Bring Back Blocking (But Better)
Rather than having a shield be the sole means of defense against sustaining incoming attacks for an unarmored player, the sword blocking mechanic should be returned to the game with different functionality and requirements. Blocking with a sword should:
- only take place when no shield is present in the offhand
- only take effect when timed correctly (within 2-3 ticks of an incoming attack, maybe based on difficulty)
- only affect attacks within a small (20-30°) cone, rather than the full 180° of a shield
- only affect physical, non-projectile attacks, and only up to a certain level of damage which increases with the "strength" potion effect
- possibly be able to block some projectiles, but with a much smaller targeting area
The rationale behind this idea is mostly to offer a less extreme alternative to using a shield, in order to make the offhand slot more useful in combat for items like food, fishing rods, potions, etc.
It would also serve as an incentive to use a sword in particular, as opposed to a trident or axe; this would make balancing axes as weapons easier, as they would no longer be universally better. This change could open up more opportunities for unique enchantments and other mechanics as well, for example an enchantment that increases the targeting area of blocking but is incompatible with sharpness, or an enchantment that helps in bypassing opponents' blocks.
As it stands, minecraft's combat system is little more than a game of chicken with axes and shields.
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