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February 3rd, 2016, 18:50
PC Gamer discusses avoiding combat in an RPG, and they do it through the lens of Age of Decadence.


<blockquote style="text-align: justify;">I'm bored of killing people. Not necessarily bored of having people killed, but certainly of doing my own dirty work. After a couple of years of great RPGs—The Witcher 3, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Pillars of Eternity, Fallout 4, and even South Park: The Stick of Truth—I need a break from fighting. This isn't a hot take: I'm not about to decry RPG combat in its entirety. This is my problem, and it's up to me—not the industry at large—to find a solution.

The solution, it turns out, is Age of Decadence. Officially released last year after a time in early access, it's still a bit rough and unpolished. Nonetheless, it's a wilfully uncompromising RPG. There is combat, and it's extremely difficult, but, depending on the choices that you make, engaging in it can be optional.

In Age of Decadence, you're given a choice of professions, each promising a markedly different experience. A mercenary is going to get hilt deep in some jerks—it's a part of the job description. But other builds promise other ways to play. I chose a merchant, partly because it's a non-combat option, but also because, if this is truly an age of decadence, I assume having a lot of money will help.

It works because the setting favours politics and greed, rather than sword-'n'-board heroism. Because of this, I go for an extremely specific, high-risk build. My combat fatigue manifests in a character with no points in any of the combat skills. Of my dagger ability, the game bluntly states that I should "put it down before you poke an eye out." (Wouldn't poking someone's eye out be an extremely effective use of a dagger? I suppose it depends whose eye.)

Instead, I'm a master at doing words at people—more so than this sentence would imply. My primary stats are trading, persuasion and 'streetwise,' and it's interesting just how much these skills matter. I've played for a few hours, and, so far, Age of Decadence has mitigated its early linearity through contextual events and dialogue. At multiple points I'm given the option for actions that rely on my (appalling) dexterity, or conversation choices that require my (amazing) persuasion. But these options don't magically solve problems.

[/quote]More.

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February 3rd, 2016, 18:50
I love combat but I would also like to see more games give non combat resolutions.

I wonder if he can play to the end game with his current play style or if at some point he'll hit an area where combat is necessary and find his player is gimped.

I assume theres some big baddie at the end of the game you can't talk to death but I don't know for sure.

Aod does sound interesting though.

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February 3rd, 2016, 19:27
Originally Posted by sakichop View Post
I love combat but I would also like to see more games give non combat resolutions.

I wonder if he can play to the end game with his current play style or if at some point he'll hit an area where combat is necessary and find his player is gimped.

I assume theres some big baddie at the end of the game you can't talk to death but I don't know for sure.

Aod does sound interesting though.
You can complete the whole game without entering combat, even the "big baddie" at the end.
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February 3rd, 2016, 19:33
Originally Posted by Elhoim View Post
You can complete the whole game without entering combat, even the "big baddie" at the end.
That make the game even more intriguing, gonna have to give it a try eventually.

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February 3rd, 2016, 19:49
Yep, me too. It would be a good change from Fallout 4. But Original Sin and Wasteland 2 are already in the queue….
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February 3rd, 2016, 20:15
I love having multiple paths through a game, but to me it falls a little flat when getting through a quest with dialogue basically just means the questline is over in five seconds instead of involving any kind of challenge.

I'd like to see an RPG that succeeded better in making dialogue feel like a more solid part of the gameplay -- without just inserting a dopey minigame.

[I haven't yet sprung for Age of Decadence, so I can't say how it measures up in this regard]
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February 3rd, 2016, 20:39
As per usual, great game, but it's a Choose Your Own Adventure before it's an RPG. Yes, it's great to have games where you have no combat, but RPGs are just one'o'those ol' combat games, my apologies to people who look for combat-free games and desire to find what they seek in RPGs.
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February 3rd, 2016, 20:40
One the most satisfying aspects of RPG is its offering of freedom, as you can role play your character to a certain extent to your liking, as opposed to genres like action adventure, which are more or less set to scripted paths plot-wise or in terms of character development. So this liberty makes RPG more about the roles of its characters over the journey itself as in other genres (excluding sports games probably).

