So I, like many others, have been spending a decent amount of time playing the latest MMORPG craze to make its way to the west, Blade and Soul, and I've been having quite a bit of fun with it. Its combat system is one of the best in any MMO I've played so far, and that's saying a lot.
Recently, though, I managed to catch a Youtube clip of the old Spider-Man 90's cartoon (MAN, that was a good show...), and found myself craving for some superhero action. Logically, I went with the only one I still had on my hard drive, Champions, and... Well, what you'd probably expect to happen... Happened.
After experiencing what is, at least in my opinion, a really good combat system like B&S's, and then suddenly going back to what Champions has was quite jarring. It felt more hollow, floaty and mindless than ever, like everything was just made of paper, like everyone was just flailing and tossing things at each other until someone finally collapsed.
This, of course, reminds me of just how important it is that the combat system in an MMO is VERY important. Champions' gameplay and combat seems more like it was tacked on after the character creator was made just to justify its existence. Blade and Soul, however, seems to be the exact opposite.
Of course, many people compare TERA and Blade and Soul, and often ask what makes one better than the other. I haven't played TERA much, so I can't give that game a fair comparison or judgement, but aspects other than the combat were what turned me off from it, so I'll just leave it be.
I trust that everyone working on CoT knows what they're doing, so I'm not trying to override anyone's work here. I don't claim to be an expert on designing combat systems, but I do know what I like to play and what I get bored with, and that being the case, I have a few suggestions.
First of all, effects, animations and sounds are very important to the experience. There are far too many MMOs I've played where combat loses its excitement factor quickly because attacks make these boring sound effects or have weak or lackluster animations, and enemies barely react to them. Heck, sometimes they don't react at all and the only thing that lets you know they hit are the enemy flashing a bit or a number flying out over the enemy's head. This is mainly what bothered me about GW2's system. I wanted to wield a hammer because I wanted to smash stuff, but the sound effects didn't sound very "smashy", and some of the animations seemed a little too nimble and light to give the experience that I usually come to expect when I'm using a hammer in a game like that. I tried using the elementalist to capture the feeling of hurling superpowers at enemies, but so far I didn't like anything about the animations for that class (One of the staff types mostly uses animations of your character just raising the staff into the air when attacks hit. Not raising it and then pointing at the enemy, just repeatedly thrusting it at the sky in a very awkward-looking way)
CoT is of course going to be a superhero MMO, and in superhero settings, everything about fighting is almost always exaggerated. It's part of what makes the genre what it is. So please don't be affraid to water down effects to try to make it seem more "realistic". Misplaced realism is what's really plaguing the game industry as a whole already. We play this game because we want to throw punches that make a loud, heavy smashing sound, give off some sort of burst of a particle effect and send our enemies flying a few feet. When we fire off energy blasts, they shouldn't always be comparatively thin streams that make little high-pitched rings or "fwoosh" sounds (Seriously, WTH, Champs Online?), but there should be a few big, intense bursts of energy or thick, surging blasts that sound like little energy explosions.
Take the loud, messy and in-your-face effects that CoH's energy blast had for example, where every single time a blast hit, it exploded into a huge shockwave on the enemy's character model whether it was a low-level attack or a high-level one. (That reminds me... Shockwaves. That's what every game with energy blast powers needs, and I'm not talking about those tiny ones that are never any bigger than your character that Champs Online uses.)
But enough about the visual appeal; another very important factor is the actual combat system itself, how it functions, how it all balances out under the hood. Is it skill based, where a person of lower level could, with effort, beat a higher-level opponent if they play smart enough, or is it just numbers based, where everything is little more than dice rolls swayed in different directions by stats that alter probabilities? Is it guaranteed that your gear and bonuses will definitely ensure your victory, or will they be just as good as the player behind the screen? Will a PvP duel between two characters merely be about how those characters are built instead of how well that player knows how to play the game?
In an ideal scenario, skill should play a major role. There should be a degree of balance between players of the same level, regardless of whether they're ranged or melee fighters.
There's probably more I could think of, but it's getting late. I'm not asking you to copy B&S's combat system by any means (in fact, there are a few things about it even I don't like), but one thing I am trying to advise is not taking inspiration for your combat system from the other two superhero games out there... They're not very well-liked around these parts for a reason.