Ideas To Improve Next Elder Scrolls Melee Combat

Mycroft Holmes

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Make it Mount and Blade: Skyrim. Intuitive. Extremely skill based. Difficult to fight large numbers of enemies but quite rewarding.

Just make the animations more fluid I guess. It's a moot point though, Bethesda makes terrible gameplay and they almost certainly always will.
 

Arnoxthe1

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SpunkeyMonkey said:
It's all about personal choice, but from the overall responses that you've had I'd say QTE's would upset/put off more people than it would appease/attract.
Well, technically, it's supposed to put you off as it's a penalty for trying to assassinate a target that's too high a level.

Mycroft Holmes said:
Make it Mount and Blade: Skyrim. Intuitive. Extremely skill based. Difficult to fight large numbers of enemies but quite rewarding.
Yeah, but then it wouldn't be The Elder Scrolls anymore.
 

immortalfrieza

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Let's see... First, combat melee or not needs to be more dynamic, fluid, and reactionary. For instance, if my character slashed somebody from across the face with a right to left blow, I'd expect to see a trail of blood along the path of the blade, as well as having the enemy's head move to their right a little, and the same to happen if my character was hit in the same way. If I strike their armor I expect to see some sparks during the strike and some scorch marks left on the armor afterwards. Arkham Asylum/City did it, proving it's possible, so now the Elder Scrolls can do it. The strikes for both combatants should be based on what the other is doing, i.e. aiming for the lower body if their opponent is blocking their top half or something like that.

Second, since everybody here seems to be ragging on QTEs, (I LIKE QTEs for the record) how about as a compromise something based around timing? For instance, like the OP suggested if you tried to sneak up and slice a too strong enemy's throat, you'd enter a struggle with your opponent. What you'd have to do is push the strike button at the right time (with an optional on screen prompt as to when to help the player, nothing intrusive or immersion breaking, like a split second red flash or something) to gain ground on the struggle, and if you failed too many times the enemy would hit you, cause some damage and proper combat would then begin, but if you succeeded enough times you'd instakill the enemy. The more skilled you are at sneaking and the weapon you're using, the greater the margin of error you'd have.

Something similar to the above for blocking. Say, you're surrounded by 4 opponents on all sides, who all attack you pretty much at once. If you press the block button about 4 times each at the right time, you block all damage from all of the attacks in a fancy manner with your weapons and/or shield and stagger each opponent, (say, block one strike with the shield, another with the sword and then dodge the other 2, or if you just have a sword block one after another) and then if you press the strike button with timing to counter attack on one or more of your opponents in a similarly flashy fashion (say, bash the guy in front of you with your shield while you turn your blade around and stab the guy behind you in the stomach for example, they'd be dependent on your weapons or lack thereof). As above, the higher your block and current weapon skill the more time you have to react between presses, maybe even throwing in some slow motion, but in either case you wouldn't have more than 2 or 3 seconds to react even at max, to keep it from being OPed. Throw in something like that for dodging to finish the whole thing off.

Of course, similar timing would also be required to prevent your opponents from blocking and counting YOU.
 

magter3001

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I like the way it is now where the basic mechanic actually makes sense that if you're within range and have your sword slice a target, you do damage. Much better than the Morrowind method and better than most games out right now with melee combat. I don't care about doing combo points to do more damage to a target or get a cool cut scene, I just wanna kill my darn target already.

Also, there is a thing called mods. The Elder Scrolls series has a whole lot of them and chances are you'll find a combat mod that fits your play style.
 

Arnoxthe1

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magter3001 said:
Also, there is a thing called mods. The Elder Scrolls series has a whole lot of them and chances are you'll find a combat mod that fits your play style.
Yeah, but not all of us have the PC version.

immortalfrieza said:
Let's see... First, combat melee or not needs to be more dynamic, fluid, and reactionary. For instance, if my character slashed somebody from across the face with a right to left blow, I'd expect to see a trail of blood along the path of the blade, as well as having the enemy's head move to their right a little, and the same to happen if my character was hit in the same way. If I strike their armor I expect to see some sparks during the strike and some scorch marks left on the armor afterwards. Arkham Asylum/City did it, proving it's possible, so now the Elder Scrolls can do it. The strikes for both combatants should be based on what the other is doing, i.e. aiming for the lower body if their opponent is blocking their top half or something like that.

