1.2 Battle Overhaul Preview
The road from 1.0 release, when I first contributed to the main mod, to the 1.2 release was pretty long and full of different challenges. The last few years have helped me to realize what are true game limitations and what I really want from the game in order to have as much realism, fun and immersion as possible. Understanding the game engine and AI behavior was crucial for these 1.2 changes. Enough of the introduction, let's check out what the new version brings!
1. New stat scale.
- A new stat scale was introduced with new battle mechanics and changes to the combat system. Unit's hit chance has a lower base value but higher top value, while all units got rebalanced melee attack and melee defence (which impact the hit chance). The stats might appear to be much higher but they do not impact kill rates frontally in any noticeable way, while they heavily improve the flanking abilities of all units. Melee attack and melee defence are in fact % values added or taken away from hit chance. So, if a unit that was flanking had only 12 melee attack (12% to hit a target) and even if the targeted unit had those penalties from flanking, it still had a very low chance to strike anything. Now, with a bumped up melee defence units remain as they were in case of casualties from the front but from the flank, units have higher % chance to deal damage to enemy.
- As for the armour values, while they are still a main factor of units survival (especially when fighting hoplites and pikes!), they impact the overall combat a bit less so other units stats mean more.
- Other changes are lowered HP amount and obviously damage values scaled accordingly.
- Examples of new stats:
Heavy assault inf:
Heavy spear inf:
Light spear inf:
2. Goodbye Formation Attack - explanation
- The formation attack in theory sounded good. It was supposed to emulate the more disciplined formations and old guard mode - in theory. In reality it was a mess as units using it performed worse then those without it, even if they had slightly superior stats. It failed heavily also in the AI department due to waypoints of units (the engine always tried to force center of the unit to target center of other units). Its units often ended in odd directions, even to the point of presenting the enemy their back. For flanking it did not work as units were forced to hold the line so sometimes only 1 or 2 soldiers would attack the enemy. Sure, the player could just turn it off for flanking but the AI would never do that as it was not possible for it. Another place in which it failed was attacking pike units, since due to soldiers being pushed back (and engine forcing them to hold straight line), it was nearly impossible to attack a phalanx (so Romans were one of the worst at fighting them). I know that some might not like it, as Romans now will move around a bit more. But from a historical point of view, Roman tactics were all about smaller squads among cohorts fighting more or less independently and taking every opportunity they had, instead of staying in rigid formation constantly. Units in pike and hoplite phalanx will try to keep the formation, which can be used against them but more on that below.
- In case of pikes and hoplites, lack of formation attack improves their authenticity as it allows for their formation to collapse, if the enemy gets advantage over them (in which case, broken part of formation does not receive formation bonus).
3. Pike Phalanx - the ultimate edition
- A lot of work, detail and engine study was put into pike units. The amount of stuff I found out is immense, some parts of it gave me a lot of ideas how to balance other things in the mod, some made me wonder how in the world variable X does mess up behavior of a unit that should not even use it. But going to the main topic, pikes work now. They are able to hold enemies at a distance (not all and not at all times for obvious reasons), while they are not overpowered in the hands of a player and still being a threat when used by the AI. They are able to deal kills as pikes are offensive weapons, although in some cases they require more time to make an impact (They have no problems going against unarmoured units but armoured units might be more troublesome). Their frontal defense ability is the highest of all units in the mod right now but they suffer a lot from flanking and morale shocks. On top of that, pikes are able to slowly push inferior enemies back. If pressed too hard, pikes can lose their cohesion and get more penalties in places where their battle lines are breached.
- As for pike units themselves, they are still about to get their more historical overhaul in case of names, look and amount of types.
- How to use pikes properly?
1. If you want them to hold out as long as they can and keep them strictly in defence, just let them get the charge and do not give the attack order. They will kill less that way but also will die less.
2. If you want them to engage the enemy in offence, give them the attack order, it will force them to push forward, attacking in more aggressive manner and pushing enemies back. Be aware that if an attacked unit is much superior then they might suffer large casualties as it is easier to break through the pikes.
3. If your pikes are in defence but their line is breached in a certain part, giving attack order might be the only way to fix the hole as entire unit will push forward and try to drive enemies back. Keep in mind that, while it might fix the problem, it also can expose the squad overall. Opening in a line is especially dangerous as more pikemen are dropping their pikes, hence more enemies have an easier time to push through it.
