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Sensuki

Some issues with the timed-lockout spell-casting system

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First and foremost, this is not a dig or a complaint about the current up-in-the-air spellcasting system that Josh Sawyer has been talking about on the forums and on his formspring account. This is a discussion where we can discuss the potential advantages and disadvantages, and perhaps unforseen problems with it.

 

I've just come fresh from a lavatory session where as you all know, many ideas and realizations come from, and this particular unintentional feature of the system kept bugging me, so I thought I'd bring it to the forums.

 

for some history, here is Josh's recent formspring post concerning spellcasting

 

Let's assume a 10th level PE wizard has the same number of "castings" per level to cast as a 10th level wizard in D&D 3E. I don't know how we would want to roll over levels of spells from per-rest resources to timed lockout resources, but for now let's say that the wizard's 5th and 4th level spells are per-rest resources (just like normal D&D) and that 3rd, 2nd, and 1st level spells are on timed lockouts. For simplicity, let's also assume that it takes about the same amount of time to cast these spells in a full round as it would in an IE game. Though we will not use the same timing as the IE games, it's likely that wizard spells will be among the more time-consuming actions to perform.

 

Using D&D spells for this example, the wizard could cast fireball three times or fireball once, then haste, then slow, or two hastes and a fireball -- in any combination, the wizard has exhausted all three of his or her 3rd level spell slots. All level 3 spells are now locked out for 30(ish) seconds. The wizard would have to cast another five spells before the level 3 spells were available for use again. Either the wizard is going to use up a lot of 2nd and 1st level castings (possibly locking out one of those two levels in the process) or is going to be eating into his or her per-rest resources.

 

This sounds pretty good. It's in the same vein as the vancian D&D style system we all know (and love?), but attempting to resolve some of the issues with it on RTWP PC games.

 

One problem I can see though is this (and it's all relative to other game mechanics, so it may not actually be an issue):

 

Let's use Sawyer's example.

 

Party is getting ready for the main encounter to a quest which they have decided to solve through battle. It has been the party's experience that these types of encounters tend to last between 1-2 minutes realtime not including paused time.

To get the maximum spell-casting efficiency out of Aloth, the player has him expend all of his 3rd-level spells immediately at the start of the fight so that he has the opportunity to cast all of those again by the time the fight ends. He then (with exceptions where needed) casts all second level spells and first level spells to make maximum use of the lockouts.

 

The issue here is that the optimal method of spellcasting may be casting spells all same level spells together in a sequential order and or spell levels in a sequential order (up or down), which does not make combat that tactical really.

 

However this issue is tied to the time encounters take, the lockout times of spell levels, what spells are available in the grimoire and how many spells of a level a grimoire holds, the developers may be able to fix this problem.

 

What do you guys think?

Edited by Sensuki
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I think there are potential issues like that. Its hard to judge without seeing it fully fleshed out. My hope is that they keep the line for cooldown recovered spells at only level 1 and 2 spells. You'll probably have a fair amount of slots for those spells, so casting them would take a decent bit of time that you could have spent casting higher level spells. If you have to cast 5 or 6 magic missiles and 3 or 4 acid arrows to get each level on cooldown, you'll need a really long fight to make that your best strategy. But three fireballs is a different story.

 

Granted, that completely depends on how powerful spells in each level are. I'm just hoping the only cooldown recovered spells are ones that "contribute" but aren't so powerful to really define the fight. Playing through Icewind Dale right now, I'd say that's between level 2 and 3.

Edited by ogrezilla

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Don't forget his recent Matt Chat interview, which may have more or different information.

 

http://forums.obsidian.net/topic/61168-matt-chat-interview-with-sawyer-about-eternity/

 

I'd add more, but it's time for bed...


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yeah I've watched the video, it's the same as what he posted on formspring :p I believe the formspring post was after the mattchat

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Hmm... I'd prefer something that mimics the way things work in the IE games but gets around the resting problem by say giving you a number of spells, you cast them and they all have a cooldown that will last until you've finished the battle (however long that might take, perhaps they could have a 1 or 2 minute short cooldown that only triggers after you've finished combat). Basically something that means if you have 30 spells all up you can only cast those 30 spells during combat, once combat is over after a short wait your spells will all be back. This way you wonn't be trying to cast all your spells at once so you can get more than one of a certain spell cast in a single fight. Out of combat spells may have to work differently however, on longer cooldowns perhaps.

