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Razsius

Raz's Perspective: A Dissertation on Engagement mechanics

Engagement Mechanics  

57 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you believe this engagement system should be implemented into Pillars of Eternity?

    • Yes
      26
    • No
      31


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Doppelschwert: In part, you misunderstand his idea. There will never be any cycling going on in any easy manner. Also, with such a system in this pretty quick RTwP-CRPG with a full party, all members doing their stuff (some may even be blocked out, knocked out or wiped out), good luck even trying to achieve such easy shifts. In fact, even pulling them off would be more or less fringe behaviour, worthy of an achievement, almost (perhaps on some boss, it could work). :)


*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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I think I see what you are saying. I just think that kinda seems like achieving stickiness by implementing what seems like bad AI. Maybe I am missing somthing and if so, I apologize.

No, not really. I need to record some videos of Icewind Dale:HoW, because the targeting in that game is really good. I'll do it tomorrow. If you make a mistake and your Mage is in front and is being targeted, you can just swap formations manually around and usually that will fix it.

 

I'll do some examples where I do it properly and never let the enemy target my squishes, and I'll do some where I deliberately make a mistake, and show how to correct it simply by moving units around a little bit.

Edited by Sensuki

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Doppelschwert: In part, you misunderstand his idea. There will never be any cycling going on in any easy manner. Also, with such a system in this pretty quick RTwP-CRPG with a full party, all members doing their stuff (some may even be blocked out, knocked out or wiped out), good luck even trying to achieve such easy shifts. In fact, even pulling them off would be more or less fringe behaviour, worthy of an achievement, almost (perhaps on some boss, it could work). :)

 

I neither see why cycling through wouldn't be an easy manner in fights with less enemies than party members nor which part of the idea I misunderstood. Care to elaborate whats preventing me from doing this when I go all out with a party of 4 melee characters on a single enemy like the ogre?

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I think I see what you are saying. I just think that kinda seems like achieving stickiness by implementing what seems like bad AI. Maybe I am missing somthing and if so, I apologize.

 

 

The thing is, I think, that bad AI (and it can apparently be done better) produces less additional problems and problem-solving than engagement (which doesn't have better AI anyway?).

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I made a similar post under a different thread here: http://forums.obsidian.net/topic/69039-engagement-mechanics-problems-and-solutions/page-4 but didn't include a poll or anything.  Shevek's idea for a poll might be a good one if the idea is to reforge the engagement system.  However...

 

After Bester's insightful comments (at least in current game state) and my experience, as I feared in my thread, I am concerned that it grows too complex and cumbersome.  When a system becomes too complex, it becomes a hindrance more than a feature.  I start to think more strongly that they should just probably scrap engagement and focus on better reacquisition targeting scripts. They could add opportunity strike as a lvl up trait maybe, but not inherent to the game engine itself for everyone.

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I've recorded about 4-5 videos about Engagement tonight but I still need to do a few more, as there are quite a few problems with it. Might have the thread up in 36 hours or so.

 

I'm not posting them publicly until they're all done and I figure out how to format the post, but if anyone's interested in watching a couple, feel free to send me a PM. Some of them are pretty funny.

Edited by Sensuki

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The thing is, I think, that bad AI (and it can apparently be done better) produces less additional problems and problem-solving than engagement (which doesn't have better AI anyway?).

 

It's true, but again the issue comes down to whether or not PoE is the place to try and improve things.

 

The current engagement system, combined with the current AI, might not play better than the IE games. The question is to whether Obsidian should be attempting to improve such mechanics to make them better than the IE games, and I believe that they should.

 

The secondary issue, which Bester raised, is that while the traditionally glass cannon classes act as glass pea-shooters this might not necessarily be the case. I would argue that bow-wielding naked Ciphers and naked sneak-attacking rouges with an arbalest or arquebus have effectively replaced the wizard in this area. If Obsidian take steps to nerf those two builds, which arguably they should, then they could probably afford to lose engagement and just have bad AI.

