You will encounter NPC enemies in missions and in boarding combat. There are many types of enemies you'll face, each with distinct skills and combat abilities. However, all enemies can be roughly broken down into three types: Grunts, Lieutenants and Bosses.
Next to each enemy's name, you'll see a shield emblem with that enemy's national flag displayed on it. This same shield emblem is displayed on the enemy's Healthbar in the upper right corner of your screen. Lieutenants will have a sword stuck through the shield. Bosses will have two swords crossed behind the shield.
Grunts are the easiest enemies to fight, and will die with only a few sword-strokes. Their Offense is low, so they will not be able to hit you very often. One Grunt will not really be a challenge for you, even two and three Grunts should also be relatively easy, but once you're fighting four Grunts, you'll need to stay on your toes. Five or more grunts are certainly beatable, but it will not be an easy fight, especially when you're just starting out.
When you're fighting several Grunts at once, watch your Guard as they can quickly start to knock it down, causing you to take Health damage.
Remember that you can identify Lieutenants by the emblem next to their Healthbar of a single sword stuck through a shield. Lieutenants are a challenging fight. Fighting against a lieutenant one-on-one will be a tough proposition for a new player. You'll find lieutenants to be less and less of a problem as you gain more experience with the system, more familiarity with your skills, and more powerful equipment. Particularly deadly is the combination of Lieutenants and their Grunt allies. While the lieutenant keeps you busy, the Grunts will whittle away your Guard.
Bosses are the most challenging type of enemies in the game. You're not intended to be able to face these terrors on your own, and so you'll want a group of friends to back you up. Bosses are difficult to hit, have enormous amounts of Health and Guard, and will seriously hurt your health with every swing. To fight a boss, consider using some of the skills in your school's Defense line to reduce the damage you take.
All NPCs (Non-Player Characters) in the game (except for a few very special ones) belong to a specific archetype group. NPCs who are of different archetypes have different stats, different abilities, and different weapons. NPCs of different archetypes will even fight completely differently from one another.
To add further depth, within each archetype group there are several sub-archetypes. Different sub-archetypes within the same archetype have very similar or identical stats, but their signature ability might be different. Sub-archetypes fulfill the general role that their archetype is designed to fill, but in different ways.
There are six archetypes: Defenders, Damagers, Duelists, Supporters, Brutes, and Gunners.
Defenders focus heavily on the Parry stat. Their Parry is much higher than other archetypes, but their Dodge is lower. This means that Defenders are more difficult to hit with normal attacks, but weak against special moves that can only be dodged. Defenders also concentrate more on supporting their allies or harrying the player with Debuff-type abilities rather than dealing a lot of damage. Defenders have three sub-archetypes:
Damagers focus on dealing as much damage as possible. They have high offensive stats, but lower defensive stats, meaning they can seriously hurt your health, but you can also defeat them more quickly than other archetypes. Damagers have three sub-archetypes:
Duelists focus both on offense and defense. These archetypes have high parry and increased offense, but not as much as Defenders or Damagers. Duelists deal a generous amount of damage, but they also have special abilities that make them more dangerous if ignored. However, attacking a Duelist has its own dangers: whenever a Duelist parries an attack, they get to use a powerful riposte (retaliatory) attack. Duelists have three sub-archeypes:
Supporters focus on using abilities that make their allies stronger or you weaker rather than dealing direct damage. Supporters are similar to Defenders in that aspect, but Supporters go even further down that road with more and more powerful types of those attacks. However, Supporters do not have the Defender's defensive capabilities. Supporters have two sub-archetypes:
Brutes focus on being passively tough, and have greatly increased health compared to other archetypes. Brutes usually have passive abilities that reduce the damage that they take as well. However, Brutes are easier to hit than other archetypes because Brutes have reduced parry. Brutes don't do as much damage as Damager archetypes. Brutes have three sub-archetypes:
Gunners specialize in attacking from range. They have low defenses once engaged in melee, but can do a lot of damage if you let them shoot you for too long. Gunners have two sub-archetypes:
When you grapple and board another ship, NPC or player-captained, you will be faced with a crew of NPCs. How many will depend on how many crew your enemy has. It's not a 1:1 ratio but a representation, but the more crew your enemy had when you boarded, the more they can bring to bear in boarding combat.
You will also have NPCs fighting on your behalf. Again, how many will depend on how many crew you have. So it's good to use anti-personnel shot and defend your crew before boarding. Once you're in combat on deck, you and your enemy will have waves of reinforcements you can call. If you are knocked out and revive, that uses a wave of your reinforcements. It's a trade-off whether to call for additional NPCs or to give yourself another chance to respawn because, if you're knocked out when you have no more waves, you lose the boarding combat.