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Author Topic: Good Combat Engines  (Read 1242 times)

PolishedTurd

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Good Combat Engines
« on: February 20, 2019, 04:15:44 pm »
I am looking for games to play that feature a good combat engine, but where combat is not the sole focus. Ideally, there is some kind of platforming, exploration or puzzle to solve, and the combat happens along the way. I'm less interested in beat-em-ups, fighting games or Gauntlet-style games, but if the mechanic is unusually elegant, I'd be happy to consider it.

What makes a good engine to me: a variety of moves to choose from, including melee, ranged, area of effect; an element of defense and/or counterattack; perhaps a positional element such as high or low attack / defense; movement and perhaps some use of the environment.

Most importantly, a good engine allows you to enter a state of flow, improvising and adapting as the events unfold. Button mashing, spamming a simple combo or "turtling" should be ineffective.

Good examples include the Batman Arkham games on Xbox 360, Ninja Gaiden Black on Xbox, Zelda 2 swordplay on NES... Star Wars Force Unleashed and maybe some of the swordplay in SNES Prince of Persia. It's hard to come up with more examples because it's a rare experience for me.

FAST6191

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2019, 06:45:36 pm »
I have long sought out "fighting game engine mechanics in another game", and have not really got there. While the likes of the modern/3d Ninja Gaidens can provide some things getting closer to it (pity about the later efforts there) most I have seen falls short of the mark. Such things tending to be to my "ideal" here what GTA is to a more refined shooting game, which is to say enough to be fun but not enough to truly scratch the itch. It has got better since earlier attempts (while I want to forget mortal kombat mythologies sub zero I know at the same time those that forget being doomed to repeat).

Trying to pin down when thoughts first came to me here -- I don't know if it was fighting with NES Defender of the Crown, Streets of Rage on the megadrive having played Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat or maybe even Shenmue and feeling limited in the fighting.

Ninja Gaiden as a top example has me curious here. I am almost tempted to say maybe have a look at the PS2 Shinobi games, though only do it if you are not attached to the 16 bit era stuff or can somehow split them. If I do that though I will start heading down the path of all those attempts at 3d beat em ups on the PS2 and that is only going to end up with me seeing how well the bouncer aged with the years. There were a few other attempts at the Ninja Gaiden formula (Bayonetta, Ninety Nine Nights, El Shaddai and Nier being the usual starting choices here, all doing rather better in the story department than Ninja Gaiden manages) but if it is fighting engines you seek then none clicked for me the same way Ninja Gaiden's (or at least black and 2) eventually did. Check out the modern prince of persia series if you have not gone there. Annoyingly it will be the likes of 2 and 3 that have the better combat where 1 has the better story and world for me (and most, and if you are still living in the emo world of 2004 such that warrior within appeals then... I hope you get help).

Some get on with the European* (Witcher, Two Worlds II and Risen being the more prominent, though I will also throw in Venetica as a surprise twist) and Russian** RPGs and while I find them enjoyable they are not quite there. I had a spin with the recent Conan game a while back and it did some things there, though it was probably that it got out of my way enough to make it such that I could have my own fun as it were (like a PS2 game but in the best possible way being how I would phrase that one).
You might try kingdoms of amalur. It will take a little while to get into it and for it to open up, though if you know what you are looking for it will become apparent within a few hours -- by the time you are making weapons you will probably know, though there is more to it after that.
Just to finish the list and go back to Japan then Capcom's Dragon's Dogma has some interesting ideas here. Mostly in the verticality and getting away from "run in, mash attack, maybe dodge or block/parry if the engine supports it and it is useful" for me where I find stuff like Skyrim almost takes place in a near wheelchair friendly flat plane (with said mash attack thing).

*classically there being the big three way split of approaches to RPGs of Japanese (see Final Fantasy, though for a bit of amusement maybe also Wizardry after they took it over), US based (dungeons and dragons -- make a computer version of that) and European (make a computer version of folk tales/word of mouth story).

**Russian RPGs are an odd one. I don't know if anybody really plays them for fun (at least the RPGs -- you otherwise get wonderful things like The Void) but if you want to see raw ambition and mechanics pushed to beyond breaking, and beyond even that a lot of the time, then the Russians do well here. Innovation is a word broken in gaming discussions but in as much as it means things I did not see for years after that, and even then it was mainly into German or Eastern European efforts, then Russian games have something to it, this including combat.

