Mordhau

Thoughts on game balance from a former chiv player (long post)

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  • 7 Jun '19
 FALCONPUNCH

Hello,

I like this game and have high hopes for its lifespan. I stopped playing Chiv about two years ago as I found the gameplay increasingly ridiculous with the reverse overhead spam and absurd-looking drags. I wanted to comment on the current state of the game and what I’ve observed over the last few weeks. Overall I think it's a vast improvement over Chiv. I don’t intend to lay my opinion out here as though it’s the gospel truth. I’m an imperfect player and am always looking to improve and consider other perspectives.

First of all, we need more maps and the map balance against blue needs to be addressed. I think this is the most pressing step to preserve the game’s health. People are getting sick of the same maps and of losing on blue. I won’t elaborate further because I think the devs are well aware.

That said, I think the 1 v 1 weapon balance is an acceptable spot. The success of this game seems due to its deep mechanical system, which has some issues still but is sound overall. As far as team fights go, I think the spear is easily the strongest weapon, but I also think that’s the way it should be when considering human history. Team fights tend to unfold so dynamically that shifting focus of the game’s balance around them seems inadvisable - which is why I’m glad that the weapon purchase system exists.

Duelling:

A loose hierarchy of weapons exists in duelling but I have not noticed any clear signs of dominance. I assume that the rest of the game was balanced around the longsword as the centerpiece, and if I could only use one weapon it would be the longsword, but I also think it’s a bit overrated as it doesn’t perform in any given area outstandingly. It’s fast and draggable, but I struggle to riposte / drag my way past a skilled player because these folks are so used to dealing with the LS. I know that there are people out there who are beasts with the LS’s regular grip but all of the best players I see in the duel servers use more exotic weapons (I know the clan scene is more skilled overall, just going off of what I’ve observed).

I find myself using the Mordhau grip for most duels except squishies now. It’s comparable to the mace in speed, damage and reach and engenders a similar playstyle: weak, fast stabs used to jab and disrupt rhythm followed by overhead feints / flanking strikes, all within face-hugging distance. It does not, however, two shot to the body as the mace does, making it slightly worse IMO. I think that’s a fair tradeoff given the longsword’s overall versatility. Given most player’s preponderance towards wearing armor, I only switch to the regular grip to finish someone off, fight someone with a shorter weapon than me, or fight the odd unarmored Zwei / Maul user. I have spent so much time with the training swords that I feel more comfortable facing a longsword than I do some of the other weapons and I don’t think I’m alone there. I have also noticed that people tend to respect LS users, perhaps due to its aesthetic appeal and balanced attributes. I rarely see people complaining about it in chat, even though it’s considered a very good all-round weapon. Funny how that works.

Other strong weapons:

The mace. I’ve just started using this thing with a targe + dodge and 2/3/1 build and it destroys. It’s ugly, short and the swings are kind of slow but none of that matters when you’re in someone’s face and feinting / accelling. I can see my opponents become visibly demoralized when they lose half their health in heavy armor because of a single feint that they bit down on. The mace's thrust is low-key one of the best attacks in the game, as it can be used as a deceptively fast interrupt when the 2H user you’re facehugging tries to feint or morph a big attack. I typically lose when using the mace against someone who is very good at kicking facehuggers, or just much better than me in general but I suspect that when more people start using this weapon there will be a lot of complaints about it.

The estoc. This sword’s length, damage and draggability make it a much more versatile and deadly rapier. There’s a guy in the NA duel servers who will show up and clean the place out with an estoc, no dodge, just constant stab feints and flicks, underhand attacks to the legs, he appears like a hungry phantasm and ruins whatever food chain has been generated up to that point and then disappears, usually before someone can kill him. I started using it today and found it incredibly powerful and pretty easy to use, particularly combined with dodge. Three stabs will kill almost everyone I fight, often I’ll finish in two if I hit the head which isn’t that hard because the stabs shoot out like laser beams and the weapon’s almost invisible tip makes it difficult to track. I realize that stabs are, on paper, easy to counter with chambers, but throw in latency, dragged swings, morphs and mixed angles and a skilled estoc user is very hard to fight against.

