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TIGSource ForumsPlayerGamesComparing indie multiplayer tactical combat games.
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suiraclaw
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« on: April 25, 2009, 05:17:06 AM »

As there have been enough threads about the huge amount of indie platformers and sidescrollers (sometimes giving the expression that's all the indie scene has to offer), here is a topic dedicated to another genre: "tactical combat" games. Definition: a turn based game where you control a team of characters at once in a battlefield environment with topdown view. Examples include final fantasy tactics, tactics ogre, fire emblem and disgaea. Games like final fantasy III, fallout and pokemon don't belong in this genre. 

The genre was especially popular in Japan, but lately has been picked up by some indie developers.

Note that I'd prefer dedicating this thread to multiplayer games from this genre. While avernum, geneforce and fantasy wars are nice games, they don't really belong here as they don't have multiplayer support (as far as I know, correct me if I'm wrong).

Here's an overview (information and screenshots mostly taken from wikipedia and homepages + facts are mostly my input/conclusion after reading reviews/testing the games myself).

With team creation = TRPGs
In these game you have to make a team out of compeltely different characters (aka strategy aka build) before the combat starts. The combat itself only consists of battling with that team and no possibility to expand or modify your team anymore. The characters themselves are like those in RPG games: they represent one strong person. Like final fantasy tactics.

Dofus Arena http://www.dofus-arena.com/en/accueil
Dofus Arena is a free turn-based strategic online game and is the second game of Ankama Games. It is a PvP (Player versus player) game based on the story of Dofus. Dofus Arena incarnates the essence of DOFUS's gameplay, featuring increasingly difficult tactical fights. As a coach, each player creates and manages his own unique team of characters, enabling him to face opponents of all kinds, in different elements.



Most important facts:
- 100% free. However, if the gold version turns out to be succesful enough, they may allow people to buy coach clothing with real money or add avertisements. It's noteworthy though that the lead developper said that the core functions (litteraly: "all what you can do now") will stay free and that people who pay/have money will never have an advantage in combat (or in team creation) above people that don't pay.
- For windows, linux and mac.
- 12 class with each 10 spells and tons of equipment. (note: characters are defined by their spells, the class only decides which spell can be equiped)
- Unlike it's sister game Dofus, it's not a MMORPG.
- No grinding at all.
- Biggest criticism is the learning curve.
- My favorite.

edit: the official site has problems every once and a while (the actual server for the game works fine though). Here is an alternate download page.

Additionally, I should mention Dofus separatedly here. It doesn't involve controlling a team, but the combat itself does resemble the gameplay of the other games listed here. It's a MMORPG (open environment) and involves team work.

Zatikon http://www.zatikon.com/
Zatikon is a free turn based multiplayer tactics game featuring over 30 unique units with over 80 additional units available in add-on packs. Build your army and defeat your opponent. Zatikon includes online player ranking and several extra game types including co-op, single player and random army mode.



Most important facts:
- While the base game is free, the expansion packs aren't. As those expansion packs unlock more units/tactics they give a paying player an advantage in game.
- For windows, linux and mac.
- 30 units with free part, 80 unlockable (20$ to unlock all)
- You have to unlock your units with gold you win in matches. Ie. there's grinding (playing more gives you a bonus) necessary. However, note that 1000 gold is the max limit for a team.
- PvE possible.
- Biggest criticism is balancing: not all units are possible and teams decide a match alone

Poxnora http://poxnora.com/index.do
PoxNora: Battlefield of the Immortals is a multiplayer online game that combines a collectible card game with a turn-based strategy game in a fantasy setting. PoxNora was originally launched via Java Web Start through a browser and can be played on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The game is free to play with "Sample Battlegroups" and players can purchase additional game pieces, called "runes", and build their own strategies.


Most important facts:
- Like Zatikon, the base game is free but you have to pay to have all options for team creation. Not paying results in a disadvantage.
- There are 500 runes atm, you can use up to 30 runes in a team. Getting all runes costs 125$.
- For windows, linux and mac.
- Biggest criticism is costprice.


Laser Squad Nemesis http://www.lasersquadnemesis.com/
Laser Squad Nemesis is a game of turn-based isometric combat, where players issue orders to a squad of soldiers or aliens.

Each turn, the player gives orders to their troops, previews probable effects of those orders, and submits them to the LSN server via the web interface, or through email. Orders are resolved simultaneously after both players have submitted their orders, and the consequences of the round are sent back to both players. The result of the previous turn is viewed in a real time ten-second video, with pause, slow motion and rewind (multiple turns) options.