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The naked sneak attacking Rogue with an Arbalest isn't anywhere near as good now, does like half the damage. Much better off dual wielding fast weapons.

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Good, because that was ridiculous and more than a little unthematic.

 

While on the tangent:

 

Rangers: Change the "my animal dies, I die" mechanic to turn them into an at least somewhat ranged class.

 

Ciphers:

 

They should merge the classes of Ciphers and Wizards into a new class, based around some manner of regenerating spell points and reuseable spells, and call it the "Wizard".

 

...but sadly that isn't going to happen.

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Maybe they should just change wizards to "evokers" and beef their damages.  Back on point though, nerf the back line enough and will be no need to go back there which just super reinforces Bester's point of engagement system, why?

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I've recorded about 4-5 videos about Engagement tonight but I still need to do a few more, as there are quite a few problems with it. Might have the thread up in 36 hours or so.

 

I'm not posting them publicly until they're all done and I figure out how to format the post, but if anyone's interested in watching a couple, feel free to send me a PM. Some of them are pretty funny.

 

I think Sensuki deserves a lot of credit for finding these abuses. His efforts will, one way or another, improve the game. I do believe that AI can be adjusted to close in on Player Characters with greater care, however. Essentially, when giving chase, enemies could change targets to nearest PC as they close to avoid being eviscerated by engagement attacks (maybe even having close range lunging attacks on certain enemies to aid this). After such a fix, I am sure that a similar exploit could still be executed via shuffling units about but that will require significant player input and would be no more of an exploit than the MANY ways to trivialize combat in the IE games. 
 
Basically, if the exploit is tedious to pull off, I say let the player do it. If its a simple thing to do (positioning and a couple mouse clicks), then it needs to be curbed.
 
I will say that if AI cannot be altered to ensure enemies give chase in a smarter manner (or maybe even outfit more enemies with switchable ranged attacks), then I will join Sensuki in saying engagement should go. There is no way you should be able to so easily set up casual ambushes. 
 
I just don't think that is a difficult issue to fix however. I really can't wait till Sensuki posts his videos and the devs, hopefully, respond.
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Alright.

 

My real issue with the combat is not concerned with the individual elements. But rather the observation that combat as a whole feels VERY boring. 

 

Now, I have to admit that this is because the encounter design in the beta and the demo twitch was probably just demonstrative of the mechanics. This might mean that the actual encounters in the main game will be interesting enough to overshadow the boring and clumsy feeling of the mechanics themselves. I strongly believe that the most important aspect of a single player game is finally content. The mechanics are important, yeah, but with good storytelling and smart positioning of enemies in interesting situations can totally save the game. Deus ex does it that way at least. 

 

But, looking back at Obsidian's previous efforts in the  encounters area, I think I am justified in having my doubts. 


"The essence of balance is detachment. To embrace a cause, to grow fond or spiteful, is to lose one's balance, after which, no action can be trusted. Our burden is not for the dependent of spirit."

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Apologies in advance for my slow responses as i'm a slow typer and I was knocked out cold for a while there.

 

 

 

If you call this a dissertation you're probably not a real doctor. shifty.gif

Now that I made the bad joke I came here for, I guess I have to answer to the topic in order not to get off topic. I'll probably come off as harsh, but I appreciate the effort you put into it.

 

- I agree on the visual stuff for the most part.

 

- What you describe in 2) with your disengagement limit is basically a form of aggro mechanic and for the most part completely nullifies the whole mechanic, making it rather pointless to begin with.

 

- What you describe in 3) seems rather pointless as well. Why is there a distinction between an ability that disengages and one that nullifies engagement at all? The only reason you want to nullify engagement is in order to disengage, so the ability may make you disengage as well. If it allows you to nullify engagement, its just a break free of jail card you can occasionally play in specific situations. The abilities that allow you to disengage at the moment have way more uses and it's not trivial to decide what to use them for as they can also be used for different tactics.

