Warhammer Online vs DarkFall: Combat

Expanding a bit on yesterdays post about combat, I think it will be worthwhile to compare what I currently do in Warhammer Online versus what combat looks like when I play DarkFall. In a somewhat odd twist, most of my time in DF right now is spent doing PvE, while my time in WAR is 100% PvP.

Let’s start with WAR, and what combat plays like for my rank 20 Swordmaster in scenarios or open RvR. As he is specced into the dps tree, my top hotbar contains his specced opener skill bound to ‘1’, his 2nd step snare bound to ‘2’, and his 3rd step finished that puts a damage proc on the target is bound to ‘3’. Key ‘4’ is an alternate 2nd step skill that is an AoE resist debuff, and key ‘5’ is a 3rd step AoE knockback. The hotbar below this has a DoT opener, a parry buff 2nd step, and finally a damage debuff 3rd step. Those are the ‘core’ abilities that are used 90% of the time. Other skills also on my bars include taunt, juggernaut (CC breaker), throw, sprint, and the various blade buffs that a Swordmaster has access to.

For combat itself, regardless of the target, the process is as follows. Run within melee range, hit 1. Staying within melee range, hit 2 (to snare). Now snared, sticking to the target is easy. Hit 3 to place the damage proc on the target, and repeat back to the first skill. If I’m actively being targeted (somewhat rare since I play a tank), I’ll throw in the 2nd step parry move to raise my defense, and if I have a hard-hitting melee target on me (Witch Elf, Marauder, Choppa), I’ll use the 3rd step melee debuff on them as well. Once this is done, it’s just a matter of sticking on the target and repeating the 1-2-3 combat until the target is dead. If I have a swarm of enemies around me, I’ll use my two AoE abilities (though due to their low damage, it’s debatable if even in this situation they are justified). As long as I have a healer behind me, it takes 4-5 DPS classes focus-firing on me to bring me down, and with the use of Juggernaut, few abilities can keep me off a target.

In a word, it’s simple. Getting a high damage score in a scenario is more about bringing a good team and focus firing on the same target than it is about personal player skill. Given the pace of the global cooldown, hitting abilities when they are ready is trivial, and very little of the combat is reactionary (basically only when to use Juggernaut to break CC and the use of the knockback ability). If I’m next to a target, I’m hitting either 1, 2, or 3 whenever the global cooldown allows me.

For DarkFall, I’ll use the current dungeon I solo for this example. Inside are basically three different mobs. One is a caster, one is a weak melee/archer, and the third is a tough melee-only mob. I go in with a full set of banded (decent but not amazing armor), a two handed sword, a bow, and a slow-cast staff for healing. The goal is to raise my sword and defense skills while also making some money and collecting casting reagents and any usable bits of armor. With my sword out, I left-click to swing, and I have one ability (power attack) that is on a 5 second cooldown that I try to use often (both because it’s a bit more damage and because I want to skill it up). Due to how the UI behaves around queuing power attack (if you are in mid-swing and hit the hotbar key to queue it, it won’t queue), I don’t use it whenever it’s up, and generally queue it while running after a mob, as back hits cause extra damage.

For combat, I’ll try to pick off the weak melee/archer mobs first, but any spawn of 4+ mobs (what actually spawns is somewhat random between the 3 types) means I will most likely only be able to kill a single mob before having to run back and heal. If I’m forced to run back too often, it’s possible for mobs to respawn and for gravestones to disappear before I clear the whole room, meaning lost loot (in DF looting takes time, and is not the insta-right click it is in WAR). As the spawns are always 3+, I’ll use the terrain to try and block off the mobs and only allow one to fight me at a time (DF has 100% collision detection at all times). This has the added bonus that when the mob turns to run (mobs in DF run around at random, and not always at 10% HP like in most MMOs), it might get trapped by its buddies, meaning lots of easy hits to the back. Against the tougher melee mob, this is crucial to finishing a spawn without having to stop and heal. If the mobs, especially the melee/archers, feel like running around often, this can make it difficult to pin them down and land hits, and it might also mean getting hit from behind by others mobs. When fighting the caster mobs in a spawn, I try to position another mob between myself and the caster, as sometimes they will launch a spell and hit a mob rather than me. As some of the spells deal quite a bit of damage, done well this really speeds things up. The casters also tend to throw out some nasty debuffs at times, and dodging these as they fly at me (spells and arrows can be dodged if you move out of the way) is again crucial to finishing a spawn quickly.

