Ashen Foundry

What Alpha Zero Abilities Reveal About Game Mechanics

During PAX Prime and over the past several months the developers at Intrepid have revealed a considerable amount of information about the combat mechanics which are present in the initial Alpha Zero of Ashes of Creation. The game is very early in development and many mechanics will undoubtedly change along the road to launch, however by analyzing common features and themes from the data which has been announced reveals a surprising amount about how character development and combat mechanics will likely function in the final game. 

This article delves into many of these common themes and provides my interpretation of the data. Be sure to check out the Ashen Foundry Compendium for a rich store of knowledge about game mechanics in Ashes of Creation. 

DISCLAIMER: This article involves considerable speculation and inference based on known abilities and mechanics which have been confirmed for Alpha Zero. All of the following is subject to change.


Combat Resource Pools

There are three primary resource pools which describe the player's general combat status: Health, Mana, and Focus. Only these three resource pools are currently known, however other forms of combat resources may exist in the final game.

The role of Health is self-explanatory. Mana provides a  resource which is spent to activate normal abilities. Focus is an alternative resource gained through combat and spent instead of Mana to activate signature "ultimate" abilities. These primary resource pools are modified by several abilities, like the Cleric's Medium Armor Mastery or the Tank's Heavy Armor Mastery passives.

Damaging and healing abilities modify the Health of the target, while there are also confirmed examples of abilities which provide Mana Heal. There is not yet any confirmation of abilities which cause Mana Drain, but given the duality of many other combat mechanics already announced I expect that certain abilities will incorporate this effect.

Private Sanctum
Mage 1
Teleport yourself or a party member to an extra-dimensional location for a short period of time, removing them from combat and from danger.
  • Rank 1 - The banished target receives a Mana Heal while banished.
  • Rank 2 - Reduces the cooldown of the ability.

While the player might begin an encounter with full Mana and slowly deplete this reserve during combat by activating abilities, the player starts combat with zero Focus and builds it gradually by successfully executing combo chains with your equipped weapon. In addition to this combo-based generation mechanism, certain skills also present a mechanism to generate additional Focus:

Break Free
Tank 1
The Tank rallies to immediately Break Free of active disabling effects.
  • Rank 1 - The Tank benefits from Increased Disable Defense for a duration after the ability is used.
  • Rank 2 - Gain additional Focus for every crowd control effect which is cleared through this ability.

Since Focus requires investment in combat to obtain the skills which can be activated using Focus are more impactful, but can can only be used sparingly, an example is the Cleric's Divine Form:

Divine Form
Cleric 1
Apply a pulsing AoE to Heal allies and deal Damage to enemies in an area around the Cleric
  • Rank 1 - Reduce Hate from enemy monsters hit by the pulse. Enemies targeting the caster Lose Target.
  • Rank 2 - Increases effectiveness of all healing abilities cast while in this form.

In order to force players to face interesting trade-offs in combat regarding the use and management of these resource pools, active abilities have both a resource cost and a cooldown which jointly restrict their effective utilization. Each ability also has a cast time (which may be instant) and a minimum or maximum range which mechanically allows for battlefield awareness and positioning to play an important role.


Primary Attributes - A Remaining Mystery

While combat resources fluctuate during the course of a typical encounter, most RPG character systems also feature primary attributes like Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence. These primary attributes generally advance with character level and equipment. In an early live stream Steven and Jeff confirmed that different races will have different initial base stats which will progress according to the player's chosen primary and secondary archetypes.

You have base stats, the first growth variable includes your race, the second growth variable involves your primary class decision, your third growth variable is your secondary class choice.

The PAX Prime build of the game did not feature any observable attributes and none of the mentioned abilities for Alpha Zero reference any modifiers for conventional primary attributes. Therefore, further details on which primary stats will exist in the game and how they will influence character capabilities is a remaining mystery which will likely be clarified over the coming months.