 

I'm curious about the casting 5 other spells to unlock your locked spells thing and I wonder what the per-rest resources would be (I'm guessing higher level spells that wouldn't be on the same cooldowns and lockdowns as lower level spells?). Having two different ways for lower and higher level spells to work is a bit confusing.

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Personally, I would love to see the spell system in BG2 revived where you really thought twice before casting a spell. Choosing spells was the most fun part in battles.

 

And I also liked the fact that spending up resources/spells in one battle had consequences afterwards. I believe this was a key part of the game in order to make battles interesting.

 

I sincerely hope they're going to mimic this system as much as they can in PE.

I know they're talking about fixing things which was not satisfactory but I would do so restrictively just not to "mess up".

 

I mean, there's always room for improvement in coming sequels if they "play safe", but if they invent an entirely new spell system which the old fans don't like they might not even get a chance to a sequel.

Edited by _dagger_
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I'm not sure this is such a big problem. I can see what you're saying, mages will throw out their big guns right off the bat to get that cooldown timer going so they can cast it as many times as possible during the combat. However - those big guns might be needed in the middle of the fight, and they're now unavailable because they were used already. There would still be strategy: do I throw it out right now to get that timer going, or do I hold off so I'll have it available when I absolutely need it. Also, since the entire spell level will become unavailable, do I throw out a fireball right now so I can throw another one sooner, or do I keep that level available so I can cast Stun (or whatever) that might become needed before that cooldown expires.

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To get the maximum spell-casting efficiency out of Aloth, the player has him expend all of his 3rd-level spells immediately at the start of the fight so that he has the opportunity to cast all of those again by the time the fight ends.

 

Exactly!

 

Regaining lower tiered spells between fights are bad enough, though a tolerable solution to the resting problem, but regaining spells DURING a fight is the core for why I really hate cooldowns. Also I don't understand why it's needed to regain spells during fights if they only want to fix rest spamming? Having cooldowns in affect during combats will definitely impact desired casting order imo. I really dislike being "deprived" of the casting order choice in that way.

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I'm not sure this is such a big problem. I can see what you're saying, mages will throw out their big guns right off the bat to get that cooldown timer going so they can cast it as many times as possible during the combat. However - those big guns might be needed in the middle of the fight, and they're now unavailable because they were used already. There would still be strategy: do I throw it out right now to get that timer going, or do I hold off so I'll have it available when I absolutely need it. Also, since the entire spell level will become unavailable, do I throw out a fireball right now so I can throw another one sooner, or do I keep that level available so I can cast Stun (or whatever) that might become needed before that cooldown expires.

 

This is the obvious counter to the issue of the timed lockout exploit. Also, per what Josh mentioned on formspring, it seems highly unlikely that any truly powerful spells are going to be on the timed lockout system. Moreover, there's no guarantee that those spells are even what the situation calls for. What if you need to lead in right away with a particular second-level spell, but then immediately have to switch to a sixth-level spell? The potential use case for barraging all those low-level spells seems to me like it'd be limited to encounters you're likely to win anyway.

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I think that as soon as you cast the first spell for that level the cooldown start ticking (so you might end up with the whole level refreshed even if you only used 1 spell). This is the only way to not make optimal to spam all the best spells at the beginning of the fight.


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Exactly!

 

Regaining lower tiered spells between fights are bad enough, though a tolerable solution to the resting problem, but regaining spells DURING a fight is the core for why I really hate cooldowns. Also I don't understand why it's needed to regain spells during fights if they only want to fix rest spamming? Having cooldowns in affect during combats will definitely impact desired casting order imo. I really dislike being "deprived" of the casting order choice in that way.

 

 

Yeah, I agree. A better solution than their proposed system would be to simply have the cooldown last until the fight is over. So these lower level spells instead of being per-cooldown would be per-combat-encounter.

