I have spent 31 hours on this open beta and managed to reach command rank 31. And just like after CTT I want to put all my feedback into one place. So bear with me.
Firstly, I would like to thank GBX for creating such game, both CTT and this open beta were massively fun to play, and just be there. Hell I spent like 5 first minutes in the game clicking “Gear” button and making Nova mad J (well I had to do something while my friends managed to log in :P). Also I was really surprised by how much of things were changed according to feedback threads in CTT forum. Was the healing station in Meltdown moved because of my suggestion? Oh, sorry, I got carried away. With all that being said, I will focus a bit more negative things in this post, because if I would be writing positive stuff I would need like 58.7 times longer text and this already will be really long.
So here we go:
Optimization. Disclaimer: I was running MSI Afterburner overlay during all the playtime and monitoring load and performance. I really have only one big gripe with the current build of the game – it is running quite bad on my machine. I know that my PC is a bit weird – i7 -6700, 16 GB RAM and GTX 560TI (yes, forum, I know that I need to change that, will do), but it is still above min requirements. However, basically I spent the whole beta playing on minimum possible video settings (only view distance was medium) and was still constantly dipping way below 60 fps, as low as 18 in some cases. Story was the worst, especially the Geoff fighting area, both outside and inside (this was where I reached 18 FPS). PVP was a bit better, but still dropping to like 40 in a lot of instances. The problem is that this widely variating FPS is really hampering aiming and that’s not a fun experience. And such FPS drops were also experienced by my friends with somewhat better graphics cards.
What was strange to me that I remembered running CTT on mostly medium setting and that was on my old PC (same graphics card, 4GB RAM and Intel Core2). Other interesting findings. After around an hour of gameplay I was using ~5-6 GB of RAM, which is a lot and changing from 1080p to 1600x900 almost did not affect the performance.
Changing heroes in PVP. I’m not talking about TF2 like in game changing. What I was missing, and I expressed the same after CTT, was the ability to change the hero in pre-battle selection screen. The reason for that is simple. There are people who like to play 1 or 2 chars, and that’s ok, but when you get matched with them, they just choose the chars they want and don’t worry for team comp. Which leads to situations where people, that worry about team composition need to basically sit and wait until everybody selects and then try to fill in the gaps. Giving ability to change the hero in pre-battle selection screen at least once for each player would make this random team formation much less frustrating and correcting composition pre-match less of the hassle.
Basic ability queueing. I’m talking about switching between basic attacks/abilities mapped to Mouse 1 and Mouse 2 buttons. Currently it is weird. For example, let’s take Ambra. If using the Staff of Radiance drain (Mouse 1) you switch to Scorching strikes (Mouse 2) this transition is instant. But if you do it the other way around and press Mouse 1 a bit too early, nothing happens – you need to let go off the button, wait a second and press it again. Similar is for Miko changing from Kunai to healing beam. It looks like there is no next ability queueing during animation of other ability, which is ok for main skills(Q,E,F), but for Mouse 1/2 abilities that are used a lot, it’s a bit annoying. Especially for heroes that need to constantly switch between them. I understand that this is a thing I can get used to, but still current execution feels clunky.
Different ability execution. Currently I think only Rath’s Crossblade skill has instant execution not related to skill execution option chosen in options. As in you press button once and the ability shoots out where you were aiming, even though Catalytic Smash need 2 clicks to execute. Ok maybe some ultimates work the same way as well. But I think there are a few more abilities which would really benefit from such simple execution. Such as Whiskey Foxtrot Scrap cannon, Kelvin Chomp, Ghalt Hook, Shayne & Aurox Fetch, maybe some others as well. The mechanics are in place and these changes would make game more responsive.