 

In conclusion, I think the changes you propose make the disengagement system not trigger for the most part while being heavily penalized even if it ocassionally does. If you want to go with this kind of setup, you're probably better off removing it alltogether.

 

My engagement limit section is indeed proposed in order to allow the player a little more freedom of movement to do things but it does not completely nullify the engagement system entirely.  Both you the player and enemies mobs do not necessarily have to have an engagement limit of only 1.  It might be a limit of 2 or 3 hell it might even be 4 but it does allow you to "tie up" and interact with a set of mobs.  The neat thing is it gave would give the engagement limit system a little more "meat" to it.  Things like Hold the Line might actually be a viable talent for your off tank (pardon the mmo expression) to pick up.  Being able to hold off 5 units in melee between a fighter in defender mode and an off tank with Hold the line between the pair might be a good example to providing a safe or safer melee environment for otherwise squishy characters.  Sometimes it might only hold off a total of 2 enemies it really depends.  It does however, give the player more options.  I might be alone here but talents being more useful and more player options is something I will always consider a good thing.

 

If you notice the 2 examples I gave involving null-engage were both hobble abilities.  Currently, hobble abilities function as a relatively minor defense debuff, something that can proc a sneak attack and a movement penalty that doesn't matter after engagement.  Null-engage would make hobble abilities movement penalty actually matter.  If there was a big nasty spider all over your wizard eating his face off hitting it with a Crippling Strike would do the equivalent of almost nothing.  I mean sure yea now it moves slower but the minute your wizard moved it would basically be over for him due to the incoming disengagement attack.  So what then is the functional purpose of a hobble?  Is it a debuff only useful during the alpha strike phase of combat?  Even I consider that a little unforgiving and i'm certainly no casual player.  As above, it would change some of the landscape of abilities and spells.  For example, it would make the Wizard movement speed spell much better without adding a disengagement break on the spell itself.

 

 

 

Frankly, engagement itself has got a lot of undue attention from the wider issues of the UI being a complete cluster****, and a tanking Fighter being absolutely mandatory at this point.

 

UI issues aside (and why I have The Visuals as my first section) the fighter issue was something I was worried about 3 months back.  For what it's worth I did have ideas on how to make monks feel a lot more "monkish" while being able to fill the fighters tanking role.  To be honest the classes in PoE really fail to impress me for the most part.  Obsidian could've taken the ball and ran with it but they didn't.  They delivered the same stuff i've seen time and again.  I would've posted said ideas but i didn't feel like they wouldn't restructure any of the classes 3 months ago and I certainly feel the same way if not more so now.

 

As for crackwise's idea it is sound but does not necessarily address what I believe Obsidian wanted to be addressed.

 

Bester:

 

Ya I hear ya man.  The Wizard changes (see nerfs) were about the last thing I ever wanted to see implemented in PoE.  Wizards now have the same mundane, boring spells that every other game gives them.  Different colored balls to do different colored damage.  Doesn't help that anything a Wizard can do a Druid can do better and then some.  But that's a fight for another time (that likely won't be won).

 

In regards to AI:

 

I originally had an AI section in that giant arse post of mine but considered it a bit too opinionated.  The intention of the thread was to show players what engagement did and what it could do as well as to get feedback in those regards.  The changes were proposed as an attempt to add robustness as well as allow it to be easily understood and (somewhat) manipulated by the player.  I divorced AI from the contents of the original post thereafter.  Truthfully, I think the AI utterly sucks in the backer beta.  I've played C rank games with less "sticky" enemies.  Thief enemies that would flat out ignore your tanks and take out your squishies and the like.  I'd like similar dynamic AI in the games I play but apparently AI systems need to be built from the ground up so you get a "tricycle" level of AI vs. the "bike" level you hope is in the next installment.  I am not particularly happy about the 15 years of "progress" that's been made in that regard.

