Not So Massively: Wolcen’s roadmap is missing some important things

    
12

In the past, I’ve been pretty free with my praise for Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem. I’ve gotten nearly a hundred hours of good fun out of it, and I hope to see it continue to grow. But I am growing concerned.

The team behind the game recently released a list of its planned updates for the rest of 2021 — a roadmap essentially, though it wasn’t labelled as such — and while there is a lot of good stuff there, there are also some glaring omissions.

I don’t want to sound like it’s all doom and gloom. There is definitely a fair bit of good news in the roadmap. The Arise update, for instance, focuses on revamping summon skills, and as a fan of pet builds in ARPGs, I’m looking forward to that.

The devs are also continuing to double-down on the game’s greatest strength, its build system, by adding yet more damage type modifiers for existing skills, making more skills viable for more builds. And while it’s not important to me personally, I’m sure a lot of players are excited about the planned controller support coming later in the year.

But there are two huge things missing from this roadmap: a new story act and a second Chronicle.

The lack of another act for the story is probably the biggest blow — certainly for me personally, at least. Let me be clear that this is not just my usual desire to cram as much story as possible into games. It’s frustration over the fact that game’s base story is not finished yet.

Wolcen ends on a cliff-hanger, and it’s yet to be resolved. I know this is a smaller team, and I’m willing to exercise some patience waiting for a conclusion, but the game released in early 2020, and it’s now looking like the earliest we could possibly see a continuation of the main story is 2022. That strains even my tolerance.

I recognize that many people playing these sorts of games don’t care about the story, but even they have to acknowledge that leaving something unfinished like this isn’t a good look for the game.

New story acts would pay dividends to the rest of the game as well. The monsters and art assets designed for story content can be reused for endgame content. Most of the planned updates add new maps and monsters anyway; the team is already doing half the work a continued story campaign would require. It is possible to serve both the story fans and those who just want to be murder-hobos without either losing out, but right now we story fans are being left in the dust.

I do still hold out some hope that they may throw story fans a bone before the year is through. There is mention of “new end-game activities and rewards system,” and it’s possible this could include some story in the same way Bloodtrail did.

But even then I expect it would be another side-story, not a resolution to the unfinished campaign.

The other big thing missing from Wolcen‘s roadmap is a new Chronicle. By the end of 2021, the current and first Chronicle, Bloodtrail, will be a year old. Chronicles were meant to be this game’s answer to seasonal content in other games, but if it lasts for over a year, it’s not really “seasonal” anymore, is it? By comparison, Diablo III‘s season tend to run for roughly 100 days on average.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of this style of seasonal content to begin with. Constantly needing to roll new characters every time feels like a bit too much of a treadmill to me. Therefore I’m not personally too broken up over the lack of a second Chronicle on the horizon.

But like the missing story, it looks bad. It makes us wonder, “Why even introduce a system for seasonal content if you’re not going to add more seasons?” Bloodtrail had a lot of cool updates, but they didn’t need to be in the form a new season. Wolcen Studio could have just added them to the base game.

It just looks sloppy. It’s a black eye on the game that could readily have been avoided. Between this and the continued lack of progress on the story front, one is left with the impression of a studio whose reach exceeds its grasp.

And I do want to make clear that I think the developers at Wolcen Studio are doing their best. I don’t think there’s any malice or laziness at play in the lack of bigger updates for the game. Again, it is a smaller studio with limited resources, and I’m sure it’s working hard to make Wolcen the best game they can. The fact that the devs are still putting out a regular stream of updates, even if they’re small, shows that they are committed to the game.

But I do question the judgment that led the studio to the current predicament. Ending the game on a cliff-hanger was a situation that could have been avoided. Launching a system for seasonal content without a plan to deliver seasonal content could have been avoided. They could have given the game a conclusive ending while leaving the door open for future stories, and they could have delivered Bloodtrail’s content outside of a seasonal paradigm.

I hate to say it, but I wonder if things might have been different if the developers had prioritized adding a cosmetic cash shop. It might have rankled some people, but maybe the extra income would have helped fund further development. It must be hard to find the resources to continue developing the game when they have no income beyond long-tail sales of the base game.

I’m still a fan of Wolcen, and I hope the best for its future, but I’m growing concerned. Let’s hope there’s still time to right the ship.

The world of online gaming is changing. As the gray area between single-player and MMO becomes ever wider, Massively OP’s Tyler Edwards delves into this new and expanding frontier biweekly in Not So Massively, our column on battle royales, OARPGs, looter-shooters, and other multiplayer online titles that aren’t quite MMORPGs.
Advertisement

No posts to display

12
LEAVE A COMMENT

Please Login to comment
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Vanquesse V

The “real” issue with Wolcen is that for some reason it takes a very long time for them to do even minor changes. If they had the turnaround time of any of the other arpgs they could probably have been in a decent place by now.
The changes they’ve done since launch have been universally good (except for requiring a replay of the story mode if you wanted to try the chronicle) it’s just that they are taking a year and a half to do stuff other games would have done in less than 6, probably more like 3. And because the launch state was so bad it might be another couple of years before the game is in a decent state.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

Wolcen made some near fatal mistakes, changing from open world to on-rails dungeons being just the first, that would probably have sunk them altogether if they didn’t have such a solid game. Great combat, gorgeous art work for environments, armor, weapons, and a really interesting story.

