As you might have guess by now, I have a love of action games. So after reading this article on Gamasutra analyzing the combat and enemy systems of popular action titles, you knew I had to comment on it. You can find the article here , there are a few points I would like to talk about and what I would like to see change or improved in future action titles.
Action groups: This I find very interesting, as this dictates the amount of combat the player will have to deal with at one point. I do think though that this was a necessity of the technology. The reason is that if every enemy on screen could attack at one time they would get caught into each other or be able to attack the player through each other making it very unfair. However I think technology has advanced to the point that enemies can take up physical space in the game world allowing them to attack more efficiently and realistically as a result.
Timing: As someone who has a game document detailing an action title, I’m surprised at myself that I never thought of this as a factor. I definitely think that instead of having a set value for this, randomizing it based on the difficulty and enemies attacking would make the combat more satisfying.
Tells: Now this is very important for action titles as without it the player would be unable to use the defense systems in place. The main issues are with the camera and the actual tells, if it’s too far away then the player won’t be able to pick up on them, too close and the player won’t be able to see enough of the game space to fight in. A camera system similar to God of War but zoomed in slightly should work, along with bigger character models on screen (not muscular but just generally taking up more space on screen).
With the tells themselves all enemies should have some kind of attack tell, it’s just not fair to the player to have 5 enemies attack without warning chipping away at your health. Of course major enemies need to have tells as if I don’t see that 3/4 health bar loss attack coming I’m going to be pissed.
Enemy Defense: Now we’re talking, just being able to punch through 100 guys in a row will get boring fast. In my action title the enemies have access to the same defensive options as the player forcing the player to counter their counter attacks and mix up their combos. The harder the difficulty level the more this will take affect, with some enemies completely immune to hand, feet, or grapple attacks.
Interupts: Another important decision in action games, being able to stop someone’s attack with your own is an important decision. I feel that basic attacks from both the player and enemies shouldn’t interrupt which will allow the defense system to play a larger role. Stronger attacks by both parties should knock whoever they hit out of whatever attack they’re using.
Gating: This is one design decision I think needs to go and is a good indicator of a bad combat system in my opinion. If the player wants to avoid fighting in an action game, then the designer has failed in their job of providing an engaging combat system. Then there are games where every 10 feet walls will pop up as enemies magically appear out of no where which is usually very annoying.
Hits to kill: Lastly how much damage should enemies take before they go down. Personally instead of having a fix health amount for every enemy type, I would rather see a random slight increase or decrease in the max health of enemies just to spice things up.
I enjoyed the article as it has been a while since I’ve read a piece analyzing the genre. The action genre has seen some growing up in no small part thanks to games like Ninja Gaiden and God of War but I think we’ve yet to see a true “next-gen” action title and Ninja Gaiden 2 does not count.