Actives that Directly Counter New/Dangerous Mechanics are Bad in the Long Run

Introduction

Titles are hard and this article will be exploring an idea that has been floating around in my head for some time. Like any longstanding game, new and challenging content has to be released to keep things interesting and we have seen some bizarre mechanics over the years. Some are more challenging compared to others but at least initially, had several ways to overcome them.

Sadly, I feel we may be starting down a less than ideal path due to GungHo releasing a new/dangerous mechanic and then unveiling a card who’s active can directly counter it. As such, players can now counter said mechanic and they can tune it upwards to the point where you must have the active or you lose.

In my opinion, this is not a good game design as it forces players to have these direct counters or simply lose the dungeon. This tends to be most punishing in longer content where one needs to cover so many mechanics already.

This article will explore my opinions on this matter and how it is possible to correct these problems before it gets out of hand.

Video commentary

–video coming soon–

Damage Absorb & Fujin

Damage Absorb (pink shield) is one of the worst mechanics at this point in time due to how “unfun” and impossible it is to overcome without a Fujin style active.

Upon the initial release, it was possible to defeat spawns who absorbed damage over X value simply because leaders had either lower multiplier or a scaling component to damage control. This peaked in Arena 3 where spawns had a realistic amount of health for the damage output leaders could pump out.

Sadly, almost none of this holds true today in higher level content such as Arena 5. In Arena 5, players will encounter spawns with hundreds of millions of health on numerous floors so those Arena 3 era multipliers will not make a dent; however, Arena 5 has a 50% chance of encountering an Absorption spawn who has a 4 million threshold.

The vast majority of teams who can clear Area 5 have no chance of overcoming this nor stalling the 99 turns due to random Gravity+Hit abilities. Thus, player MUST bring a Fujin-style active or simply lose 50% of the time. This is not fun and essentially gatekeeps any account from realistically attempting this dungeon if they lack one specific active.

Unable to match X orbs

In the past few months, we have started to see more actives that lower the duration of unable to match X orbs mechanic. At this point in time, (AA3 is not here yet), this mechanic is not that lethal and can be managed for the most part. At the same time, it would not surprise me if GungHo started to release a tide of spawns who prevent several colours from being matched for prolonged periods of time and players must have this direct counter to survive. This is obviously a worst-case scenario but would not be surprising if it did come true.

This is one reason why I strongly encourage players to acquire Altura from the DBDC Collab as it is the lowest rarity card to have this ability while also being in a machine with high value at the 5-star level.

How to correct this problem?

The best way to address this problem is to tune those problematic mechanics accordingly. There is no need to make Damage Absorbs last 99-999 turns and by simply making them last 5-10 turns would instill some fear but also a chance to dance it out and move forward. They could give these spawns slighted tuned-up stats to make the stalling feel more dangerous, but at least with stalling, players have numerous options to do so.

Eir Boss fight feels fair

For those players who have played through Eir’s Descend, you will remember that she has a series of 3 tests to overcome and your performance in each test influences her mechanics post-invulnerability.

This feels exciting and truly like a boss fight and has a skill component that tests your orb matching skills when various hurdles are thrown at you. While each one can be cheesed/overcome, each individual test still feels fair and teams do not need to grossly modify their compositions to succeed. Furthermore, even failing the tests does not immediately end your run, just makes it significantly harder but can be stalled through.

Use awakenings instead of actives

Each card is able to bring up to 9 + Super Awakenings + Weapon Assist awakenings into a dungeon and this is then multiplied by 6 for each card on the team. As a result, many mechanics can be covered and additional adjustments can be made by the Weapon Assist on a dungeon-by-dungeon basis.

By comparison, we have only 12 active skill slots (base + inherit) with many being tied-up for various things. As such, it is much harder to bring an active to counter an otherwise uncounter-able mechanic. Furthermore, actives have a much greater diversity compared to awakenings so many players may be left without the correct counter.

Damage Void was done right

By comparison, Damage Void (grey shield) was done right as it does not require players to have the direct/specific mechanic along with your progress not being lost like Damage Absorptions.

Having your damage cancelled out when overshooting the threshold does not feel as soul crushing as your progress is not lost and you can still steadily chunk them down. Furthermore, using the VDP awakening can still be used but only requires an orb changer to truly shine which players should have a wide variety of. Furthermore, we have a wide variety of cards with this active and it becomes a matter of finding what works best for your team and compromising as needed. For example, Zeus Verse in Arena 5 owns a Void mechanic but players do not have to always 3×3 Box to kill him. The option is there but is not mandatory.

