Role-playing games (RPGs) allow you to enter worlds of myth and magic. Crossing lands ravaged by evil, you must use all your resources to defeat a host of vicious enemies. You grow stronger and more powerful with each battle, but, in the end, your wits will determine whether you can liberate your world from the clutches of evil.
Every role-playing game tells an epic story, much like the tales told in many best-selling fantasy novels, such as The Lord of the Rings. The story comes to a climax at the end of the game, but theres usually a question or two left dangling for the inevitable sequel, which typically takes the characters on another epic quest.
A role-playing game puts you in the armor of an eager youngster or warrior-in-training. In a typical scenario, an unrepentant evil has infected a once prosperous land. Legions of monsters roam the hills and valleys, terrorizing travelers and attacking villagers. Summoning your courage, you venture out from your home in a heroic effort to stop the onslaught of attackers and discover the very source of the evil.
Role-playing games have very unique play mechanics. As you wander around the countryside, you randomly encounter monsters and other foes. Combat is not fast and furious, as it is with action games. Instead, you and your enemy typically take turns striking at one another. Each combatant has a variety of ratings, including health and speed. The combatant with the highest speed rating usually attacks first. You must carefully choose your attack (from a roster of possible maneuvers) so that it has maximum impact. Attacks differ in strength, and their effectiveness may also vary from one type of enemy to the next. Your attack knocks down the health of your foe and, so long as your attack remains higher than your opponents, you will live to see another battle.
Every time you battle an enemy, you gain experience. This experience accumulates, and soon your character will increase in level. This is very desirable, since it raises your warriors health capacity, attack power, and speed. Perhaps more importantly, it allows you to learn more effective attacks, which can give you a distinct advantage in battle.
Role-playing games often allow you to accumulate some form of money. In some titles, you can recover gold from slain foes; in others, you might find treasure hidden around the countryside. These items can be used to purchase armor, healing potions, magic spells, and even more powerful attacks all of which may be vital to battles with evil overlords.
World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment) takes you to Azeroth, where you create one or more characters aligned with either the malevolent Horde or the peace-seeking Alliance. Choose from the Orcs, the Undead, the Tauren or the Trolls if you opt for the Horde, or select a Human, a Night Elf, a Dwarf or a Gnome if you join the other side. There are nine classes to choose from, such as Warrior or Mage, but each race is limited only to certain ones. Each race also receives special bonuses, such as the Undeads ability to breathe underwater.
The Burning Crusade expansion pack takes the epic storyline to new realms by opening The Dark Portal, which leads to the shattered planet known as Outland. Take one of your current characters there, or create a new one with one of the two new races in the game, Draenei and Blood Elves. All characters can now reach 70th level, and a new profession, jewelcrafting, lets you create gems that fit in sockets on armor, weapons or other items, bringing them unique new powers.
The epic story continues in Wrath of the Lich King, which harkens back to Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, where the good paladin Arthas became the evil Lich King, forever doomed to sit on his icy perch in Northrends Icecrown Citadel and direct the activities of the Scourge. The Horde and the Alliance have put aside their differences and banded together to defeat him before his forces doom Azeroth. Travel the frozen wastes of Northrend and undertake new quests, fight new monsters, and recover new treasure. If you have a character at 55th level or higher, you can transform them into the games first hero class, the Death Knight. Theres even more to discover, so dive in.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning offers a comparable level of depth, albeit from a slightly different perspective. We use dark humor for the same reason Shakespeare did: because relentless darkness can eventually turn your audience off, executive producer Jeff Hickman tells us. Warhammer has always been built around a dark, comical, and quite twisted reflection of actual humanity.
He adds: Our Orcs arent just grim, misunderstood tribal warriors: theyre European soccer hooligans who like to fight because fighting is fun. Our Dwarves arent simply industrious folks who like to stay out of the sun: theyre working class, beer-fueled brawlers with chips on their shoulders, especially about the Elves, who think they rule the world and have never done a real days work.
Youll find plenty of examples of that irreverent attitude whether you choose the side of Destruction or Order, which fight each other through a unique Realm vs. Realm (RvR) combat system. RvR conflict is constant in Warhammer Online, and your success in it gives your side points that push it incrementally closer to smaller milestones. Your large-scale goal is to press the battlefront to the gates of your enemies capital city, lay siege to that fortified citadel, break inside, and destroy it completely, Hickman says. Of course, youll be fighting alongside hundreds of your allies to accomplish that, so those final assaults are pretty awesome to experience.
