As far as I'm concerned, nobody's been able to get combat right. It's the one black mark I've seen in almost all the RPG Maker games I've seen (and some big name commercial RPGs too!), and honestly it just drains me as someone who ADORES
good combat in video games.
I am more forgiving towards games that are more about their story than combat, especially if the game itself isn't long.
If you thought the above analyses were spicy, that was just the blast wave of the nuke. Here's the ACTUAL fire and brimstone:
* Random battles, especially if you can't control them with repels or grass like in Pokemon. It's antiquated nonsense by now.
* Tying back into the overspecialization thing from earlier, but: you advertise the combat as having one Big Gimmick, but it winds up being the only non-standard part of the game.
- I've seen timed button hits be a big offender in this regard.
- It is in fact unique, but it's far too easy to break the game with it
* Giving enemies too much HP regardless if they're enemies or bosses. It's so draining to see it takes like, four turns just to kill one dude in a mob of three even with proper set-up.
* No gimmicks or roles for the enemy. This goes double time
with the above-mentioned complaint and TRIPLE
for bosses, since it's the combination of both that serves as the number one engagement killer.
Ideally, you want to hit a balance where the enemies don't go down in one hit, so you can see what they're capable of doing to you. But you also don't want the fight to keep going even after you've figured out how the enemies work.
The roles thing is mainly: you want to establish an enemy threat hierarchy where the player is forced to decide who to kill first otherwise things will spiral out of control. Do you get rid of the healer, or that annoying debuffer? Or the Brute guy who's currently doing the most DPS?
Bosses with no gimmicks where you just need to whittle away their HP are complete snoozefests. They need to have
some engaging factor to them that separates them from regular enemies, while also serving as the culmination of everything the player has been taught up to that point.
* No intelligent use of status effects. You want the player to be adaptive - to stay on their toes so they don't get swamped by a strong enemy combo, a bad debuff, or losing control of someone due to sleep / charm / time stop / petrification, etc.
Status effects like this are what gives combat layers, and it's frustrating to see people not use them beyond like, poison or whatever. Especially if the player can get use out of them too, even if it's something as simple as letting the boss only be affected by it once during a fight.
* No counteraction against skill spam. Elemental resistances and cooldowns are good for controlling if special skills can be spammed over and over.
... The flipside being you wind up with skills are the same damage but with different element flavors, like Fire, Fira, Firaga, etc.
You want skills that all do something DIFFERENT, ranging from AOE, being good against a certain enemy type, requiring ammo, sacrificing a part of yourself for a powerup, lowered attacking stats as a penalty, etc.
* Combat is detached from story relevance. You usually see this with Ye Olde Unwinnable Boss, but there's also other factors like the monsters in the area you visit not having anything to do with the theme of the dungeon, etc.
* Long animations tend to get on my nerves, even in games where I like the visuals.
* Mid-battle dialogues that read like something out of an anime. The most real, raw fights tend to have little-to-no actual words spoken because... well, you're trying to kill each other!
* No resource burn threat. If the game's meant to be easy, this is passable. But it's another thing if you want the player's endurance to be tested as they go along by putting them in a spot where they can't just walk back into town and heal up.
Limited item stack per item plays into this wonderfully, provided it doesn't come with some other lame system like weight management.
The best way to design good RPG combat is to have things be as quick as possible. Random enemies should always go down quickly because they're not that important.
Especially if the player is TRYING
to plow through them with the best skill / equipment set-ups and eliminating the most important enemies in the group.
Bosses need to be a test of everything the player has learned in their area, as enemies along the way should teach the player about the boss's gimmick. (eg. dinosaurs being weak to electricity in Chrono serving as the indicator you should use lightning on their boss)
Skills and items need checks to make sure the player isn't just using the most optimal thing. Different gimmicks that force them to play with tools they wouldn't have used otherwise.
There needs to be a least some check forcing the player to play intelligently, otherwise what's the cost of losing? Is it money, time, progression?