Secondary Attributes and Combat Modifiers

While uncertainty exists around the presence of "primary" attributes, we do know there will be a large number of secondary meta-attributes which will influence character performance in combat. Most abilities in Ashes of Creation incorporate short-duration buffs or debuffs which temporarily modify these secondary attributes. For example, a Mage can temporarily increase their Evasion chance by using the After Image ability:

After Image
Mage 1
Summon shadows of yourself to confuse your enemies, granting the Mage Increased Evasion.
  • Rank 1 - Increases duration of the effect.
  • Rank 2 - Deal Increased Damage while the images remain in effect.

These secondary attributes can generally be characterized as offensive, or defensive. Known defensive attributes include Armor, which reduces incoming Physical Damage, as well as avoidance modifiers including Block Chance, Evasion Chance, and Disable Defense (chance to resist crowd control). Known offensive attributes include Weapon Power, Spell Power, Critical Chance. Abilities like the Ranger's Light Armor mastery probably increases damage dealt by increasing a secondary attribute like Weapon Power.


Targeting Mechanics and Threat

There are a variety of targeting mechanics already confirmed for Ashes of Creation. Most abilities automatically apply to the current locked target, however some abilities like the Ranger's Power Shot implement a manually targetted skill shot:

Power Shot
Ranger 1
Charge up a shot firing forward in a straight line and dealing Damage to all enemies.
  • Rank 1 - Add additional Bleed damage to enemies hit.
  • Rank 2 - Charge the ability to fire a fan of arrows in a forward cone. The cone radius increases based on ability charge duration.

Other abilities like the 2nd progression of Bulwark or the Mage's Portal allow for the placement of a template to determine the area-of-effect on the battlefield. Enemy NPCs choose which players to target with their attacks based on Hate, a meta resource that determines how likely a NPC is to prioritize attacking a particular foe. Most archetypes feature abilities which can either deliberately increase or decrease Hate to manage threat levels in combat.

Melee Strikes
Tank 1
Deals Damage to a single target and adds Hate.
  • Rank 1 - Deal additional Damage and adds Hate Over Time.
  • Rank 2 - Deal Damage to all enemies in a frontal cone, generating Hate from each.
Mage's Escape
Mage 1
Step into another dimension momentarily and Dash to emerge ahead of your original position.
  • Rank 1 - Reduce Hate from your current target and force them to Lose Target.
  • Rank 2 - Break Free to escape any active control effects.

Under normal circumstances NPC enemies will choose a target based on Hate levels and players are free to choose whichever target they prefer. However, there are certain abilities which force an enemy to either immediately acquire or lose the player as their current selected target. Examples include:

Tank 1
Provoke a single enemy target, adding Hate.
  • Rank 1 - Causes the target to Force Target to the Tank player, losing their previous target.
  • Rank 2 - Adds additional Hate Over Time.
Cleric 1
Teleport a target some distance away from the caster applying instant Knockback.
  • Rank 1 - Reduce Hate from the teleported target and increase the distance teleported. If the enemy is currently targeting the caster, cause them to Lose Target.
  • Rank 2 - Apply a Slow to enemies which are banished.


Damage Types and Resistances

Based on current ability design, there are two overarching damage types Physical and Magical. This is evident from the design of certain abilities which explicitly grant temporary bonuses to damage reduction for each type:

Tank 1
Protect an ally, redirecting a percentage of incoming damage received by the ally to damage the Tank instead.
  • Rank 1 - Increase the percentage of damage shared to the Tank by the Protect effect.
  • Rank 2 - Gives the protected ally Physical Damage Reduction and Magical Damage Reduction, increasing their mitigation before damage is shared.

We do know, however, that there may be sub-types of Magical damage which correspond to the three different elements (Fire, Ice, and Earth). This is evidenced by the Mage's passive ability Elemental Mastery. Furthermore, we know that Burn is a specific type of magical damage-over-time which corresponds to fire damage.

It is possible (even likely) that sub-types of Physical damage like Slashing, Crushing, or Piercing may also exist. We already know that several physical abilities including the Ranger's Snare or Slice ability can cause Bleed damage.

