Turn-based vs. Real-time Combat

12 Jun 2011

Video games blogger and CRPG enthusiast CRPG Addict wrote a lengthy blog post on the differences between turn-based combat systems and real-time ones and the respective advantages. It's an interesting reading, especially for those of us that feel neglected by the mainstream and its focus on blockbuster action. Here's a sampling:
Turn-based combat is dead. I know it. I can't even remember the last game that featured it. Pool of Radiance: The Ruins of Myth Drannor, probably, which was boring beyond belief, but not because of the combat. I actually really liked that part. Anyway, here, in these older games, I can still enjoy it.

These are what I see as the relative advantages of turn-based combat.

1. I know exactly what each character and enemy is doing. When a foe casts a spell, I can see what the spell is, and I know how to counter it. I never wonder why I suddenly got paralyzed, or knocked down, or killed.

2. You notice details. In turn based games, when a PC gets an extra attack, you actually notice it, and it makes the battle measurably easier because of it. I can pay close attention to how much damage various weapons are doing. The effects of special attacks are very apparently. Check out my fighter performing a "sweep" in the video below. Notice how satisfying it is to see all the enemies fall, one by one. In a real-time game, you'd blink and miss it.

3. In turn-based games, you can fight armies. I don't think the Xbox processor would handle all the AI necessary to plot a battle against four dozen kobolds, five trolls, two fighters, and a wild boar.

4. Turn-based games are more tactical. When each character's turn comes up, I can pick the best strategy based on the totality of the battlefield, not the one foe that happens to be in front of me.