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swai

First impressions of a long time lurker

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I picked this game up two days ago. I've been watching the teamstreams, but holding off buying so I wouldn't burn out on the idea before it's fleshed out enough and/or pay for another half-finished abandongame. The hybrids patch seemed proved too tempting to wait any longer, and 11 hours in I haven't regretted it for a second. Here's some feedback and impressions.

Impressions:

The game is beautiful. I hadn't really realized this from watching the streams, but everything from the world map to the different battle scenarios are breathtakingly vibrant and lively. I came in ready to min-max and focus on the long game plan right from the first years, but instead I got swept away by exploring the world. I laughed at the bickering of the chalice. I got surprised by the intelligence of the cadence the first time a minion ambushed me by hiding behind a rock, or got me into a trap by luring me into the range of another pack. Could anyone tire of seeing the acid spread after a rupture is killed?

I was going to learn the mechanics and abuse the system but the overview map turned into a pause screen between battles. I built keeps and put my mortals in them to breed, without paying too much attention to the ones that died or what classes they had. Their experience will live on, I can use them all. Even when I started to run out of suitable mates for my regents I pushed on. I almost came to admire the cadence (except wrinklers, they can go drown in the chalice) and I watched in glee when they invaded the cold and dead halls of my sagewright's guild and murdered the only slow, asthmatic and infertile resident who spawned on the other side of the map surrounded by enemies.

It wasn't before around year 160 when there hadn't been any timeline activity for a while that I realized that all the people in my keeps where either too old to have children or incapable of it due to being of the same sex. Time to restart.

I'm much more careful the second time around, caring more about XP and ability to produce offspring and letting some less desirable traits go through for the sake of preserving the bloodlines. My expendables are thriving. They all seem to want to be hunters this time around, but I just found a caberjack after a battle which I'll use to grow more diversity. This time I will stay vigilant against my cadence brother, and I'll happily kill all the minions he sends at me if it means keeping mine alive.

Feedback (sorry if any of these has been brought up before, I'm new to these forums):

Difficulty balancing

I haven't experienced the endgame yet... but so far in my playstyle the difficulty seems to be mostly stacked up front, with a little hump when cradles starts appearing before they can't one-shot guys as easily any more with the targeted shot. I'm not sure what to suggest to do about this, but it gave at least me a major restart whiplash going from cruising through the halfway+ battles back to the early game.

Quicker restarts

I wish I could skip more of the new game animations, but I assume some of these might be newly added and that's why they work as they do at the moment?

Suggestions:

- Make the first chalice discussion skippable, or add player conversation options that might affect the start situation (similar to, or bigger than, the random events)

- Make the first keep battle skippable. All the other battle maps are much more beautiful (in my opinion) and the keeps are mostly interesting later when/if they get attacked. Bump up the starting XP if this is needed to get the bloodlines off to a good start.

Select regent interface

Is there a way to go back on your regent selection? This information probably is available if you dig for it, but I at least ended up having to adopt the policy of always saving before doing one of these due to the number of times where I'd choose someone with the best traits only to find out there was no mate who could produce offspring.

Suggestion: Either show the number of available mates with a chance of producing children, or at least a warning when there is none.

Battle music

Is the battle music a bit buggy? It worked on the tutorial map of the first game, but then already on the second battle I thought I was in some enormous map since it never started and I kept assuming that had to mean that more than half the enemies was left. Can't recall hearing it ever since either (although I had to start playing muted pretty soon due to family reasons, so this is based on about 5 battles and might just be me not paying attention).

Enemy spotted

This might be mostly my stupidity, but I took the "enemy spotted" text next to a revealed mob to mean that they saw me and didn't use stealth for a long time since I didn't see the point if they always spotted me anyway. It seems clear enough that something new appears when the camera pans over, the text seemed so redundant that I assumed it meant something else even if it's pretty obvious in retrospect what's going on.

Suggestion: Display "enemy spotted" as a battle cry for the player unit that comes into range instead of next to the mobs that are already shown by camera movement.

Line of sight versus attack range

Suggestion: Could there be an icon indicating that a mob is in range of attack from a particular square, similar to the in-view icon? It took a while to get a sense for when hunters would be in range to shoot, and not just have line of sight.

