptions of either a novel or an entire season of a TV series, role-playing video games are the most immersive, long-term, fantasy escapist experiences. So why do so many of them wrap up over sixty hours of gameplay with a thirty second cut-scene? Is it a crime to give the player some closure? I’ve even seen games that have the player’s companions say their last farewells before the final boss battle, as if even they know that the developers are basically just going to drop everything and take a three-day weekend rather than give us any significant resolution to the storyline.

4. Too much post-game content

The other end of the spectrum of course are games that don’t stop after the ending, but don’t really go anywhere either. This isn’t like an open-world RPG that has tons of sub-quests to do after the main storyline is finished. These are the games that drop you right back into the world without any goals or tasks beyond endlessly continuing to farm levels. Yes, that’s exactly what I want to do, rather than start up a new game…

5. Useless level-ups

A good RPG makes every level-up a tiny victory for the player. A sign that not only are you doing well, but that your characters are going to be even cooler now. In a bad RPG, your current level might as well be a total-hours-played display, interesting to see how long you’ve been at this, but it has no bearing on the experience.

6. Battles we can’t win

I’m not talking about hard battles here. I’m talking about battles that are scripted for the player to lose. You are not allowed to win these fights, but they’re still treated like a regular fight. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned through all of my expendable items (doubly painful for me, as I’m definitely a hoarder gamer) only to die for the fourth time, check online, and find out that I should just stand there like a doofus and let the character kill me because the developers couldn’t be bothered to make this fight a cut-scene.

7. Battles we can’t lose

These are even worse. At least with the last issue you can get a sense of the helplessness of your character and the inevitability of defeat. But with these battles, it’s like the developers decided that I’m just too stupid to be trusted with the difficult task of playing their game. I’m looking at you, final boss battle of FFX…

8. Puzzles that require a walk-through

I grew up in the heyday of adventure games, so I’ve done my fair share of trying to use a tuna-fish sandwich on a broken airplane, but I’ve never been a big puzzle fan. That’s why I play games where the focus is presumably on interesting characters and killing monsters. At least the internet exists for people like me.

9. Too many chatty NPCs

Whether you’re compulsive, a completionist, or just want to get the ‘full experience’, it’s maddening to have too many unimportant NPCs with dozens of lines of flavor text that just repeats what I saw in the previous cutscene. I never know how many of these people I should talk to before I just start racing past them all because it’s been over an hour since I last did anything that earned me experience points.

10. Invisible, arbitrary rules

This is the worst, and it happens all the time. “Don’t open those three chests or you won’t get the best weapon in the game later.” “Don’t talk to that merchant or you’ll miss a quest later.” “Don’t walk to the left of the screen or you’ll trigger a cut-scene.” None of these rules are ever intuitive, and often you have to reload the game or check a walk-through before you play through an area just to make sure you don’t miss things. Maybe some people like this sort of thing for replay value, but personally, I’d rather replay a game because I enjoyed the experience, not because I accidentally stepped on a butterfly on my first play-through that caused a hurricane that swept all the world’s healing potions out to sea.

What’s your favorite gripe about this beloved genre of games? Share it in the comments below!

A big shout-out to the fantastic members of my Readers Community:

Randall Hodgson, Mandy Vincelette, Matthew Paxman, Yoshiyuki Nishikawa, Wil Sisney, Jarred Walton, Joel Stanger, and Kelly Wilbur.

If you’d like to learn more about my Readers Community, check out the following link:


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