#1 Edited by Seppli (10250 posts) -

I love the game. At least everything other than its clumsy and chaotic combat. There's apparently much depth there, but the tools given to manage said depth are all but inept.

In the end, all the depth, that is indubitably there, is meaningless, because the combat controls fail to allow for meaningful interaction with the game - it boils down to the age-old JRPG tradition of grinding past the difficulty curve - which happens organically, if the player choses to do the sidequests - after which all depth is meaningless, because one is overleveled. Shallow complexity.

It's a crying shame that positioning, timing, elemental weaknesses and strengths, star signs and god knows how much complexity Level-5 crammed in there - is in the end nothing but windowdressing. Combat is chaotic, clumsy to execute, halfway to being fully automatic and completely devoid of challenge - on the one hand, because the player is set-up to outgrind it, and on the other hand, because the game's controls are simply inept, and fail to allow proper interaction with its many systems and mechanics in a meaningful way in the heat of combat.

Do you guys agree? Everything other than combat is pretty much JRPG heaven, and all the systems and mechanics and controls - everything about combat is inept? I am having a grand ol' time regardless, but what a shame it ain't better at providing a more meaningful combat experience.

#2 Posted by Demoskinos (15148 posts) -

Nope. I really enjoy it you have to be very active in battle. You need to have your fingers ready at moments notice to cancel actions and drop into a defensive stance. The early game very much requires you to use the correct signs against enemies to get maximum effect out of your damage. Its extremely satisfying to block an attack and see that "Nice!" pop up.

On top of that expert timing is required to essentially parry enemy attacks by hitting them at specific parts of their attack animations. There is more to the combat than you'd think. You can brute force it but getting insanely over leveled isn't really even viable until you get your 2nd mode of transportation which lets you access a few of the better grinding spots. Even then there are alternate versions of bosses in post game that will give even characters in the 90's a run for your money. The combat is fun as you want it to make it be.

#3 Edited by Aarglefarg (25 posts) -

I liked it overall.

It's much more of an action RPG than I expected. Moving around to dodge attacks is good. But there are some annoyances with AI and controls being fiddly.

It would be better if commands could be mapped to buttons instead of scrolling left and right to get to the right one (though I found out since last playing it that L2/R2 work for that). Or if the All Out Defend made the controlled character defend as well.

Having numbers next to the HP gauges of other party members and and their MP information would be good. With enemies too. And the sun/star/planet/moon icons are a little too small on my television.

#4 Posted by Gravier251 (217 posts) -

Yeah, I likewise felt the combat was very shallow. There really isn't much strategy beyond having familiars with decent stats and having them at a decent level. The AI are fairly idiotic, burning through mana rather fast and sometimes opting to melee with themselves rather than a familiar even if it only does 1 damage.

There are also issues in terms of interface, selecting what to do in the heat of battle can be somewhat problematic, even after finding out about using L2/R2 (Which I don't recall the game actually explaining?). Also there is no way to see the MP of team mates without either swapping to them or going to use an item on them. It can be a bit annoying when you are leaving the healing to a companion during a fight, unaware that they are out of MP until you start to take a beating and have not been healed in a while.

The game takes *a lot* of time to explain, over and over how to do the most mundane of things (using utility spells for side quests, etc) yet obscures the somewhat potentially deeper systems or outright refuses to explain.

e.g. Inquiring with the telling stone about elements from what I recall it makes a vague allusion to the fact that some elements are effective vs. others. No examples, no list, etc.

The game also narrows down the variety of it's familiar system as each character has an affinity for certain types. 3 each, with Arcana going spare. Given that you get a buff for using favoured familiars it largely renders using any outside of your dictated type wasteful.

It is a real shame that the combat and the systems surrounding it are so shallow and poorly communicated. I've been enjoying the game, in spite of it's combat. Enough to have played for about 35 hours so far even. I just wish the combat would provide a thought provoking challenge and have systems in place to actually be able to figure out effective party compositions.

#5 Edited by Seppli (10250 posts) -

@demoskinos said:

Nope. I really enjoy it you have to be very active in battle. You need to have your fingers ready at moments notice to cancel actions and drop into a defensive stance. The early game very much requires you to use the correct signs against enemies to get maximum effect out of your damage. Its extremely satisfying to block an attack and see that "Nice!" pop up.

On top of that expert timing is required to essentially parry enemy attacks by hitting them at specific parts of their attack animations. There is more to the combat than you'd think. You can brute force it but getting insanely over leveled isn't really even viable until you get your 2nd mode of transportation which lets you access a few of the better grinding spots. Even then there are alternate versions of bosses in post game that will give even characters in the 90's a run for your money. The combat is fun as you want it to make it be.

