After not posting or reading the forums for about 2 months, I’ve finally decided to break my silence, mainly because I started playing El Dragon over the last couple of days and I felt the need to speak out over some utterly terrible design stuff, in the hopes that the devs will actually listen and learn.
To preface this, while a lot of this will focus on El Dragon, this isn’t just about El Dragon (some of it is about him, though). I’ve done a couple of matches as El Dragon in PvP and fair number in PvE. The PvP was pre-nerf, and a vast majority of the PvE was post-nerf (mix of story and ops, favoring ops).
El Dragon is, in my not-that-humble opinion, the most poorly implemented character in the entire game by a well and truly massive amount. His theme is excellent and and mechanics are well intentioned, but the way they have been put in game completely destroy any semblance of elegance in play that might have been set up by good design.
The main problem with El Dragon is that he’s supposed to be a melee glass cannon that uses mobility to survive. He’s got excellent running speed, which is a good starting point, but El Dragon’s abilities, which were probably imagined to augment his mobility, are implemented so poorly that he isn’t actually mobile when using them.
- Clothesline doesn’t respond to mouse-turning and responds incredibly slow to keyboard turning, making it incredibly difficult to actually adjust the thing while using it, and gets hung up on the most random things while passing through others (you won’t pass through Brutes, which are almost omnipresent in the new ops but you’ll pass through all other kinds of stuff).
- Dragon Splash is a complete and total farce because it is an extremely short range ability with a mechanically mandated extended hang time where you’re completely and totally defenseless: all you can do is change your facing. When you use Dragon Splash, you have to be right next to enemies (right in the middle of them, even, since the area is so small) and then be willing to subject yourself to attacks for a full second before you’re able to do anything. You’re basically willfully subjecting yourself to a stun with a bunch of enemies right next to you in order to get off an attack. Presumably, the hang time is intended to give you time to adjust your landing position, but you can’t land early, which just makes it a straight up penalty, especially since enemies are fully capable of just moving a few steps to the side, completely out of the area of effect.
- En Fuego suffers the same problem that Dragon Splash does: an extended period of forced hang time that you have to enter right next to enemies. Even if you don’t want to capitalize on the utterly laughable explosion damage for activating it, the buff is so short duration that you absolutely need to be right next to a fight to benefit from it. The long animation times of the other abilities also exacerbates this because, when you use them, you eat up more of your En Fuego time (while simultaneously exposing yourself to even more risk because you’re locked in position and open for attack).
In short, all of El Dragon’s abilities need to be completely and totally overhauled from an implementation standpoint (not just tweaking their numbers) because it’s the animations/activations of the abilities themselves that make them terrible, not their values. In fact, I’d posit that El Dragon was effective pre-nerf in spite of his abilities, rather than because of them (esp since the main reason he was insanely good pre-nerf was clap spam, which got nerfed into the ground along with everything else). I get better results by completely ignoring them than I do actually using them (the only effect I recall anyone actually saying was good was En Fuego Dragon Splash because it’s an AoE stun, which has been nerfed extensively), which is pretty demonstrative (and absolutely terrible design).
Another problem that I see is that El Dragon has a ridiculously large model and poorly placed crit spot for a character that is numerically squishy (983 hp + 300 shield). He’s got that terrible combination of a large model with a significant portion of it concentrated right around his crit spot (so you can still get hits while trying for crits). The only other characters like this are incredibly sturdy characters like Boldur (1940 hp + 1-2k alt-shield), Kelvin (2033 hp + skill shield and huge hp growth), ISIC (1640 hp + 300 shield + 1k alt-shield), Kleese (1456 hp + 300 shield), Montana (2191 hp + 300 shield), Toby (1388 hp + 300 shield + 850 skill shield), and S&A (1718 hp + 600 shield). He’s got the model of a tank but the TTK of an assassin (less, actually, because he doesn’t have a skill, helix, or passive that increases survivability, like any of the others (he has the same hp/shield as Rath and Deande; Rath has lifesteal; Deande has Holotwin and lifesteal from helices; he also has a much larger model and more accessible crit spot as previously mentioned).
Now, to bring it away from El Dragon specifically, none of these issues would be all that bad if only the PvE content in BB weren’t so obviously anti-melee. There is not a single enemy in BB that is easier in melee than at range. Even the snipers are just as dangerous/annoying (if not more so) in melee range than they are in melee (that friggin’ kick is a high damage, fast animation knockback that doesn’t have an appreciable telegraph). Knockback is virtually omni-present in melee: you can basically expect to be pushed back the second something attacks you in melee, freeing them up to hit you while you’re out of range and closing again (some enemies, like Jailer Hylis, do this passively because his cannon is factored in for collision and he’s constantly turning).
