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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    It seems like there are two strikes against shapeshifting in most RPG's - Baldur's Gate, NWN 2, Kingmaker, etc.

    One is that they seldom can account for utility use - you can't turn into a hawk to scout or a dire rate to sneak down a tunnel. Or when you can, it is a one time use.

    The other issue is that the bonus from shapeshifting seldom accounts for the arms race of video games (as opposed to in a pen and paper game). The bonus from being a bear fits well with the pen and paper game, but they don't usually scale well enough in a video game where there are much better items, and where monsters tend to have much higher stats than they do in pen and paper.

    What's interesting in Pathfinder Kingmaker is that the animal companions kick major butt.

    What could future RPG's do to "get shapeshifting right" or which ones already do it well, in your opinion?

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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Weirdly, I'm going to offer the example of the Druid class in World of Warcraft here. It's been a long, long time since I've played the game, but the whole idea of the class was that you could shapeshift into various forms, and each form would basically be a slightly less powerful version of another class--so a Bear druid was the equivalent of a warrior, the Cat one was a Rogue, and the Nightkin was the magic-using version. Now, while shapeshifted the Druid was not as powerful as a full-blown example of one of those classes, but could do pretty well. While *not* shapeshifted, the Druid was largely useless, so they really had to shift to make the most of what they were doing. They also had the scouting thing covered by being able to shift into "travel form" for extra speed. Note this may well not be how the class works now, I'm talking the first couple of years the game was out here.

    A way to definitely *not* do it is the way lycanthropy works in Daggerfall, because there is pretty much no downside to it. You get all the stat benefits of being a were-creature while in human form. You're forced to change into were-form on a full moon, but you can just sleep for 24 hours to avoid that; you have to kill an "innocent" once a month or else suffer penalties, but you can shift into were-form in a city and kill someone and literally *no-one* will link the ravaging beast to the human who was hanging around a moment before, so you suffer no penalties for that either. You really have to roleplay the "Oh, woe is me, I must take innocent life to survive!" thing seriously to actually care about being a werecreature in that game.

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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    I think online games probably handle it just fine- since they are so focused on balance almost to a fault. Shifting to a bear as a druid and using "Fighter Ability Goes Here" will usually wind up being about equally powerful. I didn't think the Skyrim shifting tree was terrible, however.

    I'd love to see some way to replicate the utility element of shifting that is so very important in pen and paper gaming. Flight is obviously often a challenge.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Sloanzilla View Post
    What could future RPG's do to "get shapeshifting right" or which ones already do it well, in your opinion?
    Hm, lets see:

    • NWN - Druid/Shifter are very viable and fun to play
    • Gothic 1&2 - shapeshifting is available for all characters in form of consumeable and has some very useful forms (both combat and utility), although its not meant to be the focus of a character build
    • Pillars of Etenity - the Druids Spiritshift ability, while limited, IS a very useful ability. It also helps to differentiate Druides from other spellcasters.


    hm.. there may be others, but it DOES seem like this family of abilities is not the most supported one.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Unless the CRPG in question has a proper exploration pillar, I can't see shapeshifting becoming anything else than a "do damage but with strawberry flavor" gimmick.

    So, Bioware style RPGs would be out, other than something of Divinity: Original Sin's vein perhaps.

    In first/third person RPGs it would be far easier and impactful to implement, since movement, exploration and stealth are often key in those kinds of games.
    Last edited by Cespenar; 2021-03-01 at 01:22 PM.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Baldur's gate is something of a weird case. Druid Shapeshifting sucks. Horribly. Polymorph and later Shapechange? Epic and powerful. Oh I'm fighting Wizards? Pity this ooze is immune to magic. Fighters? Being an Illithid is cool because now I can just drain your low int to kill you. Woe is me for I have no HP! Now troll regen.

    Dungeons and Dragons online also does a bang up job with them. Druid Shapeshifters are some of the top DPS and tanks in the game. DPS? Be a wolf and get movement speed and attack speed. Tank? Bears get massive HP pools defenses and Rage like a Barbarian that let's them be even more defensive. Caster? Fire and water elemental forms. You look humanoid but have elemental traits and your spells of the element get stronger.
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    DwarfClericGuy

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    That's actually a very good point about the oozes etc.

    I'm replaying Pathfinder: Kingmaker right now and I just haven't seen a good time where I'd want to use any of the shifting powers. If you don't have a 45 AC + displacement you just don't belong on the front lines.

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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Thinking about it, has anyone here played the 1993 PC game Shadowcaster? That had an interesting take on shapeshifting. Each form you could shift into had specific advantages, but you used up mana constantly while in that form and you'd automatically change back to human if you ran out. The forms you could take were:
    Human--fairly weak on attack and defence, but the only form in which mana regenerates.
    Maorin--a four-armed cat that dishes out a beating and has the ability to see some stuff other forms can't, although they can't swim.
    Caun--small pixie-type thing that can't fight for toffee, but has some magical abilities, fits into small spaces, and also heals rapidly.
    Opsis--a D&D Beholder, basically, flying creature that uses magic for its attacks but is rather slow-moving.
    Kahpa--decent fighter who can breathe underwater and is particularly effective fighting in that medium.
    Ssair--Dragon, basically, very fast-moving and with great attack but a bit fragile.
    Grost--giant stone man who's a tank in battle and can punch through walls.