Blocking or interrupting big attacks sure can feel rewarding, but it's only needed early-on and in bossfights - the latter feels random at best anyways. What do you have to say in defense of it's clumsy control scheme, and lacking UI? That stuff is incredibly flawed, and wastes pretty much all of the game's potential.

I can see how one can enjoy combat. I do so myself mostly, unless I get caught up in how it should be, and get fed up with how lacking all of it is. It's extremely clusmy in execution and feels like a major fumble in every regard. Especially with how much complexity there is to it, and how little of that complexity actually matters, and how inept the controls and the UI are at letting me interact meaningfully with said complexity.

It's lacking in clarity, communication, control - it does not achieve what it sets-out to achieve with all its systems and mechanics, as far as I'm concerned. Granted I'm only half-way through the game, but its flaws are inherent to how the game is built, and that won't magically rectify itself over the course of the game.

You'll have to explain how any of Ni No Kuni's combat complexity is anything but window-dressing, because from where I'm sitting, it doesn't matter in the slightest.

#6 Posted by HH (626 posts) -

i've just started getting into the swing of it after 12 or so hours, i surged ahead in the story so as to make the fights a bit tougher, and sort of force myself into figuring out the intricacies. i haven't quite got to grips with it yet, but i can see a strategy (defend-centric) developing. and it's a good thing too, because a lot of the jrpg-ness of the game just makes me want to puke onto my own face.

also, i've found reading the wizard's tome is more helpful than anything else with regards to figuring out the systems.

#7 Posted by bobafettjm (1474 posts) -

At first I didn't mind the combat, but as I go on I can't help but want to play it with turn based combat.

#8 Posted by JJWeatherman (14570 posts) -

I thought I was crazy, but it's good to see you guys feeling generally the same way about a lot of this stuff.

My biggest problem is the inability to control multiple characters at once. How am I supposed to block strong boss attacks with two characters at the same time? One will inevitably be hit, taking massive damage. And I think if I were to somehow manage to block and then quickly switch to another character to block with them, that my initial blocking character would actually revert back to attacking. It makes no sense.

I really feel like I'm missing something (or many multiple somethings) when it comes to combat in this game. It's frustrating. Maybe that's why I'm at this point avoiding the game and playing a 14-year-old Legend of Dragoon instead. Now there's some combat.

#9 Posted by Demoskinos (15148 posts) -

@seppli: I think it controls just fine. I think it should explain up front that you can use R2/L2 to navigate commands as that is crucial for those times you do need to quickly switch between different commands. I don't understand at all how it is clumsy. And the UI is just fine I don't see any issues with that either.

#10 Edited by Demoskinos (15148 posts) -

I thought I was crazy, but it's good to see you guys feeling generally the same way about a lot of this stuff.

My biggest problem is the inability to control multiple characters at once. How am I supposed to block strong boss attacks with two characters at the same time? One will inevitably be hit, taking massive damage. And I think if I were to somehow manage to block and then quickly switch to another character to block with them, that my initial blocking character would actually revert back to attacking. It makes no sense.

I really feel like I'm missing something (or many multiple somethings) when it comes to combat in this game. It's frustrating. Maybe that's why I'm at this point avoiding the game and playing a 14-year-old Legend of Dragoon instead. Now there's some combat.

You eventually get the ability to press square to make the AI go "All-Out" on Defense or press Triangle to make them go "All-Out" on Attack. Its baffling that they don't give this to you earlier.

#11 Edited by believer258 (12188 posts) -
#12 Posted by JJWeatherman (14570 posts) -

@jjweatherman said:

I thought I was crazy, but it's good to see you guys feeling generally the same way about a lot of this stuff.

My biggest problem is the inability to control multiple characters at once. How am I supposed to block strong boss attacks with two characters at the same time? One will inevitably be hit, taking massive damage. And I think if I were to somehow manage to block and then quickly switch to another character to block with them, that my initial blocking character would actually revert back to attacking. It makes no sense.

I really feel like I'm missing something (or many multiple somethings) when it comes to combat in this game. It's frustrating. Maybe that's why I'm at this point avoiding the game and playing a 14-year-old Legend of Dragoon instead. Now there's some combat.

You eventually get the ability to press square to make the AI go "All-Out" on Defense or press Triangle to make them go "All-Out" on Attack. Its baffling that they don't give this to you earlier.

Ah, okay. Wow, that would certainly be helpful. Hopefully I'll reach that point soon.

I also had no idea that the triggers served the same function as the d-pad. Great to know.

#13 Posted by Spoonman671 (4769 posts) -

Puts me right to sleep.