 

Same thing with endurance/hitpoints. If they want them to regenerate on their own - at least don't make them regenerate during fights. Please.

 

*imagines himself begging Obsidian not to have DA2-style furious combat and attack speed as more design objectives pop up* :sorcerer:

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I tend to mention the Quest for Glory systems a lot when it comes to these threads, even though they use a mana system that . . . I'm not usually fond of in most cases. Yet, in Quest for Glory, as a series, it typically worked. Here's why: "Individual spells were a solution to different problems." You see, when I bring up Quest for Glory, in regard to RPG mechanics, people typically remind me that it's also an adventure/puzzle game. You had to solve things. And that's true. You did have to solve things, especially major encounters. Different classes solved them in different ways and your Magic User, who later upgrades to full fledged Wizard, is no different. His spells are solutions to different brands of encounter.

 

Now that's a basis, I wouldn't want an exact copy of that situation, but take from that, and then move beyond it to this:

 

At first you have limited spells types, say a firebolt a blinding spell and a spell to reflect direct magical attacks. You come up against a magic user you use the reversal spell. You come up against a lone target you use the firebolt spell. You come up against a group of enemies you can't possibly beat alone, so you use the blinding spell and run away.

 

Now, later, you're more powerful, you have a spell that can pul a mas sof enemies to sleep for an extended period and a giant meteor spell that could kill that entire group. Yay! Right? Right? No. Because it's a solution to a problem, but not every problem. For example a situation where you need to get into a place, and a large amount of guards are blocking your way. Do you use the meteor to kill them all? Well, you could. But then more come. In a mana system you can just do it again, and choice becomes a moot point, continuing to kill everything with a meteor as it becomes alerted by the noise.

 

In a well made game, that meteor won't come up again for that encounter, to prevent you from just using it again and again and again and again. So you have to think logically, tactically. So what happens? You use the calming spell that puts the guards to sleep. Your spells are solutions to different problems you face. A transformation spell that lets you take the form of a touched being for an amount of time. A spell that wipes memory. A spell that levitates your character. All just random examples that have nothing to do with PE, but they're each solutions to a problem . . . and good game design will craft a series of problems that make you use different spells in specific situations to progress.

 

Take Quest for Glory III, Wages of War, for example. You were in a magical duel if you were a Wizard, with a Shaman. The Shaman and you may use any spell in your repertoire, but you may each only use them once or you're disqualified from the duel. There are other rules, like you can't directly harm your opponent - no casting a firebolt or meteor right at the opponent for instance (though there was no meteor spell :p I just made that up).

  • The first round you go first. You could start with anything, right? However, the people around you are impressed by magic, they're a magical people, and they respect magical power. Your first move, if you make the correct move, is to summon your magical staff as a sign of your power. The Shaman then summons his staff in response. A show of power and the judge weighs the power of your staff and the Shaman's staff.
  • The second round the Shaman apparently cheats, but, because you are new to these people, and they don't like you, they don't call the Shaman out on it. He'll directly attack you with a spell. A smart magic user in quest for glory puts up one of two spells first, their staff and their spell of reversal. If you won the round with the magical staff you go first and can cast reversal. The Shaman then sends a fire spell at you, but thanks to your reversal it backfires and flies at the Shaman.
  • The third round the Shaman must counter his own spell, he's on the defensive, so he redirects his own spell and transforms it into a fire that surrounds you. This is considered an indirect spell in QfG so he's not cheating, since an indirect offensive spell is not a direct attack against you. You can counter this by casting calm, as the calm spell doesn't simply calm a person or creature, it's not a biological spell, it calms things around you - even fire, wind, anything in theory if you have enough skill.
  • Now on the offensive again the Shaman surrounds you an a cage of branches and thorns. You have options here, you could cast force bolt and blow it open, for instance. However you have a spell to open that which is closed, an Open spell. You can use that to undo the spell.
  • Still on the offensive the Shaman creates a darkness. You have two spells to create light, Dazzle (a spell that can also blind or disrupt illusions) and Juggling Lights which creates a more lasting light. Both are an option here, and both will undo the darkness.
  • The Shaman summons an illusionary snake to strike at you. The snake can actually be dispelled with your Dazzle spell.
  • In frustration the Shaman opens a portal beneath you that descends into darkness. You have a spell to levitate in place and move up or down.
  • Now fully frustrated, and still not respecting you or the rules, the Shaman summons a Demon into his body that takes over, making him strong and vicious - it attacks. You can let him die to the magical attacks of the village chief behind the Shaman or you can dispel the Demon's possession with a dispel potion (which you could have put together prior, or not) which will result in the Shaman either living or dying. You could of course help the Chief kill the Demon too. :p

