The topic of this post is one I’ve encountered a lot in balance discussions here lately, because it touches upon a lot of other balance issues in Vermintide - especially the ones that currently get debated a lot. I usually comment in those threads upon this issue when it tangentially comes up, but a longer discussion usually isn’t possible because of the risk of derailing those threads. Therefore, I decided to make this post to be able to discuss this issue specifically.
And this issue is Monsters and Lords. Those are often considered as weak by the community and in dire need of being buffed. And we all understand why. Skarrik and Bodvarr not being able to finish their first voiceline before they get turned into a pair of loot die is something we’ve all regularly experienced. The Monster kill timer mod showing sub 20 second times, even on Cata, is ridiculously common. So that there is an issue here is apparant. But the core of the point I want to make, is that this problem is not caused by intrinsic qualities of the Monsters themselves, and that the solution therefore also does not lie in simply buffing Monsters and Lords to be stronger.
Because the real problem here is that there are several ults and talents that completely trivialize Monsters in exorbitant ways. The discrepancy between these “monster killer setups” and “normal fighting” is almost comically huge. And this creates a completely unbalanceable situation. If you balance Monsters against monster killer setups, they become ridiculous versus everything else. If you balance Monsters against “normal” fighting, Monsters get trivialized by monster killer setups all the time. And therefore the only fix for this situation is to reign in the effectiveness of monster killer setups dramaticaly.
And by reigning in I mean reigning those things in against Monsters only. Having a GK Ult delete a Chaos Warrior, for example, can be perfectly reasonable. But a GK Ult taking out half a Monster’s health bar in two seconds is far too much. Lately there has been a lot of discussion on this forum about stuff like Sister of the Thorn, where people are (correctly) pointing out the discrepancy in damage output between this class and other DPS classes, which causes a balance problem. But not very often I see people recognise that the discrepancy between monster killer setups and normal fighting against Monsters is an even bigger discrepancy in effectiveness than the discrepancy between SotT and other classes. And this discrepancy is causing the same problem to Monster balance that SotT is causing to the rest of this game but then in an even bigger measure. This stuff gets highlighted a lot in Chaos Wastes, where Monsters are a very important part of the gamemode. The difference in experience between CW runs between groups with and without monster killer setups is enormous.
To illustrate the ridiculous discrepancy between monster killer setups and normal fighting, I ran some numbers in the damage calculator as an example. Assuming Cata, here are some numbers for a few different classes that can be considered good Monster killers, if we imagine Ults and the most busted talents not coming into play:
Example 1: Elf with Dual Daggers
Conditions: Using power attacks, has Assassin talent, 20% power vs. the Monster from items, crit chance 20%, headshot ratio 30%, crits evenly distributed between headshots and body shots.
Number of hits needed assuming no misses: 28 (1 hit = both weapons hit)
Example 2: Grail Knight with Brettonian Longsword
Conditions: Using power attacks (H1 to H3 and repeat), has Knight’s Challenge & Smiter talent, 20% power vs. the Monster from items, crit chance 20%, headshot ratio 30%, crits evenly distributed between headshots and body shots with the crits being on H3.
Number of hits needed assuming no misses: 37
Example 3: Slayer with Dual Axes
Conditions: Using light attacks, has 4 stacks of Trophy Hunter, Smiter talent, 20% power vs. the Monster from items, crit chance 20%, headshot ratio 30%, crits evenly distributed between headshots and body shots.
Number of hits needed assuming no misses: 43 (1 hit = strike from a single axe)
Example 4: Waystalker with Longbow
Conditions: Using charged shots, has Assassin talent, 20% power vs. the Monster from items, crit chance 20%, headshot ratio 50%, crits evenly distributed between headshots and body shots.
Number of hits needed assuming no misses: 28
Example 5: WHC with Rapier
Conditions: Using fully charged attacks, has unlisted headshot bonus, Deathknell & Assassin talent, 20% power vs. the Monster from items, Monster is highlighted for another 20% damage bonus, crit chance 20%, headshot ratio 50%, crits evenly distributed between headshots and body shots.
Number of hits needed assuming no misses: 21
Example 6: Zealot with Axe & Falchion
Conditions: Using power attacks, has 6 Fiery Faith stacks & Smiter talent, 20% power vs. the Monster from items, crit chance 20%, headshot ratio 30%, crits evenly distributed between headshots and body shots.
