Despite the current pandemic we are all living through, one thing you absolutely have to give the team at ArtCraft credit for is continually improving Crowfall and moving forward with development. If anything, it doesn’t appear that the team has slowed down at all. From the addition of the Dregs campaign to the latest update to the live server, we just keep getting new toys.
But something I’ve often noted about Crowfall’s current gameplay loop is the lack of a good starting point for players. Fortunately for me, and anyone who’s interested in the game, Crowfall has been steadily improving the game for beginners with everything from the God’s Reach and Infected servers to the latest update, which ACE is calling the Awakening.
Continued improvement to the beginner experience
Almost a year ago, Crowfall added the God’s Reach update to give newbies something closer to a starting point to their travels. At the time, I was extremely excited to see the game adding this type of content.
Prior to the inclusion of God’s Reach, you were basically dropped into the same world the same as everyone else, only you were level 1 with no gear and no obvious path to leveling and growing your character. In fact, when I started playing, the best method for leveling was farming monsters and converting your gold to experience points (yeah, it was weird!). As far as your gear? Good luck.
But then the light shined through the clouds, and the God’s Reach update handed us basic NPC camps with passable gear drops, not to mention a PvP free area so noobies don’t get ganked.
Not long after that, the Infected zones arrived. With those zones, we were given another stepping stone, as players could begin their leveling journey in the safety of the PvP-free God’s Reach then move to the Infected maps where PvP was available, but so were slightly tougher monsters and better loot. This is really what a new player needs: a path from sad, weak little level 1 baby to max-level PvP combat master.
Now with the Awakening, ACE has finally added the last piece to the new player experience by adding the shiny, smooth fondant coating to our beginner’s cake: an NPC lead tutorial.
The tutorial gives the world some life and meaning
There is a right and a wrong way to build a tutorial. We’ve all played through ones that get too simple, such as, “Move by pressing WASD on your keyboard. Your keyboard is the long piece of plastic with raised buttons in front of you that your fingers are likely resting on now. A button is the numbered or lettered squares on the keyboard.” You know the type. ArtCraft’s version certainly isn’t making that mistake, but we may be leaning too far the other way (more on that later).
The most fundamental part of the tutorial is that the game finally introduces its lore. Before this update, if you wanted to know anything about the game’s lore, you had to go look it up online. Here, right from the get-go, an NPC explains to you that you’re reborn and that the world is essentially falling apart. Through a series of quests (that’s right, we have the first appearance of quests in Crowfall), we are guided through the map and told briefly about who the gods are and what their purpose has been.
Some players may feel like an NPC-led tutorial in Crowfall is out of place and unnecessary. I don’t think they are completely wrong, but I have to say I enjoy it. It gives the world a bit more life and staying power. The series of quests is extremely basic, and you can blow through it in half an hour to an hour if you really wanted to, so it shouldn’t be too obnoxious to players who don’t like it.
None of the quests takes more than a couple of minutes to complete either. There are no pointless “kill 20 rats” quests. Instead, each quest legitimately attempts to teach you something new. The first one has you kill some wolves to gain some meat. Then they teach you how to cook the meat for a meal, which is a fundamental aspect of the game.
So in addition to dishing out the lore, the obvious intent is to explain some of the basic systems to players. We kill monsters for meat to craft into food. We’re also shown how to craft basic survival gear like axes and knifes for gathering resources. It’s fairly basic stuff, but the game presents it well and keeps it moving along.
The Awakening is the bare minimum passable tutorial
While the Awakening is absolutely the correct move in terms of what a new player needs, it has a long way to go. It’s like you went to a fancy restaurant and ordered the bolognese only to be served a bowl of canned spaghetti-nos. It’s sort of right, but it’s so wrong. At least we’re being served, right?
Honestly though, this is completely fine at this point. We finally have an inkling of what the world is all about and some introduction to the basic systems. The next steps will be to flesh it out more.
So let’s talk about what you actually need to know to be successful in Crowfall. We need to know how to craft and how to fight. Those are really the only two things a player needs to know to be successful in Crowfall. Yet the crafting explanation is lacking and the combat one is nonexistent.
Crafting is extremely important since that’s basically the only reliable way to get gear. There are some drops from mobs, but since ACE wants crafting to be prioritized over looting, we need a much better guide on this. The current tutorial touches on the basics by crafting a knife and food, but it needs to be significantly more robust. I want the game to explain the importance of crafting because it’s more than just swords and shields. There’s disciplines and necromancy, the latter of which I haven’t even tried to look at because whoa.
Yet likely more important than crafting is the game’s combat. This one is much harder for the developers since they’ve built such unique classes. Each class plays almost completely differently from the next: The Templar has a kind of righteousness meter, but the Frostweaver has its various types of ice. Honestly, it’s a lot, but there has to be a way for ArtCraft to teach players their characters that doesn’t involve a website or YouTuber to explain.
I have some issues with the leveling experience and some of the zone restrictions, but I do believe Crowfall continues to march in the right direction toward beta and ultimately release. What do you think about these new player experiences? Do you feel that it is just a tacked on waste of your time, blocking you from playing the actual game? Or do you think every step they’ve made has been an improvement?