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11/04/2012

Dead or Alive 5 balance issues


This post is to make a second list of gameplay changes needed for DOA5. While the game is very good, there are still too many issues here and there and things that were going nicely during development and were ultimately deleted or toned down. I just need to clarify to everyone who reads this list that this is a personal opinion rather than something I demand for the game to have. I will first go with the general issues and then complement the last list with things that I already mentioned and new ones.

There are five things in the general system of the game that really bother me. They all require heavy guessing in order to be bypassed. While I understand 100% that guessing is part of all competitive games. DOA simply forces it too much on the players. DOA5 is a big step forwards compared to DOA4 but the problems are still there. 

- HOLD RECOVERY IS TOO SHORT. The defensive player can still hold out of most stuns in the game. This should not be happening. The real fix to the problem would be to forbid it completely but with 80%+ strikes causing stun, it would need for the entire stun-system to be redone which is already impossible for DOA5 (please think about it for DOA6). But there is a great way to fix it. Simply increase hold recovery. As of today, the defensive player can hold out of stun and escape from it almost at the same time (if not before) the attacker finished his strike which caused that stun. This simply cannot happen because it's possible to give frame advantage to a player for being stunned. 

By increasing the hold recovery in stun by 8-10 frames, it'd be realistically possible for the attacker to see the hold animation and react to it by striking or throwing in Hi-counter. Thus, the defensive player would be punished more for holding and would be forced to learn other means of defense like blocking, side-stepping or slow-escaping. Holds in neutral game are fine, the real problems is recovery out of them inside stuns. Please, consider this.

- LOW HOLDS ARE EXTREMELY POWERFUL. When the defensive player low-holds, he/she can counter-attack all low attacks and go under all highs and standing throws at the same time. They're only vulnerable to mids and low throws. This can't happen because with a single animation, the defender can bypass most of the actions in the game. This issue complements the first one (hold recovery in stun being too fast) because it's possible for a player to low hold to crouch highs and counter lows while stunned and still recover fast enough to gain the advantage. 

There are three possible ways for me to fix this: 

 1) Make low holds execute in standing animation. That way, the defender could still catch all low attacks but be vulnerable to highs and standing throws at the same time. 

 2) Make the low-holder execute it in crouching animation but be vulnerable to high attacks, this would require a complete ignore of one of the rules of the game (crouching going under highs) but as long as it only happens with low holds it should be fine. 

 3) Make low holds recover even slower than mid and high ones. If I recommended hold recovery to have 8-10 extra recovery frames, the low ones could have around 15. That way, the attacker could realistically have his high attack/standing throw whiff but still punish the low hold of the defender with a mid attack or low-throw.

- CRITICAL BURST THRESHOLD NEEDS TO BE SHORTER. One of the nicest things added to DOA5 was the ability to Critical Burst. All characters have access to this and allows them to deal big-damaging combos. But there's a problem, the threshold required for it is too long and most characters need to land 4-5 strikes in order to achieve it. That means that the attacker has to guess right 4-5 times to finally be able to land the big guaranteed combo he should have deserved from the second or third hit, while the defender has 4-5 chances to hold out of it.

From what I understand, most strikes in the game have a numerical stun value and is added each time one of them is landed on a stunned opponent. The max threshold is 35 which means that if the attacker lands 3 attacks, the threshold will get to around 20-25 and the Critical Burst strike is the one that reaches the limit. (This is actually Tina's case). Now, if the entire threshold were to be shortened from 35 to around 20ish, the cast could Critical Burst in 2-3 hits (Just like in the E3 build). This could definitely benefit all characters and the offensive gameplay in the entire game in general.

At this moment, Kokoro is a character that can land a Critical Burst in only 2 hits from a specific string. Sadly, most of the casual players see this as a negative thing while it's actually the opposite. Kokoro is the one doing it right. All other 23 characters should be able to reach the all-powerful stun as fast as her.

- THE GAME NEEDS MORE UNHOLDABLE STUNS. While the addition of unholdable stuns was excellent for the game, it wasn't enough. Right now, most characters in it have three or four unholdable stuns. Some of them from single-hits (Kokoro's 236P) and others from strings of strikes (Helena's 3PPP). And some of those stuns come from whether the fighters are in open or close stance (Tina's KP or Jann Lee's 4H+K). With that small number, the attacker is forced to rely on the other strikes that stun but allow the defender to hold out of them to mix things up and avoid getting held. But if the cast had more of these unholdable stuns, the entire system could benefit a lot.

