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benfinkel

Why are RPG combat systems so boring?

108 posts in this topic

There''s a game out there for the PS2 called "Kengo" or "Kengo II" or something, and it''s basically a role-playing tournament fighter. Your guy fights one-on-one against other guys (It''s Japanese swordfighting) using a variety of moves and combos. Standard stuff.

The difference is the role-playing elements, and how they''re implemented. You gradually increase your strength, speed, stamina, dexterity, etc. through a regimen of training, which consists mostly of "mini-games" like extinguishing candles with your sword or standing under a waterfall and maintaining your balance.

Each of these exercises will increase the maximum limit of a combat trait, but you won''t actually gain speed or strength in battle until you bring these skills to bear against an opponent. So a combination of rudimentary practice and real (sort of real, they use wooden swords for practice bouts) combat is needed to train effectively. Also, you learn new moves as you fight opponents with different styles.

What''s so great about this system is that the things you do the most are improved more, and your character gains skill as you do. If you tend to run around a lot and vary distance, your speed and agility will increase. If you do a lot of blocking and parrying, your strength and dexterity will increase. If you get whacked a lot, your defense will increase. But if you don''t go out and train between bouts, you''ll hit a "ceiling", and won''t be able to get better.

So even a really skilled player will be limited by the speed and skill of his character. I remember the second time I rented it, I didn''t have my guy saved any more, and was frustrated by the new character''s weakness. The character grows into the player''s style, and there''s a really pleasing symbiosis there. That''s what I think a good RPG should be.

If that idea was expanded into a larger world and a greater variety of skillsets, I think that a really good game could be had. Practicing a skill is a much more satisfactory way to improve than just levelling. How is it that killing a ton of Deathclaws helps me pick locks more effectively?

So a good real-time action-style combat engine bound by the attributes of the character and the actual experiences that character has had would eliminate the boring turn-based nonsense while maintaining the roleplaying elements. But if you''re going to allow twitch gameplay, it had better be regulated by some roleplaying element.
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This is a really interesting thread, guys. Keep up the good work.

In reading this thread, I heard many different examples of interesting combinations of skill/statistic implementations, but there were two I didn''t see - Phantasy Star Online and Final Fantasy Tactics.

First, PSO. I really admire that combat system because, although you can simply level up and kill monsters with one hit, or stand back and do single attacks, you must actually learn how to time your attacks in order to do the most damaging combos. While doing combos, you were less likely to be hit by the enemy. Also, mixing strong and weak attacks were essential for dispatching enemies more efficiently.

And then there is FFT. The FFT combat system is pretty unique, and I''ve only seen a few games that implement it. I admire Square for making it because it brings balance in that although you can have a giantly leveled character, even Orlandu (FFT''s ultimate bad-ass) would be whacked if he fought by himself (by bosses). It also brought in the strategy of mixing up classes of characters in order to most effectively dispatch the enemies. A large coordinate grid on which the battle took place helped facilitate the skill emphasis.

I think that these are both excellent blends of skill and statistics and are thus my favorite games. I''ve been paying attention to the ideas outlined in this thread, and I''ve taken many of these into consideration for an RPG I''m designing.

In particular, I like the idea of using actual experience in a certain area will gain that character skill in that area. I plan on using the leveling system used by the MAGs in PSO. Every time one of your skills levels up, your overall level increases. Therefore, if you have a lv. 1 strength, lv. 5 accuracy, lv. 2 defense, your character would be level 8.


In each of us there is a force that compels us to act selfishly, no matter the consequences. It is the force that will eventually cause our downfall. It is the ID - Thanatos.
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actually i was Virtua Fighter 4 last night.
and i was thinking that if the combat system was somewhat similar to the AI trainer that would be pretty cool.
maybe not for the main character himself but your party members or "pokemon"-like characters.

and actually my issue with Grandia 2 is that i believe it would have been a better game had they let you fight freely instead of in a turn based matter. and have it be multiplayer at that.

or at the very least have the same combat system but multiplayer.
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Some of my favorite RPGs are Ultima Underworld I and II. (Made by the same people as System Shock I & II) They implement both in-game skills & out-game skills.

