The most recent patch to Crowfall brought a whole slew of improvements and enhancements to the game. Every update we’ve seen in the past year has enhanced the game tremendously, so it’s hard to believe that just a little over a year ago I was still struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
There have been so many Kickstarter MMOs that continue to post update after update and delay the final game that it feels like a never ending loop. Month after month it appears like a new feature, system, or issue comes up that pushes the whole project back by another year.
Now here we are with a game that, admittedly, also once felt as if it was in the same endless loop as dozens of other MMOs. Yet we can now see it’s really bringing things together. Many of the initial design concepts are here, from the race and class options to the various campaigns you can participate in.
So let’s discuss some of what we can find in the most recent update and try to decide just how close we are to pulling this roast out of the oven.
Interface improvements are a key sign of how close we are to launch
The interface overall has honestly improved by leaps and bounds. The primary change we got this time around was to the lobby. Before the update, it was really barebones. Players essentially had a list of servers they could click through, but beyond descriptions, it didn’t visually inform players which was intended more as a safe PvE zone and which was meant for full on PvP.
With the new layout, not only does it look fantastic, but it provides you with a logical flow from one server type to the next. In the image below, it looks similar to a series of rings. Servers in the outer most rings are the friendlier PvE starter zones, the central ones are for the faction vs. faction zones, and the inner most are the intense campaign-driven PvP servers.
Simply looking at the before and after versions of the lobby shows a striking difference. While the original version was functional, it wasn’t streamlined at all. It got the job done, but without any bells and whistles. This update adds those in spades. Updates like this really make me hopeful that Crowfall is actually approaching a release candidate. The fact that team is very clearly transitioning from a functional game to one that is also refined is a great sign.
Disciplines are enhanced and improved with the Crowpedia
At the end of last year, I discussed the changes to the disciplines with Principal Designer Rhea Shelley. The disciplines were overhauled and enhanced with the 6.200 update Revival with the introduction of the Domain system, however, this recent update truly put the fine point on the design with the Crowpedia. Honestly, the Crowpedia might be my favorite edition in the update. It seems like such a backend feature that players might use once and move on from, but for me it’s a great utility for theory-crafting builds.
In essence it’s a collection of grids that can be filtered and sorted to quickly find the possible disciplines available for your build. For those who aren’t as familiar with the game, just know that your build is your race, class, and Domain choice. The disciplines basically give your character a few stat buffs, like percentage increase in critical hits, and some active or passive skills. These disciplines are equipped similarly to gear except that they can’t be removed – only replaced. It’s a pretty cool system that offers a ton of variability in build choices, at least on the surface. Only time will tell whether or not every class boils down to a single “right” choice. But at first blush, it certainly is an interesting and fun system.
Now, one of the nice additions ACE has included with the Crowpedia is quick access to it when you hover over a discipline. Clicking “G” on your keyboard will pull up the Crowpedia. While this is all well and good, there are some features I could see adding to it that would improve the Crowpedia even further.
Rather than just opening the Crowpedia, it should open it up and take you to that specific entry. In addition, there are a lot of times when I want to view the whole Crowpedia and everything contained, but oftentimes I’d like it to pre-filter down to disciplines I currently have access to. As another nice addition when hovering over a discipline, I’d like to be able to hold Ctrl or somehow drill down into the specific details on the skills this discipline is going to give me. It’s great knowing that the discipline is going to grant me the Rehabilitation skill, but it’d be even better if I knew that skill healed me by 500 over the next six seconds vs. a heal that instantaneously gives me 1200 hitpoints.
The tutorial is complete – or is it?
The last thing I’ll talk about from the update is the tutorial. I’ve mentioned before how I loathe a bad tutorial. In fact, the sentiment was echoed in our recent Massively Overthinking about our favorite tutorials. I’ve whined and opined about Crowfall’s tutorial at least half a dozen times. And while this version of it technically covers everything players need to know, I can’t give it the full SK stamp of approval.
Since the introduction of the tutorial, it’s walked players through a brief taste of the game’s lore, provided a quick quest on how to craft harvesting tools, and explained the basics to healing and not starving. This is all good stuff. It’s the basics, but it goes by very quickly and works to teach you how Crowfall handles these systems. After these steps, though, it simply stopped short of explaining sieges and their mechanics. It was evident that the final piece was missing.
ArtCraft’s solution to this missing piece is basically a few tomes and NPCs that explain the mechanics. Not exactly a fully fleshed-out experience. On one hand, I can understand the sentiment that designing some scripted quests with NPCs that takes the players through a siege can seem like wasted effort, especially since these would be quests most players see only once and then never see again. Many MMO players – especially ones interested in Crowfall – are veterans of RvR mechanics at this point too. However, Crowfall does have its own twist on the formula – namely, the life and blight trees.
Showing is always better than telling. I think a couple of scripted events involving NPCs would still be a boon. The new Infected servers are already set up with enough zones to give each faction one siege quest and one defense quest. In fact, since these zones are already technically setup to be PvP light with a fort or two on a timer, they could just be run on a faster timer so that the fort is able to be contested every half hour or so with a few parties of NPCs to run the quest. Or, if not using NPCs, perhaps if there were some solid rewards involved that could encourage players to run these safe siege quests then players could be a part of it, be naturally introduced to other players, and learn the mechanics at the same time.
In any case, I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it: Crowfall really is ready to be played, and it’s only getting better with every update. If you’re the type of player who’s really into the guild-organized PvP games, then checking out Crowfall should be on your shortlist. For those out there who’ve tried it out before, is there anything keeping you from joining back now? For anyone who’s actually playing, what do you think we’re still missing before you’d say it’s fully ready for release?