At the very heart of Ecol Tactics lies the Combat system--a turn-based and position-focused skirmish between player controlled ally units and AI controlled enemy units. As with most tactical RPGs, player actions boil down to a few basic options such as movement, basic attacks, using items, or using skills. The real depth of Ecol Tactic's Combat system comes from the manner and order in which these basic options are applied. Truly, rarely do two battles play out exactly the same.
Even the most decorated generals must start at the bottom, and Ecol Tactics will start the player off the same way. Gradually, as the game becomes more difficult, complete understanding of even the most basic combat actions with become crucial. The following section will discuss those actions and how to effectively deploy them.
Before the first combat turn begins, units must be selected and placed on the battlefield. In the early stages of the game, players will have very few options to choose from, so unit selection is rather simple. Later on, however, this decision will become crucial as only a maximum of five units may be placed.
During the placement phase, players will want to scan around the battlefield to diagnose the situation and place units accordingly. Furthermore, units may only be placed within the predetermined field of green squares. While generally located away from enemy forces, these squares are sometimes strategically placed to make unit placement more difficult.
After unit placement, the combat rounds begin and each unit takes a turn to act according to the Attack Turn Order. The Attack Turn Order prioritizes "faster" units, or in other words, units that have higher Attack Turn Priority (ATP)--a hidden unit statistic. ATP can be increased by some equipped weapons and presumably also increases with character level.
When a unit has completed its turn in the order, the turn gauge is recalculated. The Attack Turn Order appears to take both actions and movement into account when recalculating. If a unit does not take both an attack and movement action, its next turn will be given increased priority. Units that take no actions gain even further increased priority.
The player may notice at times a faded duplicate image in the Attack Turn Gauge. This represents the approximate order of the active unit's next turn. Once an action is taken, that next turn order may shift. If gauged correctly, an observant player may be able to take multiple actions before the opponent takes a single turn.
Movement in Ecol Tactics is grid-based and each unit is given a certain amount of squares it can move, both horizontally (i.e. x and y axis) and vertically (z axis). Most units have a horizontal range of 4 squares and a vertical range of 2 squares.
The current unit's movement range is highlighted graphically by blue squares and takes into account horizontal and vertical ranges as well as any terrain types that hinder movement. A player may also gauge an inactive unit's movement range by hovering the mouse over it. Doing so will display a pink grid indicating the unit's movement area. Note: Although this grid does take into account terrain hindrances, enemy units do not appear to be affected.
As the most basic means to inflict damage, a Basic Attack can be initiated against an opponent as long as it is within range. For many units, this range is directly adjacent to the target, or one square away. Some units, like Archers for example, may initiate Basic Attacks from up to 3 squares away. The range of a Basic Attack is highlighted by red squares, or by blue and red squares if the active unit has yet to move.
|Movement Range||Attack Range||Enemy Movement Range||Movement & Attack Range|
Effective positioning of combat units often leads to victory, and the same is true in Ecol Tactics. Units that are engaged from the front facing are generally more difficult to hit than if engaged from the sides or the rear. In addition, Basic Attacks initiated from the opponent's sides will inflict more damage, and even further damage when initiated from the rear.
Facing Direction is typically determined by an action, such as turning towards an enemy to attack. On some occasions, the Facing Direction may be chosen when the unit elects to Wait at the end of its turn.
When Basic Attacks alone are insufficient to defeat a foe, both players and enemies resort to using skills. All Mercenaries come pre-equipped with some skills suitable for their role, but players have access to a much wider selection. In order to activate a skill, the player's character must have an equipped Skill Stone.
Skills have many varying degrees of effectiveness. Some apply great amounts of damage, some inflict Status Ailments, and some do both. Furthermore, some skills are capable of affecting multiple opponents at once in its AOE or Area of Effect.
Each skill has range and MP consumption considerations. If a target is out of range or the unit has insufficient MP, the skill cannot be used.
All too often, units will become severely wounded or afflicted by a Status Ailment and a Cleric will not always be available to Heal or Cleanse them. Instead, these units will have to help themselves by using one of the many Consumables that can be acquired throughout the game. Timely use of items may truly be the difference between life and death.
