Gauranteed Damage & The Death of Manual Combat [Long Post]

With the most recent patch released adding 3v3 Arenas into the game and nerfing Blunderbuss, it has shown me that our developers have come to a cross roads of sorts in terms of game design.

The sword/shield blunderbuss one shot combo was frustrating and lead to a lot of really bad experiences while trying to pvp, but the blunderbuss itself was not the issue. Consistency and reliability was the problem of that combo.

Leaping Strike is the real culprit behind why the combination of those elements was so frustrating, and leads into a larger issue regarding manual combat, investment/reward systems, and game balance as a whole. Please take a moment to walk through this with me as I attempt to shed light on what is one of the largest, and most damning underlying issues of New World’s combat.


Manual Combat

An extremely important cornerstone regarding the design of manual combat is investment, risk, and reward: an understanding that by accepting to play this game, you have made the decision to learn it’s rules, the hit boxes, how weapons behave, and how to punish others for making mistakes, and avoiding punishment for yourself.

Currently in New World, combat is -extremely- generous in regards to making mistakes in both offense and defense. Even after the stamina regeneration changes, if you’re a good player, you have to be absolutely mobbed by multiple other players to truly be put into a position that means your downfall across all armor classes. Ability sizes are excessively large, with some passive upgrades making them even bigger or adding one to the spell if it was single target previously and frankly it’s way harder than it should be to miss something against another player these days. Sticking on top another player is far easier than it should be with most of the movement work being taken care of thanks to weapon tracking, an automatic system.

This creates a laundry list of balancing and design problems such as:
  • Abilities with lower damage have their secondary utility they offer devalued dramatically or degraded to the point of un-usability (think Cyclone for Spear, Fire Staff’s Incinerate, the entire Throwing Hatchet Tree)

  • Hyper consistent abilities will have to be constantly re-balanced numerically, tweaked, or re–designed entirely in worst case scenarios because their impact is so dramatically more meaningful that they invalidate other abilities, or create negative game play experiences repeatedly (Perforate, Skewer, Maelstrom, Gravity Well, Ice Shower, Poison Shot, Powder Burn)

  • Under-performing abilities and weapons fall out of favor, and also require dramatic re-designs or re-balancing to make them viable to use, forcing potential full weapon scale overhauls or the creation of new weapons that are essentially an existing weapon, but a better version of it

  • Healers by design are REQUIRED to be more valuable than other players numerically, because there is so much damage constantly being tossed around that if your healing numbers were 1:1 with DPS, people would be dying three times as much

  • Left over design philosophies from previous iterations of the game will continue to haunt modern balancing decisions and create hyper-weapons: think Great Axe, even after it’s numerous nerfs, bug fixes, and tweaks, it is still a meta defining weapon due to the contextual consistency of weapon tracking and excessive grit that in the longer term will warrant further re-balancing

  • Imbalanced risk/reward ratios. High skill and long term invested players have their time, experience and effort devalued: why would we spend two months getting unreasonably good with a weapon if now somebody can spend a week and produce similar results? (I see you, horde of new bow and spear users that showed up with this patch)

  • Unhealthy band-aid fixes of systems or balance changes that do not address the underlying issue and create long term toxic power creep with weapon identity issues: weapons as is are currently becoming more homogeneous to create a consistent, equality of outcome experience regardless of your setup

  • Creates an environment where manual combat almost means nothing, resembles more of a video editing filter that “looks” like game play that requires effort, but plays more like a tab target MMO in disguise

All of these issues exist currently (I am thinking optimistically here, forgive my lack of nihilism) because the New World team wants to create an environment where people of all skill levels can enjoy themselves, in all content. The sad truth of this though, more players will leave in the long run because New World will have no identity. No defining, unique features, run of the mill combat that’s inoffensive at best, and bland or boring at worst.

Think of the most grueling, disgusting, frustrating or mechanically obscene game titles that exist today: Dark Souls has created an entire legacy because it’s combat is pattern based, brutal, and punishing. Darkest Dungeon despite being a mountain of RNG gameplay underneath an amazing art style and aesthetic, has huge success because the team knows what the game is supposed to be. System Shock was revolutionary for having multiple, branching paths of game play where each time you went through, something could be different and there were other ways of playing instead of the same linear experience every time.