Force unleashed is a sort of odd one to see in the "like this" list. It certainly has its perks, and as a power fantasy with flowing/freeform combat it is right up there. I don't know how well they will have aged but you might in turn try the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series (the first is a doom clone, though a good one, so you can probably skip that) -- force unleashed felt like a natural progression of the academy and outcast entries of that franchise to me, or at least the way I played them. Bioware's oft forgotten Jade Empire might do something for you, though it is slow to get going and even when I first played it after the end of the original xbox it had not aged amazingly.

I have not toyed with them but some seem to go in for the arena historical weapons fighting games that started off with Chivalry. Mount and Blade then usurping its spot somewhat, the recent For Honor probably gaining much of the same crowd (assuming Mordhau does not come along and grab its share of the pie). If you are trying to get away from fighting for its own sake though then these might not be for you. Kingdom Come is another in the line of European RPGs and while its story aspects, and general bugginess, left some wanting it could do something here.

If you want to kick it rather more old school then most wrote it off as a bad resident evil clone, and the fighting is more timing or even rhythm based than anything else, but I really like Ronin Blade/Soul of the Samurai on the PS1. Said PS1 also saw the likes of the Bushido Blade franchise started, and while it is a fighting game its cumulative damage model intrigues some people (said model/gimmick being in real life then getting struck in the arm with a sword will probably mess it up and you then lose capabilities with it for the rest of the round, making fighting seriously hard in the process).

Some of the later dungeon crawler esque things do well here. Lord of the Rings War in the North being a decent example, and some of the failed year of co-op*** might have a glimpse of something too.


***one time later in the 360 life I was sitting there at this time of year seeing the three or four small dev co-op games set to appear... the results were disappointing to say the least (first templar, Hunted: The Demon's Forge, The Cursed Crusade and one other I have forgotten as a type this). The year ended with Skyrim, which in turn found itself replaced for me by several games a few months later, so it was not all bad but I was looking forward to having a solid co-op game to be playing.

As I am somewhere in the weeds at this point I will plump for my favourite RPGs of the 360 era. Those being Resonance of Fate, Magna Carta 2 and Eternal Sonata (note that this one changes as you go through gameplay, though you can set things to what you like). None particularly resemble each other, and none are fighting per se, but it was their engines that drew me in, and brought me back after I got burned out hard on Final Fantasy clones during an earlier time. They all have a strong focus on area/movement and timing though which might speak to you.
Also if you never played it then Crusader of Centy/Soleil on the megadrive I want to include in this paragraph.

Anyway in what is a radical departure from tradition for me I appear to have waffled some here; hopefully you get something from all that.

Gideon Zhi

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2019, 06:53:28 pm »
Vagrant Story and Panzer Dragoon Saga.

abw

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2019, 07:50:22 pm »
I can't comment on most of these games, but I will add a second vote for Eternal Sonata - it's not one of my favourite games, but it did have an interesting combat system. On the RPG front, you might also enjoy the Tales of Xilia games - while button mashing is entirely viable on the lower difficulty settings and it takes a bit of work to unlock the highest difficulty settings, the combat engine itself is actually pretty decent and contains way more depth than you actually need on the lower difficulties.

Jorpho

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2019, 12:23:44 am »
Would Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories count?  I never played Re: Chain of Memories, but the original GBA version was kind of neat.  It's hack-and-slash but card-based at the same time.

I might also recommend The World Ends With You, in some ways a successor to GBA Chain of Memories.
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Disch

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2019, 02:09:17 am »
So.... I've mentioned this in the Underrated Games thread, and I'm compelled to mention it again here because your original post describes this game almost word for word.  Seriously I cannot express how awesome this game is.... and nobody freaking knows about it.

Wandering Souls
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvJMlDIvf_o  <-  Trailer (with download link in description)
https://www.dropbox.com/s/73bzevslrdq8c4d/Touhou%20-%20Wandering%20Souls.zip?dl=0  <-  My dropbox download (if you don't trust the mediafire link in the trailer)

(Note:  play on the highest difficulty -- and make sure you play with a controller with a good D-pad)

Variety of moves to choose from
You switch between 3 characters, each with 3 different primary attack combos, plus ~8 special moves (unique for each character) which become un/available depending on the equipped weapon and are triggered by fighting-game style combos (up,left,attack -- etc).  Plus 4 charged spells (again, unique to all characters) which get unlocked throughout the course of the game.

