“Shenanigans!” you cry. “The poll went against your buying a frame!” And it’s true, the poll did go against that… the week that I put up that poll. But there was no poll last week, and thus I declared executive privilege and went with the frame that I’d been eyeing for some time as a perfect compliment to my playstyle. Which, despite what many people have suggested, was not one of the most stealthy frames.
My reasoning, ultimately, was that there was no real way for me to reliably farm up the materials to build an additional frame and actually start playing with something else in the time I had remaining. Thus, rather than continuing to tool around with just the Excalibur, I felt that it behooved me to give another frame a shot so that I could at least realistically say whether having a different option altered my opinion about the game as a whole.
As it turns out, it both did and didn’t. But first it was important to me to pick up my Valkyr frame.
Yes, the Valkyr. A lot of you had suggested other frames based on my avowed love of winnowing enemies from stealth in advance of a frontal rush, but the thing is that Valkyr is just as good at picking some things off with stealth kills. Once it’s actually time to mix things up, she’s got a grappling line (invaluable), a buff to melee damage (helpful), a tool to detonate her shield (middling in usefulness, but worthwhile when shields are dropping anyhow), and an “ultimate” mode that turns her into a vampire melee monster (ideal for these scenarios). More to the point, she doesn’t heavily rely upon mods to work, which some frames do.
This choice was also happily endorsed by a friend of mine with more overall familiarity with the game, who confessed that Valkyr and Mesa seemed like the frames I’d want to play. She knows me.
Said friend also pointed out that this was, in a way, antithetical to the very nature of the game; when you have a game so heavily reliant upon farming things up and assembling crafts yourself, just buying a frame seems to encourage some bad habits. On a whole, I agree with her; as mentioned before, however, the fact that your frame choice starts out as so blindingly limited means that you ultimately will spend a lot of time unable to swap otherwise, and it’s a longer interval until you start getting meaningful choices about what to use.
Considering the game is so much about farming drops and the like, you obviously should have limitations. But I think giving you a chance to test drive and work with an arsenal of two or three frames before you start that farming would be a useful change. It’d slightly even out the curve when you’re getting into it, and while I can see the case being made about earlier frames being easier to play, there’s a balance between “what’s easiest to play” and “what is going to convince people to keep playing.”
That, thankfully, is all the dirt I have to sling. Once I started to get my sea legs with Valkyr, I quickly felt like my choice had been the right one. Her tools more naturally complemented the way that I prefer to play, and while I would believe she might not be as useful in a broad sense as the Excalibur, I was certainly having more fun on a whole.
Said friend and I also ran a few duo missions, and I continued experimenting more with running missions as a group rather than just running things in solo mode. The two different gameplay styles I mentioned last week are very much in full effect, especially when you’re grouping with more experienced players. To someone who has been doing this for a while, the goal is to maximize results with minimized movements; to someone playing solo, there’s more reason to go slowly, explore, and creep about the edges of the map rather than rushing.
For the record, this seems like a different beast to me than the anniversary event missions; just because event missions work a specific way doesn’t mean all group gameplay does.
I’m hard-pressed to say that one is better than the other, but it does feel like a bit of an issue with design. Getting better rewards through grouping when higher-leveled and more experienced players are just gliding through the maps can, at times, feel kind of like being in perpetual tagalong mode. That’s less than fun. On the other hand, it also makes the game far faster to just glide through and smash things, and that part is fun. A mix of both seems the way to go, for my experience.
My Mastery rank ups were all contained within the experience of playing as Valkyr, and they remind me of nothing so much as the training missions from Metal Gear Solid, short challenges asking you to take on enemies with only one sort of weapon. They are not particularly difficult, at least not in the early ranks. I appreciate that the core need here was to create a system wherein you have a separate level rank from your various weapons and frames which also level up; this may have been the most elegant solution for that.
I also picked up a few more blueprints, which required rare items that, again, I am clearly meant to farm for much later in the game. This is fine, in and of itself, but to echo a complaint that has been made many times by now, it would be nice if the game itself mentioned any of this. Thanks to the (extensive and helpful) comments here, and the fact that (as noted) I have a friend who is fond of the game, I had the grounding necessary to know what was going on here. “Oh, that cosmetic item will require some farming later, but the blueprint is also sometimes hard to get.”
The game itself is silent on this matter. Without this external guidance, there would be no way to know any of this.
Most of you who have read a variety of Choose My Adventure entries know that my usual policy is to either take no help from readers or accept only minimal help, and the fact of the matter is that this is part of the reason why. I can only imagine how baffled someone without this guidance would be. Sure, you can do a wiki trawl to figure it out, but “just search the wiki” is the refuge of developers who have done a poor job guiding players.
Having this guidance at least made it clear what I was supposed to do and whether or not I should expect to be ready to unlock this soon (no). Explanations are few in number and slow in arriving, which is not good. You wind up having to guess a lot.
This is compounded by the fact that, as near as I can tell, there’s no way to actually look up which weapons are part of which weapon family, which is very relevant when you get into melee stances. That in particular feels like a baffling choice. Fine, you have some dozen different melee styles and you have to divide them up by specific weapon type for some reason. That’s weird, but all right, I can live with it. But then you could at least have, like, one line saying “this is a dual sword” on the info box? Maybe?
For that matter, you cannot convince me that it’s vitally important to divide things this narrowly. You also cannot convince me that it’s useful or important to make it this hard to get a stance for your melee weapon.
The bright side, again, is that the actual mechanics do make sense once you get up to speed on them, and of course the actual mechanics are fun. There are lots of missions that are fun to do, and they provide an actual fun spread of different options for what you can be doing at any given time. Between farming and the need to unlock various nodes, you even have good cause to do various missions over and over, which I appreciate.
In summary, I enjoyed my time with Valkyr, and it served as a nice capstone to my experiences. But there are issues with the game, which I’ll be picking apart more next week as I wrap things up. Until then, you can mail feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave it down in the comments below. As I’ve said before, thank you all for the variety of comments; they’ve been invaluable in sorting out the game’s mechanics and what to do.