Sieges in Edain 4.5, part II: Offense
Greetings, companions of Edain!
Two months ago we have presented to you what was the first part of our general siege overhaul, updating and adding many defensive options. However, the best defence is often a good offense, so let's now get to the second part: siege weapons.
In the forthcoming patch, rams are going to be the most important weapon to assault fortresses and to take down key targets such as catapults on walls or the very gate, thus allowing the army to storm the enemy base. That's why they'll get stronger overall in 4.5 by dealing more damage. On the other hand, like catapults, they do suffer from the new citadel bonus reducing all siege weapon damage, but thanks to their increased damage they will remain very impactful against gates and wall extensions.
They work best when combined with with melee units: the enormous damage of towers in previous versions would often make it impossible to storm a fortress with soldiers even once the gates are down, which should no longer be the case in 4.5. Once the rams have breached the gate, the attacker's army can directly go for the citadel to in turn make the rams even more devastating. In addition, rams will neutralise wall defences more quickly once they are close enough.
As a smaller additional change, heavy rams like those of Gondor now work a little bit differently from the lighter rams of Rohan. They have received a much higher damage bonus, but their attacks take more time. Given that heavy rams are slower and have a slightly larger hitbox, they are more vulnerable than their faster and lighter counterparts. To justify their higher price, we felt they could use a little extra push in addition to their higher armor. If heavy rams manage to strike even a single blow against enemy buildings and are then immediately destroyed by the defender the damage will nonetheless be already huge by itself. However, in exchange for the improved offensive capability, the armour of all kinds of rams has also been lowered, so that they still suffer a little bit more from their weakness against melee troops.
Like our defence updates, these changes are aimed at more interactive sieges: We want to move away from prolonged long-distance battles in which catapults and towers and archers just shoot at each other and move towards dramatic assaults and more melee battles around the gatehouse and the rams.
It was one of our main goals to make the armies you assemble in the course of the game more relevant and useful for siege. While siege machinery deals with enemy defences, your own armies, above all else, aim to destroy buildings within the fortress, and so we have made some changes to render the task easier accordingly.
Weaker towers, as announced in the first update, have already indirectly increased all forms of melee damage against buildings. Furthermore, as long as the citadel stands, all the buildings within the fortress perimeter receive considerably less damage from siege weapons and upgraded archers. This further makes melee units more attractive, since they're not affected by the citadel's influence. This should reduce boring and uninteractive catapult bombardments while at the same time rewarding the attacker for successfully fighting his way into the fortress.
Even if the soldiers fail to destroy the fortress on their own, tearing down the main citadel will then make the catapults or other siege weapons waiting outside the walls more effective. While swordsmen have not been directly buffed against structures, they are nonetheless much more useful against them in 4.5 as they won't be slaughtered by towers as quickly as before. This benefits ladders and siege towers as well, since the troops they carry on walls are more dangerous than ever before.
To further emphasize this, we have implemented an additional change for spearmen: in the next patch, they cause 50% more damage against any type of military facilities, like barracks, shooting ranges, stables and armouries. Spearmen have been a rather one-dimensional unit so far (they have exactly one purpose and are weak against most enemies besides cavalry and monsters), so we felt they could use an additional strategical role.
This idea is based on the original Battle for Middle-earth 2, where lancers used to cause additional damage to certain structures as well. Our hope is that they will no longer only be recruited in response to enemy cavalry, but also proactively to take down high-level production structure and thus deny the enemy upgrades and elite units. This also means military buildings are more vulnerable overall, whereas they've always been very difficult to destroy in previous versions.
Meanwhile, swordsmen remain the better unit for the destruction of economy buildings, whether in the fortress or out in the open. A well-assorted combination of different kinds of units is therefore essential in sieges as well as in field battles. Creative players who sneak into the enemy fortress unnoticed, using ladders or the new Dwarven tunnel crews, can now cause a great deal more damage.
By now you may be wondering what changes are in store for catapults. The answer is quite simple: Not that many.
Catapults have often been the only means an attacker even had at his disposal to get past strong towers and other defences. In fact, monotonous bombardment battles like that were one of the main reasons we decided to take a closer look at sieges with version 4.5. In our view, it makes more sense to offer both sides a broader variety of tools so the defender has more options to turn the tide of a lost battle back to his advantage while the attacker can also employ an array of different strategies to try and finish the job.
Catapults already fulfill their core purpose quite well: their massive range and average damage allows them to crack even fully upgraded bunkers. Fortresses with archers on the walls, defensive towers and melee fighters or riders ready for a sortie are difficult to counter with just rams, and that's where catapults come in. They are best against defensive buildings like wall towers.
However, the citadel bonus reduces their power against the walls themselves and regular structures within the fortress. Their role is no longer to destroy the entire castle on their own, but to pave the way for the assault force. Rams deal a lot more damage once the way is clear. After all, ranged weapons should deal less damage than comparable melee units in most situations - this applies to heroes as well as to units, and thus to siege weapons as well.
This means that catapults are no longer obligatory in 4.5, but one strategic choice among many. Rams, for example, can be recruited much faster and cheaper. On the other end of the spectrum, expensive special weapons such as mines or the earth-hammer pack a far bigger punch.
Hence, catapults will play the role of the slow but safe option, allowing you to bombard the enemy from a great distance and force him to react. This is emphasized by a newly standardized high range - some catapults that used to shoot only over medium distances now hurl their projectiles at greater range so all catapults are safe from wall archers even when they have high range like Gondor's rangers do. In contrast to an assault with rams, though, the defender will have more time to collect the supplies he urgently needs, revive a fallen hero or fight back with the aid of a strong spell.
Beside traditional weapons like rams or catapults, in 4.5 we have also overhauled more 'exotic' ones such as mines or the earth-hammer. Walls will be much sturdier than before so that normal machines such as rams do best when they focus on the vulnerable gatehouse. This in turn makes special weapons that can still crack walls more attractive, allowing the attacker to open up new paths.
Mines are just destined for this, after all, in accordance with their iconic portrayal in the battle of Helm's Deep. Their damage has therefore been doubled and even further improved against walls so they can cause unprecedented devastation. The earth-hammer, on the other hand, lowers the armour of surrounding buildings by 40% and that of walls by 60% in regards to walls, allowing rams and catapults to take them down in a much more reasonable timeframe. It also gifts incredible strength to any Dwarven army attacking a castle armed to the teeth.
Furthermore, our changes are also aimed at making weapons more attractive that simply let you circumvent walls entirely, such as ladders and siege towers. The towers have an additional advantage against ranged attacks, making them very hard to stop. To make sure they're seen more often overall, we're also allowing Angmar to send its own siege towers into the field.
As always, we look forward to your precious feedback!
Your Edain Team