Second, since everybody here seems to be ragging on QTEs, (I LIKE QTEs for the record) how about as a compromise something based around timing? For instance, like the OP suggested if you tried to sneak up and slice a too strong enemy's throat, you'd enter a struggle with your opponent. What you'd have to do is push the strike button at the right time (with an optional on screen prompt as to when to help the player, nothing intrusive or immersion breaking, like a split second red flash or something) to gain ground on the struggle, and if you failed too many times the enemy would hit you, cause some damage and proper combat would then begin, but if you succeeded enough times you'd instakill the enemy. The more skilled you are at sneaking and the weapon you're using, the greater the margin of error you'd have.

Something similar to the above for blocking. Say, you're surrounded by 4 opponents on all sides, who all attack you pretty much at once. If you press the block button about 4 times each at the right time, you block all damage from all of the attacks in a fancy manner with your weapons and/or shield and stagger each opponent, (say, block one strike with the shield, another with the sword and then dodge the other 2, or if you just have a sword block one after another) and then if you press the strike button with timing to counter attack on one or more of your opponents in a similarly flashy fashion (say, bash the guy in front of you with your shield while you turn your blade around and stab the guy behind you in the stomach for example, they'd be dependent on your weapons or lack thereof). As above, the higher your block and current weapon skill the more time you have to react between presses, maybe even throwing in some slow motion, but in either case you wouldn't have more than 2 or 3 seconds to react even at max, to keep it from being OPed. Throw in something like that for dodging to finish the whole thing off.
I really like the timed button press idea. However, I know some people might still whine about it. But yeah, I think your idea fits perfectly as long as you don't have to do such a sequence if your skill is high enough. Your ideas on melee combat are intriguing too. But I also think Dishonored has some nice ideas we can draw from as well. The really nice thing too is that since Bethesda owns Arkane now, they can rip whatever ideas they want without hesitation. Whether or not they should or what kind of ideas is up for debate though.

cloroxbb said:
It would still work in 1st Person view I imagine, you only have to wait until you see the "opening" where you need to hit the shield button to "riposte."

I just find that combat could actually have some "skill" to it if it were to be like Dark Souls. The current way just isn't satisfying for me, except for the archery.
You do need to remember though that stats need to play a good part in this as well.
 

IFS

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I'm definitely opposed to QTE's, for pretty much all the reasons that have already been stated (immersion breaking, distract you from the action, are just annoying to me in general). For the stealth in general I'd agree that it needs more dishonored. The real problem to me with it isn't that backstabs are too powerful its that sneaking is too easy and too simple.

As for the combat itself I'd say that it could also draw from Dishonored a bit, as well as Dark Souls. Obviously directly copying the combat from Dark Souls wouldn't work that well given the many differences between the games but I think a few things that could be pulled from it would be making different types of weapons feel different. In Skyrim the only real difference between a mace, an axe, and a sword if that they swing at slightly different speeds there isn't any sense of weight to them and they all swing exactly the same. Adding a greater variety of options in combat in general would be nice too, say parrying from Dishonored, plunging attacks ala Dark Souls (make them drop assassinations like in Dishonored if you sneak up on them, possibly gate such attacks behind a perk or something), and make power attacks for weapon types more distinctive (rather than just a heavy swing for all maybe give swords a stab for instance). I for one think it would be really cool if they took some inspiration from Dark Souls Dragon weapons for the Daedric weapons (or possibly other unique weapons as well) and give them some powerful unique effects on power attacks (say have Volendrung smash the ground and make a shockwave for instance).

I haven't played Dark Messiah so I can't comment on its combat, I have played Chivalry but I hated it (though that was in part due to constant lag, so I won't make comment on it either). I do think they could take some inspiration from Warband in terms of mounted combat, though I wasn't too impressed by that game for melee combat on foot.

The last comment I have for improving combat would be to improve the enemies and make them more varied, some enemies attacking from horseback, some enemies who attempt to hide and ambush you, enemies that act as support for other enemies, etc. Having the enemies react to damage would be nice too, make it feel more like the player is doing damage to them as opposed to the annoying damage sponges that tend to show up in Skyrim.
 

Vausch

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I think the backstabs in Skyrim work fine all things considered. It's straight up combat that I think could stand an improvement. It feels like when you swing your sword or hammer you're not really hitting a person, rather you're going through an etheral manifestation of a character (appropriate for the spirits, I suppose). Something like the combat in Kingdoms of Alumar or Dragon's Dogma, where combos can be chained and there feels like some noticeable impact.
 

spartan231490

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Arnoxthe1 said:
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Type 1: The hardest backstab to do. If you backstab someone that is a Type 1, you will enter into a 3-button quicktime sequence snip
Absolutely not. Quick time events do not belong in TES. The entire system is meant to flow, quick-time events are flow breaking. If you really want to improve TES combat, the best way to do it is probably to have blocking be passive. Anytime you're attacked there is a chance that you will block the attack, unless you're attacking or staggered. That is a very simple change that fits in with the overall flow of the game, and still makes combat more interesting.

