Stances and their utility

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The way stances work at the moment is, in my view, far from ideal. They're supposed to add depth to combat, however offering very little control to the player, and not very meaningful advantages, they only end up adding a layer of inconsistency, a feeling of randomness that is antithetical to a skill-based combat system which should be as consistent as possible. They are controlled by moving left or right, the switch isn't always immediate which adds to the difficulty and contributes to make them unreliable. Currently stances affect attack speed, marginally blocking speed, damage reduction to shields, which leg you kick with, and movement. The former two are very small differences and barely perceptible, not worth the effort to try use them, however that small difference can at time manifest itself and make it a frustrating experience, as well as, again, making it feel random and inconsistent. Most importantly, since stances are tied to movement keys, they force you to disregard your footwork to control them, or to disregard stances to keep good footwork.

Of course, if the opponent is inexperienced enough to give you space and time, you can take the chance to move in the required direction and attack making use of stances, however fighting anyone with a grain of experience won't always allow you such freedom, and you'll be forced to change directions to adjust to their movement, or move to have your attack land as quickly as possible, or to bait them into an attack, try to get around them, attempt to outrange and so on. Essentially, most of the time you will need to move in directions that go directly against stances, especially so in situations with multiple opponents, and you'll forget about them to prioritize your more important movement. This is how most players fight, ignoring stances completely apart from maybe that one odd moment, perhaps to switch the thrust side. Most importantly, stances change your upper body rotation (either left, or right), and your movement speed is strongly influenced by the upper body rotation, which means that for instance, if you hold a block while in a right stance — and holding a combat action such as a block or attack will lock you into that stance regardless of how you move — your upper body will be rotated towards the right more, so moving left will be much slower than moving right. Try it, you will notice the difference very quickly. This is a big factor in adding to the inconsistency, without a real purpose.

The way I see it, stances could be addressed in a few ways:
  • Remove any effect they have on combat and keep them exclusively as animation differences, it could come in handy to control feints while dueling, but that's about it. This would retain the animation differences but eliminate all of the unnecessary inconsistency that originates from stances and plagues combat. This would obviously be the most simple solution.
  • Allow the player to control stances separately from movement, perhaps with a hotkey. This would allow you to utilize stances regardless of your footwork, and for instance, use one stance while moving in the opposite direction. Keep the effects very small to avoid creating a large gap between those that put in the effort to control them and those who don't. Naturally this option would bring its downsides, and in some situations it would still be difficult to control stances, however certainly a lot more manageable. That notwithstanding it could retain the feeling of inconsistency when fighting without paying them attention.
  • Same as the above, however with more tangible and evident effects. Needless to say this would create a huge gap between those that don't know about stances or haven't put in the practice to use them correctly and those who do.

I'd certainly like to read more suggestions to improve them if you have any. I firmly believe that it's necessary to, one way or another, change the way stances currently work to make combat as consistent as possible.
 
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Noudelle

Grandmaster Knight
WBM&BWF&SNWVC
Truth = Preached

However I did some testing and found that which leg you kick with does not seem to affect kickbox position.
That said, please rethink the stance system Taleworlds. It's clear that most people don't understand what it does, and none that do can make proper use of it. This isn't something that will come after some time and practice. If that were a possibility, it would have happened by now.
 
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LeRoux

Grandmaster Knight
WBWB
  • Remove any effect they have on combat and keep them exclusively as animation differences, it could come in handy to control feints while dueling, but that's about it. This would retain the animation differences but eliminate all of the unnecessary inconsistency that originates from stances and plagues combat. This would obviously be the most simple solution.
For me, this is the way to go. I think there's something to say for stances that are adjustable with a hotkey but I feel that strays quite far from the core of Mount & Blade combat which for me still is that you don't need much to be good except your movement keys and your mouse. Still, stances adjustable with a hotkey atleast give the player some control over the entire system.
 

