Bodhi wrote:There are two obvious problems with the east.
1. The prides are too long.
2. The prides are too easy.
Most people are focusing on the first problem, which is a trap. The prides will be lame no matter how many levels they are or how big the levels are as long as they have the same second-rate Orcs as the main enemies. Meanwhile, no one complains about Dreadfall being 9 levels because the entire place is terrifying.
So instead of shortening the prides, why not replace the Orcs in the prides with the Orcs you fight in Orcish patrols?
I don't think the prides being too easy is the main reason why the East is boring, there are a lot of trash mobs in the West but the West does not seem so much a drag because:
1. There are more zone variety in the West, while the zone design is highly repetitive in the East
2. Your char is progressing in the West, every time a char level up it brings you something new. But once you get to the East, the development of your char is largely finished apart from the Prodigies. A level 40 char is not much different from a level 35 char, and this strips away most of the fun in ToME. It is just the same routine gameplay going on and on. To me this is actually the primary reason behind the boredom of the East. Dreadfell could easily become boring if there is no char progression.
Unless these two problems are addressed, I am all for shortening the East.
I must say I agree completely with your reasoning. Warning, wall of text incoming.
As it stands right now, what I think makes early tome interesting (T2-T3, T1 is a little stale but it's expected when you got so few options) is that you have a good mix of varied options available, a good rate of new options and new kind of enemies/dungeons constantly. Why does it break after Dreadfell? Because you got too much already! Because tome does heavy diminishing returns on talents.
- Too much. By the time you finish Dreadfell, you more or less got 2 cat points and one prodigy. The unlock talents are more or less more interesting/strong than the base talents so you got that power rush for investing in them. Same for that prodigy. By the time you finish Reknor and Vor Armory, usually you got the rest if your kit. But by then already, the "power rush" is getting dull. The second prodigy for many classes (non weapon ones) feels like you are searching for something that will be at least a little beneficial because somehow, there's very few good prodigies at all. Most of the time you go for some defensive one, like Cauterize or Spine of the World. Despite the fact those two are strong, they don't make you feel strong for taking them really by their nature. And cat points are the same. The last two points you get, you usually go for more inscription slots that also don't exactly fell like much. Heroism is super good but it's just some tankiness in a bottle you practically mash in reflex before any fight. And if you go for a cat unlock with your last point, hell, at that point of the game, getting a cat unlock usually means you didn't have much worth taking left. After all, if some strong talent line was left to be picked, you'd probably have picked it earlier. There's no doubt in my mind the last cat points and prodigies you earn give you far less of a power trip than the previous.
Of course there are exception to all that. For example, some weapon classes get so much damage potential synergy out of two prodigy points (PES + AM for example) that the second one still feels relevant. Compare that to a pure mage class that scraps by with two passive that just make him slightly harder to kill.
- Too little. One cannot expect the player to get more and more new funny tools all straight through the game. Two reasons here. First, the game is pretty long, it's hard to even give relevant upgrades to the player for the whole stretch (unless you are secretly making a new piano training app). And of course there's the fact that players rarely can wait level 50 for a build to be complete anyway. Second is that, after so much time spent making your build, you kind of want to enjoy using it too. Players won't like getting at level 50 some new super amazing tool/talent, looking at the corpses of the final boss that gave them the last XP needed to reach it :p Tome more or less gives the player the orc prides + high peak to enjoy their build (heck most builds get fully online much earlier than that but let's not even worry here)
One way games can cope with that is that, despite the fact the player kit is complete, there's still room for pure mechanical power increases. But due to heavy diminishing returns in talent point spending, you aren't really getting that much out of your level 35-50 points. When I try a few normal games it's very common to find myself not spending any talent point at all from mid prides onwards. Because if I needed more power to go past, I'd be probably in trouble already. Because there's not much worth spending them in.
- Too much, again? So, what is left for the player to enjoy starting from the prides. Mostly, gear upgrades. Let's be honest, I'm pretty sure the last and biggest power rush the player feels in the game is when they finish Vor Armory, return to the west and buy artifacts from the merchant. And past that, it's all to do with the stuff dropped by orcs in the prides. And of that stuff, myself I feel like it's back to the huge Angband problem : too much junk. There's too much stuff to comb through! Some people might enjoy reading dozens of screen tall tooltips to compare with their current gear to upgrade it but I'm not sure many do
Somehow, the game manages to make the last part of the game both a drag in killing stuff and a drag in looting. Looting! What is usually the most fun part of those games somehow even loses interest. I dread the orc prides vault more because of all the junk inside I'll have to sort than of the enemies inside
Why are players skipping the prides and high peak? Avoiding fights in the later, rushing the stairs. Yeah because the stair bosses are dangerous. But that's not only. Danger giving reward is fine, yet the players skip it. Because the reward is not worth it? No, because it's mostly not needed. Just give me the last boss already!
And I skipped the lack of variety in the prides. And in high peak which is basically an anything-goes dungeon with the only thematic element is the stair bosses, that players tend to skip :p
Parts of the post Dreadfell game I find ok :
- Vor Armory. Simple, effective and a delicious player killer. It feels like it's my real endgame boss fight in fact
- The slime tunnels. Some refreshing and short preparation for high peak. 4 unique bosses in a row, original dungeon type
- Temple of Creation. Rather strong boss fight, return of the many traps. Kinda packed of enemies but tight layout and an enemy type and style that is also very original really. Lack of randomness though
- That warrior pride thing. Why? Mostly because of the looks of the place. Sure the mushroom tileset isn't the most enjoyable but the way the place is drawn, the transition and anticipation for the slime tunnels sets the mood. This gets points for the presentation effort, not for the enemies
- Pride entrance rooms. For the first level only, the one with a random boss guarding the door. This room is like a player skill check in a sense (at least in Normal) and works to "show the payer the prides are serious business". Shame that it's a front.The level repetitions and the same rooms without a boss in later levels, just why.
- High peak stair guardians (when you don't skip them all). Curveballs wake up the player and it's meant to be a challenging place anyway.
- Final boss, obviously
- Remove player levels 30-40 in a sense. One less cat point to earn makes those you have more desirable. Less talent points means the few you got are more precious. Give the prodigy point like before the Master. Heck, give it by script by defeating some sub-boss in the level before the master even! Second prodigy point comes, say, from killing the Four in the slime tunnels.
- Shorten the prides. How? New layouts. Keep the current open layout ones for the last level only. Earliest levels are something else of lower area. I feel like it's fine having "many" levels in a dungeon, especially late game because it gives that feeling you are deep in trouble. Just make their surface smaller to make them faster to progress though. It's not as if the game was some kind of maze anyway. More surface just means pressing autoexplore more. Maybe give them MORE levels even if the size reduction makes them too quick to clear.
- I don't like the choice of using a cat point between a new category and a new inscription slot. Why? Because the later, while very powerful doesn't feel very fun to get because you already have three slots. The forth just feels like more of the same. And the choice doesn't even really vary per class! You play different classes to use the same talents? Not fun :p Maybe make cat points exclusively talent unlocks and give the player some fixed story/merchant bought inscription slot increase instead.
- Same treatment in high peak : smaller levels. Heck, you could make them individually super small when the stair guardian is a peak point of interest anyway.
- Do something about orc patrols. I love the challenge their fight presents, but since it's high random risk low reward and completely optional, there's no point not playing in a tedious way to avoid them. Although the suggestion of reducing their spawn when clearing the prides is "ok", by the time you do it, it might be too late and their tedious effect on the player was already applied.
- Not sure what to do about excessive "junk" problem. For sure, the increase in the number of vaults in prides/high peak didn't help that though