The point here is, what you bring to the table DOES NOT have to be perfect in order to do it’s job well. All of those examples I listed are flawed, they have their own problems and struggles that still have not been fixed to this day in any iteration of their releases: IT JUST NEEDS TO HAVE A STRONG IDENTITY.

Manual combat was New World’s identity, and people loved it. They accepted it, and understood that additional dungeons, PvE content, tertiary systems like transmogging, or more complex housing would come in the future, and they were okay with it because the moment-to-moment experience was fun. Fights were more engaging, and dangerous. The balancing of numbers made sense because nothing was guaranteed, so the attacks you did land needed to be impactful.

That identity is fading, and the most brutal feedback I can give the developers of this game and other players, is that people need to be able to lose. Allow me to make mistakes. Do not remove, mitigate, or soften the impact of our mistakes. Equality of outcome is an unrealistic goal that will only erode the foundations of an otherwise solid game.


Guaranteed Damage

Attacks, abilities or spells that allow for very high consistency or guaranteed damage, is one of the worst design aspects in any MMO, MOBA, fighting game, or anything that puts you up against another player. The inherent mechanical issue with guaranteeing damage (80%+ reliability for all you nitpickers) is that it creates an inequality in action economy: my best case example of this is Poison Shot, one of the abilities I mentioned earlier.

The overwhelming majority of Bow players I’ve fought (current patch and pre-Bow quality of life updates) almost always aim this ability at the ground next to me, at my feet, or somewhere that will make sure they apply the poison effect from the poison cloud upgrade: why is this a problem?

Players are, on paper, incentivized to land the direct hit because of Poison Shot’s first upgrade for bonus damage but very few feel like it’s worth the effort due to the risk associated with potentially missing. Your choice is: risk missing and have no pressure at all, waste a cooldown and look like an idiot, OR, aim at their feet, ALWAYS apply the poison DoT and keep pressure up. You know what most people are going to pick.

Does this mean Poison Shot is overpowered? Absolutely not, but it’s flawed design wise and creates action inequality. Your options of dealing with this are limited. Excluding a healer, your only options are: Heavy Attack with a Sword (if you have the Freeing Justice passive picked) and a nearby enemy to attack that will let you do it / you aren’t punished by the attacking bow player in the mean time, or be FORCED to have a piece of equipment with a specific perk, AND consume a regeneration potion to clear the poison effect.

To say it more clearly, there are attacks in this game that are mechanically and more inherently valuable other attacks. You will always be investing more to counter-act the original attack, than they are to apply it to you.

Even before the Poison Shot goes out, you are put at a disadvantage and likely have no real meaningful way to avoid the damage over time effect outside of just hoping that player misses. Part of this is unavoidable if you have any type of ranged attacks or build varieties in games, but the proper way of mitigating it is by lowering the impact of that attack. Anything that resembles guaranteed damage should have low to medium impact at best, because it is so reliable.

The other two most egregious offenders in this category, are of course, Gravity Well and Ice Shower. Gravity Well up to this point, has been one of the most obnoxious, poorly designed, overly bloated and broken meta defining spells: with this most recent patch, it is FINALLY the closest it has ever been to a normal ability with proper counter play, and an appropriate amount of reward for landing one successfully. Even after all of the nerfs, bug fixes, and tweaks, Gravity Well is currently one of the most picked abilities and will continue to be solely because of how incredibly reliable it is in securing follow up damage, and other abilities that do not behave the same way, will not get picked by the majority of players.

Currently, Ice Shower is only marginally less obnoxious than it was pre-root disabling patch: sure, you can “dodge” while the shower debuff is applied to you, but the changes to how slows effect movement speed has created a nearly identical result in fights where Ice Shower is involved. You’re honestly better off just holding block if you have a shield (round or even kite) and just hoping your health potion is enough to keep you alive if you don’t have a shield. The changes made in this patch have had very little effect in reducing the consistency of Ice Shower, or it’s excessively high pick rate. In both of these abilities cases, these spells are loved because they disable or dramatically reduce an enemy player’s ability to react. That isn’t manual combat. When comparing how the meta behaves in New World, it is becoming more and more like that of a traditional tab targeting MMO such as WoW.

