Fight or Kite: Impressions of Ashes of Creation Apocalypse, a solid fantasy battle royale nobody is playing

Yes, we're gonna talk about that MMORPG thing too.

    
38

A mere fortnight ago, the team behind Ashes of Creation took its MMO combat testing ground known as Apocalypse and opened the doors on Steam as a fully free-to-play title (persistent early access). I took a look at the game during its brief weekend-long test and was honestly blown away.

I had so much fun during the weekend test that I knew I was going to need to jump back in immediately when the gates opened for the early access at the end of September. I had to know: Did Intrepid Studios listen to any player feedback from the test, or was it all just a marketing ruse?

So what’s changed in a month?

From my time playing the past couple weeks, I can say that it does not appear that any major changes took place in AoC Apocalypse. However, I did notice a number of nice quality-of-life changes and some balance tweaks.

Intrepid Studios added in several pop-up hints to aid new players. It seems like such a small thing, but it actually helped me out considerably. Since the game’s lobby prior to a match beginning is fairly sparse and there isn’t an alternative place to go and test out the game’s skills and keybindings, the hints help tremendously. Lunging, for instance, is a huge maneuver that is key to the gameplay flow. Without it, you aren’t going anywhere.

One might argue that this simply means players need some better way of trying out skills that isn’t strictly in the heat of a fight, and by “one” I mean me. Twitchy, fast-paced fights like the ones experienced in AoC Apocalypse can be extremely fun, but not when you have yet to learn the muscle memory of performing your actions. If there were a lobby with some target dummies to smash that wasn’t time constrained, that’d be helpful.

Also, it appears Intrepid wisely listened regarding overall melee weapon damage and stamina use. This was probably the single most frustrating bit of the previous test’s combat. Before, you could swing your weapon about three times before running out of stamina. If you had a max-tier weapon, these three hits were probably enough to take out most opponents. It looks like the team reduced the stamina and damage per hit. This was great. Fights now feel more fluid and reactionary. Instead of being dead within a few hits from a surprise enemy, you have time to dodge out, get acclimated, and return the favor – or run away.

Weapon balance is improved on the whole

As I said, since there isn’t a dedicated lobby where players can test out all the different weapons at their leisure, it’s difficult to really get an idea of the overall weapon (and related skill) balance, but there are some serious outliers.

Let’s talk about the potion launcher. It’s a grenade launcher, plain and simple. It is very satisfying to use; however, its damage is honestly too high for its ease of use. If you’re looting shortly after drop-off and you find one of these bad boys, well, you have no one to blame but yourself for not getting to the final showdown.

Most of the melee weapons appear to be well balanced. I’ll need more fights to get a better feel for them overall, but the one standout from my matches has been the halberd with lifesteal. In most one-on-one encounters while wielding this I’ve felt pretty OP. I’m not sure if it needs to be tuned down or others need to be tuned up yet though.

The long and shortbows are strong, but there are a few improvements still necessary. First, they appear to fire almost like single shot revolvers in that there isn’t any trail or tracer for the arrow fired. When you are firing from a long distance, it’s difficult to tell just how much you missed the shot by. I’m not sure what needs fixing here, but something just feels off. The crossbow doesn’t really suffer from this weakness because it actually does provide a blue streak, so you feel a little more confident in your shots. Similarly, you can’t really tell how far your attacking range is. Did I miss the target because of a poorly placed shot, or was she just too far away?

Battle royale improvements are still needed

In many of these battle royale titles, it’s important to get a feel for your surroundings. Audio is a key part of that. When crouched in a room’s corner ready to strike at the door, you need strong audio as a key indicator for how close and in what direction your opponent is in. Whether it’s footsteps behind you or an arrow whizzing past, you need that information.

But right now, it doesn’t feel as helpful as it needs to be. You can hear the smashing of furniture and a slight ping if an arrow hits or misses, but it needs to tighten up for players to take it as seriously as they might other BRs.

We also need improved hit indicators for damage inflicted. When you suffer from an attack, the damage and direction it came from are made apparent by the hit indicator. However, it’s really difficult for me to tell whether I’m hurting my opponent or not. There are small numbers that pop up and a text read-out under your health bar, but it’s not enough.

With the over the top animations and blurring effects as you swing and fight, I simply do not have enough information to know whether my enemy is dying or close to dying – or if I even hit him at all. Honestly, do you see that little “14” floating in the image above? Now go full PvP combat speed and try to watch it. In traditional MMOs, you have tab targeting and can gauge your opponent’s health just by watching the bar scroll down. You don’t have that here. I’m not sure what we need, but I’m open for a brainstorming session on it.