It seems more satisfactory when you are whacking enemies with a sword using your mouse, then just clicking on the guy and auto fighting like other games.
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a game that I quite enjoyed was "Silver" it did requre you to use your mouse + diffrent key combos.
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I think the real reason that RPG combat systems are so ''bland'' is due primarily due the fact (as it was mentioned earlier) that there is only 2 options in a fight... Kill or be killed... You can throw in all these different ''techniques'' / ''maneuvers'' / ''skills'' or what ever you want to call them, but you are still down to the same senario... Kill or be killed... Those are the only real options for combat resolution.

RPGs are about more than just killing, it is about playing a character... But most games that call themselves RPGs are more like FPSs with character stats instead of player stats and become kill fests. What about mentally breaking an opponent (both NPC and PC?), forcing those mental and social stats to actually mean something? Providing non combat experience?

I''ve noticed a small improvement on this in some of the MMORPGs, but it seems for every step foward, the industry as a whole takes two steps back. Part of this is due to limited AI, but I think more of it is due to a true lack of major interest in that kind of game... It seems to be a small market that is interested in a true RPG and the size of the market doesn''t justify the time and money it would take to develop that kind of system.
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Check out Planetside (SOE, http://planetside.station.sony.com). They claim to be RPG & FPS. Unfortunately, purists at either extreme tend to hate the game.

Compelling engine based combat lends itself to human skill/action and by definition takes you a bit further away from the role playing element (Anon Mike nailed it above).

I would think the purest role playing games require you to just make decisions to support the role and that ultimately the system plays the game for you. Some might call it a simulation though.

Diablo for example is an action game with RPG elements. Albeit horribly boring and redudant action. (Somebody noted click-fest above).

Personlly, the most "RPG" accurate game I''ve played, is a MUD named Realms of the Dragon. Granted, you could stick to bland npc killing, but there were unique opportunities in quests and a buttload of fun to be had in player vs player battles that typically revolved around in-game politics and racial hatred. That is what "role playing" is all about. Miss that game

--Eric

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Let''s see if I can give you some more ideas-- I don''t know, these guys are doing pretty well referencing other games, but I''m sure you''d like something a bit more original.

Firstly, adding an RTS element to RPG battle systems is always a safe bet. If you can control the entire party at once using a simple interface, you''d have quite an invention. Commands wouldn''t have to do so much with picking a spell os much, but giving each hero AI as to the best possible action to take would make things more interesting. At that point you can have the player devise a "battle plan" using very general commands, and then switch to precise actions when needed. You can add different formations to the team, have the players attack with different things in mind(I didn''t explain that well, so let me add the Runescape allows the option to attack with a boost to Accuracy, Defense, etc.).

Another idea is that, instead of rolling dice, why don''t you add a rock-paper-scissors element to the attacks? For example, Fire beats Water, Water beats Earth, Earth beats Fire.

And a few more random ideas:

Basing the battles in a sort of playing field mixes things up a bit. Have mages stand back and cast support magic, have your fighters move right in there, pincer attack the enemy so it has to use valuable time turning around to attack each person, etc.

Have timing affect a few properties. In Final Fantasy X-2, if you unleash attacks in quick succession, damage accumulates by a percentage. Timing a powerful attack to come right after a barrage by the other characters makes it absolutely devastating. Not that you should use that as a template, but you can definitely play with the effects of timing in your battle engine. For example, if a few characters'' turns come up at the same time, you have a .5-second window to select a powerful attack.

Best of luck with your project.

B. Bradley: The number 2 mind

www.numbermind.com(coming soon)
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Here''s my 2 cents


I think the next step for RPG is the marriage of a fighting system like Soul Caliber 2 with a game like Everquest.