Assuming all mobs have been killed, I then need to quickly loot/skin the gravestones while casting heal to limit downtime. If I loot while my health is too low, and the mobs respawn, it’s very possible I’ll die before I’m able to flee to a safe spot. Luckily the dungeon is not a popular spot, but dying with all your gear/loot on a gravestone that you have to run back 10 minutes to is risky at best. Another risk is getting trapped by the mobs. As I have to use terrain to try and position them, this at times can put me at risk if a mob sneaks around behind me and decides to stand and fight rather than run around. As far as I can tell, the run/fight behavior is random, making it tough to fully predict what the mobs will actually do. Sometimes they will run around (with me hacking them in the back) from spawn to death, yet that same mob might also run only to turn and fire arrows whenever I stop chasing, with his buddies also drawing bows and firing at me as I run. Sound plays a huge part in all this (thank god for my X-Fi sound card and quality headset), as hearing a bow being drawn off screen lets me know to dodge, and hearing footsteps approach behind me alerts me to turn around and parry. Without sound, I would suffer a lot more hits to the back, and possibly get trapped more often by mobs.

Both examples are of course somewhat over-simplified, but I hope they get the general point across. When playing WAR, it’s a far more relaxed and ‘easy’ pace, as even the worst loss in a scenario or oRvR just means a trip back to a warcamp to try again. I’m not on edge about every little sound or sight, and I know that as long as I stick to the general gameplan (focus fire, protect the healer, stay together), we win more often than not. DarkFall on the other hand, even in PvE, is that constant ‘on-edge’ experience. If I’m at 25% health and a caster mob hits me with a nuke from behind, I’m going to die. If I run whenever I hit 25% health, I’ll never clear a room. Things might be going great, I’m close to full on loot, and if I don’t notice some PK enter the dungeon, I’m going down and getting looted. That mobs and players look somewhat similar at a distance (especially in the somewhat dark dungeon) makes for a ‘wtf is that’ experience even when identifying a respawn. It’s certainly not relaxing, and you can’t play it half-focused, but at the end of a good dungeon run I feel a far greater sense of accomplishment than I do when we win a scenario or take a keep. I also get a lot more pissed about that PK putting arrows in my back when I just cleared the room than I do over a high level pre-made rolling us in a scenario.

The good thing is, $30 a month for both games is not a big deal for me, and I can easily afford both. I like having WAR for that relaxing, ‘hang out with your buddies (or mute on vent fiancé)’ time, as I’m not always up for hyper-focusing on my gaming. I also like having DF, knowing that when I do want to get stuff done, I can log in and get a good sense of accomplishment after a few hours. The threat of failure is there, but without it the accomplishment would mean far less.

(And just to complicate all of this further, WAR PvE is even easier than WAR PvP, and DF PvP is far more difficult than DF PvE, which again changes the whole risk/reward, effort/gain ratio)

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, Darkfall Online, MMO design, RvR, Warhammer Online. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Warhammer Online vs DarkFall: Combat

  1. Nice writeup. Pretty spot on. Warhammer PvP is definitely repetitive and simple. Even more so than WoW. At least WoW has more ‘reactive’ choices that need to be made, as well as a half second shorter global cooldown. Still, like you say, group composition can be used to estimate rather accurately the outcome of many Scenario/Battleground/Arena encounters. This is why EB didn’t stick around in Warhammer for more than 2 months. The combat was just too derivative of WoW, and much too simplified.

    So… when are you gonna join a real pvp guild and do a review of Darkfall PvP???