    You needed to use all these forms at one time or another to get through the entire game, but that constant mana consumption when not in human form could be a real issue, especially if you ran out in the middle of a fight.

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    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    The first Dragon Age makes it mandatory, but only for a short while.

    Summoner 2: A Goddess Reborn makes it useful, but not required.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    I'm a rare person who actually enjoys the Fade/Sloth Demon part of DA- because of the shapeshifting puzzle.

    Don't think I ever bothered using Morrigan's shifting more than a couple times though.

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    Librarian in the Playground Moderator
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Sloanzilla View Post
    I'm a rare person who actually enjoys the Fade/Sloth Demon part of DA- because of the shapeshifting puzzle.

    Don't think I ever bothered using Morrigan's shifting more than a couple times though.
    It's actually one of my favorite parts... except for the one section where it's all small sections and teleports, where I always get lost.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    As already mentioned, WoW. You need to spec to be good at one, but lots of fun and utility.

    Breath of Fire series. Traditional RPG. Optional but it makes you OP, a whole buncha forms, a lot really cool. My single favorite.

    Illusion of Gaia. Action RPG. Necessary shape changing, a few different forms. Handled well imo.

    Diablo 2 Druid. 2 forms iirc, both fun.

    In Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess you spend a lot of time as a wolf. I really liked wolf form... but I know a lot of people like good ol' Link.

    Man, I'm drawing a blank, but surely there are good NES/Genesis/SNES-era games with fun shapeshifting.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    Summoner 2: A Goddess Reborn makes it useful, but not required.
    Speaking of old PS2 games, this is the central mechanic of Alter Echo.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    I'm trying to think of games that really do utility shapeshifting. There's not actually a lot. I'd love a sandbox game where you could turn into a bird and fly around.

    Does Majora's Mask count? I guess the masks sort of shapeshift you and they have utility uses.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    The first Dragon Age makes it mandatory, but only for a short while.
    On the other hand, the shapeshifter mage specialisation was utter rubbish right from the start.

    I think a problem shapeshifting often has is that it's a bolt on to a caster class and very rarely scales as well as the caster's other abilities.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Eldan View Post
    I'm trying to think of games that really do utility shapeshifting. There's not actually a lot. I'd love a sandbox game where you could turn into a bird and fly around.
    BethPGs could really pull it off easily, but didn't for some reason.

    Maybe initially it might not have fitted in the lore or something, but it's arguable if by Skyrim they cared about the lore at all, so I can't see why not.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Cespenar View Post
    BethPGs could really pull it off easily, but didn't for some reason.

    Maybe initially it might not have fitted in the lore or something, but it's arguable if by Skyrim they cared about the lore at all, so I can't see why not.
    Probably because the engine can't load data fast enough to accommodate that sort of movement.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Cespenar View Post
    Maybe initially it might not have fitted in the lore or something, but it's arguable if by Skyrim they cared about the lore at all, so I can't see why not.
    You could fly in Morrowind - in fact, you needed to be able to, in order to reach some Telvanni locations.

    The reason why wasn't lore ... it was that the enemy AI didn't know how to react to someone flying. Pull up the console in Skyrim and tcl yourself. You'll see the hilarity.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by GloatingSwine View Post
    Probably because the engine can't load data fast enough to accommodate that sort of movement.
    I Skyrim specifically they abuse your inability to fly to make dungeons circular. It's quite literally built into the design of all the spaces. I'd bet similar considerations exist elsewhere. WoW didn't use to have flyers because it stopped you going places. Making a sandbox worlds is tricky if there are massively different modes of movement.
    Last edited by snowblizz; 2021-03-02 at 11:38 AM.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    I meant shapeshifting rather than flying. Flying is already pretty in-lore, as, yes, Telvanni architecture seems to hint.

    Also, Morrowind kinda proves that alternate movement methods in a BethPG can be really fun.

    It could be about data-loading speeds though. Or rather, it might have something to do with a chain of design decisions starting from making cities their own areas (because of loading speeds).
    Last edited by Cespenar; 2021-03-02 at 12:04 PM.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by snowblizz View Post
    WoW didn't use to have flyers because it stopped you going places.
    Partially because they couldn't figure out how to bar people from flying to areas that were supposed to be secret, or intended only to be reachable via combat slog.

    Once they figured that out (Outlands)...

    Quote Originally Posted by Cespenar View Post
    I meant shapeshifting rather than flying.
    In lore, IIRC, the only shapeshifting was thanks to Hircine, the Green Pact, or part of the Vampiric Curse. So it took Daedric-level power to make possible?

    It could be about data-loading speeds though. Or rather, it might have something to do with a chain of design decisions starting from making cities their own areas (because of loading speeds).
    Oh, definitely. Set speed to max and try running. You'll get loading issues.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Cespenar View Post
    BethPGs could really pull it off easily, but didn't for some reason.

