Greetings, Companions of Edain!
As you know, sieges are one of the core topics we want to overhaul in 4.5. Today we'd like to share the first part of the changes with you by taking a look at the defensive options in fortresses and camps.
As we already showcased in our first siege update, all factions will have access to new defensive tools in 4.5. A few examples would be Gondor's Wall Crane, the Dwarves' Boiling Oil or moving Isengard's Warg Sentry to the small buildplots.
Today's update is less about showing you those new features and more about their purpose and how they interact with already existing elements to make sieges more interesting. For that reason, towers and wall catapults have also been changed.
The first step was a global reduction of tower damage. Towers were the main reason why sieges often followed the same static pattern: Their enormous strength against everything that wasn't a siege weapon made it nearly impossible to tear down a defended fortress, because they could decimate even large upgraded armies. As a result, the attacker didn't even try to enter the fortress in the first place and instead used catapults to shoot it down from afar, not risking his army. That wasn't a fun experience, neither for the defender nor for the attacker: The attacker sat around with the army he built up with great effort, waiting for the catapults to arrive; the defender on the other hand couldn't deal with the superior army and therefore couldn't destroy the catapults, meaning that he was just waiting for his end. By giving both parties new tools, we want to create more interesting siege gameplay.
First of all, the damage of all towers has been reduced. The purpose of defensive structures was never to protect an empty fortress all on their own, but rather to help defending soldiers push back a stronger army. To further emphasise this, their health has been reduced by a substantial amount. Those two changes vary between the different kinds of towers, because they fill different roles.
Small sentry towers like the ones Mordor and Isengard can build on their defensive plots have to protect their base from rushes above all else. Without walls, their bases are very vulnerable, which is why they need cheap and easily accessible defensive options against aggressive opponents. Compared to other towers, their damage nerf hasn't been as substantial, but their health decrease has been just that. Their damage should be strong enough to easily fend off lone batallions early in the game, but later on a skilled attacker can deal with them quickly if he manages to attack several of them simultaneously with a large enough force. He can then proceed to tear down the citadel to prevent the rebuilding of those structures.
A smart defender on the other hand can split up his forces to protect the towers from melee attacks, keeping them alive for a longer time and, in doing so, getting the most out of their damage output. Their price has been increased slightly from 150 to 200 so they are still cheap enough to build in the early game. Towers that good factions can build in their camps have been treated similarly.
The large towers that can be erected on normal buildplots have been nerfed both in health and in damage. The same principle applies: If your force is big enough, you should be able to bring them down quite handily if they are undefended. But unlike their smaller counterparts, big towers are not designed to counter early rushes. For that reason, it now takes about 25% longer to build them. The goal of this change is to reduce situations (especially on narrow multiplayer maps) where a player with an inferior army would just get an outpost up and build one or several towers, forcing his opponent to retreat because the towers would built too quickly to destroy them. In exchange, the vision range of these towers was increased so they can function as an early warning system. Of course this is not as effective as scouting actively with your units or a scout hero, but it does give the player more time to react to the enemy's movements.
Wall towers have been hit hardest by the price increases. Their purpose differs a lot from small sentry towers since the walls and the gate are sufficient to nullify any early attacks in the first place. These towers are meant to allow a relatively small garrison to fight against much stronger armies, providing valuable damage against all kinds of units. Because they can only be attacked by siege machines which forces your opponent to invest a lot of money into those, these kinds of towers should require a larger investment and in turn hurt the defender more when they get destroyed. That is why their price has been increased from 500 to 700 in addition to less health and less damage, even though they haven't been nerfed as hard as the other towers in that area.
Another change has been made to the Ugrades you can get via Sauron's Influence, Gondor's Stonemason or just by getting them at each seperate tower: Upgrades that added elemental damage (like Fire Arrows) have been removed, as they were strong enough to destroy even rams and catapults. Since that pretty much contradicts the thought that siege engines are supposed to be good against towers, they now have access to a new upgrade in form of additional garrisons that boosts their regular ranged damage. This change might make them even better against soldiers, but in exchange for that, they will be nearly useless against their designated counter. The lone exception to this will be the Silverthorn upgrade in Lothlorien's Sanctuary - the most skilled archers in Middle-Earth with their unique upgrade should keep that feature in our opinion, so the elemental damage will stay (albeit in smaller amounts).
Other defensive options
Wall catapults have always been a bit tricky and underused. Why spend money on them when towers are cheaper, significantly more effective against units and both will get obliterated by enemy catapults? To solve this problem, we decided to turn wall catapults into designated catapult counters. Their range has been increased, which means they now have a big advantage against their mobile opposites, and the center of their impact deals increased damage. In return, their minimal range has also been increased, giving rams or exotic weapons like Isengard's mines bigger chances to blow up the pedestal. On top of that, the catapults are slightly more vulnerable to upgraded archers, and they remain pretty useless against ladders or other ways to sneak into the fortress. Unlike towers they are quite vulnerable to all different kinds of units, so you would be wise to protect them with either towers or archers on your wall. Speaking of archers...
Placing archers on your walls is one of those atmospheric must-haves in an epic siege. Unfortunately, their effectiveness in this regard has been limited - being the only unit up on the wall turned them into target practice for attacking ranged units, and getting rid of them was usually not a big problem. Of course we want archers to be useful in those scenarios, which is why we introduced a bonus for all units on top of a wall that makes them a lot tougher against ranged damage. This is supposed to show the advantage you get behind cover as opposed to standing in the middle of nowhere on an open field. And in addition to that, they already gain increased range to illustrate their height advantage. But watch out - this also applies to enemies who make it onto your wall!
And that leads us to the final change we want to share with you today. As Ealendril said in the first update, in 4.5 the citadel will give all structures and walls within your fortress a bonus that increases their armor against siege engines by 50%. This effectively doubles their hp against rams, catapults, mines etc.! Towers will of course also benefit from this, but their health reduction offsets this. Walls on the other hand are the biggest beneficiaries here: They can only be attacked by siege engines, so with this buff they gain an incredible amount of durability considering their massive 10.000 HP (used to be 6.000). This may be a controversial change if you look at it in a vacuum, considering how tough buildings already are and how that often forces you to get catapults to get anything done. But our goal is to make sieges more diverse and more dynamic (e.g. by the changes we just presented you) and to not let them turn into boring and tedious static battles. With weakened towers, attackers have better chances to take the enemy base down by storming it with their army. Their role is the destruction of the citadel. The citadel has of course always been a priority target because it can prevent the rebuilding of structures and the use of the spellbook, but now it can be a key component of your strategy to take down the entire fortress by massively increasing the effectiveness of siege engines. It also serves the purpose of increasing the attractiveness of ladders and siege towers: They allow the attacker to use the walls as an attack route, which is now a lot harder to do with conventional weapons such as rams or catapults. Alternatively, there will be weapons with special bonuses against walls such as Isengard's mines. This gives the attacker to choose between investing into those weapons or attacking the weaker, but more easily defendable gate.
You might have realized that we aim to give all elements of an army a specific role in sieging your enemy, if possible. Towers are great versus units, but can easily be swarmed and taken down without a meatshield to protect them. Wall catapults are brilliant against mobile catapults, but can easily be outmanouvred. Archers on your wall can provide excellent fire support, but are rather weak against siege engines and are in trouble if the enemy scales the walls. And faction specific features like Rohans Banner or the Dwarven Raven Tower can give you other advantages still. And we tried to follow this guideline on the offensive part of siege battles as well - the citadel bonus is the first glimpse into the changes we made concerning priorities and options for the attacker. But that is a topic for another day.
As always, we are excited to hear your feedback!
Your Edain team
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