So Which Way is the Right Way?
There isn’t a single right way for an industry, but there is a right way (or at least a wrong way) for individual players. Each gamer has a specific system he or she likes and most likely at least one that is disliked. We have our own tolerances towards randomness and pacing and that guides us to our perception and preferences for different games. We also have different gateways to gaming and those shape our opinion on what a game “should” play like.
Using myself as an example, my gaming experience began with miniatures, strategy and wargames. Turn based systems with a hint of randomness work just fine for me. While I am not exactly a fan of action based combat, the move towards action combat hasn’t deterred me on the genre just yet. I can stick near the top of a DPS list, play PVP scenarios, and dance with a modern raid boss just fine. But, these days I find playing through X-Com or even Pirate 101 fights, setting up traps and sequencing units, to simply be more engaging and enjoyable.
Additionally, as I get older, I find my wrist and elbow have a bit less tolerance for banging out combat rotations for hours on end. Ultimately, the dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge model of action combat itself wears thin. Finally, while it hasn’t happened to me just yet (I’m still clearing nightmare’s just fine in TSW), there will certainly come a day where synchronized swimming bosses just stop being doable (let alone fun) as my reaction speed and timing wanes.
That doesn’t mean that action oriented systems aren’t fun and engaging for others, though. They are, clearly, based on the feedback of players. To me, it’s less of whether games should be built a specific way or not, but rather a question of who your target demographic is. With video gaming now well past the twenty-year mark, there’s a whole slew of gamers across all age demographics.
I don't see much Eorzea in this column
So where does this leave FFXIV? Well, at the moment we don't really know. FF has its roots in the simulation system, with the single player series shifting from turn-based to an active time system some years back. I experienced a return to roots moment recently playing around with Final Fantasy IV on my iPad. Once I have played through that a few times, I fully expect to return for more nostalgia with Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy Tactics and Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition.
Combat systems in Final Fantasy have always been slower-paced, emphasizing attribute development, resource management and party interdependency. FFXI and the original FFXIV both worked from a resource management approach where tactical points (TP) and mana (MP) were reasonably scarce. However, it was never the "stand in one place" system that its deterrents claimed. There were encounters where movement was rewarded or required, just not the non-stop, synchronized swimming model that characterizes raid design in the modern MMO.
Yoshida does seem to want to push FFXIV closer to the action approach to combat with A Realm Reborn. Players start with full resources, as opposed to building resources. Additionally, the alpha combat videos show melee and archers in motion along with a Global Cooldown replacing individual ability recharges.
However, there also appears to be an intention to stay true to the classic FF model. Players are to have personal combos, abilities which do more when sequenced properly. Groups will have Limit Breaks where interdependency between teammates will produce some synergy.
It will be interesting to see FFXIV move towards its open beta. Will a more action oriented approach appeal to consumers? Will there be enough of a classic combat system to appeal to the Final Fantasy fan base?
How about you? What type of combat engages you? Which game’s combat systems really grab you? How would you like to see party-based combat mechanics implemented? Join us in the discussion below!