Mynes

Knight at Arms
Agree that stances should be exclusively animation differences. Movement speed getting penalised or rewarded as a result of your stance sounds realistic but this is something that is very much out of the player's control.
 

MKLVN

Veteran
I like the breakdown in this thread. I don't really think stances are broken or malfunctioning. That being said, I don't necessarily know what aspect they add to the player's control of their avatar because as you stated, there isn't much of a good/immediate way to turn your hips.

IF there was a reliable, surefire way to quickly switch stances (similar to shooters where you can swap what shoulder you rest your gun on with the press of a button) then I think it would make more sense and have more utility.
 

Reapy

Sergeant Knight at Arms
I don't really disagree with the idea of them not working well right now, but I don't think I want them to just be gone. I personally don't want to go back to just direction combat and that be it, goodbye stances. I don't want them to end up as animations either, and it's just going to leave the door open for late game animation breaking as well honestly.

Stance changes as a button press, we sort of have it already with things like throwing spears. Mordhau went all in on alt stances for every weapon, but really in the end that felt like just giving you a second weapon. Bannerlord has enough weapons and weapon slots that you don't need to pack two weapons into one.

So other ideas, and, maybe we need to shift around more than just stances, maybe several things have to move for them to work.

If we work with movement let's clarify it a little to help think. It's not insane to ask a player to give up something to gain something in design.
In 1 v 1 you have a lot of freedom of movement. It narrows down as more blows are exchanged, but also players tend to back off and restart after a few exchanges as well.
In 1 v X there is almost no freedom of movement and it's dictated by the players, even worse if the many are experienced and work to circle and in tandem.

So whatever you give has to not be so strong that you can't kill someone if you don't use it, and not take away as much for the same reasons due to group fighting. Thinking about it that way, I can almost see how we arrived at where we are right now. Group fighting really wrecks everything honestly. So movement activation is going to limit how much affects you can give stances, because it can't reliably be activated.

So how else can we activate?

Stances could come from attack direction. Right swing miss ends in left stance. Right swing that gets blocked lands you in right stance.

Maybe tap block in a direction could activate a stance.

Maybe Block HELD in a direction could activate a stance for X seconds. That's interesting as you might want to activate right stance by holding right and that leaves you open left while you try to gain advantage right.

What if stances were defensive after effects and instead of you going into a stance you force your opponent into stances as you attack? If you block an opponent on the left, you end up in left stance. Stance could last for X seconds depending on type of hit you took, weapon type, speed bonus, stun amount etc.

That could lead to other interactions like if I left block, I'm in left stance. If while still in left stance I block right, I might go into some other stance or behave slightly differently.

Stances don't just have to effect swing speed. They could change damage up/down, could affect stun amount, maybe they do activate a different animation set actually? You block left, you are in left stance, which looks kinda different, and your left and upper attacks look different, or in right your right and thrust look and act different, something like that? Imagine the mix up brain games with that?

Honestly all we need is just one little layer on top of our 4 directions and then make sure all the other things like block speeds, recovery, attack delays etc are smoothed out and I think we're onto something.
 
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Vissy

Baron
WBNW
I agree. I think it's going to take time to adjust to stances, but there's some real potential to work them into a deep and engaging layer of the combat system. I like the variety they provide, even if currently their implementation mechanically is somewhat inconsistent.
 

LeRoux

Grandmaster Knight
WBWB
I agree. I think it's going to take time to adjust to stances, but there's some real potential to work them into a deep and engaging layer of the combat system. I like the variety they provide, even if currently their implementation mechanically is somewhat inconsistent.
Given how often you press left and right movement keys, which if you press either long enough changes the stance, in a long fight, I don't think the stances work at all or really deepen the combat given how much they impact. Sure, theoretically they only impact animation and thus attack and block speed, but afaik the attack speed also impacts the damage calculation + the animation affects the optimum hit range of your weapon swing arc and then in turn both of those impact glances and fluffs. A single mechanism affecting all those parameters doesn't really deepen the combat for me, in practice it makes the combat feel very random precisely because movement is such a subconcious thing. Saying it adds another layer of depth is true to some extent, but it doesn't do the combat any good if it's hardly controllable and affects basically everything that goes into a good fight. I think the stances being toggled by a hotkey would immensly decrease the random feel the combat currently has.
 