#14 Posted by Daftronaut (30 posts) -

The combat in Ni No Kuni certainly has it's flaws, for instance the abysmal A.I. (which can be dealt with luckily) or the way you have to switch back to the main characters to perform certain actions which just feels clumsy.

Nontheless, 30 hours in, I still really enjoy the combat. Boss-fights really make use of the combat mechanics and blocking/evading at the right time, feels incredibly rewarding. It is also pretty dynamic since movement/attack speed and proximity to the enemy, also factor into the combat. It is overall a pretty complex system but unfortunately doesn't quite reach it's full potential.

#15 Edited by Petiew (1361 posts) -

NNK's combat is fine, and can even be quite fun at times but I have a lot of issues with it. Most of them are minor, but they all build up.

AI is very dumb, they'll let Familiar Stamina run out completely instead of switching (I set Swaine up with Monolith to use as a tank. I'd start battle with him and use Yoo-hoo to taunt the enemy. Unless I babysat him the entire fight Monolith's stamina would frequently be at 0, meaning I couldn't control him and re-apply the taunt. If I went with Swaine the whole fight Oliver would constantly be wasting MP I wanted to save or getting himself killed.)

Swapping between characters is unnecessarily clunky. If I want to control Esther's familiar I need to select Esther, and then bring up the menu again to throw out her familiar. If you switch from character to character without throwing out a familiar they'll run around by themselves until you issue an All Out command.

MP will be burned through at an insane rate, heals are wasted on characters who don't need them or don't come when you're actually in trouble. (Yes, even with the all out defence activated)

Tactics are limited and AI will occassionally not even stick to the assigned tactic or will just stand around doing nothing.

Familiars frequently get stuck on allies or enemies and will run up against them until the timer on their attack runs out and they can be controlled. Cancelling the attack forces a cooldown on Attack and Defence and wastes time.AI companions also frequently run into ground hazards such as poison and fire over and over again.

The focus on defence is annoying as getting hit by the cinematic attack means huge damage. It would be fair enough if the system was less clunky or your allies could take some initiative for themselves. For your allies to defend you need to be in a defensive, or evasive, stance and also have called for an All Out Defence. With the cooldown there sometimes isn't even enough time to cancel your attack, flip over to the defend option (With the shoulder buttons, as directionals seem somewhat unreliable) and activate the All out option. Some items, heals and buffs also have huge periods where you're totally immobile and get hit with an attack the boss hadn't even started to charge up when you selected your provision.

Cinematic attacks cancelling skills, items, attacks, etc is also frustrating. (The final boss was an exercise in tedium, and is really what made me dislike the battle system)

No indication on why I should keep one ability over another. The descriptions are all vague and don't convey power or usefulness.

Uhhh I didn't expect this to turn out so long. I think I spent way too much time playing this game.

#16 Posted by thebunnyhunter (1482 posts) -

I love everything about this game except the combat, it feels very mashy to me. Most of the time i just bring out Mitey and spam the attack button. I dont really understand the counter-attack and parry system, or how to stop an enemy from casting by attacking. One little tutorial explaining that wasnt enough and i kind of accidently "x" through them since they came mid battle. I did just get the "Attack/Defend" all out commands though so it might help things but i dont see it bringing out any substantial depth and im alright with that seeing how much i enjoy everything else.

#17 Posted by crusader8463 (14429 posts) -

I was really looking forward to this game until I got my hands on the demo and got to play the combat. I despise this type of combat and despite loving everything else about what the game had to offer I had to pass on the game because I know I could never slog through such bad combat for the entire game no matter how good the other parts are. Would love to see this game get some kind of update/mod to make it turn based, but sadly that will never happen.

#18 Edited by kerse (2118 posts) -

I started out thinking the combat isn't the best, but it wasn't getting in the way until near the end of the game. On the last boss I had to resort to running around in a giant circle casting mornstar or evenstar every time I could cast a spell, the party members are fucking useless in this game. Now I hate the combat in this game, and its not like I was dying a whole lot, I think I died once or twice in the first third of the game, after that I just gave my party members familiars that hit hard with spells and set them to go all out, and I handled the healing, using everyone defend attacks when a boss does something.

The thing that really fucking bothers me is how any spell can just cancel anything you're doing, I stopped even trying to revive party members because if any enemy got a spell off it would just fucking cancel the rez, no matter how close it was to bringing them back, this happens with pretty much everything, I can't count the amount of times I've used an item and during the item's lengthy animation an enemy does some spell and cancels it. Also you can't cancel out of spells when you're casting, which I guess is fine, but it just adds to the frustration when you're using mornstar and evenstar which take like 5 seconds to cast.

