Friday, August 06, 2021

Thoughts from New World Closed Beta

New World (from Amazon Game Studios) held a closed beta over the last two weeks and I had the opportunity to play a few hours over two weeks.  And by few I mean 50+ hours!  I have not enjoyed a game this much in years and I am here to tell you all about it so sit back and relax; it's a New World!

Visually Stunning!  Sounds Great!

The most immediate thing about New World is how amazing it looks.  I have a mix of screenshots scattered in this post (along with a few on my last post) and they barely do it justice.  Everything  looks amazing from the moment you set foot in the world.  Take a journey up to any of the mountain tops and the vistas are breathtaking.  Sit back in popular PvP areas and watch the fireworks as players battle each other; ranged PvP combat is especially fun to watch.  Walk into a settlement and marvel at the detail of the buildings (crafting workstations especially).  Combat effects, player movement, armor, weapons, and so much more are top notch.

Windsward settlement (aka town) buzzing with activity

The next immediate thing is the audio.  I play a lot of games and New World easily has the best sound I've ever heard.  In the initial rush of beta with tons of players chopping down trees, breaking up rocks, and shooting turkeys the world crackles to life.  As you move into caves the sound changes enhancing the feeling of being in an enclosed area. On numerous occasions I was able to find other players mining nodes or firing off muskets just by following the sounds.  Walking into a settlement has not only the visual pop but the audio pop of being on a bustling city street.  There is also proximity voice chat which can be shocking when someone drops that first fart.mp3 but otherwise is refreshing to not need to jump on a discord to talk to the person next to you in game.  One of my favorite beta videos is someone who hosted an impromptu guitar and song session in a local tavern; only possible because of proximity voice chat!

Proud home owner once again!

Fun Combat and New Content

Combat changed from the preview event and in my opinion it changed for the better.  Stagger is gone so you no longer get "stun locked" and fights don't revolve around who gets the first stagger hit in.  There is some debate about whether stagger could have been preserved, but I am personally glad it is gone.  New weapons were added; specifically I tried out the spear, rapier, and ice gauntlet.  All three felt good and brought new play styles; ice gauntlet bringing some more "magic" to the game.  I mostly played rapier/musket and spear/musket before I changed to great axe/lifestaff towards the end of beta.

With trying out life staff I got my first try at playing a healer in New World.  It is a very unique experience compared to tab-targeted MMO healing and ironically it brings some tab-targeting into New World's action combat.  There is a slew of unique control settings specific to healing; one of which is to enable tab targeting your own group members.  I didn't quite figure out the tab targeting but didn't really need to as area of effect healing was sufficient and I was not healing for any dungeon runs.  Healing felt a little too strong as a solo player; if you max your constitution and use life staff you are basically invincible inside your healing circles.

Dungeons (known as Expeditions) were not in the preview event and were brand new to the closed beta.  I only completed Armine Expedition (several times) and it was a straight forward beat em up; as long as you have a healer you completed it.  Rewards were mediocre; just random gear I ended up salvaging (which is what I do with the majority of gear rewards).  There is a repeatable quest each time you run Armine; the first time rewarding a unique dog pet for putting in your house and then giving a bucket load of experience for each completion.  It is good to see new content in New World, but work is still needed to make the expeditions more engaging and difficult.  Hopefully the higher level expeditions offer more challenge.

Hanging out at camp

Crafting and the economy

Crafting is in a good spot mechanically and seemed about the same as the preview event (i.e. I couldn't tell anything much changed).  There is a ton to craft and that lets you make use of all of the stuff you are collecting throughout your journey.  There is crafting quests as part of the town project boards (that help level up the settlements) which were great crafting experience and great leveling experience.  The only areas I am concerned about crafting are:

  1.  Gear drops like candy from quests and killing monsters (the good ole' kill a wolf and get a battle axe) and also there is great gear available from the faction vendors so there is not a market for crafted gear.
  2. Gear never breaks and leaves the game so once folks have their end game gear I am not sure where demand will come from for crafted gear.
  3. Everyone can do every craft so you can be self sufficient for consumable goods and components.  There will always be lazy buyers who don't want to do it themselves, but there is no way for a crafter to really make their mark.

If there is one thing Crowfall did well it was making a dependent crafting system where players had to work together to produce end goods and thus crafters fit into their expertise areas.  Crowfall also ensured that items leave the economy by permanently breaking at some point and thus drive demand for new crafted goods.  New World has to drive more in that direction or crafting won't be its own area for folks to focus on which will be a miss for this game.