4. While the push back ability of pikes on offence gives you many opportunities (you can even make an opening in the enemy line!), it has to be used at the right moment. Sometimes it is better to let enemies clash into your pikes for a few minutes and only then issue attack order as weakened enemies will die much faster. Due to increased flanking penalties, you must also make sure not to move too much into the enemy line as your units might push the enemy back a lot but end up surrounded by other hostiles.
5. If pike unit gets attacked in the flank, giving the attack order might not always be the best option as the squad will either turn or move forward, which in both cases will let more enemies engage their flanks. The best way to deal with it is to a) reform the phalanx into a square (instead of a rectangle), facing the enemy front, so they will be able to move into position much faster; b) drop pike formation and engage enemies as swordsmen (especially in case of elite pikes) or c) send other unit as a relief force
- Examples of new pike stats, notice very high melee defence and lowered attack and damage (due to engine workarounds):
Pikes holding enemies at a distance:
Pike line is breached, enemies are pouring into it:
4. Hoplite phalanx is back and for good - new formations and unit behaviour
- This was one of the most wanted features in DeI. While we had neat hoplite phalanx before, after patch 14 it was ruined as it started to cause an infinite charge bug. Later on we just had a flat stat buff to make up for it but it was not what we wanted to have. In 1.1 release we just took it out and buffed hoplite's base stats slightly. Now, in 1.2 release we have something special! Using pike units behavior and other workarounds, we were able to bring back hoplite phalanx. Unit will try to fight shield to shield and present the enemy with a tough wall of spears and shields, with soldiers from second rank joining in. While basics are similar to changes in pike phalanx, they are still unique. Hoplites move at a low speed and they lack range advantage of pikes (although they can still hold enemies back a bit) but their base combat skills and protection make up for it. If needed, they can also act as swordsmen. While they are better at protecting themselves from projectiles and less prone to get their lines breached (they will simply change the shape of formation), they lack killing power and push of pike phalanx. Their flanks also need protection but their morale is higher overall compared to most pikemen. In case of 1 v 1 combat, their natural enemy is of course the pike phalanx, due too range advantage.
- In case of animation changes, they now walk and run outside of formation like regular spearmen and move in formation only if it is turned on. When engaged up close, some will draw their swords.
- A unique part of hoplites is hoplite on hoplite battle. They will try to keep a distance and in most cases attack each other only with spears. Those battles are also the longest in the mod.
- Examples of new hoplites in DeI:
Standing outside of formation:
Moving out of formation:
Standing in formation:
Moving in formation:
Fighting regular infantry:
Just before engaging other hoplites:
Hoplites clash in brutal exchange:
5. Melee units with ranged attack remade - changes and explanation
- Rome 2 introduced precursor weapons to units, which meant that some would use their projectiles during the charge. While the idea itself was not bad, the implementation left much to be desired. Often the AI was not able to use all ammo in an effective way while the player would and it forced AI units to bumrush your lines. I took that out for a test and results were amazing, which is more broadly explained in next point of this preview.
- In 1.2 release, melee units that had precursor weapons now use them as regular javelins, which means that they will use that at a range and make full use out of it, both in offence and defence. Due to that change, melee units with ranged weapons will also carry them in their hand as long as they still have the ammo. The biggest benefits from this change are described in point below.
- Some cavalry units retain their precursor charge as in case of melee cavalry units, leaving them in melee/shock category (which is base of how AI uses units) would mean they do not have skirmish ability so AI melee cav units with ranged weapons would stand in place and not react to being charge, if they still had their ammo on. Same bug does not apply to melee infantry.
6. Complete new BAI behaviour, adaptive AI battle lines - how to change unchangeable
- This part is for me the most important one in the entire preview and one of those big changes that are discovered by accident (and some dose of luck!). It was said many times and it is still true, you can't directly change battle AI, at least not without heavy scripting, which might not work anyway. Some people think that other ways to influence it do not count as real BAI editing but for me the results matter and results I have. This was discovered when I took out precursor weapons and made some others changes stats.
- Going to the point, for some reason BAI is now able to form battle lines, even after initial clash, reform, maneuver heavily, fall back to make greater use of ranged troops, skirmish with the player and probably some more. While sometimes it still does stupid stuff, more often it shows to be more competent then it ever was. BAI behavior changes from battle to battle so it might use other tactics, even with the same set up.
