When we’re designing warriors, specifically when we’re designing one that fills the archetype of an existing warrior, we have to make sure those warriors are distinct in the way they look, play, feel and so on. We have to justify having two of the same style of characters. Tanks were interesting for us because they have a specific role. A tank peels for you team and are supposed to be this big, unstoppable moving force. And Thorgrim fills that role perfectly: he has hard CC and all of the tools that make him a great tank. So when we decided we needed another tank, we had to ask ourselves: How do we create another warrior that fills the same role while having a different flavor?
As we were going through the pantheon of warriors we identified, Black Knight stood out as an obvious choice for the next tank. He’s this ginormous presence in this huge suit of armor, he looks impenetrable, he’s carrying this big ol’ battle axe. It was easy for us to know, yeah, he’ll work as the next tank.
We took time to examine his visual look and tried to figure out exactly what he would do on the battlefield and what kind of emotions we want to get from the player. So we looked at Thogrim and realized that the Viking’s moveset involved a lot of pushing away, knocking them back, flinging enemies over his head. A lot of outward, projecting force. With that, we decided that Black Knight should pull opponents toward him. There’s a sense of fear with Black Knight, that he moves towards you and you can’t escape, and when Black Knight is close it’s going to hurt. And that’s how we wound up with his kit.
Tanks in generally aren’t supposed to be the heavy damage dealers, and they are warriors you can’t ignore. With Black Knight’s Ability 1, Devastation, it plays against that philosophy. It’s the huge overhead axe swing that does a good amount of damage and knocks enemies back. So if you get to close to Black Knight, Devastation is the punishment.
Now, Cruel Summons, his Ability 2, is an ability that pulls opponents closer towards him. He reaches out and yanks enemy warriors close to him. When we were first pitching this ability, there were concerns that it didn’t have enough impact. It’s too simple. Black Knight just pulls enemies in with no damage, there’s a little bit of crowd control, sure. But once we got this ability into a build of the game, it ended up working. In fact, it was pretty integral to his moveset because it was great for stopping a Relic rush. Cruel Summons will yank enemies back, but if they’re in the air, they will actually get thrown a bit behind you as well!
To really put the emphasis on the theme of pulling enemies toward him, we created Walk of Iron, his ultimate ability. At first, we created a burst ability that pulled opponents in, but that didn’t quite feel right in balance tests. Then we thought of the imminent threat he represents on the field, so we created animation where he walked and stomped towards the enemy, but that was clunky, too. We finally settled on designing pulse of energy, represented by thorns that pulled opponents towards him. The thorns thematically tie in with his armor as well. It’s a call to Morgan Le Fay, in fact. Simon will speak a bit more to that in the coming days :)
I think the Walk of Iron is one of the most disruptive moves in the game right now. Some people say it’s overpowered, and after more internal playtests, we were inclined to agree. The balance of his ultimate ability was nerfed a bit from the TwitchCon build, so if you played Black Knight during that weekend he’ll play a bit differently when you play during the Alpha.
In Breakaway, damage is a good thing, survivability is a good thing. All of the abilities, healing, Buildables – we balance the game according to the current meta and stable of warriors. Now, there’s an intangible attribute that’s important to the game, and that’s navigation. Particularly since running the Relic is important, being able to move around the environment quickly and efficiently while maintaining a position advantage in teamfights – these are all aspects of navigation that are important in Breakaway.
Having a tank that can disrupt the navigation of opponents is an important part of the meta we’ve established. If you see there’s a warrior on a Breakaway and you can catch up and hit them with Cruel Summons, that’s a cool moment. Or if Walk of Iron is ready, and the opposing team is pushing towards your Relay, but you hit them with the move and disrupt the entire enemy team, it gives your team enough time to get in there, do some damage, and start to fight them back. Disruption gives your team the windows and opportunities to get yourself out of a losing situation and turn the tide of the battle. It’s going to be interesting to see more Black Knight play during the Alpha, and I can’t wait to see how players utilize his disruption mechanics.