Ryan’s Rammblings: Euro-centrism in fantasy RPGs
Lately I have noticed what I perceive to be a troubling trend in the design of WRPGs and JRPGs set in fantasy worlds. Think about the major titles from both of these genres: Dragon Age, Final Fantasy, the Tales series, The Elder Scrolls, The Witcher, Dragon Quest, all have one major design element in common. They all draw inspiration from European medieval folklore to create their fantastical worlds. Castles, knights, trolls, dwarves, elves, and medieval weapons are staples in these games and it’s starting to get a bit tiring.
I feel like WRPGs developers can receive a bit of a past for the continual use of these troupes. After all, in all likelihood a good amount of the people work
ing on those teams come from heritages that these legends come from. But why JRPGs developers continue to use these European fantasy settings as inspiration is beyond me. Take The Last Story for example: what makes up that world? Castles, Dukes, knights, and an orc-like race of enemies. All troupes we’ve been down too many times before. This is one of the reasons why I find myself drawn to games like the SMT series and The World Ends with You for my JRPG fun. Those games forgo a fantasy setting for a modern or futuristic setting that, in my opinion, allows for more creativity.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the medieval European fantasy setting. Hell, I’m replaying the Witcher 2 right now which I established as one of my favorite games of all time. I love the Dragon Ages and The Elder Scrolls as much of the next RPG fan, but I would love to see a little more variety in the type of fantasy we get. Why not based a game world around Japanese folklore? Or Native American? Or African?
Mainly what I would love to see is a game that lets me step into and explore a world derived from the myths and legends from a culture that I don’t know. That’s why I would love to see what a company like Bethesda, who excels in world creation in my opinion, would do with a whole new set of mythos to draw from. I know Bioware did make Jade Empire, which is in my backlog queue, but that is the only example of an RPG that is inspired by non-European fantasy that I could find.
It’s just a shame that while playing The Witcher games, that do a superb job of fleshing out a medieval European fantasy world (yes I know they had help with the books), that I cannot get that same experience exploring a world inspired by another region’s traditions. Where is the Samurai RPG that allows me to plough Geishas and kill Oni (yeah sorry, I’ve really been playing the Witcher games a lot lately.)
ps. Looking foward to the new strategy game Skulls of the Shogun, which uses Japanese mythology as a back drop, plus it has a sweet art style.