Exploration & Tactical RPGs

Frostorm

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While doing "research", I've noticed that most Tactical RPGs lack the dungeon crawling and exploration aspect that traditional RPGs feature. My question is: Why is this so? How come pretty much every TRPG uses a menu or map to navigate from 1 battle to the next. In fact, most TRPGs are just a collection of maps/stages for battles to take place on. There's no real "dungeon" or anything of the sort. Are there no Tactical RPGs out there that have a classic dungeon crawler mode?

I myself am creating such a game for my current project. Basically, it's got combat like Final Fantasy Tactics but dungeon crawling (and puzzles) like Golden Sun w/ a splash of Divinity Original Sin for their elemental/environmental interaction. I'm struggling to find such a game so I can do further "research" on the matter. If there are no Tactical RPGs that feature exploration, why is that the case? I'm truly perplexed by this...
 

dopan

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i guess it was easier to make these games that way..
Basicly in SRPG for example there is a "BattleMap" where units only move if you use the cursor to give orders..
And there ist the normal "rpg exploration map", which has a "gameplayer" to move around ect.

we have both because the "BattleMap" is an extension which is build on the default "rpg exploration map"..

..but regular games probably only have the system which they use for the "BattleMap" and dont invest much time/energie for an "rpg exploration map"-system..
(in disgea you can walk around in your castle,but there is still no walking around in the whole world ect.. Its much less developing-work that way,but i dislike it a bit aswell)
 

Frostorm

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Lol, so basically the devs were just being lazy? I mean let's take regular RPGs for instance...they have both a "BattleMap" (side-view combat) as well as an exploration map. So like, if devs are willing to create dungeons/towns/etc... for traditional RPGs, how come nobody does so for Tactical RPGs?

The only other reason I can remotely think of is that perhaps the devs wanted to focus on combat. But I find it peculiar that EVERY tactics game is following the no exploration formula.
 

TheoAllen

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The tactical battle is the fun part.

Adding exploration can feel disconnected. "When is the next battle? why do I have to explore and see long scenes?" or the opposite "why the battle feels so long? I wanna explore more".

Tactical battles usually have a longer time, and this preparation is better to be streamlined by accessing the menu or quick navigation to the next stage. There is no need to run around the town to restock the supply, as the battle itself is already takes time.

I don't think the dev being lazy was actually the case.
If you want to break the norm, you're free to try.
 

alice_gristle

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Hey sweetie! So how 'bout trying some Heroes of Might and Magic? Yeah mebbe a little light on the RPG elements, but it's got yo exploration part and yo tactical fightin' part. Also years ago, I usta play this kooky Russian (?) game called King's Bounty. It had a bit more RPG-ing, if memory serves, plus also the explorering bits and the battlering bits. :biggrin: So check 'em out for yo research?
 

ScorchedGround

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I concur with @alice_gristle suggestions.

Heroes of Might and Magic is very much strategy focused, with a lot of base-building and defending.
You often have to play under pressure of time-limits or unstoppable enemies on the horizon.
--> I especially recommend Heroes of Might and Magic III and V

If you want something more RPG-heavy without any stress, I recommend the King's Bounty franchise, which is pretty much Heroes of Might and Magic without base-building or enemy players, instead focusing on building up your hero and army while "conquering" the world.
-->All King's Bounty games are worth playing, but for starters I recommend The Legend and Crossworlds
 
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ThinkN

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While it's not impossible to combine dungeon crawling and tactics, I think each genre tends to have a different approach with different consequences.


Traditional RPGs and Tactical RPGs must have different densities of encounters.

Tactical RPGs have long, challenging battles. If they didn't pressure you to consider your actions, they wouldn't really be tactical.

Traditional RPGs tend to have short, simple battles that you can button-mash through. They use dungeons as an excuse to throw dozens of (often random) battles at the player. If their battles were as long and mentally intensive as a Tactical RPG, this would quickly exhaust and frustrate players.


These different approaches often result in different consequences for the player's resource management.

Traditional RPGs tend to challenge the player during dungeon crawls by slowly whittling down their resources over dozens of battles that are individually inconsequential.

Tactical RPGs tend to make each individual battle--and even each individual action in that battle--consequential. Tactical RPGs often fully heal you after battle, because the focus is on the individual encounter and not on the long-haul.


Divinity Original Sin 2 has both exploration and combat. However, I would argue it achieves success with this formula through expertly crafted game design and a number of tightly integrated systems that are difficult to replicate in RPG Maker.

Each battle has a unique composition of enemies that have been carefully placed into the world--they never feel like tedious cookie-cutter encounters meant to pad out the length of the game. Position and elevation matters in battle, so ranged characters are usually placed on the high ground, to press the advantages that gives them. If you wander into one of these battles unawares, you'll be at a significant disadvantage.

Conversely, if you explore carefully and notice enemies before they spot you, you can spin the situation to your benefit. You're able to strategically place each of your party members before you initiate combat, so they also start in advantageous positions. You can even prepare the battle arena ahead of time by throwing barrels of oil onto the field, and their effects persist.

