Boss Rush Banter: Should Modern RPGs Eschew Grinding?

I spent a lot of time in my childhood playing Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI on the SNES. I would play these games over and over again–spending hours just wandering around and battling enemies to grind my team up to be super powerful. Although it took a lot of time and effort, when my level 99 characters were crushing bosses, it was all worth it. However, in the current era, many RPG series that had previously used grinding for experience have moved away from the practice. Does grinding still have a place in modern RPGs?

When discussing video games, the term grinding is generally used to mean repetitive actions the player takes to gain items, experience, or cosmetics. While grinding exists in many different genres and can take many different forms, the focus of this piece is on grinding for experience in RPGs, and in particular JRPGs.  

Many people, understandably, are critical of grinding in general, and of how it has been used in older RPGs. Grinding can artificially lengthen games, making the player fight battles over and over again just to progress. When there’s a difficulty spike that comes while the player is simply following the story, and there’s no way to beat a boss by tactical choices, they’re forced to engage in encounters to level up. Contemporary games have found more varied and interesting ways to engage the player, whether it’s requiring players to figure out how to defeat more difficult enemies by using buffs or debuffs, or stacking certain kinds of attacks. Games now can have the monsters that can scale to a player’s level so that the game can remain challenging yet accessible despite whatever level characters are at. There are a number of other ways games can now make a player feel like they’re getting stronger without requiring grinding.

However, some folks, especially those of us who grew up on grinding in RPGs, still enjoy it. With grinding, one can turn off their brain and engage in repetitive fights and zone out. Sometimes modern games that require puzzling out a precise way to beat a difficult boss can feel frustrating. In a game where you can level up through fights and the enemies don’t scale, you always know what to do to get stronger.

If grinding is designed well, then it’s not noticeable, and the game feels well paced. It doesn’t seem necessary to seek out endless battles just to progress, but for those who want to, they can. There are tons of games available to the present-day gamer, and I think it’s nice that grinding still has a place in some games, but overall it’s good that the genre has progressed and found other ways to engage the player.

How about you? Tell us what you think! Do you think games have outgrown the grind, or do you still love to spend hours in repeated encounters to level up your characters? Share your thoughts below or be a part of the conversation on the Boss Rush Discord.

SOURCE: Game Developer


3 thoughts on “Boss Rush Banter: Should Modern RPGs Eschew Grinding?

  1. Sometimes after a long day, it’s kind of nice to put on a podcast and run in circles on an overworld map. I’ve always liked the way that RPGs have a natural difficulty selection; if I’m willing to grind for a few levels, the game gets a little easier. As a kid who wasn’t very good at video games, I liked that my patience would be rewarded by being overpowered.

    Like you mentioned, games that have nasty difficulty spikes to pad out a game are annoying. It seems like that’s mostly a relic of the past, and modern games tend to have a much more carefully crafted difficulty curve.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I agree, sometimes it’s nice to just run in circles and level up, knowing that will make the game easier! And I think you’re right, that games generally now are figuring out the pacing of difficulty so it doesn’t seem as necessary. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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