[details=Just to go through the list…]
*M1.Blade Bot: pure melee, no risk at range
*M1.Gun Bot: has to set up before firing; no risk while setting up
*Primal Thrall: pure melee, no risk at range
*Primal Thrall Bomber: explodes in melee, can kill you in retribution if you’re melee, not gonna do squat if you’re at range
*Swarmer: attacks by suicide in melee, denying you xp and dealing damage to you
*Varelsi Skulk: reasonably fast melee, slow lob at range
*Boom Bot: explodes in melee, see Primal Thrall Bomber
*Golems: it’s got knockback/up and a melee swing; the only thing remotely dangerous to ranged is the beam spam which lobs slow a bunch of slow moving telegraphed projectiles that can be easily dodged… unless you’re in melee in which you can easily eat them all and fall over dead
*M3.Shield Drone: They’re in the air and float above your head; you can safely pick them off as range but, if you’re in melee, it’s gonna be shooting you and its shielded friend will be too
*MX.Striker: Inaccurate at range, can’t dodge in melee and it has a pretty vicious melee attack that has knockback too
*Thrall Gunner: See MX.Striker
*Varelsi Berserker: Drops its gun and starts doing more damage if you get close
*Varelsi Marksman: See MX.Striker
*Varelsi Scaven: They are melee minions on crack, they’re low to the ground too, so it’s hard to see them when they’re right on you
*Evolved Thrall: They’re bigger, more durable Scaven, they will only use a slow ranged grenade if it’s impossible to reach you and will otherwise just run to you can try to scratch your face off
*M1.Rocketeer Bot: You can’t dodge their shots in melee so you’ll take more damage and they will constantly move away from you, forcing you to engage, also, they fly so you have to get close and look up at the limits of your reach
*MX.Deadeye: As previously mentioned, they’ll kick you for a lot of damage and knockback pretty much immediately if you get close, at range, they wait for you to stand still to do anything, if you wiggle a bit, they’ll never hurt you
*MX.Ronin: They’ll Cross Slash you at range for decent damage and slow while charging you and cutting you to pieces in melee; the effective strategy is “kite them and don’t let them swarm you”; if you close to melee, you’re doing neither of those
*Thrall Beastmaster: Shield slam for a lot of damage and knockback in melee compared to a low damage, easy to dodge spear toss; also, it’s way easier to avoid the shield and beat its face in when it’s not taking up 90% of your screen
*Thrall Brute: Everything it does at range, like grenade and gun, plus the more annoying shield and shield bash in melee
*Varelsi Channeler: Basically the same at melee and range, except melee can’t really reach the crit spot
*Varelsi Hunter: See Varelsi Channeler; it has the cover it can create, but that’s pretty trivial to avoid; also, it impedes melee so…
*Varelsi Scaven Alpha: Only does ranged attacks if it’s impossible to get to you (as easily dodged lobs) and has a melee aura that automatically deals damage in addition to normal attacks
*Varelsi Veil Walker: You can dodge everything it does at range pretty easily; melee, not so much; also, the crit spot is often out of reach
*MX.Bulwark: It can slam you and KB you in melee for more damage than its pittance range attacks; also, its range attack slows, making it harder to close but not doing too much to range
*MX.Elite Bot: Stay far enough away, and you’re fine, in melee, if it looks at you, you’re dead because you’re either taking the grenades instantly or the entire burst first; also, it has the stun that only affects melee range
*Thrall Bonecrusher: It’s pure melee with a telegraphed cone AoE that you can just stand outside of if you’re ranged
*Thrall Enforcer: The friggin’ ground slam does more damage than the gunfire, also, constant passive pushback
*Varelsi Defiler: Melee slams can’t be dodged and do as much as the ranged attacks, also, there are crit spot issues when it slouches
*Varelsi Disruptor: Get in melee while it does its special stun attack thing and you’re dead since it’s huge damage juggling terribleness
*ISIC: The most anti-melee fight in the game; phase 1 requires you get close to a constantly moving foot stompy annoyingness that also loves to KB; phase 2 with the floating head doesn’t even bear discussion; he’s in melee against a single target for a fraction of a second; you need to be ranged to have any chance of contributing
*Bagranth: loads of knockback and a pittance of range attacks that can be easily dodged mean that meleel is constantly getting damaged and forced away while range can just stand back and kite if necessary
*Galactic Emperor/Guardian Arc/Guardian Vyn: A super sized golems; same problems as a golems just exacerbated; they’re also tall so the crit spot is at the limits of reach
*Geoff: Only melee has to deal with his crouch/red circle and the turrets can very quickly render melee irrelevant while ranged just move back