 

 

 

Doppelschwert: In part, you misunderstand his idea. There will never be any cycling going on in any easy manner. Also, with such a system in this pretty quick RTwP-CRPG with a full party, all members doing their stuff (some may even be blocked out, knocked out or wiped out), good luck even trying to achieve such easy shifts. In fact, even pulling them off would be more or less fringe behaviour, worthy of an achievement, almost (perhaps on some boss, it could work). :)

 

I neither see why cycling through wouldn't be an easy manner in fights with less enemies than party members nor which part of the idea I misunderstood. Care to elaborate whats preventing me from doing this when I go all out with a party of 4 melee characters on a single enemy like the ogre?

 

 

Does the ogre have an engagement limit of 1?  Does he have other abilities he can kill you with?  Does he have friends?  Is it bad that you can use 4 melee characters to do a damn good job of "holding a line"?  I thought people wanted more reasons to use melee characters ;).

 

As a note here is what Obsidian has currently prioritized in regards to my post:

 

The Visuals

 

1) The Zone of Control - Needed clarity (Sensuki video special)

2) Engagement “Arrows” - Being addressed by Obsidian

3) Disengagement Animation - Being addressed by Obsidian

 

The Mechanics

 

1) The Zone of Control - Needed fixes (Sensuki video special)

4) The Disengagement Attack - Needed fixes (Sensuki video special)

5) Targeting clauses - unaddressed so far

 

As a side note guys it looks like Sen is working on some (rather hilarious) but really exploitative videos in regards to melee disengagement (see engagement) attacks that should outline some of the reasons i've taken the time to address some of the things that I consider issues with the current system.

Edited by Razsius
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Alright.

 

My real issue with the combat is not concerned with the individual elements. But rather the observation that combat as a whole feels VERY boring. 

 

Now, I have to admit that this is because the encounter design in the beta and the demo twitch was probably just demonstrative of the mechanics. This might mean that the actual encounters in the main game will be interesting enough to overshadow the boring and clumsy feeling of the mechanics themselves. I strongly believe that the most important aspect of a single player game is finally content. The mechanics are important, yeah, but with good storytelling and smart positioning of enemies in interesting situations can totally save the game. Deus ex does it that way at least. 

 

But, looking back at Obsidian's previous efforts in the  encounters area, I think I am justified in having my doubts. 

 

@Captain Shrek 
 
I am of the opinion that encounters for a game like this should be tiered. Tier 1 is a standard trash encounter that may widdle down party resources (Health) but requires little more than SelectAll+Attack or similar such tactics with very minimal skill use if the party is built for passive play. Tier 2 may be either a large group of weak enemies or a smaller group of skilled enemies. Here some skill use may be needed against troublesome enemies or when the RNG just doesn't roll your way. These encounters would more dramatically impact party resources (Health + ability use). A Tier 3 encounter is a tough encounter. This could happen dynamically as a wandering group joins a static group mid combat or a set piece encounter at the end of a dungeon, etc. This is where you may consider resting prior to fighting (if possible) and painstakingly using a set of abilities, etc.
 
To make these encounters interesting, they really need to differentiate enemies. I think the engagement system affords an opportunity to help with that. Look at the design of the Monk class. With abilities like Flaggelants's Path, Rooting Pain, Stunning Blow and so on, that class is designed to disengage itself rather readily. What if select ENEMIES were designed this way. What if to differentiate encounters of various tiers select skilled enemies could be designed to have similar abilities. What if the elder wolves you meet in Dyrwood know down the tank and went for the lowest armored character in view? 
 
The key, I think, is to leave Tier 1 encounters nice and easy but pepper more Tier 2 encounters with a few enemies as described above more liberally throughout the map.
 
To make combat more fun in general, I think the disengagement abilities need to be a bit easier to pull off (instant, more effective/numerous, etc) and maybe look at adding a cooldown or some such to disengagement attacks themselves. These are not particularly difficult fixes, I think, but the devs would know better.
Edited by Shevek

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Hmm.

