Why I Prefer Turn-Based Battle Systems in RPGs

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.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Why I Prefer Turn-Based Battle Systems in RPGs

  1. I’d have to agree with you. I hate having a favorite character that I can’t play as, or having multiple favorites and having to choose between them all of the time. On another note, the combination attacks in CT were definitely awesome, and I can’t help but wonder why that idea never really caught on.

  2. It is beyond me why a lot of design choices in Chrono Trigger never caught on. From pacing, to gameplay mechanics and replay value it seemed like a perfect template for others to follow. I guess thats why it is remembered so fondly…
    Thanks!

  3. twelve

    I totally agree. saddly it seems those games are a dying breed. now it seems like its a race to make combat as hectic and flashy as possible, and to shield the player from using the brain too much(an overarching trend in gaming im afraid).
    Its like the creators of timeless classics like FF4-FF10 have suddenly no idea what makes a game great anymore. Or, that those people are simply doing other stuff now.
    The way SE seems headed with the FF-series now, i wonder if the games will be relevant in some years time.
    Im a little surprised that theres no indie companies pickin up the gauntlet, as an rpg doesent need all the bells and whistles that other genres do.

    • Well said and thanks for the great comment. Most modern RPGs really are becoming all about style, with no substance. The intricacy in some of the older games is outstanding and nowhere to be found in games today. I agree with you about smaller companies taking up the mantle. They really should create some games with the design sense of SNES and original Playstation RPGs and just sell them at a lower price point. If only…

  4. I agree with you. I have more fun in replaying the older RPG because of the turned based battle system.

    For myself, FF13 was a great deception for me: x-button smashing+changing paradigm, it’s was more a flashy game. Even the ”Sphere grid” part was linear and did’nt bring but a lame shadow of the Sphere grid of FF10. I will not purchase FF13-2 because that’s my only power as a customer to show my deception.

    It’s sad to say that Ratchet and Clank is closer to a RPG than FF13 but it’s not far from the truth.

    • I have also been playing a lot of older turn-based RPGs lately and seem to be having more fun than any modern game. Some of those games I have never played before either so it can’t be nostalgia. It is such a shame that fantastic RPGs like that are not being made any more. I agree that FFXIII was more about looking flashy in combat, and was a poor imitation of turn-based system of older titles. Thanks

  5. Pingback: What Makes an Enjoyable Battle System? | The RPG Square

  6. Josh

    Figured I might as well use my name for this reply.

    Turn-based systems are my favorite as well, though I’d have to think a while to figure out exactly why. To be honest I think it may just be because that’s what I started out playing, and that’s what I’m used to. I love the older style rpgs as well as 2D side-scrollers and I’ve come to the same conclusion: it’s not nostalgia. It’s not such a simple thing, though. I wonder if maybe since that’s what I played the most in the past, the proclivity toward seeking out and playing those kinds of games now is ingrained in my mind somewhere. Maybe subconsciously there’s something that makes me favor older gameplay mechanics over more modern ones. Subliminal nostalgia? I don’t know.

    As for what Muuurgh said about the dual and triple techs in Chrono Trigger, yeah I really liked that too. It is a shame it hasn’t caught on. I can think of a couple games that did combos like that too, namely Brave Story (PSP), Popolocrois (PSP), and Black Sigil (DS).

    The handhelds are really where the best rpgs are this generation. There are so many of them, and even the more mediocre ones generally tend to hearken back to the SNES/PS1 era of rpgs, so I get at least some enjoyment out of most of them.

  7. Great comment Josh!
    You are not alone, my other favourite genre are 2D side-scrollers/ platformers. For me it’s definitely not nostalgia as I only played games like Chrono Trigger a couple of years ago for the first time.
    As for handhelds dominating the genre this generation I have to agree. Some of the best original RPGs such as Radiant Historia are only found on handhelds. Oh well at least we can still play them!
    Look forward to more of your comments! Thanks.

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