Army Battles are a unique gameplay system within the Suikoden series that allows players to engage in large scale battles utilizing the army they have been building up through the game. Each entry has its own unique gameplay system for army battles but most entries share the idea of the army being stronger based on how many of the 108 Stars of Destiny the player has recruited.
A notable element of the Army Battles is their potential to have one of your party members permanently killed if the player makes bad choices.
The original game utilizes a simple Rock/Paper/Scissors mechanic utilizing three different types of units: Infantry (Charge), Archers (Bow), and Mage (Magic). Infantry beats Archers, Archers beat Mage, and Mage beats Infantry. Each of these three types of units have sub-units attributed to one of the 108 Stars, so for instance McDohl leads his own Infantry unit, while Maximillian leads a separate Infantry unit.
Each unit has its own base power based on whether the player has acquired all three members of the unit, making collecting all the Stars of Destiny important for winning battles. During battles, both sides start with a certain number of troops, each side chooses a main unit to use and take their turn simultaneously with the results showing in the lost of troops.
When the number of troops reach zero, the side with soldiers remaining wins. Damage is based on what units are used with both sides receiving casualties if they choose the same type of unit, or one side receiving greater losses based if they chose a unit weak to the opponents.
- Charge vs. Bow - Both sides take losses, Bow more so.
- Bow vs. Magic - Magic suffers losses, loses its turn.
- Magic vs. Charge - Charge suffers heavy losses, loses its turn.
- Same vs. Same - Both sides suffer losses.
For calculating enemy losses, it's based on the power of the unit used by the player and whether it has received any type of buff.
In addition to these three main units are specialty units that can be used between player turns for various effects. These units are:
- Strategists - Increase power of Infantry Units by 50%.
- Thieves - Attempt to learn the enemy's next move. Can fail or result in 2000 bits stolen from the foe instead.
- Ninjas - Attempt to learn the enemy's next move. More likely to succeed.
- Merchants - Attempt to convince some of the enemy army to join your ranks. Can often fail. Soldiers recruited can range roughly 12.5–25%.
- Dragon Knights - Launch an aerial attack, similar to Charge/Bow/Magic. Can wipe out 25% of the enemy forces if successful. Will fail if enemy uses Bow in the same turn.
Suikoden II utilizes an Army Battle system similar to a turn-based strategy RPG. The player and enemy take turns moving across a grid like map until they are in range of attacking and then choose whether to attack or use a Rune or party ability. Each Army Battle has conditions for victory or defeat, usually involving the defeat of the armies leader.
The player can build units when consulting with their Strategist character. Units are built with party members recruited, some add strength or defense points to the units, others have special passive skills like Calvary that increases a units mobility or Bodyguard which lowers the enemies ability to land critical hits on a unit. Some party members give the player the option of using Runes to either heal friendly units or harm enemy units.
Like the first game, there are three types of units: Infantry, Archers, and Mages.
Unlike other Army Battles, Suikoden II is based on the attack, defense, runes and luck. One example is during the escape of the survivors of Muse during the massacre of Luca. Civilians only have 1 ATK and 0 DEF, but can survive several confrontations depending on luck. They can even be damaging Enemy Units.
If an allied unit is defeated, there is a probability that a member can send a message: Wounded or Death. In these cases the character becomes inactive, and cannot be used again unless it is an important character. While the enemies can send messages in the same way, but remain involved in wars even though this supposedly dead.
Another detail are the support skills such as Critical, Evade, Melee, Heal Self, etc. This compensates for the lack of units against Highland Army. Critical is mostly used by Ridley, Georg, Shu, while evading is for Klaus, Apple and Jess. In the case of Evade, There is a possibility of damage to the enemy unit. In total there are fourteen allied units and twenty supporting characters. Kiba and Nanami are the only ones who do not participate in the last war battle because they died (depending on the player Nanami may be alive or not at the end), leaving one character without unity.
Kiba is the one with more defense, while Georg is the one with more attack power. The maximum defense and attack is 17 in the Allied forces, while Highland has Luca with 18 attack power and defense 17.
Jowy is a supporting character with the ability to Critical, +2 attack and defense +1.
Suikoden III have battles that take place on a board which is split up by different points on a map that are connected by lines. The Player and enemy army occupy each point and can only attack opponents on the adjacent point their path is connected to. If two units of the same alignment have access to the same enemy square, the non-attacking unit will support the attacking unit giving that unit bonuses.
If a unit takes heavy damage from battle or chooses to retreat, they will move back one space away from the opposing units attack range. Points that have been designated home base will also restore a small portion of any friendly unit on that point.
Battle work similarly to Suikoden II with battle objectives and movement of units. Rune spells can be cast in the main menu before engaging in battle. The player can move multiple units per turn by one space or several if they are moving through their own occupation zones allowing for quick movement of weakened units from the front line.
The battles themselves work differently than previous entries. The army is made up of either recruited characters or generic soldiers based on one of the games factions. The battles play out exactly like the games main battle system, except the player only has the three options: Attack, Defend, Retreat. Attack has the unit engage in an auto battle with all actions by the unit controlled by the CPU.
Party member units still have access to all of their special runes and skill levels meaning that the units can use rune magic if they wish but the player has no control over what specific action they can take. Defense simply has the unit defend their ground which can be useful when dealing with either slow units like the Lizard Clan or to allow the unit to reserve their action gauge for the next battle so they can do multiple actions if the unit is capable of it. Retreat has the unit try to retreat but they will have to survive one round where the enemy gets a free action.
