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Thread: combat system questions for some experts

  1. #1
    Junior Member Draegnar's Avatar
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    combat system questions for some experts

    Did anybody else find the decision to make a turn based system where you alternate between you and them baffling? I really quite enjoyed the game as a whole but I could never shake the feeling that all the depth from the combat system was removed by this choice, I'm hoping somebody here can explain it because I feel I played the whole game but was missing something the whole time.

    Spoiler warning as I do mention a fight from the game by name

    Firstly I felt no motivation to fill my roster for a battle, infact I used 3-4 people for every fight and found i did consistently worse with 5 or 6. This was because It was much easier to use the same powerful character multiple times than it was to try and combo people together, especially as once an enemy was reduced in strength below a certain number it was generally no threat. This also coincided with restrictive renown system as i rarely had enough resources to promote the extras.

    Secondly, the alternating turns made it very difficult for me to ever predict where the enemy would be standing by the time a character with a particular ability rolled around, initially for example i leveled up rooks daughter to try to set people up for line attacks, but because the turn order was so chaotic I could never extrapolate where an enemy would be by the time that her turn came up. I realise i could have used the warleader later to manipulate this in my favour but by the time he joined my caravan I'd developed my own playstyle.

    Thirdly and this is probably the biggest for me, killing enemies is much worse than leaving them alive but on comparatively low strength. In a regular turn based game while you could still ignore low health enemies you wouldn't be actively punished if you tidied them up, whereas in TBS here I found multiple times where If i chose to kill a dredge on low hp, his 21 strength tinman buddy would move up the turn order and take a huge chunk out of somebody as a result, which lead to every battle being roam around and weaken everyone, then finish them off. This was best demonstrated in the last fight with bellower, if you quickly lower the strength of everyone on the field, this battle is extremely easy as your party (if you use 4) gets two goes each for everyone one bellower has, If however you kill half the dredge he regens almost as fast as you can do damage and in one very foolish run I left just 1 dredge alive with bellower and it was impossible to kill him from that point on. Now this could have been the design choice I'd love to know but i found that a little unusual.

    Finally I don't understand why humans had much lower stats than giants (from balance perspective), if you have limited slots, and limited turns in my case is there any reason why you wouldn't take somebody much stronger? I did use rook as archer armour breaker but other than that It was all giants every fight. The strongest human I found was 12 I believe, and the strongest giant was 18, this meant 6 extra points of armour I could ignore in comparison which of course meant less turns breaking armour yet they both occupy one slot on my warband and apparently have equal value? I realise they were bigger but with completely flat battlegrounds its not like getting into combat with a one square was harder than a four.

    Now It could just be that all of these things are just flaws but I can't help but feel I missed something here, like theres too many decisions that don't add up, any experts here fancy sharing some thoughts? I don't want this to be considered a whiny post I actually loved the game I found it both enjoyable and relaxing Its just been eating me about the combat.

  2. #2
    I think the combat system is intended to be like this. as can be seen in steam forums, i don't think most people get the advantage of letting half dead enemies alife. (even in factions some players are eager to have a sure kill, even if it means getting a crippled team). therefore i think playing it like this is just getting a hang of the combat system...it's the same in multiplayer, but here you have more skilled players (not counting the "i have to kill the unit" players ). this malus of having a criplled unit makes the multiplayer a little bit more complex and fun in my oppinion. of course the ai can't quite catch up with human players and of course it's a disadvantage for a big dredge army, because there are so much units that can be left alone crippled.
    On the other hand i didn't try to play the single player with just 4 units, so i can't really say if it's easier to play with 4 instead of 6. when i played the story, i wanted to test everybody and was like "the more the better". playing with less units didn't seem that logical to me, so therefore i would have to try it.
    to the topic of only using varls; it's been quite some time since i last played storymode, but if i remember correct there are chances that you don't have a lot of varls in your group. especially when you're in chapters with rook. to limit the use of varls (like in mutliplayer, you're not allowed to use more than 2 varls) would be problematic for chapters with hakon, where, depending on your story-choices, you won't have enough units to fill the 6 slots, if you couldn't use as much varls as you like. the fact that varls have more strengh and armor points than humans...i think it would me more weird, if they wouldn't have. i mean they are huge, big and strong. on the other hand humans are quicker and add up armor while standing next to each other. at some point you have to do some varities when having different races, so you can't use a human to do a varls job think they are more ment to be some sort of support...which clearly isn't necessary if you beat the game with a 4 unit team, i can understand that.

