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What makes a great battle system in an RPG?

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Grandia 2 is my favorite RPG of all time. It came out in 2000.

What makes it so amazing? It isn't the graphics: they're pretty standard for when it came out, and look outdated today. It isn't the story. It has the
rpg - What makes a great battle system in an RPG?

same problem many RPGs do: cliched storytelling and characters. But it's passable.

It's the battle system. Most RPGs I played were not interesting because the battle systems were not interesting. Most battles could be won by simply mashing the confirm button. Not so in Grandia 2.

I'll quote from this article since I think it's a good summary and agree with what is said.

I was disappointed at how the JRPGs I played were relying more on convoluted combat systems to keep people interested instead of going back to the drawing board and figuring out a better way to do the most basic JRPG commands: Attack and Defend. Finding a JRPG that made basic Attacks interesting and Defending useful became my holy grail of JRPGs for a few years…

And apparently they succeeded at it 15 years ago. I just didn't realize it at the time.

Note the action gauge in the lower-right, along with its Commit and Act markers.

Grandia 2 uses a variation of FF6's Active Time Battle system. Each character has a gauge that fills up; at 66%, they choose (Commit to) an action. When it completely fills up, they Act on it. Once they've Committed, allies and enemies alike are locked into that choice. Enemies also become vulnerable to Criticals, a variant of the basic attack that does less damage but interrupts attacks and depletes 50-70% of their gauge. You can also see which heroes the enemies are focusing on, removing the guessing game from choosing when to Defend. In addition, Defend is beefed up compared to other games: Defending will drop an attack's damage by 60-75% (compared to the seemingly industry standard of reducing it by just 50%) and reduces the chances of getting debuffed (useful for negating Confusion attacks). The trio of Combo (high-damage basic attack), Critical (lower damage basic attack, but can delay enemies), and Defend forms the crux of Grandia 2's combat system and turns random encounters from a button-smashing spree to a tactical dance.


It's probably a bit convoluted to simply read about, you have to really experience it to appreciate its complexity. I would add on to this that the game also allows you to move your character to a variety of places on the open battlefield, so many attacks can actually be "dodged" by moving your character to the correct place with the correct timing.

I'm actually really shocked that it took another game company so long to steal this genius battle system. But stolen it was, finally, by
Child of Light some 15 years later. Some of you may have even played this game and thought the battle system was really fun. Well, now you know where it came from. It's actually a bit more simplified than Grandia 2, but the core mechanics are there.

In terms of a battle system, I think Shin Megami Tensei is another great example. The battle system is great, but I think what makes it really unique is that you can talk to demons, recruit them, get them to give you money, items, etc, but often they trick you into giving them items and money, HP/MP, etc, instead.

I think this is utterly brilliant. The fact that the same enemy can have different responses and reactions from battle to battle is fascinating as well. It's like every enemy is an individual, which is really kind of crazy. It's almost like a meta-commentary responding to how most games throw waves of enemies at you with no personality or identity. This is not quite how it is in SMT.

But anyway I just wanted to get your guys' take on which RPG battle systems were the most memorable for you and why.

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