[0.90] Feedback (Balance issues, mostly).

By on April 20, 2012 2:34:57 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Werewindlefr

Join Date 03/2007
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I know I only had a night to play Beta 3 so far (and what a night it was !), but I've still played it extensively enough to be able to provide some early Feedback.
I'm playing almost exclusively with Tarth, so of course, YMMV.
First, I must say I've seen major improvments in this beta. There's still a lot of work, but faction differentiation is starting to show up . It's really more interesting than beta 2, and there's a good foundation for an exceptional game.
That said, there's some issues I would like to bring up, and I'm sorry for not stopping after the congratulations. I'm not doing this to ruin everyone's day, but because I want FE to be a really good game.

-Balance:

There's quite a lot of balance work to be done. I really like the increase in power for non-damage spells (maybe healing should increase a bit too ; 8 hit points + 4 / shard isn't enough to have any impact on the outcome of a battle. 12 + 6 / shard would be a good amount, I believe.). That said, some damage spells are still way too strong. And in particular the usual suspects Fireball, Blizzard, Dirge of Ceresa and their per-soldier damage. The problem doesn't really lie within the spell, although they are a bit too good to begin with. The problem come from the combination of decent base damage with extreme scalability and low unit hit points.
The problem is that those spells don't just damage armies, they destroy them. The counter is very specific and costly, and needs to be applied to all units (spell/fire resistance!); Not to mention that a good spellcaster will shrug off spell resistance anyway.
In my estimation, an archmage (path of the mage, evoker III, 1 or 2 shards) killing half the soldiers in all units would already do a very, very good job. That'd be a very strong spell already. A beginner mage would kill 1 soldier per unit, or maybe 2 on larger, weak, unprotected units. That would already weaken the enemy army.
A reduction in power of the evoker series of traits (probably the most powerful by a fair bit), Path of the mage, a small nerf to the base damage and an increase in hit points would go a long way to make these spells less of a one-action game winners. (And yes, I know about counterspelling, but it's a very, very unreliable counter. You need a hero - you can't put heroes in every army - and it needs to be able to counterspell effectively.)
Another big issue is the extreme efficiency of armor. Granted, I was playing Gilden - but this just made things even more ridiculous.
I do not understand why armor values were increased so much. Armor was fine in beta .86. Sure, a fair bit of the damage still went through, but armor was a good mitigator. Now, it's a invulnerability shield.
I didn't even try to powergame - just to play the game normally. Basically, early in the game, once I dicovered leatherworking, I produced a single full-leather-clad unit of spearmen (with the trait that gives +3 armor on top of that), and casted stoneskin on it (for +15, since I had a shard). I attacked Magnar's capital with Marking and the spearman, plus a small unit of archers I had obtained along the way. It was a massacre; I must have lots less than 10 HP, against 9 groups of militia and spearmen. The issue was that my armored unit, even in enemy territory, was above 30 armor, making it almost invulnerable. I'm positive it could have won the battle alone. Later, I played another game where Marking reached 78 armor (and much more than that against blunt) in mid-game, again making him invulnerable to every non-magical weapon.
I understand that magic is supposed to help against such situations, but that doesn't remove the fact that armor values are way too high for now. Not all factions are strong in magic, and crystal isn't always abundant. It was said when War of Magic was in development that quality and quantity should both be viable. The way I steamrolled Magnar (and other factions) show that this goal hasn't been reached.
The problem with units being too fragile in .86 wasn't due to lack of armor, but of base hit points. The solution is thus simple: give units a base of 10 HP, instead of 4, and increase the power of all weapons accross the board. I've tested it: it works, and I can no longer steamroll Magnar... well, not as easily at least.
Also, dodge values are way too low. +3 dodge for a shield won't change much. 5 dodge against 3 HP? No thanks. Armor is way better than dodge, and dodge-related traits for units are too weak to be of any use.
Frankly, I wouldn't remove 3 HP from a unit (out of 8 in the unmodded game!) for 5% dodge. A unit with so few HP is going to die if someone sneezes too hard in the vicinity. It should at least have a very decent change to avoid damage. I would take that trait only if it gave at least 20 dodge.
Also, "+3 armor" and "+3 dodge, -10 carrying capacity" cost the same, but the first one is clearly much better. 3 dodge has a very limited effect, while 3 armor is quite a decent amount. 5 dodge, or maybe even 8, would be more appropriate to balance the cost and the penalty.