At the halfway point in the game you start unlocking even more characters which you can swap into your main crew of three.  I haven't counted but it's at least a dozen, all with unique moves.  I haven't even used them all.

including melee
Check.  Your primary attack combos are mostly melee (though some characters have ranged splashed in).  Also some special moves are like chunky melee that do big damage but you have to catch the enemy just right for them to be effective.

ranged
Check.  Most special moves are ranged, plus at least one of each character's base move combos is [short] ranged.

area of effect
Check.  Special moves plus lots of charged magic spells -- Marisa (the witch) in particular has charge spells which occupy large portions of the screen.  There's also AOE stuff that follows your character around like a shield to make melee more effective.

an element of defense and/or counterattack

You have a "block" stance for emergencies but it's ineffective against the REALLY large attacks.  You also can't rely on it because it operates like a gauge which drains when hit, and if it drains all the way it's completely disabled for a few seconds.  The name of the game REALLY is stick and move -- find an opening, rush in and take it, then quick get out before you get clobbered.

No real counterattack mechanic, though.

movement

Looooooooots of movement.  The game is primarily movement.  Most of the game is dodging, looking for a way to slip in your attacks.

and perhaps some use of the environment.

You don't really USE the environment yourself, but the environment definitely acts as an obstacle in numerous stages.

- Fight enemies while dodging boulders falling from the sky!
- Oh no now those boulders are falling into lava and splashing lava droplets everywhere!
- Fight enemies while the wind is blowing you around in all sorts of directions!
- Fight in a swamp where you're constantly poisoned and your health is draining!  Better grab those health drops!

And of course...the yin-yang guys who you can't kill but throw a constant stream of projectiles at you -- they might qualify as environmental.


Stuff you didn't mention:  elemental/status effects

Use fire attacks on the little ice goblins!  It's super effective!  But don't use wind attacks on the fairies because they're resistant!

Reimu's orb attack also mutes enemies!  Neato!  Use it on those magic books to make them ineffective while you focus on the fairies!  Deadly Kunais poisons guys!  Use it on bosses to chip away at their health!

Stuff you didn't mention:  Relics

Each character gets 4 equipment slots with dozens of options for each slot.  Maybe you want to beef up one person's physical attacks.  Or maybe you want to make special moves cheaper.  Or maybe you want some health regen.  Or maybe you want your spells to charge quicker.  Or maybe you want immunity from paralysis because those goddamn pixies keep stunning you.  Tailoring your characters and their build can change a lot of how you play, and is pretty much essential late game.

Stuff you didn't mention:  Knockout mechanic

You have a crew of 3 that you can switch between in real time (though switching has a cooldown).  The ones you're not using slowly recover extra life/stamina/magic.  If someone actually dies, they're out for an extra length of time and you can't switch to them until they're ready -- but even then they come back at 50%, so you'll probably want to wait a bit longer to let them heal up a bit.  True death happe

Most importantly, a good engine allows you to enter a state of flow, improvising and adapting as the events unfold

"Man these foxes are throwing bullets everywhere, I can't get anything done with them around, better focus on them first.  Oh wait, that frost dragon is charging his spell, better stun or mute him before he can pull it off.  Shit, I didn't notice that pixie just did its paralyze move and I didn't get to block it, now I'm stunned for two seconds while my plans unravel and the pixie heals everyone!"

(this is pretty much the whole game -- note:  always kill the pixies first)

Button mashing, spamming a simple combo or "turtling" should be ineffective.

Check, check, and check.

Button mashing will get you through maybe the first 3 stages while the game introduces you to the mechanics.  After that, it'll get you absolutely nowhere.

And even if you deck your character out with all the right relics to make your one special move SUPER effective, it still costs MP or stamina, which means you get one or two uses before you have a cool down.  Spamming is almost never possible.

Your shield has bare minimum effectiveness -- just enough to be useful in tight situations, but not anywhere near enough to rely on.  Turtling is completely impossible.  You are always on in this game.




I seriously cannot sing this game's praises enough.  It is extraordinarily well designed and surprisingly well balanced considering how much content is in the game.  Outside of MAYBE Soulsborne games this is the best combat I've seen.  And I say "maybe" because this might actually be better -- it's just a completely different style so it's hard to compare.



EDIT:  Here's some REALLLY old gameplay footage of me playing one of the stages maybe ~30% of the way through the game   https://youtu.be/WY5SqgHVb2M
« Last Edit: February 21, 2019, 02:22:50 am by Disch »

Chronosplit

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #6 on: February 21, 2019, 08:12:31 am »
Would Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories count?  I never played Re: Chain of Memories, but the original GBA version was kind of neat.  It's hack-and-slash but card-based at the same time.

