I’ve been thinking about this for a ridiculously long time now, so I’m just going to come out and say what is seeming to be more and more obvious each year. In my opinion, turn-based games that are trying to become more innovative have been missing out on a huge opportunity since day one. Far be it from me to judge a game, never-mind an entire genre, based on fantasy features that I feel are missing. But this is one of those obvious ones that is glaring in my face every time I play a Role Playing Game. Read on for what I perceive to be a huge game play opportunity that RPG games are missing out on, see if you agree that this is an obvious step forward for the genre that should have been taken decades ago.
When a player selects an action such as Fight, Use Item, or Cast Spell in a turn-based Role Playing Game, everyone knows what to expect next. Now it’s time to sit here and watch your character(s) enact the commands as your controller becomes dead weight for a couple of seconds. During my extensive 60+ hour play-through of Lunar: Silver Star Harmony for the PlayStation Portable, the power saving feature for the back-light even became engaged during many of these passive game play moments. I feel there is a simple and painless solution to these brief moments of non-play and it could have worked even in the Nintendo NES days.
What is the solution you ask? The answer to that question is simple, and I’m not going to be surprised if thousands or millions of gamers have thought of it before. When we are sitting here watching our players execute our commands in Role Playing Games, especially ones that do not have real time active battle systems, we should be able to press buttons at key moments in the animation to impact the effectiveness of the action. This feature would have to be in the game from the ground level up of course, but just think how dramatically it could improve a Role Playing Game of the turn-based variety. The applications are almost endless.
For an example on how this might work think of the most common command in Role Playing games, Attack. When you press this button then select an enemy, you watch your character jump forward and stab your opponent. If the game had something like a invisible quick-time event that players understood, for example press A when your character stabs, this could allow further immersion in the game play by determining the effectiveness of the attack based on the players’ timing. For a more extreme example, think of raining down fireballs and rapidly slamming X as fast as you can timed with each fireball to determine the effectiveness of each attack in your fireball raining spell turn. Or for another example, if you were in a long summon instead of just sitting there watching it you could be pressing buttons at key moments. This could potentially turn those moments of not playing into something like a Quick Time Event from games like God of War.
For an even more advanced input system you could even use pressure sensitive input so the harder they push said button the more the attack will be a success. The Final Fantasy series of games seem to have realized the lack of immersion in watching your characters attack because in Final Fantasy VI players will note the screen flashes white when a critical attack is made. If such an attack was based on the players’ skill rather than random it might be more immersing.
In the end it is tough to say how important this really is, and how much it could really add to a Role Playing Game’s battle system. I believe that most RPGs are becoming so advanced that a feature like this is too little too late to be anything helpful. However, for games that are trying to spice up the classic RPG model might this be something they really need to address? Maybe it’s just me. Tell us your thoughts on this and let us know what you think about Turn-Based Role Playing Games and how they can improve in the future.