Without warning or declaration of war, the patch 2.0 drops, shattering the ground. Human-like beast figures, their dark skin blending with the colorless void of a moonless night, start falling from the sky, only barely seen in a dimming lights of a nuclear mushroom. In the distance, sirens.
While everyone is arguing to the top of their lungs about the new balance changes, here I am, play-testing the new Handmaiden’s toy, the Tiranoc Watch-Shield, aka Asur kite-shield. Ever since I’ve tried it for my first time, I can’t get rid of two thougths in my head:
1) This is what her normal leafspear should have been all along. A defensive tool with long reach and designated combos, each with its own purpose, and not a subpar pointy stick to poke one target for high damage while fighting combo controls to avoid looping it into a wrong move. A straightforward design of a weapon with decent properties in both cleaving and single target damaging combinations of attacks could have been done from the beginning, in a weapon it makes more sense to be, while leaving the new DLC weapon slot for either proper shield weapon for Kerillian, or something completely different.
2) Shields… are… kinda wasted potential in this game! Allow me to elaborate on this a little more, starting with Kerillan’s variant first.
So, first, let’s see what sets her kite shield apart from all other shields in the game.
First and foremost, it has no shockwave whatsoever: Sienna probably stole it to enchant her firesword and firedagger with it or whatever. On any character and career other than Handmaiden this would’ve been a huge deal breaker, having a painfully slow weapon without a good counter-attack mechanism built in.
(By the way, during early post-2.0 we have a situation similar to what the first game of the series presented us with, back when Bardin with shield and axe was a strong pick for a premade team due to his ability to deal with running attack spam without putting himself at risk)
Second main difference comes in Handmaiden herself. Handmaiden as we know her does not have crazy survivability like other “”“tank”"" careers do, but instead has improved blocking, pushing and, mainly, dodging capabilities improved up across the board, which makes her a light mobile fighter rather than a proper frontline punching bag. Which is where problems start to take a somewhat understandable shape.
- With all variables considered, Kerillian with her designated shield option becomes just another hero with normal weapon, normal mobility, better block (which, as we all know, in this game is an “okay” option at best, rarely bad, but never good), but without being able to actually see what’s going on in front of her. And, let’s face it, enormously bulky kite shield is almost the size of yo mama, thus by far is the worst offender in blocking your line of sight, which makes it extra hard to fight with a literal swarm of grabbing specials the game presents us with right now.
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- Shields rely a lot on their shockwave, it being almost weapon-specific (we’ll come to you next time, Sienna), and probably the only redeeming feature they have as a weapon used to its full potential. Most people I know would prefer Bardin’s A&S to his H&S simply because shockwave is far easier to do right after push or any other action, to fully use your shield as a “safe”, defensive tool.
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- Shields used to be considered (and still are) a newbie’s weapon, as they give you precious time to make decisions while hindering your ability to act upon them. Again, being one shockwave above and entire damaging kit below any good weapon, they give nothing but breathing time… that doesn’t count for anything, if we consider the amount of grabbing specials that you now can’t even properly see!
And this is the shield user’s vicious cycle as I see it. Or maybe I just can’t see properly past this targe the size of my beard, who knows.
So… how can Fatshark solve this?
Well, even if we don’t get a weapon system overhaul (like, a complete rework into a new functioning system, and… not whatever patch 2.0 is…), I still have a couple of simple solutions that can be implemented for us players to toy with, and probably then improved upon further down the line.
Give Tiranoc Watch-Shield a shockwave while keeping its “no-shockwave” personality SOMEWHAT intact. I would recommend making it a unique attack that is achieved exactly like Bardin’s dual hammer overhead attack: a light after shove-push attack doesn’t start a light loop, nor it jumps to any following attacks, but rather does a completely unique move. Which will be - you guessed it - the shield bash with a proper, huge and chunky, shockwave right into a curious rat’s muzzle. It would still prevent spamming push into shockwave, which, I think, was the goal of… removing it entirely… by making the player commit to his push attack, while not fully neutering the only redeeming quality this weapon class has.
Intellectual and mature part of the Internet, get your "git gud"s ready, because I’m about to say it. Yes, I think devs should add the ability to block incoming grabs, which many people (some of which may include, of course, unskilled players) already asked for, but not for the sake of shield being easy to use, but for the sake of the weapon being actually usable past the “easy” point of the game. My recommendation will be making only the frontal impact blockable (at blocking angle about as big as on daggers, and not modifiable), so you will have to stare right onto upcoming special, but without actually being able to see him through the sheer thiccness of your shield. You know you and your teammates are about to get pounced? Bring those eight inches of hard wood up ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°), relax and just block, as you would block a normal attack. The trick will be, of course, actually being aware of your surroundings with your equipment already hindering booth your perception and your mobility. As well as other hazards on the battlefield indeed. The special in question is supposed to be staggered and pushed far back in the process.
Guard points. Give all shield bash variants guard points in pushing/bashing animation frames and their respective block/push angles, but only if a player has a certain amount of stamina. This is completely unnecessary, but can be a good thing to consider, lest those shields will still heavily underperform. Guard points should NOT block grabs: if you try to push gutter runner out of the sky and fail - it’s still your own god damn fault.
Or at this state, any love to weapon classes that have fallen behind would be appreciated, because even tweaking the numbers will probably do nothing at best, or break everything further by creating niche exploit options (cough cough pre 1.6 daggers cough) at worst.
Anyway, I’d like to see what other people think on the topic of the newest shield, as well as variants we had all along. Do you agree with any of my points? What would you suggest should be changed? Leave a comment! Or don’t, but that’s going in the book…