Q: Tactical battles, are they real-time?
A: They make use of continuous turns. This makes the battles play out much like a real time strategy game but without feeling a rush. The Corporate Machine was one of the early games to make use of continuous turns. Some have said that Sins of a Solar Empire plays like a continuous turn game.
The idea is that winning tactical battles has nothing to do with speed or reflexes but strictly strategy and tactics. Players can control the rate in which time units pass, pause while giving commands, etc.
So. What does this mean? I have seen alot of debate about turn based vs real time battles and grid based vs free movement. First it should be noted that these debates are largely one and the same. Personally I cannot imagine a realtime game based on a grid layout nor a turn game based on a free form layout (table top games have done this, think warhammer, but IMO only because the players could not play in real time). In every game I've seen this rule holds true. So then what is a continuous turn based system? I've never played corporate machine but from the comments made by Brad it looks like essentially real time. I think it IS real time but they are shying away from the term because so many RTS games are so fast and frantic that the S part is somewhat lost. One of the examples he uses is Sins which is definitely a real-time game but at a far more leisurely pace than your typical RTS.
I really like this idea but I think that people are confused. One of the reasons for confusion I believe is this screen that we keep getting shown.
Although It has also been stated that this is an extremely old screen and is not representative of what the battles will be like it keeps poping up and we don't really have any other battle screens. The screen clearly shows squares. And as I said before a grid system means turn based. So is this screen simply lying to us?
But this confusion has been with us for a long time. Look at this old journal post. Brad keeps referring to turns and real-time as if the two systems are interchangable.
Brad also says that one of the inspirations for tactical combat was x-com. Another very much turn based game.
If there is some kind of hybridization possible between turn-based and real-time, or between grid-based and free-form that people know of and have been made or potentially could be made into a decent game I would like to hear of it. Failing that the developers need to choose one. So what are the pros/cons? Here's how I see it if you feel differently about these points then tell me and I may edit the list here.
Turn-based & grid-based
++Fun for small tactical battles because it gives you fine control over each unit
++Battles are not affected by how fast you can move and click your mouse/remembering hotkeys/etc
+Time to think
++Good for controlling units where they have many abilities you may want to choose from (Imagine playing Final Fantasy tactics in real-time)
--Becomes terribly unwieldy and tedious when the number of units in the battle is large
---Large numbers of units make battles unacceptably long
-Battles can take an excessively long time if one person likes to meticulously think out every move in advance
-Not as visually impressive or appealing IMO
-Gives battles (especially large scale battles) a stilted unrealistic feel (a good example of this is if you have a line of units and on the opponents turn they break the line by destroying one because it is your opponents turn they have all the time in the world to funnel as many units as they want through the hole and attack your fragile back line units without your units having a chance to respond, realistically if the center is hit hard you would reinforce it and if the unit broke some enemies might slip through but you would plug the whole before 5 battalions moved through and attacked your archers. An attempt to counter this problem is ZOC)
Real-time & free-form field
+++Makes it possible to control large battles of many units reasonably
+++Makes it possible to complete large epic battles in a reasonable amount of time
+Battles feel more realistic and life-like
+Battles are more impressive and visually appealing
--'Micromanaging' (read actually being able to control your units) can be difficult depending on the speed and UI
--Managing abilities in large battles is a pain
--Strategy can be difficult to implement
So. Personally I strongly favor real-time with a free-form field for this game because it offers the potential for much larger scale epic battles. I also would like a slower that traditional speed like sins only maybe even a tad slower to allow for more managing of spell casters. I loved Battle For Middle Earth 2 and I imagine this game as being something like it only with all the units being customized and the powers being replaced by your channelers unique spell options. One of my concerns is keeping the modability of the game as high as possible which I think having real-time battles tends to make more difficult. However the in game modding engine is already supposed to be 3-D. Spore did it (although the game was junk) so maybe they can do it in elemental. If they do (and by this I well) this game will remake the gaming industry this is my hope and dream.