View Full Version : Some Thoughts on Revamped Combat and Stealth

07-13-2015, 03:33 AM
As of late, I've been playing The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, and it's struck me how much the combat system is like that of Assassin's Creed: Unity... except for that it's considerably better. So, I've been giving some thought to how the combat could be improved.

Now, Unity had some satisfying combat, but it felt very stripped down, very minimalist, compared to that of previous titles. While III (in particular) might have had combat that was too easy (due to the counterattack-chain kill combo), it was rich, deep, and just generally fun. As for The Witcher, you could say that it's like Unity, but with more movement options.

What both definitely focus on, though, was having enemy types with clear strengths that you had to play around. You can't just keep mashing dodge and attack to win every engagement.

To begin, I think it would make sense to clearly define the types of attack based on your weapon and the weapon of your enemy; basically, when you use a weapon associated with a specific enemy class, you also adopt some of the weaknesses of it. Looking at the melee weapons, we could divided them into Light, Medium, and Heavy categories.

These weapons would, of course, exist on a spectrum where the Light ones are fast but weak, the Heavy are slow but strong, and the Medium are just average. This is already more or less simulated by the game. What I propose is to also add special rules for blocking/countering based on the weapon class. Basically:
1. Light weapons can bypass a parry, but they cannot parry themselves.
2.. Medium weapons can parry, but they cannot bypass a parry.
3. Heavy weapons can both parry and bypass a parry (by a weaker weapon).

Moreover, there would be several types of "defensive" moves. Parries are the first and simplest; you just hold down a certain button (in The Witcher it's the left trigger, but since AC already uses that for running and parkour, it'd have to be something else), and when the enemy attacks, they deal no damage. However, the defender is temporarily "staggered," preventing them from immediately retaliating and only giving them a sliver of time to parry again or dodge. If their parry is challenged twice in a row, they'll drop their weapon and be knocked on their back.

Similar to a parry, but more useful, is a counter. By pressing the parry button at the right time, the player can thus stagger the attacker, opening them up to an easy hit.

Now, I already noted that light weapon users and heavy weapon users can bypass parries (and, implicitly, counters). How, then, do they defend themselves? Through dodges and rolls. Dodges involve quickly skirting to one side, while rolls use a combat roll to move far away from the enemy. Dodges are, thus, your means for evading a light attack, while rolls are your means of evading a heavy attack (the reach of a heavy weapon, like an axe or polearm, is to great to effectively dodge). Both moves can also be used for countering and offensive purposes, though. By dodging, you can quickly put yourself on your enemy's flank and get a quick attack in, while rolling makes it possible to attack an enemy who is not directly engaged or even get behind an enemy.

So, that gives us a pretty solid foundation for combat based around three main classes. What happens, though, when we add in ranged weapons? Well, it's simple enough. In close quarters, a ranged weapon (like a pistol) can be directly dodged, provided you time it right. Similarly, enemies can dodge your pistol, if you're careless enough to let them see you line up the shot. On the other hand, long-distance ranged weapons (like muskets) require a roll.

What really made AC games' combat in the past, though, was the spectacle. For that reason, I think combat should involve more grappling and even some parkour. For example, if you are behind an enemy, you can grab them, using them as an old-fashioned human shield (they take the bullet), throw them into the crowd (potentially knocking over other enemies, or at least staggering them), or just hold onto them (though you'll be unable to attack with melee weapons, and if another enemy gets behind you, they can pull you off). You can also just do a finishing move, if there is no tactical use to grabbing them.

Combat can also continue even when you or your enemy is knocked on the ground. Here, the system favors medium weapons. Any kill against a ground enemy is an instant kill, but if you/they use a light weapon, the attack can be parried and countered (resulting in a brief tussle that ends in both people getting back on their feet), while if you/they use a heavy weapon, the attack can be dodged with a horizontal roll (followed by getting back up). Only medium weapons are guaranteed kills in this scenario.

Finally, I'll leave it up to y'all to provide ideas for parkour + combat moves, but the main ones I've thought of include vaulting over an enemy, backflipping off a wall to kick one, and slide kicks... Dying Light has a good number of moves which may have originally been designed for fighting zombies, but could apply to fighting the guardsmen, soldiers, and thugs we see in a typical AC game.

When it comes to stealth (and the use of gadgets), I think it'd be good to add sound as a factor, bring back the ability to move bodies, make civilians more important, and clarify which tools serve which purpose. I made it through 90% of Unity before I realized that the coin bag, originally used for slowing down pursuers, was the replacement of the whistle! (Imagine how mad I was.)

So, here are some general ideas:
1) When a guard sees you, they will shout out, attracting guards for a number of rooms around.
2) When civilians see you in an off-limits area, see you engage guards, or see bodies, they will run for help. As part of the Assassin Code, you can't hurt them. You can, however:
a. put them in a sleeper hold
b. knock them out with a non-lethal ranged weapon (assuming any are in the game)
c. bribe them (depending on the crime and on the particular civilian; some civilians can't be bought off, especially if you killed a man)
d. intimidate them (same as with bribing, it depends on the civilian's model)
3) Your basic stealth tools include Marbles, Firecrackers, and a Whistle. Whistles draw the guards to your location. Marbles draw the guards to the location of wherever you throw them. Firecrackers serve the same purpose as Marbles, but are set in one location and go off after some seconds.
4) Wearing disguises (purchased in stores, or maybe found exploring the world) allow you to get past various situations, but you have to preserve your identity, and if you are caught while in disguise, enemies can see through it.

That's all I have for now.