    • syncaine says:

      I’ve talked about PvP here before, back on EU. With my limited time right now, I’m having fun just slowly building up my character more than anything. Once things calm down at work, I’ll likely get more into things.

  2. J. says:

    How’s the population on the Darkfall NA server? I admit you have me very curious, but I have a few characters in WH just getting into the 20s now, and I don’t want to invest time/money into another “Age of Conan” where it seems that I’m the only player in a particular area. AoC had such possibility, but they frakked it up with no depth to the PvE and impossible PvP instances.

    • syncaine says:

      The population is good, especially in the starter areas. It’s still DarkFall though, the world is huge and plenty of areas are empty or rarely traveled, but that’s more by design than a population ‘issue’.

  3. PTD says:

    The problem I have with WAR is that it’s PvE is positively horrible. While I can’t put my finger on WHAT makes it so bad in comparison to WoW, I know I can only stomach it for an hour or so before I get bored.

    I think some of it has to do with the combat. I thought the WoW combat system was simplistic, but WAR has it utterly beat in that department. How many times can I get the 1 key before I lose interest?

    Beyond that, there is something about the animation that makes it feel stiff. I feel like in WAR I’m playing Clayfighters the MMO, I don’t know.

    Now I LOVE scenarios, but the problem is you are so reliant on the population. I often play around mid-morning to early afternoon, and I’ve sat in a “Join all” queue for hours with nary a single scenario. That kills it.

    I haven’t played Darkfall, but of course as far as I know there is no trial, and I don’t make a habit of buying games (at least $40+ games) I can’t try first!

    • syncaine says:

      Yea WAR PvE is fairly weak, and I agree that it’s tough to say why. Since getting back into the game, I have not done a single quest, and rarely a PQ. The scenarios and oRvR are what I pay $15 for, and those deliver in short bursts. With the recent server mergers, population issues have gone down big time too. I know in Iron Rock people say scens pop within 5 minutes even at odd times, and during peak time we rarely wait over a minute.

      No trial for DF yet, but hopefully at some point. The game is close to impossible to fully describe, so interested players being able to try it would be huge, even more so than other MMOs.

  4. Rakanishu says:

    Great writeup. I have a level 19 choppa in WAR and I have to say my heart rate never goes up in PVP. I also don’t like the fact that there isn’t much I can do as an individual to change the outcome of a match. RVR is purely about who has more people crusading around.

    I like the idea of more engaging combat of DF. Coming from a shooter background I like skill to dictate the battle more than levels or classes. I may give DF a try when there is a free trial.

    • bunky says:

      I play almost all the classes of WAR and I find I can make a difference in any Sc or keep siege (defending or attacking).

      If you play Choppa, the most important thing is to know when not to attack, to use detaunt and charge often, and to pick the right target/spot to spam your aoe. If done right, you can make 2 high lvl chars pursue you to the end of the map, taking them out of the fight and giving your side an edge. Also an /assist-macro is power incarnate.

      WAR as it is now is truly a great game. It’s just sad that they took this long to make it as it is today, with so many players having left already.

      Also, the biggest mistake I believe that was made, is that there was no good alternative to PvP. If you have a bad streak and taste the losing side of PvP for say three days in a row, you’ll start to hate the game and troll the forums about it being unbalanced etc.

  5. PTD says:

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, if you’re looking for skill to truly win out, you’re in the wrong genre with MMOs. Granted I haven’t played DF, but I doubt it’s TRULY reflective of “skill.”

    • syncaine says:

      I guess that depends on how you define skill. Is skill beating someone in a turn-based game, where player thinking/action is the key factor, or is skill winning a FPS match because your twitch reflexes are better? Is it being ranked #1 on an RTS ladder from a combo of research and situational quick-thinking?

      But when talking about MMOs, the question of player skill is only relative to other MMOs. It takes more skill, however defined, to PvP well in DF than it does in WoW/WAR. That makes it more fun, for me, but only when I’m up for it. When I’m not, time to log into WAR (or play Blood Bowl).

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