gDUEL is a very small mod, with exactly 100 record edits and less than 7kb in pex files.
Due to its size, you will probably need more than just DUEL to round out your load order.
The changes made by DUEL range from blocking mechanics, to a stagger engine, to tweaks to armor scaling and sneak detection.
So is DUEL an extremely efficient mod that covers a huge breadth of balance edits in a minimally invasive fashion,
or is it simply stretched far too thin?
Note: This review was written for DUEL Version 5.1.2
|What DUEL Does:
Base Shield Block Damage Reduction increased from 45% to 80%
Base Weapon Block Damage Reduction increased from 30% to 65%
This sounds okay on paper but there's one issue.
Block damage reduction is capped at 85%, so any shield at the lowest block level will give the player the maximum possible block damage reduction. Meaning there's no incentive to level up block or get better shields except for the armor rating and to unlock perks.
DUEL increases fBlockMax increased from 70% to 100%
Simple testing in game shows that fBlockMax has no effect on how much damage you take while blocking. So it's essentially just a dirty edit.
Shield Wall Perks:
Shield Wall Perks now causes the amount of damage blocked to scale with stamina.
This scaling won't occur at all if you don't have any points invested into Shield Wall.
Blocking is actually more effective without shield wall.
Remember, without shield wall, you will essentially always block the max amount of 85% when using a shield. So the buffs provided by shield wall at high stamina have no use since they can't push you over the 85% cap. This makes the Shield Wall perk a nerf, as all it does is reduce the amount of damage you block at low stamina.
Mod Target Stagger Entry Point in the Shield Wall Perks.
If you look at the red B in the second image, you'll see that DUEL's Shield wall perks also add Mod Target Stagger entry points. This entry point doesn't actually do anything when used in the way shown in the image though, so it's basically a dirty edit that potentially makes the game perform an extra calculation each time you attack an enemy.
For whatever reason the Mod Target Stagger entry point only seems to do anything when you're setting it to 1 or 0. Something like that, I haven't done too much testing, I just know to avoid using it because it's a fairly useless entry point.
I can only speculate why the author of DUEL ever wanted to make the Shield Wall perk let players stagger enemies, but that seems to have been the intention at some point.
DUEL's blocking mechanics don't take full effect until you get the Shield Wall Perk.
Until then, you will find blocking to be extremely effective, and somewhat OP.
There's some clear signs that the author of DUEL didn't quite fully understand the mechanics of damage reduction from blocking in spite of the fact that this information is readily available on the UESP however.
|What DUEL Claims:
Blocking is good with a good shield.
Blocking with a weapon is more effective than in Vanilla.
Blocking is much less effective at low stamina.
|Random Number Based
Assuming DUEL's operates based on RNG. A quick scan of DUEL's pexd files indicates that there is in fact use of random number generation in his code.
I personally dislike RNG, especially when it comes to combat mechanics. But RNG is fairly common in games so you may fine with RNG as a feature.
One Animation Fits All
Duel utilizes the same stagger animation regardless of which direction you are hit from.
So if someone hits you in the back, you stagger backwards a few steps.
This both looks odd, and can be rather frustrating when you want to run away from an enemy, only to stumble backwards towards him when you get hit.
I'm bringing this up because it's possible reuse the NPC_Bumped animations to make the player look like he's staggering forward or to the side.
The pexd files also reveal the use of the staggerstop animation event with a utility.wait function at some point, so presumably the duration of the stagger animation varies depending on certain circumstances, which is a nice touch.
|I don't have access to DUEL's source code, so I don't know every detail about DUEL's stagger engine. But I'll tell you as much as I can based on DUEL's description page and some dpex'd duel code.
DUEL makes no changes to archery, except I guess you can get staggered and can stagger with arrows, but that's just an indirect effect of the stagger engine.
I have no idea why DUEL's description page feels the need tell you how to deal with archers when the mod itself doesn't change archers at all.
Thanks DUEL, but I think most people know how to deal with archers.
DUEL claims to edit stagger through some GMST edits.
This sounds fishy to any experienced modder because most GMST's have no effect on gameplay.
Bethesda has a habit of making a lot of GMST's then not using them, instead opting for hardcoding by the time of release.
It's one of the oldest obstacles in the modding community, existing in both Morrowind as well as Oblivion.
Modders should know of this issue, and should test GMST's in game.
A did a quick test in game with and without duel, spawning a bandit marauder and shield bashing it.
There was literally no difference in the animations or my ability to stun lock via shield bash.
|DUEL does the pretty typical stealth edits.
But I'd imagine dedicated stealth mods like Sneak Tools and Sneak Tweak do a better job and offer more modularity.
Stealth edits on DUEL seem kind of out of place, since it is primarily a combat overhaul. Many players will use a separate mod for sneak, and DUEL's sneak edits will only cause compatibility issues with those mods and possibly upset the game balance created by those mods.
While these edits might have been novel, considering how old DUEL is, nowadays it's dated and probably causes more problems than does good. And the author should consider removing them.
|fCombatStealthPointRegenAttackedWaitTime changed from 15 to 300 seconds
fCombatStealthPointRegenDetectedEventWaitTime changed from 10 to 60 seconds
fCombatStealthPointRegenLostWaitTime changed from 10 to 20 seconds
fSneakAlertMod changed from 0.0 to -0.4
fDetectionViewCone changed from 190 to 130 degrees
fDetectionEventExpireTime changed from 5 to 20 seconds
fDetectionStateExpireTime changed from 30 to 180 seconds
fDetectionUpdateTimeMaxComplex changed from 5 to 2 seconds
fDetectionUpdateTimeMax changed from 2 to 1 second
fDetectionUpdateTimeMinComplex changed from 2.5 to to 1 second
fDetectionUpdateTimeMin changed from 1 to 0.1 seconds
fCombatDetectionFleeingLostRemoveTime changed from 30 to 60 seconds
fCombatDetectionLostRemoveTime changed from 30 to 300 seconds
fCombatDetectionNoticedTimeLimit changed from 10 to 30 seconds
iCrimeAlarmLowRecDistance changed from 2000 to 1000 units (~93 to ~47 feet)
fSneakCombatMod changed from -0.4 to -0.8
|Huge Overhaul My Ass
The only three AI related edits made by DUEL are the two GMST edits shown on the right.
