As some of you may know, Exalted 3E is on its way, but isn't released yet. In some of the preview/teaser info, the Devs were talking about combat in the following way:
...in the epics, and in cinema...most of the storytelling of the fight is contained in that "dead zone" where every swing is getting blocked or dodged or only banging the enemy around and otherwise generally not accomplishing its main goal of killing or defeating the other guy. It's not just whiff-whiff-whiff-- we can look at that fight and see how the momentum of the battle is running, we can tell who's winning and losing, and we can tell when someone has just pulled a marvelous reversal and is mounting a comeback.
In Exalted Third Edition, the majority of attacks heroes launch at one another don't damage the opponent's health track. Instead, these attacks are used to build momentum, gain the upper hand, and place the character in an advantageous position relative to his opponent(s!). They are also calculated to stymie the enemy's attempts to do the same, to disrupt his tempo, and to confound his efforts to harm you. If an attack of this sort succeeds, then it might force the opponent back, batter down his defenses, push him into disadvantageous position, or even land a blow that rattles him but inflicts no telling injury.
Once you feel you've garnered sufficient advantage, your character can attempt to launch an attack which can damage the enemy's Health Track-- and if you've fought well enough, picked your moment well, and the dice are with you, you might even slay your opponent in a single well-aimed blow, striking off his head or running him through! However, attempting to strike such a blow with undue haste can be quite risky-- it might even create an opportunity for the opponent to turn the tables completely, and seize control of the fight!
My question is, what games out there emulate this cinematic emphasis on fighting over the momentum of the fight and trying to get the upper hand?
I have found some games that are able to do this, but only in the context of 1 on 1 fights, and/or the game bogs down to a slow crawl of infinitely detailed maneuvers, neither of which we're looking for. Additional criteria:
The game can handle normal RP combat (i.e., 4-8 PCs and that many or more opponents) in a way where the momentum mechanic still shines and is central.
Has fast, smooth combat and is low-crunch.
The problem with the Riddle of Steel (as I understand it) is the huge lethality of the game, which means you're going to get way less exciting, cinematic fights. Burning Wheel, and its derivatives, have interesting and tactical combat (for sure) but aren't really about momentum in the same way that the Exalted Dev was talking about.