A unique twist on old ideas is also found in Dragon Age: Origins, where one subset of elves is treated like second-class citizens while their cousins live a nomadic, non-enchanted existence in the forests. Meanwhile, dwarves are cut-throat schemers with rigid caste systems and humans might just manage to destroy the world with all their infighting.
Those twists are present in the games choice of six origin stories, offering intriguing peeks into the kingdom of Ferelden, but by the end of the opening quest, youll find yourself in the company of a Grey Warden who wants to initiate you into his mysterious, ancient order. From that trial follows a series of increasingly-difficult quests that end with a battle against the Archdemon whose forces threaten to overrun the world.
Ultimately, we wanted to make a game that was easy to get into because it was familiar and easy to lose yourself in because it was different, explains lead designer Mike Laidlaw.
Other Ways to Role-Play
If youd rather explore realms beyond the stars, visit the 5,000 solar systems found in EVE Online (CCP Games), where nearly 200,000 players vie for dominance on a daily basis. Your characters background includes not only one of four races but also a specific home world, ancestry, career path, and specialization that further differentiate her from other inhabitants.
You can also join one of the games many player-run corporations, all of which serve a different purpose. Choose wisely, depending on whether you want to be a miner, fighter, researcher, mission runner, or any combination of those. As you progress through the game, you can repair and upgrade your ship, add more spacecraft to your fleet, augment your characters abilities, and more. You may even get to set up a manufacturing facility and churn out products that bring in revenue.
CCP Games publishes free expansion packs on a regular basis a recent one, Dominion, which introduces new wrinkles to maintaining control of star systems. You can shape your territory by purchasing enhancements, such as resource-rich asteroid belts or wormholes that provide shortcuts to other systems. If you want to grab control of another corporations territory, Dominion features new super weapons that can quickly turn the tide of combat, as well as a new Fleet Finder that lets you put together fleets full of like-minded players.
If youd rather live the life of a solo rogue, the expansion will make you happy with a pair of new epic story arcs aimed at those who fancy themselves galactic Blackbeards. Those missions are best completed in small, nimble spacercraft, which might seem scary given the kinds of pilots who wander around lawless space, but the rewards are very lucrative.
Epic is a word thats also no stranger to the world of comic books, and City of Heroes lives up to the merry memories of mayhem from your youth by allowing you to become a super-powered hero or villain and fight for truth and justice or lies and deception. Defend glittering Paragon City from the forces of evil or work your way to the top of the bad guy heap on the Rogue Isles. As in EVE Online, free expansion packs continue the story and offer up powerful new features.
MMOs For the Kids
If youre looking for an online role-playing game aimed at kids or the young at heart log on to Disneys Toontown Online, where you create a character, known as a Toon, and help save the city from the drab corporate Cogs that have invaded. Develop your arsenal of gags, such as squirting flowers and thrown cream pies, as you defeat increasingly-difficult Cogs. Six themed neighborhoods offer hundreds of quests, known as Toon Tasks. Furnish your Toons personal house, customize his wardrobe, race karts at Goofys Speedway, buy and train a pet Doodle, and more as you explore the wonderful world of Toontown.
Kids will also want to help save another well-known world thats under attack, one populated by the Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Dexter the boy genius, and other stars of Cartoon Networks animated adventures. Theyll explore well-known Cartoon Network locations, such as Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, as they try to save the world from being overrun by the destructive green goo known as Fusion. Players undertake missions, increase their characters abilities, and learn more about Lord Fuses diabolical scheme.
Older kids with a taste for swashbuckling will want to log on to Disneys companion MMO, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, and visit the world made famous by the hit trilogy of movies. Interact with Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, Tia Dalma, and other characters from the films as you undertake quests, at sea and on land, that bring you riches and impart a story starring a new villain, Jolly Roger, who wants to become Pirate Lord of the Caribbean. Explore many of the environments from the movies, including Portal Royal and Tortuga.
Role-playing games used to tend to have minimal system requirements. However, newer titles do make use of the graphics accelerators in new Mac mini and MacBook computers to provide enhanced visual effects. Other titles, like World of Warcraft, are much more graphically ambitious. Since these titles recreate a three-dimensional environment, they demand faster processors, more memory, and more capable graphics cards typical of the iMac and Mac Pro.
Please inspect the box of any title that appeals to you to ensure that it will run on your Macintosh.
Role-playing games let us explore mythical worlds torn apart by dark forces. The titles require patience, perseverance, and a keen mind to defeat the legions of evil. Are you ready to discover your inner hero?