Anyways if you're having trouble just put the movement speed increase item on Oliver and just run around the outside of the arena casting spells, like I said I didn't die to anything doing that. Or I guess you could spend 3 hours grinding to recruit the Dinoceros thing everyone says breaks the game, but I didn't really want to do that (except for the 3 hours that I did try to recruit it, that was with the increased chance to recruit). I'm glad the story was fun and interesting, except for everytime someone said something along the lines of "so you're the child who was prophecized to save the world", because I would have dropped this game around halfway through. Some people really liked the combat in the game though, so I guess it just didn't click with me or something. It probably would have been more fun on easy now that I think about it.

#19 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6395 posts) -

Better AI controls would have gone a long ways towards making those two big story boss battles a lot less frustrating, but overall, I never really had a lot of trouble with it. I was pretty overleveled for everything, though, as I really enjoyed the crafting and creature capture aspects of the game and often ripped through areas multiple times in an effort to get everything.

Moderator
#20 Edited by Demoskinos (15148 posts) -

@kerse: Man, you didn't have the Astra spell? Would have made that final boss go much quicker.

#21 Posted by BisonHero (7039 posts) -

@seppli said:

In the end, all the depth, that is indubitably there, is meaningless, because the combat controls fail to allow for meaningful interaction with the game - it boils down to the age-old JRPG tradition of grinding past the difficulty curve - which happens organically, if the player choses to do the sidequests - after which all depth is meaningless, because one is overleveled. Shallow complexity.

It's a crying shame that positioning, timing, elemental weaknesses and strengths, star signs and god knows how much complexity Level-5 crammed in there - is in the end nothing but windowdressing. Combat is chaotic, clumsy to execute, halfway to being fully automatic and completely devoid of challenge - on the one hand, because the player is set-up to outgrind it, and on the other hand, because the game's controls are simply inept, and fail to allow proper interaction with its many systems and mechanics in a meaningful way in the heat of combat.

I expect people will adamantly disagree with me, but these are pretty much the same reasons that I think the combat system in the "Tales of" series is terrible. You only control your one character, and beyond that you have to rely on your allied AI and whatever custom behaviour you've set for them, plus whatever commands you have hotkeyed. I just really don't like that I'm not controlling a majority of the party. I almost wish they would go all the way and just remove player control entirely from the game, and all you can do is set up battle tactics (like Ogre Battle 64, or FF 12/13, sort of). I feel like the game is taunting you by giving you direct control of just one character, while the combat is real-time and you can't really influence the positioning and specifics of what your party is doing.

What I loved so much about KotOR and especially Dragon Age was that while you could set certain behaviours (especially in Dragon Age), if you really needed to you could pause, and go to each character and micromanage exactly where you want them to be and what you want them to do.

I'm not saying that the Tales series is universally bad, but after playing through Tales of Symphonia, I realized it still felt really out of my control and frustrating, and I don't get why people would love that combat system.

#22 Posted by kerse (2118 posts) -

@kerse: Man, you didn't have the Astra spell? Would have made that final boss go much quicker.

I guess not, I got the Astra wand, where was the spell? I combed every nook and cranny in that last place?

#23 Posted by Demoskinos (15148 posts) -

@kerse: You get it from doing all of Horace's riddles. Right when you beat the "mid-boss" in the final dungeon if you double back to the island that opens up late game you can do the final riddle and Horace gives you the spell which is basically like mornstar but on steroids. It gets expensive though at 54mp per cast but if you have the 100 extra MP/HP from the one ability you get from the stamp card its not so bad.

#24 Posted by kerse (2118 posts) -

@demoskinos: Yeah that would have made it way easier I suppose, I managed though. I thought the lady would help a little lol, but instead she just kept trying to rez my allies, only to have it canceled by chaos and then try to do it again lol.

#25 Posted by Demoskinos (15148 posts) -
#26 Edited by JasonR86 (9726 posts) -

I think I might be missing something. I'm not very far. I'm up to the Temple Trials and it seems really simple. My solution to every single combat problem is to over-level. It's the solution I had with older JRPGs and it continues to be my solution here. As for the bosses my solutions have been to run away as Oliver and use magic from a distance avoiding the bad guy's strikes. It's really, really simple so far. Not bad. Just simple.

#27 Posted by BoG (5192 posts) -

It's not the second coming of JRPG battle systems, but it suffices.

Somewhat off topic, is it required for all console JRPG battle systems to be action oriented these days? I would kill for a great new turn-based system. I feel that a developer's need to make battles real time may be part of what dilutes the depth of the system. Xenoblade got it right, but so few JRPGs do. I would love it if some developer slowed things down and gave us a more deliberate, strategic battle system. I revisited Final Fantasy X last year, and the great battle system was the biggest surprise. It's better than almost any JRPG combat system on current consoles.

