ALL INFORMATION BELOW IS SPEAKING OF NPCS FROM A LEVEL 1.6 PIRATE CAMP AND A LOW QUALITY JOURNEYMAN MAP.
TL;DR, The Lowest Level Stuff.
Level 1.6 Pirate Camp
As of 26/10/2020, npc pirates mounted on weapons are immune to all hand-weapon damage I can find. Pirate structures can't be damaged by anything inexpensive, and can't be damaged by anything in your hand (with the possible exception of grenades, which I haven't had the time to try). You can't even use picks or axes to break down walls. Frankly, this is bad enough in my opinion. You can be killed in seconds by basically any pirate, even when wearing good gear, if you're not confident with the combat in Ark sorry Atlas.
However, the devs seemed to think that this was not bad enough, because it keeps going. Pirate camps are equidistant from each other on most islands, meaning that it's nearly impossible to settle anywhere that you will ever be safe if you go a hundred metres off to the left. Oh, and did I mention that level 1.x pirate bases can spawn pirates (just in my experience) up to level 78? (that's not the highest level I've seen btw, just the highest one I remember for certain) This all means that a troupe of people having just left a freeport, with no real possibility of having equipment blueprints or equipment past common level will land on a new island, be under constant threat, and be basically incapable of dealing with even the lowest level threat without essentially cheating.
I did find one way that works. It's to go up in a mountain, with a rifle, a lot of ammunition, and, at ultra long range, start shooting the pirates. 5 shots per pirate is about reasonable, and they all run around when you shoot one, so you're going to be here for a long time. I assume that's the griefing you (devs) were worried about though. Oddly, that's the path we've been forced to go down. (I will address tames later)
Journeyman Quality Soldiers of the Damned
Likewise, as of 26/10/2020, Soldiers of the Damned do take damage from ranged weaponry, which is a far cry better than them being immune as they were some time ago. However, as of now, from a journeyman quality treasure map, they take so little damage and do so much damage that a man in plate armour is killed in a few hits, while we can shoot them dozens of times without any results whatsoever. In melee, because there are so many of them, that are not in any way tagged to the number of people in the area of the treasure map (at least so far as I can tell), and they are not significantly slower (if at all) than you are, a small group of people get overwhelmed, and die. Oh and if they don't swing at you for x amount of time they decide you must be griefing and they despawn, just in time to respawn when you try to get your equipment back from your body.
Okay. We got here. Yes!!!!! We can at any level defeat pirate camps, and soldiers of the damned. All we have to do, is use tames *happy noises*. And you know, I think that's totally fine. What isn't fine, is the fact that tames are not the only things in the game. In fact, there are many other forms of weaponry that have been implemented into the game, and, supposedly, these other forms are useful. One very important piece of game design that you (devs) seem to never have been taught is that nothing should be added into a game for the players to use that doesn't explicitly have a use. Essentially what I'm saying is this: I get you want people to use tames. Great! They will. Let us use the rest of the stuff you put into the game too.
As of right now, it's incredibly difficult to use what you are given at the beginning of the game, to beat what you need to beat to get to the next stage of the game.
And to the people who would say "well you said it yourself, it's possible, game design done"... I... just... go away. Possible is not the same as fun. If you give me a gun, I should be able to shoot things with it. If you don't want me to be able to, fine. Delete all the guns. They're clearly not meant to be part of the game.
Why You (Devs) Did This
I have read up on this as much as I can, so please correct me if I'm wrong about any of these things. In terms of Tames, I'm not going to say that this game is a copy paste of a game where tames were inherently more important, but... I'm also not going to lie.
Pirate Bases were being effectively cheesed, and so were Soldiers of the Damned, and the way that both of these were being done was by staying at far away range with either a person or a ship (or sending in one person to kite) and then using time, or ships, to destroy all hints of resistance with no difficulty at all. Frankly, I understand why you thought that a fix needed to happen, and I agree. However, allow me to give a potential set of fixes.
What Should Be done (give or take) I'm not trying to write your game for you. Please take these suggestions as genuine suggestions from someone who wants to love your game, but can't, and not as some stuck up prick trying to tell you what to do. Feel free to change numbers, dismiss ideas, etc., but please understand that these are suggestions that I have passed by many people, and that we all think would make the game better.
1. Here's the kicker. Outside of npc aggro or "chase" range or capabilities, you can't damage npcs. At all.
I'm gonna try to clarify. NPCs in Atlas have a range where, if you shoot one of them, they will come after you, and at some point, after running far enough, they will return to base. It's possible I've misread this, and it's only based on time, in which case add it. Add a maximum radius around the npcs. Make it the same size as the range of the longest ranged npc, possibly excluding mounted weapons. So: If the longest ranged npc is an Archer of the Damned, then you can't hurt the Soldiers of the damned, unless the Archer can hit you. No matter what. They might not aggro until you get the first shot in, but once you do, they can hit you, if you can hit them. This is simplified even further because, done right, you can't just have 1 person kiting with no consequences to anyone else. If you can hurt the soldier, the soldier can at least try to come over to you and hit you. Make this obvious by having the reticle simply not register them as an enemy until you're in range.
