Tobold's Blog
Friday, August 22, 2008
WAR combat is slow

Whether you measure it in seconds, or in the number of clicks or keys pressed until the enemy mob is dead, a single combat in WAR takes a bit longer than in WoW, and much longer than in AoC. Note that this is just true for a single combat, it takes fewer combats to go up a level, and there are fewer levels, so in the end you reach the level cap faster in WAR than in AoC; there is less grind in WAR. But if you start WAR for the first time and are used to something else, the long time it takes to kill your first mob might come as a surprise. My very first WAR beta character was a Runepriest, and after my first fight I thought healers in WAR were underpowered, because they killed mobs so slow. Then I tried the other classes and noticed that they *all* kill slow compared to other games, and that healers actually weren't all that underpowered.

There is no denying it: Some people will dislike the slower style of combat. It *feels* less powerful if your level 1 character needs to hit a level 1 monster repeatedly and using all your abilities to get it dead. In Age of Conan my first character was a Tempest of Set, and in the first part he could kill some mobs with a single lightning bolt. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning plays very, very different from that. But of course power is relative, and once I got used to it, I actually preferred the slower WAR combat, because it gives me far more tactical options. Combat takes longer, but is more interesting than blam, blam, combo, dead.

This made me think of my frost mage in World of Warcraft, my third character I leveled to 70. I had spotted something of a design flaw, namely that there are very few character stats that affect mage combat. So I bought exclusively gear giving bonuses to frost damage, and ended up with a completely overpowered frost mage for soloing. I was able to kill mobs of my level or even slightly higher levels with between 2 and 4 frostbolts; so if I started combat at maximum distance I was able to kill mobs before they could even reach me, avoiding the need to use defensive spells like frost nova or doing maneuvers like blink. I reached level 70 having done over 80% of my lifetime damage with a single spell, frostbolt. That did feel powerful, compared to the holy priest and protection warrior I leveled up before. But it was also a lot more boring. The priest uses a combination of buffs, heals, shields, and damage spells to kill mobs. The warrior builds up rage first, and removes the mobs armor, before doing an execute killing blow. All that takes longer, but is more interesting, because it actually matters which buttons you press in which order. And combat in WAR is just the same as the slower WoW combat of my priest and warrior.

WAR has some classes that are simple to play, and just have health and action points (which works like mana for powering all spells and abilities). But more classes in WAR have additional combat mechanics. I already mentioned the Waaagh! build-up of the shaman, who gets bonuses to heals when he uses damage abilities, and bonuses to damage abilities when he heals. Ironbreakers build up "grudges", witch hunters collect "accusations", and so on. All of these work slightly different from each other, but the general thrust is that you are building up power during the fight, which you can then unleash for extra powerful moves. In addition to the class specific mechanics, every class builds up morale during a fight, which allows you to use special morale powers. All of this *requires* that combat takes more than a handful of blows.

Taking the example of my shaman, I'd start combat at range, hitting a mob with spells, but won't be able to kill it before it reaches me. I can keep damaging it with various spells, but am taking damage as well. Now I get various options: I could build up enough Waaagh! to be able to cast a large healing spell as instant, thus uninterruptible. Or I could use my detaunt ability before I heal, which reduces the damage I take from the mob for 15 seconds, or until I hit it again. By healing myself I increase the power of my next damage spell. And all the time I'm gaining morale, enabling me to use my first morale ability, which deals both damage and heals me. Yes, all that takes time. And yes, if I don't watch out and just spam damage spells I could lose the fight. But that is exactly the beauty of it: Solo combat that requires some skill, some thought. It still isn't rocket science, but you better think about what you are doing. I like it!

But there will be a number of people who will not be happy with WAR's slower combat. Some of them just prefer faster, more twitchy combat, like in Age of Conan. Some, to be brutally honest, won't like having to think during solo combat, preferring mindless hack'n slash killing. I don't think it is even possible to create a combat system that pleases everyone. The system of WAR isn't that far away from the WoW system to really risk alienating a large portion of the customer base. But after WoW there was definitely a trend towards making combat faster, with games like Tabula Rasa, Hellgate: London, or Age of Conan, and WAR is definitely moving in the other direction. They say WAR is everywhere, but maybe it is not for everyone.
Doesn't LOTRO add a bit of nuance to combat?
Don't really know how you can measure the full time it takes to level when there has been so many resets no one has actually leveled a character from 1 - 40 yet. I got from 1 - 25 that was the best I could do before a reset.

Personally I think it's about the same as AOC, having actually got a lvl 80 in Aoc and see'ing the rate at what you level in each tier in WAR I'd guess around the same time. Just that WAR has far more to do at end game rather than AOC's grind till you drop type of content.

As for being slow, I do agree to a certain extent, but again it shouldn't be over in seconds like AoC ... being one or two shot in pvp is the most frustrating thing you could ever do to a game. They took it out of almost every game that it's happened in ...

Rogues in WoW, used to 1 or 2 shot mages from stealth, DAoC one shotting casters and not even coming out of stealth ... and rangers in Aoc ... still 2 shot my barbarian gg. All but one has been changed as the game evolved. As games evolve they slow the pace of combat, especially pvp combat to allow the maximum amount of time for reaction without being locked down.

This was also the reason for putting in measures to counter AE mez/stuns in DAoC, and giving items and abilities to counter fears/sleeps/charms/stuns in WoW.