    all in all i can understand what you're saying. if you once get to understand the combat system, especially the part of leaving useless enemies alone, fights aren't that much trouble. but i myself wouldn't change it for single player, since it's fun and for a lot of people, including myself when if first played it, challenging. try to play factions(free multiplayer of banner saga, sadly not all units yet implyed), think you could enjoy multiplayer battles more than combat against ai

  3. #3
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Hello Draegnar, and welcome to the forums Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the combat system, and glad to hear you overall enjoyed the game.

    First off, as JackJammer hinted, the foundations of the combat system were actually set, tested and balanced in the free-online-PvP game (Factions) at the start of 2013. Obviously, there's a lot of differences between a single-player (1-vs-AI) and a PvP (1-vs-1) game, which means that maybe Stoic fell a bit off the mark with some core design choices that were perfect for PvP but not so good for single-player.

    Personally, I was very familiar with the combat system, after having spent a lot of time on Factions, so I didn't have trouble adapting to the single-player game and identifying the optimal strategies that you outlined yourself. I quickly understood that when you exploited those strategies the game was actually quite easy to beat (even on Hard difficulty), and that was where I pushed myself to play with sub-optimal (yet more realistic) teams & strategies. The experience wasn't so good and, frankly, there was no motivation to play that way... So, what I did was increase the difficulty of the game (via modding), i.e. beef up the enemy stats and try to reduce their number so that it approximately matched the number of my heroes. Guess what? The game was much more challenging!

    Let me comment on the points you raised:

    1. Semi-filled roster: This binds closely with the following two points. Yes, it's true that when your team has less units than the enemy (but more, or equally, strong), things are much better than having a large number of underpowered heroes. In some battles, you can even start with only one hero (!) who plays after each of the enemies... Why? Because your units get effectively more turns that the enemies and, putting in that you're smarter than the AI, you make better use of that. The solutions for this are two: (1) As I said, limit the number of foes so that it automatically adapts to how many heroes you bring, (2) Make the AI smarter so that it tries to make better use of its units.

    2. Alternating turns: That was a core design choice; no changing that. It might be confusing to somebody who's accustomed with other turn-based systems (e.g. chess, XCOM or initiative-based like Fallout 1&2), but it's just a variation, and I don't see anything bad about. A priori, all turn-based systems abstract real-time combat in some sense, and they are all "flawed". So, problems with this particular turn system start when it is few-vs-many (something that, as I said before, should have been avoided), e.g. 2-vs-8. That was why the "Pillage Mode" was introduced. A possible "fix" here would be entering Pillage mode when the ratio is skewed, e.g. 1:3 in 2-vs-6 or 3-vs-9 situations, and not when there's one unit left on one side.

    3. Maim-Dont-Kill (MDK): Yes, this is the best tactic one can use, with the exception of the last battle where it's better to focus-fire Bellower only. The effectiveness of the MDK strategy are directly related to the previous two points, so I won't discuss it anymore. However, there's one easy "fix" to balance this: Give enemy units stats & abilities that make them useful even when maimed, e.g. high Break (like that Stoneguard Dredge) or Armor-bypass damage (like Yrsa's Slag-and-Burn or Thrashers' Bloody-Flail abilities).

    4. Varl vs. humans: Varl are big horned giants and that's why they have stats higher than puny humans! Also, that why Chapter-3 (where you got lots of Varl heroes) is so filled with battles but easy in the end, whereas Chapters 4 & 6 are so hard to push through (where you got only a couple of Varl)... So, yes, Varl are super-powerful, but there's not so many of them around. Finally, when a Varl is knocked-out, he needs 6 days to reach full-Strength (in Hard), which makes losing one of them a big handicap and counterbalances their higher stats.

