So.. That combat

Hi guys, early access customer on Steam here, casual Fallen London player…

I don’t know how to put this gently. I want to love Sunless Sea so much I can practically taste the brine. I love the writing, the theme, the music, the presentation. I think it’s got incredible potential.

But I hate the combat like dentistry. Every single time I boot the game up to have another look, I’m almost scrambling for alt+F4 within ten minutes. The combat is just awful. I’m a big fan of turn based tactics games, so it’s not that. I don’t think confusing the basically turnbased nature of the combat with timers is a way to make it more &quotdynamic&quot. Instead, you’re making me wait as timers fill. The illumination mechanic is terrible. It turns combat into a rope pulling contest interleaved with timer waiting. And in the middle of it, there is nothing to do. You watch timers. A game filled with evocative writing and world building, reduced to timers and queuing of more timers.

If I were you, and I’m an indie developer myself, I’d toss the entirety of the system and start over. It’s too much, it’s too slow, it’s too encapsulated, and it, for me at least, completely ruins the game.

I’d look into action points or time units over timers. I’d make attempts at making individual decisions matter more. Fewer choices, bigger impacts. I’m in the game world to experience the stories, not wait for timers to fill, no?

In either case, for me, and anecdotally to a good few others, combat is the bane of Sunless Sea right now, and I think it’s got fundamental issues that cannot be solved with balancing.

Best wishes, regardless. The game has so much potential.

  • Andreas

Well you dont need to fight if you dont want to, you can usally dodge 99% of the enemies. I have not fought an enemy within the last 10 hours of my playthrough. But youre right espaciley fighting Lifebergs can take up several minutes… But the whole game is pretty much a big grind no matter what you do.

It pains me to say this but I think you are right, the combat isn’t terribly fun, even if I don’t hate it much.
It’s not very fun, which is bad, but it has its tense moments, which is good.

The combat is one of the point that the roadmap has set at 65% so it’s still too early to lose hope for it yet.

It’s also a early access game, mechanics can change drastically sometime.
Will be interesting to hear what others say about it.

Already discussed but yeah I agree with you.
I don’t think the basic idea of the combat is terrible, I like the thing about illumination, but the problem is that the actions you can do during combat are boring and unbalanced - not meaning that it’s too hard, but that it’s either too hard or too easy because there’s not much logic and good options in the actions you can perform. The bottom line is that either you can illuminate your enemy and sink it fast, or he will illuminate and sink you very fast… there’s not much else about it.

Honestly I believe that the way it is now, trying to fix it is just gonna create new problems, it’s probably better to scrap it entirely for a different system.
edited by Freemark on 7/14/2014

I don’t think that scrapping the system would actually fix many things do I agree that the combat does have it’s flaws. Still I must say that I actually enjoy it to an extent, the illumination is an interesting mechanic and as they fine tune it I expect to enjoy it more.
Being able to learn what combinations I can input in advance for a certain enemy is something I enjoy along with knowing that they might pull off a surprise that can ruin my entire strategy and sink if I go on auto-pilot is also fun. I have never really seen this type of combat it other games and I think it fits the lore well.

My main issue with combat are bats. Fast, plenty of them, and when you don’t need supplies they are just a pain in the rear (flare, flare, salvo, flare, flare, salvo).
They should be avoidable without losing fuel, like auroral crabs.

I also find the combat to be the weakest link in an otherwise enjoyable game. Sometimes I think it would be great to see combat similar to Leviathan: Warships, very detailed and hands on, yet still turn-based. Then I remember the pace and setting of the game. I tend to find myself actually wanting true turn-based combat… Not queued moves with timers. I play the game methodically. I read the text and enjoy it like a fine wine. I make my travel decisions with purpose.

I want my combat to be the same: something to sniff, sip, and ponder.

My main issue with combat is the AI: basically, if my enemies did what I do (get illumination up to 50 and then salvo), it would be a coin toss who died. Yet they almost always try to get my illumination unnecessarily high instead, which makes combat pretty easy. But then, when the RNG errs on the side of competence, I almost always take substantial damage, which is just frustrating–it doesn’t feel like my actions or abilities are the deciding factor.

The only time that combat seems to function “as intended” where you can juke enemy salvos by Evading and reducing illumination below 50 is when your stats are ridiculously high. Like, 100+ mirrors/veils. Iron is almost irrelevant, because if you can keep illumination low enough long enough to get 1 salvo off you can do it for any number of salvos.