I might also recommend The World Ends With You, in some ways a successor to GBA Chain of Memories.
On this note, perhaps Mega Man Battle Network?  It's combat is both unique and good, though the plot can be eh.  Best I can describe it is that it's a mix of grid-based strategy, card, and action.  There's some OP stuff (though thanks to cards there's no guarantee of your combo popping up), but largely it has most of what you're wanting.

It's big enough that to this day people still hold tourneys online.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2019, 08:30:17 am by Chronosplit »

tvtoon

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2019, 02:18:28 pm »
Sonic Battle, Tobal, Ehrgeiz, another one to Kingdom Hearts series and Vagrant Story, Power Stone and the list goes on... :D

Chronosplit

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #8 on: February 21, 2019, 03:36:16 pm »
I want to say Parasite Eve as the gameplay is similar to Vagrant Story in parts, but the latter is much more in-depth.

POWCo-op

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2019, 08:20:39 am »
Metroid Fusion, Mario Kart DS, Crash Bandicoot The Wrath of Cortex.
Now you're playing in... three dimensions.

Disch

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2019, 10:37:28 am »
Metroid Fusion, Mario Kart DS, Crash Bandicoot The Wrath of Cortex.

I haven't played Crash Bandicoot, but I am genuinely confused by those first two.

Gideon Zhi

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2019, 01:02:01 pm »
Panzer Dragoon Saga is seriously my all-time favorite combat system. Here's a demo of it in action:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_kRDJmwDW8

It's ATB like a Final Fantasy game, except you only control the one character (Edge and his dragon.) You have three ATB bars, which stock consecutively. Basic attacks take one bar, whilst magic takes two or three. Later in the game you get the ability to change your dragon's form, which customizes its stats and magic, and grants you a bonus if you let all three bars fill up (I'm fond of the one that slowly recharges your MP.) Your basic attacks include a targeted shot for pinpoint focus, or a homing laser that hits a wide range of targets but can't be focused.

Battle is in four quadrants, each colored green (safe), transparent (mildly dangerous), or red (seriously dangerous.) You can move freely between them, but your ATB doesn't charge while you're moving. The enemy can move too, which you can see in the linked video; the speedier switches are the player moving, while the slower ones are the enemy. Enemies usually have weak spots, but these are frequently in red zones; the strategy is generally to let your ATB charge in a green zone, then move to hit the weak spot, blast it, then move out as quickly as you can. Sometimes this manifests as a big red "WEAK" target, sometimes it's a single enemy in a swarm that when shot down causes the swarm to disperse. Sometimes one of the quadrants is blocked by terrain and can't be entered. On top of all this, the game ranks your performance in each battle scenario, and you get better rewards for finishing faster and more efficiently.

It's so good.

PolishedTurd

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2019, 10:29:22 am »
Wow, plenty to chew on here. Thank you for all the suggestions.

Disch, I have watched footage of Wandering Souls, and it doesn't seem like my kind of game (I'm often put off by Japan-style cuteness). But on the strength of your recommendation and your breadth of experience, I'll give it a shot. Thank you for the thorough write-up.

I was originally thinking of strictly real-time fighting, but there are some cool turn-based and hybrid styles mentioned here. I will investigate and report my experiences here.

Thank you everyone!

Disch

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2019, 02:42:39 pm »
Yeah the weeb shit is terrible.  But the gameplay is so solid if you are able to get past it.  I'm glad you're willing to try it out.  Hope you like it as much as I do!    :thumbsup:

ArkthePieKing

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2019, 02:43:36 am »
Honest answer, and I'm not trolling, Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure. It's part action-platformer, part DS touch screen puzzle game, but the two parts work together very well. The combat, while not a focus of the game, is done very well with a decent combo system that includes juggling and lots of special moves. Give it a look if you don't believe me. This is an early level that doesn't quite show off the full extent of the combat but it's there, I promise.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvRTvYnYPzg

POWCo-op

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2019, 03:35:14 am »
I haven't played Crash Bandicoot, but I am genuinely confused by those first two.
Why?
Now you're playing in... three dimensions.

Jorpho

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Re: Good Combat Engines
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2019, 09:28:51 am »
Honest answer, and I'm not trolling, Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure.
Excellent suggestion!  It's a quality title through and through – some thoroughly challenging platforming, but some of the hidden stuff is way too obscure.  I might also suggest Monster Tale from the same developers, which replaces the touch screen puzzle with a virtual pet simulator. (They were supposed to be making an enhanced 3DS version, but no one's heard news of it in a long time.)

Why?
I agree: I haven't the slightest idea why you are mentioning Metroid Fusion and Mario Kart DS in a thread about "unique combat engines".  Maybe you should try explaining yourself?
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