Hopefully a sensible discussion about the state of the game. This isn’t a short thread, so if you’re sitting down in the smallest room in the house with your trousers round your ankles scrolling, this might take some time and a comfy chair might suit you better.
[disclaimer] This is about the broad feeling of the balance of the game, and I won’t be discussing the intricacies of the different weapons and different builds other than as examples of how we’ve ended up where we are. If you wish to discuss WHC, The SonicRainboom Bow, Javelin, SoTT, BW, Missing MistShade or any of those things there are threads for that.
Where it begins…
So my position is not a popular one and is unlikely to attract much support. I get that. Still the discussion needs some thought and although there’s threads all over the place talking about OP-this or OP-that, there’s not many solutions available really and I’m hoping to spend some of your time talking through where we’re at, how we got here and what could be done.
To begin with, I think balancing around CATA has brought some fundamental flaws to the breadth of the game. Even mentioning Mods such as DWONS shouldn’t be part of the balance discussion of the base game and should be ignored as considering harder mods skews the perspective even further towards the extreme difficulties. Balancing for the really end of the difficulties(cata) has already nullified any nuance below Cata difficulty. I think large parts of this community would agree that all weapons are easily playable at Legend with very broad aspects of the game making legend trivial. This means all weapons/talents at Champion are dull, and at Champion, Veteran and Recruit it doesn’t matter if you have a 1h sword as Keri or a balloon on a stick – things die damn fast.
In the powercreep problem thread POWERCREEP PROBLEM @Exanimia described the impact very well, in that Recruit, Veteran and Champion games are very very dull-dull. No need to give a kahoots about your build or weapon as you can pretty much plough through regardless.
The other and more meta-problem is that no-one learns anything coming up through the difficulties. Plague monks? Kill em with a dagger as Sienna, or a 1h sword as Keri and suck up a punch or two. Dodging doesn’t matter as players are awash with THP or talents that give THP. Using a Warpick gives largely the same experience as using a 1h axe. Left click and things die. Nobody needs to really pay attention to their build and often don’t care. Champion players see no benefit to rerolling anything as it’s all defunct.
I spend a lot of time dropping down and helping new players (I’ve got over 1k Emperor’s Chests and Emperor’s Coffers and so on) and I help with book locations or tips on using the push-stab and so on so this section isn’t solely my opinion, rather second hand anecdotes as to why people simply stop playing – the bad news is they find it so grindy and boring as no weapons have any kind of intuitive niche at anything less that legend. Couple that with melee orientated characters can go for minutes between hordes without killing something that they get fed up. When players are gleeful for a patrol because they might actually get to hit or kill something it tells you lower balance is screwed completely and the players experience is tainted by frustration at not even being able to join in.
I’m not suggesting we balance around recruit either, but using the extreme of CATA has had a similar effect on the game as balancing around recruit. Because it’s the extreme end of the game it has a fundamental detrimental effect on all other difficulties – difficulties where the largest part of the community are.
Balancing around Legend or even Champion+ might offer a more effective option for the breadth of the health of the game but this would be deeply unpopular I think, although this would make Cata and Legend significantly harder. This would impact loot gains for merely good players, but that a loot discussion that’s been going on since 2018 and I don’t want to touch that too much here.
I have heartily disagreed with FS for using the Weapon Balance Mod as the basis for the patch that rebalanced the weapons and have received more than my fair share of abusive and borderline criminal PM’s about my opinion. Still my opinion hasn’t changed and although I don’t actually know the Mod makers or bear them individually any ill will @Incandescent (and the decision to use the mod was Fatshark’s), the fact that the Mod balanced around Cata and used something like old Exe sword as the baseline is -for me- a large step that began the powercreep.
Prior to that balance patch, discussions of OP centred on BW Firewalk and THP generation, Merc Ult giving 25% DR and THP, BH, GK, Shade snuffing out monsters with gay abandon so on. Such matters are now insignificant to almost the entire playerbase as there are even more glaring and horrendous matters of OP’ness. There are threads to discuss those things elsewhere.
Still, for me the powercreep began with that patch, and those elevated weapons formed the baseline everything else since has been measured against. I’m not suggesting the patch was entirely bad, there was a lot of great stuff but the overall bump in power is what everything else is measured against now and started us down the path we’re currently on. I’m acutely aware people passionately disagree.
What’s been done?
Many of you will have been part of the Alpha/Beta for Winds of Magic, and I think FS iterated through the possibilities for increases of difficulty as part of that test. It’s hard to differentiate too much about balance as …you know… Beastmen… but I think FS went though most of the possibilities via the tests.
Increasing enemy health meant FK with mace and shield made 120k damage in a legend run that took 66 minutes and never had less than a full bar of THP. Battering your way through a meatwall was no fun at all.
Adding the stagger mechanic cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and when daggers didn’t stagger things the mushroom cloud of bile caused by shade players could be seen from space. So things started getting staggered more.
I think enemy damage was increased but this meant HS could get downed and snuffed out in 2 SV overheads. Too punishing. So enemy damage was reigned in. Options are now becoming quite limited.
COVID. Probably enough said there. Limitations have been placed on every man, woman and child in the world.
FS have to make money. Customers feeling good makes money. Frustration and annoyance doesn’t make money. These are facts with any business.
I personally have a feeling SoTT was released as P2W without even attempting to hide it. Buy this = win. The tiny little tickle of a nerf made little to no difference and I spend a lot of time sighing at the antics of elves.
Ammo is becoming more and more redundant. I frequently have runs where I’m the only one requiring ammo or no one needs ammo. Shooting with impunity and complete disregard for ammo is back!
There’s also the niggling sense that VT2 is somehow more and more of a testbed for Darktide. FS feel like they’re testing how much they can get away with when it comes to ranged combat, what it’s like without ammo, how can you increase the threat of ranged weapons without nullifying melee and so on with Darktide considerations overshadowing the health of VT2. Maybe this is just me.
So where do we go now?
The next change to affect the balance of the game is either going to be a littler tinkering to address the glaringly obvious OP and leave most of it untouched, although I think this isn’t going to help matters much.
Obvious things need changing. RainboomBow, Javelin, SoTT are the most obvious examples but there’s a lot that is overpowered.
I however consider there needs to be a fundamental change to the balance of the game. Although necessary, changing little things isn’t going to arrest the powercreep. BH and GK Ult, BW S+ class firewalk/corusc and so on, Skarrit lasting less time than a chocolate blast furnace…
Maybe hero-wide nerfs? A reduction in power level down from 650 (at max) might work, although this might not fix the boredom lots of players feel in lower difficulties. There needs to be some deep thinking about what meta is being aimed for. Currently, There’s far too much that can trivialise huge amounts of content.
Enemy damage or health increases? This was tried at WoM, although we’ve been through a lot since then. Making enemies damage sponges isn’t the way forwards I don’t think and if f you can remember back that far there were threads discussing how hard it was to complete legend runs – this was just after launch.
I think there needs to be a system-wide method of addressing the powercreep. If weapons are balanced, then they’re just too powerful or they need nudging into a niche more. Talents need looking at, Elf is simply silly at the moment and some concepts (Boss killers for example) remove threats entirely.
Where do you think the next step needs to be?