*(apologies for the first, now deleted, post; apparently, I had formatting issues I didn’t know how to solve)
So it has been revealed that the Malian civilization will introduce the unit stealth mechanic (i.e. stealthing up actively outside of stealth forests) along with a building landmark that provides stealth (Gamescom interview). While this mechanic may be unique for the Malians, it’s possible future civs (such as Japan) may also have an opportunity to use this mechanic. Who knows, maybe in the future even an aoe3-esque assassin unit could be introduced to all civs or something (I’m not saying that’s a good idea, just spitballing). It is entirely possible that this mechanic is intended to remain unique to the Malians forever. We don’t know yet. It may also be the case that the Malians are balanced heavily around proper exploitation of this mechanic to offset other vulnerabilities like their lack of heavy armor.
With all that said and caveated, some members of the community (yes, such as Beastyqt-we all know forum warriors rush to say whatever he said on stream immediately on reddit and the forums-not entirely without merit, however) have brought up the issue of counterplay, and after thinking about it, I do agree that active stealth should have some form of counterplay. It’s one of those mechanics across many, many pvp formats where it can be incredibly satisfying as the stealther to unleash hell, and incredibly frusting as the victim to be harrassed. While in an ideal world we should all have the mentality of monks perhaps, that is simply not true, and not just for game balance, but I also think counterplay is great to…counter…the inherent toxicity that stealth killing breeds in pvp.
So, without further ado, I have 2 thoughts and ideas for universal (as in all civs could use these) counterplay for stealth that I thought I would share.
The first one: Active Outpost/Tower Scan Skill.
Basically, the premise is that every outpost or certain unique landmarks (like Kremlin) as such would have one active ability (which would then go on cooldown-it could be called something like “Town Watch”) to scan their radius that would reveal any stealth units. You could have it so all stealth units in attack range get revealed (and attacked presumably), but maybe any stealth unit in los range that is stationary stays in stealth, adding another aspect to counterplay upon counterplay. I think this ability should have a relatively short cooldown (say 7-10 seconds), but you could even add in another mechanic to lengthen the cooldown the farther away from a Town Center the outpost (like 1 second every 2 tiles past 15 tiles away from a tc) is or something (not only for immersion but also because stealth should be harder the close to the defender you get, and easier further out on the frontier etc.). I also think this patrol skill should incur a small cost in food, like 5 food or 10 food. Food is the easiest resource to get mid to late game once you transition to farms so it may be asked, why bother with a cost at all? I think the cost should basically be low enough that resonable use of the skill is pretty much neglible, but constant spamming of the skill does actually slow you down just a bit because the stealth counterplay shouldn’t be mindless. If an opponent causes actual paranoia and you are spamming the skill, they should be rewarded with you incuring a slight penalty to your economy.
*Small clarification after reading-I’m an intending that this active skill is unique to each individual outpost, so the cost of 5-10 food would be per outpost as each outpost would individually scan its territory. It would not be a global scan.
The second: utilize the added “patrol” function that was added to the game or add another formation.
So the first option placed stealth counterplay in buildings, but this option places it with the mobile military units. One could have it so that units set to “patrol” can see stealth units. But, of course it can’t be that simple…there needs again to be counterplay. Well, while it may be counterintuitive, I think best option from a “gamey” standpoint is that units set to “patrol” take more damage from attacks. “Patrol” could be adjusted so that units set to patrol receive a debuff like -2 melee/-2 ranged armor. (not sure on ideal values of course). So you can actively search for stealth attacks, but by doing so you put your units at greater risk if they discover the ambushers. I think it should be this way because stealth should still be powerful, and counterplay to it should still have costs, but it should be possible to mitigate stealth’s advantages through alternative costs.
A third simpler and more boring option is for there to be a simple stance or formation “caution”, which has your units move much slower, but with the ability to spot stealth from farther out.
Anyway, these are my thoughts, and while the PuP is still a month out and we still don’t know much at all about these civs and what other changes are coming, I wanted to share some thoughts on this new mechanic as soon as possible. It could be that adding something like this would break the Malians as is (and they are most likely going to be high on the unique civs tier list up there with Mongols) and I guess I would simply say to that: I think counterplay is so important, Malians should then get adjustments.