I've been a longtime fan of Strategy RPGs for as long as I can remember, my first being Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for the Gameboy Advance. Since then, I've played various classics from the very same Final Fantasy Tactics series, Tactics Ogre, and various Fire Emblem games. They are, in my opinion, the perfect portable games. They can be played in small doses, but also offer deep experiences for longer sessions. Sadly, games fitting this genre have become somewhat rare. Sure there's the odd Fire Emblem game every few years and there's Disgaea (which for some reason I could never get into), but aside from that, we don't get many.
Needless to say, when Pokemon Conquest was announced for the great U.S. of A., my mouth foamed and my pants tightened. A new Pokemon game? AWESOME. A new tactics game? AWESOME. A POKEMON TACTICS GAME? DO WANT.....Oh wow, this game isn't very good. Very barebones equipment system..very weak AI..very simple battle mechanics. To me, Pokemon Conquest seemed like a cheap cash in. It didn't have the complexity of a tactics game, the charm of a Pokemon game, or the depth of either..but it did get me thinking..what IPs could be great SRPGs? The first thing I thought of? Battlefield.
Inb4EAisevil..bear with me here.
The source game I'd use, Battlefield 3, is tactical enough on its own and would lend itself perfectly to a grid based strategy RPG. It has various classes and weapons, each with their exclusive strengths and weaknesses, varying environments with lots of different terrein, and a "lives system" (tickets) that would set it apart from the typical "start with 6 guys, win via attrition" setup of most strategy RPGs.
At its core, I'd say a good BF3 SRPG should be something of a hybrid between Advance Wars, Tactics Ogre, and Pokemon Conquest. Similar to Advance Wars, you have a resource pool from which you can spawn as many infantry/vehicles as you want so long as you can afford to do so; the link to Tactics Ogre being that you have more control over your units and the dynamics of your team. You can customize weapon loadouts and individual skills, as well as determining which direction your units face after their turns are finished. Finally, the similarity to Pokemon Conquest I'd like to see would be the fact that although it's more customizable like Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre, the game would still be turn based like Fire Emblem or Advance Wars.
The concept of differing loadouts is easy to grasp. You have (again, the source being BF3) 4 classes, Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon. The Assault class would have high damage output and the ability to heal teammates, but cannot damage vehicles; think the typical "Paladin" class in other games. The Engineer would have slightly less damage output, but would have the ability to repair and destroy vehicles. The Support class would have low base damage output, but would have the ability to hit multiple times with reduced accuracy, destroy vehicles up close, and provide ammunition to teammates. Finally, the Recon class would be able to do high damage at range, low damage up close, and provide mobile spawn points via his Radio Beacon.
The main "game mode" I'd like to see in a game like this would be similar to Conquest on Battlefield. Each team starts on a specific side with a preset number of units and they both race to capture objectives. Once you have control of an objective, units that die can respawn either within their teams captured territories, the given team's dedicated spawn, or on a Radio Beacon placed down by a Recon class unit. The ticket system can remain from Battlefield, in that rather than a unit dying a perma-death (a la, Fire Emblem) the team itself just loses a ticket. Not only that, but like on Battlefield, capturing a majority of objectives would make the other team "bleed tickets" at some arbitrary rate set by the dev..say 10 tickets for every turn the enemy team holds a minority of the objectives. Naturally, the first team whose tickets drop to zero loses the match.
Since there is no perma-death, there's no reason to make a given unit seem stronger than it is. You know how on some RPGs, characters will have a huge sword, large enough to EASILY kill someone from the blunt force alone, and yet the person who is hit by said sword simply shrugs the damage off because he has several thousand HP? I'd have none of that here. Keep it like Battlefield. We have tickets and don't have perma-death. A few bullets will do to kill anyone. The best way to implement this? Accuracy and reload systems. Naturally, if you shoot at someone very far away, you'll likely not hit the person. The closer you are, the more likely you are to kill. If a unit is out of ammo in his magazine, it will cost one turn to reload, assuming he has ammo. If not and there are no Support units to provide an Ammo Pack, he has to use his knife. From the front, it takes 50% of the victims health with a 0% chance of a 1 hit kill. From the side, 50% of their health OR a 50% chance of a 1 hit stab kill at the choice of the player. From behind, again 50% health, or a 75% chance of a 1 hit kill, again, up to the player. If the victim has less than 50% of their health, obviously the swipe is the better choice than a stab. (This could be a great trophy/achievement goal - take tags from x number of enemies or from a specific special unit).
