You can find plenty of FPS, RTS, action-RPG, racing, and platforming games, but trying to find a good turn based strategy, or turn based RPG is like finding a needle in a hay stack. Most developers will not touch turn based combat with a ten foot pole. Many people have suggested that turn based combat is obsolete, and only ever existed because of hardware limitations. I don’t buy that excuse, but if its true, I should be very grateful to hardware limitations, for making some of my favorite games possible.

Turn based games and real time games both have a number of pros and cons, but there’s no reason to dismiss turn based games as obsolete when they offer something that real time games do very poorly, planning ahead. Putting aside RTS for a moment, its pretty clear to see that games like FPSs and fighting games for instance, may have some tactical considerations, but there’s no room for any long term strategy. If you tried to plan out a long term strategy in those games, you’d probably get killed, for not acting quick enough.

No RTSs have a bit more strategy to them, as the name would suggest, but where exactly does this come from. There’s a related genre of games called real time tactics, and what separates real time strategy from real time tactics. From wikipedia “Typical real-time strategy titles encourage the player to focus on logistics and production as much as or more than combat, whereas real-time tactics games commonly do not feature resource-gathering, production, base-building or economic management”

That’s it! What separates RTS from RTT? Gathering resources, constructing a base, building units. Gathering resources takes time, building a base takes time, building units takes time. Any thing that slows down the game, and delays a confrontation makes the game more strategic, gives you more time to plan. Its what separates RTS from RTT. Without those delaying mechanics, people playing RTT games don’t have the luxury of taking their time to plan out a long term strategy, and will mostly think in the short term.

Turn based games, are by their very nature the slowest games possible, and give you all the time you need to plan your next move, adding depth to the planning and strategy. RTS games, through various delaying mechanics give you a bit of strategy, but fall short of turn based games. There is another group of games that comes to mind, that uses delaying mechanics, to try and add a bit of strategy, and still have the urgency of real time games.

If you know me you can expect me to bring up Final Fantasy. Several games in the series used an Active Time Battle system, where you must wait for a gauge to fill up before you can attack, and the enemies also have these, and if you wait too long to attack, your enemies will keep attacking you. I can see the appeal of trying to capture the urgency of real time games, but putting in delaying mechanics to give you a chance to come up with a strategy, sounds good in theory, but in practice it failed. It was just too urgent to really think about your moves, and might of well have been real time.

So whats the point I’m trying to make. Games that mix strategy and urgency can be really fun, but no matter how many delaying mechanics you put in a game, it will never have the same long term strategy and planning as a real time game. That’s why turn based games will never be obsolete.

  1. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Well, turn based games are still released so clearly there is a market for those. Civ5 and HoMM6 come to mind as some of the newest offerings, if you start looking a bit back there’s King’s Bounty, Disciples 3. Age of Wonders 2 or Fantasy Wars if you look even further. There was also a time when 4X space games fell in love with a hybrid system, with empire management being turn based and combat in real time (Master of Orion 3, Sword of the Stars, Lost Empire: Immortals) I really miss those as it was one of my favourite genres.

    Also, the turn based mechanics is strong in indie, amateur or casual development: anything by Spiderweb, almost all matchX games are turn based, almost all roguelikes are, the amateur JRPG scene is turn based, board game conversions and a lot of web browser titles also come to mind.

    Something that I think deserves a mention is how turn based games seem to age better or the people who like these are more accepting of a game’s age: the first Civ still has a decent following and a number of remakes, so does MoM. I’ve also seen people still playing various instalments of Worms. I imagine chess would be an extreme example 😉

    Finally, the active pause looks to me like an attempt to capture the “allows for planning” element of turn mechanics. Thought it is obviously not suited for multiplayer.

    • maxff says:

      I guess there are still quite a few turn based games still being made, but they are far less common in the mainstream than they used to be. The real reason for the post, is because there are a lot of people online who have suggested, that turn based games only ever existed because of hardware limitations, and that action games are automatically superior. I was basically trying to prove a point that turn based games offer something no real time game ever can. I may have slightly exaggerated how few turn based games are being made.

      Good point about turn based games age better. Probably because of hardware limitations older action games really are a lot worse than newer ones, while turn based games didn’t have to do stuff in real time, so they were able to have more complex mechanics, even when the hardware was pretty shitty.

  2. Curtis says:

    I’m not 2 much of a turn based fan but i do agree there were some good ones and they should make some more because they can be really fun

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