Swashbuckling Derring-do

The Swashbuckler is the next hero overhaul in my Invade the Ruins update.  I have to admit, the Swashbuckler has always been a bit of a bastard child for me.  He’s very popular on the selection screen, but I had neither the will nor the ideas to make him a hero I truly enjoyed playing.  With some of the new ideas and methods I’ve learned, I’m determined to find a fun new playstyle for him.  Here are his current abilities:

  • Hidden Blade: Instant damage and additional big damage over time.  A lot of damage to a single foe, but occasionally feels like it isn’t worth the time it takes to target and cast.
  • Cunning Distraction: Puts all the enemies around him to sleep and gives him invisibility.  Big damage on the first attack from the shadows.  This 6 rank spell has always been somewhat unpopular and is a good example of the sort of spell that would be incredible in melee WC3 but just doesn’t feel as powerful as some damage abilities.
  • Soused Swagger: Increases attack and movement speed based on rank.  For when you just want to beat up a lot of guys and have a good time, here’s your 6 rank frenzy spell.  Numbers-wise this spell is amazing but it usually just gets the Swashbuckler killed when he runs ahead of the party, slashing like mad.
  • Daring Parry: Puts up a shield that absorbs damage at the cost of mana.  A cool spell that is really efficient but players often run out their whole mana pool using it.  A solid 2-rank spell, but one which is often misused.
  • Attack from All Sides: Creates several extra illusionary forms that deal damage but can be dispelled.  This Ultimate ability is a home-run and everyone’s favorite part about him.  It lets him focus damage on a particular target, occupy an entire enemy flank, or serve as a distraction as everyone retreats.  I want the rest of his abilities to be as cool as this.

Swashbuckler is the best example of a hero with really solid numbers but without some of the spice that would make him a fun brawler.  Players have a hard time using his abilities at the right time.  On the other hand, the flavor of his abilities is great and preserving his move-set makes sense.  His abilities just need to have clearer methods of usage.

I started by thinking about the combos I had begun to build into other heroes.  What is the Swashbuckler spin on this concept?  What sort of mechanics would tie into the ideas of fencing pirates and gleeful rum-guzzlers?  The key idea for me came as twist on the “stance switching” concept in other games.  By encouraging him to move between all of his states (invisible, parrying, drunk), I could encourage players to loop around his four abilities.  Here’s how I’m structuring that loop:

  • When drunk from Soused Swagger, he may “snap out of it” by activating Daring Parry, which heals 40% of his health.
  • When overwhelmed in Daring Parry, Cunning Distraction will get him out of there, and also restore a good chunk of mana.
  • If his sneak attack from Cunning Distraction is a Hidden Blade instead of a normal attack, the bonus damage is doubled.
  • After a successful use of Hidden Blade, the Swashbuckler may “share a round” with his party with Soused Swagger, getting everyone drunk instead of only him.

If a Swashbuckler player has invested in the full array of his powers, he always has a hint on what he can do next.  Did he charge recklessly into combat with Soused Swagger?  Activate Daring Parry and recover that health.  Is he tanking more than he should and needs to get back to an outside melee position?  He can use Cunning Distraction for the price of “cheaper than free”.  Does he see a juicy, full-health target that just entered the fight?  The bonus damage on a sneak attack Hidden Blade will kill all but the strongest enemies.  After that crucial kill, he can boost his allies and help finish the fight off.

The Swashbuckler’s “combo loop” plays off of how Swashbucklers naturally tend to play, and gives them more and more clever options as they work through the game.  I like how this new playstyle looks and I hope to you enjoyed reading about my process.  There will be four heroes more and there are lots more changes along the way!