R P G A M E R . C O M   -   E D I T O R I A L S

Waiting Your Turn

Sarah Williams

I don't exactly know how big the particular argument is, but I still occasionally hear about that turn-based combat vs. real time feud in RPGs. I can only guess at the reasonings behind each side. Like maybe real time isn't slow and allows for more player immersion in the battle, or turn-based allows for more strategy and thinking room. Whatever, anyway, I like both myself. And even though the game industry keeps advancing with its technology, and RPGs become shinier and more drool inducing, I still believe that turn-based gameplay has a firm place in RPGs. Not just because its one of the main roots of the genre, but because turned-based combat has proven itself able to evolve from its initial simplistic structure that every RPG used (that guy attacks, monster attacks, then that guy casts a spell, maybe the next one use a potion) to a myriad of distinctive forms, some of which have become like fingerprints to certain RPG series.

Shadow Hearts has the Judgment Ring system, which displays a circle on the screen that has a line that spins around clockwise. The player is required to press x as the line passes through colored portions of the circles to enable a character to succeed at whatever task they are about to do, whether it is to attack or to simply use a potion. And it forces the player to actively pay attention to the battles, since you can't just select attack and expect your character to actually go on his own accord; your own skill using the Judgment Ring determines attack effectiveness, successive hits, and even if you hit the enemy in the first place.

As I've finally gotten around to playing Grandia Extreme, I'm glad to use that the battle system has been relatively unchanged. From the very first game on the PlayStation, the Grandia series battle system has always managed to allow the player a certain amount of strategic elbow room not found in other games by allowing characters and opponents to move about the entire playing field, rather standing in one spot most of the time. Being able to judge the speed of your characters' attacks and special moves, taking into account the range of your attacks, and also thinking about counter attacking and canceling out enemies' moves by striking first added much more depth to the normal turn-based system. And while Grandia Extreme is certainly not my favorite game of the series, I have more than enough fun just battling enemies.

There's more examples that can be named, such as Baten Kaitos's fast paced card based system (though I much preferred the prequels version to the first games) and Xenosaga's method of requiring the player plan wisely when to use moves and when to store up the energy to enable the use of stronger attacks. These methods of taking a simple system and being able to change it into many varieties of gameplay has managed to not only continue the usage of turn-based fighting, but has created many engaging and fun styles in which to play RPGs. And since there's still plenty of room for new ideas and innovation in turn-based gameplay, I hope to see plenty more games incorporate it.

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