The path of design and it’s consequences go as such:

  • #1 - Damage is reliable, consistent, and abundant. You select your target, press the ability, and inflict damage
  • #2 - Healers become inherently more valuable than sources of damage, to accommodate for the excess of damage at a ratio of 2:1 / or two DPS equals one healer
  • #3 - Crowd control exists as the only means to pause damage or healing, and is required for damage to actually mean something and secure a kill

New World combat design has been learning and applying all of the wrong lessons that we’ve learned over the past two decades of playing MMOs of different varieties: Gravity Well, Leaping Strike, Shield Bash, and Ice Shower are all hyper dominant picks because in many cases of combat during game-play in New World, the context and rules have come unfortunately close to mimicking the environment of WoW or other similar games.
Think about it; how many times have you went all in on a healer, only for them to stand there and taunt you after going all out and never coming close to taking them down? When was the last time you had a really meaty, intense fight with another player where both of you didn’t have abilities on either weapon that were mostly crowd control? How many of your fights abruptly ended after failing to dodge a single stun when you were at 80% hp? How many people have completely given up on fighting you entirely because they missed their stun? What ability kills you the most?

These aren’t hyperbolic examples either. Next time you’re outside Windsward or Everfall dueling people, really take a minute to mark things down. Think about these things and pay attention to the weapons on peoples back, what abilities they use.

However, there are other issues that exacerbate the issue: with how health and damage resistance thresholds are designed currently, burst is the only thing that really matters. Sustained damage or DPS at lower values over a longer amount of time mean nothing because healers will consistently heal 2x the output of an average player. You could double all armor values and health pools across every armor class right now, and healers would still be top contenders despite effectively healing 30-50% less than before because the average max burst of a damage dealer is 8-14k, and healers cap out around 16-24k when full bursting. It’s a numerical imbalance, it plays like World of Warcraft, and that is not a good thing.

What is the actual solution to this problem, excluding healers? Reduce the consistency of damage, increase the damage of attacks, make landing them far harder and give players more health. Lessen weapon tracking, nerf cooldowns, slow the combat down enough that the mistakes over the course of a fight are the reason you lost, not the one shot combo that disabled your ability to play.

The more you speed up game play, the more consistent and reliable things have to be, the more identical every fight has to become, the more your under-performing abilities, weapons and play styles become invalid. THIS IS A TEXTBOOK EXAMPLE OF POWER CREEP.
Increasing the size of hit boxes, refusing to re-design problematic spells, making weapon tracking more accurate, raising skill floors, automating more of the game play: all of these things contribute to the degradation of the original appeal that drew people to this game, and contributes to what drove them all away.


An unpleasant reality of this situation, is that even after the numerous iterations New World has gone through from a pseudo-survival game, to full loot drop pvp, to whatever it is now, our developers are once again forced with a harsh choice of the same nature.

Will you address these underlying, corrupting (ironic) design issues that have started to rot away at the core of a well designed game, or continue down the current path and embrace the tab-target MMO design? Even if tab targeting is never implemented in New World, things have begun to take the same form in every other aspect.

The question is: an intense, dangerous game where wasted stamina means your death, or an arcade hack and slash that prioritizes the experience of “playing a game” rather than what playing it actually feels like?

Grit is far too common.
Damage should almost never be guaranteed, but worked for and given as a reward for risking something.
Healers should not be more valuable than dps, but equal and treated as just another style of play outside of PvE.
Right now, certain abilities are stronger, will always be more valuable than others, and sometimes, even more valuable the entirety of another weapon.


These questions, comments, and feedback all come from a place of genuine adoration for New World. This game is the first MMO I’ve sunk my teeth into on this level since getting hooked on World of Warcraft a long time ago, and it’s painful to sit through all too familiar situations that ended up being the same reasons I quit that game.

