Warframe of Mind
A while ago, I mentioned Warframe only in passing as a slick F2P loot grinder featuring space ninjas. Since that time, I gave it another shot to hook me, and hook me it did. It has now become my “I don’t know what I feel like doing” and “I only have 30 minutes to play” game.
I am still early on, but the general gameplay loop is finally big enough for me to slip through. The missing components were blueprints. As you might imagine, blueprints are necessary to construct new things like guns and other weapons, but also entirely new Warframes (e.g. classes). Once you have a blueprint, it will let you know how many of what resources you need to construct it – which might include components that themselves require blueprints – along with the Credits necessary to get started.
Credits in particular are a concern, as they are used for blueprints and upgrading the mods you get. In the beginning, I was spending pretty freely, for lack of anything else to spend them on (since I had no blueprints). Now? I’m pretty broke. While you can continue the story to unlock missions with greater Credit rewards, enemy levels continue to increase, which means you need to spend Credits upgrading your mods to have a chance, and so on. At some point, you have to grind/farm.
(Or, you know, pay real cash money, but nevermind.)
Luckily, Warframe doesn’t make things too painful. Every 20-30 minutes, there will be an alert on a specific map that grants bonus cash and occasionally a mod or blueprint as an extra reward. I have also discovered a few player-controlled areas which give generous Credit bonuses. Fundamentally, grinding isn’t too painful in Warframe because the moment-to-moment gameplay is fast and exciting. The minute that changes, the whole edifice will collapse in on itself, but until then there are plenty of “excuses” to jump/leap/bound/wall-run around maps like a goddamn space ninja terminator.
Ironically, something like Guild Wars 2 would normally have been my go-to game for incremental progress, but the expansion zones needing so much “Mastery XP” means that if an Event Train starts, you need to stay on-board lest you miss a significant chunk of progress. So, ultimately, the more serious I treat GW2, the more fun of a release Warframe becomes.
Impression: Darkest Dungeon
As I alluded to before, I ended up refunding my purchase of Isaac: Rebirth. Deciding I was still in the mood for a roguelike, I put that $10 into purchasing Darkest Dungeon instead. Now more than dozen hours in, I myself feel like a character succumbing to mania over the experience.
The core gameplay loop of Darkest Dungeon is simply superb. Pick a group of four adventurers, buy them supplies for a dungeon delve, and then crawl through said dungeon killing and looting. Successful completion or not, those four particular adventurers are likely going to need a break to recover from the ordeal, so spend a bunch of your gold on (mentally) healing them. For the rest of the profits, use heirlooms to build up the Hamlet, then spend gold to upgrade the gear of another set of four adventurers… who then will need provisions for their own expedition. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
That might sound boring or perhaps grindy, but there are so many considerations and decisions to be made on a micro level that I find the hours melting away in a Civilization “One more turn” kind of way. For example, you can’t recruit just anyone: you get a small pool of recruits to choose from each “week.” Even if it’s a class that you wanted, out of the 8 possible Skills that class has, they will have 4 random ones. You can spend gold training the specific ones you desire, of course, but that’s 1000g less you have to spend on something else. Other times you have exactly the class and spec you want for your particular dungeon strategy, but they end up accumulating too many Diseases or negative Quirks such that it’s easier/cheaper to just let them go than keep them. Finally, even if you upgrade the Stagecoach such that you get higher-level recruits hand-delivered to you with full upgrades out of the box, they might not have enough positive Quirks to justify the limited roster space.
None of this even gets into the combat and dungeon exploring parts of the game.
At the beginning, I thought the combat system was kinda dumb. Each character has the ability to do one thing each round in a turn-based manner. There are priest-esque classes and others with healing abilities, but they can only perform these actions in combat. Yeah, that’s a particular “gamey” limitation, but the longer I played, the more I realized how the entire point of this game is resource management. A turn spent healing is a turn not spent attacking.
However, considering that HP is only a concern in a dungeon, whereas Stress carries over into town and future dungeons, you have to start considering the relative merits of either. Leaving up the weak spellcaster who “only” inflicts Stress on your team so that you can spend multiple rounds healing your team to full HP might not be worth (literally) the trouble. Then again, if you have to end up Retreating from a battle/quest because everyone is about to die, well, they end up getting penalized with Stress/quirks regardless.
Then you have the boss fights, which possibly toss aside all your carefully laid plans. I defeated an Apprentice Necromancer with barely an issue already. Fighting the Wizened Hag though? I have faced her three times thus far, and retreated each time, nevermind the three other attempts that were aborted before even reaching her chambers.
The Hag has a Cookpot that takes up the first two “positions” on the field, with herself in the last two. Invariably, one of your team members gets thrown in the Cookpot and takes damage each individual turn until released. Thus, not only do you lose the actions of that team member, but your remaining members are usually out of their normal position (most abilities have position limitations), and then you have to consider whether to attempt to free the person or attack the Hag. Freeing the person is fine… but the Hag will throw someone else in the pot almost immediately afterwards.
Which can be the same person. /sigh
Having been defeated by this encounter so many times before, I am now in a holding pattern of leveling up my lower-level people to get a pool of acceptable candidates to try and kamikaze my way through the encounter, or perhaps overwhelm her with higher-level gear. Repeated dungeon clears of the other locations unlock additional bosses though, so perhaps I ignore her for now. And, oh, this other quest offers a pretty good trinket for that one class, so perhaps I grab that first.
Around and round I go… loving every single minute of it.
So, yeah. I’ll be curious to see how I end up towards the endgame; if this gameplay loop still entertains or if I get ground down by the repetition/familiarity. I ended up choosing Radiant difficulty based on the, ahem, horror stories from others who played originally. Indeed, some of the original mechanics sounded outright dumb: the inability to take characters back into the final dungeon more than once, for example. Some of those have been address since the game’s launch, but it’s a bit sobering to read that Radiant was designed to bring down the play-time “from 80 hours to about 40.”
Fake Edit: took down the Hag with this handsome group of characters: