How do you make solo combat interesting?

clownbf

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The game that I am currently developing is a dark psychological horror, but fronts itself as a colorful battler. Honestly, I am more concerned about making the story deep and rich, and leaving the battles as a smaller part of the game, so I don't want to create a very complex battle system that makes it the "main part" of the game (especially because battles only appear in one out of the three planned routes). However, I also don't want combat to feel completely boring and lifeless like they do now. I'm so new to RPG Maker that I'd like to spend my time on assets and story rather than battle, so I would love to hear some ideas that you'd love to see in this type of game!

Edit: I know it's in the title, but it's important to note that there will be only one character in the party throughout the entire game.
 
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Sure! Here's a few ideas.

1) Since it's a solo main, make the player (fighter) have multiple attacks.
You could give them special abilities (skills) that allow them to defeat the enemies in a stylish fashion. It's nice to be able to see you attack 1 enemy, and it hits multiple other enemies by RNG, or some kinda strategy. Maybe have special states too (like a ghosty state, boooo). Give it spooky some flavor!

2) Use the battle system for puzzle incorporation! A lot of psychological dark/horror involve utilizing puzzles for players to figure out. Maybe you could have something that requires the use of a specific item to finally destroy an otherwise invincible ghostly enemy, or something. (Trying to work with the vagueness of course, not sure about specifics of your game).

3) If your battle system allows the players to "die" during combat, have special ways of working around the weaknesses of your solo character. This would include special healing skills, requiems of certain kinds of armor/weapons to work around those weaknesses.

Just some food for thought : )
 

LordOfPotatos

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you can always do puzzle battles instead of straight battles.

for example, in a battle with a big monster you can't really deal damage by attaking it but there are also cracked pillars in the battle (an enemy with a pillar graphic that doesn't do anything), and if you attack all the pillars the battle ends and the ceiling collapses on the monster.

or you can add abilities like "hide behind something" or "close your eyes", and use common events triggered by an ability to kill the player if he doesn't respond to the monster's actions correctly.

you can go way beyond that with things like QTE or ATB systems but those are more advanced.
 

clownbf

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I like these ideas! I absolutely won't use these for the entirety of the game, but I will most likely make the final boss have a full puzzle battle rather than the classic battle now. I don't know why I had it in my head that I was restricted to RPG Maker's built in battle system.
you can always do puzzle battles instead of straight battles.

for example, in a battle with a big monster you can't really deal damage by attaking it but there are also cracked pillars in the battle (an enemy with a pillar graphic that doesn't do anything), and if you attack all the pillars the battle ends and the ceiling collapses on the monster.
2) Use the battle system for puzzle incorporation! A lot of psychological dark/horror involve utilizing puzzles for players to figure out. Maybe you could have something that requires the use of a specific item to finally destroy an otherwise invincible ghostly enemy, or something. (Trying to work with the vagueness of course, not sure about specifics of your game).

I definitely have been working on this, and while I've made some fun attacks with fun animations attached, I still feel like I'm lacking something. I think I'll try to do something where there's a fun strategy challenge (like how Omori had that rock-paper-scissors battle system with the emotions), or I could do something similar to Undertale, and make a little "mini game" in between attacks.

It's very hard to come up with something original when it comes to battles HAHA
1) Since it's a solo main, make the player (fighter) have multiple attacks.
You could give them special abilities (skills) that allow them to defeat the enemies in a stylish fashion. It's nice to be able to see you attack 1 enemy, and it hits multiple other enemies by RNG, or some kinda strategy. Maybe have special states too (like a ghosty state, boooo). Give it spooky flavor!
 

Zerothedarklord

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I've always liked the idea of having a single party member game, so I'm going to use the Alpha ABS whenever I do. That would be my recommendation, personally.
 

FirestormNeos

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tbh pretty much every iteration of my project has been based around having only a solo playable character, so I'm very interested to see if this thread goes anywhere.
 

CraneSoft

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If combat is not going to be the main part of the game, then you will be better off making puzzle "battles" so players don't have to learn a battle system that's only relevant for a very small portion of the game. Heck, you don't even need to limit yourself to using RPG Maker's battle system - a solo character allows alot of opportunities via creative eventing - combat doesn't necessarily have to be turn-based with RPG elements after all.
 

clownbf

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This is so true, and gave me a REALLY good idea for my game. Unfortunately, I'm way too far into my database/plugin work to just completely erase the default battles BUT -as I said in an earlier post- this type of combat is only popping up in one route of my game. I think for my other routes, I'm going to create an alternative type of battle that takes place on the map thru simple events, and I can already tell it's going to be extremely easy to do this. Thanks for the tip!
If combat is not going to be the main part of the game, then you will be better off making puzzle "battles" so players don't have to learn a battle system that's only relevant for a very small portion of the game. Heck, you don't even need to limit yourself to using RPG Maker's battle system - a solo character allows alot of opportunities via creative eventing - combat doesn't necessarily have to be turn-based with RPG elements after all.
 

TheGentlemanLoser

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in two words, "action economy"
 

RCXDan

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@clownbf Ah damn, did I arrive too late to give my ideas? :kaocry:

Oh well might as well share anyway. So my immediate thought when you said "dark psychological horror masking as a bright happy fighting game" was "why not have a guard break system where you take advantage of your opponent's mental state and break down their defenses so they're more susceptible to states and stuff like that".

Like a guy who has unbreakable defenses at first and then as you break him down he turns into berserk mode and abandons his defense, leaving him vulnerable to confusion or something like that.

It just popped to mind because psychological horror can be super interesting if you work it into the gameplay itself, and this would reflect that.
 

clownbf

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WOW thank you for your suggestion so much. I really appreciate your eye for the genre of the game, because the psychological horror aspect of it is super important :kaoluv: What you're describing doesn't exactly match the base style of my game (like the colorful fighting parts), but it did give me an idea for the later stages of the route. Basically, I've come to the conclusion that I can just have a regular old battle system for random encounters on the map and it'll be fun, but boss fights are a different story. I think I'm gonna use a darker themed system for a secret boss fight that's similar to what you're describing >:) It'll be easy to just simply switch actors so I can make a whole new skill set, so It'll look and feel completely different than the base system. Thanks again!
@clownbf Ah damn, did I arrive too late to give my ideas? :kaocry:

Oh well might as well share anyway. So my immediate thought when you said "dark psychological horror masking as a bright happy fighting game" was "why not have a guard break system where you take advantage of your opponent's mental state and break down their defenses so they're more susceptible to states and stuff like that".

Like a guy who has unbreakable defenses at first and then as you break him down he turns into berserk mode and abandons his defense, leaving him vulnerable to confusion or something like that.

It just popped to mind because psychological horror can be super interesting if you work it into the gameplay itself, and this would reflect that.
 

Basileus

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I was thinking about making a solo battle project to go with a combo system I was considering. I like the idea of being able to take bonus actions or chain extra attacks for playing smart, but a system like that could make battles a drag if you had to take long turns for each party member. It would be tough to balance, but I think you could replicate the feeling of having a party by giving a single character multiple actions and then giving the player multiple goals to juggle.

* Enemy Phases: I think this might be necessary to prevent battles from being just the player and enemy smacking each other until the one with the biggest numbers is left standing. You could give the enemies a pattern where they rotate actions (charge up -> attack -> defend) so the player needs to counter their strategy (attack -> defend -> charge up). Another method would be to give bigger enemies multiple health bars and have different effects applied in each phase (1st bar - enemy's attacks inflict poison, 2nd bar - enemy's attacks reduce player's healing).
* Conflicting Goals: Players should have more things they want to do than they have actions. Maybe require the player to use one type of attack to build up critical hits, but a different type of attack to build up limit breaks. Make highly desired effects (healing, debuff removal, evasion, limit breaks) require some effort to use instead of being on-demand at all times through a skill. If the player has to be proactive in order to make sure a necessary ability is available when they need it, then it should help keep the player more engaged as they consider what to build up and when.
* Break Status: Battles shouldn't drag out in any battle system, but when the player only has 1 character to use then it would probably be good to give them a way to end fights quickly if they make the right moves. A way to break the enemy's defenses and let the player hammer away at them for a bit could be a satisfying way to handle normal enemies. This should require a little work by the player to set up. Maybe make weaker enemies get stunned after a limit break and lose a turn or two, which gives players time to try and charge their limit break back up to keep them stun-locked.
* Communication: I recommend this for every game, but use the UI to make the player aware of what they need to play around. Show the enemy's limit meter so the player can plan to have a defense ready for when it is charged. Give the enemy a scary red aura when a health bar gets broken so players know to expect more aggressive attacks. Show enemy buffs/debuffs so the player can see what effects are in play, like if the enemy goes reckless and raises its attack while lowering its defense.

You might be able to do this in a 1 action per turn system, but I think either a way to chain multiple attacks per turn or a way to gain extra turns might be better to keep things interesting. You can still keep things balanced by making powerful actions take the player's full turn, or delay their next turn. And you can always prevent the player from combining different types of actions, like preventing them from using selecting "Item" as their second action if they attacked on their first.

When in doubt, check out other games that are 1v1 (like card games or action games) to see what they do. There's nothing wrong with borrowing ideas you like from other games if you think it will make your game better.
 

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