I am making this post, not because I am doing badly in melee, or because I want longer kill streaks but because I find melee the most enjoyable part of the game, and that melee is not living up to it's full potential. As most of you might know I am the head organizer of the groupfighting tournament, and I was reckoned quite good at duels in MM as well as such I do feel that I am qualified to discuss the workings of melee. I believe that I and the group of people I tend to discuss melee are very well versed in the mechanics of melee, and how they interconnect. We certainly do not know everything but we, I believe, are the people who discover inconsistancies in melee or atleast pick up on new discoveries quite early, as well as accurately estimate what effects that can be expected. Credit for discoveries should go to alot of people, amongst others Evanovic, Vorlen, Sid and others who have tested things and shared their findings with me.
Furthermore I would like to disclaimer the post with the fact that I know that some things are "hardcoded" in the engine and as such have to be changed on Taleworlds' side. Secondly I also know that bugfixes are and such may be eating alot of time, and as such it may be hard to get around to fine tuning such things as melee, that is operational, albeit unpolished.
Finally I would like to say that some of the explanations I offer are more questions directed at the developers.
The overall melee feel
One of the things that strikes me the most about melee is how imprecisse and crude it feels. People like to throw around the ballerina word as something negative about spinning, and maybe it was. However, I feel as if melee has gone from being a ballerina, not to a brute force kind of melee where you feel that there's strength behind your attacks and so on, as I am guessing people hoped, but rather a sort of drunken stumble. Things may work out as you envisaged them, but on the other hand you may end up not actually piercing with your stab, you may end up trying to turn quick enough only to have both parties turning around like a dog chasing it's own tail, trying to (re)chamber but nothing happens, blocking someones attack clearly, but once you lift the block it turns out that his attack is still hanging there soon to be in your face, taping block at the right time only for the block not to register. Things don't always work this way, hell, I would argue that they don't work this way most of the time, nevertheless, the relatively high prevalence of incidents like the ones described and the random intervall of them feels punishing and removes the sense of control of your character, not to mention contrary to competitive play. Some of these effects I hope to offer an explanation for, and solutions for, while other incidents and situations I have no explanation for.
Stabs failing to pierce
Pokes/Stubs/Whiffs/Glances/whatever you call them, are one of the somewhat wierd, and random effects in this DLC, and I would like to claim that they have become both more random as well as prevalent in NW compared to MM. I can offer a couple of explanations to this. The first one being the increased length of bayonets. Longer bayonets mean that the sweetspot for the weapon lies farther away from the character on the screen, which in turn means that the minimum distance for an effective stab is increased. Another potential source for the higher frequency of this effect may be the lowered turning speed, causing attacks being "swiped" in being too late in the stab to pierce or making people reluctant to turn which in turn means that they are not applying any delay to the stab.
The overhead stab seems like one of the hot potatoes of NW. On the one hand side a majority of people wanted it in a poll conducted almost a year ago, on the other hand alot of the complaints seem to stem from the ovearhead stabs. (For an analysis of the overhead stab on ought to check out Evans post on the subject). One of the problems is that the "deadly" point of musket only starts at the muzzle of the musket, not the point of the bayonet, which interestingly enough means that the range of the overhead is the same-ish as the normal stab contrary to previous belief. However, it also has the effect that stabs that lock as if they have already hit your block are still active causing people to drop their block to early. Another interesting theory I have heard is that the overhead would use the sweetspot calculation of a normal overhead attack (sword swing) causing the hanging effect where the stab is seemingly deadly even when it seems to be on the way back already. Another effect of this that me and Evan tested was that the ovehead stab does alot more damage when backpedaling, which further suggest that the calculations between the overhead and down stab are fundamentally different the same holds true when walking forward when the overhead does significantly less damage. Furthermore something that I found in the beta when testing the fixed height overhead is that the hitbox is actually slightly to the side of the visual representation of the bayonet, causing an attack that is "in" the enemy to miss on occasion.
