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Turn-based? Turn-off!

Last month, Nathan from Gaming Omnivore very kindly nominated Later Levels for a Sunshine Blogger Award. I loved the questions he posed to his nominees because they encouraged us to think about the current state of gaming and could each inspire an individual post all on their own. That’s why I’ve chosen to focus on one today and give a full response.

What would it take for you to refuse to play a video game? Would it be a multitude of bugs that caused you to frequently lose progress and keep having to repeat the same sections? Or perhaps it would be a storyline which simply doesn’t make sense, featuring leaps in logic which actually aren’t very logical at all. Maybe it’s bad characters that would put you off and there’s no way you’d play a title if it contained a protagonist you couldn’t warm to. Or it could be a mechanic that you just can’t seem to get to grips with.

It’s always been the latter for me. Give me a release which makes use of turn-based combat or strategy and you’ll be lucky if I even click on the start button. My aversion to this type of gameplay means I have very limited experience of certain famous franchises; I’ve never completed a Pokรฉmon game for example, and not even played any of the Civilisation or Fire Emblem entries. They’re not the series that’s likely to draw the biggest gasps of shock from readers however; that one is Final Fantasy.

I can see the stunned look on your face right now. Final Fantasy is adored by so many people here in the blogging community so I’m in the minority. Norton from The Well-Red Mage coordinated an entire collaboration around the franchise last year in which plenty of writers took part. The awesome Ellen from Livid Lightning is possibly the biggest fan of Lightning Farron ever. And one of the highlights at gamescom 2019 for my Blaugust partner-in-crime Phil was getting to play the Final Fantasy VII remake.

It’s not that I’ve never played a title from the series – but I certainly haven’t finished one. I can remember watching a group of male friends play during the evenings after school when we were teenagers, although I couldn’t tell you which Final Fantasy game it actually was. I also tried to play Final Fantasy X over a decade ago but didn’t get more than a few hours in before it ended up being put to one side. Not only did most of the characters start to grate on me, I found the gameplay repetitive, dull and unrealistic.

That’s probably the biggest reason why turn-based combat is a complete turn-off for me. I mean, it’s hardly representative of what’s going to happen in a fight, is it? When you come face-to-face with a huge monster, you’re not going to politely wait while it takes its turn to strike; you’re going to get stuck in and hit it with everything you’ve got to prevent it from doing damage to you first. Can you really see yourself saying, “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly attack, that would be far too selfish! After you, good sir.”

This probably says a lot about my personality. In her post about video games for each star-sign back in July, Michelle from A Geek Girl’s Guide wrote that people born under Aries were ‘ambitious’ and our ‘determination is unmatched when it comes to getting what we want’. While I don’t believe in astrology, I can’t deny this is a pretty accurate description of me if you forget the fact that Aries are supposed to be competitive. I can take control, jump in with both feet impulsively and be downright stubborn.

As such, I just don’t have patience for turn-based combat or strategy. I want to get stuck into the action, run in screaming at the top of my lungs and brandishing a sword. This probably explains why I don’t ever play ranged characters in RPGs, and why I’ve taken so well to being the tank in The Elder Scrolls Online after the role being suggested by Tim over at GeekOut UK. I want to feel as though I’m part of the battle and helping to turn it in my team’s favour, not standing metres away from it or waiting for my turn to strike.

In some ways it’s a shame, because I’ve heard so many good things about the Final Fantasy storylines and I think I’d probably enjoy them. I just don’t want to have to sit through rounds of turn-based matches to get to the narrative. Pete from MoeGamer suggested I give XII or XV a go as their use of a different type of combat may mean I enjoy them more than X. Perhaps one day I will; but right now, there are so many other series calling for my attention that I don’t feel as though I’m missing out.

The weirdest thing about this whole situation isn’t the fact I’ve never completed a Final Fantasy title. It’s just how many Twitter conversations I get tagged in about the franchise, when I’m probably the worst person to include! Thanks once again to Nathan for the Sunshine Blogger Award nomination – it’s been great to get my turn-based turn-off off my chest.

