This is something I’ve actually been wanting to talk about for a while, mostly because of how insane its extremes can be. Resources can be literally anything, the most basic definition is “something you need that the game provides, in limited quantities.” This is anything between what a mana and health-point bar are to minerals, vespene gas, and unit cap can be, across any genre and skill-level of game. Labyrinth of Touhou, a personal favorite dungeon crawler that actually has an insane number of combat-based resources, is the game with the most amount of resources that doesn’t break combat down into a cluttered bombshell during ordinary game-play .

The systems at work in Labyrinth are actually massive and way beyond the scope of what I’d be able to squeeze into one-thousand words or so, so we’ll just be focusing on resources to juggle around once combat actually starts. The mind-boggling stats and item system will have to come at a later day, sadly. Even removing all of that, the list is still large. In total, there are six things to keep in mind; Health, Mana, TP, the ATP bar (also called the Active Gauge), position, and mana regen. That looks a little excessive, but the game helpfully breaks everything down. All of them are interconnected, but separate enough that not having an intimate understanding of the mechanics will lead to a party wipe.

This screen is something you'll see a lot.

Of them all, Health and Mana are the most basic resources to keep in mind, and are basically hammered into a gamer’s mind from the get-go. When health hits 0, that character is knocked out (or sometimes dies), and no longer able to fight. Losing everyone means game-over, but it’s possible to survive with one and run back to town to revive everyone. So keeping a party happy and healthy is the first concern. Second is where mana comes in (In Labyrinth, it’s referred to as “Spell Points,” or SP, but it’s only a name swap), and this is usually some of the fun parts of combat. You can see from the screenshot that there are multiple spells with different costs. Early in the game, casting something like ‘Royal Flare’ can utterly bankrupt a mage’s mana… but it can also be a party-saving nuke to clear out enemies. Managing just these two alone ratchets up the complexity as decisions now revolve around offensive and defensive actions. The player could go for an all-out spell… or use something cheaper that might do the job and have someone else clean up. Or the enemy may get a turn in, causing the decision between lost hp (from the enemy attacking) versus reduced mage power (from bigger spells draining their pool faster).

Speaking of that little decision, that’s where the TP number comes in. See, in Labyrinth, characters can only remain in so many fights before they have to leave and return to the base, usually because they’ve spent too much time inside the dungeon. This number will go down by 1 every fight… so long as your character stays at 100% health. Losing a bit means losing 2 TP for that fight. Falling under half can mean a big hit of 3, while surviving with next to nothing means that character loses 4 TP for that one fight. Health becomes a much more important resource to keep up with, because even if your party is full-healed after each fight, a sloppy encounter can lead to multiple characters having to leave. That decision from before now carries more weight in debating if the mage should blow more mana for a powerful spell. What if one of the survivors uses a multi-target spell? Or just hits the tank, who has the highest TP anyways. If it is a multi-hit, is it safe enough to try to ride out combat until the healer can get a spell off? Obviously this mechanic is much less important for, say, a boss, simply because the floor is either done right after, or because the fight takes so many resources it’s safer to just leave and come back. For a run of the mill fight, this stays important by letting the player juggle how long each character can remain in the dungeon, weighing battle length against remaining TP and mana.

Sometimes, the easy solution is 'kill EVERYTHING.'

Next on this insane list of things to keep in mind is the ATP bar, that white (and in one character’s case: blue) bar that rests next to the TP number. This indicates when a character gets there move at all, and fills up in relation to how much speed that character has. Once the bar is full, you can make a move; Casting spells, switching characters out, recharging mana, or running away, each requires a character’s turn, and each (minus escape) has a delay cost on it. Now, the annoying thing is this delay is hidden from the player, which is a big no-no. But otherwise the system is great. Switching a character out will drop whoever switched them down to about 60% of their total bar. Some spells have ludicrously little delay, creating characters who can’t hit for much with one hit, but with enough speed will slam into an enemy a half-dozen times before they can even move. Other spells hit like trucks, but can have so much delay your characters bar will completely empty. This takes a very long time to recharge compared to other skills, so using them needs to be carefully monitored, switching that character out for someone else who can move sooner. The ultimate example of this is the skill ‘Laveatein’ in the screenshot, because it will completely empty your entire party’s gauge for one shot. It’s just that one shot has such ludicrous damage, anything short of a boss is probably going to die, but if it doesn’t… your party is in trouble.

Position comes next, and this one can be a little tricky. Characters in the front tend to be attacked more, and take more damage from area attacks. Those in the back corner usually take less from magical damage, mostly since they have another 2 or 3 characters in-front of them to act as meat shields and take the brunt of the damage. Swapping in someone in the wrong place can quickly lead to a KO’d party member, but creative use of switching can crank out insane damage, by using a tank or bruiser up front to switch in mages with heavy hitting / hard gauge draining skills to cycle through and pump out the hits.

Sadly, that's about all some tanks are good for, besides getting punched.

The final, and most easily overlooked, is mana regeneration, mostly because of how many other components are at play. Mana can be restored in combat using the ‘Focus’ command, giving a chunk back at the cost of that characters turn a moderate set-back from the ATP gauge, but nothing that’s debilitating. Mana also regenerates, albeit much slower, when a character is sitting in the reserve party, meaning combat isn’t the only way to gain some of that delicious damage potential back. It comes back to TP management, keeping as many characters around with as much mana so the player can explore (and thus actually win against random encounters).

So while there are a lot of things to keep an eye on, they have a way of staying mostly out-of-the-way. The active gauge doesn’t become much of a problem unless characters are using their massive hit/massive drain skills, and good fighting will usually result in most random encounters leaving the party hardly scratched, if at all. After that, TP isn’t even worth worrying about on bosses, since they’re almost always at the end of a floor or such a resource drain that the best idea is to just leave and come back after that. Position is mostly a no-brainer, unless you like watching the squishy mages getting one-shot for some kind of sadistic pleasure. Almost half the systems can just be ignored in random and little noticeable effect, since losing all the TP means the player just has to leave and come back with a fresh group, ready to explore, and the active gauge doesn’t hurt to ignore if you just want to blow up the enemy with the biggest, flashiest spells. Health and Mana are the king and queen of what needs to be watched, but underlying that are a host of systems to spice up combat with more and more interesting decisions, weighing the pros and cons of each move to squeeze the best from the party.