I’m going to put my 2 cents in here about why I think Wolcen may never recover. It’s unbalanced in gameplay. It seems to think it’s Dark Souls for ARPG players. It’s boss fights are long, tedious and frustrating, with incessant dodging and tricky damage mechanics not seen elsewhere in the game. They have a 3 strikes you’re out requirement on boss fights, which are multi-layered. So if you beat the first boss segment, but not the second, you’ve got to start all over from the beginning. That’s just rude.

Compare to The Last Epoch’s boss fights, which are just as long and tiring, or Path of Exile’s final boss fights which are tough. LE acknowledges the segments, so if you get past the first part of the fight and fail at the second, you only have to do the second over. Of course PoE lets you die as many times as you need to in order to finish the fights. Neither of these games are slouches in the ARPG field.

As many people as there are who can get past the Wolcen boss fights (apparently about 400) there are many more who just give up. Wolcen’s a game that ought to be replayed many times, trying out different builds and classes. But the game forces you to focus on one thing only, the final boss fight.

Then there’s the bad word of mouth about Wolcen’s end-game, which encourages no one to bang their head against the wall to get there.

They need to get over thinking they’re Dark Souls, remove the death/fail mechanic and shorten the boss fights.

Keep in mind, I really enjoy Wolcen, I love the combat and puzzling over builds, and I’ve got over 150 hours in the game, but however much I enjoy it, it’s a waste to sink any more time into it when I can’t finish.

Reader
angrakhan

I never got the impression that Wolcen ended on a cliffhanger. That would imply the team had plans for more story in the future, and I do not believe that is the case. Wolcen ends on “oh crap, we ran out of money! Wrap this turd show up quick and ship it”. That’s my take on it.

Reader
SmiteDoctor

They have no excuse, Grim Dawn released 2 expansions, a DLC, and tons of free updates for years with a smaller team than Wolcen.

Reader
Dug From The Earth

and with less dev time

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

I’m kinda already falling off PoE again after less than a week of coming back, especially with what seems to be coming around the corner with the next league (I get why they’re doing it all and it makes sense, and I see where they’re going with it…it’ll just be painful getting there).

Actually been looking to get back into Wolcen again but as per usual I suck at making builds myself and have yet to find a good site with some build templates/guides. If anyone knows of anywhere to find this it would be much appreciated! Haven’t played really since it first came out, so curious to see how much the game has changed over the year(s?).

I’m just happy that without a bit MTX store that they’re doing a bit of a No Man’s Sky and just continuing to work on/improve/expand the game well after launch. Hopefully it’ll have similar results for them, there really is quite a bit to like about the game.

Reader
Dug From The Earth

but did you see the buffs to Spectral Shield Throw??

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

I did! Part of me wants to try it out but…I’ll wait for others to see how it performs first. I’m very interested in Absolution for a guardian, maybe try to make a caster army with skeleton mages or something. But looking at the notes just released…man, I’m definitely keeping my interest “light” because it looks like they’re making the game much less enjoyable for me. I feel like the next 2-3 leagues leading into PoE 2 are gonna be painful as hell, but that once the overhaul is complete they’ll have a much slower game that fits with the new design philosophy in PoE 2 (access to more linked skill gems so the game is a bit more tactical and allows for more builds beyond, “RACE AND GO FAST AND KILL THINGS BEFORE THEY TOUCH YOU BECAUSE OFFENSE IT THE BEST DEFENSE!”)

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

Yup. I’ve completely stopped playing PoE. Just done with exactly what you’ve said. Hopefully PoE 2 will be different in that regard.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

Unfortunately there’s such a small player base atm, around 375-425 any given day on Steam) that after the initial release, there just aren’t enough people playing to generate builds variety. Moreover, many content creators for ARPGs (Rhykker, Vulkan, et al.) have moved on. With all the changes since release, almost all of the original builds require some tinkering.

So, I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one, GD.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

That’s what I’ve more or less gathered. It’s a shame because I’m nowhere into the game enough to learn all the ins and outs, but like with PoE, having access to premade builds that I could play while learning the mechanics of the game would be a godsend.

Oh well, might just struggle my way through it. Now to figure out whether I want go go with a 1h/shield build, try something different with a caster, or wait for the summoner rework to give that a go.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Ashfyn Ninegold

There’s no doubt they are gradually improving the game. Summoner rework might be worth waiting for.