Question Given a choice about combat mechanics, do you prefer Real Time w/ Pause, or Turn Based?

So I realize that this question could encompass other game genres, like strategy for example, but my experience in gaming is primarily RPGs, so I'm asking it here. If you want to comment on another type of game, feel free please. The definitions of an RPG or ARPG are pretty blurred anyway, as I think we each have our own internal definitions of games we play.

Some RPGs/ARPGs are real time (obviously) and work well. I mean can you imagine playing Skyrim, or one of the Diablo games in RTwP or TB?

What I'm trying to say is, if a game's combat mechanics are either RTwP or TB, do you prefer one type of combat over the other?

The only 2 games (RPGs) that I've played that were TB, were Divinity Original Sin 1&2. Larian has a TB system that works really well, and enjoyed those games; but some battles just took forever to complete.

My preference, given a choice, has always been RTwP, as so many games I've played in the past (not counting those with Real Time combat), used that combat mechanic. Big battles are tactical, and I pause frequently, to maneuver companions or issue orders. Lesser battles, I often rarely pause, and I can be through those almost as if it's real time.

Just curious to know if any of you had a preference between the two combat mechanics.


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Turn based. Those games tend to have more complex, interesting combat and I like taking time and figuring out just what I want to do. Don't get me wrong, there are PLENTY of real-time-with-pause games that I've loved, too, but I was hitting pause so much (even when battles were easy) that they might as well have made them turn based.

There's actually a couple of turn based styles: one at a time and, well, plural at a time. One at a time is the most common. Character A goes, then B, then C, all according to their quickness and maybe some random die rolls to keep things a little unpredictable. Less common are games like The Last Remnant or Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock where you tell your side what you want them to do then everyone in the battle moves at once.

Then there's Tower of Time's system where you can speed up and slow down time. You couldn't stop it completely but you could slow it enough to let you issue some pretty complex orders. Once the battle was decided, you could speed it up so it's over quickly. It was a pretty fun system, at least for me, so I'm hoping to see more games use something like it.
Turn based also.

I pause frequently, to maneuver companions or issue orders
I don't like squad games, so I've never really played what you're talking about—I can certainly see why RTwP would work in those. RTS is my experience of managing multiple combatants, and the main point of RTS for me is proper preparation rather than battle management—Sun Tzu's principle of never fighting a battle unless you have it won before it starts.

I've never played one of those games where you have a strategic layer to make global decisions between each 'turn', but then it becomes real time during the 'turn'. That sounds like an interesting approach too.
It really depends on the game. Total War battles just wouldn't be the same if they were turn based instead of real time. Even if it used the "plural at a time" mechanic Zloth mentioned.

Crying Suns has a real time with pause system that works really well. It has just enough complexity to keep the battles both interesting and quick. If they had decided to do those in turn based mode, I think they would have either given up some complexity or the battles would've taken longer.

I haven't played a game where you could switch between the two, but from what I've read the turn-based mode usually does mean that fights take longer. Which means I'd probably choose the real time with pause option, as I don't have that much time, plus a game that offers both probably has some problems with pacing and/or uninteresting filler fights when playing in TBS mode.
@Pifanjr - You're right that it completely depends upon the game. A game designed around Turn-based combat, most likely wouldn't do well with a Realtime/Pause combat mechanic, and vice versa. Pillars of Eternity: Deadfire ended up having both, with Obsidian having added TB mode a couple years after release. I always stuck with the RTwP version, but kudos to Obsidian for listening to the players, and actually doing it.

@Brian Boru - My experience in RTS games is miniscule. The last 2 strategy games I played were Myth 1 & 2 from the late 1990's, it's been so long I don't even remember if there was a pause option or not. Preparation is important in party-based (or squad-based) RPGs as well, whatever combat mechanic, ill prepared companions or troops won't fare well, regardless of battle management.

@Zloth - You reminded me that I actually picked up Tower of Time for free on GOG last year, I completely forgot about that, and of course, have yet to play it. That slow down/speed up mechanic sounds interesting, I didn't really look that close when I grabbed it. It seemed like a different take on the "Diablo-like" game. I'll definitely take a closer look.

As far as combat complexity goes, I think both TB & RTwP are evenly balanced (if the system is implemented correctly). There's a strategy involved with both methods, it's just that I prefer the freedom that RTwP has, where the game in question can actually be in real time if you want, with the ability to stop what you (and your companions or troops) are doing, and reposition, change weapons, change your attack to a certain enemy, or change position on the battlefield, ect.

