Arcade Sequences in Adventure Games
Action elements in the adventure genre tend to be the exception not the rule in modern adventure games, but the early Sierra titles, especially the hybrid Adventure/RPG series Quest for Glory and the space adventure series Space Quest used them frequently.
Also, I like them!
There’s no hiding that my Adventure saga Betrayed Alliance is heavily influenced by Quest for Glory (particularly the EGA ones) series and as such I’d always planned on having a battle system.
Today I want to look at the combat system in Quest for Glory 1 and determine what it did well and what, if anything, can be improved on.
So I asked some people their thoughts: Here’s a sampling of responses:
What Quest for Glory 1 does well:
- Balanced well over 3 different character classes
- Difficulty of enemies ramps up with experience
- Difficulty feels challenging, but not insurmountable
- Except for the Fighter class, battling was a somewhat optional gameplay element
- HUD is unobtrusive and easy to read
- Combat is simple
- Aesthetically appealing
- Enemy attacks have almost no telegraphing making blocking/dodging nearly useless
- Can be hard to tell why attacks aren’t landing.
From the responses I think we see that the combat was generally liked, but that they just ended up spamming the attack button as dodging/blocking was not really responsive or intuitive. The stats upgraded fast enough that the “attack-all-the-time” strategy worked and while there were perhaps better examples of combat, this one was good enough for the game it was in.
Since Quest for Glory is a stats based game, this design may be intended. The game doesn’t require any real twitch-type skill, but rather the stats do the heavy lifting, which at least one of my responders remarked as a positive quality as they don’t generally like arcade-style combat. That said, having stats for “dodge” and “parry” make it seem like these skills were designed for use, but from the responses I got most people end up ignoring them.
Takeaway for Betrayed Alliance
Combat in Betrayed Alliance Book 2 will emphasize a strategic block / attack rhythm where the player must read the opponent’s intentions visually. While there will be a few stats that can be upgraded, the game will not reward a reckless “attack at all costs” strategy. As mentioned by some commenters, better signposting of attacks as well as more frames of animation could be helpful.
“But I don’t like combat”
That said, for the many people who dislike arcade style aspects in adventure games, I am including a way to overcome enemies without always entering the combat arena. I want to give the player the freedom to dispose of their enemy obstacles in different ways.
This is not a concession by any means, but an intended gameplay element. There are two playable characters in book 2 and they have different gameplay styles. In Quest for Glory terms, one is the fighter class and the other is more like the thief. I’m building the game-world to allow the player to influence which of the two will be more likely to encounter the various enemies of the game (and how to dispatch them).
Combat in Betrayed Alliance Book 1
It’s a mess! Visually and game-design-wise. Just a mess.
The rhythm of battle in Book 1 is not bad. Enemies telegraph attacks (but also fake-outs) with enough time to respond. There is a cool down period on both blocking and attacking which forces the player to be more strategic. Successful blocking not only rewards the player with not getting hit, but also gives a chance at a counterattack which doesn’t affect the attack cooldown (and is always a guaranteed hit).
In this way the design of combat in Book 1 is pretty good and has a bit more to it that Quest for Glory 1’s combat, but there are a ton of problems with it too:
- The HUD is atrocious and confusing
- It’s quite hard for the player to heal after battle, discouraging it completely
- There’s *almost* no reason to battle in the game at all
- The ability to target 3 different areas was underdeveloped and clunky
From a design point-of-view combat in Book 1 is competent in an of itself, but as a mechanic in the overall game itself, it’s completely underdeveloped and useless. This is mainly due to the strange development of the game where the first 1/3 of the game was released as “Book 1,” a division that was not originally intended. The area in which combat was to feature more prominently is not available in Book 1 as it is the sole environment for Book 2. But due to this separation, combat in Book 1 rightly feels unimportant, because it is!
Combat in Book 2
The Combat system is being updated for Book 2, as combat will feature more prominantly. Both the aesthetic and mechanics of combat will change.
The targeting system is being scrapped as it’s too clunky and unintuitive.
The emphasis on blocking will still be operative as it was in Book 1, along with a cooldown counter for both attacking and blocking to avoid spamming either attacking or blocking.
With only two major actions (attacking and blocking) buttons could be freed up for different actions. I’m currently looking at using one for a short-term block that will also render the opponent more vulnerable, similar to the “perfect guard” in Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Just as in that game, this parry offers a reward at the cost of taking a risk: miss the parry and get hit unguarded, but if you parry it just right right, you get an open window for attack (and probably a 100% hit rate and likely a higher critical hit multiplier).
I’m also interested in having both a sword swing and a sword stab, each having greater applicability in different circumstances. We’ll have to see how these develop as I test things out.
What do you think can be done to make combat more enjoyable/challenging/fun?