There’s a pretty reasonable skepticism towards gaming migrating almost entirely to tablets, and it can be summed up in one word: Controls.
Tablet games have, as a rule, terrible controls, largely because they try to turn a touchscreen into a controller and it just doesn’t work. To the credit of some, like Rockstar, it’s not for lack of trying, but they’ve only got so much to work with. Tablets are simply slow, thanks to the lag inherent in touchscreen technology, and it’s not something we’re going to see change any time soon.
But what about traditional RPGs? We downloaded a few RPGs to try them out… and tablets are just what the entire genre has been begging for.
The traditional, turn-based RPG actually fared very well because it’s not reliant on timing or twitchy button presses. Menus that are a pain in the ass with gamepads and even annoying with keyboard and mouse become much more fluid when you can pop them open with a tap.
More to the point, that fluidity translates out to speed. It’s a lot easier to be tactical when you’re not trying to remember a menu structure. You don’t spend an hour on each fight scrolling through menus to find the right weapon or spell.
It’s true that Ash II and Chaos Rings were built from the ground up for tablets, but the original Final Fantasy felt just as smooth, even though the game’s tweaks were relatively minor. The game was not noted for a simple interface, but touchscreen controls make it much easier to navigate.
There’s still reason to be skeptical of most genres on tablets, but RPGs are enjoying a deserved boom, with games like Baldur’s Gate arriving. It’s a genuinely different approach to controls in the genre that makes the whole thing much more engaging. Something about tablets makes playing a long, complex game with a lot of menus a bit user-friendly than it would otherwise be, and most tablet power is more than up to the task of handling the graphics.
We’ll be curious to see how RPG companies such as Atlus tackle tablets… and we’ll also be curious to see what happens when RPGs come to the Wii U in force. But, regardless, the genre may have just found the platform it didn’t know it needed.