I'm not trying to say that one is better than the other, and as Pifanjr said, it all depends on the game involved. My limited experience with TB is with both the Divinity Original Sin games. I loved those games (for the most part), but I felt that pre-battle maneuvering was limited, as when you first character was sighted you locked into combat, and then everyone gets a turn. You could get around that imitation by "unchaining" your companions, sending one in (which locked them into combat mode), then switching to one of the others and maneuvering them. Still, it just felt a bit restricting at times.
I haven't played Pillars of Eternity or Pathfinder: Kingmaker in turn based mode either (as those are the two I'm aware of that has both) but is it possible to switch on the fly between the two? If so that would allow you to roll through the easier encounters in RTWP and switch to turn based when you really have to think.

I also wonder if some of the problems people have with RTWP stem from it not evolving too much since Baldurs Gate over 20 years ago. IIRC options were added Dragon Age style to auto-pause combat when certain things happened in Pillars. I played through half of BG2 a couple of months ago (Beamdog version) and I dont recall too much mechanical difference other than that. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Some of that has to be Obsidian not wanting to stray too far away from the feel of the Infinity engine as a large part of the appeal of Pillars/Tyranny etc is based on nostalgia for those old games.

What could a new RTWP system designed from the ground up not beholden to having the same feel as almost 25 year old games look like? Maybe some sort of time slowing mechanic instead of having to hammer the space bar when you notice a character just got smashed/poisoned/whatever. What else?

Divinity OS and 2 are far removed from say, the combat in Ultima 5 although both are turn based.
Game a few years in the past, pick one or two new games a year and you will have more than you know what to do with
That is the truth, and what I've done for probably a decade now. I think it started when companies stopped providing free demos so you could test how the game ran on your machine before buying.

I won't buy any game new, but I'll spring $20 for a very select few. Last year I spent over $5 only on my 3 top franchises:
$40 Civilization 6 complete, $20 each Far Cry New Dawn and C&C Remastered—I broke my policy of no full-price for C&C on day 2 of release after early player reviews, to help encourage further remastering.

I did buy a number of big games for $5 on Epic in their first big sale Xmas 2019, when there was 75% off plus $10 credit on $15+ purchases—which meant $60 games for $5, apart from the last one @ $15.
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It really is :)


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Speaking of Tower of Time and their slow-down option, they recently posted news about their next Dark Envoy game:

Point 4 tells us the slow-down option is staying, but with the ability to pause it completely, too. Happy to see the option is still there, less happy that it didn't take isometric gaming by storm and show up everywhere.
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Jan 19, 2020
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Speaking of Tower of Time and their slow-down option, they recently posted news about their next Dark Envoy game:

Point 4 tells us the slow-down option is staying, but with the ability to pause it completely, too. Happy to see the option is still there, less happy that it didn't take isometric gaming by storm and show up everywhere.
I was going to mention Tower of Time. I like that game a lot, even with what I consider its clunky parts (upgrading characters and skills). The super time slow function feels so good. I like it over pause in this game because I can see how enemies are reacting and adjust accordingly. In fact, I mostly play with super slow active all the time and only speed up battles for the easy faceroll stuff. I like that they're adding a pause function so I can do that when I want to make some more intricate maneuvers.

Like others mention above, it really depends on the game and how it feels. For most tactical RPGs turn-based feels better to me. For real-time I now prefer the ability to slow time rather than always have to pause, but having both would be my preference going forward after experiencing it in Tower of Time.
Aug 24, 2021
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Turn based for me Turn-based with pause always seems a bit janky, like not quite as good as if the game was designed purely for one or the other. It does solve some problems, though.
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For me it depends on the game, and the nature of the combat. In a lot of RPG's you have spells and abilities that have a timer, but that timer is hard to gauge in realtime while worrying about a bunch of other things. So in those instances I'd prefer knowing, "Okay, I have this ability for my next [x] attacks," rather than "assuming I manage to properly click on that character to attack."

Also, I add SO many pauses in my RTwP games, that it might as well be turn-based. I want to know when an attack is ineffective, I want to know when one of my people are dying, I want to know if someone is about to be in the line of friendly fire, etc. Part of it is I have ADD, so I get lost really quickly in the heat of battle. (This is why I don't play online combat-oriented games. There are NO pauses.) So the more time I have to get my bearings and strategize, the happier I am. The only exception are RTS's, but we're talking about RPG's, so...

