I feel like ranting.
I’ve always, ever since I was just a little kid and first playing games, loved turn-based combat. I wonder if that makes me strange. It certainly makes me geeky, but there’s something really, tangibly satisfying about it. RPGs have been my bread and butter genre, the one I’ve subscribed to and paid the most to over my gaming career. I’ve played RPGs of every make, from the Southwest to the Far East, the colorful and childish and the grim and grotesque and in all of them–well, for a long period of time in the 90’s and early 2000’s at least–all of them were united by turn-based combat. A system where, rather than actively approach and assault your target, you eliminate your enemies in a thoughtful, strategic manner, combing various skills from various units or characters in order to eliminate the foe in the most efficient way possible. It was a thinking man’s game–like chess, but with big fucking explosions and dragons and shit.
I love it. I love being able to lean forward, chin in hand, analyzing boss patterns. Looking for strengths and weaknesses, figuring out the absolute best moment to attack and when to defend. People, I’ve found, mock turn-based combat as slow and boring, but to me it’s just the opposite. Combined with a deep customization system, turn-based combat is a visceral canvass in which your stat-building and character customization choices are painted and the paint is the blood of your enemies. You can mold a unit into a uniquely devastating force of nature through your knowledge of mechanics and your analysis of individual strengths and weaknesses. Through numbers and foresight you mold unto this digital world a God of Destruction, a living embodiment of power everlasting. The satisfaction from this is richly succulent and well worth the effort.
Sadly, RPGs are evolving and, reluctantly, I say for the better. I’m starting to realize that turn-based combat may become, if it isn’t already doing so, archaic and obsolete. New generations may reject it entirely, and I feel that–with evidence being in the absolutely palpable and heart-wrenchingly dramatic and tense Demon’s Souls–action RPGS are finally coming into their own, and managing to craft the dramatic tension present in many turn-based duels from RPG classics, like Final Fantasy IX or Chrono Trigger. The satisfaction from these games and the strategy involved–beyond pointless gimmicks or button-mashing–is also improving. I’m predicting that we will soon see a vein of action-oriented RPGs with a deep emphasis on stat-building and strategy, and that day will be a good day indeed.
Anyway, my point here is that I want you to remember the turn-based RPG, and I’d like to see its place honored. I’d hate for the mechanic to die completely. I hope, much like 2-D games, turn-based RPGs find a strong niche market and explore next generation systems in new and interesting ways. Just as we still use dice to run games of chance, so too may we still allow enemies and allies to face each other in parallel lines and politely take turns whacking each other with sticks. For some us, it’s a lot of fun.