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Square Enix and Artdink polished and tinkered with the turn-based tactical system enough to set a new benchmark for the genre. Triangle Strategy’s blend of a fluid and fun system with a large ensemble cast that each brings something different to the team, is triumphant. It is the rare game to have found a way to make every character matter in a fight. While some do rise above others, there are at least a few situations where everyone shines. There’s just something amazing about being able to look at any character and have a memory of them being the most valuable party member for a particular mission.
Each battle’s emphasis on strategy feels balanced, with a main part being how skill usage is tied to a point system that necessitates charging up. Any time a powerful strike is used, it comes at the cost of that character not being able to access their best moves for another couple of turns. Every aspect is so well thought out that every battle is a blast. These systems provide strong incentive to find new ways to approach each mission and give each character a chance to shine. Highlights of strategic considerations include maps that have mine carts to maneuver around, a character that can build ladders to avoid having to scale the battlefield the long way, and the ways all elemental magic can alter the terrain. There aren’t many games out there that can boast they rejuvenated the heights a genre can reach, but Triangle Strategy has earned this distinction with just how deep, balanced, and varied its strategic combat can be.
Elden Ring carries over the combat elements of Dark Souls, but FromSoftware used the interim years to build upon them in noticeably better ways. Most obviously, the addition of a jump button adds new styles of play, and the more refined Weapon Ashes system opens up existing playstyles to entirely new possibilities. The open world also lets many challenges be tackled in novel ways, letting the player make more decisions about how to approach and tackle enemies. Combined with a staggering amount of different weapons and the game’s generosity towards respeccing, Elden Ring becomes a veritable playground of combat possibilities.
Stranger of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin delivers compelling battle mechanics, a unique take on the classic job system, and a wallop of nostalgia. Battles are fast, furious, and tough, and while enemy encounters may seem simple enough, the battle system is as complicated as the player wants it to be. Regardless, there is no spamming the attack button to force your way through, even on the easiest of the numerous difficulty settings. The game also implements a break system, where enemies that sustain sufficient damage give an on-screen prompt, adds further to the style by allowing Jack to use a final attack that crystallizes and destroys the enemy. Boss encounters are always flashy and dramatic, requiring efficient use of skills to take them down. Team Ninja has taken an action-oriented combat system and seamlessly fused it with the original game’s DNA to provide an authentic and unique experience.
by Ryan Costa, Zack Webster, and Paul Shkreli