Its obvious that its the next step. The question is who will do it balanced and well.


Its similar to the situation 8 or 9 years ago when I was playing MUDS. Everyone knew that adding graphics to it was the next big thing. The question was who would do it well and who would do it first

The formula is pretty clear

The content and difficulty of Everquest + the fighting system of soul caliber 2 + mix in the skill system of the new D2 1.10 and viola the next Generation of MMPORG is born.

The question now is who will do it first in a balanced and well polished form.



By the way does anyone remember the name of the MUD everquest was based upon. And yes it was a single MUD I remember playing it. It was star... something I think.
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Who says fighting games are future of RPGS? I sure don't think so. There was one made years ago for the psx and it wasn't that great. Mixing an RPG and a fighting game is only going to weaken the rpg. Altough I would like to see more rpg elements introduced into Fighting games. I don't know if anyone else played the dragon ball Z tournment game for PS2. But had a feature that allowed you to buy moves and accessories with prize money in order to customize your favorite fighter. Altough the game itself was rather lacking and had the worse fighting system I have seen, but sadly that pretty much the norm for dragonball z games.



-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I'm a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document



[edited by - TechnoGoth on December 9, 2003 12:38:10 PM]
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I think that a full-on tournament fighter combat engine would absolutely destroy an RPG. I think that it would annihilate the role of character stats in combat. Rather than using huge amounts of kung-fu and crazy Matrix-style fighting, I cast my vote for more strategy.

Make it so that a weaker character can beat a stronger one by having an advantageous position, or using concealment and stealth well. In Fallout, if I could have grabbed some cover and sliced the pie around corners and used objects as rests to steady my aim, I''d have had a much easier time of most of those fights. So get your character stats on, but let the player issue more sophisticated commands. The engines needed are already around. Metal Gear, Kill.Switch, and even True Crime: Streets of LA and Mark of Kri already have the basic commands for shimmying along walls and peeking around corners.

Perhaps Splinter Cell, lamentable game that it is, is the best example of this. You''re virtually useless in straight-up combat against more than one baddy, so you have to run around and hide from them until an opportunity presents itself to give them the works from behind. If necessary, you can totally bypass the threat and move on. An interesting feature of Splinter Cell is that some tricks only work on certain difficulty levels. For instance, when you''re hiding in a shadow, an enemy on Normal won''t see you, but on higher difficulties, he''s more likely to. Same thing with running or climbing, and the sound you make.

In a 3D interpretation of Fallout, the success of these moves would be influenced, not by the difficulty level, but by your character''s skill level. A 20% sneak skill would make you loud and clumsy, but at 135, you''d be a ghost. Equipment would modify this, of course, but the idea is there. In MMO contexts, you could have things like sound and sight represented as they are in Manhunt (another lousy game). In manhunt, you have a "radar" in the corner of the screen, which shows the location of enemies. But they only appear on the radar when they''re either visible or making noise (footsteps, speech, whistling, etc.). In an MMO, you could have your sensory range shown like that, and sounds, weird movements, or psychic hunches could be shown on the "radar".

So, I have two suggestions: First, take into account cover and concealment in combat. I don''t know how systems do it now, but if only 5% of my body would be visible around a corner or behind a forklift, then everyone shooting at me should take a 95% hit to their accuracy. Shooting through a crevice or from behind cover, I would have all the accuracy to which I am entitled.

Second: Make skills other than chopping salient in-game. Sneaking, stealing, and perception should be factored into the gameplay experience, not just the to-hit formula.
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The Problems with Modern Computerized RPG''s and NuHuGs (Number-Humper Games: Where you stroke the numbers until they get bigger) are simply explained with the history of RPG''s and their digitized cousins.

In the Beginning
Before we started playing our Nethack clones, most people did their dungeon crawling via pen&paper. There was no such thing as realtime combat then because the poor game master would be overwhelmed by the number-crunching: Combat encounters were organized into turns for logistical reasons. Insofar as table-top games is concerned, this was a good move.

