Can a game with turn-based combat be scary/be "a horror game"?

Can a game with turn-based combat be scary/be "a horror game"?

  • Of course (give examples)

    Votes: 8 72.7%
  • Yes, but only OUTSIDE of its battle system (give examples)

    Votes: 2 18.2%
  • Nope (and here's why I think so)

    Votes: 1 9.1%

  • Total voters
    11
  • Poll closed .

TheGentlemanLoser

"And when we fall, we will fall together..."
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Hey so the whole ass poll kinda fit into the subject line this time. Is it possible for a game with turn-based JRPG style combat to be a "real" horror game/to frighten players! Took a wild guess posting this here and not in Game Mechanics or Game Ideas.

I'm tempted to make a clarification like "not unsettling, or spooky, or disturbing, but frightening" but honestly everyone's experience of all those adjectives as players is so subjective I don't think it's helpful.
 

Uzuki

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Yeah it's definitely doable. I think where most people mess up with horror games is copycating what they think works, creating atmosphere & tension and conveying those things to the player to create a consistent horror experience. What sets a turn based horror game from other genres is the ability to fight back against the horrors of your setting. Honestly I feel this is a great way to convey horror because you'll be leaning on the second point I mentioned earlier: atmosphere and tension. With proper balancing and good design you can have the player essentially wind themselves up with how they handle enemies in the game and every fight can be a fear inducing experience. Item placement, resource & party management, actions that can effect enviroments in and out of combat, the list is nearly endless. You players to have the tools to be able to go up against the challenge, but not enough that they can steamroll the challenges (At least not a first playthrough). Having setbacks that can hinder the player and have them fear combat experiences without cheapening experience like limited save spots, permanent debuffs, diminishing returns, limited resources or enviromental effects that effect the combat.

If you want some games to check up that do a good job creating those experiences, I recommend stuff like Darkest Dungeon, Fear & Hunger, Sweet Home, Cthulhu Mythos RPG -The Sleeping Girl of the Miasma Sea-, Koudelka, Shadow Hearts, Parasyte Eve and, depending on your perspective, the mainline Shin Megami Tensei games.
 

freakytapir

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Yes it can, but the game has to be ... Well, Darkest dungeon has been given as an example.

The player has to feel on the backfoot.

Damage has to outpower healing by a lot. Healing isn't a cure, it's delaying the inevitable.
No effect is pure upside.
Permadeath, or at least no in combat or even in-dungeon resurrections.
Limited resources. Actually, that's how resident evil (the old ones) were balanced. You never really run out of ammo or health packs, but you never have quite 'enough'.
Now does it have to be ball-crushingly hard? No, but it needs to appear so. Horror is all about illusion, and lies. Chop off that top half of the HP bar fast, and then leave the player in those last 10 %. Even better, don't use numbers for HP, or damage. Just let them see the HP bar dwindle.
Every combat should be a panic.
Maybe cut down on random encounters. Make combat a thing they want to avoid. Every combat should be a net loss. 'Yes, I gained Xp, but I lost a lot of HP, and my potions are nearly gone.'
 

Johnny_Ray

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If you want a horror turn based rpg/jrpg then Fear & Hunger is the go to, also mentioned above.
 

tiabuni

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Yes. Horror often uses disempowerment to further increase the stakes, but it is not essential. Keep in mind that horror doesn't have to be scary, horror doesn't need to frighten. It can be simply unnerving, uncomfortable, disgusting and so on. There are many kinds of horror. It will depend on what kind of horror game you want to make.

In the case of my game - which is a turn based RPG - there is a strong presence of disempowerment. Before you read anything else, keep in mind that by disempowering the character(s), you will turn away certain kinds of players. But that is okay, or it should be. You will never please everyone with your game, so it is important to decide who to cater to. As for myself, because I have zero guarantee of any kind of success, I cater to myself first.

There are no party members to back you up, which means a lot of things, but one of the most important is that you don't have party members to be dedicated to healing or debuffing, there is only the main character to do everything themselves. Yes, that is probably not as fun as having party members and enjoying deep customization, planning of tactics and so on, but having party members would betray the very essence of my game, and it would automatically diminish its potential to scare or unnerve players. We tend to be significantly less scared of many things if we have company.

Plus, with one character, it is easy to keep the mechanics simple and to balance the combat.

You can't grind your way into being overpowered. If you overdo it, you will put the main character in grave danger. Not every enemy can be defeated and violence attracts more creatures thirsty for more of it. Now, this doesn't mean the game is extremely hard. There is an argument that even if your game is scary, if you have to keep restarting, it will easily stop being scary and become annoying. In fact, some of my favorite and most unnerving experiences with horror games were piss easy games, like the Silent Hill games (1 to 4, the other titles are rubbish).

I am actually trying to develop a Soulsborne-like system where there is no game over, you simply spawn back at the last save point, but with a few drawbacks, of course. Other than that, the horror in my games comes from imagery (monster designs - they are never gory, but many are... off), what the character has to go through and the mood of the game (a mix of the visuals and the soundtrack). Speaking of soundtrack, that is EXTREMELY important, in fact, I should have mentioned it first. Sound is crucial for horror. Try watching the scariest movies you can think of, but without sound. Tell me what your experience was like. The Akira Yamaoka music for Silent Hill games (even the rubbish ones) and the Bendy and the Ink Machine OST are some of the my favorite - and most fitting soundtracks for horror games.

Lastly, I considered a stress system similar to what you see in Darkest Dungeon, but I have no idea how to reasonably create such system with existing plugins, let alone that fits the mold for my game. But it is an idea!
 

NoPiessadface

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the old corpse party has a final boss battle
 

AeroFunk80

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I hope so, because that's what I'm attempting to do with my current project LOL
 

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