*Henchman: Ground slam stun only affects melee; also, you can get past the shield a lot easier as ranged than melee because of positioning
*Jailer Hylis: he’s just a fancy Thrall Enforcer; all of the same issues apply
*Rendain: Spinning ground blades that juggle and knockback; ranged only has to deal with the missiles that can also hit melee
*Supervisor Antem: the crouch puts his crit spot out of reach of melee but not ranged; turrets and suicide bots will destroy melee but can be dealt with safely by ranged
*Old Sentinel: golem problems but his platforms are actually dangerous if you’re melee and need to break the shards since, if it drops, you’re dead and can’t be rezzed; also, you’re on the edge and easy to get knocked off
*Thrall Foreman Grall: he summons adds in melee that need to be killed and, when enough die, he explodes for almost insta-gib level damage; the only way to not die repeatedly is to be ranged
*Thrall Shift Supervisor Varl: An enforcer that summons a flying drone; same enforcer problems with flying drone issues
*Varelsi Conservator (both of them): You can’t even reach the crit spot for 90% of the fight and it just loves doing knockback with extended air time, melee just gets to scratch its feet
*Varelsi Maligner: Crit spot is up top and there’s a lot of knockback and slow, the weird atmospheric effect hurts both melee and ranged
*Warlord Nix: Thrall Enforcer on crack, his artillery fire tends to prefer hitting the area near him so it’s more melee denial than ranged
*Aria: She has a melee damage aura that ranged can ignore; you’ll get hit by more spears at point blank, you have to run around a lot more to get the shield generators, there’s the normal ground pound knockback, and, to top it all off, she has her own spinning ground blades that she drops in melee and stands around in[/details]
This wouldn’t be that bad if melee characters actually had appreciable advantages. They’re slightly more durable than ranged characters (slightly; Orendi is the squishiest ranged with 830/300 hp/shield, compared to El Dragon’s 983/300, which is basically 1 attack) but not enough to offset the need to close to melee (so enemies have a period of not being attacked), the increased damage (since you’re going to eat every shot of an enemy’s burst since you’re right up on them), or the knockback (so you don’t even have 100% damage uptime when fighting); they don’t really have any offensive or mobility advantages either (they’re not even heavier, as far as I can tell, which would help with the knockback and whatnot).
Melee is so disadvantaged that even the intended ranged fusion characters (Mellka and Caldarius) work better virtually ignoring their melee attacks than they do actually playing with a mix.
Of course, the lack of melee compensatory benefits for melee characters is PvP. You can’t kite a player particularly well since they’ll just disengage if possible rather than following a simple NPC AI and PvP maps don’t have the same extreme lines of sight that PvE maps do, both of which offset significant PvE advantages of PvE.
The problem then isn’t that melee characters are poorly designed but that PvE content is just poorly designed (in the sense that they disproportionately disadvantage melee characters). The devs assign damage to melee attacks that penalizes melee characters more than ranged characters and are apparently incapable of creating mechanics that disadvantage ranged characters without hurting melee characters just as much (if not more).
They need to do stuff like…
- Reduce melee damage dealt by ranged enemies: brute shield bash should deal less damage than their guns or grenade and sniper kicks should deal way less damage than their rifles; Enforcer ground slams shouldn’t do anywhere near the same damage as the gunfire itself; getting into close combat with a ranged combatant should make them less effective
- Stop giving every enemy copious amounts of knockback/knockup: getting thrown in the air right after getting a single punch in is not fun, especially when it happens over and over the course of the fight; the spinning knockup blades that Aria and Rendain use should never be dropped on top of Aria or Rendain; this includes fixing the friggin’ barrel collision for Enforcers and their kin that constantly pushes melee characters back
- Add mechanics that disadvantage range while not affecting melee, such as auto-damage “donut auras” (e.g. affects all targets more than 2m away; named because they’re “empty in the middle”)
- Make it so that kills with melee attacks drop more health/overshield orbs, allowing melee characters to offset the increased risk/damage taken
- Make melee attacks peel off Thrall shields significantly faster (or at least include something that has melee attacks push the shield to the side, instead of just letting it soak up blow after blow)
- Stop putting crit spots high up on enemies so that they’re actually well within reach rather than completely outside of it or at the extreme end