I think we’re well beyond the point of smooth online launches. Diablo 3 and SimCity Online proved this point 9 years ago. Since then, every game has issues at launch, mostly due to the insane peak load that just can’t be accurately tested prior to launch. Outriders had a HUGE stress test demo a month ago, and still the days of launch were really bad. I don’t see how there’s a solution here, aside from industry standard network management protocols that are cloud-hosted… but that’s a heck of a pipe dream. Hats off to People Can Fly as to taking this issue seriously and providing a relatively quick fix.
I played the demo, across all 4 classes, and completed the tower quest with 2 of them. I had little interest in grinding gear or levels, just wanted to get a taste for what the game had to deliver. The demo itself appears to be a very accurate representation of the live game, with only the crafting part that wasn’t included.
My thoughts on the demo continue to stand – it’s an aggressive shooter that’s much more in line with Doom than say The Division. While you can certainly use shelter to snipe targets from afar, this really only works for the Technomancer class. Trickster and Devastator require up-close attacks to regenerate health. The Pyromancer is in a really weird spot as a debuffer.
I’ve completed the 3rd zone, which includes the first real boss (decent fight). I’m not sure how much content remains in the leveling path, but I’ve reached level 12 of 30. There’s some good and less good here.
The story is passable I guess. Does that matter though? The voice acting is better than quite a few other games. It’s far from the focus, and I’m ok with that.
The zones themselves are similar in structure. You have a main path with checkpoints, one lore item to collect in a sub-zone, then you come back after the main quest to do a few side quests. You fight waves of enemies (95% human so far), with the odd elite enemy or 3 along the path. While certainly enjoyable, there’s a distinct lack of variety so far. Hoping to have more enemy types, at the very least.
Weapons are worth discussing, as there are some significant differences between them, and seriously compounded by the gameplay. First note is that enemies have a significant amount of HP, and varying weak spots. The time to kill is certainly reasonable, but the amount of ammo required is something else. A max level sniper rifle should be able to take down someone in a single shot, but I still find enemies that I can head shot and they don’t drop. So I tend to go for high ammo repeating weapons. Compound this by enemy level increases that have some significant jumps in damage/hp, you find quickly that good items become useless with short order.
Which leads to crafting/modding. The tutorial doesn’t do justice to what’s really possible here, which is quite impressive. You build an inventory of mods and materials from disassembling gear. You use those to improve other items, with costs that so far are entirely reasonable. This means you can find a weapon that fits you perfectly and keep it up to par for quite a long time. You just need to remember to upgrade the item level! The whole mod inventory is really quite fascinating – there are some that are clearly WAY more useful than others and the swapping part is pretty easy to do. While quite useful for weapons, the real benefit is to armor as there are some real game changing mods that you absolutely want to try out!
So far so good. I’ve avoided multiplayer completely due to stability issues – and a giant notice when you start the game. I can see hitting max level in a few more days, and hopefully that will include more enemy types. Not sure how longevity fits here, and truthfully don’t care all that much right now. The real time sink will continue to be Monster Hunter.
Here’s an idea for less chaotic launches for expected-to-be-huge games: scaled introductory pricing. Don’t just sell all the games to everyone at once. Set a series of dates, each with a set number of available slots, with prices that scale. Not just like the already-existing pre-launch events that let people in a few days early for a premium price. Something much more structured, giving complete control of maximum numbers to the company running the game.
That would have multiple benefits. It builds a buzz around exclusivity. It ensures (or should) a smooth, lag-free experience for everyone, with those willing to pay getting to play sooner but everyone getting to play well. It also strongly encourages companies to launch with a strong, polished product because reviews of the early experience will directly impact sales of the slots to come. Currently I get the feeling the marketing strategy is often to hype something well beyond what the producers know is there with the full intention of front loading all the sales on the back of what people imagine the game will be rather than what it is. That would be harder to do with staged access but if the game actually delivered on promisesd demand would be hugely stoked by anticipation and exclusivity.
The danger lies in companies still not being able to manage the flow even in the early stages but it has to be less likley the servers would fall over if the exact maximum number of players was set in advance. Either something like that or we just accept that all popular launches will be disasters and stop expecting anything different.
Games like this are like gym memberships, they prefer that you buy early and never come. That said, a staggered release is certainly more sound! Oddly, Anthem actually did fairly well on this front. It may work with some tweaking!
Realistically… I think we just need to lower our expectations. Shit be broke for at least a week.