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Best Battle System - Dark Souls II

Best Battle System

Second Place (tie)

Second Place (tie)

Dark Souls II isn't a clear improvement over its prequel or that game's spiritual predecessor, but both Demon's Souls and Dark Souls were hard acts to follow. Even with its faults, Dark Souls II is still a Souls game, and the core of that experience is the combat. This aspect of the game is relatively unchanged, and save for a few bewildering decisions — tying the effectiveness of a dodge roll to a stat instead of just equip load, and worse hitboxes chief among them — it is as strong as it's ever been. Stamina management is still king, and knowing when to block and when to roll are critical parts of surviving encounters. The cues from Monster Hunter are still present, with the weighty combat punishing spastic button mashing and rewarding clear thinking. Many moves cannot be cancelled, forcing players to dedicate to their attacks as they make them, and teaching them to wait for safe and appropriate openings. Each weapon has its own unique moveset and changes the way the game is played entirely. Even when the sequel stumbles, the series is still the king of action RPG combat.

Divinity: Original Sin single-handedly rejuvenated our love of turn-based combat, eschewing the traditional tiles and grids in exchange for the straight measurements of distance. The arenas feel natural and varied as they pop up wherever there are enemies, and the environment plays a big role in combat itself. Elemental combinations, a wide variety of skills that give everyone something to do, and the AP system are incredibly well-balanced. A light-handed encounter rate with diverse enemies and scenarios keeps fights from getting rote throughout the game. There are some quirks and certain elements that are definitely eploitable, but on the whole it's a system that's easy to learn and fun to master.

Which isn't to say that tiles and grids can't get love too. Built upon a cover-based tactical system, Shadowrun: Dragonfall - Director's Cut presents rewarding and fun battles that keep our pulse high and our minds in top shape. Grids, hit percentages, and cover are the foundation, but Dragonfall's world of dehumanizing augmentations and mystical spirituality provides plenty of new tactical options to hang life and limb upon. Whether we're sprinting into the Matrix to unlock a door before a nuclear countdown timer hits zero, using magic to stun a boss just before he unloads an entire clip, or armed to the teeth with rifles and grenades during an ambush, scenarios give every playstyle its moment, and these moments are often harrowing and intense. There's a real sense of challenge and more than enough tools and options for overcoming them. One of our favorite battle systems of 2014, Dragonfall shows us the thrill of being a shadowrunner.

by Zack Webster, Glenn Wilson

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