DevDiary 2 - Core Combat
Ave! Welcome to our second DevDiary for Expeditions: Rome. In our previous DevDiary (link here), we covered the vision for Rome and what the game is about overall. We also discussed this live in our first DevStream which you can watch a replay of here (link here). For DevDiary 2, we’re going to get a little more specific and take a deep dive into our core combat system. So gear up and let’s get started!
Combat in Expeditions: Rome is predominantly expressed through turn-based tactical gameplay. While the legions fight the bigger battles for you on the world map, you and your elite team of praetorians will engage in tactical close-quarters fights on a hex-grid layout using a variety of skills and items.
Let’s start with the basics: Turn-based combat starts when you encounter enemies, so you can explore the area in real-time after any fight, and often before a fight begins as well. Once a fight starts, the very first turn of combat is what we call the preparation phase, where you can strategize and position each of your combatants on the hexes that are available before initiating combat. Once you’ve chosen where your characters will start, it’s time to get into the fight.
During combat, you can move each character, activate skills, and use any tactical items you have equipped. The amount of movement a character can make is based on how much armor they’re wearing, which grants them a certain number of movement points. If a character wants to move farther, they may have to sacrifice their ability to take certain actions.
Most character actions are executed via skills that are made available by either their weapon or their class. Unlike our previous Expeditions games, we no longer have basic “white” attacks. Instead, every attack is executed through a skill, and each weapon has a collection of skills it can roll with. This means that you can acquire two different Gladiuses, for example, and the skills available can be completely different, providing a ton of variety.
Additionally, class skills are unlocked through each character’s skill tree by spending skill points after leveling up. With each class having three distinctly different skill trees, there is a wide variety of active and passive skills to experiment with.
We’ll talk more about all of the skills and classes in a different diary, but it’s important to understand the basics here to provide context for how core combat functions. Each character can equip a set of weapon and class skills based on what’s available to them, and these skills determine which actions they can use in combat. These actions, in turn, have many different synergy opportunities that bring out the tactical diversity of our combat system.
For a more specific example: the Sagittarius class is a ranged-combat class, and there is a class skill in the sniper tree called “Ranging Shot,” where a Sagittarius can apply the status effect “spotted” to a small group of clustered enemies, eliminating the damage drop-off that takes place when executing ranged attacks at long distances. This is an early skill for archers and can be super useful when keeping your ranged combatants at a long distance without reducing their damage potential. This does, however, require the archer to setup their targets a turn early, as “Ranging Shot” does cost an action point. In other words, it takes two turns before the archer can start dealing that full damage. Where it gets really interesting is if you find a bow with the skill Overdrawn Shot, which guarantees a critical hit but reduces your range by 50% - if you’re using Overdrawn Shot to hit a “spotted” target, that penalty is negated.
However, you might run into a melee pike weapon usable by the Triarius class that rolls with the weapon skill “Marking Strike,” which does a decent amount of piercing damage, but also applies the “spotted” status effect to a single target. This opens up new options – instead of having to use “Ranging Shot” as a debuff action before being able to apply the full damage of your long-distance archer, you could now move up a character with the “Marking Strike” skill equipped, do a one-two punch with “Marking Strike” to soften up the enemy first and apply the “spotted” status effect, and then use Overdrawn Shot with the archer at range, guaranteeing a critical hit at full strength, all in one turn! This is just one of countless ways different skills can be combined together to open up limitless tactical options.
Another critical component of core combat is shields, which can only be used by the Princeps class. Shields are an off-hand weapon that provide an additional pool of health to the character using it. When a shielded character is attacked, damage is applied to the shield first, unless the skill used has a special modifier that ignores shields. Shielded characters also cannot take damage from archers until the shield is depleted, making them critical for the front line. When a turn begins, shields automatically recover some of their hitpoints, serving as an automatic source of regenerating defense.
Shields also have skills that can be used, like buffs that can increase the total hitpoint pool of the shield for the rest of the fight, or even attacks that use the shield as a weapon to do damage and apply different status effects. We hope you can start getting the picture here, where options of moving up defensive or offensive built Princeps can change how other characters work together with those skills.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to core combat - there’s way too much to discuss in one DevDiary, and some of it we’re excited about you discovering on your own! We haven’t even touched on the two tactical item slots every character has, which allow them to expand their tactical options even further. The layout of our hand-crafted combat spaces also play a huge role in combat, including how characters can use cover to reduce their exposure to ranged attacks or exploit choke points to keep more vulnerable characters protected behind a tanky, shield-bearing Princeps. Don’t worry though, we’ll continue to share more of these details in future DevDiaries, and if you join us for our DevStreams, you may get some sneak previews at some of these features when we show off the game.
Speaking of DevStreams, we hope you’ll join us for our second DevStream coming up on Wednesday June 2nd at 1:00 PM Eastern / 5:00 PM GMT on the THQ Nordic Twitch Channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic, where our Senior Producer Brad Logston will be talking with Creative Director Jonas Wæver and Combat Designer Hans Emil Hoppe Rauer to chat about core combat in real-time. We’ll also be taking questions directly from this DevDiary and answering them on-stream, so get your questions in early and tune-in to hear the answers directly from the development team!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this second DevDiary and hope you’ll join us in a few weeks when we’ll change gears and open up the book on our game’s story. Mark your calendars, that’ll be dropping on June 21st.
Until then, Vale!