[Meta Snapshots] Damage Absorption was a Mistake in Arena-Style Content

Introduction

Puzzle and Dragons is one of the most complex and content heavy games on the market due to the numerous years it has been available. For more veteran players, many aspects may feel like second nature, but when you take a step back and think about Resolve, Weapon Assists, Super Awakenings, Ranking Dungeons, or even simpler things such as Team Building, one may realize there is so much going on.

Due to the sheer volume of content available it is inevitable some mechanics will be better received compared to others but one thing GungHo tends to reuse older mechanics but make it harder by ramping up the numbers or combining several aspects at the same time.

Sadly, Damage Absorption is one mechanic that has been kept around and is the worst designed ability in Puzzle and Dragons. This is because the HP values have kept going up along with damage output which makes it impossible to not hit over the threshold without an active skill being used. As a result, every team must bring at least 1 Damage Absorption Void active in order to actually finish a dungeon in this day and age. While more options have become available over time, the fact that you need an active to counter this in order to pass a dungeon is not a fun way to play the game.

Video commentary

–video coming soon–

Brief history of PAD dungeons

Puzzle and Dragons is one of the oldest and deepest mobile games on the market. Like any game, PAD started out reasonably simple and the main appeal was the orb matching component. As such, the spawns found within dungeons were relatively static in that they only had a health value, defense, and a single attack value.

Of course this could not last as PAD requires new content to keep the game fresh as it is essentially a PvE (Player versus Environment) game and more challenges have to continuously be released.

Over time all Descends began to feature spawns with various abilities that were either triggered by HP thresholds or randomly from a fixed pool. Furthermore, we even began to see Preemptives which meant we had to be ready for anything when advancing through the dungeon.

Eventually we began to see various passive abilities such as temporary shields, Resolve, and Damage Absorption spawns. For the most part, these were all well balanced as there were numerous ways to over come these mechanics and the current health pools/damage output potential from players was kept in balance.

Sadly, there are only so many things designers can design in regards to dungeon mechanics and one of the simplest solutions is to simply increase the values for all given metrics. This is a logical solution and works for the majority of content but has made Damage Absorption impossible to overcome without an active skill.

Sopdeath

If I am not mistaken (this was a long, long time ago) Sopdet was the original Damage Absorption spawn that introduced this mechanic to Puzzle and Dragons.

Sopdet features a 200,000 Damage Absorb which seems silly with today’s multipliers, but was actually doable during her reign of terror. This is because leader skills did not jump up to outrageous values along with team compositions featuring a reasonably similar damage output from each card due to a lack of personal damage multipliers (no 7c 45 etc.).

As a result, many teams could overcome Sopdet as they could actually control their damage due to smaller multipliers and having conditional activation requirements which further reduced damage output.

With that being said, the main reason why this worked is because the health values for the entire dungeon were not that widely spread (outside of a boss) along with leader skills being just sufficient for those needs. Furthermore, Sopdet’s Absorption level was so low that you are not supposed to fully activate your leader skill, usually just small combo with your primary colour for 2-3 turns would suffice.

By comparison, we can have “low Absorptions” of several million but that means you must fully activate to deal damage which then results in far too much output as leader skills are somewhat inflated in terms of their multipliers in order to actually kill the final floors.

Fujin

What it comes to Damage Absorption, it was dangerous and possibly confusing at first due to a lack of any information in game but was at least manageable. Sadly, GungHo kept creating more spawns with Damage Absorb but increased the monster’s HP/Absorption values. This climaxed with Arena 3 featuring up to 4 unique spawns with this mechanic. While it was still possible to damage control these encounters, it became quite dicey and potentially infuriating if you repeatedly encountered these spawns. And then around this time frame, Fujin 3414 was released and forever changed the landscape of PAD.

This is because Fujin enabled players to completely ignore/bypass a single turn of Damage Absorb through her active which meant no more struggle/pressure to control your damage. Players rejoiced but it set an unhealthy precedence moving forward as GungHo probably saw a massive spike in rolling for Fujin as she could completely counter the hardest mechanic currently available.

I feel this led to the designers creating a trend of releasing a problem and then creating an active that directly counters it.

Damage control? Inappropriate ratios

If you look at Arena 3, the final floor spawns can have up to 78 million health but I would say the average spawn has around 4-6 million HP. If looking at all the Damage Absorption spawns, they feature 200K (1.9M HP), 300K (3M HP), 1M (9.4M HP), and 2M (39M HP). At the same time, most Leader Skill multipliers were significantly lower while often featuring various conditions/clauses that enabled a certain degree of Damage Control. Furthermore, many teams used a Burst to defeat the final floors as dealing millions of damage was quite difficult.

Fast forward to Alt. Arena 3 where we can encounter two Absorption spawns with much reasonable ratios: 4M Absorb (42M HP) and 5M Absorb (50.7M HP). These numbers do not seem too unrealistic but looking at the final floors (with the exception of Gaslowe), they range from 250M – 1.5B HP with most of these featuring Voids.

Amusingly, the vast majority of teams do not bring a Burst-style active. As a result, players are somewhat expected to hit hundreds of millions worth of damage on a regular basis, often times from only a few particular cards. This is because most teams feature several hard hitting cards (high personal damage) and various utility options which creates a drastic range of damage output per card.

As a result, it is essentially impossible to actually play through AA3 without bring a Fujin-style active because there will be no hope in killing Machine Athena and there is no other solution.

Damage Void was done right

Damage Void is a newer mechanic compared to Absorption and is much better designed overall. Voids function similarly to Absorbs in that players cannot hit above a specific threshold but instead of healing them when overshooting, the damage is simply Voided out.

By not healing the opposing spawn, players do not lose their progress and can grind them down as the Void thresholds are often much higher compared to Absorbs.

