I think that for me the balance doesn't feel quite right yet.
Isn't that what we all just said, too?
I'd rather have higher difficulties doing higher damage to me, not making the enemies more bullet spongy.
You can't have one without the other. It has to be a mix of both. At a higher difficulty, the enemies have to take more damage so that you have to take more risks in order to actually deal that damage to them. If there are just two volleys back and forth, and you manage to dodge both times before killing the enemy, big whoop. Perhaps you just got lucky, perhaps you actually are more skilled. If you can do that ten times in a row, that says something completely else -- you're actually consistently good, not just good in short bursts. Higher difficulty levels in any game should require consistently good play.
And I think the default health return per kill is still too high on normal difficulty.
It could be, but bear in mind that normal difficulty level is supposed to be pretty tame. The last thing I want is for players to come into this game and find it way too hard right from the start. If you like Super Meat Boy or similar, then this difficulty is not for you, and you opinion does not count!
My ideal scenario for this game is:
1. Player hears about game, possibly that it can be really hard if you want it to.
2. Player starts game, possibly leaving it on regular difficulty, and says "oh, this isn't so bad after all."
3. A player wanting a really stiff challenge will then look at the difficulty settings again, and crank it up.
I know that there is debate on point #3, but my experience with AI War has shown that to be true. Whereas, more middle-of-the-road players who are getting creamed will not turn the difficulty down as easily. It feels like a cheat to them. Therefore, if this game isn't going languish as a niche title, the default difficulty has to be pretty darn forgiving. If it gets a sub-reputation as having awesome hardcore options, then great, but generally that's something only hardcore players tend to be interested in... and they tend to be the ones most likely to talk to other players, visit forums, experiment around with settings, etc.
But maybe I'm in the minority here, I don't know. In general I think running through scores of low health enemies that can still do dangerous damage if I don't dodge their shots or kill them quickly is more fun than the alternative. Although I guess it's hard to balance the enemies to do challenging damage with such a wide sliding scale of player health. And short of adding in another set of difficulty sliders for monster health and player health, which would be silly, I don't see any way to get exactly what I want out of the game as it is. But things continue to change so I'm not too worried about it.
What I want to make very clear on this
point is: there is absolutely no reason we cannot do both, even considering the current difficulty scale. If a monster has super low health in general, but does amazing damage (or even average difficulty on lower levels), then the multiplied health will still be super low but their attacks will still be devastating. That's what I mean about the monster balance itself needing work, rather than whatever else. Want more low-health high-attack monster areas? Great! That's a feature, not an overall design philosophy, when it comes to this game, though.
In general I'm currently balancing down some of the enemy healths to do just this, because some enemies are indeed now too buff. I'm still in progress, but this is what I have so far for the next version:
* After cooking up a quick "how many hits does it take to kill an enemy at each difficulty, with base damage at equal tier and tier +1" calculator, the following changes have been made to enemy health balance:
** Master Hero difficulty multiplier dropped from 5 to 4.5.
** The Chosen One difficulty dropped from 8 to 6.
** Lightning Esper and Water Esper base health dropped from 3000 to 2000.
** Desert burrower base health dropped from 5000 to 1500.
** Icicle leaper base health dropped from 2500 to 750.
** Hanging trap base health dropped from 8000 to 3000.
** Skelebot dwarf base health dropped from 2000 to 1000.
** Green Fairy base health dropped from 10,000 to 3000.
** Red Fairy base health dropped from 15,000 to 5000.
** Red and Red/Yellow slime base healths both dropped from 2500 to 1500.
** Skelebot overlord base health dropped from 230,000 to 160,000.
As you can see, in general the health of most monsters is still way higher than a version ago, and that's simply just not going to change -- my stance being that you need to demonstrate consistency at a higher difficulty level, as noted, which means trading several shots rather than one-shotting them and dodging their single attack against you. But there's also a much wider variance overall being introduced here, and that's something I want to continue doing.
Although I really do think faeries are ridiculously buff for little balls of light. And clockwork probes should have their spawning speed halved or something, because fighting a lot of those is just endless.
Note those were already on zebramatt's list above.
But yeah, I've not gotten to the clockworks in my rebalance list above (stopped to respond to you), but the fairies are already much better. The ludicrousness of their toughness versus size is intended, by the way, mostly for the surprise factor and how contrary that is to other games where fairies help you.