Content of the article: "My Thoughts on What Design Decisions I Think are Plaguing Three Kingdom’s Combat"
Hey all, just writing this post up in hope's that someone at CA will see it or at least be able to start forming some kind of discourse around improving the game's combat mechanics. I have about 596 hours and counting on 3K and have a dozen or so Records Legendary campaigns under my belt, so while some of my opinions may be colored by playing on a higher difficulty, most of the issues, I believe, are harming the game's variety and enjoyment value from VE to VH. That said, here are my thoughts:
1) First and foremost, the most pertinent issue to fixing the game's combat is to improve the role of infantry. They simply lack the same killing power of cavalry and archers, relegating them to being anvils in the vast majority of situations. Effectively, this makes it so running a unit with a shield—such as the Spear and Sword Guards—will always be preferable to adding Ji Infantry or Zhanmajian Infantry. This problem is only exacerbated on VH difficulty, where the AI gets buffs that make your infantry far inferior to theirs. My favorite example of this is the case of the Defenders of Hebei, Yuan Shao's elite unit, being completely terrifying to face on the player's end but incapable of cleanly defeating a basic Ji Infantry despite having over a 100 charge bonus over them. Running it in custom battle, on VH, the Defenders barely eke out a win at 30/120, whereas without the buffs they can safely win at the 80-90/120 range, which is frankly absurd.
Solution: Offensive infantry combat should be fast when they go against one another and faster still when they have an advantage or disadvantage over the enemy. This will allow them to have more killing power and make a good argument for taking up slots in your army over basic cavalry. Additionally, the H/VH buffs should be completely removed. They do not add difficulty, nor do they add an additional element to strategic thinking. All they do is force the player into a particular playstyle for every single engagement, which I honestly believe is partly why people complain about variety in this game. Once you solve the puzzle for one battle, every subsequent engagement has already been pieced together.
2) The natural response to my previous point would probably be along the lines of "well, I never noticed these buffs during gameplay." It's absolutely a fair way to think. But consider this, why have you not noticed it? Because cavalry and ranged allow you to bypass these issues entirely. Their raw killing power at this point is so beyond what standard infantry can possible hope to achieve that it's no wonder why the only type of infantry that really matter at this point are the defensive variety. A single cavalry charge when flanking or merely attacking a moving enemy is so devastating that most units instantly break or else lose nearly all of their units immediately, whereas an infantry unit could never hope to get kills anywhere near that efficiently. Archers are less of an issue due to having an inherent check in the form of cavalry, so I honestly would not change them that drastically, their usefulness is merely a symptom of how the game is designed.
Solution: Weaken the charge bonus of melee cavalry severely and that of shock cavalry to a lesser extent. Cavalry charges should feel powerful, but not to the point where they invalidate the existence of an entire unit type. Additionally, terrain should be made to matter much more than it does. Sloped combat (uphill/downhill) and terrain should be more penalizing on cavalry to turn them from all around killing machines to slightly more situational noes that occasionally take a backseat due to the all terrain movement of infantry. Sloped combat in particular is important for infantry as it is where they can truly be allowed to shine in sustained combat as cavalry simply would not be able to take their place effectively.
3) While I do not see archers as part of the larger issue, I cannot say the same thing for trebuchets, by far the most defining unit of the current SP meta. There is no reason not to run at least two trebuchets in your army at all times. They force the enemy to engage you every single time, are essential for quickly winning sieges, and have the raw killing power to have a good portion of your enemies on the verge of wavering before they so much as reach your line. In a sense, you can think of them as the biggest piece of the puzzle to completely solving combat in the game's current form, another reason why combat variety is so crippled.
Solution: Make them purely into siege equipment. Trebuchets are an absolutely vital part of siege battles, yet remove depth and strategy from field battles, which would be more in line with how they are used in actual combat. The best solution I can think of is to not make them available on the field to begin with. This will free two slots from your retinue and hopefully give you a valid reason to experiment more. Failing that, lock them behind a tech tree or make them available to strategists only at level 6, ideally with a nerf to their effectiveness for good measure. It is in the nature of a sizable portion of the player base to want to make their retinues as effective as possible. With the game being the way it is now, that by definition means including siege units in your army, which dampens alternative gameplay avenues to explore.
Were these issues to be addressed, I feel the state of combat would be in a much healthier place. That said, I'm very excited tand optimistic to see where 3K is going. Half of the reason I made this post to begin with was to kill time until the release of the Nanman. The last few hours of waiting are always the hardest…
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