This is a weekly column from freelancer Rowan Kaiser, which focuses on “Western” role-playing games: their stories, their histories, their mechanics, their insanity, and their inanity.
On the surface, the last 10 years of role-playing games have not been momentous. Skyrim looks much more like Morrowind than Morrowind did Arena; Diablo 3 fits comfortably in the mold established by Diablo 2; there’s a direct line from Knights Of The Old Republic to Dragon Age; and massively multiplayer role-playing games are still judged by how much they deviate from Everquest and World Of Warcraft. This is not to say that there haven’t been changes. Certain narrative techniques, like moral choices for example, have been well-documented.
But there’s a major mechanical shift going in role-playing games that doesn’t get much attention. One of the core components of RPG combat – how enemies choose to attack different characters – is being reshaped. There isn’t necessarily a single term for it yet; it encompasses the concepts of “tanking,” “aggro,” and “threat.” All of these combine for a shift in how players manage enemy attacks.
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