PVP modes. My personal experience is that Meltdown with all the changes after CTT is really fun experience, with enough comeback mechanics that if losing team groups up and puts a fight. We even managed to comeback from almost 200 points deficit during one match in open beta. The only small change might be a bit of damage scaling from turrets based on enemy team’s average level to make them more relevant later on. But this is maybe more important for the stationary turrets near bases (non-buildable ones). Although if team is getting pushed that far back in current setting – there is not much left until total defeat in either case. Incursion on the other hand feels really swonbally. So I will try to go through thingsthat in my opinion attribute to it.
a) The game starts ok, but then one team levels a bit faster and eventually wins the fight in the middle. After that point they have control of 3 additional shard crystals (plus 2 near base), which are really close to actual lane and don’t take much time to grab. This gives them even more xp by building turrets or more strength by activating gear. Pushed back team on the other hand has only 2 crystals (one close to fighting area another quite far away). So instantly they are at disadvantage. Although not that big one, since at the start of match any team, even a bit under leveled, can still make a successful coordinated push. Maybe it would be good to put those shards (at least those close to central thrall camp) a bit further away from main fighting area, maybe elevate them on some staircase/platform to add additional 10-15 seconds time to grab them. Even elevating them a bit and putting a wall between those 2 shards would mean that you have to come closer to it to damage and collect shards and this would require longer time away from fight.
b) Although the real problems start when one team loses the first sentry. First problem this brings is the Shepard bot the wining team receives. Yes, their minions need to travel a much longer way, but this bot with its shields basically means that wining team’s wave take out almost anything they encounter. So losing team basically has to delegate one person just clearing the waves instead of team fighting. I would argue that the waves for both teams should be the same at any point of the game. But if you see from statistics that this is not enough, then add like 1 or 2 regular bots to the wave at most. The winning team already has control of a big portion of map with crystals and thrall camps to make their pushes stronger. Another idea would be again to keep waves equal, but after one sentry fall, both teams gets additional basic minions to the waves based on the kills the team did during that period (one for each kill to next wave as an example, once that moves out, kills contribute to next wave and so on). Which, if winning team is team fighting better will eventually lead to their minions overwhelming the final sentry. And if losing team is fighting better – they would push out their last base. So kind of a comeback mechanic.
c)Another problem after losing a sentry is this structure with buildables between defending team’s first and second sentries. What usually happens is that winning team sets up here, builds turrets, healing station and then it becomes really hard for losing team to dig them out of there. Partly because of buildables, partly because it is only narrow entrance from base side and partly because that structure has a roof (so some of aoe ult cannot damage there). I would argue that the buildables here in that perch should be like in Metldown – only defending team can place them. Whereas, for attacking team there could be (working only for attackers) healing station activated where the 1st sentry was previously (becoming usable only after sentry is destroyed). Also the door should be way wider, I would argue that all that wall should be absent there, so that you had a clear shot from base to that building. This would prevent attacking team from just shoot the top of sentry and hiding whenever they draw fire. Basically, I think such changes should make attacking team to actually try to capitalize on their map resources control and organizing stronger minions pushes that just camping the outskirts of the base andbrute-forcing the sentry.
d) Not really a snowballing issue, but shield penetration exploits are really annoying in this mode. Also it might be interesting to try to reduce overall player damage to shields (like 10-20% of player damage actually affecting shields), thus increasing the importance of minion pushes on the second part of match.
6.FOV. Max 100 FOV on PC is nice, but I feel increasing it to like 110 would give a better feel for some chars, especially melee ones. And maybe alleviate some request for 3rd person view that was expressed in these forums.
7.PVE mission scaling. It’s a personal opinion, but I find the story missions really easy (all the hours spent on old school shooters like Quake 1 or 2 in hardest difficulty might be reason for that). I don’t have a gripe with Normal mode. It’s ok for what it is – a relaxing fun experience, especially with friends, where you can see the story, laugh at the banter and have a good time. However, Advanced mode is somewhat different. I kind of expect it to be some sort of a challenge (or I’m wrong). And the thing is that it starts like that. You need to be careful not to overextend, not to pull too much agro, especially if playing with more people, and basically try to work together with a team to be successful. However, around level 5 everything changes. You get your ult, you get a few more important helix upgrades and from that point the game becomes easier and easier, with final boss being the same easy ordeal like in Normal mode. Maybe something as simple as increasing the number of enemies in second part of missions would help with that. Or maybe you are planning for some even harder (let’s call it Badass) mode?
