I’ve been working on a Fe7 rebalance patch, and one of the hardest things I’ve found to balance is archers/snipers/bows.
The root of the problem appears to be that Fe7 is mainly focused around enemy phase (EP) , and archers have a hard time countering on EP. The lack of EP also affects exp gain, which helps to explain the relative usefulness of Louise compared to the two archers. Sword locked units face a similar problem of being unable to counter ranged attacks on EP, while lance, axe, and magic users can. Thus both bow and sword locked units are better in games that are more player phase (PP) focused like Fe6. Thus, one solution to balance Fe7 better could be to make it more PP focused. However, Fe7 Hector hard mode is already relatively difficult, so simply increasing hard mode bonuses would make it even more punishing. Simultaneously reducing enemy spam would help, but this would have downstream effects on exp gain and weapon usage, not to mention doubling and orko breakpoints, which would affect other classes unevenly. At first glance it seems easier to buff archers /bows.
An interesting idea which has been suggested before is to increase the range of all bows to 2-3. I tried this in my rom hack and it felt great and unique on PP, but it gave several issues on EP, of which Ch16 EHM made me give up. Archers could attack Merlinus and the green units turn one, and proceeded to kill Lucian before I could reach him. Meanwhile, the room to the left of the prison flooded with archers because they could not be countered on EP, and I could not get through to block the the stair tile while my characters were focused by 5 archers at once. It may be possible to balance the game around 2-3 range archers, but it would require significant changes to the layout of some maps which were designed around 2 range. A hotfix would be to change the weapon of problematic archers to a 2 range Emblem Bow, or to only have the C and above rank bows have 2-3 range.
Another issue with bows archers is that they cannot utilize the weapon triangle to gain bonuses to hit and dmg, since these are usually in the players favor. One solution could be to buff bow might (mt), but that would also buff enemy bow users, which may or may not be warranted. Despite being locked to 1 weapon, snipers don’t get a crit bonus like swordmasters or berserkers, but only retain the ballista skill. This is easy to add, but it would make ordinary ballistae into killer ballistae such as in four fanged offense, which is pretty obnoxious for the player. Giving it directly to the 3 archer/snipers is possible, but then they have it available before promotion. I have considered only giving it to female snipers since these are not used as enemies, but this would require making Wil a female archer… Alternatively making him another nomad, but that would make Lyn mode a bit awkward with 2 nomads and no archers. Finally, the archers have poor bases which warrant a buff, and this might patch over some of their issues, but it is the least interesting way to go about it.
What do you think about archer /bow balance, and have you been able to make it work?