 

In your tier system, I really do not see the need for the tier 1 to exist. Whittling down resources is bound to happen in a game where the resource economy is not broken.  In that case the encounters just become a nuisance that need to  be eliminated to proceed. 

 

Also, I measure the quality of an encounter by the presentation; take the IWD2 encounter near the Shaengarn bridge. There are two things there:

 

A totally infuriating trash mob and a conversation with the enemy commander regarding the bridge quest. I would ask you this: if the trash mob were NOT there, would you mind? I loved the dialogue and the encounter after that (Stop the trolls/pgres/giants before the destroy the bridge).  It could have been done better, but it was already pretty good. But you know what? The entire army of generic villains I had to face right after that battle nearby (or before depending on how you approach the bridge) left such a bad taste in my mouth that overall I marked down the game as having negative score.

 

That is the real problem. 

 

I think people respond better to encounter that make sense and have tactical scenarios, like in this case do it within a specific amount of time. Other such scenarios could involve using environmental resources to engage enemies or even holding control of certain areas etc. Instead, most RP games just throw trash at you. 

 

Simply having hard enemies is just not enough. The context in which they are presented creates the real "feel" of the combat. The rest is simply annoyance. 

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"The essence of balance is detachment. To embrace a cause, to grow fond or spiteful, is to lose one's balance, after which, no action can be trusted. Our burden is not for the dependent of spirit."

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The need for trash encounters is indeed debatable. I like them but I understand why you dont. They were, however, prolific in 90s/early 2000s era rpgs (both the IE games and even the Fallouts, etc). Even ToEE had trash random encounters.

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Did you like them?

 

Also, if at all someone feels obliged to have them, can't there be a dedicated dungeon crawl area in the game? Like there is one in the PoE game, this 13 level thing. So anyone two bloodthirsty can make a bee line for that place. 


"The essence of balance is detachment. To embrace a cause, to grow fond or spiteful, is to lose one's balance, after which, no action can be trusted. Our burden is not for the dependent of spirit."

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I prefer the dungeon crawl spaces to have less trash and more tier 2/tier 3 encounters like Durlag's Tower and Watcher's Keep. Those all had a few trash fights but were mostly harder than the bears, gibberlings, bandits and gnolls populating the world outside. That makes them were you go for the tough set piece stuff and insures people of all skill levels can happily follow the critical path while wading through many tier 1 encounters (and occaisonal tier 2/3). Thats pretty much how the IE games did it anyways. You wanted a challenge, you went to go butcher a dragon or whatever.

 

Edit: That isn't to say that the percentage of tier 1 encounters shouldn't drastically be reduced as the difficulty level increases, btw. This is what PoE is trying to do with the adding of difficult enemies by difficulty I think.

 

Edit 2: If I am missing some of what you are saying, my apologies. I am ninja posting from work. So I am only quickly reading through forum posts.

Edited by Shevek

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I am really surprised that people don't get tired of this.

 

I mean really, think about it. In the IE games the toughest battles *were* set pieces where enemies had specific tactical advantages. Unfortunately these were limited to spellcasting. So the most interesting battles were against mages who would hide behind summons or guards and cast devastating spells from their vantage points. Would you not rather have more of these set pieces?

 

I am also highly disturbed by the assertion that the 'tier 1'  as you call it is somehow essential in the critical path. Can you elaborate on that? or am I getting you wrong? 

 

I have also objected in the past to the idea, that ALL builds need to succeed. Why? If you really screw up a particular class concept, i.e. give the fighters in PoE ranged weapons and send the chanter in melee, should that not be discouraged? Or is it necessary to still make it succeed?

 

If you really want an unfettered class, why have a class at all? Class-less systems are so much fun! Just go for them! But this insistence that all skill levels should be able to finish the critical path is sure to be the biggest spanner in the works for getting a good encounter design. Such a criterion will practically ensure that the critical path encounters are basically NOT set pieces but rather just a bunch of enemies thrown together so that they can be defeated by anybody.  

