As someone who recently left the game due to a number of frustrations with it, I need to say that one of my main frustrations was the current Raid mechanic. I absolutely loathed it, and all my family / friends I encouraged to play the game felt the same.
So what’s so bad about it?
It feels ‘unfair’. The opponent absorbs mana on each hit and you often have the situation where you lose a hero or 2 before your mana in any of them is remotely close to full - even against ‘weaker’ teams.
It becomes a race to fill mana. If you are fortunate to get a good board layout and get 1 or 2 of your more useful heroes filled with mana early on, you have a good chance to win the encounter. Otherwise your only real chance to win is to have much stronger heroes.
The opponents mana generation rate feels excessive. You can concentrate all your attack on a healer and all you are doing is filling his mana - when he fires his heal he then eliminates all damage you’ve dealt. This would be ok if you could reliably aim to avoid hitting the healer, but you have very little discretion to do so - you are at the mercy of the board.
In addition, the regular hit rate of the opponents can sometimes be ridiculous, with your team receiving multiple hits in consecutive turns for each hit you execute. There doesn’t seem to be any real rhyme or reason to this. (Even if there is rhyme or reason to it, it’s still massively frustrating).
So how can we improve it?
My idea is that the computer controlled team also plays off the tile board - governed by the same tile-based game mechanic as the player. (i.e. the player and the opponent share the tile board - launching attacks from it in turn).
It may well be possible then that the computer gets ‘lucky’ and launches a massive combo of tiles at you… but at least there will be no feeling that the odds are stacked against the player, as the player also has the chance of this happening.
It also introduces an element of strategy in the tile play… e.g. you may opt to play a ‘weaker’ tile combination to deny that colour to the opponent who may be close to filling mana.
You may want to keep the element of heroes gaining mana on hit, but greatly reduce the rate, and both sides should benefit from this. This allows you to also keep the strategy of choosing to miss your opponent to charge your mana without boosting his.
It is possible also to introduce different ‘levels’ of AI to this play:
- Easy: The AI simply launches the first combo it discovers, and the AI triggers hero skill as soon as mana is filled. (i.e. like the existing auto-play).
- Medium: The AI examines each base combo, but also considers the 1st level cascade combo after that. (Limited to 1st level as new tiles introduced after the 1st cascade makes it difficult to look further than that). The AI chooses the combo that results in the largest number of tiles being launched in the base + 1st cascade. For Hero skill the AI uses some simple heuristics (e.g. Do not heal if all heroes are already close to full health; Target single attack on opposing hero most likely to get killed by it; etc).
- Hard: The AI uses the Medium logic to ‘pretend’ play out the result of all possible combos it can find and tracks the total damage that would be done on each. It then chooses to actually launch the combo that results in the highest damage to the opposing team. i.e.) This option takes element vulnerability and doubling up of heroes into account, unlike the Medium option. For Hero Skill, use the Heuristics mentioned in the medium approach, maybe with some enhancements (like targetting the most ‘dangerous’ opposing player). Such heuristics will be harder to code, admittedly.
Can maybe introduce a raid mechanic where you have multiple bouts against the opponent, with the increasing AI difficulty levels, and increasing rewards for each.
I certainly think I’d see raids as more ‘fair’ and appealing given this approach, and I don’t think it’s massively difficult to code (as long as you keep the skill heuristics reasonably basic).
What do you think?