    Maybe initially it might not have fitted in the lore or something, but it's arguable if by Skyrim they cared about the lore at all, so I can't see why not.
    Eh, there's all manner of were-animals at the very least. If they cared about the lore, there shouldn't have been werewolves in Skyrim, but werebears. And Bosmer turn into all manner of animals, too.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    I feel as though giving shapeshifting the versatility and depth it warrants would take a lot of resources in an RPG where it's only one of many options. Especially if it's meant to be balanced with not being a shapeshifter. That being said, I don't know how many games we've got that have shapeshifting a default ability.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    The ability to take over a rat in Dishonored is very useful. (Granted, this is possessing a creature rather than becoming a creature, but you are the rat.) It gives you alternate ways to get around and gives you a brief stealth method of movement.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    I actually found myself enjoying the freedom to switch between human and wolf link. Largely because somethings were either easier or just plain possible to fight in wolf mode. Human Link is useless against ghosts. Poe's, Ghost Rats. Wolf Link can't climb things so Archers are out of his reach. On the other hand you can fight Redead in human mode. But Wolf Link has the power to one-shot kill them.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Triaxx View Post
    Druid Shapeshifting sucks. Horribly.
    Vanilla Druid shapes sure (Well, hasted Brown Bear might be okay against middling enemies, 3+1 APR and 18/00 STR can be passable), kits not so much.
    Avenger gets to make his own Webs and then walk on them with Sword Spider, which is really neat. Salamander is pretty okay too.
    Shapeshifter is mildly underrated aside from exploits related to dispelling your own hands to wield strong weapons at massive natural APR; when that's ignored or fixed (Enhanced Editions prevent this), it's still a reasonable decoy character that has a really easy time reaching the natural AC cap (-26, or maybe even -28, don't remember if Single Weapon Style is usable with Druid paw), gets lots of damage resistances, and has Ironskins. You can bodyblock a bit once you used Insect Plague, winning the fight instantly! Riveting.
    I'd say both kits add a nice little situational element to a solid utility package of the Druid.

    But yes, most funsies are had with turning yourself into an Iron Golem to backstab people with.
    Last edited by Winthur; 2021-03-02 at 09:46 PM.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    The old SNES game Demon's Crest was big on shapeshifting - you unlocked various forms that you could switch between on the fly in order to traverse obstacles, discover secrets, and gain an edge in various boss fights depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent in question.

    Divinity OS2 has the Polymorph school, which lets you partially shapeshift your body=to gain access to new attacks, movement modes, and utility abilities.

    Quote Originally Posted by factotum View Post
    Weirdly, I'm going to offer the example of the Druid class in World of Warcraft here. It's been a long, long time since I've played the game, but the whole idea of the class was that you could shapeshift into various forms, and each form would basically be a slightly less powerful version of another class--so a Bear druid was the equivalent of a warrior, the Cat one was a Rogue, and the Nightkin was the magic-using version. Now, while shapeshifted the Druid was not as powerful as a full-blown example of one of those classes, but could do pretty well. While *not* shapeshifted, the Druid was largely useless, so they really had to shift to make the most of what they were doing. They also had the scouting thing covered by being able to shift into "travel form" for extra speed. Note this may well not be how the class works now, I'm talking the first couple of years the game was out here.
    As it is right now, the Druid is the only true "hybrid" left in the game. Yes, other classes can do multiple roles, but druid is the only one who can be specced into one role but perform decently in another (for a little while) thanks to their "Affinity" talent row. This is best used for emergencies - e.g. tank goes down and boss is almost dead, your Guardian-Affinity Feral Druid can switch to bear form and hold aggro for a few seconds, especially if they're also talented into Heart of the Wild. Similarly, healer runs oom on a tough fight, your Restoration-Affinity Balance druid can throw out a Wild Growth on the party, follow up with some Rejuvenations, spot-heal the tank to full with a Regrowth-Swiftmend, then return to doing damage.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    It's mostly a balance issue. There's not much reason to play a specialist when another character can do anything as well. You have to make the all-rounders slightly worse at each role in order to balance it, but that makes it unfun to play.

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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Anteros View Post
    It's mostly a balance issue. There's not much reason to play a specialist when another character can do anything as well. You have to make the all-rounders slightly worse at each role in order to balance it, but that makes it unfun to play.
    This is also true. Shapeshifting is really, really powerful when used to its full creative potential. It makes it very tricky to balance.
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    Default Re: RPG's where shapeshifting is worthwhile

    Quote Originally Posted by Morty View Post
    I feel as though giving shapeshifting the versatility and depth it warrants would take a lot of resources in an RPG where it's only one of many options. Especially if it's meant to be balanced with not being a shapeshifter. That being said, I don't know how many games we've got that have shapeshifting a default ability.
    If we move away from RPGs, I can think of a few character action/metroidvania games where shapeshifting is your character's primary power. Shantae uses animal forms for your movement options, for example.
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