Lastly, we know that Intrepid will support some forms of counter-attack damage through abilities which provide the Riposte effect, for example:

Tank 1
Absorb a fixed amount of damage and deal the absorbed amount as Damage to all nearby targets upon expiration.
  • Rank 1 - Increase the duration of the absorption buff.
  • Rank 2 - Riposte against all attackers while the effect is active.


Movement Abilities and Crowd Control

The initial Alpha Zero ability list reveals a considerable emphasis on movement in combat. There are many abilities, some offensive, some defensive which alter the positioning of the player or their target during combat:

  • Charge - the player moves from their current position to their target's position
  • Pull - the player moves their target to the player's current position
  • Knockback - the player forces a nearby target backwards
  • Escape - the player leaps backwards from a nearby enemy
  • Dash - the player jumps directly forwards from their current position

To offset the wide range of movement-enhancing abilities there are also a number of crowd control effects that restrict the mobility of enemies.

  • Stun - Disable the target in-place, preventing any action
  • Knockdown - Knock the target to the ground, disabling actions and breaking current animations
  • Slow - Reduce the target's movement speed
  • Immobilize - Root the target to the ground, preventing movement but allowing other actions

To counter the use of hostile movement and control effects, most archetypes have access to at least one ability which allows them to Break Free of enemy control effects as well as gain temporary immunity to such effects for a brief window.

Ranger 1
Increases movement speed, but prevents the activation of abilities. Using any ability ends the sprint.
  • Rank 1 - The Ranger benefits from Increased Disable Defense while sprinting.
  • Rank 2 - Break Free from hostile control effects when the sprint first starts.


Potential Weaknesses?

There are some aspects of the currently known abilities which represent potential mechanical weaknesses of the current systems. One of my largest current concerns as we approach Alpha Zero involves the effectiveness of healing and resurrection. Many of the current Cleric healing abilities are either instant cast or smart target, empowering a Cleric to provide a lot of in-combat healing even when being directly pressured by an enemy.

Cleric 1
Target a friendly player to deliver an immediate Heal, and spread the healing to additional friendly targets nearest to the original ally.
  • Rank 1 - Deals Damage to enemies within range of the final ally healed by the ability.
  • Rank 2 - The amount of healing and damage dealt increases based on the number of allies affected by the ability up to a maximum of 4 (or 5).

Furthermore, if a Cleric's ally does die, the current implementation of Resurrection for a full in-combat revival only at the cost of Mana (rather than Focus).

Endow Life
Cleric 1
Target a friendly player and Resurrect them at reduced health if they are dead, if they are alive grant Prevent Death for several seconds.
  • Rank 1 - Increases the duration of the Prevent Death buff.
  • Rank 2 - Resurrected allies will return at full Health and Mana.

I worry that group vs. group PvP battles may result in stalemates where both sides possess sustain and healing which outpaces the capability of damage dealers. To counteract this, Intrepid might have to adjust damage values such that players can overcome a Cleric's impressive healing potential which could result in a lack of balance for 1v1 or other small scale fights.  Obviously there is still plenty of time to worry about balance and adjusting the actual effectiveness of these skills, but the ease of use for the Alpha Zero healing abilities gives me a concern regarding the overall design.

Additionally, a significant concern motivated by the current system involves archetype abilities which are fairly strongly bound to a specific choice of weapon type. Intrepid has stated that they want weapon choice to be independent from class choice, allowing for far more flexibility and variety in character design, however several of the signature abilities for the Tank seem to strongly bind the player to the use of Sword and Shield:

Shield Throw
Tank 1
Hurl your shield at a single enemy target, dealing Damage and adding Hate.
  • Rank 1 - The shield throw now affects all enemies within the Tank's frontal cone.
  • Rank 2 - Applies a Stun to the first enemy hit.

Similarly, most of the Ranger abilities explicitly assume use of a Bow, for example Flaming Arrow:

Flaming Arrow
Ranger 1
Shoot an arrow which leaves behind a trail of flames dealing Damage to enemies.
  • Rank 1 - The arrow explodes when reaching its target, or its maximum distance, dealing area of effect Damage.
  • Rank 2 - Any enemies which come into contact with the fire trail suffer additional Burn damage.

