Let's Talk About Combat

Hey guys! I’m here to talk about a topic that has been recently improved by new updates, one that we’ve all been waiting a while for: Combat. First of all, I’d like to tank Team Radiant for putting in a lot of effort to improve combat by adding new enemies, classes, and overall a really solid update. I also understand that this is definitely not the final combat update, and everything will of course improve as the Alpha stage continues. Finally, this post will serve not only for me to make my own suggestions, but to serve as a place to talk about what you do or do not like about combat or feel could be improved. With that said, lets get started!

(As an aside, this will be long.)

I’m going to get out of the way my own thoughts on the topic. I’d like to preface this by saying I currently have not gotten through much of the campaign, in fact I only have two footmen and nothing really town-threatening has happened. As such, my thoughts are subject to change if I feel the need arises. However, I feel that I do have a good grasp at least on the early game, and this topic will focus primarily on that, but also apply to the rest of combat.

Alrighty, with that preface out of the way, here we go. I honestly think that early game combat is a bit… bland. You send your footmen out to deal with a certain threat, let’s say the small Varanus, and your footmen just… hit it. And then they get hit. And they hit back. There’s no variety or threat, at least where I am. It’s the same thing happening with all of the other threats. A Giant Zombie appears, and your footmen hit it, staying completely stationary, until it dies. The goblin thieves run away, cower, and die.

Now, as I don’t have any other combat classes, and I have not seen any other variety, I am biased towards this. However, I imagine that combat in later stages would work mostly the same way, with an enemy cleric healing their kobold archer buddy as he’s getting pummeled, and your clerics doing the same thing. I’m not aware of any special abilities giant Ogres might have or the possibilities that might entail. But. The early game is still very bland, and I think I know what the problem is.

Everyone is not doing damage, they’re doing numbers. Let me explain.

I am a fan of an RPG system called Dungeon World. I don’t have much experience with it, but I’ve been looking at picking it up eventually so my gaming group at college can try it out soon. I’d like to move your attention over to this post on the Dungeon World forums, posted back in 2012. If you don’t want to read it, I’ll tell you about it here.

The poster is confused as to how monsters work in Dungeon World, and asks for help. Someone explains that monster have different Tags, explained as narrative cues for the DW fiction. In an Earth Elemental example, they are Solitary, Huge, Forceful, have Reach, can Meld to stone and can turn the ground into a weapon. Essentially, the Tags help the GM running the game to establish what exactly the Earth Elemental can do and how it does it. The Earth Elemental also has a whopping 20 HP. That’s not a typo. The Earth Elemental is scary not because of it’s massive health, but because of what it can do and how the GM uses it.

I’d like to direct you to another post, also in the same topic, linked here. I’m not going to summarize it here, and it’s a good read anyway, so come back when you’ve read it. You back? Good. I bet you’re wondering now what the heck I’m trying to say here. I’m saying that combat can be improved by following the 16 HP Dragon example, and making the enemies do damage.

How Can We Make Enemies More Threatening?
Let’s take, for example, the Varanus from earlier. The Varanus has a LOT of health. It takes my 2 footmen, each with stone mauls, approximately 16 or so hits to defeat (as far as I remember anyway, it’s been a few hours). The Varanus also attacks very slowly, bringing one footmen to between half- and three-quarter-health. Overall, it’s very one sided and there’s much to be improved. Let’s take a look at the Varanus in detail.

From the Varanus’ .json file (found in entities/monsters/forest/alligator) we can see that the Varanus has a base total of 400 health, and in alligator_teeth.json it does 10 damage per attack, 5 if it is weak. A Stone Maul gives footmen +12 damage I believe, making the total number of attacks with 2 footmen right around 16 or 17 hits. How can we improve this dynamic of hitting each other until someone loses? How can we make the Varanus do damage? How about adding a new mechanic, to steal from DW’s language, a new tag: Poisonous. When the Varanus attacks, if he is below half of his health, he will try to poison someone attacking him. Let’s say he can shoot poison twice, inbetween his regular attacks. If someone is poisoned, he won’t try to poison him again, and instead poison another attacker. The Varanus plays a different animation to poison, perhaps rearing back to give the player feedback on what’s happening. To avoid the poison, perhaps the footmen should hold up his shield, halting attack to block?

This poison will stay in a footmen’s system for 12 hours with an Herbalist or Cleric’s help, or 36 without. This makes the Varanus capable of dealing lasting damage to the footmen, perhaps even the town. To help move combat along faster, we can take the health down from 400 to 300, and maybe up the Varanus’ natural armor to help mitigate damage a bit.

With this one change, the combat with the Varanus is a lot more interesting, giving more challenge to the player, and even making combat in the future even more difficult as new enemies will be added that can damage the player without able combat units.

I got a bit sidetracked there, but I like to think I at least made a bit of a point. I don’t know anything about combat in the mid to late game, so I’m unsure as to whether or not this is relevant for those bits. Anyways, my suggestion and idea is over with – What would YOU GUYS like to say about the current state of combat? Love it? Hate it? Need more little stone golem buddies? Say so in the comments below! Cheers!

This was quite a good read. If I can provide my couple of cents to the topic of combat, I think it’s in dire need of complexity and not content. For a challenge I started my recent play through in a desert on hard difficulty and while the earlier months provided a challenge with the balancing of town growth and training footmen, I felt that the combat in its current state not as engaging as I’d hoped.

While wave progression was interesting, I felt that I was performing the same orders and tactics with every single wave, throw my infantry in the front and issue a defense order with my ranged units a little farther back. It would be great to incorporate some micromanagement with skills/abilities and movement into the mix, while also providing enemies with abilities of their own. I enjoy the idea of poisons for example, as health decline this reminds me of the stereotypical “Rage” or “Berserk” ability where one opponent would become stronger or perform additional attacks as his health is reduced, this would be great for the Ogres.

