50 Hours playtime - General combat overview and specific examples

Hi, as a preface I will give a small introduction of my past experiences, wich I feel will give some weight to the observations and suggestions that will follow.

I have been playing video games for more than twenty years now, and am a voracious enjoyer of Souls games and ARPGS. I have accumulated a lot of experience over thousands of hours poured into these types of games and have achieved a rather in depth understanding of overall combat mechanics and risk-reward balance.

I also wish to preface what will follow by some well deserved praise, as the game truly does a lot of things right, and does achieve to subvert some of the staples of soulslike and arpgs with great success. The combat feels weighty but never sluggish, enemy design is overall satisfying and the sense of progression of your character survives the enemy scaling, wich is no small feat.

1. Poise, Hyperarmor and Staggering enemies

One of the issues I have encountered revolves around the poise damage inflicted by certain type of player weapons aswell as the poise and hyperarmor (or lack thereof) of these weapons.

In melee combat trading with enemies or dodging/blocking to land an attack in between moves are both rewarding strategies in their own way and are both valid. Alas, the weapons that are supposed to be able to trade with enemies can often find themselves interrupted by a great variety of attacks that look and feel as though they shouldn’t. The greatsword, and some other two handed weapons suffer from this greatly and it forces the players to mostly rely on a dodge-punish strategy that does not fit these types of weapons as well as it does others. In addition, a greatsword hit will most of the time not be able to deal as much damage as a multihit combo from a lighter weapon during the downtimes between two enemy attacks, wich can feel quite frustrating since, as mentioned shortly before, the game tends to force you into using these strategies instead of hyperarmor trading.

Another issue is that, as per my testing, it is far easier to poise break and enemy with the flurry of attacks of lighter weapons than it is with the heavy swings or larger ones. This should not be the case. Larger weapons need to excel at controlling the enemy, light weapons need to excel at playing around the enemy. Currently light weapons get the best of both worlds, and in turn heavy weapons feel underwhelming at times. This also applies to bosses wich are way easier to stagger with light weapons than with heavier ones.

In my opinion, light weapons are in a good place, but need to have their stagger damage toned down (i was able to lock the quarry’s boss in place for 90% of its fight, wich lasted around 20 seconds by simply mashing my tier one dual daggers) and the heavier weapons need to benefit from some increased hyperarmor, aswell as a slight buff to their poise damage.

2. Strength in numbers and the dominance of shield npcs.

Now, the enemies. The variety of enemies in act I feels sufficient, although some moveset overlapping can at times feel a bit cheap. Combat against one or two enemies is usually a treat, as the slow paced approach to combat in the game rewards observation and being methodical. A problem arises when more than two enemies are present in an encounter (even two enemies can be a problem depending on the enemy types). The enemies tend to stick close to each other a lot, making opening far and few between. The biggest offender here are shield-bearing enemies. The player’s weapon bouncing on shield as hard as it does is manageable in 1v1 situations and encourages the player to be careful as to when and how they chose to punish an enemy whiff, but in crowd encounters, a single shield present in the melee can result in an unwarrantedbounce, wich itself leads to quite often getting blendered by the crowd. Following the trend of my first point, heavy weapons suffer the most from this mechanic as they bounce off of shield just as easily as light weapons, with the added downside that their often wide sweeps will hit shields that the player does not intend to hit at all. The targeting system does not help this issue either, as you will often find yourself locked onto an enemy that will prevent you from punishing another one’s whiff or off-group positon. But more on that later.

Overall, crowd combat can feel too chaotic and uncontrollable at the moment, especially in tight spaces, where the player is left with few or no viable strategies to deal with the enemies.

A small tweak to shield hitboxes and/or to the AI’s tendency to stick close together could prevent frustrating combat encounters. Although I would agree that crowd encounters are supposed to be harder by nature, It feels too often as though the odds are unreasonably stacked against you, and accidental shield bounces/ projectiles hits (wich for some have way too much poise damage) will either drag the combat on forever or abruptly send you back to the last whisper you visited.

3. Targeting

As mentioned above, targeting needs some work to, well, work. The examples obove illustrates a flaw in the current design of the targeting system. The lack of control over it can result in choice being taken away from the player.

The implementation of either a cursor-enemy proximity targeting change, or a simple but effective keybound target swapper will help greatly in giving the player more control over his character in a lot of situations.

4. Hitboxes, move readability and visual clutter

A weaker point here as for the most part, my experience with hitboxes has been very positive.

The top down view of the game, I don’t need to tell you this, is the source of a great deal of challenges to make the combat (amongst a plethora of other things) work, and by golly you’ve made a great job overall.

