So, what have I noticed up until now?
- There seem to be sufficient cyphers to carry a non-combat oriented team through the occasional fight if need be and consumables are plentiful, adding some tactical options to the combat.
- The general idea of the system (using knockbacks with the environment, flanking etc.) seems to be solid enough to carry decent tactical combat, even though there isn't a huge amount of depth to it.
- The Crisis concept of using/interacting with environmental hotspots, talking to enemies and so on all as a part of combat seems like it has lots and lots of potential, even though I've only had 3 or 4 fights since the tutorial.
- Initiative auto-kills. This is pretty ridiculous. Even when I am the one to initiate a fight through dialogue, my entire party still gets swarmed before anyone can act. When fighting the cultists holding the Memorialists hostage in the Valley, I literally didn't even get to take a turn because my (nano) LC was dead before anyone on my team could act. There needs to be a system that allows you to increase your initiative at the beginning of combat beyond just the skill - maybe just by spending speed pool? That's a trade-off that would hurt in combat anyway, so you'd consider it carefully, but you could at least gamble to take critical actions first.
- Positioning at combat start. The game is set up to have your companions follow you, which is ok. But if we can't move individual party members outside of combat, can we at least have some kind of pre-combat one-time positioning, say 3-4 "squares" around the LC? It might be a little annoying if you always have to set up your formation, but it is conducive to actual tactic use and shouldn't slow down battle too much if implemented well (but see the next two points).
- Speed in combat. Everyone moves so slowly and many of the combat animations are so long (e.g. hiding, Abykos phasing) - people have been saying they can go make a sandwich in some of the larger crises while the enemies move and they're right. This is not conducive to enjoyable combat. The speed of turn-based combat should as fast as possible, just slow enough that the player can follow what is happening. A slow mode might make sense for players who are new to the genre; PoE had it, so maybe the implementation wouldn't be too tough?
- Responsiveness in combat. This is a usability issue. It feels like I have to click a lot more often than I should need to to do stuff. This is probably because actions need an extra click to cancel before you can select a different action - if I select Onslaught to see my to hit %, I must then right click and cancel in order to select something different. This strikes me, at least, as unintuitive. I'm not 100% sure what else might be contributing to this feeling.
- Feedback on positioning and movement. It is very unclear to me when somebody counts as flanked and when they don't. What's the angle required? Must a melee attack be made or a melee weapon equipped? A coloured display around enemies when it's your turn (say yellow for "no flank"-zone and green for "flank-zone") would help here - and if you can't flank for some reason, a tool-tip when hovering a cursor over a position near an enemy could tell you this (e.g. "can't flank, no melee weapon equipped" or "can't flank, no partner" or whatever). Furthermore, movement takes me far longer than it should because I have to "feel around" for where the edge of my movement range is. The attack range indicator is helpful; maybe there could be a similar movement range indicator? I realize this might become information overload and end up looking cluttered, but given how often movement range changes in a fight (Hobbled, characters with the Running skill vs. those without, etc.), this will likely remain an issue. It might be better to tone down some of the more eye-catching animations (like Inspiring Presence) rather than do without movement indicators.
- Lack of information about enemies. PoE displayed enemy resistance and accuracy once you had attacked that resistance or been attacked respectively (unless you switched it off). This is not hand-holding; the combat should be challenging not because I need to remember X different numbers, but because the positioning, situation, objectives and enemy abilities make it so. You don't need to give numbers, even something like "Resistant to Transdimensional" on mouse-over would be enough. And knowing whether my 90% evasion Jack got hit because the enemy got lucky or because the enemy was just that good is valuable tactical information.