And there's the question. How do you keep combat usable for newcomers but still challenging for experts?
And more importantly, fun. Fun has to have a reward commensurate with the challenge. Elements of that include the player feeling in control, that they can influence the outcome.
I've been thinking about this question since you posted it. At first I felt TDM had good design in that regard, as you can adjust settings to influence combat. However I believe I have realized some issues.
- Control. The threads that have recently been posted complaining combat is impossible reveal that players do not feel able to affect the outcome. "Two hits and I'm dead." The fatalistic result negates pleasure, or time to learn.
- Training. The training mission fights do not resemble game fights in the least. They don't hit back if you don't move, so they teach lack of movement. It's not communicated clearly when to successfully parry, so it appears parry is ineffective.
- Ignorance. Different AI do different amounts of damage. In other games, more hazardous opponents are distinguished differently. I didn't realize opponents were different here until I placed my own AI in a map and wondered why they didn't slaughter the player like others' AIs. (Partly to blame from the training mission, you can't see the more advanced fighters if you never are able to defeat the initial fighter.)
I'm not suggesting combat be softened (one hit and I should be dead frankly). But to get ignorant new people up to speed, knowledge of techniques would gain them control (depending on game playing ability obviously). Seeing the video demonstrated a fighting technique totally the opposite of what the training mission trains.
To have it be more challenging for experienced people, if moving away saves people 100% of the time such that it's too easy for them, change that so a portion of the time the AI moves while attacking. At the very least that would mean players would have to finish off AIs before their luck ran out, IE, require skill. It wouldn't even need to adjust per AI ability, as the less experience AIs would not do as much damage getting a hit in, while they most advanced would win. However were this change made, the ability to switch between parry and strike would need to be refined or players will always be taken out flatfooted.
I will suggest changing the first training mission fighter to a dagger wielding foe, so the player doesn't just die right away, and has time to figure out when/how to parry. It would be OK if the initial opponent doesn't move, as it all resets if you get driven out of the "ring", but a subsequent AI should chase you out, the environment is the core opponent of TDM after all.
For reference, it's easy to shoot someone in the head with absolutely no risk, it's relatively easy to knock someone out with the blackjack with minimal risk, depending on environment it's easy to flashbomb flee with limited risk, it should make sense that there's a lot of risk taking on a trained warrior with no armor.
Note, these observations come from someone who has avoided combat in this game previously. It does seem players fall into the "combat is impossible" and "combat is too easy" extremes without it being balanced for many.
"The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out."
- Baron Thomas Babington Macauley