The elephant in the room: Monetization and the MMO proper

I couldn’t wrap this one up without at least mentioning the monetization. I realize I touched on it briefly before, but I wanted to talk about some specifics because yes, this game was originally Kickstarted to be an MMORPG first and foremost, and MMORPG player aggravation over the way this battle royale test mode standalone as well as its monetization have been handled is making itself known with Steam review-bombing and so forth.

Thus far, the monetization really is purely cosmetic. However, I can also see that having paid for the Legendary path to the game is a huge advantage regarding how many cosmetics you unlock and how quickly you unlock them.

See, Apocalypse has what it calls Quests and Adventures. The Quests are simple dailies and weeklies, while the Adventures are reward tracks. If you are a totally free-to-play player, you have significantly fewer dailies to do, which results in significantly less experience gain on the reward tracker. You see where this is going?

The true annoyance here – and Intrepid is far from alone in doing this – is that you also have separate reward tracks depending on whether you are a paid player or not. I completely understand the rationale behind it. Free players get to see all the sweet loot they are missing out on. Come on, don’t you want that bling? The frustration for me is that it’s a double knock against free players. Not only do you advance on the reward track slower, but you also get fewer and less-desirable rewards.

This probably encourages some players to pony up the dough, but I’m sure it also turns some players away – and this game’s not exactly burning up the Steam Charts here. Usually as a free player, I find my logic will run along the lines of, “Well I can’t get the loot as fast, but I know I’ll get it eventually.” Here, that isn’t the case. As a free player, you literally can never get the loot.

Regarding the BR versus the MMO, I suppose I don’t have much else to say. I personally like the idea of a studio trying to come up with new modes to support and test and promote its “real” game. If Intrepid pulls an Epic on us and more or less (or even fully) drops the MMO in favor of the BR – as some backers seem so convinced of – then I’ll gladly stand beside you, pitchfork in hand. But I truly do not expect that to happen. I think the BR space is full enough that a newcomer isn’t going to make the kind of splash that Fortnite did, so there’s little temptation to give up on the “real” game, and Intrepid is clearly still working on the MMORPG for which this mode is just one tiny component.

Apocalypse is a solid game in its own right, even if it’s not pulling in gobs of players. I don’t think there are any other fantasy BRs that match it in terms of excitement of gameplay. Heck, there aren’t a lot of fantasy, action-oriented PvP first games on my radar at all. So for now you can be sure to find me spending my evenings in the Apocalypse.

Have you tried playing Ashes of Creation Apocalypse? Like, actually tried to play it? I see your Steam reviews. Do you think this is the start to a beautiful MMO combat experience, or is it just another cash grab? Play it for yourself and then let me know.

Every other week, Massively OP’s Sam Kash delivers Fight or Kite, our trip through the state of PvP across the MMORPG industry. Whether he’s sitting in a queue or rolling with the zerg, Sam’s all about the adrenaline rush of a good battle. Because when you boil it down, the whole reason we PvP (other than to pwn noobs) is to have fun fighting a new and unpredictable enemy!

38
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Nick Smith

I’ll wait for the MMO. I’m Battle Royaled out guys. However, if you get extra costume pieces or other items by playing this game that will carry over to the MMO, then I’ll consider it :)

kjempff
Reader
kjempff

You guys (have phones) want battle royale, right ?
Mmo players: uhm no, weren’tyou supposed to make a mmo?

Reader
Solaris

Personally hate BRs but I enjoy AoC. I was only playing fore the cosmetics to take with me to the MMO, but found I really enjoy the game so that’s worked out well!

So damn gorgeous too.

Reader
Kero Kero

I love how the game got review bombed from whiney babies. All the reviews are “waaaaah, its not an MMO”

Reader
Solaris

Gamers are killing their own hobby with this idiocy.

Reader
Sorenthaz

As a reminder Apocalypse isn’t going to solely be the BR, it’ll include Castle Siege (100 v 100 with destructible environments and the introduction of classes/roles) and City Defense (PvE Horde Mode), the latter of which is likely going to be released after the MMO goes into Alpha 1.

The monetization is definitely questionable, but I understand that it goes to support the dev team and it’s not like the Kickstarter money is enough to keep everything running. Iirc like 30-40 million has been put into it from Steve’s own money. Also everything in Apocalypse cosmetics-wise will be usable in the MMO proper, so when you get a cosmetic in Apoc you’re getting it for the MMO as well. In that sense it’s in the same vein as their monthly pre-order/a la carte cosmetics.

