The Crowfall Combat Strike team has assembled in the Crow's Nest, a tactical team aimed at developing the next level of combo and action-based combat. Taking a mixture of the DCUO and TERA combat models as their North Star, Crowfall has found the starting point in designing their unique fighting personality. What could go possibly go wrong with team of lead Thomas Blair, Design lead and a his band of merry men, Tully Ackland (Design), Mike McShaffry and Mark Bourland (Engineering) and Nicholas McBride (Art/Animation) working together to bring all the aspects of combat together into a cohesive system?
To keep from starting from complete scratch, ArtCraft searched and found what they wanted to be their combat system to be. But don’t despair, Thomas Blair stated: “A Guiding Star doesn’t mean wholesale copy a game down to the last bit. There will be mechanics that are new and fresh, physics alone is already fun in ways we can’t predict.”
Such a simple statement is encouraging, giving a hint at the new things being done with old models that are catching them by surprise and driving even more innovations. While many that hear “we will be like ‘X’ game” and close their eyes and ears assuming nothing new will occur, I am optimistic as the games Crowfall wants to be like are each fun in their rights. The blend of action and chained abilities while keeping the hotbar bloat to a minimum sounds ideal.
Combat in Crowfall will use resources to control ability usage. An example of resource use is the Knight's primary attacks (Left Mouse) which generate mana while other abilities drain mana. He can also gain mana by working near a support class that is using its abilities to supplement the Knight’s mana pool. Action abilities (Right Mouse) use stamina that regenerates over time, deplete your stamina and you're unable to defend yourself. Chaining abilities only show on the hotbar when the ability can be used, whether in the beginning, middle or end of the chain. Chained skills can be activated on both the left and right mouse buttons. To gain access to the deeper abilities, you have to execute them in order. While all of this sounds familiar, the hint of things like mass when blocking that can affect the abilities when used in different ways is sure to spice things up significantly. Time will tell if the ability chains bind us or set us free.
The frustration of skill power chains is the inevitable need to reset and begin a series of abilities again. You end up just playing the number sequence game of most useful combinations rather than being reactive to the situation. While not having access to Onslaught III until you use Onslaught II makes sense from an animation and a building up to a finish standpoint. If there is not an alternate way to get there or a way to extend the time to use the next ability after sidestepping the chain temporarily, then it becomes a predictable system.
There is loss of tactical control in a system that will leave the most powerful skills out of reach unless you ignore the situation at hand and stick to the chain for the sake of the chains finishing the move. While I am confident Artcraft is aware the problem and are working on the solution, it is going to plague the players with worry until we can see it in action. As this is the first in many Combat Chats, we must be patient as the Combat Tactical Team does maneuvers in the Crow’s Nest, safe from prying eyes, with faith that once they hit the battlefield of social media they will be ready to decimate the skepticism and answer all the Combat questions that we have. In the mean time we can read up on Milestone 1 - combat testing and know we don’t have long before pre-alpha testing begins.