[The Monthly Musings theme continues on with ZargonX's take with customizing RPG parties. -- CTZ]
In most cases, when you sit down to play an RPG, there are a few safe assumptions you can make. You will probably be killing things, you will probably be collecting XP and earning levels, and you will most likely at some point have to go on an incredibly annoying fetch quest.
First of all, you've got the single-character games. These are the ones where you, the player, control a single character that is completely your creation. These types tend to be found more traditionally on the PC, exemplified by games like Fallout and Oblivion. In these games, you build your character from scratch and have the power to flesh them out any way you like.
Once you make the step past a single character though, you enter the world of the RPG Party. Now you've got multiple characters to deal with, and that leads to a whole new world of decisions. Some games go down the "natural growth" path; as characters gain in level, they improve in predefined ways. At level 15, Character X gains the Face Stab skill, and at level 18 they learn Hyper Face Stab. The player doesn't really have any control beyond choosing what sword to give the face stabber; as long as they gain levels, they will grow down their defined path. This sort of system is seen in games like Final Fantasy IV and Chrono Trigger. Lucca is always going to learn more fire techniques, and Rydia is just going to keep on learning new summons.
She not only f*cks with time and space, but also your heart
Now where things start to get extra tricky is when we get into situations where the player is still managing a party, but where each member of the party is customizable on top of that. With all of this control, it is inevitable that some systems will handle it better than others, and that some methods will end up a good idea while others, well, not so much.
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