SpellForce: Conquest of Eo Developer Insight #4 – Battle Action

Owned by Gravity, the team behind the upcoming turn-based entry in the SpellForce series, SpellForce: Conquest of Eo, brings us a new developer update for their game. This particular one is dedicated to all the different moves and actions you'll have at your disposal during the game's turn-based battles.

Check it out:

Venerable Mages,

as promised, today we are going take a deeper dive into our combat and action system at the core of our battles. It is a bit different from what many games do, so bear with me for a second.

Basically, all our units have three actions represented by the little yellow diamonds beneath the health bar. Each turn, every unit can use up to two of them for movement with distance depending on movement range of unit. The remaining action can be spend on a defensive “guard” action or an attack. If you don’t spend actions on movement, you can use them for attacks, cast a spell or execute some other ability. These will always consume ALL remaining actions, and here is where we already differ from many games: We use what we call the ‘Committed Action System’.

So, when you decide to cast a spell or to attack someone, you automatically spend all remaining action points on that task, fully committing to that course of action. In the below picture, the necromancer’s apprentice has just cast a spell to heal the skeletons above him, so he has no more actions left.

He could have spent two actions for moving and still cast the spell but once he does cast it, he will be ‘committed’, spending all his remaining actions. In the same vein, once the skeletons now decide to attack those Paladins left of them, they will commit fully to attacking, spending all three actions for three attacks on those pesky humans.

This makes combat much more fluid and faster than counting action points while still leaving a lot of room to maneuver. You don’t have to decide what to do for each single action point and you focus your attacks on one enemy. But it also means you need to think about which target to choose.

In melee every attack further results in a counter-attack, that will cost action points for the defender. Action points don't refresh on YOUR turn, but at the beginning of a full turn – meaning at the same time for both you and the enemy. So you effectively have three actions to divide across movement and attack or defense – if you attack, you cannot keep points for defense and vice versa.

At first glance this may seem to just be a way to speed up combat, but this actually opens up a lot of tactical depth: First, players can flank the enemy (giving you an unopposed attack) or position their units for a better range (but take heed of zone of control or you may suffer free attacks by the enemy) and still attack or stay back and prepare a defense for the enemy.

Players also decide when to commit to an attack or wait for the enemy. But if the enemy attacks first, it will drain your action points by simply attacking your unit with three attacks – resulting in all points spent counter-attacking in melee and leaving you out of options when your turn comes.

Of course, you can do the same to them: Swarm a big strong troll with hordes of undead and risk a few of them (easily replaced by summoning more), to keep the enemy permanently occupied and allowing you free attacks once the troll’s actions are exhausted. It allows you to control which of your units receives damage and prevents strong single units from using special skills that can devastate your army.

This opens up new tactical effects – smaller units surrounding a bigger one can effectively pin the big one down with repeated needle attacks instead of a simple exchange of melee strikes and players need to make sure they do not expose their frontline units to an enemy swarm.

Defensive positioning is also important, and can be augmented by standing next to areas that cannot be accessed (such as rocks or buildings) or barricades (which some units may also summon, but which can be destroyed), creating choke points or safe zones for your missile units to stay behind as in the below picture, where the minion unit behind the fence can safely pepper the fire beetles on the other side with its magic bolts.

Between our Committed Action System, Flanking/Zone of Control/Blockers and the way actions refresh, our action points become part of the tactical consideration in battle, allowing you to control the flow of combat, use superior positioning to your advantage and make amount of units interesting beyond simply dishing out damage. And yet, it keeps the action fluent and fast. We are looking forward to you trying it out!

We also want to talk a little more about the game world and our main antagonists: The Circle of Mages. Here is a little preview of one of them. Meet Ianna, the Singer.

More about that next time. 😊