Core Battle System
The core battle system is inspired by other creature collecting games, in that each creature has a series of moves to choose from and they take it in turns duking it out until one of them remains the victor.
The major change is the introduction of defense moves. As each attacker is selecting an attack to use, the defender is also able to select one of their defense moves These defense moves are weaker than attacks but provide a chance for the often overlooked buffs and debuffs to be utilised.
Defense moves can also be counters, which are moves that mitigate, prevent or even reflect damage from certain attack types. For example if you know an opponent intends to use a strong range attack then you can use a defense move that dodges ranged damage.
Because you choose your defense move at the same time as the opponent is selecting their attack, it may seem as though its is an arbitrary or random choice. However as you become familiar with your opponents move sets during a battle, you can see what moves they are favouring and start to better predict what they might use. Additionally you can try to get into your opponents state of mind. e.g. If they have a heavy attack that will incapacitate you in a single hit and a light attack that will take two hits, you could safely assume they will use the heavy attack allowing you to make a strong prediction and save yourself for at least one more turn regardless. Additionally the opponent may know you intend to block the heavy attack and instead just use the light attack at least once to set themselves up with more options next turn. This also seems like a safe bet until you consider that the defender will know the attacker is considering this and may want to take the risk of blocking the light attack instead, as doing this followed by blocking the heavy attack next turn could keep them in the fight for two additional turns if successful.
As you can see the mind games can run deep and there are many risk vs reward decisions to take due to this potential of counter moves. No longer can an opponent idly select the same single strong attack over and over without thought for how you will defend it if their attacks become predictable.
This also makes the combat somewhat meta averse, as any common strategies that become popular will the just make their counters more popular.
Additionally the combat features a combat timeline where in which each creature moves along the time line based on the speed of the move used. The creature at the front of the time line is next to attack, and as such moves can be balanced based on speed where a powerful attack will push the creature along the time line much more than a weaker attack.
This allows for more variety in attacks as the power of any attack is isolated from balancing. Attack speed also factors into meta strategies as the utility of many fast attacks means you can be very reactive and change plans based on your opponent’s attack and defense moves. You also are able to better setup synergies across your moves. However, using slow larger attacks means your opponent gets fewer defense moves in response and so may limit their options.
The timeline makes flexible team sizes (2 vs 2, 1 vs 5, etc) possible, which are utilised to provide additional challenge to encounters in the wild.
As well as balancing moves via their speed the moves can also be given condition and negative consequence that provide them with more specialised use cases.
For example the attack move Howling Charge is both very strong and very fast, but comes with the consequence of giving the creature the Blood Lung debuff. This debuff massively reduces the creature’s speed for two turns leaving them very vulnerable. As such the move is normally restricted to being used as a finishing attack where the creature can use it once, receive the debuff and then use it a second time, which then pushes them very far along the timeline and gives them even more turns of Blood Lung. This works as the two uses of the move don’t suffer any slowing until after the second attack, and so long as the opponent is eliminated this strategy is very effective as a finishing move (Assuming the opponent does not predict your plans and counter with defense moves).
Buffs and Debuffs always have fixed impact on the fight and will stack for additional turns if used repeatedly, as using a move that stacks an effect for a large number of turns is best used early on. Life element attack move Regrowth is the best example of this, as it stacks for a whopping 8 turns and provides healing that is inversely proportional to the number of turns remaining. So when the buff is at 8 turns remaining it only heals one base health, and when turns go down to 7 it heals for two base health and so on increasing as the turns reduce. This means to get effective healing later on when you need it you must have the foresight to use the move early on.