- Most noticeable changes are small reserves held by the AI and maneuvering before initial clash.
AI will try to move in formation and get close to the player, then it will engage in a ranged fight. If you will try to move forward to engage it, it will most likely fall back if it still has ammo left. Due to how AI units target their enemies, lack of precursor weapons mean that AI units can change their target after using the ammo so it can react to changes in the battle lines more. When most of AI units are engaging in ranged exchange, it might send some units into melee on the flanks. If those units are winning the combat, AI will not reinforce them, but if they are losing, it will add more units there increasing the pressure. At the same time the rest of AI army will hold most of your forces at bay, not engaging into melee or only slightly, meaning you can't freely deal with those units sent by the AI.
- AI will also often try to approach players position at an angle, which will force you to change your formation. If initial AI formation and ranged offence will not be good enough (normally AI would simply rush you in same scenario), AI will slowly move (while keeping entire army in formation!) to the flank, again forcing you to either attack it yourself or adapt to its battleline. Sometimes AI can even slightly attack and maneuver to the point that during the final flash, AI formation will be behind the place your army initially started.
- I could go on and on about it but hopefully the pictures will be better at describing it.
Here is just an example of battle with me only forming up the troops and letting AI show it's new behavior. For future preview I will also make battle videos in which I will actively play against the AI but the purpose of pics below it to just show those new changes in the most clear way: (Note that same battle would be played out differently with different faction engaged!)
Arverni (AI) vs Athens (player)
Initial positions of AI and the player:
AI formed before my lines and does one test volley over my lines:
AI moves more to the side of my lines and once again attacked me at range:
AI moves further to my side, units that were initially out of range, now attack my troops:
Some of AI units engage my Thureophoroi in melee on the flank, which suffered the most casualties from earlier ranged attacks (as AI units moving to the side were getting close to them and were targeted by more then one squad through the maneuver)
AI troops rout my Thureophoroi units and pursue them a bit.
AI stops the pursuit and engaged my hoplites from the front, side and back. Notice that rest of AI army reformed into more proper line!
AI goes for a final attack, notice that their general and one spear unit were held in reserve the entire time.
Final screenshot, AI army keeps the pressure on my flank, while their general moved further back and that spear unit is still in reserve:
7. More dynamic morale system
- New version brings a new, more dynamic morale system. While units' morale values remain at the same level, different bonuses and penalties have been reworked. Morale shocks and local superiority are much more important. It applies also to units that are not in combat but others being beaten nearby. So, you could have a pike unit that is not engaging the enemy but in a shaken state as it notices friendly units on its flank being overwhelmed (but not routed yet). While said units will not rout just from it, it will go down if the enemy gets the upper hand over friendlies. That is a great way to show line collapsing in face of lost cohesion, especially important for pikes and hoplites. While that blinking flag for that unit out of combat might seem like a bug or bad design idea, like I said, it will not lead directly to this unit being routed but more or less show the player where he has put more troops or organize second line if first one will collapse.
- I also did an interesting change in case of flanking and rear attack penalties. For obvious reasons, in vanilla game and most mods including DeI, rear attack penalty was 2 or even 3 times larger then flanking penalty which makes sense in theory. In practice, game engine does not give a unit only flank or rear penalty but often both! AI is mostly flanking and not so often rear attacking so those flanking penalties were not enough to break players units. While flanking penalty can be applied by itself, rear attack has ALWAYS also flanking penalty added into it so in fact, unit attacked from the rear had much higher penalty applied then just rear attack value would suggest. What I did to make AI more dangerous and system less abusive is an increased flank penalty and lowered rear attack penalty. This allows for easier breaking of flanked unit while rear attack is not overpowered and only way to rout enemies.
8. Battle balance and battle difficulty levels
- Due to new stat scale, hardcoded bonuses for units from difficulty levels will not impact overall balance as much as before. While AI units will still be tougher and deadlier, it should not ruin the fun and even work well, since for example slight bonuses from hard difficulty will only buff AI a bit, so that in the end, superior tactics of the player will still be the most important.
Ritter-Floh for putting hoplite phalanx into work
Don_Diego and Ritter-Floh for polishing animations and improving the immersion
Tenerife_Boy for not giving me a break until hoplites were working properly
Hellenika mod team and especially Phalangitis for ideas and showing that you can make hoplite phalanx work