So the options of skipping combat either by taking an alternative route, or using approaches like stealth, diplomacy or deceit is definitely making the role-playing experience fleshed out more.
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February 3rd, 2016, 20:52
I'm glad there are options for all. As for me, I'll still be braining people with two by fours, preferable with spikes jutting out of them.
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February 3rd, 2016, 22:22
I don't play any game where I can't wield a rusty chain. I NEED MY RUSTY CHAIN YO!!!
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February 3rd, 2016, 23:06
Originally Posted by Hastar View Post
I don't play any game where I can't wield a rusty chain. I NEED MY RUSTY CHAIN YO!!!
I have heard this sad cry many times before, with one addition.

I DMed a pen and paper player -- through a number of games, in a number of different settings and genres -- and the signature weapon he pleaded for with every new character was a live chicken on the end of a chain, wielded as a sort of lasso/flail.

He explained that he traveled with a flock of chickens in his wake, and at the end of each battle would cook up the now-tenderized chicken over a campfire and attach its replacement.

After years of shutting him down, I finally let him have it for a commedia dell'arte-themed bard character, but the chickens eventually rose up against him.
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February 3rd, 2016, 23:18
Some of the mechanics in the Hitman series would be really fun in an RPG. I've thought about this topic a lot regarding Bethesda games. I think it would be quite enjoyable to be able to use disguises and other trickery to think your way into well-defended areas. Or making illusion magic capable of true "illusions," able to trick potential enemies.

For assassinations, the ability to possibly befriend the target, infiltrate their organization, then betray them when they finally let their guard down would be satisfying.

Basically, there are a lot of potential ways to make RPG quests more interesting mechanically by giving the player more tools, such as social interactions, seduction, poisons, trickery, disguise, acting as a double-agent, etc. I would be really happy if an open-world RPG offered these sorts of scheming, non-violent role-playing opportunities.
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February 3rd, 2016, 23:23
Originally Posted by Hexprone View Post
…but the chickens eventually rose up against him.
For that, I'm happy, at least.

Originally Posted by Nerevarine View Post
Basically, there are a lot of potential ways to make RPG quests more interesting mechanically by giving the player more tools, such as social interactions, seduction, poisons, trickery, disguise, acting as a double-agent, etc. I would be really happy if an open-world RPG offered these sorts of scheming, non-violent role-playing opportunities.
The Fallout series has flirted with this, but I feel like it's fallen flat in delivering it. I totally agree - I'd love to see more of that.

Actually, I'd love an all-out espionage/assassin RPG…
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February 3rd, 2016, 23:28
Originally Posted by LordKane View Post

So the options of skipping combat either by taking an alternative route, or using approaches like stealth, diplomacy or deceit is definitely making the role-playing experience fleshed out more.
Missed reading this comment earlier, but this is well said. One of the difficult things for a designer would be to somehow maintain tension while using deceit, making the choice of playing a trickster character with weaker combat abilities feel meaningful. The sense of accomplishment and "power" from the player's perspective would have to come from the satisfaction of taking a risk infiltrating a dangerous situation, and leaving without being found out.

Originally Posted by Aubrielle View Post
Actually, I'd love an all-out espionage/assassin RPG…
Same here, I've been wanting to play such a game for a long time.
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February 3rd, 2016, 23:33
I don't know, to me playing an RPG without combat pretty much turns it into a visual novel.
I wouldn't be opposed to playing a game where 'combat' is not actual combat, but a system where you beat your opponent in non-bloody ways, using your 'character' skills & stats. For example, a political RPG where 'combat' can be a debate, and your responses depending on your skills and abilities, perhaps you have to assemble a team of advisors with different abilities (your party). Or a business RPG where you 'beat' your opponents by making better products or acquisitions (again, using skills and abilities), etc.
Of course, that's difficult to market, it's probably not as attractive showing general audiences how you out-market a company as opposed to you shooting opponents into bloody pieces with a bazooka.
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February 3rd, 2016, 23:43
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
I don't know, to me playing an RPG without combat pretty much turns it into a visual novel.
I wouldn't be opposed to playing a game where 'combat' is not actual combat, but a system where you beat your opponent in non-bloody ways, using your 'character' skills & stats. For example, a political RPG where 'combat' can be a debate, and your responses depending on your skills and abilities, perhaps you have to assemble a team of advisors with different abilities (your party). Or a business RPG where you 'beat' your opponents by making better products or acquisitions (again, using skills and abilities), etc.
Of course, that's difficult to market, it's not as attractive to general audiences watching you out-market a company as opposed to you shooting opponents into bloody pieces with a bazooka.
For me, I'm not necessarily talking about not having combat at all, but instead building an RPG in the vein of a Skyrim, Deus Ex, or Fallout where you can avoid combat through complex systems.