Arnoxthe1 said:
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SpunkeyMonkey said:
if I was going to stab someone from behind I wouldn't be waiting for a sequence of random things to pop up for me to execute.
You're right. If you really were going to stab someone from behind and you were a n00b at doing it, the opponent would see you doing it right before the attack landed and he would INTERCEPT it. Thus, you would have to wrestle to get the blade to his throat. THUS, a quicktime sequence. You're struggling with your opponent and by extension, struggling to input the correct sequence as fast as possible. Might as well argue that having to press the right trigger to swing your weapon breaks the immersion as well.
snip
You've never actually been in or even seen any kind of in-person fight have you? It takes a lot more than noticing an attack in the split-second before it happens to magically intercept the attack and get in a wrestling match with your attacker. If you were trying to stab someone from behind and they noticed you once you were already attacking, they're gonna get a blade in their kidney, the human body can only react so fast. If you got noticed once you were close enough, but before you'd actually attacked, you wouldn't really be able to line the shot up carefully enough to hit a vital spot, it would be just like any other attack.

The tiny sliver of time in which the enemy could notice you in time to react, but not in time to keep you from lining up a good shot, is probably on the order of a few 1/100ths of a second, and hardly worth mentioning, but if you really want to look at it, the enemy would, at best, be able to block or deflect the attack into a non-vital hit, they're certainly not going to get a good grip on your wrist and start struggling over the knife, that sort of thing only happens in the movies. The punch of a fist or dagger is just too fast for a last minute, flich reaction to do anything more than try put your arm in front of it. Emphasis try.

Source: 3 years martial arts experience.

Lastly, this quick time abomination wouldn't even improve TES combat, it would improve TES stealth, which would get a much better improvement from AI that was smart enough to put it's pants on correctly, than it would by the implementation of an arbitrary, unnecessary, and jarring quick time event.
 

Arkley

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I think if you were going to add a QTE of some kind to create some kind of challenge to backstabs, the Bioshock 2-hacking-slider would be the way to go.

You know, you sneak up on an enemy, hit the execute button, time slows and a little bar pops up with a large red zone and small green zone, a little cursor moves quickly back-and-forth along the length of the bar, and you hit a button to stop it; stop it in the green zone for an instant kill/successful backstab, stop it in the green zone and you just wound the enemy. Higher stealth skill/level discrepancy between you and the foe would result in a larger green zone. If you don't stop it soon enough, the enemy hears you and turns.

It adds an element of skill to the kill along with a chance of failure, but it's still super fast and painless, unlike a bloated "cinematic sequence" in every attempt to kill an equal-or-higher-level enemy.

Edit: It wouldn't even have to be a sliding bar or anything so immersion breaking, now that I think about it. They could still implement the time-slow-on-execute thing, but instead of a QTE, they could have a small section of the enemy glow red, indicating a weakness in armour or a vital organ. Successfully targeting that via usual in-game crosshairs and hitting the attack button within the allotted time would yield the kill/critical damage, failing would yield above-average (it's still a backstab, after all) but non-fatal damage. As before, higher stealth skill/level yields a larger success zone.
 

immortalfrieza

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spartan231490 said:
Arnoxthe1 said:
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Type 1: The hardest backstab to do. If you backstab someone that is a Type 1, you will enter into a 3-button quicktime sequence snip
Absolutely not. Quick time events do not belong in TES. The entire system is meant to flow, quick-time events are flow breaking. If you really want to improve TES combat, the best way to do it is probably to have blocking be passive. Anytime you're attacked there is a chance that you will block the attack, unless you're attacking or staggered. That is a very simple change that fits in with the overall flow of the game, and still makes combat more interesting.
In other words, just like how Morrowind had it, but was switched to manual blocking because everybody hated it being random.
 

Blaster395

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I think the best way to improve it would be to encourage the player to target specific parts of the enemy in melee. At present wild swings tend to be the best tactic in all situations, with only the occasional pause if their shield is raised. However, ideally you should have to target specific armor sections. Attacking heavy plate with a sword should deal zero damage. Thrusting through a gap in the armor should be a sneak attack (and the arbitary sneak attack modifier removed since you can manually aim a sneak attack). Attacking a shield that isn't active does full damage in Skyrim, but ideally it should count as being blocked. Attacking the opponent's weapon directly should cause a parry.

