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Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #29: Combat Mechanics Overview

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Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter Update #29: Combat Mechanics Overview

Game News - posted by Infinitron on Mon 2 May 2016, 18:05:13

Tags: David Rogers; inXile Entertainment; The Bard's Tale IV: Barrows Deep

Today's Bard's Tale IV Kickstarter update introduces a new name to the Codex pantheon - David Rogers, Systems Designer. It's our first comprehensive look at the game's combat mechanics, the first in a multi-part series. The update is extremely crunchy, and even uses the term 'blobber' for extra Kodex Kredits. Here's an excerpt, which includes a mockup (not a screenshot!) of the described combat scenario:

At the core of our design for The Bard's Tale IV is the idea that all attacks and abilities should be interesting to use. We are trying to move away from giving every character the same basicattack ability that just does damage. While doing single target damage is effective, there isn't a lot of strategy revolving around the choice of whether or not to attack your enemy. The answer is generally yes. That's an example of a missed strategic opportunity we wanted to capitalize on. Your weapons, spells, and abilities will offer their own unique attack types that often have different built-in properties to set them apart. You're saving the world, gosh darn it, so you'd better do something heroic! These differences can be minor or major, but the point is that each attack is designed to shine in different scenarios. Throughout your adventure you'll encounter enemies using new abilities and tactics. You'll need to keep evolving your strategy to be victorious.

When examining the anatomy of an attack and making it interesting to use, we have a number of qualities at our disposal. These include Attack Pattern, Damage, Damage Type, Special Effect, and Cost (Just to name a few). In this update, we'll cover Attack pattern, Damage, and Special Effects. We'll cover the other elements in a later update. Let's start by breaking these down one at a time.

First is attack pattern. Keeping in mind the influence the battlefield plays on our gameplay, each attack has a pattern associated with it that dictates who the attack will affect. An attack pattern may look something like this.

This attack pattern is something you'd find on a sword thrust attack, and indicates it will attack forward, striking the closest enemy directly in front of it, up to two grid squares away. Other abilities may be able to pierce multiple targets, may strike from different directions, or be able to directly target an opponent regardless of their position (this is especially true of magical attacks). In game, you'd see a helpful targeting indicator show you the range of your attack, along with who'll ultimately be affected.

Our attack shown in the image above has a range of 2. Since our Warrior is in the front row, he can reach all the way to the enemies' back row. That enemy ogre is in for some poking the likes of which he's never seen! Had the Warrior been sitting in his back row, he wouldn't have been able to reach the ogre. The Hunter, positioned behind the Warrior, has long ranged bow attacks that can strike up to three grid squares away and is more than capable of sniping the ogre from relative safety.

Like we've said in previous updates, we want to allow player to experiment with multiple party compositions, including ones that might not conform to the tank + DPS format. One way this grid system supports that goal is evasion based defense and enemy disruption. Evasion based defense is the idea that I can attack with a character and then move that character in such a way that it makes it difficult for my enemy to effectively re-position themselves to mount a concentrated counterattack. Rogues are particularly good at this sort of hit and run tactic. Enemy disruption is similar, in that some classes are capable of throwing their enemies around the battlefield, disrupting their formation and making it difficult for them to effectively strike back in their following turn.

Now that we know who we're attacking, let's talk about the bloody part: Damage. Damage is a pretty simple calculation. Damage comes from the character's stats, which are sourced from a variety of places including gear, skills, level, etc. Most of the time, damage is a fixed amount instead of a random range. This really allows you to plan out the perfect combo, that will for sure take that ogre down before he crushes your skull in. There are some abilities that do random damage, but that random element is something special about the ability that makes it unique.

Once damage is dealt, then we apply any additional effects. This is where attacks start to get more interesting. An effect might knock an enemy to the side, exposing that frail caster he was protecting. Another effect might be a poison that damages an enemy over time. Yet another might be a debuff that reduces a target's armor, softening it up for your allies. You get the idea - effects open up a world of possibilities for us to play with.

To give you a more real-world example of how attacks can synergize in interesting ways, during our playtesting, one of the synergies that the warriors have been using is a bleed and bash combo. Axe-wielding warriors can cause their target to bleed, which causes them to take damage whenever they move around the battlefield. You can imagine them exerting themselves and gushing blood, leaving a red trail behind them as they bleed out. Once that effect has been applied, shield and club wielding warriors get to work. These blunt armaments can often knock an enemy from one grid square to the next, throwing them out of their ideal position and opening up attacks to the more vulnerable glass cannons they've been protecting. The nice thing is, when you forcibly move an enemy, it also triggers the bleeding effect. If done right, you can get a nice ping-pong combo by bashing a bleeding enemy back and forth between warriors, each time causing them to take bonus bleed damage.
Read the full update, it's good stuff. Between this and BattleTech, it's like a new age of systems-centric Kickstarters these days.

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