By adding more sit-down stuns, back-turned ones and limbo stuns, the game would simply be better. Also, stuns that make the opponent grab his/her stomach should not be possible to be held out of immediately. If each character had 8-10 attacks like these I think it'd be more than enough to give them a solid set of tools to have a solid offense.

- CHARACTERS NEED TO BE SAFER IN GENERAL. Right now, the vast majority of attacks in the game are unsafe if blocked. With some characters (Helena), almost all of them give the blocker a free grab. Punishing by throwing is nice but in general, the entire cast of the game needs more attacks that are negative, but safe and plus-on-guard without necessarily causing a guard break. 

If you take a look at Helena's frame data, almost all her strings leave her at -9, -10 and -11. At -7, a string is already unsafe to the entire cast (-6 is unsafe to all grapplers except Leifang). This gives her almost no option of keeping a solid pressure on a blocking opponent because as soon as a string ends, she can be thrown. This is actually true for most of the cast but Helena's case is just ridiculous. If all characters had a solid (~25 or 30) number of safe and plus-on-guard strings, the offensive game in DOA5 could be much, much better. Allowing the defender to punish only if the attacker makes a real mistake.  

Regarding the plus-on-guard strings. I believe that giving the attacker something small like +2 or +3 would be more than enough. More frame advantage should only be available from things like guard breaks, parries or forced tech set-ups like Bass's pick-ups.
-o-

Now, if those five changes were to be made, we'd still have to deal with character-specific issues which should not be there. In my personal case, I've played with several characters since the game was released. They are Tina, Helena, Jann Lee, Leifang, Hayabusa, Gen Fu, Alpha-152 and Pai. I will state some things that I feel need to be added to some of them. But I will leave the rest of the cast out because I just don't know much about them.

HELENA: 


- Helena needs to be safer. Most of her moves are -9, -10, -11 and worse which make most of the characters in the game able to punish her with stronger grabs and even strikes to stun her. This needs to change. Moves like 4PPP, 66P, 1KP, 66KPP and others need to be safe to allow her a realistic chance of keeping the offensive.

- Helena needs a better damage output. Some of the characters like Jann Lee, Tina and Mila can take away 50% of a normal-health life bar in a single combo (guaranteed or not). This means that in a sole combo they take 150+ damage. Helena's most damaging ones reach ~120 at best and she seriously needs her opponent to be brain-dead to fall into the vast array of mid-punches required to either Critical Burst or max-launch height after building enough stun threshold. Buffing her damage a little will allow her to stand on equal ground with the other characters.

- Helena needs a better mix-up game. 99% of the new strings she got in DOA5 are mid-punches, the easiest strike to hold in the game, worse is that to build the stun threshold she seems to be forced to rely on them to get "good" combos and since she doesn't have any single-strike unholdable stuns besides SS P, she's simply not viable. Any competent player will be able to stagger or hold her if she starts to build a combo. And even with the nerfed hold damage, the defender has the advantage against her. 

- Helena needs more unholdable stuns. 3PPP, 44PPP, and SS P grant her sit-down stuns but the first two are the last hit of a easily-holdable string. She needs to be able to sit-down stun, leave her opponents back turned with some attacks and deal limbo-stuns with more attacks. An example is her 6P+K punch in DOA4, it caused sit-down stun in that game but not anymore in DOA5 where that move could have actually been useful. 

- In DOA3.1, Helena had a sidestep move from Bokuho, she lost it in DOA4 and didn't get it back in DOA5. It's curious because many characters have special moves that make them sidestep like Christie and Hayate. If Helena had the possibility to sidestep from Bokuho, her evasive game would benefit a lot. 

- Helena needs a neutral move to transition to Back-Stance. Any Helena player worth it will use all her three stances. She can already move from Normal to Bokuho neutrally and from Bokuho to Back-Stance but there's still no way to move from Normal to Back-Stance which would be very important for her. All the important characters with an important Back-Stance can do it (Brad, Lisa and Ayane) so there's no reason to deny the option to Helena.