8.Ranked PVP. I understand this has no benefit being in open test, but are you planning to have some grind to unlock ranked battles? Nothing long or difficult. Like command rank 5 or 10 and 1-2 unranked matches in each PVP mode? The reason for me asking is that I have seen a lot of rank 1-2 players yesterday in ranked matches, which don’t even have gear loadout and are most likely overall new to the game. So a team with a lot of such players was usually loosing quite hard and fast. I presume it’s not the most pleasant experience for new players and also not fun for winning team either. I don’t think this is a major problem as ELO should separate the groups in time, but still something to think about.
9.Characters. Just collection of thoughts about character after Friday balancing patch:
a) I guess I will start with Ambra as I played her most during this open beta. A bit before the patch, but mostly after. I would say, she’s in almost good place now. The loss of basic attack range really limited her ability to just sap enemies at will and that’s good. Although I myself would kind of want her auto attack damage to be decrease a bit more (like 10-20%), but her melee buffed.This would bring her closer to what she was in CTT – a close range fighter. Not that current version is bad, just that it would make her auto targeting attack not that annoying for people. But yeah, I’m ok either way. The thing that should be changed for her is here Flame shield. Namely lvl 5 mutation that gives speed boost. This is such a gimmicky escape feature. With other heroes you need to know your hp and start retreating way in advance. With Ambra, you just wait until last second when Flame shields kicks in and make Roadrunner escape (“Pyp pyp”). I would say that either Flame shield’s activation should be increased to something like 90 seconds, or that lvl 5 mutation should be changed to something different.
Also lvl 3 mutation that let’s you transfer health to ally is really lacking. I don’t really see any point of choosing it and I have never see any Ambra take it. And the reason is kind of simple – it is needed only in fights. You can place 1-2 sunspots to heal after fight. And in fights, people already are focusing supports first, so loosing hp is just inviting to get killed.
b) Galilea…the hero which is the most annoying to play against. Or to play as if you like any kind of challenge. And this is coming from player that had only experience with her after the balancing patch. I have no idea how it should have felt before. The problem with her is that she has everything: dps, tankiness, stun, health regen and even quite good mobility. In the first Incursion matches I played with her, it was really no problem to destroy enemy wave with big robot in them at level 2 or 3 and take on double thrall camp solo on 3 or 4. Would be an awesome “Now I want to feel like a total BADASS” character if this was singleplayer only game.
So let’s look at the first problem with her – dps. It starts already a bit wonky. First two swings are ok, and then we come to the combo finisher that has quite a spike in dps and very big damage arc (almost like close range aoe). Then as you level up, you get mutation on lvl5 for increased attack speed, increased damage on lvl 7, add to that a few damage/attack speed gears, corruption damage increase and the dps come through the roof. I have been on receiving end of such Galilea (she was 7 or 8 at that time), it took her 1 second longer to kill me with basic attacks than same lvl Rath with his ultimate into which I ran just after respawn. And I think that’s wrong. The problem with her is dps is not the much with base damage (although it might be tuned down by like 5%), but that there are some many different ways to increase her damage (gear, helix, corruption) that in the end it gives similar affect like we had in CTT with gear stacking which is just compounding the effects. My personal suggestion to balance her would be to take a few percent from her base dps, take out damage increase from corruption and all helix options increasing her damage. Or most helix options increasing dps and make it so, that if Galilea finishes her melee combo (the spin attack) she suffers decreased resistance (takes increased damage) for like 3-5 seconds (even as little as 10-20% would be enough). This way a player will need to think in advance if going all in attacking or putting shield up and retreating is actually a better choice.
