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Gameplay similar to SSI's early 90s Gold Box turn-based combat

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As a kid I used to play The Dark Queen of Krynn for hours, weeks, months on end, and from my lifetime of gaming it's right up there with my all time favourites. I don't know if it was the story (although I enjoyed that) as much as the style of turn based combat that really grabbed me.

 

It's kind of been something I often thought about over the years, wondering what other games might scratch that particular itch, and finally now in my 30s I thought I might finally make a post about it.

 

For thread context; I'm inspired by this kind of gameplay for my own potential game design, but I really have no idea which developers over the years carried and refined this kind of combat in the best ways and I'd love to get anyone's thoughts on that subject. I SHOULD know.. I just didn't keep up. I got into different games, and especially around the time I got into gamedev, I was doing totally different things.

 

I'd like to think that good game design is always informed by mistakes and successes from the past, and with such an explosion of indie dev in recent years I feel like there must be dozens of amazing titles I don't know about that have this kind of approach to combat. I feel like before I'd even consider working on my little title in the vein of Gold Box TBS I should ideally be really familiar with what's already happening right now in this space, and what kind of audience exists for it.

 

I'm really talking purely about the combat - not necessarily the audience that exists for Dragonlance type AD&D narrative, nor the audience for retro pixel art, nor the specifics of the D&D ruleset they used (although I did like it a lot, I prefer NWN / 3.0, and even then I'd just do my own thing anyway).

 

What I loved, in terms of gameplay, was the role separation between party members and need to balance a good squad for all occasions. In a tough battle, every turn of every party member was important - it mattered where everyone was, who you had protected, who's at the front line, who's supporting, who's guarded, etc. I think I really loved the party size of six as well, as you really need to keep everybody alive and protected as a crucial aspect of combat.

 

I could probably name a few similar games I played over the years but none that quite scratched the itch the same way:

- FF Tactic and Disgaea 3 - extreme addiction occurred in both of these titles, I think they're both actually a good example of something nore recent I enjoyed in more or less the same way.

- Boulder's Gate 2 - absolutely loved every minute of this game, and loved the combat also but in a different way / for different reasons.

- Arcanum - also absolutely loved this game as well, but I never got as engrossed in the combat.

- Battle for Wesnoth (played on iOS) - I really enjoy this game, but I wish it had deeper character customisation and the fact that it's army vs army gives it a totally different appeal to me (not in a bad way, just scratching a different itch)

- Reign of Swords (played on iOS) - actually loved the hell out of this game but for unknown reasons, they killed it on the app store and it never returned.

 

So I guess what I'm interested in is some of the best modern examples of people doing great things in this space - both because I want to play those games, but also as creative reference. I don't want to make something exactly like anything pre-existing, and I also don't want to reinvent any wheels.

 

There's actually just about 0 games I can find on iOS/mobile that scratches this itch and I'd love it if there was. FF Tactics is there but compared to PSP the control scheme is not really to my liking. I do also own BG on iPad but I think I'd rather play that on PC, but I've also already played both of those titles and would rather get into something new.

 

Any insight on this would be really great.

 

Cheers!

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The Dark Queen of Krynn

Wasn't that one of TSR's D&D adventure game with an isometric tactical map?

Are you looking for tactical examples, or other rather rooted in RPG (with a small party vs the world).

Also are you solely focused on the combat aspect, or the general feel?

 

I played Natuk over a decade ago, which was an original take on this. But it might be dated

 

How do you feel that Baldur's Gate is so different from this game?

 

And yes, Battle of Wesnoth is a different kind of game indeed. Thank got it's free too!

 

 

Sidenote:

You might find interest in some "recent" board games:

- Descent: Journeys in the Dark 1st Edition (absolutely ignore the 2nd Edition)

- D&D Adventure System: Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, The Legend of Drizzt

- Mice & Mystics

- Dungeon Command Series: Tyranny of Goblins, (and the others)

 

Sorry, these are the only one off the top of my head, but tactics remains extremely present in board games, so there might be a few interesting things there.

Note that, for complexity's sake, very few of these games provide interesting level up mechanics, but many deal with gear/equipment or skill options which grant sufficient tools for character customization (Especially Descent: Journeys in the Dark 1st Edition).

Edited by Orymus3

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The Dark Queen of Krynn

Wasn't that one of TSR's D&D adventure game with an isometric tactical map?

Are you looking for tactical examples, or other rather rooted in RPG (with a small party vs the world).

Also are you solely focused on the combat aspect, or the general feel?

 

I played Natuk over a decade ago, which was an original take on this. But it might be dated

 

How do you feel that Baldur's Gate is so different from this game?

 

And yes, Battle of Wesnoth is a different kind of game indeed. Thank got it's free too!

 

DQOK was SSI (Strategic Simulations Inc) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Simulations

They published and/or developed this and a few other in the series that were more of less the same game telling different stories and with minor feature differences.

 

Yeah the turn based combat is what I'm interested in - not necessarily isometric as a rule (DQOK was). Very much the party vs world, different roles of party members, and the large scale battles where you really need to manage your turns to an expert level to make it through. BGII for me was about halfway to NWN in combat (not that I'd played NWN yet at the time) - not quite really turn-based, and with arbitrary movement rather than holding and controlling squares strategically. I loved every minute of BGII and I enjoyed the combat very much as well, it's just different.