Most important facts:
- Costprice: 17$ for 1 month online play, 50$ for 1 year online play.
- Only for Windows.
- 4 races with each several units.
- Quite old game (compared to others): released in 2002, last patch in 2006.
- Biggest criticism is blunt graphics/audio (review).

Tactics Arena Online http://www.tacticsarena.com/
Tactics Arena Online is a turn-based strategy game with many different animated fighter and spell-caster units to build your own team from. The game does not require an installation and can be played from any computer with an internet connection and a web browser that supports Flash.



Most important facts:
- Costprice is 5$ each month for gold version. If you don't pay, you can only use a small amount of units and can't rely on sveral features.
- Browser based.
- 19 units separated in 3 races.
- You have to win units by playing (grinding).
- It isn't updated anymore in 3 years.
- Biggest criticism is the lobby interface and lack of social features (review).

Modern Tactics Online 3http://www.throwtheproject.com/projects/mt3/
The third in the series of Modern Tactics games, all involving unlockable cosmetic and gameplay upgrades, huge campaigns, level editors, two-player hotseat multiplayer and great strategy. Flash based.

Most important facts:
- Free and playable in a browser. No need to inculde a screenshot as it starts right away.
- No grinding as far as I can see.
- My biggest critism is that I have no idea how to start.
- Lack of information, I have trouble finding sites that describe this game.

Without team creation = tactical wargames
This means that in the game you can recruit units constantly in your base and that there is some economy in it. Also, those games are usually more realistic (even when in a fantasy setting) and the characters themselves represent a big group of units, an army. Like civilization 4.

Battle for Wesnoth http://www.wesnoth.org/
The Battle for Wesnoth is a turn-based strategy game played on a hex map, with single-player campaigns as well as multi-player matches. A central philosophy in the design of the game is the KISS principle; for a new idea to be accepted, it should not complicate gameplay.

Each unit has its own strengths and weaknesses. A unit's defense is based on the type of terrain it stands on, making terrain and placement of units very important. Different types of attacks (melee and ranged), weapon types (pierce, blade, impact, arcane, cold, and fire), and a day-night cycle that alternately favors lawful and chaotic units, add to the strategy.


Most important facts:
- 100% FREE. The cheapest game of the 4 as it's open source.
- For windows, linux and mac.
- Mainly a PvE game with added multiplayer support.
- Good hotseat support.
- No grinding at all.
- 6 factions with around 7 level 1 units each, who can levelup later.
- Tactical wargame so no team creation function at all. (unlike most other games here)
- Various settings supported.
- "Perfectly" balanced.
- Biggest criticism is that luck is an important factor.
- Due to it being open source, cheating is possible (RNG hacking).

Steel Panthers Online http://www.steelpanthersonline.com/main.asp
The players receive historical military units at the beginning of a scenario and have the option to buy reinforcements with points earned in different ways. The units are then moved on a hexagon grid map similar to a large number of board and computerized wargames. In addition to ready-made battles and campaigns, players can customize single scenarios or create their own campaigns.



Most important facts:
- It looks like it's 100% free, with the option to buy real life merchandise from the dev company. edit: one review claims that you'll need a cd from any other game from the series to play this.
- The oldest game here, the actual base game is 12 years old (but kept alive with mods and remakes).
- Tactical wargame, so no team creation possible.
- Only for windows.
- Biggest criticism is learning curve (according to a review).

Combat Mission series http://www.battlefront.com/
All three games share the same concept; turns are divided into a planning and an executing phase. While the planning phase can, in single player mode, last as long as the player needs to give orders to all his units, the executing phase always lasts 60 seconds of real-time. Both sides, either computer or another human enter their orders before the execution phase takes place. This is known as the Wego system. During the execution phase, units carry out their orders, but the player cannot influence the result and is limited to watch, replay and move the camera. All games offer to play individual battles (ranging from 15 to 60 turns, or 120 turns in CMBB and CMAK) or campaigns, linking a series of battles. See Scenarios below for more information.

Most important facts:
- Obligatory purchase, 25$.
- Tactical wargame, so no team creation.
- For Windows and Mac.
- Biggest criticism is learning curve (review)

Comparing

I'm biased here. After all, I'm a moderator in the Dofus Arena forms and quite active there and I played wesnoth PvE for a while before. As a result, my conclusion here is simply "I have no idea why people would play any of the other tactical games over Dofus Arena at all and I know nothing about the tactical wargames" but that obviously wouldn't be fair.

Luckily, we got this thing called "post reply button" that should allow a less one-sided comparison.