Each spell a potential solution, some with more than one use, and branching problems that may make an earlier decision, that seemed right, be wrong leaving another spell better saved and used later. This was just one instance, these spells were not made specifically to be used in this circumstance and never again. Rather every problem in the game was made with the note of these spells in mind. The game then challenged you to use them intelligently, in different ways. And not just in these ways, but throughout the various games in the series.

 

In my mind a good magic system will challenge you to use spells as solutions to problems, rather than as something you just spam over and over again to win. QfG as a series actually had plenty of flaws, but the spells as solutions mechanics to certain encounters always had a true ring to it, in my mind. Especially when spells have more than use use (Dazzle blinding a person, lighting a room quickly and dispelling minor illusions). You could also combine spells to create effects like making an object brittle enough to shatter. Systems that make encounters, especially major encounters, a series of problems that you must use the tools at your disposal intelligently to solve. See, this didn't just apply to magic, each class had, in many cases, the same problems to solve, but with different solutions entirely depending on whether they were Fighter, Paladin, Thief or Wizard.

 

Having to use your skills intelligently, and not just spam them constantly . . . as a result of my childhood having such games in it, is very important to me.

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The issue here is that the optimal method of spellcasting may be casting spells all same level spells together in a sequential order and or spell levels in a sequential order (up or down), which does not make combat that tactical really.

 

However this issue is tied to the time encounters take, the lockout times of spell levels, what spells are available in the grimoire and how many spells of a level a grimoire holds, the developers may be able to fix this problem.

 

I do question wether this is a issue or not. Its only natural that your higher levelled spells are a priority if you're under pressure, scenarios outside of this maxim are/were common, certainly, but they weren't the rule. Often encounter, monster and spell design minimized or outright dispelled this possibility. A lower level spell might actually be more useful in a given situation, depending on how it interacts with your spellcasting 'routine', as well as the attributes of our enemies.

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You're using past tense so I'm not exactly sure what you are talking about. What are you referring to?

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Whatever is done with the spell system, I am hoping it will not be encouraging wait periods after fights. (e.g. let's wait 50s for cooldowns and mana before we open the next door, we wanna be ready).

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One thing that I did want to mention was memorization however. Even in lower-tiered spells like Levels 1-3, I don't think that each wizard should have access to every spell he's ever learned at his disposal. One of the many things that made BG interesting (even though it was a new way of thinking about magic) was that you had to consider what kinds of spells you'd need for the day and to plan ahead of time for contingencies. Especially with lower-level spells, I think this brings an added challenge to this aspect and it makes players have to continue to consider magic as something that isn't performed willy-nilly without forethought. It also keeps the game interesting as you continue to play because as you rack up more and more types of low-tier spells, then the challenge isn't "Did I learn the right spell to help me?" but rather "Did I prepare for these set of circumstances?"

 

I think the best way to implement such a style would be to either 1) have characters memorize a set amount (4 or 5) of different spells for each level (1-3) for the day, and to use them as previously described and only be limited to those spells until they rest again for the character to spend time memorizing a new set of spells

 

or 2) have characters memorize a set of spells for the day (same 3-5 spells per levels 1-3 or whatever) and then be able to cast the other "unmemorized spells" at a disadvantage, e.g. they take longer to cast, they cost more mana, it lowers the number of spells you can cast in that level until cooldown, etc.

 

Like I said, it makes the lower-tiered spells still something that the player should consider ahead of time (what the whole BG spell memorization was meant to do anyway - it was supposed to be a tactical challenge for the player) without taking away from the flow of the game and the ridiculous resting that you have to do (I alwas hated playing Baldur's Gate 2 as a wizard because as a RPG, I didn't think that the player should have been able to rest while trying to escape from the first dungeon and it made it really difficult to do this while I had no spells prepared.)