I don’t know what the current consensus is on the estoc’s balance but I am surprised at its lack of popularity. This weapon was a PVP nightmare in Dark Souls (estoc is bestoc) and the strategies to apply to a long, fast, pokey weapon are universally obnoxious across gaming. I also don’t know why it has Mordhau grip as it’s alt mode. Using a Mordhau grip with the estoc makes the blade look like it’s going to snap or bend. I suppose I should be grateful that the alt-mode isn’t half-swording or we’d have even more stab spam on our hands.

Executioner sword. It doesn’t combo but the weapon can be dragged in a convincingly disguised fashion with deceptive swing timing. I’ve encountered a few players who are skilled at performing body feints with this weapon, particularly when it’s their turn to riposte. If their opponent doesn’t bite on the body feint, they will attack in earnest and the windup will appear slow, almost passive, and then the sword will whip into face with incredible speed out of nowhere (lower attacks are popular for this as it allows players to disguise the weapon by shielding it with their bodies). Add latency to this and the person who gets hit ends up looking and feeling like an idiot. Gambling to interrupt doesn’t work, chambering often doesn’t work because of how commonly this counter-attack gets morphed, you basically just have to time a parry well or you will get hit for half your HP, mix it in with feinting and the weapon is just stressful to fight. I don’t think I have enough information to pass a verdict, as the sword is difficult to counter, seems gimmicky and takes advantage of odd-looking animations...but also takes a lot of skill and timing which should be rewarded. I am half-convinced that there is something “off” about this sword, like it’s hitboxes might be wonky, perhaps because I get hit with it disproportionately compared to other slow-fast drag weapons.

The messer. I haven’t used this much, duelled with it a bit in Chiv. Nice drags and solid damage. The 1H mode’s animations when paired with feints and morphs are, to be honest, confusing (the Eveningstar produces a similar effect). I see a lot of players attempting to exploit this by feinting / morphing / dragging repeatedly as they run towards their opponents, so that the defender has no idea which way the attack will come from. The weapon will often appear to float in the air, nearly dangling from the wielder’s hand. However, messer drags do not frighten me as much as the executioner sword technique mentioned above and my duels against messers seem faster paced. I would characterize the messer as a strong but quirky weapon and while I dislike dealing with the floating sword phenomenon, I imagine it will be healthy for the game to have weapons with distinct personalities and handling characteristics. I am aware that both the messer and executioner sword can be countered with offensive chambering / kicks / footwork to regain initiative, it’s just that these counters typically involve gambling.

The bastard sword and the greatsword both appear to function as spin-offs of the longsword’s regular grip, particularly in duelling, with requisite trades in speed and power. I have seen the bastard sword used effectively when paired with a parrying shield as it essentially becomes a more versatile, slower rapier, but the lack of a Mordhau grip really makes the LS the superior choice IMO. The greatsword was my favorite weapon in Chivalry and it's still a strong weapon due to its roundedness but it’s maybe just a bit too slow for duelling. The weapon has acceptable drags but the playstyle is a bit plain and I find it predictable, it seems much stronger up close, used as a pseudo-axe due to its high damage. When initiated from too far away the sword’s attacks become easy to block and its drags do not slow the weapon down dramatically enough to bait a skilled defender. The reach comes in handy only when people are trying to escape.

I have yet to see the poleaxe used effectively in duels, although having used the weapon in Frontline I see no reason why it would not be a solid choice. However, I would draw an unfavorable comparison for the polaxe versus the longsword as the game’s jack-of-all-trades. While stronger, the axe is slower and more expensive. The anti-armor mode, unlike the LS, does not dramatically change the weapon’s handling characteristics, which makes the weapon easier to learn and perhaps more reliable to some but also limits its versatility and ability to change tempo. By comparison, when choosing the longsword you get two entirely different effective weapons in one cheaper package.

I have seen some players perform well in duels by dragging the bardiche but they were skilled to begin with. The other polearms and the 2H axes are also viable, all of the 2H weapons are really, but they’re just not as fast or versatile as the top tier swords IMO. Their advantage, I think, is primarily in elements of surprise and niche tricks that people haven’t seen a million times because the swords are so popular. Good maul / eveningstar users can be scary but I haven’t encountered too many that I couldn’t figure out within a few duels. The weapon seems too slow and short and can be interrupted during windup - the best maul users appear to stab and feint constantly to try and draw their opponents into a small window of exposure. If they can capitalize on it, I die right away. If I don’t bite, they just burn themselves out, get interrupted and then they can’t get the initiative back because the weapon is too slow.