#28 Posted by Seppli (10250 posts) -

@seppli: I think it controls just fine. I think it should explain up front that you can use R2/L2 to navigate commands as that is crucial for those times you do need to quickly switch between different commands. I don't understand at all how it is clumsy. And the UI is just fine I don't see any issues with that either.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. The specific complaints put forth in this thread by many a user is a pretty representative and complete collection of my own.

It doesn't ruin the game for me, for that it is too charming, and its shortcomings too inoffensive - and I enjoy my time with it so far, but I think it's quite a shame that it just ain't any better. It could have been *Grandia 2*-style great combat-wise, all the elements are there - but it's not.

#29 Edited by kerse (2118 posts) -

@demoskinos: Yeah

@bog: Its my opinion, but I think this game would have been fantastic as a turn based game, with the familiars it would be kinda like persona 3 and 4, but oh well. Yeah I wish more JRPG's were turn based, because they are almost always better, but maybe we're in the minority on that.

why does it bold the first letter when I reply to people?

#30 Posted by BoG (5192 posts) -

@kerse: It does bold the first letter, for some reason. If I can just add one more thing: creatures. It's been fun, but I can I just do battle with my characters? Pokemon and Shin Megami Tensei provide all the critter gathering fun I'll ever need.

#31 Edited by Demoskinos (15148 posts) -

@bog said:

@kerse: It does bold the first letter, for some reason. If I can just add one more thing: creatures. It's been fun, but I can I just do battle with my characters? Pokemon and Shin Megami Tensei provide all the critter gathering fun I'll ever need.

Well what is stopping you from doing so? You can do that if you want. Just unequip all the familiars from your characters and voila now your only fighting with your dudes.

#32 Posted by FancySoapsMan (5818 posts) -

I would have preferred a fully turn-based system.

#33 Edited by PenguinDust (12629 posts) -

@fancysoapsman said:

I would have preferred a fully turn-based system.

Me too. I find I need 3 hands to properly control, choose and attack. I am only 8 or so hours in (Esther just joined) and I had found that I need to keep Oliver moving (circle strafe) when he's on the battlefield or else he gets whomped. Clicking through the combat choices on the d-pad while using the analog sticks to keep moving forces me to hold the controller in an uncomfortable way. If it was fully turn-based I wouldn't be worrying about being zonked while I dial up "provisions".

Also, Level-5 really needed to create a few more victory animations. "We win!!" heard for the 500th time is grating.

I like the game though. I am a big fan of Dragon Quest and this is basically a DQ game but with a Studio Ghibli skin.

#34 Posted by BoG (5192 posts) -

@demoskinos: That wasn't the point. Not to mention, it would be really difficult at this point in the game because I would never have enough MP. The point is that the market doesn't need more JRPGs that involve monster collecting.

#35 Edited by Demoskinos (15148 posts) -

@bog: I really don't think that is as prevalent as you make it sound. You named two series. That hardly makes even a majority share of the RPG market.

#36 Posted by John1912 (1970 posts) -

The new styles of combat for JRPGs have been novel, but not as timeless as the classic FF set up. I think Im ready to go back to that.

#37 Posted by Morrow (1823 posts) -

I really like the combat actually, it's fast and fluent :)

#38 Edited by me3639 (1849 posts) -

The combat is totally flawed but only needed some minor tweaking to be fair and effective. To really make it work it needed a Dragon Age Origins type of menu option. The AI for your party members is not deep enough for them to be effective during combat with so many systems taking place. I got tired of really babysitting, and who could keep Esther from draining all her MP no matter what option you put her on. It was so close.....

#39 Posted by gerrid (383 posts) -

Yeah I think a proper Gambit style macro system would have worked wonders - at any level your AI partners drain their MP and do stupid things, and micromanaging them doesn't work because every time you switch characters it pulls back their familiar.

I think a turn-based battle system would have been more complex and satisfying, but would have ruined the game overall - making it incredibly slow going.

So my solution would just be de-automate the Attack sequence. The horrible Familiar pathfinding combined with unpredictable attack patterns makes that part of the battles a chore when it should be a delight. Why not introduce a real-time combo system like in the Tales games? Instead of selecting attacks from a rotational menu - map them to buttons to execute as part of a combo. If they'd had that then the parrying, dodging and positioning elements would have been much more intense and strategic. You would keep your cooldowns, ability matching and elemental resistances but the added level of control would have made things a lot more interesting.