Perhaps in the longer term these abilities will be unlocked through those respective weapon skill trees directly, rather than being base archetype abilities for the Tank or Ranger classes.


What's Next?

As we approach Alpha Zero, particularly given Intrepid's refreshing transparency thus-far during the development process, we are bound to see more live gameplay which further refines our understanding of how the basics of character development and combat systems work in Ashes of Creation. However, as I hope this article has illustrated, many of the key design points of the game's combat system can be already inferred from currently known information.

For me personally, many of my biggest remaining questions involve character development - what primary attributes will each player character have, how will those affect character ability and performance within the game world. How will the different weapon lines interact or modify the functionality of certain class skills. 

With such a tremendous variety of potential character designs supported by the interaction of races, primary and secondary archetypes, and weapon choices it will be fascinating to see how many different build concepts can be realistically supported and how many ideas will fall into dead zones of ineffective combinations. Lastly, it will be fascinating to see how effectively will Intrepid tune the damage output of these skills to calibrate player effectiveness in PvE and PvP encounters of various sizes. 

What are your big takeaways from the Ashes gameplay systems thus far, has anything in particular stuck with you as a big insight or a key concern? Let us know in the comment section below!

About Atropos:

I am a dedicated gamer and MMO enthusiast who has been involved with MMO communities since EverQuest. As the creator of Tamriel Foundry and Ashen Foundry, I love the challenge of building platforms and tools for MMO communities to flourish.

5 Replies
  1. #1


    Member7 Posts

    Nice write up. At this point in time I personally have not formed any hard and fast opinions on the combat, need to get my hands on it before I will do so, but even then I come with a very open mind. There are an incredible amount of questions that will only be answered by alpha0, and many that will not, how complete the implementation of the overall combat system will be we do not know. PAX was quoted as being 20% of what combat would be, so what will alpha0 be?

    Steven has said there will be an extensive list of modifiers that may be applied during combat will all of these be implemented during alpha0, gear and equipment has barely been touched on, how will they effect base stats, will they have effect modifiers built into the armours stats or will they only enhance primary stats. We do know there will be set bonuses, but how many pieces to a set or will it be similar to ESO with different numbers of pieces giving extra bonuses up to the 5 set bonus. Will se bonuses just be restricted to armour or will other gear slots gain set bonuses as well.  

    Then there is the whole issue of balance between each of the classes, it is extremely hard to balance classes 1v1, should they even try to. I know I do not want to be in a position where I am attacked by class A and because I am class C I don't have much viable counter play thus might as well give up. I know the cleric has been mentioned a few times by people as potentially very powerful with heals and damage, time will tell and that is what all of the testing phases are for.

    How weapons will interact with skills will be interesting, as has been pointed out skills with some classes seem to suggest 1 weapon yet weapon choice is a feature that we are being told gives a good degree of freedom, yet skills suggest otherwise. Will there be resistances to slashing, blunt, piercing, if so can you swap to another weapon to increase potential damage. How will weapon proficiency's work will each weapon have its own skill line and will simply picking up that weapon and using it give you points to spend in that weapons skill tree? With there being quite a number of weapons confirmed thus far, could take quite sometime to master all the weapons, which I am perfectly fine with as it gives long term goals.  I think it would be nice to switch out weapons, ok we are fighting skeleton's  might need to break out that mace, 2 handed maul or staff, the same may apply to magical resistances too. We know there are tomes and orbs what effect with they have, what other weapons have yet to be revealed.

    There are far more questions than answers, and yet more will come up once alpha0 starts, but we all need to be constructive in our feedback both good and bad, to try and help IS created a combat system that is fun for the majority of people because lets face it, does not matter what combat is like there will always be those who dislike it.

    Close your eyes, spread your arms, and always trust your cape.

