Back in generations past all the best RPGs utilised turn-based battle mechanics. Usually your party would face off against their opponents and you would choose commands for each of your combatants to execute, depending on their turn order or speed gauge. Recently, most modern RPGs have relied heavily on action battle systems where you can only control one character. Many people think turn-based systems are just relics from the past, because older hardware was not capable of processing all the actions in real time. This may, or may not be the case, but I am still far more engaged by turn-based battles.
The first thing I enjoy more is the increased ability to use strategy against opponents. I still have fond memories of winning epic boss battles by figuring out the enemy’s weakness and casting the corresponding spells. You had time to think, and plan your actions about which character would serve which role in battle and if your plan of attack wasn’t working you could always switch to something else. It created a great sense of suspense as your characters were decimated by the enemy’s attack as you rushed to heal and regroup before launching a counterattack.
I feel that being in control of all of your characters actions helps to be more engaged with their story. As the different characters use their abilities in battle it gives the sense of unity that they are all fighting together against the greater evil. Some characters have unique abilities and techniques and it helps get the player more invested if they are the ones controlling them during battle. RPGs such as Chrono Trigger took this to another level enabling characters to combine their powers into combination attacks, adding to sense of teamwork. Games that let you have full control over your party members instead of just using AI, let you develop your own battle style and techniques.
Customisation in RPGs are always a big part of the experience and there is nothing more satisfying then when you equip one of your characters with a new magic spell and you head into battle to test out it’s devastating effects. By customising your party in different ways it allows you to play the game in a variety of ways and helps to stop combat from being repetitive.
I have played and loved many action RPGs as well, but to me nothing beats a solid turn-based system with menus, commands and a variety of roles for the characters to take, or the ability to customise your fighters however you like.