There is also some clunckiness in the animations between attacks as well, when moving an attack between up and down there in extra "nudge" in the animation giving you an extra "free" feint on the way. This coupled with the fact that moving an attack between directions looks incredibly similar to starting an attack it quickly becomes very confusing for the player on the recieving end. The problem here really is that the animations are quite dodgey and need a bit of love. This is something quite important to sort out because it gives alot of extra benefit for no real risk. With swords following the feints is easier because of the clearer animations and lack of vagueness.
Lack of tap-blocking
Tap-blocking is when you hit block when the attack is about to land instead of continually holding it down. I have heard several people say that while this works properly when just trying to defend the block does not register when you are attacking. I would like to extend it to that it does not work while you are blocking either. Which in turn means that it's sometimes impossible to cancel bad stabs or react to a sudden second opponent because you are already commited. This was not really the case in MM where some people with good reflexes pulled of some rather incredible blocks giving blocking a high skill ceiling.
Now that I have touched upon the clunckiness of melee I want to discuss some design choises I think would be for the best. I am a great friend of chambers and that will probably show through in the following sections, albeit, hopefully they will also illustrate why I am a friend of chambers. As well as why I dislike mechanics that work the other way around compared to chambers. Another thing to note is that the clunkiness feel is also present when discussing these other effects, but not as a stand alone effect but subtly interconnected.
Chambers were one of my favourite things in MM. They caused a break from the normal rythm of melee forcing your opponent to adapt and react in order to survive, otherwise they would die. This does not really hold true in NW though. Firstly the ovearhead is constantly blockable. In all the tests I have ran we could block the overhead without any trouble. The only potential explanation I have to offer for this is that it might be that the sweetpot/timing is calculated as for an ovearhead (sword) swing. The normal stab is, however, unblockable still assuming that one does not blunder it away. On the other hand one pretty much has to blunder it away though because the lower turning speed means that the traveltime between succesful chamber block and landing stab increases enough for the other person to block the resulting stab. Furthermore, chambers are harder to do succesfully, I am guessing that the longer range of bayonets, lower movement speed, lower turning speed and wierd timing calculation of ovearheads are the culprits behind this. Furthermore, the down chamber which still is quite good is quite hard to get off due to the percieved and real benefits of the ovearhead causing it to be the by-far dominant attack direction, which in turn means that there are no normal stabs to chamber. So the risk of chambering has gone up while the benefit of chambering has shrunk which overall has decimated the usage of chambers.
I think the lower prevalence of chambers is a bad thing because it creates a gameplay where you have no way to force your opponent into acting in a different manner in order to survive which means that adaptability and understanding and thought have less of a role in melee, all of which are skills that I think an interesting game should contain.
An implied chamber is when you "try" to chamber a feint of the enemy causing the enemy to have to stop feinting and block in order to survive since your attack connects first since they are canceling and then restarting their attack compared to your direct attack. To pull this off a bit of positional awareness and understanding was called for. It had the same effect as chambering in the sense that it forced the feinter into blocking rather than continuing to feint as was their plan. This again is something that I find is good and interesting gameplay, you force an alternate behaviour on your enemy upon pain of death, however, the technique is not fail safe, and doing it in a bad position or too slowly will result in your own death instead. This however is lacking at the moment since you can swtich from an up-attack to a down attack quicker than the implied chamber lands, which I find to be a serious design flaw.
Wierd weight parity between swords and bayonets
Swords seem to weigh less in comparison to bayoneted muskets, which in turn means that swords tend to be stunned upon blocking an overhead. This is a bad choise in my opinion. It gives a chamberlike upside to something very basic i.e. holding an up-attack. The sword wielder has to block twice in a row which breaks the rules of attack-priority and the rythm of the fight, not because the bayonet wielder took a succesful risk but because he just played normally.
Rifle melee damage
I think everyone knows that rifles/cavalry muskets used as a club can deal an imense amount of damage with some speedbonus, I guess a part of it is due to the slowness of the weapon causing the speedbonus to go through the roof. This however means that rifles using as clubs are very very useful as melee weapons, making riflemen all-round specialists rather than just accurate at long range.