Of course GungHo has introduced actives that cancel out the Void for a single turn, but these have so far been tied to 30 turn cards and is less efficient for the most part.

On this same note, Follow Up Attack is another well designed mechanic as it is relatively common and can be achieve from natural boards or through various orb changers.

Conclusion

GungHo has the power to create problematic mechanics and then introduce actives with a direct counter. After a certain point of time the respective mechanic is heavily tuned up to the point where one must have the direct counter with Damage Absorb/Fujin being the biggest offender.

This drastically cuts down on the puzzling aspect of the game as players must have said counter to attempt almost any dungeon. By comparison, having counters tied to awakenings tends to make team building much less restrictive and gives more options overall. Furthermore, scaling back the severity of a mechanic and adjusting the boss accordingly can make for a more enjoyable experience.

Let me know what you think about this concept in the comments below along with what mechanics you feel could be adjusted.

Happy Puzzling!

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40 thoughts on “Actives that Directly Counter New/Dangerous Mechanics are Bad in the Long Run”

  1. The new :”transform a leader into a random bad leader for 10 turns” ability doesn’t have any counter, does it? I find that one difficult to deal with

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    1. The most direct counter is to use a leader swapping active like Macha’s. The card with the leader swapping active becomes your lead and your transformed lead becomes a sub. The catch is that leader swap actives take a while to charge up, typically 20+ turns (or even longer as assists), so this would be more effective in really long dungeons, co-op (where skill boosts from both players are combined), or if you just happen to have a lot of subs with a ton of skill boosts.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Shelling Ford is particularly obnoxious, as his “negate dmg void” skill is one of the few practical ways for an entire playstyle (rainbow) to be practical. (I just rolled him on my alt, but dang I wish he wasn’t so hyper-specific/hard to get.)

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  3. I totally agree with you: being forced to include a particular active is frustrating. The worst case scenario is not having the active. But balancing assists, SDR, etc. to have the active ready on the floor when you need it also sucks…especially when some of our actives are side-effects from stacking resists to poison, blind, etc.

    While we’re on the topic of Artura, do you feel like farming Artura makes sense if you only have one no.6 on each account? I’d lose triple god killer. I do have Mega DKali. And I have an okay-ish box for leading with Artura (no Ideal, but I do have solid options otherwise including VDPs).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exact same question here. Have only one Number 6 and also have MADKali. I am probably going to farm the tickets and keep just in case, but is it worth losing a triple god killer? I also have 2x Mega Roots that would help alleviate the loss

      Side question: do the ticket gems stack?

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    2. Main issue is Artura is currently 1/3 cards with that unique active. We will probably get more in the future but by being a 5* in DBDC makes it much more appealing as its easier to justify rolling

      Since you only have one No.6, I would suggest having one made as Artura just so you have the active

      Like

  4. Totally agree.

    A fun game should have bosses that are

    “extremely difficult for excellent players with mediocre gear”
    “quite difficult for great players with decent gear”; and
    “slightly difficult for good players with S-tier gear”.

    These mechanics you described are

    “utterly impossible with even highly skilled player without the exact right counter”, and
    “utterly trivial for even mediocre players with the exact right counter”

    That’s not fun. That’s just frustrating.

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  5. GH made those encounter (ie. 99 turn absorb shield) to encourage ppl to roll specific card, more roll, more stones, more $$$ for them. I was a non iap before kitty zela came out. Then i saw how mighty kitty zela and i already perfect team for her. So i bought $65 packs and start roll for her (she didnt came out till the last stone i get from the packs). Totally worth it.

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    1. I think he is using absorbs an an example of a poorly introduced mechanic (I agree on that) with the benefit of hindsight.

      Also agree with other comment that says this is “better” for GH as it entices spending to roll a card (Kali, Number 6…) but it cuts on options to build a team

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  6. This has also been a pattern I’ve noticed lately and I’m super glad you wrote something about it! Recently I haven’t even attempted most of the new dungeons for the simple fact that I’m pretty certain there’ll be mechanics I can’t get around. I tend to play blind because I think it’s more fun to test it myself and figure out what I need. With these mechanics though, dungeons have stopped being fun and have only become annoying, even if I return with a team later that has the right actives. (It also doesn’t help that I didn’t have a consistent Fujin active until this Beach event when I traded for her. The only one I had was Uruka, but stalling for some 15 turns for a floor 2 damage absorb is… not fun.)