What does this fix? If worried about people hitting things from a ship, totally fair. Can the npc chase/shoot far enough to get onto a ship? If not, then people on a ship can't hurt npcs. Worried about people hiding in a mountain to shoot the pirate camp? Totally fair. Can the npc shoot high enough to hit the mountain? If not... see where I'm going?
Perhaps artillery range has to be equalised, meaning that artillery can damage the base as long as the base can damage it (at least conceivably), and the range should probably stay the same even if all ranged units are picked off, but this should be a relatively simple fix that makes griefing and cheesing impossible, as well as making it very possible to play however you want.
2. Everything needs to be damaged by everything (Without violating the first rule). An enemy with armour can have resistance to arrows and bullets, but it should never be more than 50%. Frankly, 50% is, in this game, barely reasonable for a bow, and completely unreasonable for a gun.
3. Low level Pirate Bases have Low Level Pirates. Make a reasonable progression. If you want one boss pirate, then maybe make that one pirate level... I don't know, 10 levels above average? Every other pirate should be an equivalent level to the average level of random animals wandering around (10 or so), and then scaled for level of the pirate base. This would mean a level 1.6 pirate base would have most pirates of level 16 (Base level 10 * 1.6), a few above, and a few below. And not above as in level 78, above as in level 18, below as in level 14. The highest level pirate bases may need a buff after this, and that's okay. Maybe instead of it being a flat 10 * Level + ((level/10)*10). This would mean that a level 1.0 base would have level 10 pirates, a level 2 would have level 40 pirates, level 3 would have 60 etc. etc. I really don't care all that much how the scaling is done, I just care that it is done, and that the low level bases actually have consistently low levelled pirates.
4. Mounted Pirates have damage reduction from ranged weapons. Maybe 50%, maybe even more. Frankly, npcs on mounted weapons are the only reason I can ever see a damage reduction above 50%, so go wild. 80% damage reduction if you think there's any reason for it. I feel that fix #1 would fix most griefing with mounted weapons anyways though.
5. Npc Structures (namely pirate camps) should have high, high damage resistance, and maybe even immunity, to weapons like the bow, sword, and guns. They should have damage resistance (only resistance) to tools, and explosives.
6. Normalize Soldier of the Damned Spawn Numbers and Levels. Again, some kind of arithmetic with the levelling of SotD would be great. However, the biggest issue that is the easiest to fix is the number that spawn. Right now, as far as I can tell, it's a fixed number, or at least it's quite high. So, make it 1+ party number on common maps, 2+ on journeyman, etc. etc, along with the basic levelling that is being done. Make this number tagged to the same damage radius as in #1, meaning that if 1 player character is inside the radius of a common map, we get 2 soldiers. If another player gets into this radius, which they have to do in order to hurt the soldier, another soldier spawns, and does not despawn until all players exit the radius. And, because of how Soldiers of the Damned work right now, when all players exit the radius, all soldiers retreat into the ground. Obviously, there would need to be a counter to avoid having 1 player in the radius, 2 soldiers, 1 killed, another player joins, and two pop up, as that would be unfair (at least unless there was some kind of timer), and the number should perhaps not reset right away, but I'm sure that can be figured out by people smarter than me.
7. Soldiers of the Damned should not be able to respawn, or regain health if there is active combat going on. Just... this is violently frustrating when you've whittled down the numbers through skill and then suddenly, poof, everyone has full health and the four you killed are right back up shooting you in the back.
I may edit this if I remember other things that should be added, or to clarify things that are unclear. However, this is a genuine plea from a casual player who wants to introduce people to your game, and wants to play your game, but simply doesn't feel comfortable doing so because of how badly balanced it is. I understand that these changes would be a major change to the balance. However, lets face it. The high level players looking for a challenge are not going to journeyman treasure maps, or level 1.6 pirate bases. They're going to the Hydra, the Kraken. They're going to level 10 pirate bases (assuming those exist and I haven't blanked). The higher level balance of this game might be amazing. It really might! The issue is I don't know, because I've never been able to muster the caring, or capability, to get to those higher levels. Frankly, I'd love feedback. If you, Devs, feel that some of these requests are unreasonable, please tell me why. Maybe I can offer another option. If you, other players, feel that you have something to add, please do.
All I'm asking for is a some changes that would allow people just getting into the game, to get into the game. Without these changes, taking down one pirate camp, on the lowest level island we could find, with our basic equipment, would take (at rough calculation) over 6 minutes. And not 6 minutes of adventure, or fun fights, 6 minutes of potshotting from a mountain side, and waiting 10 seconds in between for the pirates to calm down so we can shoot them again (that's ignoring the mounted pirates). And without these changes, a party of three people, at level 25-30, are literally incapable of taking down a journeyman treasure map without use of the only mechanic that you've allowed to work on it (tames). This does not make for a welcoming environment for new players! It's viscerally frustrating.
What makes it worse is that Atlas has so much potential. It's the Pirate game I've always wanted, and never got. But right now, it's still not here. I have gotten three people (and counting) into playing this game. And so far, we've stuck with it, because we like playing together. So if we need to randomly tame 10 boars in order to get our first treasure map, even though none of us wants to have boars, or wants to go into the taming tree, we do so, and make it fun because we're friends. We like playing the game, because we like playing games together.
I guess what I'm saying is, I'd love to be able to play your game, not because I like who I'm playing it with, but because I like playing the game.