Furthermore, GungHo introduced the VDP awakening which grants the owning card 2.5x personal damage when matching a 3×3 Box but also allows that card to ignore the Damage Void. As a result, these cards can deal their full damage value and utilizing monsters with high personal damage with VDP is a core strategy for most teams.

What makes VDP so much better compared to Fujin is that it is an awakening that triggers from matching a specific pattern of orbs. This means it is possible a natural board can have 9 of their required orbs but more importantly, using board/orb changers can solve this issue. While this is still an active skill, it is a pretty broad category as any orb generator will work.

As a result, players have so much more freedom with how they build their team as orb changers are much easier to incorporate along with having value all the time. Fujin-style actives are only useful against Absorption spawns and have no use otherwise.

In essence, being able to solve various problems via matching orbs will always be a better solution game play-wise compared to using an active to directly counter it.

Moving forward

I feel Damage Absorption spawns will only continue to plague our dungeons as it forces players to acquire specific actives to actually clear the dungeon.

But what really scares me is the Transforming cards who features comically short cooldowns for this effect. At this point in time, Nelle is able to provide a 6-turn Fujin active along with a double column generator. This is a far cry from Fujin’s 19 turn cooldown with Haste and may lead GungHo into designing dungeons with even more Absorption spawns because we technically have a solution for them via Nelle.

Conclusion

Damage Absorption is the worst designed mechanic that still persist to this day. The main reason for this is tied to the fact that the only way to overcome these spawns is to have a specific active skill. There is no puzzling involved, you just have to own these Damage Absorption Void actives in order to actually clear a dungeon.

I am strongly against having the only solution to a problem tied to specific active skills.

By comparison, Damage Void was wonderfully designed as these spawns can either be grinded down as your progress is not lost or utilizing VDP and matching 3×3 Box of orbs. A problem that can be solved by matching orbs will always be more enjoyable along with feeling fair compared to those that must rely on specific actives to overcome.

Let me know what you think about Damage Absorption in the comments below and whether or not you agree with my point of view.

Happy Puzzling!

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16 thoughts on “[Meta Snapshots] Damage Absorption was a Mistake in Arena-Style Content”

  1. Very good article, and I share your arguments. I have been playing > 2300 days, and I remember telling a new player who rolled Fujin that it was the best card in the game then. I said the same about Reeche.

    Also, spinners are terrible.

    Like

    1. At least with Spinners they can be managed and are going to prevent you from advancing through the dungeon

      They are annoying for sure but at least you can get by without actives etc for most cases

      Like

  2. Agreed totally.

    Damage Void (with many VDP cards available) is fun, because it makes you match orbs in a particular pattern. Making such patterns is exactly the fun part of the game.

    Damage Absorb is frustrating because it just makes you waste time with spreadsheets either counting how much damage control you’ll need, or how many turns it’ll take to get actives ready. Counting stuff on spreadsheets is the NOT-fun part of the game.

    I think they should fix Damage Absorb by having a new awakening that has yet-another interesting pattern to try to create. (maybe a hollow-square – kinda like VDP but with a whole in the middle).

    Like

    1. I agree, and was going to say the same. An awakening would be helpful and not hard to implement. I think we will eventually see it, sort of like we saw VDP skills appear and superresist awakenings. Unfortunately, it will probably mean that even more annoying mechanics are coming our way

      Like

    2. I also feel now you cannot control damage due to how most teams have triple 7c cards etc so you must need the active to counter it

      I would love to see an awakening to counter this but idk if that will happen as Fujin-style actives are still relatively scarce (at least compared to VDP)

      Like

  3. I fully agree. When creating a team to take on one of the arenas or other high difficulty dungeons, it can often be difficult to work around the possibility of a damage absorb spawn. It can be especially difficult for newer players (and sometimes f2p as well) because they often lack a Fujjin-style active and cannot clear content until they happen to roll one.

    In contrast, VDP is a much better gimmick for the reasons mentioned in the article. While I would love it if the dev team simply stopped placing disproportionate Damage Absorb spawns in dungeons, it would be acceptable if they created something like the VDP or the L Orb Unlock awakenings to make it more manageable.

    On the topic of annoying mechanics,

    Like

      1. Being locked out of content simply because you failed to roll a specific type of active is a bad game design overall. I remember it took me maybe a year+ to get my first fujin since it was released and it made life harder for sure but at least with A3 it was doable

        As for Aten, it is still new and idk if they will continue that trend

        Like

  4. Until recently I have continued to die in Sphinx descended while completing intermediate quests, due to sopdet appearing so early.

    I don’t think you mentioned killers (latent and base), which can sometimes make it literally impossible to get past absorb shields, and at a minimum make damage control extremely complicated to calculate.

    Like

    1. Yeah Killers are for sure another way to prevent damage control. I remember back in the day when evaluating cards I would sometimes put killers as a con for that reason

      Like

  5. Fast spinners are complete garbage.
    The counter isnt a lock ability, it’s just bringing a 250-350k hp team and waiting 1 to 10 turns of spinners out with 1 matches and the occassional heal solve. SMH.

    Damage absorb is mostly just very boring, rather than dangerous, in an era of teams with 250k hp and shields. You end up stalling out forever and a day waiting for your Reece or whatever to take 12-20 turns to come back up if rng serves up too many absorb floors in a run. You rarely die, it’s just terrible design and super boring to have to grind through skill resets.

    The fact that both things are best solve by waiting them out rtaher. than interacting with them is flagrantly indicative that mistakes were made.

    Like

    1. Which fast spinners are you referring to? The ones in AA3 where two are made? I agree it can be obnoxious but still playable. If you dont have any fujin, you cannot pass the dungeon.

      that is the main difference as you must have the fujin or you cannot actually finish

      Like

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