Combatant Cooldown System
The third option between Real Time and Turn-Based Combat: Instead of acting simultaneously or in discrete turns, each Player Character and enemy mob is, upon entering combat and after performing any action, put on a "global" Cooldown that determines how soon they will be able to act again. In contrast to the ordinary ability cooldowns (where only individual abilities are locked during their respective cooldowns), combatants in this setup cannot act at all while on cooldown, but have access to every ability in their arsenal as soon as they've "cooled down". The duration of the cooldown after an action usually depends on the character's Speed or an equivalent Stat and on the type of that action: basic low-damage attacks, for instance, often put the character on a much shorter cooldown compared to powerful Special Attacks. This creates situations where the quick skirmishers can attack twice in the time that it takes for the slow hard-hitters to do so once, differentiating this system from turn-based combat, where every still-living combatant gets to act at least once per turn. This setup also makes a Visual Initiative Queue a mandatory feature, in order to keep track of who goes when. If Cooldown Manipulation is available, it can be used to achieve this Game System's variant of a Stun Lock. Depending on whether the game pauses when it's a Player Character's turn (letting the players give them their orders without hurry) or not, this system leans more towards the turn-based or the real time combat, respectively. Compare/contrast Real Time with Pause, where battles play out in real time but the player can pause them at any moment to give/revoke orders. Subtrope of Cooldown, obviously.
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- In the RPG Maker series of Game Makers, RPG Maker 2003 had this as the default (and only) type of battle system. Although later games in the series reverted back to Turn-Based Combat for its default battle system, it's still possible to program it using Ruby to use this type of battle system. (In fact, many do. They're often called "Active Time Battle Systems", after the battle system found in the Final Fantasy series.)
- OHRRPGCE has a battle system in which every character has a meter that fills up according to their speed stat and lets them perform an action once it's full. More recent versions also allow for a classic Turn-Based Combat.
RPG — Eastern
- The Grandia games feature twofold combatant cooldowns: each Player Character has a "Wait" cooldown and a "Command" cooldown. The duration of the Wait cooldown depends only on the character's Speed stat (and speed-enhancing buffs), and the game pauses after a PC's Wait cooldown is over, letting the player select their next action, which is carried out after the subsequent Command cooldown, whose duration depends both on the Speed stat and the type of selected action (e.g. it's shorter for basic attacks than for massive Area of Effect spells). Furthermore, as the battles basically take place in real time (except for pausing to select commands), executing the selected action also takes some time: e.g. a melee attack requires an attacker to actually run up to the target before they can strike it. After the action is completed (or canceled), the PC is placed back on Wait cooldown. Unlike the PCs, AI enemies have only a single-phase cooldown whose duration is determined by their Speed stat.
- The Active Time Battle™ and its many derivatives from the Final Fantasy series are a variation that doesn't pause when a character's cooldown (represented by the filling of the ATB gauge) is over, and the AI enemies can act while the player selects their next action (though some games like VII may allow disabling this). This also means that multiple party members can be waiting for orders simultaneously, and the player may be forced to give commands in the order the individual characters reached the end of the cooldown if no "skip" option is provided.
- Septerra Core had this, with a slight twist: the cooldown bars were divided into three segments, more powerful abilities required more segments, and when abilities were used, partially filled segments were lost. A lot of gameplay consisted of figuring out quickly which attack you wanted to use next, and then clicking that character right as a segment filled.
- In Dubloon, each combatant has a meter that allows them to perform an action when filled up. The game doesn't pause them when one of player characters gets their meter full, which means that it's possible for slower members to act beforehand, or to wait for some bosses to quit their Counter Attack mode.
- Like Final Fantasy VII, Chrono Trigger allowed you to choose this trope without or with pausing. The former is more challenging because the timer isn't shown, and because it keeps ticking during menu selection, so if you take too long to decide which technique to use, the enemy will keep attacking.
- Child of Light features a battle system similar to the Grandia games, with a Visual Initiative Queue subdivided into a long Wait and a short Cast segment, and both Player Character and enemies' icons sliding across it in real time. Special attention is paid to the manipulation of said sliding: hitting an enemy just as it is about to act pushes it back towards the Wait end, so it is entirely possible to Stun Lock the opponent for good (but also vice versa). Additionally, one of the heroine companions, Igniculus the Firefly has the ability to blind an enemy, slowing down its cooldowns.
RPG — Strategy
- Final Fantasy Tactics features a Charge Time Battle system, which leans toward turn-based combat instead of real time (like ATB of the main series). Each unit has a Charge Time meter, which is reset to zero after it acts (unless it uses the Wait command, in which case it is reset to 20), and it may only act again after their it goes back to 100. CT points are gained at different rates, so a unit with a high Speed stat may act more often than one with low Speed, which effectively acts as the cooldown duration modifier.
- Namco X Capcom has a system similar to Final Fantasy Tactics—a unit is able to act once it has earned 10 AP, which accrues at 1 per turn for each unit on the map. The player can estimate the initiative order by looking at the numbers above each unit; whoever shows a "1" is the next to act. Different actions cost different amounts of AP, so a unit that only moves will act again sooner than a unit that moves and attacks. There are other special actions to spend and earn AP; for example, units may spend AP to reduce damage from enemy attacks and time Action Commands during enemy attacks to regain AP.
- Phantom Brave has units take turns in an order determined by their Speed stat. Sufficiently fast units can take multiple turns before the enemy gets to act. With Rocket Tag Gameplay in effect at high levels, Speed becomes the most important stat in the post-game content.
RPG — Western
- In Pillars of Eternity, the Recovery mechanic basically facilitates this. After every action in combat that is not walking, characters are put on a Recovery before they can attack or cast spells again (moving during this time just pauses the Recovery). Its duration depends mainly on the type of action (weapon attacks are faster than spells) and the weight of the armor they wear and can be further shortened with special abilities. The duration of the action itself is also variable and depend on the character's Dexterity score.
- Loren: The Amazon Princess has an implementation that leans heavily towards Turn-Based Combat: each combatant has a (slightly randomized) "initiative" score and is placed on the Visual Initiative Queue accordingly. The combatant with the lowest initiative (on top of the queue) acts first, then their old initiative score is subtracted from everyone else's, and the second-lowest gets to act, and so on. Each action resets the combatant's initiative score to zero, then adds a new number dependent on its type (strong/AOE attacks add a lot, quick but weak jabs add a little) to it, effectively acting as a global cooldown for them. The game also keeps track of "turns" for the purpose of Status Effect duration, which occur after a certain total number of initiative points has been subtracted—as a rule of thumb, each combatant can carry out one basic attack per turn.