Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Dev Diary #29: Hero Development

Age of Wonders: Planetfall - Dev Diary #29: Hero Development

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LennartGS

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Planetfall takes dragon slaying heroes from fantasy and translates them into the sci-fi realm. Knights riding horses have been replaced by aces piloting mechs or heroines riding genetically crafted dinosaurs. In-line with the game’s mythological science fiction setting, many heroes possess also supernatural, psionic abilities.

Both your faction’s Commander and loyal lieutenants are considered Heroes. They are talented types of individuals with unique Hero Upgrade Trees allowing to specialize in a particular role using experience-based upgrades costing skill points. Their special hero-ness also allows them to equip legendary items that you encounter while exploring the ruins of the Star Union.

On the surface the role of heroes sounds the same as fantasy Age of Wonders, but in the following two journals notice there are some significant changes since AoW3. In this topic we’ll be discussing the upgrade structure, in the second we’ll discuss items.

HeroesTC.jpg

A motley crew of non-mounted heroes

Hero Starting Skills

Every hero belongs to one of the six base races and has an associated secret technology proficiency providing them additional upgrade abilities. The Commander (the leader of your faction) can choose additional Perks that allow to specialize their personal hero abilities from the get-go, giving them an edge on the battlefield. Commanders can pick the pilot skill immediately equipping them with an entry-level support or assault vehicle, a piece of equipment that is often unique to the race.


Elija.jpg

Elija comes pre-equipped with a nasty grenade attack and SMG

Hero Building


For Planetfall we developed an open ended hero upgrade system where you are able to mix and match hero abilities. For the sake of trying something different form AoW3 we experimented with a hero upgrade system in which heroes choose upgrades within pre-set rigid paths with pre-requisites (i.e. the melee path, the ranged path and the vehicle path) but quickly found that this was too limited and that heroes looked too much alike even with mutually exclusive skill choices.

More importantly we like hero upgrade skills coming from a variety of sources. A Hero gets skills from its race, secret tech and a global pool of upgrades shared by all heroes.

Heroes often gravitate towards a particular role, especially early in the game. Abilities need to be carefully matched with equipment, which makes the upgrade process fun. Roles include

  • Ranged (including snipers, nimble flanking skirmishers)
  • Melee (charge into the heat of battle wearing strong protection to unleash hell)
  • Support (Healers, buffers and debuffers)
  • Pilots (mix with other functions pending vehicle type)
HeroUpgrades.jpg

Leveling Up a Level 9 Xenoplague Dvar Hero

Here are some hero abilities. For which role would you pick them?
  • Phase Shift [VoidTech] Teleport to a hex within 5 ranges, leaving enough AP to do a single attack
  • Void Bullets [Void Tech] Ranged attacks ignore 50% of cover and line of sight penalties.
  • Juggernaut [Dvar] Allows Hero to walk through obstacles and destroy them.
  • Counter Attack [Global] Melee Overwatch can no longer be cancelled by Stagger, and will never miss.
  • Plasma Surge [Promethean] The Hero surges forward into another location, dealing 10 Thermal damage to all adjacent units when it lands.
  • War Cry [Amazon] Friendly units within 2 hexes gain 20% increased damage for 3 turns.
  • Modular Extension [Global] Allows hero to wear one additional mod.
  • Strategic Operations Support [Syndicate] +6 Strategic Ops Strength on the sector where the hero is present.
  • Reassemble [Assembly] Target dead friendly cyborg gets revived with 50% health. Alternatively, target living friendly cyborg gets healed for 35 HP.
  • Ground Commander [Global] All heavy ground units gain 10% extra damage when the hero is leading the army.
  • Deploy Cerebral Control Collars [Syndicate] Attempt to mind control unit, becoming an Indentured after battle. On Fail the target is Disabled.
Some of these sounds OP? Keep into account some skills have high hero level requirements, requires player to save up skill points, and/or have multi-turn cool downs or are once per battle actions.

Also, to avoid doom-balling hero army buffs only work when the hero is leading an army (the highest level hero in a group)

Heroes and Operations

You might say, hey what about hero spell -uh, Op casting? For AoW that was a big thing. In Planetfall there is some interplay with certain heroes boosting ops, but they don’t spend action points on ops directly. Instead they use their arsenal of varied hero abilities, while ops are called in through a centralized system with bespoke tactical operation points.