To me BRs aren’t really my regular cup of tea but Apocalypse has been the one that I’ve felt most comfortable in. It’s just kind of hard to make time for it when I’m not in a big mood for BRs in general.

Reader
Solaris

I don’t actually get the ‘monetization is questionable’ line since all you get is cosmetics. You don’t have to spend a penny to be just as competitive as someone who drops $300.

Reader
Sorenthaz

Well, the battle pass basically puts time pressure on folks to both buy it and play a lot or else pay up. They also twice now have thrown in additional time-limited unlockables if you play a truckload of time (or buy levels, $10 = 5 pass levels if you buy the lowest Embers package) with the Inferno Drake mount for AoC if you hit level 7 within the first week or so many days of Apoc’s launch. Now they’re doing another one where you have to hit level 50 within the month of October to get a special outfit.

The thing though is that level 50 is the highest level that the pass goes to (assuming they don’t add more levels to it after October), and the biggest source of exp is in the weekly quests. It takes 13,000 exp per level and each weekly quest gives you half of the exp for a level. Folks on the subreddit guesstimated that you’d need to play roughly 6 hours or more a day with quests included in order to actually reach level 50 within the end of the month, though I don’t know if that includes the bonus bits from battlepass levels (i.e. the exp boosts every so many levels/etc.).

And the battle pass itself doesn’t end until mid/early-December, so basically they’re creating a need to rush to 50 for… no real reason other than to pressure folks into buying levels if they want that outfit.

So that’s why I say it’s “questionable” because there’s time sensitivity to the battle pass cosmetics BUT they’re also adding on other cosmetics that have an even shorter time limit and pressure folks to buy levels if they don’t want to miss it and can’t be playing 6+ hours each day.

Reader
PanagiotisLial1

The problem with reception on it, even if decent for its kind, is that it didnt build a playerbase for BR games but it built a player base for a sandbox mmorpg(its what people backed it as) so by default most BR players dont even know it while those who backed it probably are annoyed because this came before their backed game

Karma_Mule
Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Karma_Mule

That’s certainly the case for me. I backed the kickstarter because I loved the ideas for an *MMO* that they were discussing. I have zero interest in a BR style game, whether done well or not.

I’ll admit to being skeptical that they will get around to the MMO in a timely way. If they can come out with an alpha for that in the next few months that will go a long way towards easing that anxiety.

In the meantime between Wow Classic, FF XIV, D2 Shadowkeep, Greedfall, and (soon) Outer Worlds, it’s not like I have a shortage of fun things to play.

Reader
G I G A B E A R

A good summation.

Intrepid simply made the wrong game. Apoc isn’t bad, it’s just not the MMORPG. They have lost a lot of support from their formerly dedicated community by making this choice.

Reader
Sorenthaz

Apocalypse is literally just their original Alpha 1 Phase 1 test (PvP combat test with battlegrounds/castle sieges, Phase 2, now just Alpha 1, would be the MMO with tab target hybrid combat) but made public with F2P monetization. And only folks who bought into the $500+ tiers would have normally had access to that alpha… and that’s a fairly small test group.

Apocalypse is a win-win for everyone except the people who want to find a reason to be upset about it.

Reader
G I G A B E A R

Except that it looks very much like APOC BR and all the issues it cause has delayed the release of that alpha, which btw I did pay to be in. It was due in March.

We’re getting “castle sieges” for APOC, which is not a mode which needs to be tested to launch the initial MMORGP alpha and can and should be postponed in light of how seriously the project has fallen behind.

The MMORPG must take priority as it is the game we paid them to make. They can work on these other games once the flagship product is out the door. If they don’t have the testing data they need from APOC to launch an initial alpha by now, they never will.

Reader
Jahlon

Spot on.

The problem is with producing a BR, Intrepid is trying to take too much of the pie.

The BR market is the BR market.
The MOBA market and the Collectible Card Game Markets are those markets.
The MMORPG market is what brought Intrepid their fan base.

There is no reason for them to try to eat the entire pie. They need to stay with their slice.

They really just need to kill off this abomination and move forward with whatever they have of the MMORPG. They will get burnt alive on the first version, but they need to just face those flames and push through.

Reader
Solaris

Why? If it benefits both the network backend of the MMO, art assets, combat balance plus adds more funding, why? I was the second person to back this game on Kickstarter. I’m totally fine with what is parallel development of the BR with the MMO, because the BR is just a tool to test systems that assist in the MMO development.