Optimist / Pessimist

It might be a playstyle thing, but I can't say hit chance percentages actually affect my tactical decision at all. Actual reduced or increased hit chances would affect who I bring to a battle, but after starting the battle I use the units I have in the same way wether they say they have 45% hit chance or 95%... one attack at a time, focus fire, leave crowd controllable enemy(ies) for last in case of misses and some control is needed. Schrödinger's attackrolls basically.

Suggestion: What if some traits were'nt so bad by themselves, but they could have extra effects in combination with another one? For example if someone was a pessimist and a flincher there would be a risk that the nerves let him down and he fails an attack... on the other hand optimist and flincher means a less reduced evation penalty since he doesn't think they'll hit him anyway.

Conclusion:

I love this game, and I'd feel satisfied even if all development mysteriously stopped right now... looking forward to more updates and streams though. Thanks for showing that early access and crowdfunding actually can be done right! @Brad: your smile could make any day brighter :D!

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Thanks for the kind words! :D!

Difficulty - I see what you're saying with the difficulty. It's weird because your power level increases at a non-fixed rate, depending on how well you are doing. The enemies increase in power at a fixed rate. When you are ahead of the curve the game is too easy. When you are behind the curve, the game is impossible! I have had similar experiences with long-term strategy games like Civ or XCOM. I'm not sure how to solve it! If we rubber band the difficulty (making it easier when you're doing poorly and making it harder when you're doing well) then you can end up with a system where you're never really rewarded for doing well. See Elder Scrolls: Oblivion for an extreme example of this!

Quicker Restarts - We're putting more tutorialization into the first battle soon, but we're also adding an option to skip it completely. You'll still have to play through the first battle though just to make sure that everything stays nice and balanced! :D

Regent Selection - I'm not sure if we can modify it now, but I see your point and others have raised it as well. You kind of want to have a dual-pane, side-by-side comparison of the two heroes and lock them both in at the same time.

Battle music - We intentionally drop out the music after a few minutes. This way it doesn't get as repetitive. And then we kick it back in when you've defeated most of the enemies on the map or you've lost a couple of heroes. This solution isn't perfect but I think it works most of the time!

Enemy Spotted - I see what you're getting at here! But I do feel like this is intuitive for most people so I'm not sure if we should change it or not. Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. :D

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Difficulty - I see what you're saying with the difficulty. It's weird because your power level increases at a non-fixed rate, depending on how well you are doing. The enemies increase in power at a fixed rate. When you are ahead of the curve the game is too easy. When you are behind the curve, the game is impossible! I have had similar experiences with long-term strategy games like Civ or XCOM. I'm not sure how to solve it! If we rubber band the difficulty (making it easier when you're doing poorly and making it harder when you're doing well) then you can end up with a system where you're never really rewarded for doing well. See Elder Scrolls: Oblivion for an extreme example of this!

Having played the final battle today without losing a soul or really taking much damage, and also having lost the previous run to a snowballing string of losses, I can say that this is quite accurate.

Really, the only two ways I can think of to improve the current difficulty are to have a better difficulty curve, and a catch-up mechanic.

Snowballing is a really big thing in MC, and it kinda makes accurately judging the difficulty, err, difficult. The enemy proggression could still be improved though, or the enmies themselves could be changed to keep the curve closer to the player proggression. I do think though, that the game could use some tougher enemies in the back end, like something that can survive a max level relic blast, and that mopping up basic seeds, lapses and the like get's a bit dull around 80-130.

Catch up mechanic is a tougher one to make feel good, because this is supposed to be a relatively hardcore game. It is true, however, that a single loss can tip the kingdom into an unbalance of which there is no return. How about something like raising the victory prizes after a loss? (A new hero above the level curve, 4x experience bonus on win etc.) Another interesting idea would be a single-time event, that grants your kingdom bonus xp, heroes , whatever you need, but pushes back the date of the final battle. Using some of that Chalice Warrior Spirit Juice to give you hope.

..Just another errant thought.

