You are Commander Sheppard, The captain of the Normandy and the first human specter. You have saved the galaxy from the evil grip of Saren. Now you are tasked with stopping the Reapers. You must go through a suicide mission and lose the very people you care about to save the galaxy… wait you need to put five points into biotic shockwave first.
Old school RPGs used leveling up as a means to gauge player progression. In part, you couldn’t fight the larger, more difficult bosses until you had leveled up. “There’s a dragon, holy crap I can't fight him till I’m level 50.” Yet, in most circumstances, what you do as a level one character is not very different than what you do as a level 50 character. Sure, you might have a few more abilities at your disposal, but the way you perceive the game world is still very much the same. Thrill and excitement are instantly dissipated through the gauging of stats and numbers.
I, however, have a solution.
Do away with the concept of leveling up or perceived progression. Show a realistic world, one that matches your PR buzz worlds. Give challenges that are real challenges. Enemies don’t need patterns and a glowing weak spot. What person in real life swings their shield three times then turns around and shows you their glowing core for 15 whole seconds then goes back to swinging their shield?
“But where’s my level up? Where’s my stat bar and menu? Why don’t I have strength or dexterity anymore?” The six to seven stat types of role-playing games have become stale. With the idea of realistic enemies, you can give way to player experience. That is what leveling up should be — learning how to deal with an enemy, something akin to a puzzle and getting better and faster at it. It should be about using your knowledge/intelligence to deal with a situation, rather than depending on arbitrary numbers and bits of data. With this solution not only does your character get stronger, you, as a player, evolve in your way of thinking about a situation. Thus, by the end of the game you aren’t treated to the same frag-fest romp that is typical of every major action title's conclusion. This could, essentially, make you into a badass both in game and outside of it.
To be clear, I love RPGs, but as someone who grew up playing Baldur’s Gate 2 and Fallout 2, the formula is starting to wear on me. If we are introducing the idea of player immersion, then we need to shift the way we view RPGs, number crunching are no longer acceptable. At the end of the day which is cooler, fighting 30 level 20 soldiers as a level 50 or beating the living crap out of 30 soldiers while death is just smiling at you the whole time?