An idea that I can throw out there, tell me if it’s crazy, but it would be to reduce wave frequency but increase the impact of each encounter. Since the number of classes are not too out of control – give the player more commands over each individual units. Give ranged units height damage advantage, provide manual abilities for units, even perhaps providing set abilities for class, and others for weapons – example, a shield bearer could be issued a “shield wall” command reducing speed but increasing ranged armor and a two-handed sword wielder could be issued a “cleave” or “whirlwind”. There is plenty of things that can be done to offset the difficulty change regarding wave frequency as well, monthly challenges, weekly events that would increase passive mob spawn or alter crop yield for example.

I understand that town development is more of a passive action. You issue general orders to your populace and reap the reward as time goes by, but the trade off to this - the risk should be thrown over into combat which now there is little off. Either survive or get completely obliterated, I’ve yet to see a scenario where I lose a fight and survive until the next two or three waves.

Well, i think you mean that we don’t have enough veriaty in combat, right?

I don’t know how deep you delved into combat till this point(esspecially hard mode), but we actually do have someveriaty and tactics that we have to implement in hard combat situations.

I’ll put an example, the footmen( or warriors, as i like to all them) have 3~4 types of attaks that are set in a timer, swing(normal), two-handed swing(exclusive to two-handed weapons) and slam(the one where thay jump and slam their swonrds)
Thees skills have a different damage output from eachother, normaly calculated by ‘%’ in the code (or at-least it did when i last seen it)
And also a dodge

Archers have less veriaty as they only have two (normal and double,which is on a timer), but they make up ofr it by having different types of quivers that hold ice(slowing) and fire(damaging) arrows that the player can assign to(it’s like a toggle), they also have a passive of armor piercing arrows that ignore 50% of the enemy armor

Not sure with the knights, but they do have a large arsenal of skill that focus on his/her survivability(like armor buffing) and drawing enemy agro, thus massively contributing to the team by soaking in the majoraty of damage dealt by the enemy and keeping allies alive

This applies to enemies as well, the humanoid enemies have their classes just like the player’s troops, but just altered a little bit to suit the AI(and not hinder the player’s control)

And less humanoid characters(like orgs and varanuses) have their role just like the others, but just a little different

Enemies an troops have a ‘Threat level’ that determines who the enemy will target as a default, thus making higher threat enemies tankie will allow the othes to deal damage without the worries of getting killed, this applies to orgs and varanuses that come alongside more small enemies


Archers are a big part of the player tactic as they can pick off high priority targets like other achers and clerics if the player orders so,

Knights can be ordered to attack(and thus draw agro) of enemies that may overwhelm another troop and hellp them

What i’m saying is… Though the curent system does have clear flaws here and there(like requiring a lot of manual contol in late-game)
Overal, in veriaty and diversity, i think it has enough for the moment

Also i was just assuming ou didn’t know all thoes stuff above, i wouldn’t be surpized if you know it afterall and i was just wasting time writing all that

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No, actually, I did not know about much of that. Like I said, I’ve only really gotten my two footmen to about level 2, and I haven’t unlocked any of the other classes. I’m glad there is some variety at least, and I’ll be checking that out in the future!

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Hey Hyrule,

Well I have of couple play through happening at the same time, some to enjoy the creative aspect of the game on peaceful mode while others to focus on the progression that is given to us. In one of those, I’m currently playing a hard desert map with Raya’s Children and I’m 6-7 months in - I do understand the abilities but have to underline the idea of complexity and not content/variety on my previous post. How engaging it is for a player to wait for an attack to happen based on a percentage value? I was able defeat waves upon waves by setting an order banner between the spawn of the enemies and my hearth (any assortment of 10 units will work in my experience), manual control being completely optional.

The best way I could think of comparing the combat system right now is with another feature currently in the game - construction. My entire town was built on slabs since I wanted creative freedom - towers hanging on cliffs, different type of structures with roofs that are not currently stock, among such. That is amazing, and I think that the power of this system is in allowing the players to build things from scratch however they want. If we take a variety of posts from these forums, amazing creations are being put daily with free form structures - this would not be possible (to certain lengths), with only the stock building options. Since cross training your military to do multiple things at once is not the best option currently, my last post was an attempt of saying that it would be great to involve the player more into combat with having to counter things with skills, without sacrificing too much.

First of all, just in case you didn’t know, i was talking to spoolicus(just in case you thought i was answering your reply)

And i actually didn’t read through your post until now

While i see what you mean, frankly, i don’t think you went through Hard Mode the Hard way, in which i mean progressing the story and intensifying the combat by placing all progressions of Gongs.

I bet you, that even two gongs will be enough to ramp up the difficulty of the ambient encounter monsters up to a point where 10or so mono(like… Only archers or footmen) combat units won’t be able to handle (esspecially if the player doesn’t control them manually)
Though to be honest, knights might work as they are pretty powerful, but only assuming they have a cleric as well(and only to 1 or 2 gongs)

And the difficulty ramp will not only allow, but force the player into getting involved in combat by controlling troops more precisely,

You Need to take out the kobolt archer if it’s above the blue or red hat, otherwise your knights and footmen will be shredded, you Have to take out enemy clerics as they make combat last insanity long and hinders further charging of the team, and footmen are just kinda there, just make sure your archer don’t get hit by them…

And by the time you have all 4 gongs, enemies might even be strong enough to kill 10~14 tropps without even getting down to half of their health (assuming you make it there)

So yes, we do have some involvement of the player

Also, While poinson might sound new, it actually already exists,
If a hearthling gets attacked by a zombie or skeleton, they will get a poison effect that will stop them from healing naturally for a duration, making them need a cleric or herbalist to heal.