Let's talk Grudge Marks. Part 2.

Crippling (Mark severely cripples players it deals damage to)

Upon taking damage players loses 70% movement speed and 50% dodge distance for 5 seconds, gets triggered by direct puke from the Bile Troll as well. This attribute is so not thought-out it blows my mind how this sh*t made it through any playtesting. It becomes absolutely gamebreaking in so many scenarios that it deserves a post of its own. I haven’t yet covered the correlation between certain attributes and Chaos Gods curses on levels and Arenas and there are reasons for that. Firstly, you can easily predict how a certain curse will affect engaging Marked monster spawned from the Chest of Trials. Miasma of Pestilence (the “torch” stuff) limits your positioning options, Khorne’s Skulls and Blood Tornados force you to look out for these dangers, etc. All these Curses and their effects can be found in guides and they will help you develop strategies and counters against every Mark currently present in the game. The core of the issue lies in the Arenas. Unlike the randomly generated Curses during expeditions, each of four Arenas has a predetermined Curse that changes every seven days. Since the cursed set changed on 5th of November, it means that since the update dropped on 28th of October the Citadel of Eternity had the same curse throughout my entire playtesting. That curse was the infamous Baleful Empathy (a portion of damage inflicted on a player is also inflicted on other players in close proximity, up to 50%).

I will spare you the details on why Baleful Empathy is a complete joke for Arenas so small you often can’t physically get out of its range, but what I can’t avoid discussing is the fact that Baleful Empathy not only shares damage between players but also the debuff of Crippling attribute. I don’t know whether this is intentional or simply overlooked by the developers, but if it works as designed, I am convinced that “sharks” play Vermintide 2 on recruit. Although this attribute won’t make it into my top-3 list, it’s probably the second top Mark that drops the success rate of your run to a minimum when reinforced by the right curse. Let’s dig further, shall we?

There are several core mechanics and rules of engagement involved in fighting monsters (or anything basically) in Vermintide 2. Most Grudge Marks p*ss on this from a bell tower and often make the experience unenjoyable or unfair towards the player. We’ve discussed buffs that improve monsters’ damage, make them invulnerable, make them multiply and teleport, etc. Yet every single attribute gives you one last chance to avoid getting killed – dodging. How do you counter a foe that either obliterates your defensive capabilities of ignores them completely? You avoid the attack. You use your character’s mobility to get out of monster’s attack range or attack angle. You learn its attack patterns and develop an understanding of what to expect: when you are justified to block, when you can maneuver and when dodging is you only option. Dodging is a fundamental game mechanics of Vermintide 2 and you rely on it infinitely for your survival. Chaos Wastes give you the opportunity to obtain up to 10 extra stamina (5 shields) through the pilgrimage: 4 from level power up, 4 from Quetzl’s Protection boon and 2 as weapon property (the most inconsistent one). This used to drastically improve your chances of survival and it’s now completely neglected by some attributes, including Crippling.

Crippling has three numerical values behind it and they are all messed up. Dropping player’s movement speed by 70% is way over the top. Not only it makes it impossible to dodge an incoming unblockable attack from the monster itself, it makes it impossible for you to maneuver and avoid other threats and if your block has been broken by the attack that triggered Crippling you are as good as dead. -50% dodge distance is too much. Even by itself it won’t give you the dodge range to evade an unblockable attack, but paired with movement speed this debuff leaves you almost completely helpless against monster, and if it’s Relentless as well you’re basically dead. This Mark is so broken it actually makes Bile Trolls and Stormfiends dangerous, since if you step into the flame or puke you are not making your way out of it alive on higher difficulties. None of you are getting alive from this if Baleful Empathy is active, Infested Foes (current curse on the Citadel Arena) will get you killed since you won’t have a chance to avoid the poison cloud from hexed enemy. For the same reason Skulls of Wrath, Blood Tornado and Bolt of Change will get you killed. Any curse that has an area effect damage will RIP you under the Crippling effect.

Some might argue that Crippling is not a big deal and can be completely avoided by not taking damage from monsters. This is valid when it’s the only attribute or you can avoid engaging the monster in melee using map’s layout. As already mentioned, Arenas give you no freedom of movement, so you will engage the monster at some point. If it’s a Relentless monster as well, you have no other option. It it’s Shadow-Step and several monsters are after you, you won’t avoid Crippling applied to you since illusions obtain this attribute as well. This leads to several possible scenarios: either an illusion locks you in place and real monster delivers the killing blow or continuous attacks from illusions continuously apply Crippling on you (it has no cooldown and can get reset), in which case even illusions will obliterate you. Third scenario is the best one – four monsters attack you simultaneously, at which point you won’t even know what killed you. Also, if there’s Baleful Empathy active on top of these attributes, it means that four players engage four monsters and a single slightest mistake from a single player will lock the entire team at place and cause a wipe so clean it’ll make your ass proud.

