It’s been just under a week since Crowfall officially launched, and the game’s more alive than ever before. It’s been what has felt like an eternity since Crowfall was initially announced as a Kickstarter back in 2015. I recall sitting on the sofa, coffee mug in hand, reading about the initial core concepts, and I just knew this was going to be a game I had to play.
Fortunately, ArtCraft has been quite straightforward and developed the game very openly. Backers have had access to the game’s early builds for years now, meaning I’ve had the opportunity to share my thoughts for quite a while now as well:
So I won’t get down and dirty with too many gameplay specifics today. My fellow PvP sandbox fan Andrew already shared some incredibly detailed info here on MOP on all aspects of the game last week, and you would be seriously missing out if you haven’t checked it out, especially if you’re interested in crafting, as his explanation on crafting went much further than mine ever did. Instead, let’s take this week’s Fight or Kite to talk about how launch has gone so far and whether Crowfall fills in the blanks I’ve been looking at since its announcement.
The population levels aren’t the problem people think it is
The first thing we need to talk about is the population. It appears there have been plenty of questions about the size of the playerbase, but I should make one thing clear: When you’re actually playing now, it doesn’t feel empty. In the alphas, and even as recently as a week before launch, you could legitimately run around servers without seeing a single player. But that’s not what I’m experiencing on the live servers. Right now, I see players, both guilded and solo, running around completing the tutorial quests and engaging with one another.
Honestly, until I saw the news myself, I thought that the population was doing really well. Sure, the numbers reported don’t sound great. But when you’re actually playing, it doesn’t feel sparse. To be fair, even when you’re playing Guild Wars 2 or any of the other big MMOs, you don’t expect to see 50,000 players all stacked on top of each other at the same time (Albion Online notwithstanding – those towns are nuts!). As long as you are actually seeing players all around you while playing in the cities, roaming for PvP, and harvesting, then there really isn’t a problem.
Even in my guild members who frequently would roam and harvest resources solo realized that that wasn’t going to be an option anymore – they either needed to wait until they were geared up better or work with others, else they were going to be killed by the sudden influx of new PvP players.
This isn’t to say the game has no problems right now or even that the population couldn’t be a problem in the longer term. Let me outline my concerns.
Launch day woes
Let’s talk about launch day, or launch night as it is for many of us these days (curse you family/responsibilities/adulthood!). It was exactly what you would expect for an MMO launch: difficulty logging in, client crashes, and endless queues. You always think, “It’s the year 2021, we’ve got launches figured out by now.” But alas, those are merely sci-fi dreams, and launch always is a fail.
So technically, I wasn’t even able to play the game on launch night. I’m not sure whether I’m alone in this or not, but after I created my character and attempted to join a starter zone, the game crashed. Reportedly, once you were in a server and actually participating, there were far fewer issues.
It wasn’t until the next night after an hour of desperately trying to join a server and failing miserably that I decided to try something else. I was watching streams, looking at Twitter, and just flailing about trying to understand why everyone else was getting to play except me. So, I created a new character and tried to join again and was finally able to play. I guess that first character I created was corrupted or something. What a pain.
Unfortunately, the pain didn’t end there. Some aches continued into the launch weekend when I made my first mistake. I had reached the point of moving into the next zone on the server, so I clicked to move and… boom I’m in the lobby. When I tried to join back into my server, I had a queue, which is somewhat expected but still aggravating. This is where I made my next mistake. I canceled the queue and attempted to move to a less populated server. The game did not take kindly to this series of events. It again locked up and locked me out. After a few rounds of closing down, reopening, rinsing and repeating, I was finally able to play again.
Overall, it’s improved every day since, and I’ve seen worse, but you always hope for better.
Character customization options are still slim
Now, getting on to the important things: How pretty can I look in my MMO? Currently, I am quite a bit disappointed. Even though we’ve all played dozens of MMOs over the years and we know that 95% of the time you’re just looking at the back of your character’s head in whatever gear you are wearing, you still want to customize and make the character your own. These are roleplaying games, after all. I recall the huge dilemma I faced when Guild Wars 2’s early launch began and I had to decide between spending two and a half hours painstakingly designing my face or blazing through it and ensuring I get my character’s name reserved. XsamkashX might be a silly name, but he looks fantastic.
Well, you won’t have that problem here.
During the alphas and the betas, I gave the character customization a pass. Obviously, new and additional faces and hairstyles are not a core tenant of the gameplay loop, so I can understand that being a final piece that gets fleshed out. But when I logged into release only to see the same three faces and five hairstyle choices available, I was extremely let down. This is a released game now – players need more agency in how their character looks.
It’s missing some polish, but the core is ready
The game truly has grown by leaps and bounds in just the last year and a half. Gameplay is almost unrecognizable from what I originally wrote about when I first started this column. Gone are the obtuse and confusing NPC ranks, the awkward leveling grind, and even the survival-esque game mechanics (though there are debates about whether that last one was necessary or not). Instead, we have a far more streamlined system that moves you from new player to PvPer.
I mentioned sometime ago that while the tutorial was getting some much needed improvements, it was still lacking in a couple of key areas: a deeper dive on crafting and on the individual classes. Now, from reading Andrew’s piece, I think it’s clear that the crafting explanations need more emphasis much sooner in the gameplay loop. It was interesting to see him suggest levels be removed as well, as I thought the same thing. With the unique classes, we at least have an NPC that explains the mechanics in general, which is really important. It isn’t a deep dive, but even a brief explainer is a better than nothing. The new campaigns have only just begun, so I’ll reserve judgment on those for now.
I’m the first to admit that the game isn’t all perfect and polished. Launch issues aside, there are still a few things overlooked that make you wonder if this release wasn’t a tad bit rushed. The splash screens when loading into zones, for instance, still read “developer build.” During the tutorial, some of the side quests still don’t populate in the quest log. They’re minor things, perhaps, but they give me pause.
With all that said, now is a solid time to start playing. There are players all around. Guilds are recruiting and looking for more players to join. The guild I’ve joined already has 500 members! I think we’re past the login difficulties, too; players aren’t trying to cram into a handful of servers anymore, they’re spread out a bit. Many already competing in the campaign even. So, if you’ve been on the fence – and have the time and means to play – I can’t think why you wouldn’t want to at least check it out.