CelestianKirko.jpg

A level 1 Celestian Kirko hero.
Hero Recruitment

Heroes that join the player are of your main race by default. This is a feature AoW3 requested but there is also mechanical reason as heroes from other races might create incompatibility with your mods especially in the early game when there is a big reliance on standard-issue items. Heroes do have varying secret techs, so they provide unique abilities to your faction.

When you assimilate other races into your empire, we will make heroes appear those races too. Assimilating a new race into your empire gives you access to the core unit and mod technologies of that race in military research.

In Planetfall higher level heroes come pre-equipped with items and abilities. Like you might have an advanced hero turning up in a fancy mech.

More on Hero Mods, Vehicles and Mounts, and the all new Arsenal mechanic items in the next journal.

AmazonOnBike.jpg

Amazons do not just ride dinos


 

Fenraellis

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I'll give her credit for wearing a stylish helmet, but it can't be healthy riding a motorcycle like that while barefoot.

Anyway, in light of the unit mod system, it certainly makes even more sense to have "heroes match player's race" to be a default setting.

Ultimately, that upgrade list looks pretty big(with quite a scroll bar). I just hope there are some really snazzy abilities at the higher levels(probably capping out shortly after 10, but maybe higher...). Also, for the Factions and Secret Techs to be relatively comparable in number of choices between them. Although, I suppose quality of choices could compete with quantity of choices, too.
 

Destrada

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Very full of useful information! No love for the rogue servitor heroes, though?
 

Fenraellis

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Very full of useful information! No love for the rogue servitor heroes, though?
upload_2019-2-28_9-28-43.png
Do you mean Assembly?

As far as I can tell, they have one of each faction, except for two Vanguard, and no Syndicate. I think.
 

xlnt

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  • Reassemble [Assembly] Target dead friendly cyborg gets revived with 50% health. Alternatively, target living friendly cyborg gets healed for 35 HP. - sounds like the Necro heals, better (in some cases MUCH better) than what the rest have. Surely this can't be looked at out of context and i can't wait to find out!
  • Deploy Cerebral Control Collars [Syndicate] Attempt to mind control unit, becoming an Indentured after battle. On Fail the target is Disabled. - everything with mind control in it sounds *VERY* bad to a AoW3 multiplayer player like me. Hope this is toned down if apperantly not removed. It took us (the multiplayer community) YEARS to balance out the stupid amount of easy and early mind control, the snow-ball because of it and the whole unplayability of classes who did not have it.
  • That bike riding Amazon is so kewl!!! loving it!
 

Fenraellis

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Deploy Cerebral Control Collars [Syndicate] Attempt to mind control unit, becoming an Indentured after battle. On Fail the target is Disabled. - everything with mind control in it sounds *VERY* bad to a AoW3 multiplayer player like me. Hope this is toned down if apperantly not removed. It took us (the multiplayer community) YEARS to balance out the stupid amount of easy and early mind control, the snow-ball because of it and the whole unplayability of classes who did not have it.
Two things:
1) I think I remember them saying something about the large majority of Mind Control being only until the end of combat, after which the target dies. Also, killing the controller, or potentially cleansing the effect should also remain viable options, depending on availability. Lastly, there are very likely mods which can help resist, or outright prevent it(as a side effect of the mod).
This would mean that it may or may not be a Tactical issue, but it's much less likely to become the momentum-enhancing Strategic issue it often became in AoW3.

2) The ability in question even mentions the unit "becoming an Indentured" after battle, not "becoming Indentured," which implies that instead of gaining a unit trait, they become another specific unit entirely. Likely a low tier one, probably Tier 1, even, based upon the unit name. Of course, an extra unit is an extra unit, but it would at least mean the player isn't gaining your Elite ranked and modded T3 or T4 unit, if they can manage to Mind Control it and win the battle with it and the controller still alive.
Perhaps any other forms of permanent mind control also have other severe limitations or caveats to them as well.
 

mr_stibbons

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Will the global hero regrowth option be returning in planetfall? With the disconnection of heroes and operations, are there any penalties for having your commander incapacitated?
 

Jean-Luc

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I guess there's no more reason to worry about balancing multiple spellcasters.
 

Malik van Ishtar

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So we have heroes of (from the left): Vanguard, Kir'ko, Assembly, Kirko, either Vanguard or Syndicate (1st one more probably) and Amazon. Where's space dawi? And SPOILER we have Void tech (Chaos magic?) and Synthesis tech (oh something new) plus some skills from Xeno tech and Amazon hero on "assembly" bike I think. About some abilites: They probably have advantages and weak points like Syndicate's Deploy Cerebral Control Collars which create tier one Syndicate infantry unit and Assembly which is probably one to three time use during the battle. Cool. I bought Premium Edition and I do not regret it. Keep it up developers! And please do not fail our expectations with confirmed DLC - give us some love in form of new campaigns and new factions like you did in previous AoE series (AoE3 had a wonderfull campaigns but it lacked some races like AoE2 for contrast but it has got nice and interesting campaigns).
 