Goal of the topic: discuss the genre, make a list of indie games that belong here and review them. Simply saying what you think/what your experiences are with one particular game is enough. Also, certainly reply if I somehow messed up with my factslist.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2009, 01:13:16 AM by suiraclaw » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2009, 06:01:41 AM »

Good comparison imo.
I'm a big fan of Battle for Wesnoth. It's probably one of the biggest open-source community-driven games right now. As you are familiar with Dofus Arena could you provide some links on how to get started with it?
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suiraclaw
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« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2009, 06:32:37 AM »

I can't believe I forget to add links :x .

For starting with Dofus Arena those 2 links should help:
Official guide: http://www.dofus-arena.com/en/article-guide-101
My own tips and tricks list: http://www.dofus-arena.com/en/forum/-f1005/-t2850-p-0.html

Otherwise, in game there's a tutorail (showing the interface) and a test NPC called Demon III that can be found here:

(press M to get the map in game, you start near the portal in the village to the left)

Besides giving you a way to test the game, you also can get some basic coach clothing from beating him.

Otherwise, just fight a bit with the preconstructed team "preco summons" or "preco ranged" and you should learn the basics fast.

PS: the bad card descriptions in DA should be fixed soon.
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« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2009, 06:40:55 AM »

Okay, thanks a lot. I will try it out and report my impressions.  Beer!
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ஒழுக்கின்மை (Paul Eres)
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« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2009, 11:22:03 AM »

There are more than those four among indie games. But I agree that this is a fairly underserved genre. But here are a few more you forgot / didn't know about:

Land of Legends (which unfortunately is no longer available, its site is dead, but you read a review of it here: http://www.gametunnel.com/2005-strategy-game-of-the-year-article.php

Project Aftermath - http://www.gamesfaction.com/project-aftermath

Tactics Core - http://www.greatgamesexperiment.com/game/TacticsCore

Kingdom Elemental Tactics - http://www.chroniclogic.com/index.htm?ke.htm?id=gt1002

Urban Legend - http://euthanize-today.com/

There are also quite a few that I remember from the Game Maker and Ohrrpgce communities, but unfortunately I don't recall their exact names right now. But there are quite a few of these if you look hard enough.

I'm too lazy to add screenshots from each though Smiley

EDIT: I forget which ones of those are multiplayer, some of them may not be.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 11:29:20 AM by Paul Eres » Logged

Fuzz
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2009, 11:53:34 AM »

Do RTS games count? If they do, Stalins vs. Martians looks like it'll be pretty great.
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Gnarf
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2009, 12:43:28 PM »

turn based

(although, in the words of some YouTube-moron,

)

Way I understood it (played neither of'em and might be wrong and blah), Project Aftermath is real-time and Kingdom Elemental Tactics is real-time with pause, by the way.

Not sure if it's proper indie or whatever, but Steel Panthers: World at War is supposed to be good and free and stuff.

Laser Squad Nemesis is made by awesome people and is very multiplayer.
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Fuzz
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2009, 01:03:10 PM »

Whoops, missed that. Embarrassed
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Craig Stern
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« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2009, 01:19:28 PM »


Tactics Core is actually a single-player demo of Tactics Arena Online. Tactics Core was coded in AS1 many years ago--it was actually the game that convinced me I could make a tactical RPG in Flash.

As for Tactics Arena Online, unfortunately, the site does not seem to have been updated since 2006, and some folks have said the servers are dead. Regardless, you can check out old matches on

.
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« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2009, 01:38:42 PM »

Combat Mission. The series high point is probably Barbarossa to Berlin. This is turn based tactical combat (up to three or four companies a side), modelling the whole of the eastern front, for every army and every period, detailed down to the angle of the sloped armour on a tank mantlet. At the start of each turn both sides plot their moves, then the game runs by itself for one minute. It's made by a couple of guys.
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« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2009, 01:49:07 PM »

I got 2 options now:
1) change the criteria to include more games, as obviously some are worth it.
2) keep the list very limited to allow easier and more fair comparisons (how would you compare stalin vs martians with dofus arena? I have no idea).

So basically, chosing between a more comprehensive list or a more detailed list that allows fans to pick their favorite easier.

My decision now: let's start with finding out how many games belong in the first category before expanding the list. So, multiplayer and turn based.

So about the games presented:
- land of legends, if you write a description of it exactly like I did with screenshots, facts (costprice) and proof that it had multiplayer support, I'll include it. But I won't spent my time researching a game that isn't supported/playable anymore, sorry.
- project aftermath is RTS
- tactics core, I remember that game, it was developed by a guy at the wesnoth's game development forums to try an engine/AI if I recall correctly. It doesn't have multiplayer though.
- kingdom elemental tactics also has no multiplayer according to google
- urban legend, took a bit longer to research, but after 5 minutes of never finding the words "urban legend" and "multiplayer" in the same sentence, I gave up.
- steel panthers: world at war gave me quite a headache for a while. It says "online" but never "multiplayer". Additionally, I didn't find proof of any competitive scene. Can anyone give me more details on this game?
- laser squad nemesis: awesome, that does fit in my category, I'll add it. Thanks Smiley .
- tactics arena online. I'll check if I can play the game, if not, somebody else will have to give me the description and other information.
- combat mission. The forums are still active and wikipedia claims it has multiplayer, so i'll add it to the list.

