Before I take this Evolve hiatus and dive into some serious Gears of War: Ultimate Edition action, I’ll leave my thoughts on the current balance and design situation.
Considering TRS wanted to increase the fighting at stage 1 and 2, these are my suggested changes:
-Give the monster the most armor stage 1, Stage 2 gets less subsequent armor, and stage 3 gets the least(basically, the current armor schema reversed with low armor at stage 3)
Reasoning: The current design of giving the monsters the lowest armor at stage 1 means fighting is a big risk, and it incentives monsters try to mitigate damage at stage 1. Giving monsters more armor would change the meta into pursuing strikes at stage 1, thus making each subsequent fight less risky when the monster has to deal with reduced armor at every evolution.
-reduce relay health to 20 seconds (previously 40)
This is a big one; relay fights should not be a 10 minute battle of attrition with a staggering of dropship after dropship after dropship, but rather the big boss battle that ends with a bang. Note that the monster would have reduced armor, making a fight then flee situation unlikely. Although hunter teams will be able to kite the monster, this makes it much more difficult to do effectively with a hunter or two remaining. This is an indirect buff to the monsters, giving them a bit more control over relay fights when you have hunters who refuse to fight.
-reduce game time to 12 minutes(previously 20)
This could be considered the “but what about the hunters?” buff, but its actually mainly to avoid long, drawn out games with long stretches of no action. Hunters could “play the objective” by timing out the monster, and this would reduce the effectiveness of a monster who wants never wants to evolve or fight. 20 minutes is too long for hunters to insufferably chase a monster, and also for hunters to insufferably withstand several stage 3 engages where the only thing touched is a monster’s armor and not health.
-Hunters have to carefully chase a monster and respect the potential of a monster with more armor sustain
-Monster can more easily get a strike at stage 1
-Monster cannot rely on huge stage 3 armor pool to run away from fight, then reengage with good chance of winning. Fighting is no longer contained to stage 2 and 3.
-Monster choosing to only run at stage 1 and 2 will have a more difficult time without getting downs
-Monster trying to stall game will have less time to work with(12 minutes instead of 20 minutes)
-Hunters less likely to dome a monster who isn’t trying to evolve
-Holding the dome for evolution domes more likely, making strategy for trappers simpler
-Monster under more time pressure, making sneaking more time costly
-Stage 3 relay fight is typically the “final round”
-in the event of a stage 3 fight with one or two hunters left, a reduced relay health timer helps the monster finish out the game
-decoy style of wraith less effective without getting any early strikes on hunters
-armor amount dictates monster strength and creates an ebb and flow dynamic between hunters and monster, rather than a more cut and dry dynamic of flee till 2 or 3.
-reverse armor schema actually promotes TRS original hunt 2.0 intent of having more monster fights throughout match
-monsters who flee till 3 will have a tough time winning a stage 3 fight
-gameplay more of a back and forth dynamic
Imagine a final relay fight where hunters have strikes on them, and the monster has some health damage, but the monster only has 6 bars of armor. The hunters would be so pumped up with adrenaline because they could go down easily, but the monster would also be on edge because of his low armor and health damage. The monster could only use that armor to go in and take a few shots, after that the hunter could whittle down his real health. Every healing grenade that would miss would feel like a punch in the gut. Every rock throw that would barely miss might make spectators gasp. Every shot made would count, every shot missed would count. This is how the game could be.
TLDR: Give monsters most armor at level 1, then reduce it for each subsequent staging. Stage 3 monster has low armor and cannot fight then flee at stage 3. Reduce relay health time to 20 and overall match length to 12 minutes. Hunters would have a harder time playing keep away games at the relay and monster could more easily finish out a stage 3 fight if he has a down or two. Games would be faster paced, and monster would have to be more aggressive in the early parts of the game. Monsters who try and run would have a harder time in general.