    To summarize, there's a lot of things about the combat system that could be different and that would (probably) make the game even better. Stoic said they listened to all this feedback, so we might see some changes in TBS2. The one part they specifically acknowledged was the lack of variety in battle objectives. Actually, with the exception of the final battle, you presently just have to kill all enemies (exploiting MDK)... So, I hope they'll add more objectives like: 'kill enemy X' or 'maim all enemies' or 'move one (or more) unit(s) to location Y on the board' or 'don't let enemies reach location Z on the board' etc.
    Together we stand, divided we fall.

  4. #4
    about human vs varl:

    i just won a match where at the end of the match it was my human vs enemy varl, both had similar stats but varl was shieldbanger (1 armor damage for each time i hit him), and maybe had one more strength. why? human have better AA (active abillities)
    Last edited by shigad; 11-13-2014 at 01:23 PM.

  5. #5
    Junior Member Avar's Avatar
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    1. Semi-filled roster: This binds closely with the following two points. Yes, it's true that when your team has less units than the enemy (but more, or equally, strong), things are much better than having a large number of underpowered heroes. In some battles, you can even start with only one hero (!) who plays after each of the enemies... Why? Because your units get effectively more turns that the enemies and, putting in that you're smarter than the AI, you make better use of that. The solutions for this are two: (1) As I said, limit the number of foes so that it automatically adapts to how many heroes you bring, (2) Make the AI smarter so that it tries to make better use of its units.

    2. Alternating turns: That was a core design choice; no changing that. It might be confusing to somebody who's accustomed with other turn-based systems (e.g. chess, XCOM or initiative-based like Fallout 1&2), but it's just a variation, and I don't see anything bad about. A priori, all turn-based systems abstract real-time combat in some sense, and they are all "flawed". So, problems with this particular turn system start when it is few-vs-many (something that, as I said before, should have been avoided), e.g. 2-vs-8. That was why the "Pillage Mode" was introduced. A possible "fix" here would be entering Pillage mode when the ratio is skewed, e.g. 1:3 in 2-vs-6 or 3-vs-9 situations, and not when there's one unit left on one side.
    I have to disagree that there's nothing bad about this system. Alternating turns means that with a team of 3 or smaller you can see the next two rounds of enemy movement before the current character is up again on the roster, making you effectively invincible since you can just position yourself out of the attack range of the mobs who will be moving, while still being able to hit enemies who won't get to move until after you get to move that character a second time. It's unlimited hit and run. Even easier with two characters in your squad. Queue with just one character and it's effectively impossible to lose provided you don't accidentally move to a grid where the next enemy up can one-shot you. The system is fine for PVP but it's broken for PVE and no amount of tweaking can really fix it, using the alternating turn system. A speed based system, wherein units get to go in the order of priority determined by a speed or initiative stat, like in Shining Force, is a lot more balanced and makes for way more challenging and exciting fights and it's much more difficult to predict movement orders.

    To summarize, there's a lot of things about the combat system that could be different and that would (probably) make the game even better. Stoic said they listened to all this feedback, so we might see some changes in TBS2. The one part they specifically acknowledged was the lack of variety in battle objectives. Actually, with the exception of the final battle, you presently just have to kill all enemies (exploiting MDK)... So, I hope they'll add more objectives like: 'kill enemy X' or 'maim all enemies' or 'move one (or more) unit(s) to location Y on the board' or 'don't let enemies reach location Z on the board' etc.
    Agree with this entirely and I'm really hoping we see a major revamp in the combat system. I really feel like they should just straight up clone Shining Force's combat system as it's basically the exact same thing already with the novel addition of the armourbreak system, which is quite good in its own right. Ditching the alternating turn system would help tremendously and help the combat help the narrative, instead of hinder it. Another thing that would make me happy would be the addition of a different style of combat altogether, akin to Warhammer: Dark Omen / Shadow of the Horned Rat for War encounters, instead of the underwhelming "just friggin' charge" war system we have now.

    Bottom line, Banner Saga's story and art direction is sublime and it deserves gameplay that measures up to the plot.

  6. #6
    Skald Aleonymous's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avar View Post
    Bottom line, Banner Saga's story and art direction is sublime and it deserves gameplay that measures up to the plot.
    True. If the gameplay got refined (and I'm not referring specifically to the combat department) we'd have a truly excellent game.
    Together we stand, divided we fall.

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