Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 30, 2010
I’m a fan of turn-based combat in RPGs. Not to the exclusion of real-time combat, but I love the little tactical mini-game of turn-based combat. I’m one of those people for whom the original X-Com might as well have been brought down from Mount Olympus itself by Promethius (in the hand that wasn’t holding a torch).
But even I have my limits. My number one complaint about Wizardry 8 – which was otherwise a stellar RPG that seemed written specifically for me – was the length of its combat. The seemingly interminable final battle in Persona 3 almost (but not quite) spoiled the game for me, especially as I failed so close to victory the first time and had to replay the whole thing – which took me well into the wee hours of the morning. Stupid save-points. And my love of the classic “Gold Box” games – and their signature tactical combat in the style of miniatures-based 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons games – is tempered somewhat by the memory of some really long, drawn-out fights against random encounters. Particularly in the first game, Pool of Radiance.
I think that when a lot of people think about turn-based combat, that’s what they think of: really long battles that play out very slowly.
I agree. Of course, we all have our own definitions of “slow.” For me, a ten-minute long battle against a very interesting boss in a turn-based RPG can all kinds of fun. I love that kind of deep, meaty battle. But even a three-minute long fight against a Generic Bandit Group for the tenth time this session can seem far too long.
So I’m not really sure how long “too long” really is, even for me. I don’t usually track the time I spend in turn-based RPGs fighting. If the battles are fun, the time passes quickly, and the only indication I have of their length is when I look at the clock and think, “That can’t be right,” because there’s no way two hours has passed. On the other hand, the boring ones feel like they take a century.
So battle duration is really kind of a subjective thing for me. All I do know is that it’s hard for any single fight to stay interesting to me after twenty minutes. No matter how awesome. But those big X-Com battles didn’t rarely felt like single fights.
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