Reintroduce poise, in an animation style with visual queues such as the character behaving sluggish or grunting, staggering, etc (sort of how they did now with the audio queues). Visual queues will be your measurement on how much of their poise “meter” remains but to not add more clutter on your screen to maintain, it remains visual only.
-You have your base poise (very low, levels do not change this) with some armors, primarily medium and heavy, granting additional poise.
-Dependent on the type of attack (light, heavy) and type of weapon (this is unique per each weapon style, some sharing similar values in light heavy amounts, or varying), your attacks both blocked and connected will affect this , connected hits of course doing much more. This amount changes in large amounts between creatures with some dealing no poise damage and some dealing max poise damage.
-Essentially you don’t want to freely soak up hits as they will eat at your poise, however if they are smaller attacks and you possess high poise (bulky heavy armor builds, perhaps a spell or trait further increasing it), you could take on a few to get your heavy attacks in.
-Depletion of poise causes you to react to the hit in a “staggering” animation either you flying or being knocked down or being knocked sideways (1 handed weapons won’t launch you). This happens regardless of the attack so long as they deal damage to your poise.
-Based on whether you blocked the attack, or got struck by it, you may take poise damage.
-Poise behaves like stamina in that it refills when you are not blocking or attacking or performing a physical action other than walking. However, the startup time for the poise amount to start recharging is slightly longer than stamina (~1 second longer).
-Armor (or perhaps spells in the future) that increase poise increase the total value, and poise refills on a flat amount, not percentage amounts, so high poise builds don’t refill so quickly harming pvp.
-depleting your stamina bar applies a deduction to your poise value, however cannot apply any “Staggering” effect, only bring you to 0 if the deduction is greater than your current poise amount.
High poise builds will be able to soak many hits or even take on some hits not normally possible without staggering, but ultimately all players can be stunned regardless of their build so high poise builds aren’t unstoppable.
For example, to play with numbers, you have 60 stamina base, level is irrelevant unless its granting you access to armors with high poise. Say you are endgame with armor granting additional 40 poise so you now sit at 100 poise. Tougher than most to stagger, but still possible through careless actions like soaking up hit after hit. Maybe a spell or trait grants 10 each so with both you could technically survive even heavier attacks from large creatures and bosses, but anything excessively heavy like a dragon charging you won’t matter (say it deals 200 poise damage and remains unblockable).
From what I recall, poise was just a wall and if you couldn’t deal a large enough attack you couldn’t stun them, so in short I suggest replacing this feature to be contestable in combat regardless of what weapon you use.