I've seen a lot of discussion about the melee lately, mostly people having some issues with the current dynamic of it all. There are some people who have made some really good analytical points that have simply been drowned in the swarm of subjective posts, and other potential solutions have been overlooked by much of the general ranting that has been going on.
This thread aims to focus on the new Overhead Stab that has come into being with the new DLC and to give the useful analysis/solutions a permanent base to lead discussion with and to be an insight to those interested who don't have the willpower to sift through the many pages of ranting. Moreover, to aid developers in the future balancing of the game.
DISCLAIMER: This thread is not fuelled by my own failings in the game, I can assure you that I am doing very well in the DLC and am also enjoying it. I just merely see room for improvement. (No doubt some of you will ignore this)
I also want to say that these are not all my own ideas, I've gleaned them from the various melee topics that I have been following, and from other prolific melee players' insights into the subject.
So I shall now move on swiftly to the topic at hand: Overhead Stabs! Why they're too powerful at the moment and why there needs to be changed, and how. Analysis: 1. Range
Overhead Stabs have more range than Underarm Stabs. Coupled with the fact that the most damage-sensitive areas of the body (chest and head) are within closer distance to the Overhead Stab origin than the Underarm Stab origin, it makes for Overhead Stabs being a significantly favourable choice of attack when both distance from target and damage inflicted are on the agenda of the attacking player.
Compare the ranges:
As is visible the Overhead Stab can reach significantly further than the Underarm Stab when at full extension.
To support this claim Azrooh has provided some measurements of the range and confirmed that the Overheadstab gets significantly longer range:
201.5cm horizontal reach
135.8cm vertical reach (looking straight, more or less if looking up or down)
211.5cm horizontal reach
160.2cm vertical reach (looking straight, more or less if looking up or down) 2. Lack of a 'pull-back'
This is something that makes chamber-blocking the Overhead Stab so difficult. Chamber-blocking relies on there being a small period where the weapon is 'pulled back', as this small period of time gives the defending player the opportunity to recognise the situation and then to place his counter-stab.
Remember that chamber-blocking can only occur when the counter-stab is released at the same time as when the attacking-stab begins to move forward. With the Overhead Stab the 'pull-back' simply does not exist; the musket is lifted straight into position and then moves forward immediately, this means that a counter-stab must be timed at almost exactly the same time as the attacking-stab, which makes it extremely risky to perform compared to an Underarm Stab which does have a 'pull-back' period.
This makes the Overhead Stab a much more effective attacking move than the Underarm Stab; defenders can only truly, safely counter the Overhead Stab with a block.
It is important to mention also that the lack of 'back-pull' has the effect of making the stab release appear faster and thus throws the opposition off-guard more easily.
Here are visuals of what I mean:
As you can see here the Underarm Stab is 'pulled-back' into position before release.
Whereas the Overhead Stab is simply lifted into position before release, with no 'back-pull'; the turning animation hinges on the tip of the bayonet for the latter part of it, giving the effect that musket is being fed straight into the stab, thus making chamber-blocking it nigh impossible. 3. Confusing Feinting Animation
The animation of the Overhead Stab originates from the middle area of the player's body. This means that in the event of a transition from Upward Block to Overhead Stab the player's character will actually move the musket downwards before moving it back up to the Stab position, and such does an ambiguity develop. Whilst the musket is being moved down from the Upward Block, from the opposition player's perspective there are 2 possibilities: the enemy might be changing to an Underarm Stab or to an Overhead Stab.
However, in the situation of a transition from Down Block to Underarm Stab there is no confusing animation 'blip', because the animation for Underarm Stabbing originates from the same location that the Down Block does.
Here are visuals that better illustrate what I am talking about:
Transition from Upward Block to Overhead Stab:
As you can see, due to the position of the Overhead Stab animation origin the musket is moved down. Now, in this position the opposition player does not know whether the musket will go down further to become an Underarm Stab or back up to become an Overhead Stab: In this case, ofcourse, it goes back up to become an Overhead Stab, but one can easily imagine the opposition choosing the wrong block due to the confusion.
Transition from Downward Block to Underarm Stab:
Differing to the previous example it is very obvious in the transition stage that an Underarm Stab is following. There is no ambiguity as there is no indication of it being a possible Overhead Stab. It just goes straight down into position, no confusing animation blips; no ambiguity.
And so again, this simply makes the Overhead Stab a more attractive form of attack: it has deceptive qualities that the Underarm Stab does not. 4. Blocking Speed
Yet another area where the Overhead Stab is advantaged is that it is harder to block, due to the plain reason that it takes longer for the defender to lift the musket up into the Upward Block Position.
