For a long time, I neglected the importance of ambient perspective.
After I added a few 'fog' layers to the game, it suddenly showing the full richness of the color palette. This visual contrast differentiates the front plane from the backplane, now making it easier for a player to see important stuff fast.
Hand-painted normal maps
After experimenting with lights and shaders, I decided to paint normal maps on all characters. The goal was to preserve fluid painting motion from the animated color sheet and transpose those motions on normal sheet data.
Now, when close to the light source, a character normal map will 'bounce' light off character edges in regards to color animation.
Shields now can be prolonged up to 10 sec and can deflect any projectile.
If, however, a projectile explodes between you and the ground, that explosion may temporarily stun you but not hurt your HP.
It was a necessary mechanic to stop god-like shield build abuse.
Ducking projectiles from various tall enemies now can be executed without any stamina cost. It just helps the game flow when the player doesn't have to worry about the stamina cost every time he ducks.
This 'breather' is helpful at low levels. Later in the game, a few points invested in stamina regeneration will be a necessity.