After asking on Discord if there's even a point to this and getting an affirmative I'm putting this here. Here's a complete-ish overhaul of Martyrs combat fundamentals to solve some of the control and gameplay issues and make it more interesting. There would be a minimal amount of new assets required (I'll point out where I think the biggest requirements of those would be when I get to it) but it would obviously be a huge amount of coding and balance work. As such I don't expect anything of this magnitude would ever be done, but I figure why not spend an hour putting this down. Settle down for a big read.
And who doesn't like to backseat game design ey?
*note: I'll use will and would, could and should, etc. interchangeably.
So without further ado:
The Combat Loop or How to differentiate Melee and Ranged Combat
Part 1: Enemy AI
Enemy AI is at the moment quite basic - melee enemies charge in a straight line if they can, ranged enemies take cover and shoot you. They'll use their special abilities whenever they're off cooldown. They're all pretty interchangeable, and that's not exactly great. So here's my fix: Enemies are, broadly, split into two categories:
"Dumb Enemies", which are made up of things like basic cultists, basic traitor guardsmen without a Squad Leader, lower demons, Ogryns, Khornate Marines, Tyranids without Synapse, etc. - basically the fodder type enemies. These enemies will not try to dodge AoE attacks or Grenades, their ranged variants will only take cover if cover is right next to them (they will prefer to stand still and shoot the player), their melee variants will charge directly at the player. They will be unaware of player range, firing arcs (more on this later!) or player cover state.
"Smart Enemies", which are things like Squad Leaders, higher ranking Eldar, Chaos Marines, Smarter Demons, Troopers with a Squad Leader, Tyranids under Synapse, etc. - basically the smarter enemies of which only a few are in normal groups, the Elites of the enemy. These enemies will try to dodge grenades and AoEs, their ranged variants will look for cover and attack from there and go to new cover if the old one is destroyed, their melee variants will attempt to flank the player (or charge if close enough, we will get to this later). They will be aware of player range, firing arcs or player cover state.
Enemy ability use will not just be cooldown based, it will primarily based on their AI and the combat situation. "Smart" enemies will use grenades and similar anti-cover abilities if the player is in cover, not if he's out of cover for example. They'll check for friendlies in the AoE before throwing them out or doing Line Charges. "Dumb" enemies will not consider friendlies in the AoE's, won't know to use cover-destroying abilities (remember from above - they're not aware of player cover state!) and will happily charge right through their friends.
I'm not listing all possibilities here, obviously, the devs are smart enough and knowledge enough about 40k to come up with their own ideas for what enemies specifically fit into which categories. This is just intended as a baseline.
Now we've differentiated enemies and made them more unique, how is the player going to deal with this? That's where Part 2 comes in.
Part 2: Melee and Ranged Combat
Currently the biggest issues with combat, and one of the things that makes is feel off, is that swinging the sword is just like firing a Bolter, except with a shorter range. Or in other words, a Bolter is just swinging a sword at long range. There is no fundamental difference between how melee and ranged combat is handled by the game and that's just not how melee and ranged combat works, both in reality and more importantly in Warhammer 40k.
I propose, and there's going to be visual aids for this in a bit, that melee and ranged combat is going to be treated differently, with special interactions between them and specific benefits and penalties for both.
All non-ranged melee attacks have the same, standardized range. This range is longer than the (standardized!) melee attack range of all enemies to minimize the stutter-step animation issue and make melee combat feel better to control.
Secondly the big change:
In a radius of about double the attack range around the player two things happen:
A) Enemies cannot use ranged attacks - they are forced to use melee attacks only (this is probably where the most new assets would be required - all ranged enemies would need melee attack animations) and are drawn to engage the player. This, combined with the range standardization described above, will provide melee players the ability to mitigate damage from ranged attacks while providing a solid flow of melee combat, regardless of enemy type.
It also provides synergy for coop play, in which melee players can "tie-up" (an important new game concept) enemies which are dangerous at range, but only have weak melee attacks. Of course some enemies can break this standard mold (for example, Ogryns or Space Marines, even in their ranged variants, would still be very capable melee fighters!)
B) Both enemies and the player gain a high degree (for example let's say 50%) damage reduction from all (non-AoE) ranged attacks.
This, again, helps make melee more than just shooting a gun except with shorter range, like the above change, and provides the inherently weaker and less safe playstyle of melee combat with some much needed toughness. After all, if are using a melee weapon, you do not benefit from cover - a big defensive loss - and you have to close on the enemy, during which time they can hurt you but you cannot hurt them - a big defensive loss. These two changes put together will make melee a playstyle that revolves around getting into vulnerable blobs of ranged enemies, to deny them their more powerful ranged attacks and give yourself protection from unengaged enemies.
There is also the inherent anti-synergy for coop, in that enemies engaged in melee will benefit from the same ranged damage reduction the player does, but I think this will be more than made up for by the fact that the ranged coop partner will be able to freely support their melee buddy (and he can still circumvent the melee combat protection with AoE attacks). Plus there is another mechanic we haven't got to yet that will come up in the ranged segment of this post.
