The lightsaber is immensely, impossibly powerful. It can melt through just about anything, cut through things effortlessly and is the heart of why Jedi are so formidable. Generally in games though, they aren’t that powerful, with the energy sword somehow taking several hits even on fodder level enemies, breaking that illusion of wielding such a powerful object.
Apparently the team at Respawn Entertainment also battled with the power of the lightsaber and the balance of keeping combat feeling fun, until they started using blocking as a means of playing to both worlds: fun combat that isn’t just a single hit, but lightsabers still killing with a single blow.
Talking to USGamer, lead technical designer Brandon Kelch pointed out the problem with having such a powerful tool at your disposal: “It’s a problem. The lightsaber should kill things. But also, killing everything in one hit doesn’t feel good as a game.”
Health bars don’t make sense in a game where a single blow would chop you in half. Lead software engineer Jiesang Song talks about the tweaks they tried before creating the blocking system. “Initially, the stormtrooper would take three hits and it felt off. So now they block a few times, and that last hit actually kills them in one hit.”
“We want to hit characters multiple times. We still want the lightsaber to feel like a one-hit kill, most of the time. Obviously, you saw the Wyyshock spider takes extra hits, but such a large creature, you can imagine its skin is tougher than ours. It’s an alien spider. That’s where we balanced things,” Kelch said.
When asked about the similarities to how Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice handles wearing down an enemy’s defence, Kelch laughed. “There hasn’t been enough time to copy that. To me, when it came out, it was proof we had made some of the right choices. Dark Souls was an influence on this game, from a melee mechanics standpoint, so it was validating to see they had made some of the same choices we made internally.”