I also really liked action points systems, which only work well in turn-based mode. I think Pillars of Eternity* tried to simulate it with their cooldowns and interrupts, but it's not quite the same, and is harder (for me) to keep track of. It's easier for me to keep track of "this attack will use this much of my turn" rather than "this attack will leave me unable to attack again for the next 3.2 seconds."

(* - Edit: Sorry, accidentally said Pathfinder first. One of those RPG's that start with P.)
I should have done a poll back when I made this post, as it looks like it's overwhelmingly in favor of turn based over real time w/pause. I've yet to try Pathfinder: Kingmaker (yep, a Steam backlog game), as I've been hesitant about the "timed quests" that they have, and for the most part, I really hate timed quests.

I mean, sometimes they make sense, like if you're trying to rescue someone, or find a cure for disease, that kind of thing, as a time limit makes sense. But in RPGs like Pathfinder, I like to explore everywhere without worrying about having a time limit. Probably just a bit overly paranoid. I am glad that their new game, Wrath of the Righteous did away with that. And it has both TB and RTw/P!

Sorry, I went a bit off topic on my own topic. Also, I remembered a couple other games I played in TB, which were great, and wouldn't have worked without it: Fallout 1 & 2. Years, and years since I've played those.


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But in RPGs like Pathfinder, I like to explore everywhere without worrying about having a time limit.
That might be why they are there.

Take the initial quest to defeat the bandit lord. The overworld map is pretty huge, with difficulties varying quite a bit from location to location. If they let you prepare forever, you could just keep doing things in the big, wide world until you were strong enough that the battle against the bandit lord would be trivial. Without fighting hard for a reward like that, you aren't likely to value it all that much, so they need to get you into that battle before it becomes a joke.

They can do that a few ways:
  • Put a wall up. It can be an invisible wall or a physical one, but players can't get through until an objective is achieved.
  • Make the battle against the bandit lord drop a lot of xp on you, then design the areas you don't want the player wandering into to require that xp. Essentially, the "open world" because linear, with your xp level making sure you stay on the designed path.
  • Put a time limit in. You can only do so much before time runs out and you lose, so you can't sneak off and get god-like powers before taking on the bandit lord.
  • Do level scaling. You become a god-like adventurer, the bandit lord turns into a bandit god.
All of them are kinda weak, but you've gotta do something!
...for the most part, I really hate timed quests.

Same here. I hated it in the original Fallout, and I still hate them today. And yeah, I found the timing aspect in Kingmaker to be incredibly frustrating and needlessly stressful, especially when a particular character is best suited to a quest but you had sent them off to do something a day or two earlier.

I am glad that their new game, Wrath of the Righteous did away with that. And it has both TB and RTw/P!

Good to know! Maybe I'll try that one before finishing Kingmaker. (I walked away from Kingmaker once it seemed that I'd ruined the Kingmaker portion of my game. I need to start over knowing what I know now.)
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Sep 1, 2021
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It really depends on the mood I’m in. I’ve enjoyed both fighting styles in different games over the years. One of my favorite strategy/fantasy games was Heroes III. It used the take your turn style and was a strategy heavy game which I spent countless hours playing. Diablo II was my ‘go to’ hack em’ up dungeon crawler. I play till this very day, years after blizzard closed the original server down.
I'd say real time with pausing. I feel more engaged with the action that happens on screen, though pausing does help make the deciding of actions in difficult situations a lot more manageable. Dunno how much of an RPG Freedom Force is though I know it's been filed as one back when it was new, though I remember replaying it a bajillion times across multiple computers and yeah, a lot of the action does require you to pause the game to make certain plays and when you see your actions play out in a successful manner after you unpause, there's a level of satisfaction to that.
I will play either, but prefer turn-based. Sometimes, in RTwP battles, the characters get all out of whack before I even have time to pause, even when you can put in preferences about how they'll behave. It's true, though, that RTwP helps you in situations where you're having a bunch of meaningless fights. You can get through them a lot faster.
Sometimes, in RTwP battles, the characters get all out of whack before I even have time to pause, even when you can put in preferences about how they'll behave.

You just reminded me of another issue I often have with RTwP, and that's character placement. Sometimes during a pause I'll tell a magic user, "set fire to that guy" or "drop meteors on these enemies." But when I unpause, one of my allies either gets in my literal crossfire or wanders into the AoE range for the meteors, or whatever else. It's a lot easier when you know everyone is taking turns, even if it's less realistic. Generally these are isometric or top-down fights anyway, so we've already agreed that we're a disembodied entity hovering over the battle.
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