Regarding VT2 and it’s difficulty, i really like a good challenge. I want to see the battlefield before me, assess it, and overcome it or die gloriously. My experience in Legend however has not been this. The flaws in the game have become blindingly apparent and I find myself spending more time on Champion not because Legend is too hard, but because it’s too tedious to bother dealing with. Success or failure often has more to due with luck of the draw then player skill. I offer these assessments and suggestions in the hope that FS will fix issues and make the game a true challenge for gameplay reasons and not for “roll of the dice” reasons. In all cases I’m referring to Legend difficulty. Thanks for reading!
Potentially the hardest of all random encounters, and while pugging I see more wipes that include patrols than anything else. The flaws in the game’s NPC stacking in particular make them, not challenging, but just frustrating to deal with. When multiple Shieldvermin stack/clip into the same space it becomes impossible to break their defense. If you manage to stagger one of them, the other 2+ (in the same space thanks to clipping) will still block attacks and prevent you taking down the vulnerable foe. I realize they are there specifically as an obstacle to be avoided, but sometimes they spawn in corridors with no exit and you have no choice but to face them head on. If the party has no bombs, there’s not enough space to flank them, and there’s no Saltzpyre with a flail, it’s impossible to defeat a patrol that spawned while you are in one way corridor. Essentially this is a failed mission due to nothing more then luck and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is all the more frustrating because it’s due more to bad pathing then to actual encounter design.
Suggestions: Improve SV clipping awareness so they make much more effort to avoid stacking and flank players. Polearm Vermin can actually stand behind a Shieldvermin and still have the reach to hit players in front with their overhead strikes; make them avoid stacking to do this on purpose. In terms of difficulty, the increased risk of being surrounded should offset the increased ability to pick off individual foes. Alternately, if that’s too technically difficult, make shield-breaking weapons work on SV, allowing the team carry a counter to them. Shield-breaking is not especially powerful anyway, since it requires 2 or 3 hits to de-shield a foe, so this would hardly be OP since there are 4-8 Shieldvermin in any patrol and stripping the shields from all of them will take some time. Alternately The 2nd, block patrols from spawning within the first 5 minutes of play so there’s a chance the party may have acquired some resources they can use.
Chaos patrols are far less frustrating, but still suffer from stacking issues. 3 or 4 Chaos Warriors in the same space are very difficult to attack, since while you are striking one another will be pushing and stunning you, and it’s impossible to time your strikes against all 3 at once. CW’s should not be allowed to clip into other CW’s. This would probably actually make them more dangerous, since they could box you into a corner which would be even worse, but it would be more staisfying gameplay because it puts more emphasis on the player staying aware of terrain and position. Manipulating CW’s into body blocking each other could be an interesting strategy if the game mechanics supported it.
Hordes serve a vital purpose by forcing you to be aware of your surroundings. If you use terrain wisely, they are trivial to defeat. If you don’t use terrain and try to fight them with reflexes alone, you risk being surrounded and killed or at least take unnessecary damage that will cost you later in the level. A horde encounter is thus decided early on; success or failure depends entirely on what you do in the moments between the horn sounding and actual combat beginning. This results in hordes becoming, not so much a challenge, but simply tedious. On Legend the number of foes increases to the point they resemble a fluid, and the duration of the horde increases vastly as well. Since the fate of the encounter is already decided early, this usually means nothing more then locking the party in place for an annoying amount of time while the horde is cleared.
Suggestions: Make the AI director aware of the progress of a horde. If a party clears the first wave quickly and with no damage, reduce the duration of the remaining horde event to be more in line with Champion or Veteran. The party has clearly mastered the spawn and making it last longer will serve no gameplay purpose other then annoyance. Alternately, adjust the remaining duration of the event from a “horde” to stream, with foes more spread out and easier to counter in the open, preventing the “party lockdown” effect and allowing the level to progress even during the event. Another option is to reduce the size of the horde, but mix in more elites to make each encounter more unique. If none of this is possible, simply reduce the frequency of horde spawns so we can get on with the level already.
