5 modern turn-based games with unique combat systems

There are many turn-based games that many detractors have grown to love (Images via Ubisoft/Capcom/Larian Studios)
There are many turn-based games that many detractors have grown to love (Images via Ubisoft/Capcom/Larian Studios)

Turn-based games are somewhat of a niche in the industry, with many players turned off by the slow or grindy pace of the gameplay. While that's not a wrong assessment, these games can also have some of the most strategic and rewarding gameplay loops out there. Atlus' Megami Tensei games have proven this fact.

Are you a newcomer looking to dip your toes into the sea of turn-based magic or a naysayer adamant that turn-based games are a stale and outdated genre? Regardless, here are five modern turn-based games with refreshing combat systems.

Note: This article reflects the opinions of the writer

These 5 turn-based games have no equal in the scene

1) Transistor


For the studio's second outing, Supergiant Games' Transistor takes some surprisingly bold steps. It combines real-time and turn-based combat into a cohesive package.

Players must accompany Red, a singer who has lost her voice, on her journey through Cloudbank's virtual alleyways. She is also accompanied by a talking sword, the titular Transistor.

The odd duo will fight many creepy enemies on their path to uncover the truth after the city is taken over by the Process. It's a gripping story with a beautiful presentation, voice acting, and writing.

However, it's the combat that's the focus: each equippable Function() in one of the four slots can Upgrade any other Function() or act as a Passive. Depending on what role is alloted, each Function can have different results, like splitting projectiles or granting a shield.

Players can experiment to their heart's content as the Turn() mode can stop time. This lets players plan out their attack/movement route for as long as the gauge cost allows and then watch it unfold in real time by executing their Turn().

2) Child of Light


Although Ubisoft is often criticized for making annual rehashes of the same few franchises, they do have some neat surprises up their sleeves occasionally.

2014's Child of Light is one such example. A young girl named Aurora finds herself in the fantasy world of Lemuria after presumably dying. However, this mysterious new land is home to all kinds of weird creatures. Aurora soon realizes she cannot return back unless she acquires the Moon, Sun, and Stars that were stolen.

It's a simple but surprisingly effective plot paired with a beautiful hand-drawn art style and a tight combat system. Battles are turn-based, which is reminiscent of old-school JRPGs of the Active Time Battle (ATB) variety.

A timeline system governs the speed of attacking. Players can tactically work around the various team members, skills, and abilities to ensure they have the upper hand.

The blue firefly Igniculus can also play an active role in slowing down single foes on the timeline. Overall, this game is an underrated adventure that doesn't get the attention it deserves.

3) Divinity Original Sin 2


Whenever the topic of "best RPGs" comes up, people tend to mention games like Witcher 3, Dark Souls, or Skyrim.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 from Larian Studios is a game that deserves a spot in that category. After the death of the great god Lucian, the malicious Void threatens to bring ruin to the world of Rivellon. As such, a new entity must rise to divinity, occupy the throne and save the world from peril.

This simple plot is what sets off your chosen cast of party members across the land in hopes of finding ways to get closer to godhood. If the game's solid writing, depth of content, and super-interactive open world weren't impressive enough, the fact that it offers the same level of freedom in battle should do it.

Awareness and member placement are key as spells and environments can interact in funny ways in this game. Players can set an oil spill ablaze or electrocute the water on which their opponents stand. They can even break down a door with the help of a summoned monster.

In a nutshell, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the turn-based equivalent of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

4) Slay the Spire


As if turn-based games appealing to a small crowd weren't enough, MegacCrit takes it a step further with their deck-building roguelike RPG, Slay the Spire.

There is no inherent plot to speak of: just pick a character and make your way through the procedurally generated rooms with a boss at the end.

Each of the game's characters is unique in their playstyles, like an assassin who deals poison damage or a robot that can summon elemental orbs. Then again, so are the enemies, who have a plethora of debuffs and attacks to whittle you down.

Players start off with a set number of cards that are either attack, defensive, or support/buffs. Knowing what to use in certain situations is crucial as health can only be regenerated at a bonfire by default.

At the end of the day, it's about literally playing the cards in your hand smartly and always being two steps ahead of the enemy.

5) Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin


Monster Hunter has always been an action-packed series about chasing down large beasts and killing them for gear parts. Not even the most hardcore fan would expect a turn-based spin-off. After all, how could such an arduous gameplay loop translate over well in a turn-based template? It surprisingly does, as the original 3DS entry proved back in 2017.

The rock-papers-scissors design returns in Stories 2. Combined with the elemental properties of the weapons and gear, partner skills, and overall strategy required to take down each Monstie, this is an addictive game.

While it seems similar to another popular monster taming franchise, Capcom's take has enough charm and difference to set itself apart.

The breathtaking visuals, the variety of Monsties to collect, the thoughtful combat, and the charming story make up for the otherwise bland exploration and levels.

Overall, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is a fascinating experience that RPG fans must play.

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Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh
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