A few moves in the game can have deceiving hitboxes such as the leech infested big boys’ charge or the War Room bounty enemy’s (and his later variant’s) spear thrust.

Some other can be plain broken, especially in the case of some charge moves, such as the aforementioned War Room enemy’s charge, or the Echo Knight’s wich seem to linger a lot and be a tad too large. But these are really minor blemished on an otherwise very satisfying enemy design.

Another issue that is a direct effect of the top down view is move readability and some animation’s visual clutter. Unlike most classic TPS arpgs and soulslike, the actions takes place at quite a distance from the camera, as such some animations can be quite hard to read on reaction. Prime offencers here are the Echoknight different lance attacks wich, because of the very extreme animations of the knight himself and mostly his steed’s can be quite hard to react to accordingly, and Warrick, with his arm flailing sometimes diverting our attention away from his sword, coming right at us at mach speed.

As I said earlier, those really aren’t big issues, but I feel like they deserve to be adressed nonetheless.

As a special mention since he was talked about here, the Echo Knight is a great boss overall (one of the best of the current EA in my opinion) but his exceedingly large health pools and two phases with extended movesets make learning his fight tedious, as you need to make your way through the crucible each time, wich as it stands now does not have enough replay value to justify it.

5. Other observations not related to combat

A few bullet points of things that I feel deserve some work at some point.

The enchanting system currently feels like too much of a grind, a way to reroll/enhance enchantments (not necessarilly a cheap one) would be welcome. Min maxing should not be an easily accessible thing in an rpg in my opinion, but as it stands now, finding a cool weapon only for it to be ruined beyond repair by a botched enchantments can be quite disheartening and makes build-making tedious, if not downright infuriating. Being able to access the recipes to craft the weapons we want to use would be a good start, as it would give the player a way to try and get a decent enchantment on the weapon he enjoys or simply wants to try playing with for some time.

Time gating. I can understand and even appreciate some of the time gating : the bounty / challenge system, in my opinion, fits right in and I do not see any issues with it. The same cannot be said about the time gating around building/repairing the town’s different areas. 1 hour can be okay, if not a little jaring in a solo/coop arpg. 4 hours and above do not, in my opinion, have their place here, there simply is no gameplay justification to it. If not decreased drastically, giving the player a way to actively speed things up would be a great start !
Finley is a bit of a mixed bag : I think the idea of merchants not always being available is a great thing and makes the world feel more alive, less static. Tying his schedule to real time can however feel a bit constraining, the current size of the game does not allow for a rotation between differet vendors across the game world, but I could however see it work when more content is released and the world gets bigger and its inhabitants more numerous.

Final Thoughts

I have had a great deal of fun with Wicked and cannot congratulate you all enough for your hard work, this game oozes passion and the constant patches show everyone in the community how dedicated you are to keep things moving. I hope my wall of text will give you interesting feedback.

Take care of not overworking yourselves though.

1 Like

Definitely agree on light vs heavy weapons. When you use something like dual daggers, you should basically never be staggering anything. As weapon weight and attack charging increases, you should have more stagger power.

Related, the bigger/heavier the weapon, the longer the charged attack should be with a bigger multiplier on damage and poise damage while the reverse should be true for light weapons.

I agree with his take, not with yours. lighter weapons need stagger nerf, bigger weapons need stagger buff. Lighter weapons still need to be able to stagger tho, and quite regulary to be playabe, probably about at about 3/5 of their current stagger rate. Remove that and they wont be fun to play. There is absolutely no need to nerf them to the point where you cannot paly around palnning to stagger an opponent with them.

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Is raw damage and attack output not enough? If he was able to keep the boss on its knees 90% of the time, 40% or 60% of that (2/5 or 3/5 like you suggested) still seems far too much considering you just need to find openings and spam light attacks. It’s much harder to keep enemies staggered with heavy attacks because of their committal nature.

I agree with Grimbo.