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In Banner Saga, they had this idea I liked a lot : in a war, when you cleared the enemies, you could pursue the "fleeing ones" and start a second fight, with your heroes in the state they were at the end of the battle, for extra XP and extra loot (corpses). Mostly like spawning a "second wave" of monsters on the map, at the end of a battle. Players doing very well had more XP to do even better later on.

Edit : Maybe the end of the game should also come quicker for those that are really doing well. Reaching level 10 trainees is the only mark I can think of, for a moment to start the end game ...

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i am compleately fine with the events and snowballing losses that so often lead to a total restart.

i dont think there needs to be a comeback mechanic. difficulty settings will take this position in the final game.

loseing is fun. loseing is how you get better. i like playing the game over and over. i think that is why so many of us keep posting even though we have had the beta for months. the game is fun to play AND fun to lose. the best memories i have of this game are my loses, my grim defeats. a victory is not memorable, a victory is what happens when everything turns out as you expected.

what the game needs are more ways to challange plaers in the late game that dont punnish player who are behind the curve any more than players who are above it. giveing late late game cadence more damage or hp only serves to punnish players who are behind the curve, while only makeing things moderately more difficult to players on or above curve.

the effects like ageing and memory loss are better. ie. ageing affects all players the same, both above and below the curve. both have heros with diffrent ages and both players heros are equaly vulnerable to the effects of ageing. (exept when you ad time undees) i think this was a bit of a failing in the wrinkler design. to make their ageing mechanic shine it seems they should deal less damage. but that is beside the point

armour reduction is a bad example of this. low lvl heros have less armour to be removed and so take more damage from already high dps creatures. armour reduction hurts high lvl heros less becuase they have high armour and hp.

a way to make armour effects even out would be: armour penitration. a low damage attack that ignores or bypasses a % of armour. the low base damage makes it a threat to low lvl heros but becuase it only reduces a % of armour on a single attack they have some resistantce to it. but the high pen makes it just as deadly to high lvl heros.

currently beside the ruptures there are no cadenct that take advantage of any armour effects.

other effects that could be considered that would affect both high and low lvl heroes equaly would be slows, blinds, damageless stuns, attacks that turn armour value into damage, effects that return a portion of the damage taken to the attacker ect.

to force more panick in the final battle there are a couple things you could do.

1) i think, becuase there are so many cadence there, all heros could age X amount per turn. this would mean that all your heros would die eventualy (exept maybe very young ones) this would mean that you would always see your ancestors and you would always be incentavised to be active and agressive in the final battle.

2) you could flood the final battle with that cadence miasma that you see on the tactical map and give it a pattern. like: blind-slow-age-armour reduction-poison-blind... every turn a new status effect occurs that you need to work around on a cycle. these effects would be equaly frustrateing to both hih and low lvl heros but both can play around them. "the blind round is next so i will throw phlasks, stun and go invis this turn... poison turn is next so i am going to lose jim and suzie any way might as well have them go for that kill ect."

3) add an objective besides defending the chalice to the final battle (like meld in xcom) perhaps add somethoing that make the final battle end faster or add a foe (giant bulwarks?) that can shoot the chalice from the far side of the map. whatever it is add something that forces the player to divide his efforts. yes hight lvl heroes will have an advantage but a low lvl team well managed can still sucseed.

in any case i dont think the solution is makeingthe cadence in the end fight harder or more numerous.

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I really like the idea of the soft catch-up mechanics you proposed, ApexHawk. I agree, zdesert, that losing is a big part of the game, and that it should be -- and is -- fun. I really hate the feeling of waiting for a loss, though. Finding myself in a downward spiral and knowing I have no way of getting out of it except for prematurely restarting the game.

More than just a catch-up mechanic, I think I'd like to see some kind of acceleration mechanic. Maybe the game should track the ratio of Hero deaths to Cadence kills over a 60-100 year period. As that number gets higher, encounter rewards go up and the time between encounters goes down. More (potential) experience enters the game and the rewards can be potentially game-saving, but the Cadence have a chance to (quickly) roll over the player rather than waiting us out. The focus is narrowed to the short-term, and players are given a couple ways to get themselves out of that nasty, boring, downward spiral.