If all of that wasn’t bad enough Crippling makes reviving teammates borderline impossible. Unless the knocked player is the host with perfect ping, there will be a slight delay between him getting on his feet and getting his block up, even if he holds M2 in advance. The delay is usually around half a second, could be more depending on quality of your connection, but either way the time window is big enough for the monster to hit the player again, in which case Crippling is applied again and the player is probably fcked. If the monster is Relentless and you can’t stagger him during the daring rescue, you might get fcked as well. I’ve seen players literally abandon knocked down allies to avoid further casualties, which makes perfect sense since three players have more chances of recovering one dead player, than two/two.

Speaking of other attributes, shadow-Step f*cks with you in a fascinating way. Once Crippling is applied and you try to disengage, monster teleports to you at attack distance that you can’t escape from. Mighty will get you killed by the first unblockable attack it lands (which it will provided five second duration). Rampant will force the entire team to fight monster and melee, in which case there’s no way no one gets hit. Don’t you forget about 150% hp the Marked monster have. On Cataclysm that’s like 9k health, even more than that if monster has a generation ability of attribute. No way your team’s getting out of this without several broken knees. I won’t even mention Shield-Shatter now, it we’ll get its portion of love soon enough.

How do you fix Crippling? First of all, it shouldn’t be applied through Baleful Empathy. One mistake from a player should not cause a guaranteed wipe for the entire team. It’s stupid, it’s unfair and it needs attention. Secondly, all of its values should be toned down. 70% dodge distance should be something like 50%. Dodge distance should not be affected at all, or at the very least both debuffs should not be applied simultaneously. You can take away player’s maneuverability or dodging ability, not both. The only way this attribute can become remotely reasonable is by limiting your defensive capability, not taking all of them away. Maybe make it a 50/50 chance for both, so that player doesn’t know what debuff he got and has to figure it out and counter accordingly. Most weapons in the game already have limited effective dodge counts and/or no bonus dodge distance, give us a break. If any of suggested fixes are applied to this attribute, 5 second duration can be left as it is. Sh*t, you make players defenseless for the same amount of time as you make monsters immortal? Get out of here.

Shield-shatter (Mark breaks blocks and briefly prevents stamina regeneration)

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the absolute leader of the competition, the God among Grudge Marks, the award-winning attribute and an absolute champion of my “Top 3 bullsh*t Grudge Marks”. Shield-Shatter is not only the absolute worst one, it’s miles ahead of all its rivals. In fact, I’d rather take all 9 other attributes at once than this one alone. I honestly lack the imagination and creativity to come up with something more ridiculous and gamebreaking than Shield-Shatter. Maybe if you give monsters an ability to instantly kill players on sight or cause a game crash it will come close to this preposterousness.

The description is very vague and fails to represent the madness behind this Mark. Shield-shatter gives monster an ability to break your block with a single attack. This causes a 2 second delay before you recover at least 1 stamina (half a shield), and further reduces your stamina regeneration rate by 100%. Shield-Shatter monster is almost impossible to counter, impossible to avoid by conventional defensive options, it can wipe the entire team by itself and will reduce your chances of winning to a minimum. Shield-Shatter singlehandedly devalues your entire skillset, it makes any tactics and strategies of dealing with monster useless and obsolete, it discounts all your efforts in making a defensively competent character through the choice of talents, boons and power ups, it reduces the power gap between best and worst melee careers to none and destroys the difference between strongest and weakest players making them evenly defenseless. Let’s go into details of how this works.

The idea of attacks breaking player’s block instantly or ignoring it completely is not new to Vermintide 2. Some monsters have one of these abilities, others have both. This heavily contributes to entertainment and difficulty of these engagements. Good reaction and knowledge of attack patterns allow players to minimize damage or avoid it completely. This is as good time as any to go thoroughly through monsters’ offensive capabilities and their potential damage under the effect of Shield-Shatter. Before going into detail, I feel the need to address a certain stamina related mechanics of the game – Recovery Delay. The “nature” of stamina loss determines the time before stamina will start to recover. Pushing with a Shield has a 0.75 second delay, pushing with non-shield weapon – 1.5 seconds, blocking incoming damage – 1 second and, most importantly in this context, 2 second delay from block being broken (meaning you completely run out of stamina). This is important because stamina recovery debuff from being hit by Shield-Shatter monster seems to stack with the base recovery delay. On practice it means that taking a hit from such monster will leave you without ANY stamina for 4 seconds. This is ridiculous and it reinforces the opinion that Grudge Marks very playtested on recruit.

