Campaign Mode Thoughts

TL;DR: The act boss fights are great, but are so hopelessly misplaced in the campaign that they ruin the user experience, perhaps to the detriment of the game itself. This is made worse by costly, full respec only.

I am neither elite nor a n00b in terms of gaming. I spend most of my gaming time on ARPGs, so I'd consider myself a good example of someone in Wolcen's target market - the person who will buy and play the game a significant amount, but perhaps will never master it. I have "started" playing Wolcen 3 times. I'm not sure how far I am from stopping for the third time, but that the thought has even entered my mind so soon after starting again indicates something is wrong. This is particularly true because Wolcen actually appeals to me from a conceptual perspective - it's a game I want to enjoy but somehow can't.

Yesterday I picked up an archer character that I had played to the low level 30s some time back, and was not far from the end of Act II. A few things became immediately apparent, which may have been inspiration for not playing this character further 'back in the day'. For starters, bows are strictly worse than handguns. With a handgun you can use almost any skill in the game, but with a bow you unnecessarily restrict yourself by denying that opportunity, as though choosing from the outset to play "hard mode" particularly since it appears that bows have no significant damage advantage over any one-handed weapon. Why would a new player be encouraged to do that? Clearly I had made this mistake myself, so it's not a trivial question.

Fortunately, I had a legendary handgun and a rare catalyst in my stash so the switch was easy. I spent all my Primordial Affinity to get some spells somewhere near my level (mainly Aether Jump). Killing the trash was trivial, and managing my Rage/Willpower was definitely easier than not having access to low cooldown spells. Then I reached The Lambach.

It took several hours of multiple respecs (including a stat respec) and some gear purchasing, not to mention having to farm up all the primordial affinity multiple times, to get through it. Even then, I was a hair's breadth from failing on my successful run. While my character is undoubtedly stronger for the experience, getting through the boss was not a fist-pump moment, nor was there any sense of achievement. There was an acknowledgement that without the artificial 'revive' mechanic the character could not possibly have survived the artificial difficulty in the combat; maybe I would have found that interesting when I was in my teens, but now it feels like a pointless exercise. I'm supposed to be the one playing this game, not the developer. There was also the realisation that I could not have done it without Aether Jump. All I got was an "I can finally start playing and hopefully enjoying the game again" moment.

My build no longer resembles what I started with, and going back would clearly be mindblowingly stupid because what I had, despite the freedom with which it mowed down the trash mobs, was basically a "bad build". Far too much of the Gate of Fates tree seems remarkably irrelevant to a specific character, but the nodes seem interesting enough to choose (and effective enough against the trash) only to learn the hard way that one should definitely not have chosen them. If you're going to put permanent obstacles to progress into a game, at least help the newer player not fall into the obvious pitfalls, or if they do at least made it a little easier to get out of them. All I can say, is that the forced "high cost, full respec" only mode is an abomination of a design. Coupled with the ridiculously high difficulty of the act bosses relative to the rest of the campaign, it's only natural that people will be left with bad impressions of how things work.

This is unfortunate because these combats are actually the most engaging parts of the game: Wolcen's greatest strength. Needing to use ones wits, to learn the fight and then execute without a misstep is what we want from this game. That's the hook! I'm just not sure we want it while we're still trying to work out what our characters can do, how certain skills can interact, or what the Gate of Fates nodes mean for each "class". I want to develop a play style that I enjoy, not be forced to find an optimal path and spend all my resources (and time!) just on getting that right at the outset. In most other games, combats with such a vast difficulty jump are optional and come as part of the "end game" - they don't completely obstruct character advancement or story progress outside perhaps being the final boss in the content.

Let's face it, without the fortunate circumstance of having a legendary handgun in my stash I would have either deleted that character and started again at level 1, or would have shelved the game itself for the final time. Is this really the user experience towards which the developers are striving?

Replies: 0

Created: 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Category: Feedback & Suggestions

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