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@TheOnlyRew: That's literally an example of the "rubberbanding" brad mentioned in his post :P.

EDIT: no, wait, never mind, no it isn't. I was thinking of it wrong.

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Ha! Womp womp.

I don't think I completely agree there, though. All catchup mechanics (which were introduced to this thread by whom? ;-P) are a kind of rubberbanding, but only for when you're loosing. The reason I picked that Hero Death/Cadence kill ratio is that it would normalize towards zero pretty quickly if the player does well (thereby returning the game to the "default" difficulty), or accelerate the game toward a loss state as the number if it kept going up. If the player is doing consistently well, it won't make the game any harder.

That said, this is not a perfect -- probably not even the correct -- mechanic. I just do love myself a good semantic debate. :)

EDIT (IN RESPONSE TO THE EDIT): I think it's fair criticism, all the same. I can see a few ways to game this kind of thing, and, depending on balance, it could make losing less substantial and much less fun. Which would make me super sad.

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am I the only one that feels that a GOOD tutorial would be actually very much needed? I backed the game, but I am very unsatisfied by it. I don't have time to attach myself to the characters, and they just puff, with no help on what should I do. I do not have the time to try and try and try again. I just get bored, and throw away the game.

Sorry for the arsh words, I appreciate the effort of the team in trying to deliver something interesting. It might be that it is just not the game suited for me, having the progression that I am doing losing after some battles because of the tree line on when they have to have kids, it just irks me so much.

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Right, the next update evidently will have more tutorial enhancements.

Smiles

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am I the only one that feels that a GOOD tutorial would be actually very much needed?

For what it's worth -- and this is coming from a newcomer with relatively little experience with the game -- the combat is all about incapacitating enemy units which would otherwise be able to attack you the following turn. It's actually a clever system which I'm really coming to appreciate. After the light clicked for me, I started having a lot more fun with the game -- and surviving a lot more -- which leads to further appreciation of the between-battles bits.

Specifically, roughly half of the available classes have some sort of knockback ability, which is vital. Your battles should run through a couple of phases, over and over --

1. Use a stealthed Hunter to scout out some enemies.

2. Bring your other units to bear and attempt to eliminate each small group of enemies in one round of combat.

3. Reserve one or two of your knockback-capable units -- Caberjacks, Shadowjacks, Enforcers, and Brewtalists, for instance.

4. If you've expended most of your attacks for the round, and are unsure of whether you'll be able to finish off a last remaining enemy or two -- and this is particularly an issue with Bulwarks -- use your last unit or two to knock the offending enemy(ies) into something -- battlefield obstacles, another hero, or your best option -- into another enemy. This will stun them both (meaning it'll stun your hero if you knock someone into him/her, so be careful!), allowing you a free turn to finish them off, next round.

As you acquaint yourself with the game, you may want to research ramcap cabers, if you get to the point where that's an option. It's a caber with an automatic knockback attack built in. Apparently these can't turn into relics, though, so beware.

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Difficulty - I see what you're saying with the difficulty. It's weird because your power level increases at a non-fixed rate, depending on how well you are doing. The enemies increase in power at a fixed rate. When you are ahead of the curve the game is too easy. When you are behind the curve, the game is impossible! I have had similar experiences with long-term strategy games like Civ or XCOM. I'm not sure how to solve it! If we rubber band the difficulty (making it easier when you're doing poorly and making it harder when you're doing well) then you can end up with a system where you're never really rewarded for doing well. See Elder Scrolls: Oblivion for an extreme example of this!

As for the difficulty, I'd say one of the sadly forgotten but crucial parts of what made the original UFO: Enemy Unknown (X-COM: UFO Defense for you Americans) so good is that it has an AI with independent goals, and bring increasing difficulty into the game as a result of increased effort to succeed in those goals when the player prevents them from being reached.

As Julian Gollop has told the story, this is the reason they did not detect the difficulty bug where loading a game save always sets the difficulty back from it's original setting - the aliens adapted to the player. However, this did only change alien activity levels, not the factors that the difficulty setting was made to change numerically, like the number of aliens of various levels that were on each type of mission etc.

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