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There are lots of excellent reasons to want to blow up an RPG town. If you’re a villain, for example, you might level a place because it’s friendly to some resistance movement, or it’s in your way, or the heroes are stopping in briefly on their way to kill you. If you’re a game designer, you might do it to raise the stakes, or to give players some emotional reason to want the villain dead. And if you’re a player, it’s probably because you’re sick of listening to a bunch of cookie-cutter whiners ask for your help the same way over and over.
Whatever the reasons for their destruction, the following RPG towns are more than just truck stops crawling with monomaniacally chatty idiots and overpriced vendors. They’re populated powder kegs, doomed to explode spectacularly whenever some outside force decides they’ve used up their existence. And when they do, they’ll all tug at your heartstrings in unique ways - provided you’re not too distracted by the fireworks.
Oh, and: SPOILERS AHEAD!!
The town: A remote, unassuming mountain village inhabited by monster-summoners.
Exploded by: Protagonist/dark knight Cecil Harvey.
You don’t get to see much of Mist before it’s engulfed in flames, but what you do see remains etched in the memory of anyone who’s ever played through Final Fantasy IV’s opening act. Shortly after the game begins, you’re ordered to hike to Mist, free the town from a sinister dragon and deliver a ring as some kind of message from your king. Once you’ve killed the suspiciously nonaggressive dragon and wandered into the village, though, the nature of the message becomes clear:
Without your knowledge or consent, you were sent to assassinate an entire town, just because they posed some threat to your apparently evil king’s power. As the bomb creatures you brought with you zoom around just generally tearing the place a new asshole, you do the only sane thing: tense up, throw back your head and scream at the heavens like nobody ever does outside of movies.
But you’re not done yet. Oh no. As you and your best friend Kain stroll casually through the wreckage, offering no assistance beyond mild self-recrimination, you see a little girl crying over the body of her dead mother, whose life was apparently tied to the dragon you just killed. Again displaying a rare knack for doing the exact wrong thing, you inform the little girl that you killed the dragon, and half-heartedly try to explain why it wasn’t really your fault.
This, unsurprisingly, causes her to run away in horror and confusion…
… at which point she angrily summons an earth giant…
… which does even more damage to what’s left of the town.
Despite being a short-lived testament to the main character’s gross incompetence, Mist – and by extension FFIV - deserves recognition for subverting the whole “you’re a hero, go kill that thing and save that place” dynamic that dominated nearly every console RPG that came before it. What’s more, you're just as complicit in the massacre as Cecil, meaning his eventual redemption becomes yours as well. It's a pretty clever way to bring players closer to the story and – perhaps more importantly – it's fun to watch. Which you can do right now: