EA2D's Ethan Levy has once again dropped by the official Dragon Age Legends website to post a new blog entry that goes into significant detail about the Facebook RPG's combat mechanics.
...we borrowed the interleaved turn queues from Journeys, which means that the heroes and monsters take turns one at a time instead of fighting together as alternating groups, as is common in many group-based RPGs. Giving the player knowledge of which exact characters will move next creates some interesting tactical decisions. A monster who will attack sooner might be a better target than one who is a greater threat overall. Skills which disable or freeze enemies can be used intelligently to keep the most dangerous monsters at bay.
However, we simplified other mechanics from Journeys. Instead of using a hex-based grid, we adopted a simpler layout familiar to fans of Japanese RPG series like Final Fantasy in which the heroes and monsters line up on opposite sides of the screen is static slots. We built a 2 X 3 grid for each side, with front and back columns so that characters in the back column are protected from melee attacks by characters in the front column. This arrangement allows players to plan ahead by attacking a specific monster in the front line that, when dead, would expose a weak but dangerous blood mage in the back.
Another big change involved how we handled health and mana, the two most common stats from RPGs. Instead of using a bar-based system, in which a character might have 45 of 80 health points, we adopted a more chunky icon-based system. A character's health is represented simply by 4 hearts, which are measured in halves, identical to the health system from the Zelda games. Mana is represented by single icons and as most skills cost just one mana, the number of icons a character has is shorthand for how many skills she can use.
This simplification had a number of advantages. First, the system had much greater clarity than opaque health and mana bars. These bars generally have the same size on the interface for the sake of consistency, which unfortunately obscures their true values. Although one character might have 20 hit points while another has 200, their health bars look the same on the game screen. In fact, most modern RPGs have superimposed text on top of health bars to give the actual values to avoid any confusion. With the iconic hearts, Legends avoids this problem as the graphics do not obscure any game data - what you see is what you get.