So let's say you are a merchant character and are enticed by the bounty on a bandit leader. Pose as a fence that buys and sells stolen goods, and infiltrate the bandit camp.

Or let's say you need to steal an item from a rich noble's estate. Research what jobs they have available and sign on. Or kidnap an employee such as a chef, take their outfit, and say that the real chef is ill and you are replacing her for the day.

So the risk of danger and combat is still there, but the player has the tools to solve quests in a more cerebral way than "go from A to B and kill everything/sneak past everything." I know it's a niche desire to want to role-play non-combat characters, but given the relative popularity of the Hitman series - which comes the closest to being a game that has some of these mechanics and actually exists - I think it would fit very well in an RPG.
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February 3rd, 2016, 23:54
I think I've said this before, but:

Human beings will always take the path of least resistance. If there is a completely blank option of peaceful vs violent resolution both with equal rewards then everyone will choose the peaceful option, because… well, why wouldn't you. And then you start bringing in the whole "why am I killing anything" philosophy, you know, that one that gets rammed down your throats in Undertale, which is missing the point of escapist fantasy altogether, every combat scenario becoming a high-drama dilemma.

It's nice to have variety in RPGs, and if a situation allows for a variety of solutions then that's all for the good, have one or two quests where high charisma can give you a different route through the quest, or high intelligence, or high wisdom or whatever, yes, have some fun things where you can find disguises to get to point B instead of fighting your way through, all of this has been done before and makes for a more interesting game. The problem is when you make the whole game like that - because all you're doing is changing the genre of the game to something else.

You have skills/talents which are combat focused, you level-up to improve your survivability, you aquire loot which improves your attack and defence stats and the aim of the game is to slay great and mighty beasts - to then allow a diplomatic route through the entire game is equivalent to just applying a completely different game to run in the background, like one big cheat code which makes every other aspect of the game beyond NPCs invisible.
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February 4th, 2016, 01:39
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
I don't know, to me playing an RPG without combat pretty much turns it into a visual novel.
Totally agree. And I donīt feel any kind of freedom in games like AoD or graphic adventures/visual novels. These games build a tree with some branches that eventualy diverge into other sub-branches. Devs canīt go much further in this system because they must foresee and script each feasible branch and finally this is exhausting and little rewarding in terms of time of programming/fun. No wonder all the years the game take to finish.
A game so combat oriented like Skyrim allows much more freedom. In Skyrim you donīt have 2, 4 or 12 programmed ways to solve a quest. You have an indeterminate number of them, much of them wasnīt even imagined by devs -and thatīs the reason of the multiple exploits gamers find and use in this kind of "open" games.
AoD is a "closed" game, a really meritorious and intrincated labyrinth of paths, but for me this does not give any sensation of freedom.
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February 4th, 2016, 01:44
Originally Posted by lackblogger View Post
As per usual, great game, but it's a Choose Your Own Adventure before it's an RPG.
RPGs are about choosing your own adventure, not about combat.
That's why The Age of Decadence is the best RPG of the year for sure, and one of the bests ever in my opinion.

If it's just about combat and level ups, than StarCraft 2 is an RPG. Far Cry 3 is an RPG. Final Fantasy is an RPG.

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February 4th, 2016, 01:47
It's just an illusion of freedom if all you do is kill.
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