Despite that title up there, I’m not going to be talking about art style today. No no, we’re going to be looking at combat and how it affects the players, using various games. The art of combat is a delicate one; if the combat is too samey, then no one will want to play because of a grind. If it’s too different, you run the risk of alienating people because of the overall systems are just too unfamiliar. Now, there are more than a few ways around this problem…

World of Warcraft has a combat system driven entirely by numbers. No matter what, there are just somethings you can not affect in combat, and player skill required drops. Dodges and traps become harder to do because of it, but by giving a massive variety of skills, you can simulate a more real-time combat system. Player skill required starts sliding back up because of the niche use of skills in PvP and PvE, giving the combat a bit more life. The original problem remains though, that there will always be a mathematically superior way, and for some of those classes it will just involved mashing a couple of buttons forever.

On the other side of the spectrum we find games like Monster Hunter, where combat is almost entirely driven by player skill rather than numbers of ‘hit chance’ or gear benefits. Weapons have a set amount of moves that the player can do, and it becomes the players job to learn the most effective way to chain those skills on whatever monster they happen to be facing to maximize damage. Downside is, without the ability to ever do more, some players can become bored. Monster Hunter mitigates this by having every weapon be different forcing players to adapt and change styles once switching over.

Now, there are lots of other styles in place. Dark Souls has a fairly generic combat system in place that would grow insanely dull if the game wasn’t so punishing. It forces active thought and demands the player use a mix of offensive and defensive moments, rather than letting the player go hacking through everything that moves. TERA Online has a fusion of systems, requiring real-time management like Monster Hunter, but giving various skills to assist players like more traditional combat system. So outside your basic attack, you have a shield-slam or poison arrow or whatever special attack, and more for certain situations as well.

So, why bring up the combat system at all? Mostly because there is no one system that fits all. I used to love the World of Warcraft system, but now I’ve grown to despise the hotkey based style of combat. Other people love it. So as a thought experiment, let’s see what everyone’s favorite combat system is and why, and then expand from here. So, if you have a favorite, leave a comment explaining what it is and why so we can get some fun ideas going.

My personal favorite system is what Monster Hunter has. There are no requirements to using any of the other weapons, and never a required weapon to any boss fight. Sure, there are preferred weapons, but I have seen players using weapons I wouldn’t even dream of on certain fights and do perfectly well. Styles diverse enough to give an incentive to switch from time to time to spice it up a bit. The Gunlance is way different from the Long Sword, and that is far removed in play style form the Bow. Each has a unique way to murder the hapless of the land, and you are never required to ‘level up’ to gain skills or better attacks. A starting lance made out of a few monster bones and iron handles the exact same way as an end-game lance made out of unobtainium and god-dragon level scraps. Going up in levels simply lets you fight more and varied monster, and attach their bits to your favorite weapon, but leveling up itself will never directly power you up. That’s my favorite system, though TERA may steal that title yet…

I wonder how...