Removing access to a gameplay feature entirely for a weapon/ weapon type is not desirable in my opinion. Heavier weapons need to stagger almost easily, because it’s part of this weapon’s general fantasy, things need to react to your hits. Removing stagger from light weapons would also remove access to these satisfying moments where an enemy is at your mercy because you overwhelmed it, allowing you to finish it off or deal a great amount of burst during its staggered window. Light attacks need to have much more of a hard time to get a stagger, because that’s how you balance a healthy risk reward gameplay. Light weapons, by definition, take less risks than heavier ones, the timings needed to execute your attacks are lesserr, so if you want a stagger you need to apply constant pressure with your light weapon. Heavies need to take more risks to fully use the openings in afight, so in return the rewards need to be greater, not in term of overall dps of course, since a well balanced game will have most weapons used at their best capacity deal around the same dps, but in terms of staggers for bosses/ interrupts for normal enemies : the logic is that if you have fewer windows of opportunity, the game needs to rewards risk taking with such windows.

it is. big weapons get so much more utillity. small weapons get damage and speed with its output, while big ones get cleave, range, damage and overall better and safer gameplay as they do not need to go in as much as small ones. Both need to be able to trigger stagger, or small weapons simply wont ever be picked. In general, big weapons rn have easier time with normal enemies rn, small oney r better basically only for bosses. with my dual daggers I dont even bother fighting small enemies as it is rn, as its waste of time, I just backstab every single one that can be backstabbed as its faster and my dual daggers would take 2 long to kill them otherwise. so basically all they have rn on bigger weapons is killing bosses with more ease. Also, there was a clip of smby killing echo knight in 1 hit with 2 handed sword in the discord, just so you know.

I didn’t say light weapons should never stagger. I said “basically never”, which really means ‘rarely’.

My basic complaint about light weapons staggering frequently is it doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t fit the theme of quick weapons. Maybe they should think of another kind of bonus that lightness gives you or a tendency that light weapons posses.

which is what around 3/5 of current stagger break would do.

If he was able to keep an act boss down 90% of the time (according to his post) and you want 3/5 of that, that’s 54% of the time the boss is staggered with light weapons. That sounds silly to me.

I would say if a major boss spent 30% of his time poison broken that would make sense if it was a massive weapon with a specialized build to stagger. That would be roughly the limit.

if we were to ignore the fact that he was exaggerating and the fact that fights are not linear so there would be more of stamina deplation time and more dodging you would be absolutely right… You are also totally ignorant to the fact that dual weapons have no shield, so giving them abillity to stagger decently often is their main defense against bosses, giving them time to heal and regen stamina. I play with 2 daggers myself, and my char is pretty much maxxed, and I can tell you that that echno knight is down at 50-60% of the time during the fight. If you bring damage up, fully maxxed best base rolled chipped daggers, which are only quallity ones as far as ik, end up having 21 damage when fully maxxed. 2 handed weapons can do more than 70 damage easily The more I think about it stagger bar on daggers should probably not go down more than 1/5.

What do you mean the fights are not linear?

I agree with the weight of the weapon, a two-handed one in general should be able to pierce shields (maybe without damage, but the enemy who receives a blow to the shield should be stunned by a strong blow and you will have the opportunity to hit something other than the shield) and blows with it should stun and interrupt the enemy.

Light weapons cannot penetrate shields, but a series of attacks should also stun the enemy for a short time.

And here’s point 3 - as I understand it, you play on a keyboard with a mouse (advice buy a gamepad, I bought it - it’s great)
Sometimes it’s useful to look at the settings, I looked - the T button changes the captured target…

since u r stunning enemy less often, enemy moves and attacks more often, so you are wasting stamina to roll away instead of hitting enemy to build stagger bar, u r wasting more time on sole action of doding, then u r wasting time of waiting for stamina to come back, its not a linear mathematical problem, it is far more multiplicative than you are thinking it is.

Another issue is that, as per my testing, it is far easier to poise break and enemy with the flurry of attacks of lighter weapons than it is with the heavy swings or larger ones

I think this discussion is going to benefit from specific examples because you’re generalising a lot here. There are a large number of available abilities as well as unique movesets across a big catalogue of weapons plus rolling/sprinting and charged attacks. I strongly suspect that what you’re talking about here is the Dual Dagger Rune ability “Dashing Stab” which is currently dealing absurd amounts of stagger damage to the point of being able to break the final boss in a single use while also full healing you and fully restoring your focus in conjunction with On-Damage stat rolls. It’s a ridiculous ability and comparing it to the normal weapon swings of any weapon is going to make them look pointless.

Anecdotally if I test stagger damage of the couple of 2H weapons I have available next to Daggers using the visible stagger bar I can see that stagger damage per standing Light attack and per Charge attack IS much higher on any slow 2H weapon than on a Dagger. The stagger damage per second is harder to judge, but more importantly the stagger caused by regular attacks on either weapon is not enough to ever stagger a basic enemy before it dies. Normal attack stagger damage is so low that things die first unless they’re bosses or you’re in some situation where you aren’t dealing damage such as repeated hits against a shield.