Armour selection, both for yourself and what NPCs carry, would become a lot more interesting because they wouldn't give arbitrary defense bonuses but instead determine where your weak points are.

I have seen people suggest using Dark Souls style combat, but the Elder Scrolls have always been primarily first person and directly targeted attacks work better in first person.
 

spartan231490

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immortalfrieza said:
spartan231490 said:
Arnoxthe1 said:
snip
Type 1: The hardest backstab to do. If you backstab someone that is a Type 1, you will enter into a 3-button quicktime sequence snip
Absolutely not. Quick time events do not belong in TES. The entire system is meant to flow, quick-time events are flow breaking. If you really want to improve TES combat, the best way to do it is probably to have blocking be passive. Anytime you're attacked there is a chance that you will block the attack, unless you're attacking or staggered. That is a very simple change that fits in with the overall flow of the game, and still makes combat more interesting.
In other words, just like how Morrowind had it, but was switched to manual blocking because everybody hated it being random.
No, morrowind had hits vs miss random, which sucked. This would only be blocking, and for shields you would still need a cover option
 

Vivi22

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Arnoxthe1 said:
To all who took a massive crap on the OP, before you instantly assume it's terrible just because you saw the dreaded word, "quicktime" please actually read the OP in full. Seriously, if I see another person who just writes off the entire system I just thought out without explaining why it would be bad just because they saw "quicktime", I'm just going to ignore that post completely.
Quicktime events are generally bad because they basically result in you watching your character do something awesome, rather than you the player actually doing something awesome. There are some more reasons, and probably more out there than I can even think of, but that's the biggest one. But perhaps more to the point, you proposed this system without actually explaining what problem it's fixing.

And to me, the biggest problem with melee in the Elder Scrolls isn't that it's hard to kill people. It's that it's boring. There is almost nothing more boring than running up to something and mashing the attack button to beat them to death. And occasionally you'll press block but that's the whole thing. There's no skill or challenge in that combat. And quicktime events to backstab people aren't going to fix it since the problem is still there unless you sneak up. All they really do is add another thing with very little player agency that will also get boring fast.

As far as I'm concerned, the only way melee combat in the series will improve is if they finally decide to ditch the first person camera. You simply can not do melee combat with any depth without being able to accurately judge distance between your character and the enemies. Unless they change that, and I honestly doubt they will, melee combat will always suck in the Elder Scrolls and there really is no fixing it.
 

sneakypenguin

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The RPG problem of damage spikes and damage mitigation growing to small or large needs to be fixed before combat is overhauled. For an FP hack and slash it wasn't terrible. Heck it could even be good if you tightened up the combat and changed animations.
 

Vivi22

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spartan231490 said:
If you really want to improve TES combat, the best way to do it is probably to have blocking be passive. Anytime you're attacked there is a chance that you will block the attack, unless you're attacking or staggered. That is a very simple change that fits in with the overall flow of the game, and still makes combat more interesting.
I'm not sure I see how removing one of the very few choices the player gets to make in combat is supposed to make it better. It seems to me that would just make it worse.
 

Malbourne

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I've never thought of stealth as a sibling of direct combat. It's more of a thinking game: where are my enemies? Who can I get away with killing? Will the floor be messier than a Pollock painting by the time I'm done? The actual backstabbing should be relatively inconsequential. But, even by extension, this wouldn't necessarily make the upgrades of daggers inconsequential. Daggers don't need to do all that much damage anyway, if the wielder is smart about using them! Maybe a dragonbone dagger is easier to yank out of a spine? Maybe you'd be willing to risk a rusty dagger on a noisy target if it means keeping the superior weapons clean?

I have gripes with QTEs in combat for a different reason, though. When one pops up, you cease fighting a vivid opponent. It's more a battle between you and your controller; the enemy has no stake in the matter. I almost feel sorry for them when I finish, like they can only watch as I plunge my pigsticker into their pericardium. But then, that's how I prefer it...
 
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piinyouri said:
Take the good bits from Dark Messiah. Seriously.
That's be a great start.
You beat me to it. Dark messiah is a game full of flaws/bugs, but it NAILED first person melee combat. I put up with the terrible voice acting and bugs just b/c its so satisfying. Fierce attacks, executions, the adrenaline meter, its all so well executed and there is a real feel of weight and power in the movements.

Not to mention its amazing how much of a difference a simple "kick" ability makes. Seriously, just a little kick is awesome.

