Spam Spam Spam Humbug: Episode 17 – How Necessary is Combat in RPGs?

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Some time ago, Linguistic stumbled across a discussion thread — the source has sadly since been forgotten — asking the question whether there should be an option to make combat skippable in some RPGs. Would it be worth it, the poster asked, to offer players a way to experience a game’s story even if they found the gameplay itself impenetrable or frustrating? The topic devolved swiftly into name-calling and various other retorts – if you wanted to play a game for primarily story then go read a book or watch a movie instead, that’s what easy difficulties are for and that’s concession enough, that’s what Let’s Plays are for – but it did hold an intriguing question beneath it all. Exactly how important — or even prevalent — does combat have to be in an RPG?

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Home Forums Spam Spam Spam Humbug: Episode 17 – How Necessary is Combat in RPGs?

This topic contains 4 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Gema Dragon Gema Dragon 2 years, 3 months ago.

  • Author
  • #38798
    WtF Dragon
    WtF Dragon

    Spam Spam Spam Humbug: Episode 17 – How Necessary is Combat in RPGs?

    How much prominence does combat need to have in an RPG? How necessary should combat be to progressing through — or passing — the game? And is there something “lesser” about including an “easy” difficulty setting?

    Read more…

  • #38847

    Micro Magic

    That’s a great question. The days of 40-50 hour long RPGs where the overwhelming majority of the game is turnbased combat are donezo. If you take away combat from an RPG entirely then you’re basically left playing an FMV game, right? I think combat should be seen more as a pacing tool than the primary game experience. For instance, even though it’s a JRPG, The Last Story did this beautifully. It blending a perfect amount of story, exploration, and combat. There was no level grinding and each combat scenario was unique. There was the haunted mansion quest, the tunnels section, the knighthood quest, the burning port section, etc. Each section was not only unique visually and stylistically, the combat itself forced you to change your play pattern. Some enemies required you to counter with blocking, some required you to shoot your bow, some required you to manipulate objects in the world through combative means. In other words, the combat kept the game fresh, exciting, and added to the story in meaningful ways.

    Would some games be better without combat? Sure, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon would’ve made a great movie, but it’s a tedious and boring game. But when the combat is done right it really adds to the narrative.

  • #38946
    Gema Dragon
    Gema Dragon

    That was a really good podcast, lots of interesting points! I completely agree with the flow and fun of Amalur; I greatly enjoyed the chakrams; I really loved fighting in God of War, and feeling that influence with my flaming chakrams was very satisfying.

    Now, lets flip the perspective a little bit… the focus was really on CRPGs, but let us not forget about our brethren from the East, the JRPG.

    I will use Final Fantasy VIII as my example; FFVIII is one of my least favorite in the series. I honestly dislike more than half of the playable characters, and the story was mediocre at best; but what really attracted me was the world, the environments, and the overall presentation. Those elements kept me going. The combat system was horrible; it used a variation of their ATB (Active Time Battle), which isn’t a bad thing. That is basically a turn-based battle system, just with a little bar that fills up, and once full signifies its a characters turn for action. What really killed the battle system for FFVIII is the magic system. In order to cast spells, you didn’t have magic points or reagents, you instead had to ‘draw’ a spell from a monster. When you got into combat, each creature has a set spell or group of spells related to them; so if the game had a goblin, that goblin might have ‘fire’ and ‘cure’ that you could ‘draw’ from. So when it became one of the PCs turns, instead of attacking, you could ‘draw’ from the enemy. A draw would get you a few of each of that spell. So if you drew ‘fire’ from it, it might give you fire x3, meaning, now, if you have it equipped to cast that spell, you can cast it a total of 3 times before you can no longer cast it. You can kind of compare it to having to mix reagents to get a single cast of a spell, expect you are in the middle of a fight the entire time. A semi useful version of the draw command allows a spell to be to instantly, but you don’t get any extra added to your pool. So most of the game, if you planned on having any type of magic, you would spend countless amounts of time ‘grinding’ in a single battle just to have enough spells to feel comfortable in starting to cast them. It doesn’t help that the amount of magic you have drawn from enemies also played into how you built up your stats with these creatures you would ‘equip’ called Guardian Forces.

    That sort of sums up the battle/magic system; the game uses a random battle system, so when you are exploring you have a chance to entering into the battle screen to confront the enemy. So combat is a very vital part of the game, and along with the random battles there are the boss battles, mandatory fights that usually progress the story or lead into a FMV cut scene.

    Now…one of the Guardian Forces you can acquire is called “Diablos” and has two unique abilities called “Encounter 1/2” and “Encounter None.” Those do exactly what they sound like they would; gaining Encounter 1/2 and having it enabled, now means you experience half the random battles that you normally would. The 2nd ability, encounter none, is just that, no random battles at all, so the only fights you end up having to fight are the mandatory boss encounters spread throughout the story line. While that sounds great in theory, and no matter how good you are with strategy, when all is said and done, you still need to inflict ‘x’ amount of damage to a boss to defeat it; so skipping the random battles leaves your party very weak, and makes things very difficult to progress without having to go back and just ‘grind’ to be strong enough to conquer the enemy.

    The only way around this, if you use encounter none, is to cheat; which, I will admit, I did, I hated the battle system and drawing magic so much. I really wanted to beat the game, so I fired up my Game Shark and pumped my characters to the max; so when it came to a boss fight, I was able to beat them and didn’t have to worry about all the random battles along the way, or worrying if I didn’t draw enough of a certain type of spell.

    In this case, combat is unavoidable and very much apart of the game, for the better or for the worse. There are many cases where JRPGs do combat right; where it doesn’t feel like a chore, but more of a fun part of the game that doesn’t hinder the experience; draws you in and doesn’t disrupt the exploration or story telling with overly complex and long battles sequences. Chrono Trigger or the Star Ocean games come to mind; battles are fun, and usually just the right length so as they don’t overstay their welcome; naturally some of the boss battles may be a little longer, but that is to be expected.

    So with the case of JRPGs, combat is just part of the formula and doesn’t leave room for alternative means to solve a problem, such as talking down a boss vs. reducing their hitpoints to zero.

    I could really go on with more examples but I think this is long enough for now!

    • #38964
      WtF Dragon
      WtF Dragon

      Wow…thanks for the intensive reply.

      I don’t have a ton of experience with JRPGs myself, but I think I’m going to work your comments into the Follow Up From Previous Episode(s) section of Episode 19 when we get around to recording that.

  • #39016
    Gema Dragon
    Gema Dragon

    Not a problem, I’m glad I was able to share some insight; I have a lot of that, mostly useless, but sometimes entertaining!

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