Reader
AGx-07_162

I personally don’t thinks it’s a very good BR first and foremost but that opinionated point aside, I’m annoyed that resources were spent on this rather than the base MMO we’re all excited for. Even if this was meant to be a more interesting way to test gameplay and balance with the public, it comes off as disingenuous given the genre they chose to test in and hits more like a cash grab, especially since they added micro-transactions to something that isn’t even a complete game.

Reader
Sorenthaz

The point though is that with the Unreal Engine most of the assets/etc. they’re using for Apocalypse are/will be used in the MMO.

From what I understand the only thing that wasn’t being used for the MMO initially was the storm system, and that was done within half of a day or something like that. All of the abilities will be used by different classes in the MMO, and the weapons themselves will be featured as well.

Tizmah
Reader
Tizmah

Well, it has a little more player count than Shroud of the Avatar…that’s saying something..right?

Karma_Mule
Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Karma_Mule

For me SotA was the gaming equivalent of taking a big swig of milk only to realize it was woefully past its expiration date.

Reader
Sray

Karma, my apologies for the theft, but I am totally using that description the next time someone talks to me about some old school throwback game they think is so awesome but I felt sucked.

Reader
Skor

Not to mention SoTA was a cash grab from the very beginning. As soon as I saw that people were paying ridiculous amounts of money for in game benefits, I lost all interest. Never played it because of that.

Covynant001
Reader
Covynant001

Good review of Apocs suitability as a BR contender.

One thought, perhaps the low interest so far is because the typical BR player is used to a more modern background and isn’t all that accepting of a fantasy theme?

I don’t feel there’s nearly enough crossover between the two genres, with most players who favor one style largely eschewing the 0ther.

Good example is my brother in law, rabid gamer his whole life (is 50 plus) and he focuses solely on shooters and franchise sports games.

He wouldn’t consider playing a fantasy themed game much less a MMORPG.

Reader
cursedseishi

To be fair, there are several Fantasy-themed Battle Royale games out there (the biggest likely being Realm Royale via Hi-Rez studios), but they are hardly news-worthy. And, more so, they are hardly ever talked about in the ways PUBG or Fortnite are because… well…

Fortnite and PUBG are click-grabbers. And if you aren’t a ‘threat’ to those games popularity (like Apex Legends was treated like in headlines), most sites will simply ignore them.

Off the top of my head and a bit light googling, there’s the aforementioned Realm Royale, Spellbreak (Epic Games Store exclusive, so there’s that), and Egress which is a… Lovecraftian-inspired BR it looks like… and is currently dead in the water if the discussion page (positive as they are) is any proof. I’m sure there are others, too, but these 3 about cover a decent bit of that issue I’d see.

And for a Battle Royale game to ‘hit’, it needs that attention. It needs that draw-in for its playerbase to grow enough to support more than 1 or 2 matches worth. I only know about Realm Royale because I’ve seen it pop up here and there, and Spellbreak I know only because I’ve clicked around on Epic’s Store for the free games. But if you’re already on Epic’s client and are interested in a BR game? You’re likely playing Fortnite as is. And Egress? Google just now, never heard anyone talk about this game and it came out almost a year ago. Which is insane, because anything ‘Lovecraftian’ usually gets a mention somewhere that I’ll see pop up…

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

The character screen is a storefront. You can equip the default item or pay premium prices right then for some better togs and weapon skins. That was my first impression of the game, since this is nearly the first screen you see.

I will say, it was impressive how fast that storefront/character screen got me disinterested in the game. I had literally no information about the game from the game at all before it was asking me to buy a premium currency.

I actually think Ashes will be a well-crafted MMO and probably worth the wait. But with EA, Ubisoft, et al., literally spending more time designing monetization schemes than the games they are in, Apocalypse’s character/store screen just hit the wrong chord for me.

Reader
Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

I play a ton of Apex and found the AoC BR convoluted and needlessly complex for its own good. They do a poor job explaining systems visually. For example, I should be able to know exactly what an item is just by looking at it from 20 feet away because the icon is that visually descriptive.

I found the fog of war jumping in to be supremely annoying. There were sound issues galore where it sounded as if someone was right next to me but they were 20-30 feet away. I had a ton of issues staying connected. I could go on and on but you get the point.

I also find it incredibly gross that this isn’t a feature of the MMO itself. GW2 and ESO offer PvP only large scale warfare. BDO tried and failed, but had a BR for a time in their MMO and they don’t have a mandatory sub.

I’ll check back on this in a year, because I think there’s something there, but Apex is real fricking good.