Introducing the 1 and 0
The dice-tossing RPG''s had high concentration of general-purpose nerd in it. Nerds liked nerdy toys -- like computers. It was only natural evolution that a nerd try to hybridize his two favorite passtimes: D&D and his personal computer (or Apple/Commodore/whatever). The translations of the RPG from pencil form to 5.25" Floppy form were literal (straight-across): The hardware limitations and attention span of the developer meant that very little innovation happened. In the end, geek/nerd/dweeb-folk had a version of D&D that they could play without having to schedule with other humans. Minimal human interaction is a good thing for these people.

The Last Fantasy and Hometendo Entertainment
Of course, when business men get their hands on this happy little tidbit of gamer subculture, they''re going to clone it, slap-on prettier sprites, and call it profit. Thus began the production of every Squaresoft game ever made (any one of which is almost identical to another). The formula for the CRPG had emerged into the professional game development world.

Cutting, Bleeding, Buzzwordy-Edge
As things usually go with us Yankees, we had to throw a newfangled edge into stuff. Game companies, in a desperate attempt to draw market attention to themselves, decided to tinker around (ever-so-slightly) with ways they could make their Final Fantasy clone sell as well as (if not better than) the competition''s. They think things like: "If Quake sold so many millions and Everquest sold so many millions, all I gotta do is splice the two and I''ll sell as much as both of them combined!" Often times, the short attention span of modern gamers (a group that does not necessarily include the 70''s/80''s Nerd stereotype anymore) will find itself feeling stirr-crazy when couped up in a turn-based combat system. So, cheap attempts at real-time RPG combat have been made.

Randomly Shooting in the Dark
I, myself, am promoting of the Dawrin-Theory approach: Combine two parent games to make a single, beefier game. The problem is that people are breeding the wrong pairs of games. Blizzard came close with Warcraft 3 but a proper design element is missing. This may turn out to be a quest for the Holy Grail, of sorts. Game design splicing is certainly lest time-consuming than trying to develop a game from the ground-up. This isn''t to say that ground-up design is a bad idea but I don''t recommend it for the casual game designer/developers.

It''s Not Design, It''s Delivery (or is it Digiorno?)
Many of the elements that make any RPG''s combat entertaining hive little to do with the way the combat is designed and more to do with the actual delivery. Powerful visuals can make a game more entertaining no matter how weak/spiffy the design is. Many RPG''s make the mistake of clunky/loose visual connections between attacks and death. Adequately illustrating "This Blow Killed Him" requires a bit more attention to detail than most people are willing to invest in the game: Simply playing the "he swings his sword" animation and "the monster dies" animation in mechanical succession.

Little details like that prove the difference between sincere craftsmanship and factory assembly lines. Everyone wants a mastercraft game.

- = - = - = - = -
Good is the enemy of excellence.
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who says dice-based systems are boring?

anyone play Dungeon Siege? There is nary a mouse click (compared to Diablo1/2), but I''d have to say that its at LEAST as fun! When the battles are fun to watch, its not boring.

I think systems that leave the fighting up to the avatar can be just as entertaining as RPG''s that are really ACTION games with stats attached.

Part of what needs to be done to make this better, is to make the Avatar''s actions more fun to watch! When my little level 9 dwarf fighter is up against a dragon, I dont want to see him walk up and start hitting Smog on the knee with his whappy stick. I want to see him climb up the dragons back and shove a xplody potion down the wyrm''s throat!

If we can make the Avatars'' actions more fun to watch, dice-based systems will never be boring. In fact, we can arrange the system to have cooler animations than any action-based RPG battle could have-- so it could actually cooler than any typical button masher.
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quote:
who says dice-based systems are boring?


They''re not boring as much as they lack a certain intensity that people usually associated with combat.