The levelling system can be taken from Tactics Ogre. Say one Assault unit levels up. While that specific unit unlocks more "skills" such as "Sprint specialization" or "Squad Ammo specialization," all Assault units would have access to better weapons going forward.
Independent class levelling would be perfect.
Destructable cover can be implemented in a game like this as well. Like Fire Emblem, there could be certain walls and/or buildings that would stop bullets, but not sheild from Engineer Rockets, Support C4, or vehicles. All cover would be subject to, again like Fire Emblem, a varying level of "integrity" displayed by a health bar, which would be larger depending on the material that comprises it. For instance, a glass window would obviously provide less protection against bullets than a concrete wall. Wear down the given structure's integrity, no more cover for your opponent to shield their units behind.
(Insert famous Ronald Reagan quote here)
Now to include the one thing that truly sets Battlefield apart from other FPS games - Vehicular warfare. You can't have a Battlefield game without vehicles, but at the same time, you can't make infantry units obsolete. Clearly, a tank will always make short work of any infantry who comes near, so there must be a way to level the playing field. If anyone has ever C4 killed a tank on Battlefield 3, they know that there's something of a "safe zone" right next to a tank where the main gun simply cannot kill you. This can be easily be implemented in a grid based strategy game. Simply, like an archer in most strategy games, there's a minimum range. Targets have to be at least 2 or 3 squares away on the map to be attacked. Tanks should be no different on Battlefield. Can't forget helicopters however. A good helicopter can keep an enemy team down on Battlefield, and although I think that could be the case here, they should also be prone to destruction. That's where (aside from helicopters of your own of course), the Engineer comes in with his rockets. RPGs will be all purpose rockets with medium damage but low accuracy. The Stinger/Igla can lock onto Helicopters. Javelins can lock onto tanks, and with the help of a Recon's laser painter, helicopters as well.
One would think "hey, that makes the Engineer the Orlandeau of Battlefield Tactics!" If the Engineer is as I described above, that would be true. However, there's an easy fix that can be applied to other aspects of the game as well. Remember how I said if a unit has to reload its gun, they lose a turn? That can be the same here. The Igla/Stinger would have to take a turn to lock on, a turn to shoot, and a turn to reload. During the lock on "phase" (if you will) the Engineer's movement radius is cut drastically to say..1 or 2 squares rather than whatever amount is previously allotted). This way, although the Engineer is very powerful, he's also very vulnerable, just like in Battlefield proper.
RPG, Igla, Javelin..it's all situational, just like the rest of the weapons in your loadout. This is where Battlefield Tactics could truly be considered a SRPG worthy of praise. Think of all the diverse weapons Battlefield has to offer. The game could start you off with weaker weapons and no attachments, and as you progress, you gain other, more powerful or situationally important weapons and attachments. Say your Assault guy can't hit a unit very far away because his unmodded M16a3 simply isn't accurate enough. Have another Assault unit pull out a specialized AUG A3 or a KH2002 and shoot the guy. Different guns with different strenghts in different situations. It's what Battlefield does best, and there's no reason why it wouldn't work in a SRPG dynamic. If you really wanted to get into customization having a function on the game, you could pull a Metal Gear Solid 3 and have differnt camoflauge options that make your character less likely to get hit on some terrein, more likely to get hit on others by effecting the accuracy percentage of the enemy unit shooting at yours.
This game could offer tons of replay value. In Battlefield 3, everyone is placed on one of two teams, US Marines or RU Army..do I smell two campaigns? Hey..I have an idea...listen to this...Open ended military storyline. Make it like Tactics Ogre. You pick a team, pick your units, and choose the direction your army takes (or lead unit..or whatever). Just because you start as a flag waving, super American doesn't mean you can't become disillusioned and sympathize with the Russians..and on the flip side, if you start a Russian character, you can play as a Russian service member the entire time if you want to, but there's also the option to end up in a warmer part of the world.
Oh, and I'm sure there could be multiplayer PVP modes. No reason why not. Online mode? Sure. Local battling? Of course. Unit trading? Fantastic.
The biggest (and arguably most convincing) argument against First Person Shooters and by extention this console generation, Western gaming, since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the fact that only a certain type of game seems to sell - the modern, two shades of brown, gritty military shooter. On the Eastern side, the biggest criticism of Japanese games is that they're stuck in their ways, unwilling to truly step out of the old habits and styles that made Japan the king of last gen. There's a reason why shooters sell this gen, and there's a reason why Japan owned the last. Why not meld the two together? Bring the setting of a modern FPS into a traditional SRPG?
I expect some sort of licensing deal between EA/DICE and Square-Enix in the near future..make it happen. read