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    1. I really like your idea of using awoken skills in place of actives for dealing with mechanics. That being said, while I think it makes such mechanics more palatable, it in effect is just be a lesser version of the same problem, particularly when the mechanic is first released. I remember when FUA were just introduced that I was getting increasingly frustrated with resolve monsters because I didn’t have the FUA to deal with it. Even now, I don’t have any tape resist except for my Madoo team. So while changing mechanic counters to actives would definitely help over time, I think Gungho could also do more. Every time a new mechanic/counter is released, maybe they could put a monster with it in the MP shop? It wouldn’t have to be strong at all, just something players could use if they have no other way to deal with it.

      It is really difficult to figure out exactly how PAD should introduce new challenges and solutions for players. While writing this, I’ve been thinking back to skill binds. Those generally feel fair because so many cards have at least one SBR to contribute to the team, yet it’s still something that has to be considered when building a team. It’s technically the same problem as what I described above, but it doesn’t feel that way. Is it because skill binds have been around for so long, or is it because SBR are so common but also not a one-solves-all counter? I think spreading out the effectiveness of resists, as well as increasing distribution of those resists to even common monsters, is a really viable method of making mechanics feel more like a challenge to overcome instead of just an annoying obstacle. This would be specific to player status effects.

      However, even with as many awoken skills as a team could potentially have, there’s no way all mechanics/counters can be spread out in the same fashion — there are still basic awakenings that teams need (SB, TE). Perhaps damage boosters could be repurposed to be more like VDP or L’s? Combining TPA with FUA (replacing the mostly-pointless dual attack), and rows with +combo orbs (and maybe lock the color, opposite of L’s), could free up a little space (and renew them with more utility). Enhanced color orbs could be like heart orbs, with a 4oe or other pattern bypassing the respective color absorb? 7c/10c could reduce attribute block or spinner orbs after you get around them at least once. This is before mentioning what all the killers could be assigned (enhance/awoken killer with guard break? and the rest assigned whatever new mechanics to be added). I don’t know if that kind of rehaul would be viable (varied sources of damage is less consistent), but it is interesting to theory-craft.

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      1. I like the idea of a MP card but that would probably hurt GH’s bottom line too much as they want us to roll for things

        One thing that i like about some of the awakenings is the fact that it requires a special pattern match. Forces players to figure out the best way to bypass it instead of 1 button solves all

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  7. I think many companies that rely on micros transactions for income find it challenging to “prime the pump” just enough to entice further purchases without run afoul of regulation or frustrating their customers with poor play mechanics for advanced level players. I have mixed emotions about the current state of play; am I stuck because I’m not good enough or is the meta overly biased against non IAP? Is it possible that I have become intolerant of skill gates, so I accuse the developers of overuse of pay gates? I enjoy this game because it offers an experience that scales to my abilities, gives me the option to not spend money to advance (unless I want to), and manages to do this fairly well for both casual gamers and grinders. That being said, most games reach a point where it runs out of ways to offer plausible challenges for its long term players. How often does the introduction of new play mechanics actually break the game? If GungHo can prove that there is a way to beat new bosses without acquiring new cards, then it’s a matter of getting your game up. If it’s the opposite, shame on GungHo

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    1. I feel this issue of challenging content to be mostly due to PAD being a PvE game. With PvE games, content will eventually be all cleared and then it becomes a matter of min/maxing

      On the other hand, PvP games never have an “end” as you can always improve compared to other players

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Im guessing the current framework for two player and three player coop modes rely on turn based play to nullify the effect of connection lag and latency. Could you imagine the outcry brought forth in response to losing matches while waiting for reconnection to occur?

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  8. In a GH twitch stream not that long ago, they talked about “going in blind”, just for fun. Of course the problem with that is there are several mechanics that are impossible or nearly impossible to overcome unless you have a very specific card or cards.
    Overall I think GH has done well with creating new dungeons that are difficult but fair, but I totally agree with you Mantastic about some of these mechanics that ruin the fun (and creative game play) in some dungeons. There should always be an out that requires skill, but is not completely dependent on having a specific card on your team. Of course there may be a monetary incentive for GH to require specific cards to progress so that people will spend more stones trying to roll them, or trade for them.

