Battle System Breakdown
We broke the halfway point! Thank you~!
A massive thanks to our 1,115 backers for helping us get Wanderer halfway to becoming a reality! Now we just got to make that happen one more time guys...no sweat, right? :)
The Battle System
In today's update I want to give a bit of a primer on the design of Wanderer's battle system. Keep in mind we're still in the process of fully prototyping the system, so various aspects of the system may very well be altered, adjusted, removed or added as we continue testing and balancing it's design. This is just our starting point!
Some key influences in Wanderer's combat system include:
Paper Mario series - Small damage/stat numbers, horizontal character layout, and action/timing commands that effect attack/defense effectiveness. I really enjoyed the battle system in these games, and I found there to be a lot of charm in it's relative simplicity. Wanderer's system is my attempt to expand upon it's basic structure by adding a few additional layers of complexity and cranking up the difficulty level a bit.
Chrono Cross/Xenogears - Stamina meter/points + multiple strengths of attack. Though it seems most agree these games had battle mechanics that ultimately left something to be desired (and I agree), I do think there were some interesting ideas and the multiple attacks per turn mechanic was one I always liked!
Rogue Galaxy - Real-time pacing, stamina meter, active guarding, and two weapons per character (melee and ranged) each with slightly different characteristics. Another really enjoyable system, and though it was more of a full on action-RPG it still had some hybrid elements reminiscent of a classic turn based system. Wanderer is has a very similar balance of dynamics, but on the other end of the spectrum (mostly turn-based but with elements of real time).
X-COM series - Limited amount of resources that make every choice count, and a lot of emphasis placed on making risk vs. reward choices. This one's more of a loose conceptual influence than a direct mechanical one, but I really like how in X-COM every decision holds a lot of weight and every battle is one that could potentially be lost if you become too reckless, so I've tried to emulate some of that philosophy here.
As in JRPGs like Paper Mario, Valkyrie Profile, and Persona 4, there are no random encounters in Wanderer. All enemies can be seen in the world, and combat is initiated when you or the enemy lands an attack. Different types of enemies will have unique ways of moving and attacking, so you'll have to be careful in your approach to be successful! After contact is made, the game transitions rapidly to a dedicated battle screen, and the primary phase of combat begins.
At a glance, the combat structure will be fairly familiar to any JRPG fans. Reminiscent of Final Fantasy's ATB system, each character has a turn counter which slowly fills over time. When it fills, that character becomes available for action; you can command a character to attack (which costs Stamina), defend (which spends the characters turn to replenish their shield), use a skill (which costs Focus), or use an item (which will be discarded after use).
Unlike a classic turn based system however, character's don't have static 'turns'. While issuing commands to one character, other character's (and enemy's) turn counters continue to fill and if multiple characters are ready to act, you can freely switch between them and use their turns in any order. A character's turn is 'spent' when they choose an action, and their turn counter begins to refill when the action has ended.
Character positioning plays a big role in battle. Allies and enemies are lined up on a 2D plane; you can have up to three characters in battle, but only the character (and enemy) in the front row can use basic melee attacks. Other characters have to use ranged attacks or skills to attack, but characters can freely move forward or backwards in line without ending their turn, swapping positions with the adjacent character at the cost of some stamina.
The character in the front is generally going to be taking the most punishment, but is also in the best position to deal it out. In terms of balance, ranged attacks do less damage than melee, but being able to switch targets between shots means you can potentially kill multiple enemies who have been weakened in a single turn while conserving resources.
Enemies will be able to shift positions as well, and some special skills will allow the player to knock an enemy backwards or pull an enemy forward (for instance, to knock a high defense 'tank' type character to the back row and force a weak 'healer' type character to the front so you can kill them quickly with your melee character).
There are also occasions (via certain in-battle skills or being hit by an enemy on the 'field' to initiate the battle) when enemies may flank your party, meaning both characters in the front and rear will be in melee range. Likewise, some party members will have skills that allow them to jump behind enemy lines, opening up the chance to attack from both sides to finish the fight more quickly, at the cost of leaving that character nowhere to retreat to if things start to go south.
Enemy attacks work as in a traditional JRPG: the flow of battle is temporarily interrupted, the enemy commences their attack animation, and all the player can do is attempt to defend against it by utilizing a defensive option with the proper timing. Player attacks, however, are where things get a little more action based.
After confirming an attack via the menu, the next stage works a little differently than the standard JRPG. After entering the melee attack phase, the normal flow of battle is put on hold until it's over (player and enemy turn counters temporarily freeze in place). The camera focuses on the attacking character and their target, and a new menu opens up showing the three strengths of attack you can use; each one has a different stamina cost, and you can attack as many times as you like as long as you have the necessary stamina points.
You can choose to spend all of your stamina, or save some to increase your available pool for the next turn. Each character replenishes some stamina at the beginning of their turn, so you'll have to manage it carefully to maximize damage when it counts.
During the attack phase, the enemy is also able to attack you; you can think of it a bit like Punch-Out!. Enemies have identifiable patterns, and their attacks are telegraphed, so you have to watch closely and time one of your three defensive options correctly to avoid/reduce damage, and wait for the right openings to launch your own strikes. The attack phase ends when either your character runs out of health points, runs out of stamina or you manually end your turn.
Ranged attacks work similarly, putting the battle on hold while the attack phase plays out. However, ranged attacks have their own unique execution; after the ranged attack sequence begins you can freely switch between enemy targets and have to play a timing minigame to take a shot at the current target. When you run out of 'shots' your turn is over. This sequence also has a timer, so you'll have to use all of your shots within a certain time frame, or the turn ends anyway.
The last major elements of the system are Skills (special abilities unique to each character which cost Focus meter to use), and Items (which work just as in a traditional JRPG, offering healing, revival, AOE damage, buffs, etc.). We'll look a little more closely at some examples of both in a future update!
We'd also love to hear what your favorite RPG battle systems are; what type of system do you find most enjoyable? What are your favorite battle mechanics and which ones frustrate you? Let us know, your feedback will help us shape our system into one that's memorable! :)
- War of Rights by Campfire Games
War of Rights is a beautiful looking multiplayer combat simulator set during the American Civil War. The talented guys over at Campfire Games are not only interested in making a great game, but also an engaging and interactive way to learn about history, which definitely shows in their passion for the subject matter! Featuring epic sized battlefields, authentic attention to detail (including realistic ballistics and reloading time), and a very cool-sounding chain-of-command system that makes every battle equal parts action and tactical decision making, I fully recommend checking out this very ambitious project!
- Battlestation: Harbinger Extended Edition by Bugbyte
Battlestation: Harbinger is a hard sci-fi space exploration game that blends roguelike, turn-based star map strategy and real-time space battles into a single gaming experience. Previously released to mobile platforms and receiving much praise from gamers and critics, the Extended Edition will allow the team at Bugbyte to release a extended and enhanced version of the game for the PC platform! They've already hit their funding goal, but they're still going for stretch goals, so be sure to head over to their page and check them out!