A Wild Random Encounter Appears!
I’ve talked before about my love/hate relationship with RPGs & JRPGs, but there’s one aspect I think deserves closer & more precise hating: Random Encounters.
If you’ve ever played an RPG you know what exactly I’m talking about. There you are, alone or a small band of adventurers, wandering the vast and empty plains of whatever fantasy land the game dropped you in. Then suddenly, VWOOSH!! Out of nowhere you’re in combat mode, waving a stick or vibrating fiercely at a monster that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. This is what we call in the gaming world, Random Encounters; Monsters that “randomly” pop out of the ether to attack you or your party. Sometimes these encounters will be scripted, but most of the time it’s a roll of the dice whether you encounter an enemy in the next two steps or not. Of course they always “randomly” appear at the most inopportune times, like when you/your party is bleeding out and you’re trying to drag yourself back to a village to heal. Other times the “randomness” is so random that you’ll have multiple enemy encounters in rapid succession, making a three foot journey take 5-10 minutes and a dozen health potions.
The thing that really punches my reset button isn’t so much the randomness of the encounters (though that still annoys me plenty for the reasons stated above) but rather the fact THAT YOU CAN’T SEE THEM COMING!! Literally, when you wander a game world (outside any human settlements) in almost any old RPGs (and even many recent ones) the actual environment is completely devoid of life. There are no NPCs, no wild animals, no nothing. It’s just you and the trees and rocks and grass and dirt and stuff. Yet as you walk around you will be accosted by monsters that seem to appear out of the ether. When grinding to level up this isn’t as big an issue, but when you’re trying to get from Point A to Point B to advance your quest or get to the local settlement to upgrade your gear, this becomes about as annoying as any MarioFoot or One-Hit-Kills in other genres.
Now you might argue that invisible enemies wandering the empty plains of RPGs was a limitation of the hardware back in the day. NO EXCUSE!! I say! Actually if it’s a technical limitation of the system then why did Zelda 2 have the courtesy of showing you the randomly spawned enemies when you left the safety of the Yellow Brick Road? Or what about Chrono Trigger? Enemies wandered about in full view and you could either engage them or try to maneuver around them. In fact, hardware limitation can’t have anything to do with it because even modern RPGs keep using this tired trope of enemies randomly spawning out of the ether to assault you. It’s almost like the developers don’t want to bother programming simple AI paths for the enemies to follow and you know, give you a choice between grinding or just forging ahead to the next plot point. GIVE US CHOICE DEVELOPERS!! Not all of us want to fight hordes of monsters EVERY TWO FREAKIN STEPS!!