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    1. I feel it is about releasing a new card and enticing players to buy stones to chase it

      One prime example is Beach I&I, has the new cancel mechanic and is able to be directly bought for $$

      Like

  9. I wish they buffed combo orbs and guard break so rows and rainbow team have any sense of viability, void mechanics killed rainbow teams, and resolve or high combo shields make row teams awkward to use.

    Maybe guard break could deactivate shields for a turn and lowering combo orb from 12 to 9 and more could make the awakening worth running.

    I do like they are making more interesting leader skills with conditions and effects outside of multipliers (match X orbs for 1 combo or heal X amount for follow up attack)

    Like

    1. I feel Combo Orb needs to have more flexibility instead of a hard 12 requirement or better yet, make it so it triggers on a 6-row match

      That way it wont have VDP abuse (9 orbs) and give row teams another way to get more combos for future turns

      Like

  10. For me, the biggest issue about this game is that the inherit monster’s active skill will override the base monsters active once both skills are fully charged, and forceing player to use only the latter skill instead. At first I thought it was a bug or sth, but no, they actually did it on purpose…this is completely bullshite from any perspective, as player should be able to choose which skill to use when both are charged up, and tbh max skilled a monster should be an achievement not sth you’ll regret later in the game, otherwise what’s the point in making a new team if you don’t get to use their active.

    Like

    1. yeah it is a frustrating aspect and one players have to juggle around to work. This kind of reminds me of the frustrating nature of Super Awakenings. I feel players should have the option to switch between any they have unlocked before the dungeon which means a card with 3 SA needs three +297s to have all options

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  11. Great article! I agree GH is a business and it has every right to make $. Nearly all very active players can get to critical cards w/o IAP so I don’t think the game is IAP gated per say, but the 1 mechanic : 1 card fix makes game play and team building boring.

    Firstly, I believe all dungeons should be completable blind. I don’t PADX as I don’t have time or patience to be looking up a dungeon beforehand, so I will just take the loss. To me, by far the absolute worst mechanic is lethal preempts. I know it is an easy mechanic to solve with shields, % reduction, or massive HP pools, but as annoying as spinners and absorbs are, at least you have a chance (albeit an awful one in most cases). While the later make the game no fun, you don’t have control over the lethal preempts and it feels like you’ve just wasted time.

    One of the side effects of the rapid power creep we’ve experienced is that with damage no longer really being a factor and with nearly every team being able to annihilate everything under controlled conditions, the game has simply been about preserving ideal conditions. All lethality is in the form of mechanics. Cloud resist, blind resist, fujin actives, VDPs, FUAs, etc. is just keeping a clean board or removing unkillable conditions so we can just combo combo combo. Scaling up dungeons is just dealing with more of them at once or in rapid succession.

    I also, however, don’t enjoy dancing around all issues either. Stalling is incredibly pretty boring, and I really dislike the EIR test mechanics as I don’t enjoy invulnerable states and that’s just another gate in a different form. Every turn is part of the fight and each turn should be live.

    In my opinion, I think it would be good to steer the game away from oneshot kills and oneshot deaths. As you offered up, shorter cool down and rotating mechanics may also be a good way to make things interesting. I have no issue with a fight that requires me to chip down a boss’s health as I have an active sense of working towards a kill rather than current game play of stalling and waiting for the stars to align for me and to pop all my skills to kill. I like the idea of constantly using my actives and having them feel like part of the fight and helping me advance rather than something to hold on to for a million turns just to use for one floor 15 turns in.

    Right now, it feels like health and damage don’t really matter. Only Max effective health (HP pool and damage reduction) seems matters.

    What are your thoughts on a suggestion of GH looking to rescale power and rebalancing dungeons and monsters? I think this would remove some of the over reliance on healthgate mechanics (ex. resolves, VDP, damage absorbs) and create a greater sense of gradual progression.

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    1. I agree that the whole notion of one shot or be one shotted is a problem and how you only bring an active to directly counter a single floor / mechanic is problematic

      But with that being said, pad is pve and pve is all about efficiency and farming a dungeon over and over does become tedious so players to a certain extent want to one shot everything

      Another boss fight that feels satisfying is hexazeon/gille legolas as you have to kill their summons first

      Imo, the biggest thing gh could do is give players the full dungeon breakdown in game before entering so we don’t have to use third party sites

      Like

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