 

There are alternatives to this: During character creation itself the game can emphasize that certain classes need certain skills. And then still provide a variety by allowing alternative skills, all of which are good. 

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"The essence of balance is detachment. To embrace a cause, to grow fond or spiteful, is to lose one's balance, after which, no action can be trusted. Our burden is not for the dependent of spirit."

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Well, lol, this would be a separate discussion and I would hate to derail the thread over it. I can see what you are saying but, honestly, even old PnP modules have trash encounters in them. We can argue over their value, I guess. I enjoy them but I totally respect that you don't.

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I think both the Icewind Dale games proved that you can make good encounters from 'trash' enemies.

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Thats true. The other day I played up through the Vale of Shadows up to the temple of the Forgotten God in IWD:EE just to remember the early game a bit more (on highest difficulty). I had an Inquistor, an un-nerfed Cleric/Ranger, a Gnomish Fighter/Thief (Helm of Trusted Defender!), an Archer and a Cleric/Illusionist. It was pretty much select all attack but I did get into some dicey situations early on. I single pulled once in a while and at others I just went in. The game loved to throw numbers at you. Many many skeletons, goblins, etc. Still, they still felt like trash encounters to me. I like them though.

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Isn't there also a function of trash mobs in terms of differentiating the power of different enemies as well as of different player levels? What I mean is that if you dispatch 3 heaps of orcs before you get to that difficult mage, the mage will feel more powerful and special, and perhaps meeting 4 mages along a random corridor would get tiresome as well? The other point is that players may feel increasingly powerful as the mobs they struggled with at level 1 are easily crushed at level 5, and so on. This does of course not say anything about a good amount or ratio of trash mobs, but still, its a somewhat meaningful function with them.

Edited by ISC
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I feel that trash mobs play an important role in a number of ways, one of the most important of which is in demonstrating character power progression.

 

At the start of the game, one or two low level monsters should pose a challenge to your character, yet a few levels in, after significant character and story development, the PC will be facing tougher, higher level foes yet should be given plenty of opportunities to massacre the same low level mooks who once posed such a threat and let the PC's progression in the world be demonstrably real. If trash mobs are removed, then progression becomes an illusion, a treadmill, where all that changes are the names and graphics of the PCs opponents and the relative challenge of PCs vs foe remains constant.

 

The fact is, I want my PC to be a badarse who can slaughter swathes of lesser opponents even as he remains challenged by higher level enemies. It all depends on how intelligently encounters are designed though (and I feel Obsidian is brilliant at encounter design, eprsonally). If all you're doing is engaging in intermittent meaningless slaughters or randomly placed trash mobs, that's simply a chore, and lazy design to try and add something into an otherwise uninteresting or empty, low gameplay density, most likely wilderness area. I know some people loved it, but that's one of the reasons I disliked much of BG1, where I found myself simply clearing fog of war out of my completionist instincts and barely noticing the trash mobs sprinkled through them, as I hoped to find something that was actually significant or interesting...

 

I also feel that trash mobs can contribute positively to encounter design that includes higher level opponents. They can enhance the apparent scale of a battle in a way that multiplying non-trash mobs can't (you'd simply make the battle impossible for the PC if you fill the screen with tough enemies), and add a tactical element in that in numbers, even trash mobs should pose some minor threat, if not to the PCs health then at least tactically in terms of blocking the path to ranged enemies and the like, and the PC needs to decide whether to spend any effort to clear them from the battlefield, or to ignore them and focus on the more significant threats.

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I want to respond to this:

 

"a tanking Fighter being absolutely mandatory at this point"

 

No its not. I ran with a dps fighter, paladin, melee chanter, ranged rogue, cipher and a priest. I did not need a single shield or defender stance to kill everything in the beta.

Edited by Shevek

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