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

32 thoughts on “Turn-based? Turn-off! Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for the shout out ๐Ÿ˜€ It definitely took a while for me to learn to like(donโ€™t think I would even say love) turn-based combat. Playing Pokรฉmon as a kid helped to at least โ€œgetโ€ how it works, also playing RPGs with closer to real-time combat like Knights of the Old Republic or Tales of Symphonia. I certainly get how full turn-based isnโ€™t for everyone. ๐ŸŽฎ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿป

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s my pleasure, thanks so much for the nomination! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Every so often I jump back into a turn-based game to see if I can manage it, but I always seem to give up after half-an-hour. I guess I just don’t have the patience for them – they’re not exactly suitable for button-mashing. ๐Ÿ˜‚

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  2. Turn-based combat is definitely an acquired taste, but the thing to remember is that it’s a deliberate abstraction rather than an attempt to realistically depict action. It’s akin to how a board game uses abstract representations of things rather than requiring you to punch your opponent in the face.

    One might argue that there’s no need for such abstraction in a medium where it’s possible to visually represent things literally, but it’s not just about how things are presented; turn-based allows for things to happen that it would be very difficult to represent if you were in direct control of the character.

    In the case of something like Final Fantasy (and indeed many other RPGs of its ilk), this is best represented by things like magic and the iconic Summon spells in particular; these can be so cinematic and spectacular precisely because you’re not in direct control of them, you simply trigger them. In those cases, the sense of achievement comes from having fulfilled the requirements to acquire that ability in the first place, rather than successfully pulling off a button combo to do something. Acquiring the “Omnislash” limit break ability or the “Knights of the Round” summon materia in Final Fantasy VII are the results of significant sidequests, for example.

    Ultimately though, it doesn’t matter too much if you don’t enjoy it — as you say, there are plenty of things out there that you do enjoy, and not everything caters to everyone. And nor should it! I stand by my FFXII and FFXV recommendations, though (and possibly FFXI and FFXIV if you ever fancy a bit of variety in your MMO life!) — they’re not turn-based at all, but each do things very differently, so they’re definitely worth a look.

    Liked by 2 people

    • A bit of variety in my MMO life? Well now that’s definitely needed, because all I seem to do is play ESO ha ha! We’re looking for games to play during our streams for GameBlast20 and, with the PlayStation 2 lined up for Retro Fridays, FFXII could be a good choice… ๐Ÿค”

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  3. For me it’s micromanaging. Any game where I have to keep track of resources constantly and make sure everyone is happy, fed, warm and all their various needs are met will drive me up the wall. It’s why I dislike Survival games, those country management strategy ones and so on.

    I can do strategy if it’s like Warcraft or tactics like Fire Emblem or Final Fantasy Tactics. Add a kingdom administration bit to it and you have officially lost me.

    Also, you know me, I’m in it for fun gameplay and great characters and story, any of those are missing and the game will have one one fate: gather dust in the corner.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I rarely play survival games because of the management mechanic for two reasons. First, they’re not very forgiving when you make a mistake and that constant pressure of knowing you might do something wrong isn’t entirely enjoyable for me. And second… they seem too much like work! ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can understand why turn based combat would be a turn off because you’re right that it does take away from the action. Because I grew up with Pokemon on the Game Boy, I grew accustomed to turn based combat quickly.

    What turns me off on video games is survival where you have to manage needs like Kevin mentioned or when I don’t take an active part in the story and mainly read the story like visual novel games.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t mind a visual novel every now and again, but they’re the type of game I really have to be in the mood for otherwise I just don’t enjoy them. I want to feel as though I’m causing the story to move forward rather than just witnessing it – so I totally get where you’re coming from. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As a huge FF fan, I can honestly say I love both real-time and turn-based combat ๐Ÿ™‚ The FF series reinvents itself with each major instalment so I’ll happily take whatever system the devs deem fit for each adventure.

    In FF games (and JRPGs in general) I mainly look for story, connection to characters, immersion into a fantastical world, gorgeous music and beautiful visuals. Battle mechanics are way down the list ๐Ÿ˜…

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    • On reflection… I hope this didn’t sound douchy of me ๐Ÿ˜… I just meant that I personally can take either. But I fully understand people not liking either form of combat ๐Ÿ™‚โœŒ

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, it didn’t sound douche-y at all! That’s the great thing about video games: there’s so much variety available to us nowadays that there’s something to appeal to absolutely everybody. I might give Pete’s suggestion above of FFXII a go one day and see how I get on. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  6. I relate to this so much, haha. I’ve never liked turn-based combat – I find it extremely unengaging and get bored sooo quickly. There are only a handful of titles that I can tolerate this style in (Pokemon being the major one) but I’ve also avoided the FF series for this reason. It takes a lot of other great elements for me to put up with turn-based combat in a game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It seems as though Pokรฉmon is the only turn-based game that non-turn-based gamers seem to enjoy! I honestly thought I was in the minority for not playing the Final Fantasy releases, but a few people have come forward today to say the same thing. ๐Ÿ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Somewhat in agreement the the sentiment you have Kim.