This is basically just Horde Light. The idea of being attacked from all directions without warning is sound, but it doesn’t play out that way. An ambush persists through several waves and plays more or less identically to Hordes, just with a little less time to position.
Suggestions: Reduce it to a single but significantly larger wave, thus making it a significant threat as it opens and preventing it from progressing to a mere horde clearing exercise.
Boss encounters are generally great, but they could perhaps use a few tweaks to make them more satisfying and varied from each other.
Stormfiend: A good fight, the area denial makes it a serious challenge in tight space while the dual weak spots make it short and sweet in open spaces. Well balanced and I have no suggestions.
Rat Ogre: A simple but occassionaly obnoxious fight, mostly due to his tendency to spin around without warning and knock people off cliffs. Suggestion: de-prioritize (but do not eliminate) concurrent spawning of disablers, since these compound his already strong CC ability. Losing due to stacked CC is by far the most frustrating way to die and should be rare.
Chaos Spawn: The least satisfying encounter. With the exception of the grab-and-bite-your-face-off move, he behaves almost exactly like a rat ogre, only uglier, and the strategy for fighting him is much the same. This boss needs reworked to make it distinctive. Perhaps de-emphasizing the charging and pounding attacks and doing more things with the left-arm tentacle, which would make this fight very sensitive to positioning and give it it’s own feel.
Bile Troll: The easiest of the bosses, but still well balanced and not trivial since you have to know his attacks and how to avoid them. A good party can down him in a few seconds, and he only becomes challenging in tight spaces or when other events run concurrently. This is not a complaint, having a ‘breath of fresh air’ encounter is good for variety.
Ratling Gunner: This guy’s fine.
Warpfire Thrower: This guys fine. Just make sure he spawns at a distance from the party. I once saw him spawn in melee range and immediately blow the entire party off the ledge in Athel Yenlui. Bad luck should not wipe a party in a second.
Assassin: This guy’s fine. Please fix his pathing though, he likes to sprint in circles.
Hook-Rat: This guy’s fine. I only wish his ‘hooking’ animation was easier to see.
Leech: This guy’s fine, although I do wonder why he exists, since he’s almost identical in gameplay to the other disablers.
Blightstormer: His storm should dissipate if he doesn’t have line of sight to it. It’s possible for him to spawn out of bounds of the map (example: in the crags behind the first barn in Against The Grain) making it literally impossible to counter.
Globadier: Lets us see through the green smoke again. Seriously, it was fine. Put it back please.
Nearly all failures in Legend are due to multiple encounters spawning at the same time. These mixtures are not all created equal, and thus have a very RNG or “Luck of the draw” feel to them. Altering the AI Director to weight certain encounter mixtures could help reduce this feeling.
Horde+Boss: A top notch high intensity encounter that’s basically a difficulty multiplier on the boss. Gets out of hand if combined with area denial (Blightstormer, Mulitple Globadiers)
Boss+Specials: Lots of variation here, but generally speaking Specials that have the same effect as a boss (eg, area denial) should be disincentivized, or at minimum not spawn in multiples (eg, 2 Blightstormers and a globadier during a stormfiend should not happen).
Patrols + Other: Patrols should not spawn if another encounter is already in progress, or at minimum spawn at a larger distance. They are meant to to be spotted and avoided, not dropped into your lap during a fight already taking place.
Horde+Specials: Again lots of variation. Stacking of several of the same type of special (eg,4 simultaneous disablers) should be greatly discouraged. Consider adding a chance to queue up special spawns and release them in 5-20s increments to vary the pacing of the horde clearing.
3 Or More Concurrencies: Each currently active encounter should increase the time until the next one. A party that can’t clear quickly deserves to be punished, but that punishment should be earned by persisting in failure, not dumped on them in predictably timed increments.
New Encounter Idea: Hunting Party
A group of mixed elites, perhaps with some appropriate specials mixed in (CW for chaos and Ratling/Warpfire for Skaven), that spawn at a distance and then chase down the players. Bonus points if they are smart enough to go after players that are separated from the party, or to wait just out of LOS until the party is busy before striking, forcing us to proactively find and eliminate them or risk being jumped.