Combat Basics—When you're in a fight, you've basically got four different choices: attack with your weapon, use a skill, use an item, or run away. In most cases, you and your opponent keep alternating turns until either one of you has been beaten up, or you successfully run away. Assuming you've won the fight, you'll earn experience points (XP) and possibly get valuable chips and items.
Combat Details—Under the relatively simple surface of combat, there are a lot of details, some of which are less visible than others. Many of these are stats that describe you or your opponent, including: initiative, to-hit ability, dodge ability, offense, and defense.
- Initiative: This determines which of you acts first in a fight. Initiative isn't a stat in and of itself, but is determined primarily as a function of comparing dodge ability (see below). For the player, both equipment and your Intellect can adjust this number. Higher numbers are better.
- To-hit ability: this represents the accuracy of your attacks, and is countered by your opponent's dodge ability (or represents the accuracy of their attacks, and is countered by your dodge). This applies to any weapon attack, ranged or melee. For heroes, the fundamental determiner of to-hit ability is class and level, but equipment and Reflexes can adjust this score. Higher numbers are better.
- Dodge: this represents a combination of speed and agility used to dodge attacks. Note that this does not overlap with defense (see below), which indicates the sturdiness of your defenses if you're hit. For heroes, class and level primarily determine the dodge ability, but equipment and Reflexes can adjust the number. Higher numbers are better--a high dodge score beats a low to-hit score.
- Offense: represents the deadliness, sharpness, or power of your weapon. This is generally the "power" value on weapons, but some items do increase (or decrease) the offense value. A 90-power weapon with a +10 offense power is essentially an offense rating of 100. Offense is used to determine how much damage is done once an attack hits, and is modified by the defense of the person being hit. Strength does increase the amount of damage a hero can deal with a melee attack, but this is applied separately from the offense rating.
- Defense: represents the sturdiness of the thing being hit. For heroes, defense is primarily the sum of the "power" values of armor being worn. (Ex: a 20-power shirt and 10-power helmet gives the hero a defense rating of 30.) There are other ways to increase defensive power. A 10-power shield with +5 defense would provide 15 to the total defense power. Defense of the defender is used in conjunction with the offense of the attacker to determine the amount of damage done when an attack connects.
Putting this all together, you can get a wide variety of implications for the combat results for an opponent. Many bad guys tend to be pretty consistent across the board for all stats, but there are dramatic exceptions. The flamethrower pillar, for instance, has minimal dodge (it can't move after all) meaning you'll hit it almost every time. However, its heavy armor means it has a very high defense, and your attacks won't do as much damage when they hit. On the other hand you might see a small, light drone that has a very high dodge (it can zip all over the place and it's very hard to hit) but it's fragile (low defense) so that just a few blows will finish it off.
- Offense and defense don't factor in to the effects of many skills or any items. Exceptions are for skills where it's clear that an attack with a weapon is involved (such as the Naturalist skill Charge of the Bovine.) Otherwise the damage done to a foe by an item or skill is generally independent of defense.
- Don't confuse +offense with +damage. Almost always, +damage is going to be more beneficial. An item with +1 damage always does an extra point of damage, while an item with +1 offense power still has that weighted against the defense of the defender.
- Don't confuse damage absorption with defense. Damage absorption is almost always more beneficial--if a shield has +1 damage absorption, it means it always reduces the damage you take by 1, whereas +1 defense on that shield only fractionally reduces damage when compared to the opponent's offense.