Howdy all, after racking up a fair few hours in the Arena I thought I might take some time to lay out some useful information for the community. I love these kinda threads when getting into a game. Today's topic is:
Crouching in Combat
Yes the magic crouch button. Mapped to the 'C' key by default. Like many I'm sure, I got a long way in exanima without even realizing the crouch key even existed. It's not an essential key for combat by any means. Indeed this guide is intended for those who have mastered all the basic types of attack and movement and want to add an additional layer of complexity and effectiveness to their attacks. In short, a well timed crouch can radically alter the impact and direction of any of your attacking strokes (even thrusts!).
Cons of crouching in combat
Cons first you might ask? Why start here?
Well I'd like to make the point that crouching as you attack is not a no-brainer tactic to success, and you shouldn't try to use it as a quick win button in every situation. There are some drawbacks which we need to consider and will discuss further later:
- Balance - pressing the crouch button will affect your balance negatively, which in Exanima means your character will momentarily take longer to respond to commands as they regain their balance. This limits mobility and reduces the rate at which you can dish out attacks/defend yourself. I have even had characters fall over due to a mistimed crouch combined with bad terrain, an enemy strike or just bad luck.
- Position - in a crouch position your characters head is brought down into a compromised position in the path of most enemy attacks. In particular chopping attacks are nasty if they connect with your crouching character
For these reasons we crouch only when necessary and only for an instant to achieve the desired effect when attacking.
Let's go through the different styles of attack and how YOU can use the C button to enhance them.
This one is perhaps the most obvious so we start here. Force is a function of mass and velocity, so it follows that we need to get our weapon travelling as fast as possible to maximize the damage. The crouch animation in Exanima is particularly fast for some reason, which is a very good thing when we are using it to enhance attacks for a number of reasons. Basically if we crouch when doing an overhead attack, the speed of the crouch animation will be added to the speed of the swinging weapon, and Newton tells us that this is a good thing. However while the swing certainly looks more impressive and tends to lay enemies out a bit more often, you might find the actual extra damage is not that much more.
Anyone experienced at overhead swings will tell you that the most effective swing comes when you initiate it in unison with a lunge forward (some folks also use a sidestep and/or swing the mouse cursor). An overhead swing while standing dead still is often too weak and slow to do anything at all. But what about if your opponent is up in your face , already in perfect range and you just wanna cave their head in with your mace? Lunging forward is just going to get you way too close.
This is where the crouch comes in. We use it in place of a lunge forward in the overhead attack to gain some swinging energy without having to move far, if the enemy is in optimum range already. Like I said the animation is very fast, so you don't need to preempt it too much. Just tap that crouch button when your weapon starts to swing downwards and you'll be cracking heads at point-blanc range in no time.
One other use for this is when your opponent is on the ground and you're trying to pound them with a hammer blow to finish the fight. 1H weapons and shorter 2H weapons sometimes don't strike a target on the ground very well as their overhead swing arc strikes the target right at the end of the arc or not at all, so we can also add a crouch to reduce the hieght of the blow and bring it into contact with a prone opponent, as well as really make them feel it. This can also be applied to horizontal swings (see below).
We use the crouch during the standard swing attack not to improve the power, but to change the point of impact. Here the crouching motion works perpendicular to the weapon motion. Adjusting the height at which your attack strikes the opponent has many uses of course, the best probably being that it allows you to strike underneath their guard.
The automatic blocking animations in Exanima don't seem to function as well when your attacks strike at the hips or legs; in particular shields become much easier to avoid when you strike below the bottom lip of the shield itself. You might also notice that most enemies in arena mode generally wear less armour on legs, so even though you're attacking limbs, your hits still do plenty of damage.
To perform a swing crouch attack is quite easy also, again thanks to the fact that the animation is very fast and we don't need to preempt anything. Perform your swing as normal, ideally with a step forward towards your opponent, then (if you can see you're going to connect) hit the crouch button as your weapon is about halfway between the start of the swing animation and hitting your opponent. The fast crouch motion will swing the weapon lower and sneak underneath their paltry attempt to parry.
You'll need to practice the timing a bit to get the best results, depending on what weapon you're swinging. Two-hander swords benefit from a crouch very late in the swing and may hit the ground if you time it wrong, whereas pole weapons tend to hit higher and therefore need the crouch animation a bit earlier.
Crouching during polearm swings can sometimes be very necessary when swinging left to right, if your opponent is very short. Otherwise your giant haymaker blow might end up sailing clean over their head.
Crouching during a thrust attack is something I have only recently discovered, so I expect to update this part at some point. I used to think thrusts couldn't mechanically benefit from a crouch, as again the crouch motion is perpendicular to the weapon motion. Furthermore in a thrust, the weapon always stabs at what your cursor is aimed at. So a thrust doesn't change your point of impact much if at all.
However after a lot of trying I found one interesting use. The crouch animation is so fast due to a very rapid bend at the hip that your character performs as soon as you hit the C key. This causes you character to lean forward a small amount and if you time it correctly, actually increases
the range you get out of your thrust, because your shoulders move forward. Additionally the crouching motion seems to have a significant amount of power/impact in the game engine, and I find that crouch thrusts with two-handed weapons are likely to push your opponent round as well as injure, sometimes pushing them off their feet.
To perform the crouch thrust you need to hit crouch at the very end of the thrusting animation to max out your range . Crouching during thrusts should be used very sparingly when you're not just clowning around. As thrusting is almost always done while lunging forward it is very easy to lose your balance and fall face first. I find it's only really worth doing with extra long weapons like halberds where you can thrust at the enemy from long range, then give yourself time to recover and block if you miss.
More to come!