Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: Best combat system in a video game

GameCentral readers discuss their favourite battle systems, from the third person action of Resident Evil 4 to role-player Final Fantasy 13.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Garrison, and covered any kind of game, from a first person shooter to a fighting game or role-player. Which one do you think has the best combat system and what made them so good?

There were lots of different suggestions, in lots of different genres, but the most common were definitely FromSoftware games such as Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and Batman: Arkham and its derivatives.

Ultimate fighter
It might seem an odd choice, given the game gets a lot of bad press but I would say Street Fighter 5. I don’t necessarily mean the game itself but just it as the, current, apex of the whole Street Fighter franchise. For me it is the ultimate fighting game and one of the few games that can claim to be completely timeless.

Sure they add (and subtract) elements with each sequel and update but the core gameplay of Street Fighter 5 is still the same as Street Fighter 2 back in 1991. Apart from Tetris I can’t really think of anything this has such longevity, especially in terms of not needing to changing the gameplay. Especially as Street Fighter is so much more versatile.

In terms of the future though I admit there are problems. I have no idea where they go with the graphics now and I can only hope they resist the urge to add more gimmicks. I’ve got confidence Street Fighter will survive for another 30 years though, as long as it stays true to its roots.

Just one more playthrough
Resident Evil 4’s combat is brilliant even after all these years, all the guns are still so very satisfying to use!

It’s gameplay is so perfectly paced, constantly throwing new enemies and scenarios at you, so despite the fact that the primary interaction with the world is shooting things, it never gets boring!

Perfect combination
As someone that never really thinks video games are very good at telling stories the combat system is always the most important part of game, unless it’s something very specifically non-action like a puzzler or something. I can’t really get on with games with bad combat, which seems to include a lot of Western made role-players like Fallout and The Witcher.

Obviously Western companies dominate when it comes to first person shooters but that’s never really been my mag. I much prefer Japanese style third person combat, things like Devil May Cry, Bayonetta, and Dark Souls. Naturally that makes PlatinumGames and FromSoftware my heroes and honestly almost everything they do nowadays turns out to be top notch.

The recent Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Astral Chain were both great but I think my favourite combat system of all time must be Bloodborne. It’s slightly faster-paced than Dark Souls (and Demon’s Souls) and the way it encourages aggression, by giving you a way to recover health, works perfectly to make it almost a cross between From and Platinum’s work. A perfect game? Almost I’d say, with only really the occasionally performance issue letting it down.

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Andrew Preview
When I first played Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers I just couldn’t get on with it. It was frustrating and the combos didn’t seem to work. But I went back to it a few months later and the fighting system just clicked. I had been hitting the right buttons in the right order, but I hadn’t been timing them correctly, for example some combos would require a pause between, say, the second and third buttons.

After that realisation I quickly became adept at the combat. Soon I had mastered it. I knew how to deal with every enemy, nothing intimidated me. Even Saruman’s tower was a piece of cake. What increased my enjoyment was the superb fighting animations. Sometimes Legolas would get his knives stuck in the Uruk-Hai’s neck and he would put his foot on their shoulder to get the leverage he needed to pull them out. Little touches like that made the fights even more satisfying.

Good fighting skill was rewarded with a slowly filling meter and when it was full the game would give you one-hit kills for a short time. This led to one of my favourite gaming moments ever. I was playing as Legolas in the courtyard of Helm’s Deep and the combat meter shimmered and chimed. One-hit kills were on the cards, so I took out the bow and arrow. Legolas mowed down a load of bad guys with one arrow each, just like he did in the films. Great stuff.

I would love to play this again, but I don’t have my PlayStation 2 any longer. I assume a remaster is out of the question due to EA not having the licence anymore?

GC: Yes, that would make it very difficult. But you never know, there have bene surprising remasters, despite similar licensing issues, in the past.

Fly me to the moon
Hands down, it’s got to be The Witcher 3.

That was a little joke. Bayonetta has got the best combat system I’ve ever played, it’s just got everything. The controls are so fluid, it’s got loads of depth with the combos and most importantly it’s just really, really fun. I like the combat in the Soulsborne and Devil May Cry games as well but Bayonetta does pretty much everything they do put together (including difficulty, if you want it) on its own.

It sounds stupid but the combat in Bayonetta is so good it has genuinely ruined some other games for me a little bit – DmC: Devil May Cry and NieR:Automata in particular stand out as two games I played afterwards that tried to do something similar, but not as well, and that affected my enjoyment of those two titles when I might otherwise have liked them more.

For others, The Last Story on Wii is a game I have written in about many times. It has got a real-time combat system that packs in so much action and variety that it puts a lot of modern role-playing games to shame.

Bastion, I thought the combat element was very underrated, the way the weapons all played so differently kept the game really fresh.

Warcraft 3, I always thought was the pinnacle for real-time strategy combat, so well balanced and has left behind a great legacy with DoTA.

Undertale is a different proposition entirely but so unique and you’re completely engaged with every battle.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is more of a refinement of other systems that have gone before it, but the way it forces you to think is fantastic.

Little-played Japanese role-player Grandia 3 has also got a great combat system that those who actually got round to playing it often reminisce about fondly online – it’s hard to describe but puts the usual line-dancing to shame.

No doubt I’ve forgotten some others so looking forward to seeing what people come up with.

My favourite combat system is without doubt from the Batman: Arkham games. It took a while to realise the importance of timing, evasion, and utilising the weapons to keep the combos going.

It is so satisfying to take on a big gang of enemies and come out without taking a hit and knowing luck has nothing to do with it. I’m still holding out hope that the Switch will get a port of the Wii U version of Arkham City (I’d happily take Arkham Origins). The Switch would without doubt be my favourite console ever.
Kinetic induction

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Beyond X
The Paradigm system used in Final Fantasy 13, was a very curious style of combat. The excitement of it was at the very beginning, a press ‘X’ and win situation. Corridor running, battle and press X, corridor running, battle and press X, rinse and repeat. Also, the conversations with no diversity of exciting characters to talk to, didn’t help either. Just background characters with basic graphical design structures.

Not a good start, but things got better, and only when the game got harder. When you realise at last, that the press X button did not win that particular battle and you then start thinking, ‘I have to use strategies now!’ Then for me, Final Fantasy 13 came into its own. The Commander for damage attacks, Ravager for increasing damage with multiple hit points as opposed to just one big hit, then the defensive Sentinel for reducing the damage the team take, Synergist for buffing the team, Saboteur for de-buffing enemies and finally the Medic for healing and to cure.

You can set up to six combinations of the above in a Paradigm deck, and shift the team’s assigned position to a different position – a change of battle layout. From attack to defensive positions, then to healing and to compliment whatever the battle strategy requires for the next enemy’s attack strategy.

I got so addicted to Paradigm shifting my troops in battles, I felt like some sort of Napoleonic commander ordering his men to change to tactic number two or strategy number three and back again, depending on what the enemy dictates. By the time I got onto Doomherald on mission 64, to claim my Platinum trophy, I knew the best techniques to stagger the enemy quickly, to use the Final Fantasy 13 style version of a limit break and to combine this with the empowerment bought by the rest of the team. The buffing and de-buffing strategic gameplay was fast and furious, and to then very quickly shift to sentinel mode, for that extra massive enemy boss attack, so your team can be shielded.

Thrilling right to the end, but with a very slow start at the game’s beginning. But the developers definitely designed the mechanics well, and made what would be a rather underwhelming game for the Final Fantasy series the first time I 100% completed any Final Fantasy game! All because of a combat system! Wow, not bad, not bad at all.

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