Something Different In CRPGs: The Rings of Zilfin Approach

Artforms tend to get formulaic after awhile (it’s certainly easier and more practical than reinventing the wheel at every turn) and Rings of Ziflin is an interesting example because it represents a road less traveled.  The following is a video I made that captures some gameplay from Rings of Zilfin better than a screenshot can.

What’s the big deal?  Well, let me break it down.

The Rings of Zilfin Approach

Instead of manually walking between points of interest space-by-space, you choose a path to take and then enter a travel simulation where you are following that path.  You can choose to stop along the way to collect things you see, and occasionally you may be waylaid by foes.  Naturally, stopping to rest from time to time makes sense as well.

When you actually arrive at a town, instead of having free run to travel about that town and explore every alleyway, you’re given a much more realistic approach of being asked which building you would like to visit.

Encounters may occur while traveling, investigating towns, dungeons, ect.  Generally, encounters are resolved through using a combination of sword (random chance to hit) bow (always hits but costs arrows) spells (initially you have none) and mushrooms (effectively potions).  Though the emulated PC version represents it poorly, attacks are resolved in a pretty graphically pleasing manner, with monsters dashing in and hitting you and your character fencing his way out.

Another interesting encounter is the Space Invaders-like attack by flying monsters that may occur while you’re resting, requiring you shoot them down with your bow to stop taking damage and get a good night’s rest.   Here we have an embedded action mini-game in an RPG, something we’d say it was way ahead of its time.

Rings of Zilfin has its share of design problems.  One is being unable to turn around when the player discovers the path they’d chosen is ridden by fatigue-sapping marshes, usually forcing the character’s death.  Another is an overlong time watching the character walk about town – watching stick figures walk might have been enthralling in 1986, but now it’s just annoying.   However, these are minor design qualms, and as I’ve said many times already, Rings of Zilfin is downright interesting in the way it does things.

Taking Rings of Zilfin into the current century.

Imagine playing a game like this that had the modern multimedia capability of the average computer today.  A game where you choose to embark on paths between towns with the option to pause to pick the roses, only to be waylaid by swashbuckling Quick Time Events.

Yes, Yahtzee, I heard you:  QTEs are often quite annoying, but I in questioning why I say a large part of this has to do with their spontaneity.  When they become a part of the core gameplay, their impact is significantly better.  Or, you know, lets not get hitched up on requiring QTEs – a game developer might choose a more robust game instead.

My the point is that the Rings of Zilfin approach is just really conductive to swashbuckling multimedia events.  Your walking through a forest and attacked, only to fight your way out: Rings of Zilfin’s approach pulls this off a whole lot better than, say Diablo.  In Diablo, it’s “you’re clicking through a forest looking for swag and click on several monsters until candy comes out.”   That’s totally off!

Rings of Zilfin is also interesting because it has just enough which-way-adventure freedom to allow the player to feel in control of the story while not giving them enough freedom to track so far off the beaten path as to require a whole lot of meaningless content be developed to support that.  I imagine some rather impressive interactive cinematic roleplay experiences could be created using this model because the team’s resources aren’t being frittered away making compelling looking alleyways.  This narrower focus also drives a story much more effectively.

(Enough slacking; I need to get back to work: I haven’t touched BYOND all weekend.  I had not planned to make a Rings of Zilfin-like game, but it’s certainly interesting food for thought.)

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