The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot Beta Preview: Epic Fail
I wish I could say better things about the “Attack” mode, the PVP/PVE part of the TMQFEL, but I can’t. For all its enthusiasm, Ubisoft Montreal clearly has no experience making ARPG’s, and when you’re out of the developer-curated cocoon, the problems are obvious.
I started out on the “Archer” class, before realizing that the beta would force me to stick with one class regardless of how I ended up liking it. It was fine at first, but as the levels added up, I quickly realized something: The Archer is totally broken. Not only were the new abilities I was getting not better than the ones they were intended to replace; they were worse. When the best Archer build at Level 3 is the same as the best build at Level 9, your game has a problem.
As a ranged-DPS class, the Archer is designed around spamming arrows, and particularly around the “Piercing Shot” ability, which does good damage to several opponents at the cost of 15 mana. Except that at Level 9, my character only has 113 mana. I’ll do the math — that’s roughly 7.5 shots. In ARPG terms, 7.5 shots is over in a heartbeat. The rest of the time is spent running away like mad, waiting for the mana bar to refill (at a glacial pace) so you can actually do some damage again.
This delay is especially aggravating due to the fact that dungeons in TMQFEL are heavily time-limited. If you don’t complete them fast enough, you don’t get much reward at the end. Same goes for dying, or even using too many potions. This leads to an irritating kind of double punishment — not only is getting stuck frustrating in and of itself, it’s extra frustrating if you do eventually make it through a dungeon and you end up with a pittance. Did I mention that when you die, you have to either start at the beginning of the run, or pay funny-money to respawn? And that you don’t get to keep any of the cash or loot you picked up if you don’t get all the way to the end? And that you can’t access your inventory or your skills menu while actually in a dungeon, in order to try a different approach?
Even taking on the player-created dungeons — the one thing about the game that sounded fun and original — is hugely flawed. TMQFEL’s developers forgot to actually balance the monsters that players buy to defend their castles. PVP is a matter of dying at the hands of the same overpowered, cookie-cutter monster combinations over and over and over again. Not only is it aggravating, it’s tedious; the whole appeal of player-created dungeons is the variety and creativity that they offer, and TMQFEL offers none. Players fed up with the vicious cycle simply go and stomp player-created dungeons a few levels below them. Everybody’s pissed off, everybody loses.
How did the team at Ubisoft not see this problem coming? ARPG players are notorious min-maxers; finding out the most efficient strategy, no matter how annoying, and then blindly copying it is literally what they do. It’s a hard situation to explain. The game is cool in theory, and I have to admit that I was taken in by that theory in May. But it’s the people at Ubisoft Montreal who are really guilty of being hoodwinked by the idea of the game, and of not being up to actually making it work, making it fun. They’ve already had to band-aid the game’s basic mechanic — players raiding dungeons and stealing gold from each other — with a “Shielding” system that prevents dungeons from getting ganged-up on, and with gold and Life Force “mines” that you install in your dungeon (at a cost) to recoup currency lost while you’re logged out. An extensive patch (read about it here) is also pending, designed to address the Archer mana shortage and other problems described above.
Maybe Patch 15.0 is the giant overhaul this game so desperately needs. But I’m not holding my mighty breath.