When a unit takes only a partial turn (i.e. takes only a movement or an action), or when it no action, the option to Wait becomes available. Units that Wait are given the choice of facing direction and generally get slightly more priority in the Attack Turn Order. A unit that elects to wait may choose its Facing Direction using the arrows that hover overhead or by using the W, D, S, or A keys.
|Use Skill||Use Item||Wait||Cancel Movement|
Knowledge: The Tactical EdgeEdit
True success in battle is often more than just brute force methods and overwhelming numbers. Often it is knowing the enemy's weakness and knowing how to utilize one's own troops to exploit those weaknesses. Combat in Ecol Tactics is no different. The following section discusses more advanced topics to assist in discovering those weaknesses.
The Stat BoxEdit
The good source of information at the player's disposal is the Status Box, which can be accessed by double-clicking on any unit outside of Basic Attack range. The Status Box provides many details about the selected unit including stats such as DEF and RES--the two defensive stats that mitigate incoming physical and magical damage respectively. The status box also provides MOVE and JUMP stats which should be monitored since monsters seem to avoid terrain type hindrances at this time.
In addition to stats, the Status Box also displays the unit's skill list and any Status Ailments that may be affecting the unit.
Having knowledge of the opposition's statistical strengths and weaknesses is one way to gain the upper hand. Another way is to understand how the enemy will act. Having and utilizing both is practically a recipe for success. The following section will establish a few terms to define the fairly predictable Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Standard AI Behavior
This term encompasses how the majority of AI units act and react to player actions. Typically, Standard AI behavior waits for the players to move their units within monster sight range and then responds by moving their units closer and attacking with skills once in attack range. AI units will continue to advance towards player units until sight is broken, the unit has suffered significant damage or the unit is defeated. When sight range is broken, the unit will stand its ground and wait for the player's units to approach once again. Sight range varies from unit to unit and takes into account movement range and skill range. Furthermore, this AI behavior will attack what it determines to be the first "weakest" unit within range.
Enemy Healer Behavior
Generally, Enemy Healer behavior differs only slightly from Standard AI behavior as healing skills give these units more options. When healing units have their health reduced below 50%, the unit's next action will be to heal itself, provided it has enough MP remaining to do so. In addition, healing units that are capable of healing allies will move to do so, provided the unit is within sight range. This can sometimes activate distant healing units that would otherwise ignore player units due to distance. When an enemy healer expends all of its MP, it uses Standard AI behavior instead.
Continual Advance Behavior
Units using this behavior occur only on special missions such as "The Guard's Request, Part I." These units will advance towards a designated position on the battlefield and attack any player units that happen to be within range. If those positions are blocked, the AI used Standard Behavior instead.
Escort Mission AI Behavior
Named after the much dreaded Escort Mission, this AI behavior is utilized on Guard Missions which can become annoying to complete under some circumstances. As the acting behavior for allied units that must be guarded, Escort Mission AI typically just attempts to retreat away from enemy AI. When its progress is hindered, the Escort AI will attack.
Hostile Escort AI Behavior
A variant of Escort Mission AI, these units will attack the weakest unit within range, friend or foe. Units following this behavior do not necessarily retreat either and sometimes get trapped by enemy units.
Allied Attacker AI Behavior
Often heralded as "idiotic," this AI behavior moves directly towards the nearest enemy unit and attacks regardless of position to other allied units. This can quickly activate large groups of opponents that would otherwise remain disengaged.
Glued Position AI Behavior
A variant of Standard AI behavior, Glued Position AI do not advance regardless of player unit position. These units will, however, attack and use skills once the player's units are within range.
Return to Start AI Behavior
Very similar to Standard AI, units using this behavior tend to have shorter sight range and will move to attack units within range using skills first, then Basic Attacks. The difference with this AI behavior is that these units will move back to their starting positions if player units move outside of sight range. This sneaky behavior makes pulling individual units away from groups much more difficult.