  2. #2


    Administrator137 Posts

    Great response @Varkun, I think you're absolutely right with most of your points, particularly that Alpha Zero is only a small part of what the overall mechanics will be, I definitely acknowledge this and that the article is premature from that perspective. That being said, I do think that there are enough common themes in what Intrepid is doing that we can start to see a pattern even though a lot of components are not yet in place.

    Balance will be extremely tricky, particularly in light of how we know secondary archetypes will enable additional progression or modification of abilities. Not to mention racial specific abilities and flexibly choice of weapon sets. There will be some combinations that will come out of nowhere and really challenge game balance for a time until things are addressed. To me, though, that's part of the fun of playing a MMO, seeing what happens and what the community comes up with. 

    I really like your comment about damage types and vulnerabilities. My HOPE about where they are going, based on the Alpha Zero abilities is that there will be six (or more) primary damage types: Fire, Ice, Earth, Crush, Slash, Pierce. I hope that both NPCs and players may have resistances to these damage types so that strategically altering your combat approach makes sense (i.e. Ice, not Fire vs a fire elemental or crush vs a skeleton). Always liked that in games.

    Creator of Ashen Foundry and Tamriel Foundry. Former guildmaster of Entropy Rising. Economist and MMO enthusiast.

  3. #3


    Member10 Posts

    Interesting write-up!

    Concerning the weaknesses, I agree that as it currently stands, they are pretty big problems. Combat resurrection is an extremely powerful tool for pvp, and has to be controlled somehow, to avoid the scenario you describe. It also seems like the in-combat availability of the resurrection is very much intended, given how it grants protection upon respawn, and improving the amount of health and mana restored is a thing. That said, I dont fear this particular issue too much for the full release, since it can be solved fairly easily. Unreasonable sustain in pvp can be solved by % healing reduction effects, which I would assume to find its way into the game either way. Unreasonable combat resurrection can be fought with interrupts for one thing, but also a cap on the amount of times a player can be brought back in a row, or maybe a system like in WoW where you can click the corpse of an enemy player in a battleground, and force them to respawn as normal, removing the possibility of resurrection. As for the weapon type thing, yeah that can definitely damage the experience for those classes. Perhaps we will see different types of shields and bows, to compensate? So maybe a buckler will perform very differently than a tower shield, and maybe a short bow will be good for different types of engagements than a long bow.

    Regarding primary stat growth variables. Hopefully we will see a balanced system, but the variance very well might be insignificant, or it might be too pronounced. Too little variance means you wont pay much attention to the system at all, which is kind of a waste, and too much leads to all sorts of problems with balance. Hopefully they get it right. Do we know anything about stat requirements on gear? Perhaps that is a way to give the system meaning, without making it so significant that we start to see cookie cutter setups.

  4. #4


    Administrator137 Posts

    Thanks for the reply @Antharas!

    Antharas wrote on Nov. 24, 2017, 5:31 a.m.

    Regarding primary stat growth variables. Hopefully we will see a balanced system, but the variance very well might be insignificant, or it might be too pronounced. Too little variance means you wont pay much attention to the system at all, which is kind of a waste, and too much leads to all sorts of problems with balance. Hopefully they get it right. Do we know anything about stat requirements on gear? Perhaps that is a way to give the system meaning, without making it so significant that we start to see cookie cutter setups.

     I think we know so far that attributes will be determined by race/class combination, but we don't know yet whether there is an elective component as well. Are players able to invest in attributes or only abilities? I agree with you though, getting the right mix between having different racial/class pairings generate different attribute outcomes is important, but also important not to over-exaggerate the difference such that certain combos are ruled out as "not viable".

    Creator of Ashen Foundry and Tamriel Foundry. Former guildmaster of Entropy Rising. Economist and MMO enthusiast.

  5. #5


    Moderator80 Posts

    I think the coolest thing here was the Prevent Death mechanic on a resurrection skill. Lumping that in feels super MOBAesque in a good way, as it adds an important layer of counterplay without expanding the number of necessary hotbar slots. I'm hoping that's an approach we get to see a lot of as ability development gets more and more fleshed out.


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