Ride to battle with a gun and a sword - Creativity with FPS melee
This article was published by me on indieDB
The FPS genre is focused on guns (as the acronym suggests) eg. CoD, Counter-Strike, Chrome (yeah there’s an old FPS with this name) etc, in these titles your gun goes pew pew and that’s the intention. Generally the melee exists in this genre as the last resort, a silent option to a takedown or simply to spare some ammo. Giving a bit more attention and care to the melee (or at least the close combat) option results in very interesting gameplay changes.
Dusk - Throw the projectiles back to the sender
In Dusk there’s two melee options, the Sickles and the Sword. The Sickles have faster attacks and can deflect projectiles with the right timing.
(Credits to Lord Mandalore)
While the sword has more damage, if the player has more than 50 morale (Dusk’s version of armor) holding the right click deflects projectiles, having at least 100 health and holding the left click charges a powerful stab. This little twist on the formula adds a lot, but these options (even though they are fun) are overshadowed by the ranged counterpart in the gameplay loop, Dusk is not less awesome by that by any means, it has a focus on the ranged combat and atmosphere, it executes so well these two aspects (and more) that focusing on the details of the melee system feels like nitpicking.
Doom (2016) - The demon piñata
The original Doom, Doom II and Doom 3 had two melee options, your fists and a chainsaw with the Berserk powerup increasing the damage dealt (the damage increase varies).
In the 2016 version the introduction of the glory kill was revolutionary, other games attempted systems like this before where the enemy staggers when it was close to death and killing it rewarded the player with resources, but Doom (2016) achieved the best implementation at the time.
(Credits to Gman Lives)
With the quick and awesome animations coupled with the right amount of resources, the player is incentivized to keep in close range and always move forward. The Berserk powerup temporarily removed the player weapons replacing them with the fists, every hit with those hands resulted in a glory kill, it was cathartic. What if the ammo was running low mid-fight? Enter the chainsaw, it uses fuel and can one-hit demons, bigger demons require more fuel, using it replenishes part of all the ammo pools. The system had some flaws, but it was very good and it fulfilled its purpose of keeping the player on the offensive and in close range.
Doom Eternal - The Marauder is balanced and fun
Eternal turned up the speed, violence and strategy from the previous entry, the glory kills and the chainsaw are now totally integrated in the gameplay loop, where before it lost the appeal and usefulness after some time. The small weapon magazines force the player to keep using the chainsaw on demons to recover ammo, the game conveniently fills the arenas with weaker demons, or fodder as the game calls, these are easily staggered and use only one unit of fuel from the chainsaw to dispatch. There’s the Crucible, a big sword that kills any demon with one hit, but the implementation is a bit weird. The melee options are integrated seamlessly (except for the crucible) with the ranged combat, and the gameplay loop feels extremely good because of it.
Ultrakill - Blood is Fuel
Ultrakill was regarded as “a low budget Doom Eternal” because of its close combat system (not melee yet), hitting an enemy makes it bleed and being close to this literal bloodbath heals the player.
(Credits to Civvie11)
Where Eternal has a strict focus on resource management, Ultrakill focus on SSStyle (it even has a meter for this) with infinite ammo and enemies easily being thrown in the air the game calls the player to be a Dante Robot from Hell (if you’ve played you’ll understand). Ultrakill presents an interesting melee system, the player can punch… punch enemies to deal a small amount of damage, punch the enemies projectiles to send them back and make them explode, punch your own shotgun pellets to make them explode on enemies, punch a coin to keep it in the air. Looking this way the melee/punch is a multitool that can be used offensively, defensively or to prepare another attack, truly a well designed mechanic.
Defiance & Mr. Good Looking - I heal while you kill
Of course i’m going to talk about my game, this is a big ad where I delve on melee systems to put mine at the end and make the reader want to experiment it. In Defiance & Mr. Good Looking (DnMGL, for short) the player uses the two titular characters, being inspired by Doom Eternal there’s a focus on resource management, each enemy one character kills has two effects on the other: it will heal him and can recover part of his ammo pool. The melee system in this case is one of the titular characters: Defiance.
He can use different skills with his sword that can cause status effects on enemies or simply deal more damage, with a catch, the character needs energy (ammo) to cast the skills. These twists aim to bring the melee part of the game to the front but, the resource management tries to make it not overshadow the ranged counterpart, it becomes a game of balance with the player deciding how to engage each encounter. It’s far from being a perfect system, but it gets the job done.
To finish this small article i want to say to my dev buddies: Put weird melee systems in your FPS, i don’t care about sniping dudes from a safe distance, I want to be able to see my enemies eyes when i’m shooting/punching/ripping/slashing them.
Get Defiance & Mr. Good Looking - Alpha
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