Should Final Fantasy Drop Turn-Based Combat Forever? – CBR – Comic Book Resources


  • Turn-based combat still has an audience: Older gamers appreciate the strategy and thought required in turn-based RPGs. It offers a more immersive role-playing feel and allows for character development and customization.
  • Real-time action combat adds realism and engagement: Real-time combat contributes to the game’s realism and immersive experience, especially with modern graphics and lifelike visuals. It helps maintain immersion and encourages developers to create detailed and visually stunning worlds.
  • Prioritizing real-time action combat may be better for the series: Final Fantasy is known for its narrative-driven games, and with the advancement in graphics and animation, prioritizing real-time combat seems more suitable. Reworking turn-based combat can compromise immersion, and hybrid mechanics may pull players out of the game world.

Combat has always been a significant part of what makes Final Fantasy so enjoyable. Apart from what is usually considered its impeccable storytelling, the series relies on intense and exciting battles to draw players in for another opportunity to improve their characters’ stats and abilities by gaining EXP and better gear. For the most part, the franchise has utilized classic turn-based mechanics in its combat, in which the player’s team and their enemies take turns performing actions. However, the release of Final Fantasy XVI has suggested that the antiquated mechanics of turn-based combat may be worth leaving in the past.

Final Fantasy XVI‘s approach to combat has created quite a mountain of controversy. As the first true action RPG of the franchise, it completely ditched the traditional turn-based formula the series was known for. Unfortunately, while many longtime Final Fantasy fans surely saw this coming from a mile off because of the steady implementation of action combat in the installments leading up to FFXVI, the change has been a bit too much for them to accept. Still, this dissatisfaction among fans has led to a heated but necessary debate about the future of Final Fantasy combat and whether it should continue as a real-time action series or simply rework its turn-based combat.

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Traditional Turn-based Combat Will Always Have an Audience

Despite Final Fantasy XVI‘s adoption of real-time action combat mechanics, turn-based combat still remains a desirable feature among gamers in the role-playing genre. While the speed of battle (or lack thereof) may not appeal to younger, more modern gaming audiences, older gamers who grew up with turn-based RPGs still appreciate the amount of strategy and thought they require in order to dominate the field and come out victorious.

Turn-based mechanics also primarily rely on a player’s gear, like their armor and weapons, to overcome battles, whereas real-time action combat relies on a player’s reaction time and quick thinking. Many gamers prefer this traditional approach to combat because it simulates more of a role-playing feel than real-time action ever could.

The focus of turn-based combat games on developing a character and personalizing it to suit a player’s needs reflects the role-playing genre in the truest sense, at least, according to those fans who still prefer it. No matter how much time passes, however, turn-based combat will always have its place in gaming. But does it have a place with current audiences and the modern approach to game development?

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Real-time Action Combat Adds to a Game’s Realism and Engagement

Clive attacking an Imperial Astrologer in Final Fantasy XVI

While it may be difficult to admit, there is a great deal of realism that real-time action combat contributes to a video game. It can’t be denied that going from exploring a game with such realistic visuals or witnessing lifelike conversations happen between multiple characters to a combat system where the characters don’t even move until it’s their turn to do so only serves to subtract from the game’s realism and immersion. This is precisely why Final Fantasy XVI‘s producer Naoki Yoshida chose to go in that direction with the latest installment to the franchise.

After apologizing to fans for not bringing classic turn-based combat back in FFXVI, Yoshida said, “…one thing that we found recently is that as graphics get better and better, and as characters become more realistic and more photo-real, is that the combination of that realism with the very unreal sense of turn-based commands doesn’t really fit together.” To his point, thanks to modern graphics, developers can focus more on the detail and scale of their worlds than simply relying on gameplay to keep players engaged. As worlds become more realistic, however, the realism of the combat that takes place in them should also increase.

Perhaps real-time action combat should be encouraged then, as it simultaneously urges game developers to continue crafting gorgeous, sprawling worlds for players to explore. Traditional turn-based combat makes sense in a pixilated or otherwise less realistic game world, as there is then almost no break in immersion from one activity to the next, and protecting that feeling of immersion is one of the greatest desires of the best developers.

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Final Fantasy May Be Better Off Prioritizing Real-time Action Combat

Clive using Arm of Darkness in Final Fantasy XVI.

Final Fantasy is and likely always will be a series of games that are largely driven by their narrative. While Final Fantasy XVI could possibly be considered the most story-driven game in the entire franchise, that doesn’t exclude the rest from their clear desire to tell a story. Because of this undeniable quality that every Final Fantasy game has, the series as a whole might be better off prioritizing real-time action combat from here on out—given the graphics and animation of each game call for it.

The only other solution to the “problem” Square Enix faces with ever-improving technology and the hold it has on the developers to design immersive visuals is to rework the traditional turn-based combat system. However, the issue with reworking turn-based mechanics is that they can really only be significantly altered by creating a hybrid of turn-based and real-time action combat, which is something the developers have already experimented with in past Final Fantasy titles like Final Fantasy XII. Even then, hybrid combat mechanics have been known to sacrifice some level of immersion by pulling players out of the game world and into a battle, rather than letting combat be a part of the world itself.

It is abundantly obvious that Square Enix wants its fans to be as immersed as possible in Final Fantasy‘s stories. While the developer has certainly made games like Octopath Traveler and Dragon Quest, where turn-based combat continues to be the right choice to make, that is simply not the direction they wish to go with the Final Fantasy franchise. Therefore, as painful as it might be to accept, the series may benefit from leaving turn-based combat in the past—at least in its future mainline installments, anyway.

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