-AI:

The AI needs to learn to save money, research techs, and do something else than spawning sicty in every free square mile. The AI systematically discards quality over quantity. Not only is this counterproductive (because the game balance is strongly tipped towards quality), but it's also repetitive. I'd like to see some AI faction producing few soldiers, teching a lot, building a few strong cities, then maybe cranking out knights in full plates. Instead, all I see are militia and spearmen, with a few weak archers. The AI is painfully out-teched and out-gunned, and overexpands.
It should also learn to adapt to what I'm doing a bit more. If I'm going the heavy-armor way, it should produce magic-powered units. If I'm building a strong economy to produce high-level warrior, it should identify my production centers and destroy them first (for instance: iron mines...). If I seem to rely on heroes, it should switch to a hero-killing strategy. I would really like some SotS1-like adaptability (in SotS1, if you were producing drone ships or missile boats, the enemy would produce point defense vessels. If you were massing anti-capital ship weaponry, it would use light destroyers. etc...)

-Inconsistencies:

There's a few inconsistencies here and there, and in particular in pre-made unit design. I don't understand why the cenotaph has a trait that increase how much it can carry - all it carries is a spear, it'll never be encumbered. So I have to pay extra for a useless trait... many units have this problem.
The Gilden-specific warhammer becomes obsolete too quickly; There's only 10 turns between it and blacksmithing mid-game, and in my experience, it doesn't see much use. Why not decreasing the cost and weight of warhammers and Gilden-Warhammers, so that they will still see use when blacksmithing is discovered? Maces would be the strongest weapons, but warhammers could be a cheap, light choice for those who can't afford to wield their heavier brothers.

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April 20, 2012 3:15:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

@ balance:

I think the problem with the heal spell is that traits only affect damage spells and the traits are the problem for overpowered damage spells, too. The damage spells are useful if you have two traits (warlock or evoker) that increase the spell damage by 50 %. Below that point the spells are not very useful, but above that point they are overpowered.

I think the base damage and not the shard damage of spells should be increased by 50 %. The traits (warlock and evoker) should only increase the damage by 25 %.

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April 20, 2012 3:33:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Yes, I find spell damage is suck or not very useful without warlock and evoker. Shard is not easy to get if playing normal magic, even less if set less make magic damage all in vain.

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April 20, 2012 3:56:19 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

A reduction in power of the evoker series of traits (probably the most powerful by a fair bit), Path of the mage, a small nerf to the base damage and an increase in hit points would go a long way to make these spells less of a one-action game winners.

Im very suprised that Evoker has survived in it's current broken form as long as it has. It seems obviously OP and gamebreaking. What other traits increase something by 50% and stack with other traits?  Spell resistance needs to lower dmg from spells! Nerf to like 20% and make evoker III give a spell. This way it's interesting.

The problem with units being too fragile in .86 wasn't due to lack of armor, but of base hit points. The solution is thus simple: give units a base of 10 HP, instead of 4, and increase the power of all weapons accross the board. I've tested it: it works, and I can no longer steamroll Magnar... well, not as easily at least.

Agree this seems better

Also, dodge values are way too low

Yes the problem with dodge is that unlike hp it offers no protection from spells so its worse as any dodge unit can just be killed by any mage

The AI needs to learn to save money, research techs, and do something else than spawning sicty in every free square mile. The AI systematically discards quality over quantity. Not only is this counterproductive (because the game balance is strongly tipped towards quality), but it's also repetitive.

Saw the same thing in my games

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April 20, 2012 3:56:27 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


I completely agree with your AI section.  Two thumbs up!

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April 20, 2012 4:48:32 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

An apt analysis. I would love to see more Hp as you suggest. The biggest problem I have right now is in the midgame when minute aspects of the game's imbalance become glaring issues. Defense is doing too much. I have posted a more detailed line of suggestions to balance each tier against the techs surrounding it in the tree. There are very few weapons that can do anything against chainmail and plate. 