Blizzard was world class renowned for making excellent games that people couldn’t put down, literally ruining their lives to keep playing more of it, and what happened? They removed the ability for players to make mistakes, they removed reagent costs on abilities, took away ammo costs, introduced cross-server mechanics that sped up queue times but killed local server communities. They kept chipping away at every single thing that made their games iconic and memorable, until it was a smoothly polished, gray, amorphous blob of a video game experience that made even the most hardcore fans jaded and bitter. These days, every single one of their video games suffers from an almost entropy like level of power creep where something like even Heroes of the Storm has become an unidentifiable mess in comparison to when it launched just a few years ago, and it’s even worse in the older games.

People stopped playing their games because they never, ever addressed their underlying design problems, and never learned to respect or even acknowledge the existence of power creep.
New World is an amazing game in so many ways, but our developers have to look at these problems and start to address them, or it will continue to fall in numbers and reputation just as it has been.

I don’t know if any of this makes sense to any of the team at AGS, or even anyone else that ends up reading this entire manuscript of a forum post. At the very least, my hope is that somewhere in this attempt of articulation that the message of “your game could be great, but isn’t” gets through and creates a setting or conversation that gets the right problems addressed.

After posting this I probably won’t be logging in for at least another month or two personally. Arenas aren’t what a lot of people had hoped them to be (myself included) and the underlying design problems are rampant in those arenas, and choking the life out of what should have been/will be an excellent addition to the game. It’s just not fun right now.

Take a good hard look at the previous iterations of combat and take what you can from them. The pause from sprinting movement speed after attacking and weapon tracking are some of the most devastating additions to how good game play used to feel. Find a compromise between older, pre-launch combat, and the combat of today. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.


Power Creep will kill New World if you let it.

@Aenwyn @Shadow_Fox @Luxendra @Kay

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This man is not wrong, please listen to him. Except for lessening the weapon tracking, idk about that one because melee is just starting to feel somewhat good again.

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All pvp is right now is who gets cced the most, and if they dont get cced they run away for years for free.

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Most of points are correct ones, but not all. Agree healers should not be 1:1 with dps but what should be the right ratio? Since if you leave it like 1:2-3 its to much imho.

Also some skills are not as easy to land as you think. Like you mention ice shower: its hard cc, but does noting more than cc and 1 debuff. But its usage is limited due to range you can cast it on.

We should in fact have skills that are:

  • easy to land - look ice storm - and they have to do 1 of 2 thing: small dmg or small cc if they are aoe. Or both if they are single target/small area.

  • medicore to land - gravity well - this should to same as easy to land, but instead small dmg or cc - medicore dmg or cc. And maybe both in case of single target abilities.

  • hard to lnad - look at ice spike - they can do very hard cc or very hight dmg. Or hard cc and small addition of dmg. Or small cc and big dmg combined.

There should be risk/reward so players can chose how much they are willing to risk for reward when they decide builds.

So if you are not super new to the weapons you can make easy/medium skill required build. It wont destroy enemies but will allow to feel you do dmg to them. Or if player is super used to weapons can go full hard mode and try to solo kill enemy or do nothing if he misses skills.

But issue is what would be proper balance there since we have consider that small % of players would be super good with some builds and they would land 90%+ of skill shots. And this cant lead to 100 → 0hp in mattter of 1 combo since its bad experince for other players. Super hard to balance imho.

But for sure we should not have in game skills that are doing many things in same time like gravity well:

  • does decent dmg
  • does good aoe cc
  • also does small healing based on dmg

Imho its to much to have in 1 skill. True with game design we have options to add stuff to main skill but this new stuff should be related with what skill does cc/dmg/healing - inresae this or add but small cc/dmg/healing and in most cases - option to lower skill CD in given conditions, make it easier to land and so on.

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I read this, and i couldn’t agree more with any post i have ever read about the combat changes. You built a fence with all the nails you hit right on the head.

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Yeah I’m not advocating for the total removal of all abilities that are easy to land. There should definitely be a range in the skill required to use an ability: the real issue behind how they’re currently implemented is that all of the ones that are easy to land have very similar or a very high level of impact comparable to spells that are stronger than them.

