I recently picked up Rondo of Swords, a DS game. (maybe originally PS2? Feels like it.) It's a tactical RPG, one of my favorite game genres. But it's SO WEIRD.
I mean, it's completely normal and average in every way. Except... you don't attack and defend. Instead, you move through people. It counts as attacking them. And you can move through any number of people, as long as you end in an empty tile. So the classic "warriors in front to protect the wizards" doesn't work: the enemy just sprints through them. Instead, the dominant "formation" is a knot of people at the edge of the enemy's movement range, followed by a rapid scattering as you close.
The amount of difference this rule makes is mind-blowing. It's actually infuriating at times, because it goes directly against my long-honed instincts forged in the fires of the thousands of other tactical RPGs I've played, all of which use the typical "close and clench" tactic rather than the... I have no idea what to call it. The tactic this game uses.
But it got me thinking. It's enough of a shakeup to be really interesting, at least in theory. (In practice, I seem to suck at it...)
So it made me wonder: what other perversions of typical gameplay could you do? Pick an old, standard genre that's so inelastic that just saying the genre immediately tells you everything about the game. Tactical RPG is one such type. What changes could you make to completely change the way they work?
Here's an example: in FPS games, the standard is shooting at enemies at various ranges while moving through the level. How can you shake that up? Without, you know, turning it into a platformer. How can you use the same fundamental controls, but come up with a radically different dynamic?
Or how about a platformer? You know, without turning it into a shooter. What changes can you make that aren't already in Braid?
I think these questions are important to ask, because just when I feel like all the options have been explored, I pick up a game which is exactly the same but completely different: FPS games where you have a camera, not a gun. Platformers where moving left or right makes time move forward or backwards. RPGs where you don't play an angsty teenager.
Any ideas? Any fond memories? What do you think?