- Finally, Helena needs to be able to low throw from Bokuho and Back-Stance. These two stances are extremely important to her game and most of us Helena players spend most of the round in them. A way to catch people who try to low hold to escape from stuns would be extremely useful to Helena. It doesn't matter if the low throw is the exact same one as the Normal low throw. Just give her the option to access it from Bokuho and Back-Stance.

TINA:


- Tina needs to be safer. In previous games she was one of the most safe characters and now, many of her important strings can be punished. While it's nice that she's faster than the average grappler, she needs the safety to be able to keep and offensive game effectively against faster fighters.

- Tina's guard breaks leave her at neutral or are unsafe, which is simply illogical because they should give her the advantage. Moves like 236K, Running K, 6H+K and others break the guard of her opponents but are unsafe or don't give her any advantage, while other characters like Bass and Akira get insane advantage from guard breaks.

- Tina has two very damaging and nice combo throws. But while pretty, both of them are normal throws. If one of the was a offensive hold, she could get a very solid option to gain the offensive. I know she already has "nice" OHs like 66T, 8T and 46T but it's kind of unnecessary for both her combo throws to be normal. 

- Tina should get frame advantage from opponents breaking her combo throws. Mila and Bayman have this so there's simply no reason for Tina to be at a disadvantage from her throws being broken. Something small like +3 would be more than enough. This should also be added to Leifang and other characters with combo throws.


- Tina's running grab needs to be either a catch grab or an OH. If it's just a normal throw, it will be effective only against people who block or hold when they see her running, which never happens because since she's kind of slow, it's better to just interrupt her. By having a running OH, her possibilities of entering from a distance would be much better.

ALPHA-152:

- Alpha-152 needs wake-up kicks. I completely understand that she "feels" like a boss and over-powered character but she's really not. She has the longest and most damaging strings in the game, but they're easy to block, sidestep and punish. Her OHs are some of the best in the game but they can be seen from a mile away. Hell, 8T doesn't even track. There's a false sense around her that makes people think she's too good only because of her past as the DOA4 boss and the long strings but she's really lacking. Wake-up kicks are an integral part of the game and she should get them. Neutral holds doing zero damage we can live with, but no Wake-up kicks¿ that's going a little too far.

LEIFANG, GEN FU AND ELIOT:

- Parries need to have more advantage. During development, Eliot got +20 from a successful parry and in the final build that was toned-down to +16. While it's nice, it requires the character who made the parry to keep guessing right to get something good out of them. All characters with neutral parries that do not deal damage by themselves should get +20 from them. Leifang, Gen Fu and Eliot. 

HAYABUSA:

- Busa's transitions to Ongyoin (same as Helena's ones to Bokuho and BT) are either neutral or unsafe. This makes most of their opponents able to easily interrupt them when they transition at close range. Rig's transitions are at advantage so there's no reason to deny this to Ryu, Helena and other characters with important stances.

-o-


GAME INTERFACE CHANGES:

Now, there are still many characters I don't know enough about as to elaborate what they need added. I'm starting to train with Jann Lee, Gen Fu, Leifang and Kokoro and so far, they seem very nice but something might come along in the next days. The following are part of the game itself that need to be fixed or changed.

- The online menu song by Chosen1 is nice and I actually like it. In fact, I find it extremely satisfying that Team Ninja took it into consideration for development, but the song should have been in the Story Mode ending credits, not in the online menus. The song, while nice to me, is annoying to many players and gets old very quickly. I know there's an option to use custom soundtracks in the game in Xbox 360 but we shouldn't be forced to use that only because of a single song. The online menu song from DOA2U or the normal one from DOA3 or 4 would be nice. Please change this.

- Even after the patch that fixed many things, the online modes still randomly change the sidestep settings. I personally use 2/8P+K+H and sometimes the game changes it to 22/88. This is extremely annoying because we're supposed to be practicing. I think an option to change it during a match would be welcome too.

- The netcode is nice now but I think it could be better. I can still play VF5FS and SCV with no problems with American and European people from Venezuela. Sadly it's very hard to do this in DOA5. Any further improvements to the online performance of the game would be more than welcome.

- While watching an online match among other players, the characters sometime get a glitchy head and they move it like the Exorcist movie, it's creepy and goes against the excellent animations used in the game.

- Sometimes, after saving a replay, things in it happen completely different from the actual match. Some people have even claimed to save replays where they barely won and the replay shows their character losing. This needs to be fixed.

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