If something is guaranteed, easier to land, or is reliable enough to enable other abilities, they should be dramatically weaker. Ice Shower has limited cast range, only applies CC and a de-buff, but is so incredibly good at what the spell does that unless you have a healer nearby, you will lose 40-60% of your HP in the process of either getting caught in it, trying to maneuver around it, or being pushed into it by a nearby bruiser.

Even when the spell is placed down before you’re actually struck by it, the presence of Ice Shower puts you at a huge disadvantage. Players on the defense using it against you can maneuver around it and use Fire Staff or another ranged weapon while its up to tear you down, and there’s no scenario where you think “yeah, maybe it’s worth going through the Ice Shower to try and stop him from hitting me” because that will very likely lead to your death. Especially considering the bruiser behind you is almost definitely running Gravity Well to follow up after you’re hit by the spell. The action of deciding to chase another target or avoid fighting them is also dangerous, because now you have a mage completely uncontested, free casting damage on you or somebody else. In worst case scenarios, you’re outright dead. In the best case scenario, the mage is left untouched for a large portion of the duration of Ice Shower and allowed to throw damage freely and now you or another player is short 40% of their previous health pool.

Ice Shower isn’t overpowered, it’s just that the movement from players weapon tracking and as a whole surrounding the spell is so slippery and hyper (even after stamina regeneration nerfs) that it is required to be as crushing and brutal as the spell is or nobody will ever get caught or be slowed down.

Ice Storm is one of the lesser offenders but is still really obnoxious to deal with: an idea I had awhile back was to redesign the existing spell to have multiple charges, but the AoE zone is smaller.

So instead of one, large/medium sized Ice Storm spell you cast every 20 seconds, players would have 2-3 small Ice Storms (think the size of the Fireball radius or maybe slightly smaller) that have rotating cooldowns for each charge, something like 26s per charge since you’d have multiple casts of the spell. They’d only last 2-3 seconds instead of 5 seconds like the current iteration. To me it’d make more sense thematically since Ice is all about the setup, long term pressure, wearing down an enemy where you have control over a prolonged period of time, and allow for multiple opportunities to use the other passives in the Ice Gauntlet’s skill trees that don’t require you to land Ice Shower.

Doing something like that to Ice Shower would increase Ice Gauntlet’s skill cap, lower the skill floor, create variance in moment to moment game play, allows for more opportunities of counter play since Ice Storm isn’t nearly as punishing, and by proxy makes Ice Shower less obnoxious. People would use Ice Shower less because they would feel it’s unnecessary in some cases if you manage your Ice Storm charges well, or would forget about it / lessen the priority of landing a good one since you have more frosted zones on another ability.

It’s not perfect, but you get the idea. Many of the abilities in New World need a pass over look like that to help them create more meaningful identity in the spell itself without drastically overhauling the weapon or just buffing numbers, and to create more choices and chances for counter play: Incinerate’s radius should be larger, the acceleration of Cyclone’s knockback should be much stronger, Maelstrom needs to have a multiple charge system instead of having both spins play as a single separate animation / ability press.

I agree with you on Gravity Well: some abilities are very bloated in terms of function and what they offer. War Hammer’s Shockwave and Path of Destiny are also popular villains in this category, but to lesser degrees than some of the previously mentioned abilities. Shockwave’s real problem is the radius is just excessively large. Lessen it’s radius by a meter or half a meter and you would have a genuinely healthy spell with almost proper amounts of counter play because the wind up on the spell’s animation is pretty smooth and gives players a window to deal with it.

Think about how different our meta combat routines could be if nothing else just changed and under used abilities were actually good! Cyclone, conceptually, is a great way to play an anti-melee melee build. It’s not strong enough though, why pick utility when you can go large damage numbers or hard CC? AGS, we need to make utility, THAT ISN’T CROWD CONTROL, more useful.

ps. Developers need to re-implement an old unique interaction with fire staff and shield users. If a fire staff user casted Burnout, and hit a player who was blocking with their shield, the fire staff user would be staggered and have his Burnout interrupted. It was hilarious, rewarded people who took the time to learn those unique interactions, and reduced consistency of outcome. They took this out awhile ago and it really broke my heart in a small way.

