Metaphor: ReFantazio Finds a Workaround For the Biggest RPG Trope

A new kind of fantasy.

Metaphor: ReFantazio

Atlus has redefined RPGs more than once, between the Shin Megami Tensei franchise and again with its offshoot Persona. The studio is finally bringing its expertise to high fantasy with Metaphor: ReFantazio, a brand-new game that fuses the social elements of Persona with a fantastical race inhabited by eight different races. Atlus’ latest showcase on Metaphor shows an ambitious new direction for the studio that’s already brimming with style and personality, but hilariously also introduces a story reason for one of the biggest tropes of fantasy RPGs: being a nice guy who can fix any problem.

If you think of the big fantasy RPGs out there (Skyrim, The Witcher, Baldur’s Gate) they all have one thing in common — they’re filled with dozens upon dozens of quests where you help anyone and everyone. The old grandmother that lost her chickens, you can help her. Of course, you have the solution to the bumbling knight’s problem, and you’re the person for whatever job the town mayor needs done.

To facilitate the feeling of a “journey” fantasy RPGs often inundate you with these kinds of quests, making your character feel like a Renaissance wunderkind who gets to know the people of the weird world they live in.

Atlus’ Metaphor presentation has shown a game with an expansive scale, where your party will travel across the world, but the purpose for that journey is a pretty ingenious twist. After the king was assassinated a new political battle begins, where anyone in the world can become the new king by drumming up enough support from the people.

Metaphor continues Atlus’ trend of utterly incredible menu design.


Suddenly, all those little quests you do, every monotonous activity in an RPG has a purpose. Your character is trying to gain the support of the people, and bending over backwards in order to do it. It makes sense that you’d earnestly try to fix every problem you see, and all those quests now have narrative context outside of just being filler. It’s such an ingenious way to explain a fantasy adventure, I honestly can’t believe it hasn’t been done before.

More than anything, this twisting of a classic trope proves that Atlus is setting out to subvert fantasy RPGs as a whole. It’s a tried and true tradition of the company’s games, as both SMT and Persona are often about subverting expectations or tropes. After all, Persona 5’s whole premise is the main cast being a group of “criminals” that forcefully change society, and root out the real bad apples.

Metaphor is treading new ground in terms of gameplay for Atlus as well, fusing action combat with the studio’s trademark turn-based battles.


There are some other interesting details in the Metaphor showcase that only strengthen the feeling of the game subverting the genre. The music in the game plays in the protagonist’s head because of his fairy’s spell. There’s a system similar to Persona’s Social Links that lets you recruit supporters. Your party gathers new jobs, called Archetypes, by “confronting their anxiety.” Even the showcase itself opened by saying the world of Metaphor sees our own world as their fantasy. Everything about this game seems to be challenging the very idea of what it means to be a “fantasy” story.

Everything we’ve seen about Metaphor is about doing something different with fantasy RPGs, translating the studio’s unique history into an entirely new genre. Atlus has been so focused on its core series for so long it’s been over a decade since we’ve had a truly new and original IP, dating back to the twisted love story of Catherine in 2011. If that allows the studio to really experiment and bring its own take on an established genre, Metaphor could end up being something special.

Metaphor: ReFantazio launches on October 11 for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

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