Annd the sound of the neck being cut with an assassination is oh so lovely xD


 

ZAZL

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Well, since crappy combat is the main reason I haven't touched Skyrim in ages I'd say a complete overhaul is in order, but in the interest of time and since backstabs seem to be the popular topic, I'll just talk about those. This is going to be a bit long.

In response to OP's idea there are some problems with it. Primarily you've put in a mechanic that lets you insta-kill enemies even if you don't have the stat skills to do so. This seems wrong to me, especially seeing how dead set on skills you are. If you haven't raised your backstab skill high enough to assassinate a target, then you shouldn't be able to assassinate them, QTE or no. I am sympathetic to the uselessness of basic weapons, but you've overcorrected in making them a one shot kill, or a one shot kill after a QTE if you don't have the skill high enough.

The way I'd change backstabs would have to do more with positioning and stealth (which would be significantly nerfed as most people here have suggested). Backstabs would work in tandem with stealth, sneaking up behind your target without them noticing you is, obviously, the first thing you'd have to do. Once you're behind them and take your first stab the stat skill system comes into play. There would be several levels of backstab skill, at least 3, possibly more, which would apply different base-damage and crit-chance modifiers to your weapon's basic damage number. For the lowest level skill, a backstab would receive a fairly small base-damage mod with a varying crit-chance mod based on how you are positioned behind the target; in a 180 degree zone marked as "behind" the target the highest crit-chance mod would be at 90 degrees (directly behind the target) with lowering crit-chance mods as you get farther away from direct center, to nearly zero crit chance at 0 and 180. This helps the backstab mechanic work along with stealth and player skill, as you do less damage and are more likely to get caught trying to backstab as you get farther away from 90 degrees. When you actually make the attack there are two outcomes: 1) You backstab correctly (at low levels), represented by a crit ([weapon damage + backstab base-damage mod] x crit mod), meaning you've stabbed your blade all the way in and have done significant internal damage. The crit mod making appropriately leveled backstabs typically one-shot the target. 2) You flub the backstab (at low levels), represented by a non-crit, meaning your inexperience with backstabbing caused you to "stab" armor, or bone, etc. and only cause minor damage (weapon damage + backstab base-damage mod). At low skill levels these non-crits are unlikely to out right kill a target, but do significant damage (close to what melee focused weapons i.e. sword, axe, etc. would do), and possibly stun the target long enough for you to try hiding again to set up for another attempt.

As you put more points into the backstab skill your base-damage mod would increase, your crit-chance mod would decrease in damage (possibly decrease/increase in likelihood), but have a more uniform % chance at wider angles. This would stabilize the damage curve of your backstabs as you put points into the skill and get better stealth abilities, having it rely on partially random crit-chance mods for damage at low levels, and produce high damage even without chance-based crits at high levels. Having backstab base damage go up and crits go down at higher levels is a good way to represent the natural progression of skill as the player character learns how to properly backstab, makes fewer mistakes, and become more proficient and reliable. Over leveled backstabs are likely to kill targets even without critting.

Something else would be to improve the AI of surrounding enemies to the sounds and results of an attempted backstab. Like if you backstab someone while they're talking the other enemies would react to it, or a failed backstab has the target calling for help / alerting other enemies.

The last bit I'd think to put in off the top of my head would be a system to vary how different armors react to backstabs. Heavier armors would resist, if not be outright immune to, backstabs; this could be represented in a number of ways like reduced modifiers or negative modifiers etc. Another idea I find interesting for higher level backstab play is having high level armors with different crit-chance and resistance zones, for instance an armor set that is immune from backstabs directly behind it, but vulnerable at the sides. A skill letting you see the vulnerabilities of different armors would be more or less required for this last part to keep it from becoming a trial and error process though. This would keep the game of sneaking up on an enemy interesting even at higher levels, compensating for the player's higher sneak skill by requiring them to expose themselves to perform a backstab.

All that ^
Is basically how I would rework the backstab system in Skyrim / TES without changing too much of the game, though as is it's a little rough and I'd still need to mess with it. Most of the systems would be fairly easy to implement and the player would never be slapped in the face with them outside of the "armor vulnerability skill" thing.

TL;DR
Backstabs are based on how well you can sneak, positioning, weapon power, and luck-at-low-levels. Even crappy weapons at the lowest skill level can kill appropriately leveled enemies. You can significantly damage, but not out right kill, enemies outside your skill range with backstabs. Failed backstabs encourage you to run, hide, and then try again once the enemy lets their guard down.

Holy shit this went longer than I though it would O>O