The author had the balls to go into the creation kit, edit two numbers, and call it a huge overhaul.
The 3 script pex files come out to under 7 kb, which is ridiculously tiny, so there's no way there is AI being coded through scripts.
Upon further investigation I found that the author would often claim to have a simulator which he used to test various AI changes, and he found that changing fCombatDistance from 141 to 120 had some profound effect on Combat AI that made them so much smarter that he thought he could package this small number tweak as a "Huge Overhaul"
First of all, he never explains what exactly this simulator is. The only reasonable guess as to what it is, would be an arena where he can spawn NPC's and fight them or have other NPC's fight them so he can collect data on how well they perform on various combat settings.
Assuming this is true, we would have 2 issues:
First one is, how would you measure combat effectiveness?
And second one is if you had an effective metric for measure combat effectiveness, just how much data would you need to prove that changing fCombatDistance from 141 to 120 has the profound kind of impact on AI that the description claims?
Either way this all sounds terribly implausible. And I seriously doubt DUEL actually changes AI in any meaningful way.
|fAIFleeHealthMult changed from 20 to 40
fCombatDistance changed from 141 to 120
fCombatBlockChanceMult changed from 0.25 to 0.50
Other Notable Points:
|It looks like the author of DUEL wanted to change your starting stamina from 100 to 250. This GMST has no effect on the game though, so it's existence is only a sloppy edit that eats RAM during gameplay.
I could list a few other GMST's edited by DUEL that have no effect either (like all the fStagger GMST's), but this is the most obvious one, and I think you get the point.
|fDefaultStamina changed from 50 to 200|
|The stamina threshold varies between each tier of the perk.
What I find strange is this information is never mentioned in game.
It's kind of misleading to leave that out isn't it?
I also find it somewhat asymmetric that this happens for one handed and two handed but not marksman or magic.
|Armsman and Barbarian perks stop working if your stamina drops below a certain point.|
|This makes it so you need more 50% more armor rating to hit the cap. And clothing was made a bit much more effective.||fArmorScalingFactor changed from 0.12 to 0.08
fClothingArmorBase changed from 0 to 0.2
|I never felt that the stamina cost of bashes and power attacks were too cheap. So I don't agree with these changes. More than halving the reach of bash ontop of increasing the cost by 50% seems like an unnecessary severe nerf to bash in my opinion.||fStaminaBashBase changed from 35 to 50
fStaminaPowerBashBase changed from 55 to 75
fStaminaAttackWeaponBase changed from 20 to 30
fCombatBashReach changed from 141 to 60
|Bunch of random health/stamina regen tweaks, I don't feel particularly strongly for or against any of these changes.||fCombatStaminaRegenRateMult changed from 0.35 to 0.45
fDamagedHealthRegenDelay changed from 0.5 to 4
fDamagedStaminaRegenDelay changed from 0.5 to 2
fDamagedAVRegenDelay changed from 1 to 2
fStaminaRegenDelayMax changed from 5 to 10 seconds
|The player loses an extra 30 stamina per block. seems like way too much to me.||fStaminaBlockBase changed from 0 to 30|
|Think about this for a second, what happens when you make all weapons do 1.2? Well it's essentially the same thing as making all magic do 20% less damage, with some minor adjustments to the difficulty sliders. Which is ridiculous, magic is very underpowered in Skyrim. This just worsens the issue.||fDamageWeaponMult changed from 1 to 1.2|
|DUEL uses a cloak to apply scripts. Any time you distribute scripts with cloaks, it's important to check that the scripts are being deactivated when the player is gone. This isn't the case with DUEL since its cloak applies constant effect scripts.
Granted, it's possible that these scripts are being cleaned out by other scripts, but a quick test in game where I deleted the script distribution cloak, ran around and teleported around a bit, and checked if NPC's I had walked near still had spell scripts attached to them. And they did. Meaning DUEL will cause minor bloat. Fortunately, DUEL's scripts aren't particularly resource intensive out of combat, but bloat is still bloat.
|Cloak based script distribution causes minor bloating.|
|Usually I don't care about dirty edits because they have little to no impact on the game.|
But if there's one record you should never have a dirty edit on, it's the player reference.
It's used by a lot of other mods such as balanced magic or any race mod.
Dirty edits are very easy to clean, but the author seems have ignored it.
|A dirty edit on the Player Reference|
At first glance, DUEL looks like a remarkably impressive mod.
The description page is huge, detailed, and seemingly very well documented.
But looks can be deceiving.
The blocking mechanic are broken
The stagger engine uses random number generation and causes minor bloat.
The sneak tweaks are unnecessary, as are most of the other minor edits made by the mod.
And the combat AI adjustments are for all intents and purposes, non existent.
The author of DUEL has had over a year and a half to clean up his work, but he hasn't.
He's been fairly active, responding to comments (mostly complements) regularly.
He has a lot of users, so it's not like he should be short on feedback.
DUEL isn't terribly big mod either, so there aren't too many loose ends to consider.
And the description page is so filled with so much misinformation some of it can be considered out right lying.