GameCentral readers discuss their favourite battle systems, from the first person shooting of Doom Eternal to the turn-based machinations of XCOM.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Garrison, and covered any kind of game, from a first person shooter to a fighting game or role-player. Which one do you think has the best combat system and what made them so good?
There were lots of different suggestions, in lots of different genres, but the most common were definitely FromSoftware games such as Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and Batman: Arkham and its derivatives.
Best combat? Simple. Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. Made all the better due to the fact it can be as simple or as complicated as you can manage. X is attack and Y is block. The latter game adds in a double tap but by then you should be stringing 50+ combos together with no issues.
I loved these games enough to beat multiple times and even go through New Game+ but that was for Trophies/Achievement gathering. I’ve even started the HD remastered versions ‘cos I got them free.
Oh. Yeah, the fact you feel like Batman is a bonus too.
For great justice
My personal favourite, or at least it should be for the amount of times I’ve played the game, was the V.A.T.S. system in Fallout 3 and New Vegas.
There is always something satisfying about targeting those filthy super mutants and deathclaws in their individual limbs and seeing the percentages followed by the effect of your actions.
And, because it’s a role-playing game it had a skill tree that let you upgrade those capabilities and become a more proficient, err… crusader for justice, or something!
Anyway, it was clean, easy to use, effective and didn’t get in the way of the rest of the game. Just the way a combat system should be. Just a shame that the game was so bug ridden that it crashed with hilarious regularity. Gimme some Nuka-Cola any day.
Call Of XCOM
There’s a big difference between real-time and turn-based combat systems but I’m going to go with XCOM 2 just because it is so satisfying when things go right. The amount of depth and customisation available in the game at every point is amazing and it’s one I come back to constantly.
There is some story and also the top-level strategy stuff but it’s the combat that’s the real draw and I could play it endlessly, from a 20 minute mission to a 24-hour all-nighter. I guess it’s actually like Call Of Duty or other online shooters in that sense, in that you’re always ready to go back for more just because the core combat is so enjoyable.
It’s a shame the games never seem to be that big on consoles but I hope the recent spin-off will make it and that we’ll see a proper next gen XCOM 3 before too long.
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For me the best combat of this generation at least is Doom Eternal. The game as a whole has some problems (the platforming and the dumb story) but the first person shooting is sheer perfection. The gunplay is excellent, the enemies are varied and fun to fight, and all the little extra moves and the method of getting new ammo, shields, etc. (I’m sure this must have a name in the game but I don’t remember them ever giving it one.) is great.
The way it all works together is just super enjoyable and very cleverly thought out. It’s one of those games where you get into the zone and you’re working purely on instinct and reaction, but in the back of your mind there’s tactics ticking over as well. Fantastic stuff and I hope they get to finish the trilogy next gen.
Depth in numbers
My favourite battle system is from the Valkyria Chronicles games. It is not the most in-depth mechanic ever but it is the only battle system in a role0playing game that has kept me interested to the end of a game. The Valkyria Chronicles combat has a nice combination of elements.
It is turn-based but you physically move the character, so you do not just select where they move to but the path they take, ensuring you avoid the line of sight of the enemy and hazards such as mines. You can also use a character multiple times in a turn, but their movement range depletes and some unit types have a finite amount of ammunition, so you cannot just rely on a single character.
You also physically aim the guns, albeit in a sort of manual version of V.A.T.S., but it means that you get to choose whether you go for an ambitious headshot or a reliable shot to the body. And the closer you get in the movement stage the higher the chance you will hit. Placing two characters next to each other might also trigger a team attack but could leave them open to a grenade from the enemy.
Then there are the overall strategic elements of which enemies you focus on first and which units you deploy at the start and which you call in later at base camps. Do you need engineers to heal and restock ammunition? All relatively simple stuff but it all works together well. And the games are good at adding new challenges in each subsequent mission to keep things interesting.
Other favourites are XCOM 2, God Of War, and Marvel’s Spider-Man (which is essentially Batman: Arkham). Again, all have options for how the player engages in combat, but they are all relatively simple in execution. The majority of the depth is provided by the variety of the enemies and the approach the player takes, not in the players reaction speed or their mastery of the controls.
It’s been mentioned recently in the Inbox but I would say Nioh/Nioh 2 has the best combat, at least of this generation. Although the game itself is a Dark Souls clone the combat is a lot more complicated than what From usually does, closer to something like Devil May Cry, and I think it works perfectly.
It’s a hard game but like any Soulsborne, or any good game really, you get out of it what you put in.
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Insert praise here
I was probably always going to choose a FromSoftware game for outstanding combat, as the likes of Dark Souls and Bloodborne always feel among the most considered, with fantastic balances between depth and accessibility. They’re also impressively varied and satisfying, whether you’re dancing with daggers, swinging a scythe or thrusting a spear. Or [insert more boring verb] with a standard sword.
Having said that, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is probably the least varied among From’s combat-based games, but I think it still qualifies as one of the best systems ever. There are far fewer weapon (or sub-weapon) options and some of the moves are scripted in a sort of Batman: Arkham/quick time event style.
But when you realise how much emphasis there is on rhythm, patterns, and timing compared to the usual button combinations of arcade style combat systems, learning to pull off some of those moves is massively empowering, which is what combat in gaming is meant to be about.
Side-stepping a spear and stamping on it to obstruct and stun your enemy is accompanied by that traditional From percussive beat which functions as your rewarding cue to perform the perfect counter. Jumping in the air and catching a lightning bolt only to fire it back at a boss is as devastating as it is cool.
All of the above also feel risky and difficult enough to pull off – and punishing enough when you fail – that they’re all the more rewarding for it. Some enemies seem impossible till you figure out how to play their relentless attacks against them. Once you do, though, particularly on that final boss, when you eventually develop an answer to every single challenge he makes, you feel like you’ve legitimately earned your unmatched power through the trials, risks and failures you’ve faced up to that point – rather than through the mere investment in playing time, collectibles, or experience points.
By ‘you’ I mean the player as well as the protagonist and that parallel is what makes it so great.
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