Decorating the house

The economy (or market) of the game was hard to judge in closed beta, but that was expected since progress wasn't permanent.  Early on, it was easy to sell off some stuff like weapons as players looked to play with the new toys that came with closed beta, but that market closed up quick once folks realized everything drops weapons/gear and you will have more than your fair share of it before long.  Having played on a few different servers in different starting areas there is differences on what materials are readily abundant in each area of the map so that felt good that you different regions will hopefully have different prices for goods.

With that mention of regional differences one thing that definitely changed since preview is the ease of acquiring Azoth which is a limited currency (you can only store up to 1,000 at any given time).  It is primarily used for "fast travel" across the world and to aid in crafting.  In preview it was very rare so fast travel was not a regular option; moving goods from region to region required huffing it out on foot (there are no mounts).  You had to be a dedicated market mover to take advantage of price fluctuations per region.  With Azoth being more plentiful fast travel is on the menu.  The more inventory you have the more costly it is to travel so there is some checks in place on mass movement of stuff.  You can also move items between storage in each area for a small amount of gold per item (prohibitive on large quantities; useful for single items). With these changes it is now more realistic to play the game as an economy player (my favorite niche).

Player vs Player

Next up to hit is PvP.  Not much changed from the preview event that was readily accessible.  PvP comes in three forms; open world flagged PvP, wars, and instanced battleground.  The instanced battleground was only available to level 60 players which I did not reach in beta.  Wars are for control of territory in the game and there is an influence system that elects one company (aka guild) to set an army of 50 players for that war.  Wars happen at pre-determined times and unfortunately I was not selected for any wars during the beta.  

I did have my PvP flag on for the majority of of my time in beta.  There is an experience boost of 5% for being flagged and you can complete PvP-only quests for your faction.  The faction PvP missions were changed to be the same every time so you are always going to the same area doing the same things.  These missions contribute to territory control and being in the same area for everyone it can be hit or miss as far as action goes.  Sometimes its a ghost town and sometimes there is a faction furiously preventing anyone from completing missions (aka a gank squad).  Outside of faction missions I had a ton of random PvP encounters; I won some and I lost some.  While there is item damage on death the repair costs are reasonable at lower levels (but I hear they get significant at higher levels) I found that getting killed in the open world meant one of two things: a quick trip back to town that I needed to make anyways or a respawn at my campsite which I religiously reset nearby to any area I was questing in.  PvP kills give a good chunk of level and weapon experience so it was satisfying to get a kill; though I will admit I did more of the giving of experience than gaining when it came to player kills...

Weapons, Armor, and Experience

And with that mention of level and weapon experience it is important to cover how New World works in regards to character definition and progression.  There are no classes or races selected at the start of the game.  There is only humans and your skills are determined by the weapons you have equipped.  Then each weapon has a skill tree that you unlock over time as you level the weapon up (through using it).  You also gain traditional levels through gaining experience and pretty much everything gives experience so its not just grinding monsters.  This set up allows flexibility to switch between set ups; just as I noted previously how I tried multiple different weapon set ups before finishing up on a healer-like build.  

Mr Bad Ass

Armor determines weight class; the lighter the weight the more you can dodge: heavy armor can barely dodge while light armor gets a diving roll dodge.  I think heavier armor also plays into stability of some sort but not entirely clear.  I am not sure if I'm a huge fan of how the armor system works. Later in the beta it started becoming apparent the good PvP approach was to increase constitution which increases health while keeping light armor to keep the advantageous dodge roll.  That dodge ability is significantly better than any armor in my experience (similar to how Guild Wars 2's dodge mechanic was better than any armor or healing).  I am worried we will end up like Guild Wars 2 where everyone goes for the same armor types/stats and the rest of the armor is relegated to trash status.  New World needs to make each armor class more distinct and make some sort of change to constitution so it does not overpower other aspects such as armor.


Before we finish up this post I do want to touch on gathering in New World as it occupied a large amount of my time.  As New World started its development as a survival game the world was positioned in a manner where everything is collectible.  That bush over there?  Can be harvested.  That tree?  Can be chopped down.  That boulder?  Can be mined.  That stone?  Can be picked up.  That dead animal?  Can be skinned and chopped up for dinner.  Pretty much anything in the environment that catches a player's eye can be collected and the more visually distinct the better it is (and the higher level skill required to get it).  What this amounts to is leading the player to almost always having something to do; so many times while going from quest A to quest B I made a dozen stops to gather something.  

