None of this is to say that the game is bad, mind you. In fact, the second week, if anything, reaffirmed the fact that this is in fact a well-polished game with a clear picture of what it wants to be. All of that is commendable. The issues that it has are entirely down to issues of choice and the investment needed to make those choices, and the fact that it frequently prevents you from getting information that might be entirely valuable.
But then, the game also still does a good job of letting you enjoy running around while shooting stuff. So it’s a mixed bag that’s going to hit everyone a little bit differently, in other words.
I’m still having some issues with bits of the controls, like the mechanics for swapping weapons and bullet-sliding, but most of that is down to me not remapping the controls just yet. (Mapping a couple more things to my mouse would probably fix that right up.) The fact is that the game is still proving fun in terms of the moment-to-moment gameplay, and that covers a great deal. I’m especially enjoying the fact that the game is still a stealthy game, but it’s not the sort of game where that signals two wholly different gameplay styles.
Sneaking around is fun and useful, and now in particular I’m thinking that I want a bow for ranged stealth takedowns. (It’d provide more opportunity for using both my primary and secondary weapon; I have yet to find a use for my pistol in actual combat aside from “I remember I’m not using my pistol.”) But there’s a definite phase transition when you go from sneaking to weapons hot, and it doesn’t necessarily have to escalate to alarms. Nor is it game over when the alarm sounds; when I’m trying to get back to sneaking, I still feel like I’ve got time and space to get things back under control.
More to the point, the designers are good about giving you maps in which various approaches are rewarding. I often feel like I don’t have much chance of going stealthy through certain areas, but I feel like I do have a chance to eliminate the people who spot me before things get worse. And when I can move unseen, it makes the whole experience feel even more satisfying.
That being said, the game’s first boss-ish encounter against Vor was not something I found particularly fun. That was the one point when it felt like the game offered you exactly one choice in a stand-up fight, and while your frame feels durable it doesn’t feel like it’s meant to serve as a bullet sponge. I cleared it all right, but it bothered me a little bit.
What bothered me far more, though, is the fact that the game still has offered me no actual options beyond what I started with. That’s something that’s just a little bit harder to overlook.
The game is quick to tell you that you don’t need to worry too much about your initial choices and that you can change everything – your frame, your weaponry, and so forth. What it doesn’t tell you is how to actually do any of this, nor does it provide the means to actually do so. The Market interface is about as clear as a block of limestone and half as smooth, and just finding out about the differences between blueprints and items – much less the different currencies in the game – is an exercise in frustration.
Fair cop, we’re talking about a free-to-play game, so some of that is understandable. But not all of it by half. It’s downright absurd that you don’t even get the other starting options accessible in short order. You feel like you’re perpetually collecting stuff waiting for the point when it’s useful, and then you finish the initial questline and…
And what? There are more things to do before the gates, but the game doesn’t explain them to you at all. I had to bother a friend of mine who is an experienced veteran just to find out what some of the terms in question meant, and even the ones I fully understood looked like a jumbled mess of taking a long time to get things unlocked.
Worse yet, all of the different weapons and frames and whatnot are hampered by the problem that there’s no way to actually try these things out before you buy them. That’s right, you’re going in blind every time, either for something you’re buying with real cash or devoting a lot of in-game resources to unlock. It’d be bad enough if you were asking if you were going to really like this new style of shotgun, but when you realize that you have to buy in just to find out if you like shotguns at all?
That’s absurd. Yes, a free-to-play game needs to have its cash gates and so forth, no argument there. But jeez, this is not good. It’s a lot of blind leaps in the hopes that you’ll like something, and the game completely fails to explain what many of those leaps even mean.
I can’t think of any good reason to lock you off from even being able to try out these expensive or time-consuming items. Seriously, the game is not going to break if I had the chance to just try out a basic shotgun, bow, and sniper rifle before you ask me to buy and build new ones.
This is also one of the reasons I usually go into these things without accepting a lot of help from other people, as I’m aware you can send things back and forth between players. (Probably. This is a game that goes out of its way to avoid telling you that things exist.) But then, if I leaned on that I never would have learned how bad it is about giving players those options to start with, would I?
It’s here where I find myself getting frustrated by the game. It’s not that the weapons I got to start or the first frame offered is bad by any stretch of the imagination; I don’t feel like the Excalibur is a bad frame. I just want the option to swap and play around with some of my other options, to find a configuration I really like. And it’s so hard to find any information about how to even unlock those extra options that it winds up pretty frustrating.
The obvious response to that, of course, is to drop some money on the game. And, you know, that’s not actually a bad thing anyhow. My usual policy for Choose My Adventure titles is to subscribe for a month, even though it’s not required; that being said, my past few outings have not had a proper subscription option. (Or, in one case, were not able to offer anything of notable use for a month’s subscription.) So it’d be entirely in keeping with the theme for me to drop a little bit of money on the game and pick up some new toys.
Then again, perhaps you would rather see the experience from the eyes of someone who had spent nothing. So tell me, dear readers, should I spend money on the game?
CMA: Should I buy a frame?
- Yes (48%, 50 Votes)
- No (52%, 54 Votes)
Total Voters: 104
The poll will run until noon on Saturday, just to give you a little more time to vote (we did run on Friday this week, after all). Other feedback is also welcome in the comments or by mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, as are personal recommendations for frames if this goes affirmative; I have my own ideas, but I’m certainly willing to listen to other suggestions.