I also remember an old game I used to play hotseat: metal knight. Will check if anyone still plays it.

Give me some time to update my first post (I'll start with underlined ones). Either way, if you have played any of these, give some facts/opinions about them.

edit: Also, post any links to any review of any game I put in my list. I'll add them.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2009, 01:52:19 PM by suiraclaw » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2009, 02:06:29 PM »

- steel panthers: world at war gave me quite a headache for a while. It says "online" but never "multiplayer". Additionally, I didn't find proof of any competitive scene. Can anyone give me more details on this game?

It has certainly got multiplayer (online, pbem, hotseat), and it looks like there is some sort of competitive scene. But dunno really. Barely tried the game myself. It's full of tanks and square buttons.
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« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2009, 03:04:51 PM »

I just checked: Tactics Arena Online is still online after all. I just played a match and won by the skin of my teeth. Corny Laugh You can try it out here.
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« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2009, 03:08:18 PM »

I'm unsure why non-multiplayer games would be excluded... of course it's your thread and you can do what you want, but when I play these games I never play their online mode. And the examples you gave of the genre ("Examples include final fantasy tactics, tactics ogre, fire emblem and disgaea") are not multiplayer either, and they were still great games without it.
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« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2009, 05:09:06 PM »

Laser Squad Nemesis is made by awesome people and is very multiplayer.

wow, thanks for the link, looks cool!
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« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2009, 11:01:58 PM »

I'm unsure why non-multiplayer games would be excluded... of course it's your thread and you can do what you want, but when I play these games I never play their online mode. And the examples you gave of the genre ("Examples include final fantasy tactics, tactics ogre, fire emblem and disgaea") are not multiplayer either, and they were still great games without it.

All those examples I gave are mainstream games...

To asnwer the question, because there are probably hundreds of TBS games out there and the grand majority of them are "just" game maker or flash. By demanding multiplayer (and that they are still online) I can at least manage the list myself.

A less important reason is that you simply can't compare, for example, geneforce 5 and dofus arena. Although they're both in the same genre, the gameplay is completely different.

Lastly, don't forget that, except wesnoth, the games I mentioned in my first post all focus heavily on multiplayer: the only PvE they have is for training purposes. You have to play them in their online mode.

Perhaps if somebody helped me with making a brief overview of every game, I would be more encouraged to lessen the criteria already. So, focus on multiplayer and TBS first, rest maybe later.

Also, I split my original post in 2 parts seeing there's quite a bit of difference between a game that simulates world war 2 and a chess like game.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2009, 01:23:35 AM by suiraclaw » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2009, 02:16:00 AM »

I'm not sure what you mean by team creation. A standard way to play Combat Mission multiplayer is for the players to pick a certain kind of engagement; this gives a number of points to each side, which they can spend as they want on units. Is this team creation?
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« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2009, 02:28:16 AM »

 Undecided

I wanted to divide them based on these definitions:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tactical_role-playing_game
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tactical_wargame

More information can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turn-based_tactics#Types

So "with team creation" would mean that before the match you make a team out of compeltely different characters (aka strategy aka build) and that a game only consists of battling with that team and no possibility to expand your army. The characters themselves are like those in RPG games: they represent one strong person. Like final fantasy tactics.

And "without team creation" would be that in the game you can recruit units constantly in your base and that there is some economy in it. Also, more realistic and the characters themselves represent a big group of units, an army. Like civilization 4.

I tried to split them that way.

But apparently, there's more genre blurring between those 2 than I thought. Crap.

What's more clair/useful? A list where the games are ordered completely randomly or a list where the games are separated with somewhat confusing criteria?

For now, I'll add the definitions of the 2 sub genres to my original post.
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« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2009, 04:10:43 AM »

Laser Squad Nemesis is made by the same creators of the good old X-COM saga for DOS, and the old Rebelstar and LaserSquad for ZX Spectrum :D
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« Reply #19 on: April 26, 2009, 04:14:24 AM »

I think another important distinction is mission-based or free-roaming. Some of them are free-roaming, like Spiderweb Software's games, and involve town exploration and all that, whereas others are strictly mission-based, battle after battle, without the RPG exploration element.
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