Chambering:

Perhaps the main issue I have right now with the game mechanics is that chambering is simply not worth it very often. I appreciate the rock paper scissors system of feinting, morphing and chambering but out of those three techniques chambers are the most difficult to time and execute correctly. But they consume so much stamina, and if your opponent is good enough the chambered attack will typically just be parried because it’s difficult to properly morph a chambered attack. It’s good against feints, yes, but the threat of morphs makes chambering in itself a gamble. The chambering user still has to properly match the timing and direction of the attacker and keep an eye out for a morph. It’s difficult to use chambering to seize initiative because of this, as I find myself in a defensive, or at least cautious mindset when using them. I often don’t bother with it now because it safer to just read the attack and try to parry. And when I do chamber an attack and it gets parried, I’ve just executed a risky and relatively difficult maneuver at a loss. If an opponent is good enough for me to actually bother trying to chamber their attacks - I.E they are selling their feints very well, the answer to my chambers is just to morph, which is a lot easier for them.

Perks:

Dodge and second wind seem to be the only perks worth taking in 1 v 1. I see a lot of people complain about dodge in duelling servers if they’ve been beaten by a dodger. I enjoy dodge a lot myself, as I played a lot of MAA in Chiv. It’s not nearly as useful as it was in that game which I’m okay with, but I’d consider it a no-brainer if you plan to use any of the shorter weapons, if only for the backstep which can induce missed swings as long as you’re not too deep in the opponent’s effective range. I’m not sure how the devs feel about dodge; I don’t think it’s overpowered and it cannot transform a bad player into a good one, but it’s such an obvious choice for duelling that I don’t see why everyone wouldn’t take it when using a five-point or cheaper weapon.

In frontline, I run dodge + bloodlust + 3/3/1 with no weapons and once I get my hands on a spear or any of my favorite swords I turn into an overpowered miniboss and generally only get killed if I get swarmed, or I run into a more skilled miniboss on the other team. Bloodlust functions as this weird form of ultra capitalism, the better players can use it to farm the weaker players to become even more dominant. I know this game doesn’t hand out participation medals, but it’s just a weird perk to have in the game considering how big of a gulf there already is between skilled and unskilled players. Obviously I’m not going to stop using it...but there you go.

Anyway, kudos to Triternion for pulling this off. I vaguely remember reading on the Chiv forums that a bunch of disgruntled vets planned to rebuild their beloved game from the ground up but I dismissed the notion as a pipe dream because of how easily projects such as this one can fall apart (Is Crush the same EU Crushed from Chiv? We never played together but I remember he had quite the rep as a cantankerous duellist). Anyway, I don’t know the full development story but I’m happy that your team pulled this off. Great work.

Cheers!

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  • 7 Jun '19
 Bɑbɑг

Yes Crush is the same guy you heard about. Same with Marox. Both were competitive chiv EU players.

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  • 7 Jun '19
 Pandamansleep

The estoc feels like a better and less cheap rapier with a mordhau grip. I really love that sword. Its slashes in the normal grip are good too for a sword with no cutting edge

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Ecstoc + dodge is pretty strong imo. I've gotten a lot of people by baiting them into thinking I'm about to chamber their stab but you dodge last second and you whiff punish them for half their health. Even if you misjudge their stab distance you'll still get the chamber off but you're most likely going to be in a serious stamina deficit.

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  • 7 Jun '19
 Schwarzchild

the only problem i have is zwei length, yeah it seems long but the length seems fake, stabs seem to be small for zweihander as it feels like using a longsword/greatsword. i would prefer having the zwei get atleast 10cm more (135 to 145) to atleast make it feel longer than greatsword/longsword, even against halberd which has an alt with huge range (like 165 cm i think)

atleast just make weapons like zwei contend with halberd or greatsword on duels

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  • 7 Jun '19
 Schwarzchild

also i dont know but theres this weird tar like feeling when a strike hits multiple enemies, dont know if thats a thing but it just feels weird

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  • 8 Jun '19
 FALCONPUNCH

@Schwarzchild said:
also i dont know but theres this weird tar like feeling when a strike hits multiple enemies, dont know if thats a thing but it just feels weird

I mean, that tar like feeling is probably your sword going through flesh and bone :P