Clearly if I compare one of the large weapons such as the Divine Scimitar to Daggers, 1H Swords, Katanas or Curved Swords you can see their basic moveset is absolutely terrible, due to it being very slow while having no hyperarmour, not interrupting basic enemies on hit and not having any meaningful reach or damage advantage. The 2H CGS basic moveset is awful, but a possibly more serious problem is that your basic moveset feels like it hardly matters late game anyway, due to Rune abilities being so much better than the unique moveset of the weapon and Focus recovery stats being strong enough to allow them to be constantly spamed.

Before we start talking about the awful balance of fast vs slow basic attack movesets we should probably talk about just how dominant and freely usable Rune Attacks are, and how this kills any weapon variety because the best Runes are easily transferred on to any weapon.

Otherwise yes I agree that it doesn’t make any sense for the basic movesets of extremely slow weapons to not interrupt regular overworld enemies, not have any hyperarmour and not build considerable stagger damage.

First of all, i’m not generalising here.

I do not refer at ALL to a focus skill. Only basic attacks.

You are right about one thing, most normal enemies will die before getting poise broken by either type of weapon. However they will get staggered or hit-stunned if you prefer. Currently, light weapons, and that includes spears, daggers, dualwielded dagger, one handed swords and the like, tend to be able to stagger enemies way too easily for how fast they hit, it’s not a big issue, but it is in my opinion imbalanced : one handed / fast hiting weapons need to rely on an offhand tool or dodging and punishing openings to deal damage and control the fight. A too high stagger ability means that mashing will work way too often with these tyopes of weapons.

Finally, the main issue lies in bosses and larger enemies/mini bosses. You say that light attacks struggle to get enemies poise broken : you are wrong. The poise damage per second of fast hiting weapons far exceeds that of most if not all large weapons, resulting in boss fights where a large weapon will struggle to get the boss poise broken, while light weapons will achieve that several times in the fight. I have tested this on echo knight, who thanks to his large health pool offers good grounds to try these things out : it is clear as day, even when I make the most out of every opening and no-hit the bossfight, my heavy weapon will struggle to get a poisebreak if it even gets one. On the other hand, using a light weapon and mashing in between boss moves will net me several poise breaks during the course of the fight.

I don’t understand what the problem is here. Isn’t everyone switching between a few weapons based on the circumstance?

I use my fast one hand swords for the imp like dudes, witches, and bosses.

I use my slower 1 handed sword for dealing with multiple enemies.

I use my 2H axe for when I isolate large mobs and knights.

I often switch to my 2H in boss fights to use its X rune and then right back to my light weapons to build focus.

There’s a reason you can have 3 main hands.

Very much agree with everything OP lays out. Great weapons need to stagger more and have a poise/hype armor window. Lighter weapons like one handed swords and axes are in the middle, with fast attack weapons being the most interruptible and least staggering to encounter.

Reroll the negative on enchantment gear is pretty much a necessity, game cant really persist with such an anti-fun mechanic.

Lastly, why you still take damage when using a shield is beyond me. The dark souls approach of letting damage through is obnoxious.

Most people probably unlocked rings + additional inventory space, not extra weapon equip slots.

Besides, don’t all of those weapons count toward weight limits? There’s no way I have enough weight available to equip 3 separate weapons, if they do.

So here for the sake of argument is a quick clip of Echo Knight being posture broken in about 6 seconds by an unupgraded grey claymore:

If you struggle to get a single poisebreak over the course of an entire fight using basic attacks, but a Focus attack will break the boss in 6 seconds (And a couple of other fast weapon Focus attacks will do it even faster) then how much does it really matter that the posture damage of individual basic attacks aren’t well balanced against each other? You know that you have functionally infinite Focus just by running a dagger in an off-weapon slot, you can do this as many times as you like during a fight.

The point I was trying to get at is that the balance of Focus attacks against basic attacks and the balance of Focus attacks against each other is far more significant for the game right now. These Focus attacks comprise the majority of your damage, the majority of your posture damage, are your most reliable way to interrupt enemies and are endlessly available due to the excessive Focus regen which can be attained on gear. I can fully agree that some of the 2h weapon basic movesets are unusably terrible, but I can still put Lightning Assault on them and now I have a 20 meter long charging slash that knocks the boss over in one hit and deals 3x as much damage as I would have dealt by trying to use the actual weapon moveset. Those problems with weapon movesets aren’t going to matter until the game actually encourages you to use them.

No they don’t, only your currently held weapon takes up weight and your dodge speed can change dynamically as you swap, so you can change from medium roll sword+board to light roll dagger in one button.