For me combat seems to work as intended.

I have to say though that I fought monsters in a tiered system

tier 3: zee bats, auroral megalops, and pirate steamers
tier 2: bound sharks, possibly albino morays and the smaller angler crabs
tier 3: War trimerians, unfinished pirates, Mt Nomad, Lorn fluke, pirate frigates

Tier 3 monsters I fought from the start. Tier 2 monsters after I raised veils and iron to 51 base. Tier 3 monsters are what I’m fighting now that my stats are all nearing or over 100.

I like how you can use the different timers to strategically time your evasions and attacks. I have to say though that once you get a harpoon, preferably the 1000 echoes one, your flensing attacks will always be the best option for attack.

I found a very good idea on the Steam Community Page:

Combat handled as story events, like the one in ports.
Choices can be based on your stats, or you equipment, and every failure and success will bring you to the next step of the fight.
This would be keeping in the spirit of the game, and it would make even repeating combat fast and not so repetitive (bats, auroral megalops)
The idea is not mine, is from user Thy Reaper on Steam, you can find his post on the Community Hub, the thread Combat Overhaul, page 16 I believe.

It’s a bold idea, and maybe it could be integrated with the current combat system, so not to scrap it all, but it could work.
Also the roadmap says the combat is completed only at 65%: this could be the remaining 35%.
edited by tyrrelduckard on 7/15/2014

flare flare salvo salvo

This makes up like 99% of the combat until you get better guns and take on bigger ships.

Just popping my head over the parapet to say that I like the combat system :-). It’s a little repetitive/grindy but less so than other game elements, and for me captures the right balance between assured outcomes and a little fog of war, with appropriate danger level from different enemies depending on your ship and stats.

[quote=Funkslayer]flare flare salvo salvo

This makes up like 99% of the combat until you get better guns and take on bigger ships.[/quote]

Then I respectfully suggest that you’re paying insufficient attention to maintaining your own concealment and hence limiting damage incoming, and to timing. Yes, you may take down many single enemies with that approach, but a more nuanced use of options permits many enemies in succession with minimal risk of damage or crew loss in most cases.

To put it slightly differently from Ewan, the existence of a First Order Optimal Strategy in a combat system is not necessarily a flaw. It’s a rather difficult thing to tune, and combat is still not finished, but “flare flare salvo salvo” and “well designed combat system” are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Some interesting food for thought here:

[quote=Sinking in the rain]My main issue with combat are bats. Fast, plenty of them, and when you don’t need supplies they are just a pain in the rear (flare, flare, salvo, flare, flare, salvo).
They should be avoidable without losing fuel, like auroral crabs.[/quote]

You do realize you only need to have 50 illumination to shoot them down? so if you have 50 illumination with 2 flares you can go flare flare salvo salvo

Combat gets a lot more interesting when you realize you can force enemies to loose time (the hidden and most important resource) by dropping your illumination/distance below thresholds while they are in the middle of an action. Take lifebergs, they can’t attack closer than 40m. So if you flee to 50m while they are trying to crush you, the attack will automatically cancel. You can have a flee just .2 seconds ahead of their crush, and you’ll still come out safe.

Once you get a grasp of this side of combat, it becomes a lot more fun. You can anticipate the enemies next moves (and how much time they’ll take) and figure out what actions you can squeeze in while still countering their salvo by dipping your illumination below 50 as they are firing… The main wrench in this plan is that actions still have a huge potential range. Is that evade going to drop 15 or 40 illumination? Is my next salvo going to do 9 or 25 damage? For the hull/illumination ranges we are dealing with, this disparating is galling.

You do realize you only need to have 50 illumination to shoot them down? so if you have 50 illumination with 2 flares you can go flare flare salvo salvo [/quote]

Yeah, I know - that’s what I meant. Flare flare salvo, next bat flare flare salvo, next bat flare flare salvo, and so on. It’s just tedious, and quite useless if you don’t need supply (ohh, -1 terror reduction). Give me the chance to skip that without wasting fuel.

It doesn’t even take that much with proper stats you know. I flare and a salvo is enough to take care of them. With proper terror management 1-3 points of terror reduction can be quite helpful as well. Not to mention how life saving they can be if you run out supplies/furl in those areas.

Ewan is correct. The real sequence is “Flare flare evade evade salvo.” Despite the additional length, it is not any more fun than the current system.

I like the story idea.