    The delimiting factor for me is how involved the strategy aspect of a particular game is. That is to say, I do not dislike turn-based combat, but if it is simple to the point where I’m churning through several encounters without much thinking I get bored. So games where there are hundreds of mindless turn-based fights…ehhhhhh, not really my style. Games where you’ve gotta think a few turns ahead or makes the best play with limited available resources though? That’s a bit more my speed.

    That said, you’re not the only blogger who isn’t a huge fan of FF. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m genuinely surprised at how many people I’ve spoken to today who have said they’re not fans of Final Fantasy! Maybe we should start out own club. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’ve tried all sorts of turn-based games over the years but just can’t seem to get into them. I lack the patience needed to think strategically and plan several steps ahead because I want to get stuck in. Perhaps that comes from enjoying video games but not actually being the best at playing them… I can’t deny I’m partial to a bit of button-mashing every now and again!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m another blogger who hasn’t completed a FF game so you aren’t alone. I love the designs of FF games when I see the artwork or whatever but haven’t managed to stick with a game to completion. Though I have wanted to try XV and Ellen’s love of XIII makes me want to try that too (that’s just because of her enthusiasm).

    The only turn based game I think I have really stuck with is Pokemon and I think that’s because I grew up with it, loved the anime when I saw the series as well, and just it’s been something I have loved for so long that I almost forget about the turn based aspect (in terms of not caring about it being that way). It’s not that I actively go out of my way to avoid turn based but I don’t think they appeal as much.

    Though I do like the idea of very polite heroes and monsters saying to each other no, no after you, why thank you and such like. That has actually given me an idea for a drawing if I can work out how to bring it together on paper/screen…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I guess there really is nothing to astrology, because I’m an Aries and I’m just the opposite — I usually like turn-based battle systems. I get why someone wouldn’t, since it makes combat abstract in a weird way, but it can also allow for more creativity in battle systems. There are also games that combine action and turn-based systems pretty well — the Grandia series does it, and I’ve heard FF15 does as well, though I haven’t played it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I see turn-based battle systems as a sort of cross between action and strategy, the action of battles and the strategy of knowing what the best move is (I guess like chess, only instead of taking pawns, you’re slashing up beasts!). It’s not for everyone, but it’s something I’ve loved ever since I first got into gaming when I was much tinier than I am now!

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    • I think the first video games we experience have more of a lasting effect on us than we realise sometimes. The first I played for myself without any help from parents was The Secret of Monkey Island – and even now, the adventure genre and narrative titles remain my favourite. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  11. I’m exactly the same! I really don’t like turn-based combat (except Pokรฉmon, but I think that nostalgia plays a huge part in that). The only reason I have a bit of Final Fantasy on my blog is because my ex absolutely loved the franchise so I wanted to try it for him and it ended up becoming something fun to write about in a sort of ranty way, since we broke up though I haven’t had any desire to touch a Final Fantasy game or any turn-based game. Like you said, it’s so unrealistic and I hate how repetitive it is! I don’t feel like there’s much skill involved either, once you know what the opponents weakness is then you’ve basically won, if not you have to spend ages grinding then just go back when you’re more powerful with the same technique. On the other hand my sister really likes these sort of games because she likes having time to think about her moves and process what the enemy has just done so I can understand why people like them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I’m not playing narrative games and want to experience something with more action, they tend to be the times when I don’t want to think. I just want to run in with guns blazing and press all the buttons at once ha ha! I do understand why people enjoy turn-based games; they’re more strategic and methodical, and require lots of forward-planning. But like you, I don’t think they’re ever going to be for me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  12. Thank you for the mention!! To be honest, I’d actually like Final Fantasy XIII better if it were an action RPG ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t hate turn-based by any means, I just like action RPGs a lot better, haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t see that comment coming at all! One day I’ll have to give XII a try and see if I can make it through all the turn-based battles, just so I can find out what all this Lightning is about. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • On a side note, there’s a thunder and lightning storm happening here right now as I type this. It’s totally a sign you should play the games someday… maybe when there’s an action RPG version, haha. โšก

        Liked by 1 person

        • Right, here’s what I’m going to do. The next retro gaming market is in a couple of weeks’ time. If I go there and see a copy of XIII for our Xbox 360, I’m going to buy it and and schedule it in for our GameBlast stream days. Sorted.

          Liked by 1 person

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