 

Evoker is a big problem. I would like to see traits determine a direct damage spell's power instead of shards being the primary factor. It would be interesting to see some traits branching off each Elemental Spellbook. For instance, I am working on one called Fire Evoker, which increases Fire Damage Spells by 25% and unlocks a spell called Flamethrower once you have Path of the Mage. The prereq is Fire Disciple and Path of the Mage. If you are level 5 and have Fire Mage, you can get Fire Affinity, which reduces damage from fire attacks by 25%, with the chance to increase that amount later on. That is the direction I see the Evoker trait moving. It is rather crude as a flat bonus to all damage spells. 

 

The AI issues are rather bothersome. I am going to see if I can't mod their strategies to produce double the units. I play with .003 for my wages from labor def. It certainly allows the AI to function better. I think they are having money issues as you say.

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April 20, 2012 5:03:26 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I rather disagree in that spell damage starts being completely garbage and continues to close the gap until it is only, a big under-par.  With pretty much half the large map, I'm doing over 200 a cast with a level 32 path of mage champion, using soul burn. That has a 1 turn cast time.  With a 2 turn cast time, I can do wail of the banshee for up to 64 damage to all units.

Impressive?

No, Laughable. He is traveling with 4 heroes that are literally half is level. They are Melee-heros that are boasting lovely mauling, counter attacking and/or backswinging weapons (abilities granted through skills and weapons), and using them to dual strike or titan strike or stun for more damage per round than my mage can ever dream of.

Casters - are still underpowered compared to melee classes.  This game has a huge problem however, in that heros/champion absolute laugh at every army/monster out there past level 14 or so. So there are two options:

Keep it mostly the same but increase the power of casters at lower level, and perhaps a tiny boost at upper levels; this will result in mostly the same game now where armies are not necessary past mid game/early-mid game. OR

Do the above, then completely undercut the base power of every hero ability, attack, defence, etc in game. This will allow armies to still play a roll at later levels.

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April 20, 2012 5:37:41 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

@Nerhesi, 

Seems like you are talking about balance at the endgame. That is only really something to balance once the rest of the game is where it needs to be.

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April 20, 2012 6:06:08 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Mages seem most OP against large stacks - Dirge of Ceresa and similar multi-target spells when properly boosted can just do obscene amounts of damage.

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April 20, 2012 6:24:12 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting ,

Also, dodge values are way too low. +3 dodge for a shield won't change much. 5 dodge against 3 HP? No thanks. Armor is way better than dodge, and dodge-related traits for units are too weak to be of any use.

Agree with everything but this (which I still kind of agree with).

On its own, dodge is a harmless little fun ability to put on champions and units. In combination with armor, it's game breaking.

A few extra HP/unit might seem like a big deal, but if you make a defensive unit with +10 dodge from traits, +10 from a shield and another +20 from spells in full plate armor... Keep in mind that dodge provides exponential returns per point (most easily pointed out when getting the last point of dodge to make dodge = accuracy, you've gone from 1/accuracy hit chance to 0% hit chance, infinity times less damage than 1/accuracy). I would be really careful with dodge.

Best thing to do would be to make dodge and armor incompatible, where dodge is reduced by armor (along with initiative). Then dodge could safely be buff. Unfortunately, this would make shields and armor not compatible as well, so shields would have to change. Maybe there could be a "small shield" category the provides dodge bonuses, and a "heavy shield" category that provides superior defense?

 

Also, having level impact weight carrying ability (or whatever) still renders the entire encumbrance system worthless for champions.

 

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April 20, 2012 6:27:57 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting seanw3,
@Nerhesi, 

Seems like you are talking about balance at the endgame. That is only really something to balance once the rest of the game is where it needs to be.

This is true.

Plus... level 32? Wow. Long game.

Anyway, obviously spell casters start off weak, grow in power incredibly fast as they hit their early feats and get lots of shards, then taper off. Combat units are slightly more linear in their progression.

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April 20, 2012 8:35:54 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


 OF course mage is not powerful and had not a chance to fight nation if he don't had a lot of shards while a.i do, while fighter do had a chance to beat back with high dogse, high densec, high attack, ton of heath point, ect..

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