 

an example combat scenario from DQOK:

Begin the battle, assess the location and abilities of enemy units. There are a few extreme threats on the opposing side in this battle, so your mage/s are going to need to assure your survival by taking them down ASAP. You take one forward on the attack, but you'll need to end your turn with a fighter in front of them controlling that space or your mage will be gone immediately. You might take a different fighter around a flanking path to mop up, but you have to be careful not to overextend because any individual party member could be killed in a single turn if you're careless. A few turns in, you've established a front line in the clash as best you can. You're taking heavy damage, your mages have unleashed a bunch of heavy spells to mitigate the worst threats, and suddenly you're thinking very carefully about every individual remaining resource you have left. How many times can you heal some one getting hacked apart from 3-5 sides (inc diagonals), which combination of actions can most reliably remove remaining threats from the board and reduce the damage taken, etc. You might take a long time to ponder a single turn as you figure out the best approach.

 

That's the kind of strategy I got so engrossed in. I used to rush through easy battles so I could purposefully look for extremely difficult ones, basically to challenge my tactical wits and strategic thinking (it often ended badly, but that's ok).

 

The classes and character customisation are a big part of it too though. Designing a well balanced party is a strategic challenge in itself and I loved that. Right down to individual choices of memorised spells, with a potentially profound impact on any given encounter.

 

I never played Pen & Paper D&D, or any board games versions, mainly because I was never really too crazy about the role-play aspect, it really was almost entirely the tactical/strategy/character loadout aspect that roped me into this and similar games. I did enjoy the story as well, but for me story (or rather narrative, I guess) and RP are not co dependant.

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On iOS, I think there's the original Shining Force, which is an important early tactical JRPG, and the more recent Record of Agarest War.  (There's also the Highborn game (series?), which I enjoyed my time with, but is a little more on the Wesnoth side.)  There seems to be various such games in the freemium space, but I don't know much about them.

 

While I'm not sure it's the full game, there's some sort of DOFUS game on iOS as well.  In any case, it's worth checking out the full DOFUS for how some of these ideas map to the MMORPG space.

 

In general there's been a ton of stuff on the console/JRPG side, more series than I can recall.  Nothing that absolutely jumps out as a must-play, but I can definitely say I prefer those on grids to those without grids (say, Phantom Brave, Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits, Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter).  Trying to do the proximity-based combat without sectioning off the board into discrete areas just makes for a fiddly not-good-time, for me.

 

For recent indie stuff, maybe check out the Banner Saga, Halfway, and Battle Brothers.

 

For general inspiration, I'd give the original X-COM a playthrough if you haven't before, and games of that "lineage" (Jagged Alliance, Rebelstar...)  That scratches that itch for me, and for that matter I think there's a lot of room for the tactical RPG to expand in this direction.  While there's still that "small party vs. the world" feel, the "openness" of the combat gives it a diffferent feel.  It's not just what monster is around the corner, it's whether there's a monster sixty squares away that has a line-of-sight on you.  It makes you think of the world at a slightly larger granularity, not just "this room" but "this town".

 

Actually, that's my general divider, between tactical RPGs I remember and those that blend into the crowd.  Memorable ones are, for me, the one where I have to think a lot about where I'm standing, a lot about the "world".  Not just "How can I use these powers" but "How can I use these powers HERE?"  When the world is just "there's ground, at various elevations"... well, that's enough for a game, sure, but everyone's got that.  Also, while I'm at it, give me a lot of things to do that aren't just variations on "attack".  (FFTactics, for me, hits the sweet spot of both of these -- dozens of interesting actions, in battle arenas that go beyond just fields and/or rectangular rooms.)

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Well, since you're a fan of the SSI games, my game KotC might scratch your itch. Just click my signature and try the free demo.

 

Shameless plug :P

 

 

The new X-Com did a great job at tactical combat with a small unit of people, each role being specialized. Since team members are persistent (but can be swapped from mission to mission) there's a huge feel of growth, particularly with the expansion.

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There's actually just about 0 games I can find on iOS/mobile that scratches this itch and I'd love it if there was.

 

I despise iOS and mobile games, so this is an unbiased, level-headed and completely objective review:

 

There are 0 because the platform sucks.  Look at some of the PC titles that are available, from Shadowrun to the multiple lame recreations of Jagged Alliance.  It's like a turn-based revolution (for better or worse) on PC.

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valrus: awesome list, I actually had no idea Banner Saga was isometric and turn based. Checked out a gameplay vid and I'm definitely interested. Will give the others a look too.

 

Shining force looks interesting, but the superimposed virtual pad for a game that could benefit from touch is unfortunate. Record of Agarest War looks a lot more promising, but the price tag is a big gamble in terms of how the controls feel. I'd be concerned it's like FFT (also a high price at the time) which I loved on a real gamepad but struggled with on touch.

 

But that's a bunch of great suggestions, many thanks!

 

BlueSalamander: looks interesting, very much along the right lines. Will take a look.

 

Orymus3: yeah the XCOM series is one I've managed to miss over the years (not on purpose), might finally be time to give it a proper look.

 

GoCatGo: say what you want about gaming on mobile - as long as I have a device in my pocket at all times in my busy life, I'll be in the market for a game I can jump into easily when the opportunity arises. Of course I'd rather be playing games on PC (or console, for that matter), but it doesn't always work out that way in reality. For me at least..

Edited by onfu

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