 

Sorry if it isn't clear. Let me know what you guys think.


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or 2) have characters memorize a set of spells for the day (same 3-5 spells per levels 1-3 or whatever) and then be able to cast the other "unmemorized spells" at a disadvantage, e.g. they take longer to cast, they cost more mana...

 

That is actually a cool idea :)

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The issue here is that the optimal method of spellcasting may be casting spells all same level spells together in a sequential order and or spell levels in a sequential order (up or down), which does not make combat that tactical really.
The only way for this to happen is if there's no situational value to the spells. Why would you blow Mass Heal when you only need to Heal one person? You might get Mass Heal back before the fight is over, but you're going to spend who knows how long without it available and you might actually need it.

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The only way for this to happen is if there's no situational value to the spells. Why would you blow Mass Heal when you only need to Heal one person? You might get Mass Heal back before the fight is over, but you're going to spend who knows how long without it available and you might actually need it.

 

Of course but that requires ALL spells that are on cooldown to be such spells that are not that useful to cast early in a battle.

 

I have yet to get a reasonable explaination as for WHY cooldowns are necessary DURING combat? The only logical explaination is that they're shooting for more "action" ala Dragon Age.

Edited by qstoffe

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The only way for this to happen is if there's no situational value to the spells. Why would you blow Mass Heal when you only need to Heal one person? You might get Mass Heal back before the fight is over, but you're going to spend who knows how long without it available and you might actually need it.

 

Of course but that requires ALL spells that are on cooldown to be such spells that are not that useful to cast early in a battle.

 

I have yet to get a reasonable explaination as for WHY cooldowns are necessary DURING combat? The only logical explaination is that they're shooting for more "action" ala Dragon Age.

 

From the videos I think the answer is that they want to make the mage more like a fighter or a thief instead of having special limitations. They'll be able to use their spells like how a fighter uses his regular attack or special abilities without having to use a rest system.

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Whatever is done with the spell system, I am hoping it will not be encouraging wait periods after fights. (e.g. let's wait 50s for cooldowns and mana before we open the next door, we wanna be ready).

 

If the quote in the OP is taken as literal, is looks like higher level spells will be a "per-rest" resourse (thank god). With that in mind we can probably extrapolate that there wont be too many resting restrictions otherwise whole spell levels could be on lockout after a particularly hard fight. Using the above example (level 10 / 3 level five spells) it would be very easly to lock out that whole level in one fight.

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The only way for this to happen is if there's no situational value to the spells. Why would you blow Mass Heal when you only need to Heal one person? You might get Mass Heal back before the fight is over, but you're going to spend who knows how long without it available and you might actually need it.

 

Of course but that requires ALL spells that are on cooldown to be such spells that are not that useful to cast early in a battle.

I don't follow. Mass Heal's situational nature is agnostic to fireball's. But whatever else might limit the use of Mass Heal still presents that tactical consideration. Do I use X now and risk being unable to use Y the moment I need it?

 

I have yet to get a reasonable explaination as for WHY cooldowns are necessary DURING combat? The only logical explaination is that they're shooting for more "action" ala Dragon Age.
That's far from the only logical explanation. There's other possibilities, such as allowing for longer multi-stage fights with resets (even Neverwinter Nights 2 did this during the King of Shadows fight). Or for allowing recovery if you screw up early and put on cooldown things you need later on, without forcing it to be a total wipe because you can no longer breach protections.

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You're using past tense so I'm not exactly sure what you are talking about. What are you referring to?

 

I was actually describing the IE games.

 

The only way for this to happen is if there's no situational value to the spells. Why would you blow Mass Heal when you only need to Heal one person? You might get Mass Heal back before the fight is over, but you're going to spend who knows how long without it available and you might actually need it.

 

Of course but that requires ALL spells that are on cooldown to be such spells that are not that useful to cast early in a battle.

 

I have yet to get a reasonable explaination as for WHY cooldowns are necessary DURING combat? The only logical explaination is that they're shooting for more "action" ala Dragon Age.