This tight integration between battles and exploration rewards player ingenuity and expression.

If you do find the battles too frequent, the game has well-integrated systems to allow the player to avoid combat. Some battles can be avoided by exploring to find a path around. Other battles can be snuck past using the stealth system. Still other battles can be avoided through taking a diplomatic stance in dialogue.

Divinity is a triumph of game design, and it's a tough act to follow. I think most games opt for a simpler approach because it is much easier to achieve. Not everyone has a studio with 250+ employees.
 
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TheoAllen

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I played king's bounty a, long long time ago when DOS games were still a thing. As a disclaimer, I don't know how the next iteration of the game. But the game I played had a different spirit than RPG with tactical battle. It is just an exploration game like a standard RPG (but on the world map) with a party recruit mechanic. I don't remember if it even has levels. That said, no skill up or skill tree either.

I played Divinity Original Sin Dragon Age Inquisition which might suit best with the definition. Unfortunately, I ended up refunding the game because I wasn't comfortable with the control, so I didn't get too far for it to be memorable. But based on the review statistic, it is not a bad game.
 
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Frostorm

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Oh yea, DOS2 was one of my favorite (modern) RPGs! It's one of the games I'm drawing heavy inspiration from, mechanically speaking. The fact that you don't fight on a grid in Divinity helps make exploration very seamless. They got so many things right, and Larion's continued to refine that formula with Baldur's Gate 3. (Sorcerer class was just released btw, so I've been playing that these past few days lol...)

I noticed that the handful of tactical RPGs that feature exploration are all 3D and most likely AAA or at least way higher than indie budget levels. Anyway, I'll definitely check out the aforementioned titles tho! (Heroes of Might and Magic & King's Bounty)
 

ScorchedGround

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I played king's bounty a, long long time ago when DOS games were still a thing. As a disclaimer, I don't know how the next iteration of the game. But the game I played had a different spirit than RPG with tactical battle. It is just an exploration game like a standard RPG (but on the world map) with a party recruit mechanic. I don't remember if it even has levels. That said, no skill up or skill tree either.

Not sure if we are talking about the same game here.
Maybe I missed the "original" King's Bounty, but all games in the King's Bounty series do fall under tactical RPG.

- There is tactical battle on a hexagonal grid like Heroes of Might and Magic on a quadratic grid
- There is exploration on the world map, encounters are fought in separate "arenas".
- Technically, there is a "recruit" mechanic, but not for a *party*, but rather for army composition
--> Basically, build your own squad, which had a surprising amount of depth since there were many things to consider when building your army (like race, skills, talents, melee or ranged etc.)
- It has Levels. Every battle gives you EXP like any other RPG
- It has a skill tree. It has 3 actually: one focused on raw power and rage abilities, one focused on utility skills and army upgrades, one focused on magic and artifacts


On a side-note, recently the developers released King's Bounty II, but it kind of lost the soul of the original series and I honestly don't really like it.
Kind of the same that happened to Heroes of Might and Magic.
 
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TheoAllen

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@ScorchedGround here is the game I'm talking about

Yes, you build your own army/band, the battle occurs on a separate map, and in a grid (to be honest, this is like a grid battle system than a tactical one). We are talking the same game. However, this is the only game I played from the franchise lol. Does it have a level and skill tree though? I don't remember.
 

ScorchedGround

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@ScorchedGround here is the game I'm talking about

Yes, you build your own army/band, the battle occurs on a separate map, and in a grid (to be honest, this is like a grid battle system than tactical one). We are talking the same game. However, this is the only game I played from the franchise lol.

Ahh right. That makes sense then.
This game is way out of my timeline I suppose.

I was talking about the more modern iterations of King's Bounty by 1C Entertainment which fall more in line of Tactical RPG's you know today.

e.g. :

King's Bounty - The Legend
King's Bounty - Armored Princess (+ Crossworlds)
King's Bounty - Warriors of the North
King's Bounty - Dark Side
King's Bounty II
 

ATT_Turan

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I think ThinkN described it well - it's about the division of player time. It's not fair to jump the gun and accuse the game devs of being lazy, there is a reason there.

Take a standard dungeon from a Final Fantasy game - in one level of it, you might have, what, 20 random encounters? Now take a battle from Shining Force - that might take, what, 30 minutes to complete? More if it's Fire Emblem and you have to learn the battle well enough to not let anyone die.

So you're talking about ten hours to get through one level of a dungeon. By the time a player does all that, they've forgotten why they cared about being in there to begin with.

Now, of course, you can alter those things freely, but as you do, you start to jeopardize what's appealing about both.

A dungeon crawl is only challenging if you are concerned about your resources - you explore as much as you can before you run out of health and ways to replenish your health. So if your solution to the 10-hour level is to have fewer fights, the exploring becomes easier and thus less meaningful. The same is true if you simply make the dungeon smaller, then there's less point to exploring it.