Downward Blocks are faster and easier due to there being a turning animation hinge located on the butt of the musket, whereas with the Upward Block there requires a whole repositioning of the musket and also a longer distance for it to travel.
Here is a visual for clarification:
Downward Block is closer to the original resting place of the musket. The animation essentially hinges on the butt of the musket and needs only to rotate, not reposition itself so-to-speak:
Upward Block takes a little longer as the whole musket must be repositioned and moved a further distance:
This is quite a subtle difference, and on it's own it's a rather minor, negligible difference, however combined with the last 3 points it acts as an amplifier of the effects of the greater range and 'faster' release of the Overhead Stab. 5. Spin Stabbing/'Sweeping'
Furthermore, the Overhead Stab is a more favourable option to use in a turning attack or 'Spin Stab' as they are called or 'Sweep'. This is because of the advantageous origin of the Overhead Stab: it can target the vital, high-damage areas of the body (chest and head) easily, due to it's proximity. It is not hard to avoid a 'Stub' (where the attack does not pierce). This is achieved by aiming the musket at a smaller, lower angle than normal, the effect being that not too much Stab distance is gained before it pierces the enemy.
The problem with an Underarm Spin Stab is the turning speed is too slow for it to pierce properly. The Stab gains distance too fast before it can pierce the enemy and usually results in a Stub or even a miss entirely.
The Underarm Stab's equivalent angle adjustment to the Overhead Stab's does not work at all, due to the fact the the Stab gets obstructed too early by the clunky torso of the enemy player - a problem not faced by the Overhead Stab, due to the amount of space it has being do high up.
Therefore the Spin Stab is exceedingly harder to perform effectively with Underarm Stab compared to the Overhead Stab.
Here are visuals to aid explanation, showing a right to left 'Spin Stab':
The Overhead Spin Stab:
As you can see, the Overhead Stab can easily be angled so that it does not gain too much distance before penetration:
On the other hand, the Undearm Spin Stab it is not really possible to angle in such a way:
And thus often the Stab gains too much distance too early and is not able to penetrate. It either stubs or misses entirely:
If the equivalent angling is attempted, as shown:
6. Better vs Cavalry It usually results in an immediate Stub, as the bayonet gets caught up too early by the bulky lower body of the enemy, or perhaps it's just that the Warband engine does not like this stab angle. I'm sure many of you have found that an attack from this angle usually fails to penetrate.
This does not need to be expanded on in great detail. It's pretty widely accepted that the Overhead Stab is, on the whole, a better method of attack verses cavalry, simply due to its range and it's positioning making it able to penetrate the rider more effectively than an Underarm Stab would.
And that is the conclusion of the analysis of the Overhead Stab and why it's better, in so many situations, than the Underarm Stab. Explanations:
Now lets think of reasons why it should not be this way:
1. Realism: I am pretty sure that in the history of Napoleonic Warfare it was the Underarm Stab that resulted in more casualties. I am beginning to see regiments charge more commonly with Overhead Stabs braced rather than Underarm Stabs in Line-Battles and to be frank it looks pretty silly and unrealistic. And just to generally see how often it is used in charges whether it be on the battle servers or in regiment events does detract a bit from the immersion.
2. Overpoweredness: The sheer breadth of dominance across the spectrum of melee fighting warrants some changes. Certain attack directions should be limited and specialised in their own way, not blatantly better than the other.
3. Lack of intuitiveness: A lot of the more deceptive aspects (e.g. the Feinting animation blip or the lack of a 'pull-back') work not due to player skill but due to the mechanism of the game. It's important that an online game has mechanics that force players to use skill, and not simply to grant them with easy ways of getting kills. Intuitive game mechanics are what will give this game longevity and allow players to develop their skillsets and be more competitive, once the game's more gimmicky aspects (the great graphics and new environments) have worn off. Solutions
So what changes could rebalance the Overhead Stab? I think I'll leave this as a more open question for the rest to discuss or formulate for themselves, but I will do a quick, basic run-through of how each inidividual point of analysis could have improvement:
1. Range: Reduce it or slow down the speed of the stab as compensation.
2. Lack of 'pull-back' (chamber-blocking): Rework the animation so that there is a clear 'pull-back' stage in the animation.
3. Confusing Feinting Animation: Again, rework the animation so that the origin of the animation is not from the middle of the body, but rather higher.
4. Blocking Speed: Increase the speed of an Overhead Block.
5. Spin Stabbing or 'Sweeping': Increase the turning speed a little so that Undearm Stabs can pierce more often.
6. Slow down the speed of stab.
I do not advocate all of these changes, just perhaps a combination of a few of them, anything that will bring the Overhead Stab into line with the Underarm Stab. I personally like the idea of solutions 1, 3 and 5.
What are your thoughts?