Winner: Tales of Arise
Tales games institute a new combination of adjectives into their fighting system with every new entry. For Tales of Arise, they’ve gone back to their roots with the name “Linear Motion Battle System.” Limiting martial artes (not a typo) and spells with MP, SP, TP, or anything else with a P, is a thing of the past, except for healing, which is governed by a shared resource called CP. Every character’s offensive skillset runs on a rapidly-replenishing combo meter, encouraging players to attack, dodge, and chain skills together rather than stick to normal attacks. It’s liberating.
The abundance of special moves in Tales of Arise, including strategic Boost Attacks for knockdowns, tag team Boost Strikes for finishing blows, and flashy Mystic Artes for special occasions, turns even the most pedestrian skirmish against wolves or boars into a kaleidoscope of super moves. The bread and butter of combat in Tales of Arise is a major highlight of the game, and bodes well for future Demon Fangs and Indignations.
by Michael Sollosi
Runner-Up: Shin Megami Tensei V
Shin Megami Tensei’s Press Turn Battle System has been the gold standard for turn-based battle systems for over 15 years. Each iteration tweaks things, with the core of offering extreme rewards and penalties when using elemental weaknesses. In Shin Megami Tensei V, Magatsuhi abilities add a powerful tool in the player’s arsenal, essences provide a new level of customization for your party, and skill affinities add bonuses for using the right elements with the right demons. And the UI, taking cues from years of spin-offs, makes managing all the spinning plates easier than ever. As Shin Megami Tensei V breaks sales records for the mainline series, more players than ever can enjoy one of the best turn-based battle systems of all time.
by Wes Iliff