Stormfiend is currently barely affected by Shield-Shatter: fire damage doesn’t drain your stamina, melee sweep breaks your block and throws you away with no damage (provided you had any stamina to block) and charging attack cannot be blocked anyway. The first attack cooldown is long enough for you to regain some stamina before getting hit again; it can however throw you right into the horde without any stamina. Charging attack will cause damage and apply the stamina debuff, but it gets triggered only when Stormfiend’s health drops below 30%, so you probably won’t face too many of those. Stormfiend is overall a mediocre threat and Shield-Shatter doesn’t make it much of a problem.

Rag Ogre’s attack pattern is a mix of quick continuous and repeated unblockable attacks. One/two hand slam can’t be blocked, melee sweep with break your block and throw you away with no damage, jump attack and charging sweep have the same effect. The issue comes from the chain attack, which is a three-attack sequence. First attack will break your block and apply stamina regeneration debuff, second and third attacks will deal damage and reset the debuff. Considering middle reach of these attacks, presence of other enemies at all time and size of the Arenas your chances to avoid damage are next to none, and with huge delay on stamina recovery you will get hit again and again and eventually get stuck in an infinite loop of getting your ass kicked until death. Not the case for higher difficulty, as you are already dead.

Chaos Spawn is a Chaos alternative to Rag Ogre. Unblockable arm slam can’t be blocked, tentacle sweep will break your block and throw you away, tentacle grab can be blocked to avoid the initial damage, but getting eaten will apply Shield-Shatter debuff. Unlike Rat Ogre, Chaos Spawn has two quick attack sequences: three-hit and five-hit. If two attacks could still leave you on your feet, four attacks are definitely putting you in the ground. Without stamina debuff you would be able to recover at least one stamina to block last attacks in the chain, but this is no longer as option.

Bile Troll’s arm sweep will break your block and throw you away just fine, axe sweep and axe slam can be partially blocked to reduce damage taken but you are still taking damage and getting the stamina debuff. Running axe slam can be partially blocked as well, but will apply debuff. Bile spit is not affected. Overall low-threat monster, but unlike Stormfiend it can’t be ignored due to health regeneration. You probably don’t want a Shield-Shatter monster stick around for too long.

Minotaur is a hard nut to crack. It’s probably the most dangerous monster in the game making it borderline impossible to 1v1. It’s super aggressive, it has amazing tracking on charge, its aggro is all over the place and can switch after every attack so quickly that players often can’t react to it properly. The balancing factor of Minotaur is in all his attacks being blockable: single slam, triple slam, even head bump that throws you away. Charge attack cannot be blocked, but you’ll be just fine. Now, most weapons in the game have 6 stamina (3 shields). This allows you to block Minotaur’s three-attack sequence, sometimes even a single attack that follows, and once you’re out of stamina you rely on other options to ensure your survival.

Unfortunately for you Shield-Shatter Minotaur doesn’t give a fck about logic behind its design. Just like a Rat Ogre or a Chaos Spawn it will break your block, hit you twice and sht on your corpse. All its attacks have middle reach thus difficult to dodge, paired with Crippling is flushes your chances of survival down the toilet, add Relentless on top of it and you might as well quit. First attack against you will make you defenseless against every single attack that follows and with Mighty you might not survive even the initial hit.

Shield-shatter is an extremely entertaining attribute to work with. Imagine a monster that damages you with every single attack. What can be worse than that? Well, having 4 of those at once will brighten your day. It won’t even matter whether you get attacked by monster or its illusions, you are now at 0 stamina, so any sh*tty slave rat can kill you. I won’t even mention specials or elites (or second monster). Shadow-Step will teleport monster in your face, so there’s that. Mighty will kill you before you finish reading monster’s attributes. Vampiric is absolutely horrific with Shield-Shatter since you receive all the damage output possible. Rampant makes the monster basically unkillable, Invincible doesn’t even matter at this point, Crippling will wipe the team 9 times out of 10 and Regenerating will make this monstrosity live even longer.

Regenerating (Mark regenerates health over time)

Monster regenerates 2% of its health per second after not receiving damage for 3 seconds. Well, that’s about it. Easily the most minor attribute in the list. Sure, it has a 100% trigger chance with Invincible trait. Yes, it makes fighting Illusionist monster slightly more difficult since there’s a high possibility of host not receiving any damage for some time. Bile Trolls and Chaos Spawns trigger Regenerating during their own regeneration phases. Noting too crazy, can cause some issues for the last man standing, in which case I’ll take Regenerating over any other attribute. This attribute is an airbag protecting you from horrible fate.

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I really appreachiate the work you put into this. You obviously want to have an impact on the game, otherwise you wouldn’t have written such a long thread, but it is really hard to respond to such a mass of information, or even to keep it in my mind long enough to keep all the important parts.

I started to make a TL;DR version to break it down, but i i think that would invalidate your work :sweat_smile:
There are definitly some good points in there. I just wanted to say that maybe next time you can split up the topics so that you can discuss them better.

Ok i go back to reading now…

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