RPGs: Turn-Based or Action?? Part 2

RPGs Turn Based 2

In my part 1, I talked about the surgience and popularity of action RPGs and upcoming titles like The Witcher, which comes out today, shows that these games are now a big deal. (This market is becoming a little flooded, no?) Turn-based has become synonymous with “old school”, very much like 2D platformers that don’t say Mario. Has it become obsolete, or is there room for it to evolve?

I’m currently playing Ar Tonelico Melody of Elemia on the Playstation 2 as a part of my NIS Fest journal (Part 1 here https://somewhereinthemidstofnowhere.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/nis-fest-ar-tonelico-melody-of-elemia-part-1-things-are-bad/), and I am really impressed with how intuitive this turn-based system seems to be.Ar ToneLico battle The Reyvateils serve as magic users in the series, and they manage and use healing and attacking magic through “songs”, which are readily available at any time. As they sing, the spell’s become stronger and you receive other boosts to the Reyvateil and the rest of the party’s parameters, but their MP also drains rapidly while singing, so that also has to be kept in mind. I find this to be a pretty unique battle strategy and could be one of the best I’ve played on the PS2.

While I feel I’m not particularly qualified to decide which one overall is better than the other, the only thing I can provide are some of the pros and cons about both styles.


Well, you gotta be able to get around, right? Not to make this a war about which, from a technological standpoint, is better, because the older material doesn’t stand much of a chance. But whether or not there was a need to do away with the world map avatars.

Legend of Legaia on the PlayStation

Legend of Legaia on the PlayStation

“Look, it’s a really big guy that’s taller than the city walls! Why does he become smaller and the town gets huge!?” Well, the same reason Mario can warp through various locations using tubes; it’s a video game, you idiot! So, once devs had the ability to create gigantic, lush environments to run through, this makes things better, right?FF12 world map I mean, unless the game provides you with some kind of mount, to cut travel times in half. This would be a really nifty way to utilize Chocobos! No? Chocobos are limited to about a half a minute……? Okay……..This game makes me angry…

From aesthetics, it does look really cool to see a castle in horizon as it gets bigger the closer you are to reaching your destination. Yeah, in retrospect, it’s super primitive, but Esthar had the same effect in Final Fantasy VIII.FF8-0438-Esthar

It’s a pretty huge city, larger than any other visible town on a world map than any game I can think about. What kind of great treasures and shops can be found when I get the opportunity to explore this maze!?

Now also with that comes the caveats. You’re guided along on a tour, unable to stray far from your path until certain goals are met and you’re allowed the privilege of exploring the world. This usually came towards the middle/end portion of the game. I have to admit, I was never a fan of that method, so that’s where action-based wins.XenobladeChroniclesX-12 Even when certain story elements can become intense, and unless prompted, you are free to engage in anything you see fit. You want to travel around and fight some more to gain some levels? Have at it! Want to gather goods and sell them to make lots of money by trading with a buddy online? The world is your oyster! I spent so much time doing supplementary side quests in Skyrim, I completely forgot about the main journey at times. In fact, I’m certain I never got around to finishing it…

Also, one tiny note: Who thought THIS was a good idea??Nemo 5 map problems Selecting which part of town I want to investigate!? Why can’t I just walk through it? When did walking around a town and visiting individual shops and inns become a big inconvenience??!? Was that really so annoying?Save_Point_and_Shop_FFXIII…Final Fantasy XIII, I’m warning you. I can be a forgiving person, but so help me, I will punch you SQUARE in the soul if you don’t stop it. Hah! See what I did there!? I’m really proud of that, and besides, I really, really hate you…


As I explained above in my brief view of Ar Tonelico, all it takes is a little bit of ingenuity to keep turn-based battle systems relevant. PokemonPokémon’s battle system has pretty much remained intact while also adding new elements to the battle (like terrain-affecting moves that give bonuses to certain pokemon. Rain Dance, for instance) to keep it from getting stale throughout nearly 20 years. My brother (I am trying to NOT throw him under the bus, but his questions and confusion on RPGs is one of the bigger reasons I decided to write this. He’s never played one before, so some things he see baffles him.) asked me why Pokémon never tried to become a fighting game, because that would be cooler. The basic answer is that abilities and skills in Pokémon would not translate well in a more action-oriented engine, at least in the arbitrary sense. Some brilliant developers could whip up something fun, but if Sand Attack lowers accuracy, you could hear someone bitching about how “that hit connected!!”

The Last StoryThe Last Story on the Wii felt like the perfect hybrid of two worlds. You primarily control Zael and are capable of attacking as freely as you wish, but keep in mind that relying mostly on heavy striking left severe implications for the rest of your party that may be low of health.The Last Story Command modeCombined with the Command ability (the kind of Turn-based feature), you can have someone cast a spell that leaves a rune (or several) on the ground. Dispelling them can heal or add other bonuses to your party that can seriously turn the tide in a battle. This renders hoarding items pointless and puts everything at your discretion. Zael is the lynchpin in how the rest of the team stays alive and attacks, and doing well boosts team morale and they get temporary stat increases. You use that window to take out the enemy’s General, who, like Zael, makes his troops stronger.

In closing, I do miss the period when turn-based was the primary choice, but some action RPG games today have learned to incorporate  those same elements, so it isn’t like the style is completely abandoned. There’s still the tactical RPGs, which are kind of similar in spirit. The game I’m looking the most forward to is Xenoblade Chronicles X. The first game was very great, but felt a little clunky in execution. If I took long breaks in between playing it, I would get thrown off. X Looks to deliver on a really good story, a solid combat engine, and a beautiful world to explore. I’m interested to see if the long-running Dragon Quest series will stick with a TB style or make an attempt into the action foray, and Namco’s Tales franchise has no reason to veer away from what’s worked for 20 years. Turn-based may have lost significant footing as the RPG battle style of choice, but that doesn’t mean nothing can be done with it.


About ColonelFancy

Comedy writer, video game reviewer, retro gaming enthusiast, artist and cartoonist, otaku. Advocate of science, logic, and reasoning.
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