HTG2931

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Looks great! I mean, biker-babe Amazon with void lasers?!?

Two thoughts:

1) I'd love to see some NPC hero support down the line. NPC units really make adventure-style maps fun and different. Being able to recruit NPC heroes as quest rewards would take that to the next level. Maybe give them pre-determined static mods to avoid the mod incompatiblity issue. Or even remove mod capability period, in lieu of other abilities.

2) I'd like to see a gameplay variant type where all players start with more than one hero instead of an army. Give us all our "trusted lieutenants" to start the game, and let us go a-questing!

Keep up the good work and writing!
 

joriandrake

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It would be really fun to have player designed heroes and have the game randomly pick from among those to have a chance of such custom heroes appear in your own campaigns. Perhaps not all of the heroes to be chosen like this, but maybe about 50%.
 

Ridixo

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Amazons do not just ride dinos
If amazons do not just ride dinos how will they deliver the books, it's the Vanguard who use drones :p

The heroes look great. Who is the blue-haired ¿girl? of the left? Is she with the Vanguard? When we will see more of the Assembly and the Syndicate? Why i keep doing questions*?

Really hoping i could play it, oh well, i will need to wait a bit longer than most :(

*Because this game is great, seriously even when they are from different genres i think it will be a serious competition for Stellaris o_0¡
 

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Some of these sounds OP? Keep into account some skills have high hero level requirements, requires player to save up skill points, and/or have multi-turn cool downs or are once per battle actions.
Yes, it sounds. From my modding experience there are some abilities which stay OP even after HUGE nerfing in needed skill points and level.
Also what about these aura affecting abilities? In AoW3 AI doesn't know about it. Will AI in Planetfall know to gather units in group for buffs?

Heroes often gravitate towards a particular role, especially early in the game. Abilities need to be carefully matched with equipment, which makes the upgrade process fun. Roles include

  • Ranged (including snipers, nimble flanking skirmishers)
  • Melee (charge into the heat of battle wearing strong protection to unleash hell)
  • Support (Healers, buffers and debuffers)
  • Pilots (mix with other functions pending vehicle type)
That's nice. I hope AI won't mess up hero's leveling with this advanced development skill tree...

A level 1 Celestian Kirko hero.
Eh, Absorb Pain for hero again? Very rarely used I'd say.
 

TheGrinningMan

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Also, to avoid doom-balling hero army buffs only work when the hero is leading an army (the highest level hero in a group)
Does it have to be the highest-level hero? Maybe I'm missing something, but I can easily imagine a case where I could have a commander hero (focused on army buffs) and a hunter-killer hero (focused on personal combat skill); in such a case, even if the hunter-killer was higher level, I'd want the commander to be the one "leading" and providing the buffs. It'd be weird and counter-intuitive to have to "game the system" by trying to keep the hunter-killer's level below the commander's in order for that to work.
 

joriandrake

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Amazons do not just ride dinos
Almost missed this. Does it only apply to heroes or can I decide to switch the whole faction to motorized vehicles? Because I'm interested in a female warrior society, but the creatures of the faction are really not to my tastes and I probably won't paly as them ever, just as the insectoid race. If there is an option to drop the whole dino/monster theme and go steampunk or just 'biker' with them (becoming more like a classic human faction) then it becomes a different story for me and I would play with them at start. If not at start, maybe allow a 'hybridization' of a faction, like Amazons adapting the 'dwarven' Dvar tech and style? Or Syndicate style (clothing, etc) for a Dvar faction?
 

Technogremlin

Second Lieutenant
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Aug 30, 2018
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Deploy Cerebral Control Collars [Syndicate] Attempt to mind control unit, becoming an Indentured after battle. On Fail the target is Disabled.
Assuming the indentured is an infantry unit, does this ability only work on infantry units? It wouldn't make sense for you to mind control an animal and have it turn into a human, and it would make the ability less powerful, since infantry units tend to be low level.
 

Mayus

Recruit
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Jul 26, 2018
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it would be really cool if you can get special combined abilities to choose from if you assimilate other races.