- = - = - = - = -
Good is the enemy of excellence.
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I'm with keless on this one. I think that avatar fighting is the way to go. It isn't a replacement for existing systems, but I think it's a good frontier that deserves some work. After all, it's the hybrid offspring (read: bastard child) of RPGs and Sim games. Perfect.

Ogre Battle had it years ago: The squads, trained, equipped and organized by the player, battle autonomously, bringing to bear their skills and powers in brief encounters. Variables for morale, team solidarity and partner familiarity were factored in. The game was a little weak, but it had a really neat feature. It's even better in Ogre Battle 64, but that game was also a little weak. The best part was the (limited) player interaction: you could give them simple directives, like "target leader" or "attack weakest enemy", and their decisions would be slightly modified by that.

Majesty had a neat take on it. AI NPCs populated your Sim Kingdom. Some were merchants or tax collectors, others were guards or farmers, but the most important ones were heroes. Different classes, etc. were available, and the heroes levelled properly, but they were autonomous. They'd wander around farming XP or buying new gear or getting their swords enchanted, and you had little to say about it. You could entice them with bounties on exploration or monster-slaying, but they were free to do as their alignment and levels inclined them to do. minotaurs could be burning your marketplace, and all your soldiers would be getting drunk or sleeping.

I think that the Ogre Battle system of "coaching" is a good idea. maybe some more sophisticated commands, like those found in Roque Spear and the like, would be more effective. Give them objectives and orders, like "Archers, keep an eye on that wizard and thwok him if he starts mumbling" or "Knight, keep that barbarian busy, and kill him if you can" or "Cleric, do your best to keep the knight at 100% combat effective status, even if it means letting someone else bleed for a while."

Such sophisticated commands might require a sort of pseudo-turn-based system, but would result in great variety and very good hand-to-hand. A "round" of combat could be more than each guy attacking and blocking once. It could be a fairly intense encounter, with numerous attacks and combos used, and several minor injuries (or major ones) sustained before the next "round" began.

EDIT: Besides, this is a way to make video game fight sequences look like The Matrix. No human player could do that with just a controller unless it was some kind of tournament fighter, and even then it's tough. Let the avatars apply more sophisticated pugilism, and you'll have a deeper, more satisfying combat event.

[edited by - Iron Chef Carnage on December 10, 2003 3:58:55 PM]
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heh, im in the middle of Majesty right now.

the game is pretty fun, but a little outdated. Also, the goals are kind of lame, and the AI are pretty dry. I would LOVE to see an updated version of this game.
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quote:
. . . the game is pretty fun, but a little outdated.
A game''s age has very little to do with how fun it is.

- = - = - = - = -
Good is the enemy of excellence.
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Speaking of rpg combat, Would people be annoyed at a game that went back to old FF1 approach to combat. In that if you issue multiple attack orders to the same unit and it dies after the first then the rest of the attack orders do nothing. As well as that status effects extend beyond battle and require special items to heal or going to a healer in town.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project
Chaos Factor Design Document

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I WOULD TOTALLY SHIT MY PANTS IF GAMES WENT BACK TO THAT.
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Grandia II, tho my favorite rpg, isnt'' so much of an action system, that I beleive the poster is describing.

I actually tried this type of game where you have a fighter type game that has experience pts and stat scores. It was a long time ago, it was an ok.
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Say what you want about it, but Kingdom Hearts had an absolutely brilliant combat system for an RPG.

Also, I've never seen a combat system to match Devil May Cry's

[edited by - glassJAw on December 10, 2003 10:05:46 PM]
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Well at the risk of egotism, a lot of the musings here sound like the game we have been creating.

* a Soul Caliber2 melee fighting system: with fighting skills based off RPG skill system.

* a marraige of FPS and RTS: Explore and extract resources in order to expand your PvP territory, which in turn enhances your FPS experience.

Getting the RTS experience to be more immersive just makes sense. The combining of genres is the best developers can do until someone REALLY thinks outside the box and comes up with a whole new type of game or the hardware gets A LOT BETTER (think nano-technological VR)

The question is merely how this current "alphabet" of genres gets mixed together.