Number of hits needed assuming no misses: 25 (1 hit = both weapons hit)
All of those examples above are very generous in terms of headshot ratio and optimised loadouts. Now take in account that when fighting a Monster in realistic circumstances (in the middle of a horde and with elites / specials about), the time it would take to actually land all those required hits on the Monster amounts to something like 1 hit per 3 - 6 seconds easily, if not more. Even in a totally optimal scenerio where the bulk of other enemies get distracted by teammates and you get to fight the Monster totally alone with one of these setups, the time it wil realistically take you to land all those required hits can easily be 2 - 3 minutes because of needing to dodge and block against stuff like a Spawn or Minotaur. Even if you get to fight the monster in super favorable circumstances where you get 2 of these example classes vs. a Monster without much interference, killing it might easily take over a minute. And this is all in hypothetical super favorable nothing-going-wrong-everybody-knows-their-job-and-everybody-is-optimized situations. In reality these times will easily be at least double or triple that. And in Vermintide that is a looooong time, which means a lot of other enemies spawn in and pile up, which could easily cause you to get overwhelmed.
And now contrast those times against the Monster-DPS of stuff like Bounty Hunter, Shade, or Grail Knight with a purple drink & Hagbane Waystalker & Beam DoT Battlemage. The damage they can do in mere seconds is easily equal to 15+ hits done by the example classes above. The difference in effective killing time can easily be a factor over 8. And that’s crazy. A single character doing more damage output than an entire team of “normal” good DPSs together! Especially when you take in account that there are 3 teammates that can attack together with the monster killer.
Just imagine if there was a discrepancy where half of the classes in this game need 8 times more time to kill a horde than others. That situation would easily be seen as completely undesireable and a balance problem by everybody. I mean; SotT kills stuff a lot faster than other classes, but not 8+ times as fast. And yet everybody recognises SotT as a balance problem, but not Monsters…
And this was all a comparison between monster killer setups and generously powerful “normal” top DPS setups. This all gets a lot worse when you take into account that most of the time it’s monster killer setup vs. average setups. Here is an example of a setup that is on the high end of “average” in terms of monster damage:
Example 7: Ranger Veteran with Dual Hammers
Conditions: Using power attacks (only H1 - blockcancel), Enhanced power talent, 20% power vs. the Monster from items, crit chance 20%, headshot ratio 30%, crits evenly distributed between headshots and body shots.
Number of hits needed assuming no misses: 35 (1 hit = both weapons hit)
Contrast the time it would take to land those hits with the time high damage examples above would need, and especially compare the time it would take this setup to kill a monster with the time a monster killer setup would need. The discrepancy gets even more preposterous here.
And for shits and giggles, here’s a setup with bottom tier monster damage, just for a comparison:
Example 8: Ironbreaker with Axe & Shield
Conditions: Using normal attacks (L1 to L3 and repeat), Enhanced Power talent, 20% power vs. the Monster from items, crit chance 10%, headshot ratio 30%, crits evenly distributed between headshots and body shots.
Number of hits needed assuming no misses: 73
Just imagine how long it would take that setup to get al those hits in. And compare it to the miniscule amount of time a monster killer needs to do the same amount of damage… in itself, this example class being very significantly worse at killing monsters than high DPS normal setups is perfectly acceptable, especially since this setup has other useful qualities in a monster fight. But a discrepancy in damage output against a monster by a factor of 20+ compared to the top monster damage dealers is just ridiculous. Might as well be 100 at that point. Or 1000.
I do really want to make clear that I do not want Monsters to get overall much easier or something. And I also totally wouldn’t want all classes to be equal or near-equal at fighting monsters. Having different strenghts and weaknesses is a good thing. One class being even 5 times better than another at a specific situation - especially if balanced in other sitations - is perfectly fine. But right now the difference can easily be a factor of 10+ in time to kill a Monster or Lord betwee teams depending on team comp, which is just unbalanceable. That stuff is horrible for the game.
My suggestion to fix this problem a would be to give Monsters & Lords protection against high damage single hits like Ults (and probably against DoTs like Hagbane, SotT bleed ticks, and Famished Flames as well). I’m pretty sure Rasknitt / Deathrattler and Nurgloth got something like that going already, so it should be possible. Ults and monster killer setups would still be useful and better at fighting monstes than other classes, but in reasonable proportions at least. And after all that you could see what the reality of fighting monsters looks like then. Might even be so that after that a reduction in Monster hitpoints is in order.
But honestly, I don’t really care just how this problem is solved. All I care is that is does get adressed in some way. This stuff has been bugging me for ages and I really feel that it impacts the game negatively.