I want to discuss three specific aspects of the game that I feel can be improved with small changes to make the combat experience more fun for everyone while keeping the current level of challenge across difficulties. These aspects are incoming damage, enemy aggression and aggro range.
I play a lot of heroic solo open world and missions and I've been recording some clips to highlight these issues since April. The compilation video below is a bit long at 5 minutes but I feel is the best way to see the issues I will talk about here in text form. Every clip in the video has the issue and commentary about what's happening so it's as clear as possible. I'm running mostly dps loadouts or some hybrids with skill tier rolls. Only the clip with the heavy Riker has me running Glass Cannon.
Timestamps are at the end of this post for anyone interested to check them separately.
The main three build types most people run are DPS with full reds, Skill with full yellows and Tank with full blues or a mix with some reds. There's many other combinations but these are the most popular by a big margin in my experience.
This leaves the time to be killed (TTBK for short) in a spot where 2 out of the three build types can and will struggle with incoming damage becase of a particular issue: burst damage. What this means is that you receive so much damage in such a short period of time that you sometimes can't react, take cover, heal, deploy a skill, kill the threat and many other player reactions.
In terms of challenge, the amount of damage we get is fine for the most part but I think the TTBK is just too short especially for solos or duos in open world, which is the major endgame activity. In groups it gets mitigated a bit by different players drawing aggro, team composition (think CC build, healer, etc), the number of enemies the group faces, etc.
The biggest issue with the high incoming issue is that it's not predictable in any way. Put in another way, you can never be sure if you will have time to kill a target, peak out of cover, reposition, run in the open and other interactions that happen during every engagement.
Suggestions to improve incoming damage
As I mentioned, the amount of damage we get feels challenging and right most of the time but when you get the high bursts it feels "cheap" and can take away from the fun of the combat gameplay. If this same amount of damage was applied in an uniform way (predictability of damage is really important) over say 2 or 3 seconds longer than it is being applied right now, it could make it predictable so you as player have time to react, retreat, heal, etc. As it stands right now, in the open world you will always find yourself getting to the point of having a sliver of health left on almost every engagement, dying because you couldn't react on time, etc.
One clear example are the BT mini tanks, the mounted mini guns and the heavy archetypes from all factions but all archetypes suffer from this, some more than others. You can be in cover, have a good line of sight but the moment you aim down the sight to shoot you lose your armor almost instantly. There's no way to counter this. So maybe if the ttbk got an increase in the form of receiving more bullets over 2 or 3 seconds longer could be something that the devs can look at.
The time to be killed could even help the tank or hybrid tank/damage builds if the gear talents, weapons and gear are being balanced so you don't become too tanky while running just a couple of blue rolls, for example. As of right now, the ttbk only gets noticeably higher afer you have 3 or more blue rolls on your gear.
This could be out of the scope of my post but with a balancing pass, the armor cores could have more armor than what they give us now so there's incentive to run other combination of cores on our builds.
This was a pretty big issue in the first patches after launch and got fixed for the most part during year 1. However, TU9 or TU10 brought back a regression in this aspect or is just something different that is causing it. Enemies don't respect proximity, can act erratically when shot at and it's clear in many situations that no matter the engagement, they don't seem to value their life to retreat and take cover for example.
The video shows some situations where these issues are evident. As with incoming damage, it doesn't always happen but happens often enough that you can see it on every game session of open world or mission runs.
Suggestions to improve enemy aggression
I think the changes made before were good but it needs a balance pass again. An enemy that ignores being shot at and rushes out in the open, or just straight up goes to punch you or to run behind you in a straight line is just not fun. Make the enemies value these kind of situations in a better way. Life preservation, enemy numbers left, player flanking, and other components the devs can tune on the AI are in need of another look.
Another aspect that could be improved is the time for enemies to deploy their proxies or throw their grenades. Right now it's too fast and feels like your positioning at the start of every fight, which should be some tactical gameplay that the player uses, doesn't matter much because the moment the shoot the first bullet, the enemies will deploy their turrets, throw you grenades, etc.
I can't personally think of specific suggestions since the changes made before TU9 or 10 addressed these issues in a good way, so the devs already know what needs to be done, it just needs their attention again.
Open world spawn density and aggro distance
This is an open world issue and has been there since WoNY launched. There weren't as many random spawns on DC before if memory doesn't fail me and it's the same in NY after WoNY. Most of the time you can't get anywhere without fighting a random spawn, and while doing this, you will invariably aggro an activity, a different random spawn or an open world spawn like a patrol, convoy, etc.
This makes free roaming quite challenging on heroic and the world feels alive but at the same time can detract from a fun experience when you spend more time clearing a block of spawns and activities when all you wanted to do was get to a bounty, for example. Or to clear a control point to mention another instance that can get you fighting 2, 3, 4 or even more random spawns that just appeared in proximity instead of actual activities like patrols or convoys.
There needs to be a balance between having a live and challenging open world and having to fight so many spawns that are not part of activities. This issue is particularly more obvious on dense areas of DC and NY where sometimes you can't even finish an activity because the hostage or the last npc alive is one block away and you can't find them.
The number of random spawns lead to another issue. Enemies can see you from way too far and get aggro'd on you too easily. The last clip of the video shows this issue in a very clear way in case it doesn't make much sense. This amplifies the issue of having too many random spawns and aggro distance.
Suggestions to improve spawn density and aggro distance
The first thing I can think about is to reduce the number on more dense areas or everywhere. Changing some of these random spawns to be part of open world activities could be a good way to give us players more activities and less random fighting on every block of both cities.
I think a simple way, in terms of logic, to address this issue is to tune the visibility and hearing ability of enemies. If they can't see or hear you, they won't come after you unless you get close to be seen or heard, shoot at them, etc. All things that are in the player control.
This is not a "the game is too hard, I die a lot" post. I wanted to addresses the issues I see almost everyday and would like to keep the same level of difficulty as we have right now.
I think the video does a much better job at showing and describing the issues that I did on writing but I hope this gets visibility and gets addressed in way that improves the overall combat experience which is one if not the strongest components in the game, besides the loot system.
It would be great if other players can give their opinion on these points and comment their own experience or opinion on them. Is it in a good spot? Needs balancing? You don't feel it's an issue? Anything that contributes to the conversation will benefit everyone.
- Damage and aggression: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=1
- Damage from Riker Tanks: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=13
- Enemy aggressiveness and the shield: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=26
- Damage from miniguns: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=45
- Damage drop off: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=59
- Burst damage: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=70
- Enemy behavior: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=84
- Burst damage: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=116
- Enemy predictability: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=133
- Enemy aggressiveness: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=146
- Aggro distance: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=168
- Enemy aggressiveness: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=202
- Burst damage: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=224
- Enemy behavior: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=234
- Enemy damage: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=245
- Enemy damage: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=261
- Aggro range: https://youtu.be/_RMHhBrNeT8?t=279