Alfred Norris, VoodooFusion Studios
Team Lead - CONFLICT: Omega
www.conflictomega.com
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quote:
Original post by ishpeck
A game''s age has very little to do with how fun it is.



True.

However, the 16 bit graphics could do with a tune up. Particularly, however, I''m talking about the over-all game play. Instead of having ''levels'' each with their own un-connected objectives and plot, I think it would be better to have a consolidated storyline; and continuatino from one ''level'' to the next. Something like Heavy Gear 2''s ''campaign'' system would be awesome.

''Dated'' only really applies to that in that we expect more than just piece-meal level design in our games today, particularly in RPG-type games.

Its certainly a fun game. But its been out for a while, and it could do with a re-visit and re-vamp. Good games should be improved upon over time, so they become even better.


And TechnoGoth:
I hated that system. I still have trouble going back and playing FF1 because of that specifically, it just bugs me. I think Square''s remake of it actually ''corrected'' this ''problem''.
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Yep, FFOrigins has automatic retargetting for killed opponents in both FF1 and FF2. What I want to know is how the "overkill" situation got past playtesting in the first place.

Persistent status effects can be OK - though I also like the FFTA system whereby all characters get restored to optimum condition between fights.

An example of combining RPG elements with Soul Caliber style combat is One Must Fall - which had a campaign mode where, by taking your avatar through fights (arranged into 4 tournaments) you earned money (once you''d paid for repairs) that could be spent on upgrading your stats and entering new tournaments (at the end of each tournament, you''d better keep enough spare cash to sign on for a new one...). In my opinion, the campaign mode turned a so-so fighter into a great game, and also used the statistics well. For example, initially, you have a very low speed stat, and as a result you can''t really do any combos. As your speed increases, you can start hitting in sufficiently rapid succession to put a combo together...

My usual complaint about FF-style combat is that it mostly reduces to a one-dimensional optimisation problem (at least by the time you''ve played more than half the game) - you know which attacks do most damage, and which moves heal most effectively, so the only decision you make in most encounters is whether to attack or heal on each turn, and that''s effectively a matter of choosing a threshhold value for party health. You could design an AI to fight the routine fights for you and tune its parameters between fights if necessary (put in the option of taking over, and set a panic condition where it will hand over to you automatically, and you''re done). Some of the FF games offer variations like choosing whether to steal items/draw magic, but most of the time, I''d be quite happy just casting beserk on most of my party (keeping one person under my control for emergencies) and watching the fight.
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Are there any good examples of games with tournament fighter-quality combat and decent RPG content? I can''t really think of any. Star Ocean 2, i guess. True Crime was somewhat close, but fell short in both categories. I suppose that if something like Oni had stats and levels, it would work out, but it was entirely based on combat. What kind of resources does it take to build that level of combat gameplay, and can a game with the fighting of Soul Caliber II and the story/XP levels of Final Fantasy X really be feasible?

Look at it this way: Tournament fighers are one vs. one. A good RPG combat sequence often involves at least multiple enemies, and usually multiple player characters. There are two very real risks with adapting tournament fighter controls to a bigger fight: You might make it impossible to fight more than one guy at a time, or have a clumsy "lock" system, or you might abandon locks altogether, and have your guy flailing through a combo while the baddies stroll around behind you. Both suck.

I''d say a more general, action/adventure style control scheme would be more appropriate. Something like Zelda or Mark of Kri would work pretty well. I was even thinking about a hybrid between Diablo and Rune. Remember Rune? It was a UT-powered stand-alone with third-person view and viking-style swordfighting. If you had a more dynamic weapon system, some magic powers and a better game, that idea could have been neat. The fighting in Rune was sickeningly simple, but not as simple as Everquest.

And by the way, Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance totally owns Soul Caliber II.
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