Devlog #7 The new combat system
The time has come, when I can finally talk about the core of the new combat system!
A quick recap for those who don't know, the new patch we are working on for the alpha combat demo will feature a completely reworked combat system. The problem with the old system was in short that it was too complex to use, even though it archived my design goal of heightening the importance of positioning in melee combat, even after the characters are in melee range. In designing the new combat system, I tried to emulate the same feeling, within a traditional turn-based framework.
The big problem, which makes positioning not that relevant after the characters meet in melee in a traditional turn-based game is I feel that the opposition has no chance to have any kind of reaction to it. A character can usually move and attack in the same turn. If you try to separate the two, (so for example, a character can only attack, or can only move in its turn, but not both) then the attack after the movement needs to be at least twice as good, otherwise, it's better just to not move and attack twice. Then there are AP systems, where you can decide how much AP you spend on moving, and how much you spend on attacking, which lessens the problem but does not solve it. The player is still incentivized to stay put and use as much AP as possible to use attacks or other skills. In a nutshell, movement competes with actions that cause damage in these systems.
So, the problem is given. I wanted a turn-based combat system, where characters can do actions and where movement does not compete with other skills and there is a chance to have a reaction to movement. My solution? I split a turn into 2 phases. A movement phase, and an attack phase. This is not unheard of in tabletop gaming. Maybe the most notable example would be the X-wing miniature game. But in digital turn-based games, I have not really seen this kind of system used (of course if you are aware of games with similar systems, please share them in the comments!). But what happens in these phases exactly?
A turn starts with the movement phase. At the beginning of the turn, every character will calculate their initiative by using their base value (which is modified by the armor for example) plus a random number. This will decide the order in which they will act this turn. In the movement phase, the character with the lowest initiative will move first, then the next lowest, etc. Why the lowest one moves first you ask? Because the advantage of a higher initiative is not that you move sooner. It is that you have the ability to only need to move after you saw the movement of the slower units. You have better information on the game state when you decide your move in this case.
Now, quick-thinking readers could already see a problem if this would be all. If there would be no engagement rule, then that would mean a higher initiative unit could just simply move away from close range of a lower initiative unit after that moved. So there is an engagement rule. Check out this gif:
A melee unit has 3 tiles which are engagement tiles. The tile which it looks towards counts as full engagement. And the other 2 as partial engagement. If you start your movement phase not engaged, the only rule you need to know is that if you move into one, you can't move further. On the other hand, if you start inside a partial engagement, you can only move 1 tile, see below:
If you start inside a full engagement tile, you can only move into tiles which the engaged unit has control over (so the partial tiles). This guarantees that you cannot move out of a melee attack (at least, not without using a skill like dodge for example ;) ). See below:
After everyone is finished with their movement phase, comes the attack phase. In this phase, the character with the highest initiative can act first, then the next highest, etc. So this phase is pretty standard. After everyone is finished, a new turn begins.
This is the core of the new battle system. To be honest, I'm very happy that in the end, we decided to do this remake, as in-house we feel the system is very fun to play. We are working hard to finish all our planned improvements for the release of the patch so that you can try it out as well!