Ranged Combat is based on two core mechanics: Cover and Suppression
Suppression will be caused, in an area of effect, by all ranged attacks (and other skills where appropriate) and will be reduced only slightly by cover. When without an incoming source of suppression it will recover rapidly, but even small incoming sources of suppression will keep it from regenerating quickly. This means, once an enemy is suppressed to a high degree, even small amounts of ranged fire, such as from a charging pistol user (see below), can keep the enemies heads down and allow a successful relocation of the player. It also means a player who can break line of sight even for a short time, such as ducking behind a crate or corner or door, can quickly get rid of his built-up suppression.
Suppression, more than just providing a layer of crowd control protection, at certain breakpoints, will provide a variety of worsening debuffs. Supressed targets will have reduced movement speed, potentially reduced firing rate and/or decreased accuracy. At medium/higher levels it will also prevent the usage of special abilities, like cover destroying specials, line charges or grenades.
Cover, much like it does in the current mechanics, provides massive damage reduction, slight suppression resistance (although for better gameplay for ranged players it's possibly that only the player-side only cover would provide very good suppression resistance). It is very resistant to regular damage, but specialty cover destroying attacks, abilities and gear will destroy individual cover pieces (cover destruction AoEs are kept very small and rare!) quickly. Slower firing, more accurate weapons (such as Sniper weapons) ignore some amount of cover.
The basic rule for ranged weapons being: The better it is at suppression, the worse it is at punching through cover and vice-versa.
Ranged weapon accuracy and damage would decrease or increase depending on weapon type, with different weapons having fitting individual behaviours: Sniper weapons have the worst accuracy and damage up close, increase with distance to target. Shotguns, Meltas and Pistols have the worst accuracy and damage at long range, getting better as range decreases. Rifles and other "general purpose" weapons (Bolters, Autoguns, etc.) would be equally adept at all ranges.
However, against enemies inside the "Engagement Range", both accuracy and damage are significantly reduced (not disabled, like they are for enemies, because it is frankly a UI and controls nightmare to disable a players ranged attacks on this basis, so the closest hassle-free equivalent will do).
This gives us 3 kinds of extremes in terms of Playstyle:
The Melee Specialist player. This player only uses melee weapons and he wants to get stuck in. The melee and ranged changes mean this player's biggest vulnerability is getting suppressed before he can get into melee range and benefit from his melee combat damage reduction. He will use gear to suppress his enemies, cloak himself, use the terrain of the map to block line of sight and use mobility skills to get into melee combat. Once in melee combat he is laughing though - he'll be able to carve through swarms of weak ranged enemies (now forced to try and whack him with their puny guns!) while enjoying the inherent safety of being in a messy melee fight. Careful though! If his enemies run out he might end up exposed - this player must always be mindful of how to quickly get to the next slaughter when the current one runs out.
The Ranged Specialist player. This player only uses ranged weapons and he wants to be safe and sound in cover. The melee and ranged changes mean this player's biggest vulnerability is an enemy melee unit getting into his Engagement range and running out of cover. He will use suppressive weapons to reduce the damage output of enemy ranged units and protect his cover by disabling their cover destroying abilities. He will also use suppression to slow the charges of melee units and focus fire them while they try to get close. He will want to quickly pick-off squad leaders and elites to reduce the amount of "Smart" enemies that know how to destroy his cover or flank him. He might switch to a sniper weapon, or a cover destroying weapon to deal with entrenched ranged enemies. Or just blow them up with a grenade, missiles, or other ranged gear, or flank them.
The Flexible Player. This player uses both ranged and melee weapons and he wants to use the right tool for the right job. The melee and ranged changes mean this player's biggest vulnerability is being caught in the wrong place with the wrong gear. This player probably has the most options opened up by the changes - he could close under a hail of dual pistol shots, both suppressing the enemy and closing the distance, only to switch to a melee weapon when close enough. He might focus on sniping enemies through cover, while keeping a melee weapon handy in case an enemy melee unit manages to charge and close the distance. This player would have a decent answer to almost everything that could happen, but he would also not reach the heights that more focused specialist would.
Of course in practice players can fall anywhere on or between this spectrum - the only limit is your imagination (and gear, and skills, and class, and mood,....)
The synergies and room for cooperative tactics in multiplayer should be obvious. Melee players protecting their ranged buddies from being tied-up, ranged players providing suppression to allow their melee buddies to charge. Snipers dealing with entrenched enemies and "Smart" enemies to keep their partners cover safe. The possibilities are, again, endless(ish).
*Screenshot with annotations and diagrams to come if necessary*
Now obviously, coding, balancing and creating this would be a massive undertaking, even though I've tried to keep it close to current mechanics and art assets where possible. Do I expect this would ever be done? No. Do I demand the developers do it now or else? Hell no. It's just some backseat game design.
And who doesn't like to backseat game design, ey?
Edit: You might have noticed, dear reader, that I never did talk about firing arcs like I promised. Well, I might get into it later if there's interest.