Comes down to one thing ... being killed with zero chance at fighting back makes players not even want to participate in pvp.
It didn't seem that slow when I was playing but I'll do some more beta this weekend and see how it goes.

I really don't have any major issues with WAR PVE, the problem is simply the unbalanced classes in RVR. That completly ruins the game. I realize they are still trying to balance it but considering how long I was in beta and how much of an issue it still is, my confidence is low.

I'll still play the game, but not until at least 3-6 months after the uproar from live players cause even more changes which I guarantee will happen.
You are never going to get a perfect balance of characters in an MMO. Its all about circumstance, some are better one vs one and certain classes can kill certain classes better. Some are better in groups, some are better solo.

You learn what your prone to and who are your easy targets.
You are never going to get a perfect balance of characters in an MMO. Its all about circumstance, some are better one vs one and certain classes can kill certain classes better. Some are better in groups, some are better solo.

Or, if the game has official forums, all the classes are underpowered in both PvP and PvE and need buffs now. :)

The one issue that pops into my mind from this descriptions is movement effects (and possibly longer range effects) being less useful, due to not being able to do significant damage to characters before they get to you, though I haven't actually played the game so cannot say whether these issues are important or not.
Sounds like there will be a HUGE gap between the people who know how to play their class and people who have no clue. I like the sounds of that :)

No doubt there will be endless future discussion of this type on blog rolls as well as the forums. The intelligent discussions will help all of us learn to play better and talking about what abilities to use in what situations sounds better to me than talking about the cookie cutter talent trees like WOW did.

Comes down to one thing ... being killed with zero chance at fighting back makes players not even want to participate in pvp.

Yet, a ton of people play Guild Wars everyday. This is the major home of two to three shot kills all the time.
And PvP is the strongest suit in the game.

I for one prefer faster combat and based on the "slow" combat discussion, it has made me feel that WAR is definitely not for me.
AoC changed how I felt about combat, and Guild Wars has been the closest I can get to that. (Besides DDO, which I am waiting for their Module 8 patch to try again...may be the fix I need)

I love Console Games, so maybe that is the reason also. Fast gets the heart beating, and keeps a player pumped.

Ah well, glad I heard this here. Grouping may be cool in WAR, but combat sounds like exactly what I do not want.
This is a disappointment to me, though not unexpected.

AoC got combat right, at least for PvE. I want to be killing dozens of mobs, quickly. The danger is in pulling too many and becoming overwhelmed, at which point you have to think strategically.

I know that PvP has to be different. Players have to be on equal footing, and nobody wants to die without a chance to respond.

But here's the thing I just don't get - why not allow you to mow through mobs quickly, but keep PvP combat (relatively) slow? This way you still get to feel like a badass versus mobs, but don't get to instagib players.
Some people will dislike the slower style of combat. It *feels* less powerful if your level 1 character needs to hit a level 1 monster repeatedly and using all your abilities to get it dead.

One thing I hate as a rogue is how often I kill solo mobs without ever needing to use a finisher other than a 1 or 2 pt Slice and Dice. It’s not that the other finishers aren’t useful, but that there is no need. Even boss fights as a rogue are pretty simple and just Hemo/SS spam with finisher rotations to keep SnD and Rupture up as much as possible. It’s really only in PvP that you start to use the full range of Rogue abilities. I haven’t played the beta yet, but I can appreciate slower time-to-kill if it makes for more engaging combat. One concern is that it might take away from the feeling of accomplishment.
As a brand new WoW Rogue I use the 45-Energy Sinister Strike to build Combo Points, and the 35-Energy Eviscerate to unload them. A 4-Combo Point Eviscerate does about the same amount of damage as Sinister Strike, but most Mobs are dead before I get 4 Combo Points on them.

For most lowbie toons combat in WoW is usually over very quickly. I think the only exception is the Hunter, but that's only if you Raptor Strike/Melee Mobs down instead of Strafe Kiting them.

Compared to Diablo, however, WoW Combat is pitifully slow, at least until you run into the various "Immune" Mobs.

It seems to me that if WAR Combat is slower than WoW, and PvP encounters are not over almost before you can react, that might keep the twitchy-finger trash talking kiddies out, and actually make the game a little more enjoyable for us older folks.

Now git the hell offa my lawn!
I'm glad Tobold wrote this. I play WoW and Ive played a Warrior, Druid, Warlock, and am currently leveling a Hunter, I also have a Paladin in the low 20s that I havent played in a while. I enjoyed playing my Warrior the most through the leveling path for the precise reason that I got to use more of his abilities. Yeah leveling the Warrior was painful at time but I liked having all the different options, where in some fights I could use all of them. Contrast that to my Hunter, which, although it makes me feel godly, is boring as hell at time. I can grind mobs without ever taking my hand off my mouse. Booooring! Kudos to Mythic for making combat a touch more interesting than just facerolling the keyboard 1 or 2 times. I dont know if I'll switch to WAR or not, but this particular nuance is at least a small step in the direction of persuading me.
Jeremy T, might I recommend City of Heroes? "Dozens of mobs, quickly" is its specialty.
Actually combat in WAR is a bit faster than in many other MMOs. For instance the click-to-click time (that many call global cooldown) is 1.4 seconds (measured with a Microsoft Rrclusa Macro keyboard), while WoW, for instance, is 1.5.

It sure is slower than AoC, but AoC's combat being a twytchy chore for many, yes, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
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