While its true that cooldowns shine in action games, PE isn't implementing them as they exist in Dragon Age or action games.

 

As a example: In WoW, cooldowns are A) rarely shared between spells and B) you have a large number of abilities (I remember binding over 30 hotkeys). Cooldowns are there to either keep you from using one ability directly after the other ('Global Cooldown' of 1.5 seconds) and to force you to diverse a continuous spellcasting routine (to keep a handicap on the more tactical abilities, such as powerups, incapacitators and so on).

 

But in PE, cooldowns are shared between entire spell levels. Meaning that, instead of putting a handicap or molding a continuous spellcasting process, the cooldowns are actually limiting how often you're casting the spells themselves. And if you add Spellbooks into the mix, you also have a smaller number of abilities in each encounter.

 

The difference is that in WoW, a Action game, its more important to perfectly time a vast arsenal whereas in the IE games, RtwP party based games, the idea is that there's both party coordination (Action based) and the management of limited resources. In PE, the resources (spells) are going to be unlimited in between battles and, maybe, less (but not 'un') limited in-battle.

Edited by Delterius

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I don't follow. Mass Heal's situational nature is agnostic to fireball's. But whatever else might limit the use of Mass Heal still presents that tactical consideration. Do I use X now and risk being unable to use Y the moment I need it?

 

It's more like: I'll use X now so that the cooldown will be complete by the time I would need Y. I don't want combats tactics to be mainly about considering cooldown timings like it is in Dragon Age.

 

That's far from the only logical explanation. There's other possibilities, such as allowing for longer multi-stage fights with resets (even Neverwinter Nights 2 did this during the King of Shadows fight). Or for allowing recovery if you screw up early and put on cooldown things you need later on, without forcing it to be a total wipe because you can no longer breach protections.

 

I remember that fight from nwn2. The most annoying combat in the entire game imo. In longer fights your other classes could play a bigger role while the spellcasters would be more effective to use their powers more sparingly in such fights. IMO spellcasters should overpower other classes while they have plenty of spells to cast. i.e. in BG2 their weakness is their limited number of spells. If you remove this fact, like Dragon Age did, other classes become just as much spellcasters as mages are. In fact I see all classes as mages in Dragon Age. They just have different "spells" imo. Cooldowns ruins the dynamic between different classes by demanding that all classes are so evenly balanced in matter of damage/time.

 

Or for allowing recovery if you screw up early and put on cooldown things you need later on, without forcing it to be a total wipe because you can no longer breach protections.

 

That's precisely what makes spellcasting fun imo. You have to be very careful with what spells you select to cast. I want this chioce to be important. Cooldowns cheapens this choice a lot.

 

While its true that cooldowns shine in action games, PE isn't implementing them as they exist in Dragon Age or action games.

 

They better not. I can't believe how boring the combats are in Dragon Age thanks to cooldowns. Especially if you replay the game. Unfortunately having lockdowns per level wouldn't help all that much if spells regenerate during combats. Having just bought the new XCOM I can sadly say that all modern games seem to "strive" for a more streamlined kind of combat. Maybe I'm an old fossil but I really prefer the combat in the older "turn-based" games. I somehow feel I'm left with fewer meaningful combat choices in newer games.

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There's easy solutions to this, that could be implemented if needed.

 

1) Each spell level could have an internal cooldown that starts when you cast the first spell. This could lead to some weird issues where you finish a spell level set and all the spells are immediately ready to cast again, but at least wouldn't encourage spell level spamming

 

2) Forget the cooldowns, refresh all spells at the end of combat. Implement a second wind mechanic that if fights go on long enough allow you to refresh all your characters abilities at once, if it's needed to have cooldowns come back in such fights. Second Wind could be timed and just start when the combat starts, it could be a meter that increases while your character is not using spell like abilities (you're effectively catching your breath, refilling your soul, whatever). You could even have the second wind mechanic just be used for refreshing spells in general at the end of combat. It's a lot like a global cooldown of sorts, but I think it's subtly different in how it works and how its implemented.

 

I'm sure there's more if there's issues with cooldowns.

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