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Ngl you are very right.

The game could have been balanced like destiny. Dungeons, pve, pvp, and even raids. All done without traditional roles.

This would have been the healthiest approach.

Make healers a dps class with some group heals tab targeted for support, tanks dps with more health armor and CC. Mages dps with a lot of cc or damage but always aoe. Dex dps with dps (lol).

This game is actually very similar to destiny. Destiny had balance figured out with this kind of pvp pve mix. What new wolrds problem was is thinking the holy trinity was that important. Who cares if 5 dps can do a dungeon, but a tank and healer make it easier.

I don’t know if this can be fixed but a combat overhaul is needed. I love new wolrd combat its a lot of fun. But i can see that balance issue. Right now the game is more blanced than ever but can still lead to a lot of frustrations.

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If you get caught in it its your fault and 20-50% hp drop is good penalty for mistake. Ice shower is op only when you are already cced and they come close and add ice shower on top of that.

Fact is ice shower is only defensive tool mages to have vs bruisers. What else you get there? tomb? 2-3 attacks and its gona and on CD. Ice storm? Nope, its just 20% slow so wont make it.

I don’t think Ice Shower is overpowered at all, but think about the kind of impact placing an Ice Shower has vs Fire Staff’s closest equivalent version of that spell. Incinerate.

Their spell functions are different, but the main goal is: “keep melee off of me, or punish them for trying to stay on top”. Incinerate, even if you hit a player and do well with it, will rarely ever be the reason that an enemy bruiser goes down. The only exception to that is when they’re below half health.

In the scenario where Ice Shower is performing it’s best, the spell will slow your target(s), make them more vulnerable with rend, and almost guarantee a follow up killing blow.
When Ice Shower isn’t getting full value, and nobody even walks into it or towards you, you have deterred them attempting to interact with you for 5-10 seconds, and essentially created a line of sight barrier for melee players. With both situations, the risk of you losing health as a trade for casting it is MUCH lower comparatively to Incinerate.

In Incinerate’s best scenario and performing the best, the spell will do 20-40% of your target’s health, apply damage over time, and gently nudge them in the opposite direction of you.
When Incinerate isn’t getting full value… you get no value at all. The radius for operation is smaller, the cast time is longer, there is no additional benefit for having cast the spell outside of striking somebody with it, and has you in place for longer than Ice Shower and at risk of taking more damage.

It’s just the underlying issue of some spells having inherently more value than others, even if you don’t actually hit anyone with them.

I didn’t use Burnout in this comparison against the two other spells because it’s mechanical function, while similar to the idea of “Keep melee off of me!” isn’t fully analogous to the design similarities between Incinerate and Ice Shower.


Also to re-iterate and make sure that the topic doesn’t get muddied or misunderstood, this post and my follow up comments are about addressing design inconsistencies and their further consequences. I’m not trying to say that specific weapons are broken beyond repair or that they need massive overhauls right now: it’s that if AGS doesn’t make a decision on how to handle power creep, they will be in that state of disrepair in the future.

@Alteroes This is a very thorough and well-explained post. Your passion for this genre of games is evident and your concerns about power creep are noted. Thank you for detailing your pain points so well and offering suggestions on how they can be alleviated. I will be sharing this with the team.

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actually, I’d argue the problem with New World was that it didn’t care for the Holy Trinity. Due to the lack of care of tanks and how the attribute system is, as well as the system overall when it comes to crowd control, Bruisers are more of a popular choice than a legit tank. Choices should be there, but to suddenly cripple a major role for…well no reason, is pretty bad.

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I really appreciate you taking note of the post and furthering it up to the team. If there’s anything else that would help now or down the line, don’t hesitate to send a DM about it or follow up with questions inside this post. Definitely more than willing to give additional feedback or continued articulation on topics or parts of my original post that need clarification.

New World really has incredible potential and would be disheartening in a way that can’t really be summarized in a short sentence to see it fall down the rabbit hole like many other games.

@Alteroes You got it! I am here to help bridge the gap between Player and Dev communication. It brings me great joy to read such thoughtful and insightful posts! Thanks again for sharing such well articulated feedback.

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