Another big problem with her is the shield stun. Now it’s basically the same situation as with Phoebe in beginning of CTT, you stun person in close range and just left-click. If your enemy is not a tank character – around 1-2 seconds after stun wears off – that character is killed. And that’s again gimmicky way to fight. I would argue that giving shield a slow affect or even a blind (as you were just hit in the head with piece of metal :P) would work much better as a gap closer, especially since you already did damage with that skill to enemy.
Of course, GBX collected a lot of data from the test (I hope it was enough), and maybe Galilea’s performance after the patch is ok, and all what I wrote is just my misinformed opinion from playing her too little. Because now my experience is that patch changed Galilea from one that needed 5 people focusing her tokill, to 2-3 people focusing.
c) Ghalt. In short I feel like the balancing patch increased its damage too much. 15-20% would have been enough. Again, this is not a problem early on. But once you get lvl3 increased ranged helix and lvl 7 double-barrel one – the damage is through the roof. I have seen a lvl 10 Ghalt killing lvl 9 full-health Miko in 3 shots this way, with one of the hit critting for 849. Again I feel like the initial damage should be toned a bit down and then helix option scaling it should be reviewed. Also that lvl3 option for longer range, in my personal opinion, is damaging the identity of Ghalt. Because without it, he seems like fighting between melee chars and ranged chars and once you take it – you can almost snipe with the gun, maintaining the correct range is not needed anymore.
And finally, his traps. The way they are currently used make this similar to other stun abilities duration enough to kill characters. As in you put down trap, hook a person and drag it into it (and close to you) and then plant the headshots until he’s dead. That might be just because of high dps, but still might be a thing to look into.
d) Whiskey Foxtrot. He currently feels really lacking. Especially having Oscar Mike to compare to. Well ok, he’s ok until like lvl 5 and then his dps starts to really fall behind. If his rifle would be more accurate then maybe. But now I feel like Oscar can put basically as accurate fire with fully automatic rifle as whiskey with semi-auto one, and even faster. So I would argue that WF dps needs to be increase a bit.
Also all of his abilities take really long time to wind up. Those animations are cool looking, I’m not complaining about that, but it takes just too long to actually use them. I feel like scarp cannon could be solved by using the same set up as Rath’s crossblade to fire each shot (it is really clumsy if you decide to take those +2 additional shots for scrap cannon in helix).
And finally, please GBX, make it so that holding left mouse button would continue firing that gun in burst. It’s ok for some time, but mashing the same button every second for an hour is not really fun. You have already same mechanics for ISIC’s ultimate cannon). Basically this would give an option for player to tap for more accurate burst when needed and something like “covering fire” with trying to re-aim between burst in other cases. It’s not like DPS would change because of that.
e) Miko. I decided to end with this char, because firstly, it was my second most played char and secondly, because I feel like everything is good with him. So after expressing what I find a bit off for 4 pages I want to end a bit more positive note. So why do I think it’s good? Well it heals, constantly, and in relevant amount. It has utility with spore slowdown/stun, but the range is short and the projectile is slow moving so it’s not so easy to hit. Kunais are almost single source of damage and they do quite substantial damage, but again are slow and have a bit of an arc, so are only viable in closer ranges. But at the same time if you feel bold and want to close ranges with enemies and you aim is true – you can do a lot of damage if you manage to land criticals. All of this brings a lot of skill to the table and rewards it. And you are always in the thick of the action. So GJ GBX.
Of course, there were posts saying he heals too much. If data collected show you the same, maybe instead of nerfing the healing, you could introduce an additional ability bar to it, which when depleted would decrease the healing by let’s say 25-30% and then when not used fill up over time. So that in really long fights – there is some attrition.
But yeah I went to “what, if, maybe” category. So I think it is time for me to end this.
I want to thank you GBX for making this game one more time. To thank you for having strength to go through my ramblings (if anybody did :P). Add if possible, I would really like to hear what are your stance/plans on optimization of the game/graphics performance from open beta build.