I don't really disagree with the idea of them not working well right now, but I don't think I want them to just be gone. I personally don't want to go back to just direction combat and that be it, goodbye stances. I don't want them to end up as animations either, and it's just going to leave the door open for late game animation breaking as well honestly.

Stance changes as a button press, we sort of have it already with things like throwing spears. Mordhau went all in on alt stances for every weapon, but really in the end that felt like just giving you a second weapon. Bannerlord has enough weapons and weapon slots that you don't need to pack two weapons into one.

So other ideas, and, maybe we need to shift around more than just stances, maybe several things have to move for them to work.

If we work with movement let's clarify it a little to help think. It's not insane to ask a player to give up something to gain something in design.
In 1 v 1 you have a lot of freedom of movement. It narrows down as more blows are exchanged, but also players tend to back off and restart after a few exchanges as well.
In 1 v X there is almost no freedom of movement and it's dictated by the players, even worse if the many are experienced and work to circle and in tandem.

So whatever you give has to not be so strong that you can't kill someone if you don't use it, and not take away as much for the same reasons due to group fighting. Thinking about it that way, I can almost see how we arrived at where we are right now. Group fighting really wrecks everything honestly. So movement activation is going to limit how much affects you can give stances, because it can't reliably be activated.

So how else can we activate?

Stances could come from attack direction. Right swing miss ends in left stance. Right swing that gets blocked lands you in right stance.

Maybe tap block in a direction could activate a stance.

Maybe Block HELD in a direction could activate a stance for X seconds. That's interesting as you might want to activate right stance by holding right and that leaves you open left while you try to gain advantage right.

What if stances were defensive after effects and instead of you going into a stance you force your opponent into stances as you attack? If you block an opponent on the left, you end up in left stance. Stance could last for X seconds depending on type of hit you took, weapon type, speed bonus, stun amount etc.

That could lead to other interactions like if I left block, I'm in left stance. If while still in left stance I block right, I might go into some other stance or behave slightly differently.

Stances don't just have to effect swing speed. They could change damage up/down, could affect stun amount, maybe they do activate a different animation set actually? You block left, you are in left stance, which looks kinda different, and your left and upper attacks look different, or in right your right and thrust look and act different, something like that? Imagine the mix up brain games with that?

Honestly all we need is just one little layer on top of our 4 directions and then make sure all the other things like block speeds, recovery, attack delays etc are smoothed out and I think we're onto something.

+1

Based on attack / block directions makes most sense to me. Since i really cannot think of a time where you would want your attack or parry to be slower and not aligned with the stance.

This could work for thrust / overhead based on if the mouse movement is down / right, down / left (for thrust) and up / right and up / left (for overhead).
 
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rektasaurus

Squire
+

“Q” key for stance change with repeat delay and with use fatigue would blow “a” and “d” double binding out of the water.

Letting us bind the key to whatever we want would fix this.

Using movement direction wouldn’t work well because I may want to always stay in one stance. Say when using one handed presenting my weapon in the guard position and keeping the slimmest profile possible towards my enemy.

When using two handed I may want to choose exactly when to change my stance.

Honestly this with a buff to thrusting would fix combat. I should be able to quickly move a little forward and complete a thrust attack faster than any other animation and deliver a killing blow with 1 thrust to an unarmored opponent.

The amount of power that’s behind the animation of the thrust now should have my sword going straight through leather to the hilt and would defeat most chain and scale mail.


Edit: found out thrusting to the neck is 1 hit kill. I’m satisfied haha. Buffing the speed of the attack is still on the wishlist.
 
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