One important thing to note about party members in units is that their levels and skills are factored. Meaning that they will utilize the skills taught to them and can be powered up as long as the player makes sure to spend time leveling up all of their party members.
If the player is capable of winning the army battle both quickly and with minimum damage, they will often be rewarded with a special item or level up. In fact, most of the war battles are winnable, even ones where the story has the characters retreating. This led to the discovery of a way to level the part of the cast to Lv. 99 in Chris Lightfellow's first chapter.
Suikoden IV's battles are ship battles instead of usual infantry encounters. The player will acquire several ships as the story goes and they can customize them with members of the 108 stars they have acquired. Each character can be used to customize the ships and characters can be separated into three groups: Captains, Rune Cannons, and Boarding Party.
- Captains affect the ships movement, speed, and their defense from attacks.
- Boarding party affects which units will be used in Boarding combat, and how many followers a ship will have. Followers serve as a ship's HP.
- Rune Cannons show which type of elements a ship can use and affects the power of the rune cannons.
The player will get a ship and then choose a captain which will give the ship its main mobility options in battle. The characters in the boarding party will determine the ships HP by how many followers they give, and the Rune Cannon operator gives the ship its elemental affinity and determines the power of the ship's cannons. Most party members can be assigned to any position but only some characters actually have the Captain quality and give bonus.
Battles take place on a grid-based map with the units being able to move a certain amount of spaces based on the unit's movement stat. Units try to position themselves in order to attack enemy units by either bombarding them with Rune Cannon fire or boarding them. Boarding an enemy vessel will result in the games normal battle system where the boarding party must face off with the ship's crew. If the boarding party wins the battle, then regardless of how much health the enemy ship had, the ship will be destroyed.
Rune Cannon combat is a bit more complicated. The people assigned to run the cannons will determine both the ships elemental affinities and attack power of the cannons. Affinities work as both a ship's strength and weakness based on elemental affinity. When a ship fires it's run cannon, they will trade blows with the enemy's rune cannon fire unless attacked from the ships' stern in which the receiving ship will be unable to counterattack. The element used will also have drastic affects in the battle depending on which elements are used.
For example, if the player ship used a fire round and the enemy ship used an earth elemental round, then both shots would pass through each other and both ships would take damage. This is because the two elements don't affect each other. If both ships fired a Fire elemental shot, then the shots would collide and cancel each other out. This is very important for defensive purposes, especially when dealing with enemy vessels using elements whose weaknesses can't be exploited easily.
If the player uses a fire elemental and the enemy uses a wind elemental, the the fire shell will both negate the enemy shell and attack their ship. On the flip side if the player uses a fire shell and the enemy uses a water shell, then the enemy shell would negate the fire shell and damage the player ship. This is due to the elemental affinities of the game. The elements damage affinity works like this:
- Fire > Wind > Earth > Lightning > Water > Fire
Army Battles in Suikoden V are played like a simplified Real Time Strategy game. It incorporates several elements from earlier installments and still maintain a simple rock-paper-scissor structure like its predecessors.
For Land battles, there are 3 different types of units: Infantry, Cavalry, and Archer. These relate to one another like rock, paper, scissors.
Infantry > Archer > Cavalry > Infantry > ...
For the Naval battles, the basic system is largely similar, with a few changes. There are three types of ships; Combat Ships, Ram Ships, and Archer Ships.
Archer Ships > Combat Ships > Ram Ships > Archer Ships
In both types of battles, the General of the unit will determine what type the unit will be. Most units, with some exceptions, can have it's general changed at will. The General also has a rank shown in the unit window, that determine its efficiency. Three Squares means C rank, Four Squares means B rank, and Five Squares means A rank.
The variables for the General effectiveness are:
- Attack = (10 * Unit Rank) + Bonuses
- Defense = 10 + Bonuses
As for the combat itself:
- Damage Dealt = Unit's Attack - (Enemy's Defense - Penalties)
- Damage Received = (Enemy's Attack - Penalties) - Unit's Defense
The bonuses and penalties are the ones inherited by characters in the second and third command positions, as well as skills like Fortify, Muddle and Rumors. Damage dealt is multiplied by 2 while damage received is divided by 2 when your unit is Strong versus the enemy unit, while damage dealt is divided by 2 and damage received is multiplied by 2 when your unit is Weak versus the enemy unit. Also, final damage seems to vary by + or - 1 unit most of the time. Size of the units attacking and defending has no impact.
Each character has a Special skill that could be used on a limited number of times. Some skills can only be activated when entering in a battle with a enemy unit, others could be activated by moving the cursor over the unit and pressing the Square button. The Skills go from dealing percentage damage to recovering lost Health Points.
- Suikoden I's Army Battle system appears as an easter egg in Suikoden IV. The player can partake in a "Mints vs. Mushrooms" war with Nao and Mao, with a new option to power up magic attacks using the Mermaid Squad.
- Suikoden V is the only installment with both land and sea-based Army Battles.
- Suikoden II is the only installment that factors party members' offense, defense, special runes and luck in Army Battles.
- Suikoden III has a higher specification in order to have greater control over the battles, they depend on the level, armor, level weapon, skills and runes.
- If the player claims a major victory, it's possible to obtain special items. The only way to achieve this is to defeat all regular enemy units before defeating the main target last.
- In Suikoden IV, the elements are the main factor for winning, followed by the status/level of the characters.