I’ve been running four archers in my party and while they’re painful to level up I feel they really take off once you’ve got them leveled and have some bow skill on them. Four archers with high bow skill and the berserk perk shred enemy forces. Generally I’ve been trying to run a front of six spears&shield guys with archers behind and 1 greatsword on either side of the archers for if the enemy tries to flank around spearwall and I find it works very well. Basically I use the spears to tank while the archers kill everything and have the two handers focus down anything that manages to flank around and get my archers in melee. Also, giving archers quick hands and a spear (I always go with spear for the +20% chance to hit) usually allows them to finish off a weakened enemy in melee if necessary and swap back to their bow. They are weak against armor, but I’m hoping higher tier bows might fix this in the future.
This is usually how I run too, although I’m experimenting with crossbows instead of bows now.
The problem is that ranged weapons are only great against unarmored enemies. Ghouls and young orcs get destroyed, anything else and they’re meh. They also take about 5 levels to get to a point where they feel worthwhile.
I think the Blocked Shot penalty should be greater, but the base hit chance of all ranged weapons increased. Shield Wall should provide more ranged defense too, maybe. This way you can slowly advance on archers, but running up without a shield is a death sentence.
Not to mention, Skeletons resistance to archers is possibly a huge problem. If the story of the game requires a lot of fighting skeletons, no one is going to use many archers. I know you’ll be able to have more men and swap them out, but I feel like as they are now, archers are too much of a time investment to make them worthwhile.
The other problem is that base ranged skill starts out about 20-30 points lower than melee skill. This contributes massively to early game archers being whiff-cannons.
1. Lower the “whiff” factor of crossbows and archers, to make them deal out damage more consistent with melee.
2. Raise the armor penetration of both the crossbow and the bows. This makes trained archers a better investment, as more enemies wear armor as the game progresses.
3. Have Aimed Shot have a greater % chance to hit the head and raise its base hit chance. Right now it’s almost always better to take 2 quick shots than one aimed shot (two 20% is better than one 40%, statistically)
I think playing around with ideas such as these could lead to archers having a progression more like melee characters.