Then if you go the other way and say we'll make the tactical battles not take half an hour, then you're cutting down on what the players of SRPGs find interesting. Why bother caring about your troop composition and skill builds and troop placement if it's over quickly?

I'm not saying it's impossible to create some kind of balance - Divinity: Original Sin does go for it, and well enough (I only played a couple of hours because I just couldn't handle the supremely cheesy writing). But that's also a much smaller scale than what anyone thinks of when you talk about SRPGs.
 

Frostorm

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These different approaches often result in different consequences for the player's resource management.

Traditional RPGs tend to challenge the player during dungeon crawls by slowly whittling down their resources over dozens of battles that are individually inconsequential.

Tactical RPGs tend to make each individual battle--and even each individual action in that battle--consequential. Tactical RPGs often fully heal you after battle, because the focus is on the individual encounter and not on the long-haul.
Edit: (sry, I wrote this before I read your post @ATT_Turan)
So what happens if a game blends both approaches? Fairly challenging and consequential encounters, but w/o a full-heal after each battle. It would have to strike a very fine balance...each battle should whittle down the player's party more so than a traditional RPG, but not too much so that the player won't have to make a trip to the inn every other battle.

Another goal of mine was to streamline the transition between combat and exploration. A few things can help here. For instance, I use a party size of 3 instead of 4 or 6. As a result, enemy troop sizes are balanced w/ that party size in mind. Thus the battle wraps up sooner due to fewer units overall. Also, I'm taking a page out of the Divinity playbook w/ their map interactions (albeit more rudimentary than theirs, ofc). This is possible since combat and exploration are on the same map. So interacting w/ the map environment out-of-combat has direct effects on the in-combat encounter. I take some inspiration from Golden Sun here with the various ways you can interact with its dungeons (i.e. Psynergy skills like Move, Grow, Douse, Freeze, etc...).

I was talking about the more modern iterations of King's Bounty by 1C Entertainment which fall more in line of Tactical RPG's you know today.
Ah I see, the game in the video @TheoAllen linked is made by a totally different studio than all the other King's Bounty games.

I'm not saying it's impossible to create some kind of balance - Divinity: Original Sin does go for it, and well enough (I only played a couple of hours because I just couldn't handle the supremely cheesy writing). But that's also a much smaller scale than what anyone thinks of when you talk about SRPGs.
Indeed, I've noticed Tactical/SRPGs typically fall under 2 categories: High unit count & Low unit count. Fire Emblem & Wargroove are the former, while Larion games (Divinity: Original Sin 1&2 or Baldur's Gate 3) are the latter. That certainly seems to help w/ the balance, as you said.
 
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ATT_Turan

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each battle should whittle down the player's party more so than a traditional RPG, but not too much so that the player won't have to make a trip to the inn every other battle.
An option here is to make the battles occur at specific places, like in Shining Force, so if you do have to go back and replenish yourself, you've already beaten the battles so far and you don't lose your progress.
 

Frostorm

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An option here is to make the battles occur at specific places, like in Shining Force, so if you do have to go back and replenish yourself, you've already beaten the battles so far and you don't lose your progress.
Do you mean basically like having no respawns?

Btw, have any of you guys played Baldur's Gate 3 (early access) yet?
 

lianderson

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This is a fascinating topic that I noticed myself over a decade ago. Never got a direct answer myself, but after thinking about it for years, I've determined they can get away with it because they're already doing the things you think they're not doing.

If you're already doing complex tactical battles, then the analytical part of your brain doesn't need a puzzle to solve because moving people around a map at a certain tactical standard is a puzzle in and of itself.

As for exploration, you just got to understand that exploration is simply about finding new things, and those things don't necessarily need to be places. Tactics, buildings, people, endings, these are all things that can be explored. And if you got enough to explore, well, then you got enough to explore.
 

ATT_Turan

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Do you mean basically like having no respawns?
Maybe? Respawns indicates to me having enemies on the map, which no SRPG I've played has done. So if that's your system, then yes, I mean no respawns. If you look at the games I'm referencing, they bring you into battle when you walk onto specific points on the map, but once that battle is completed you can just continue to walk through, even if you've gone to a different area and come back.
Btw, have any of you guys played Baldur's Gate 3 (early access) yet?
I won't touch it - I think mindflayers-are-aliens-in-a-fantasy-setting is one of the stupidest parts of Dungeons & Dragons.
 

TheoAllen

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I would like to correct my post, I wasn't playing Divinity: Original Sin. I was playing Dragon Age Inquisition. Idk, my memory was fuzzy because both games started with D.
 

Frostorm

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I would like to correct my post, I wasn't playing Divinity: Original Sin. I was playing Dragon Age Inquisition. Idk, my memory was fuzzy because both games started with D.
Ah...I also tried playing Dragon Age Inquisition but only got about an hour in before I dropped it lol.

Whoa! Seeing @lianderson talk like "normal" is a trip. :guffaw:
 
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