Taking care of the infamous dead trees from beta; if its in the world it likely can be chopped up!

My only gripe with gathering is that nodes are static in the world; always in the same place.  I can understand this for the basics like trees and boulders, but for the more nuanced items such as rare trees, metal veins, etc it loses some of the appeal to exploration players who like to explore every nook and crannie.  What feels special the first time you find a hidden node feels a lot less special once you realize it always re-spawns there.  This means high end gathering nodes will be on lock down by players walking a circuit between known node locations.  New World needs to randomize gathering node locations in some fashion; this change would make a huge difference for explorers! 

Chopping down the big tree


Over all New World has made great use of the time since it delayed its launch and delivered a better game.  The transition from strict survival game to more traditional theme-park MMO has created a unique experience that is unmatched in the market.  One of my complaints with the preview event was a lack of variety in content and the team behind New World delivered a bucket load of variety.  Is it going to match the 15+ years of content of a game like WoW?  No.  Is there still repetitiveness in quests? Yes.  However, what the New World team has shown is they can deliver new variety if given the time.  They added expeditions, new zones, and added enough variety to quests to prove it.  New World is on the right path and again it's unique history puts it in a position that is not available in any other game.  New World gives the player the best of both survival and theme-park worlds and that is exactly what has me pumped to no-life the heck out of it on launch in September!


 My crowning achievement of beta; getting my house up to the top points spot so it displayed to the public in Windsward!

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Crowfall Community Top Likes and Dislikes Feedback 07/14/2021

The development team behind Crowfall is looking for feedback; so figured I'd save a copy of my input on this thing I call a blog (oh and because no matter what I try I can't submit posts on the forum; it just times the web page out losing the post).

In a Galaxy far, far away (and many other games I worked on), I would post a weekly Top 5 for feedback and bugs from the Community. This would help me in providing feedback to the team (in addition to all of the other feedback posted on the forums) and also let us know where we are doing good.  So I'd like to start doing this weekly with you, my murder of Crows.  I've even included a place where you can provide me feedback about this thread, (you may want to see a different question listed or want to offer suggestions for a question of the week).  This is separate from our feedback posts we have for Live and Test, as those are more for the patches at the time.  Please do not hold discussions in this thread, this will help me in gathering feedback quickly.  I'm on vacation until next week, and when I return I'll lock this thread and parse the information for the team.  Thanks for playing Crowfall and for providing feedback.

Top 5 Crowfall likes (things you feel we're doing great on).

  1. New player experience; I enjoyed the extended version that stretches into the Gods Reach faction vs faction PvP zones.  In the last beta I played the new player experience stopped midway to where it does now so felt incomplete, but now it finishes what it started.  I'd like the see this model extended further in the game.
  2. Variety of classes and builds; many ways to play
  3. Group harvesting is a cool concept
  4. The art style and direction is refreshing.  Characters and locations have distinctive feel to them.
  5. Eternal Kingdoms can be great; not sure if they are much of anything yet but they feel promising.

Top 5 Crowfall dislikes (what you feel we could be doing better on or a pesky game mechanic that you don't enjoy) and how can we make it better?

  1. Lack of personal progression tracking; everything is very "random" as far as progression once you are out of the level 1-30 (which is all of a couple hours of play).  A good example is harvesting.  You randomly can get an upgraded harvesting discipline by harvesting; could be an hour ... could be days.  This is a terrible way to progress and you only know this is how to progress because other players figured it out not because the game tells you this is how to progress.

  2. For a hardcore game there is not much risk to those that just hunt down other players.  The risk is entirely on those that are being hunted.  I have to chuckle when people call this game "hardcore! Full loot! Not for carebears!".  All bullshit statements.  You do NOT lose your equipped items (armor, accessories, and weapons) on death.  You only lose your inventory; thus if you are just out to kill other players are are literally taking almost no risk if you get killed as your inventory will be empty.

    For comparison I'll use Albion Online.  If you died in a PvP zone you lost everything; loot and equipped gear.  There was a real risk if you decided to suit up and hunt other players.

  3.  The new player experience, while in my list of good things, is simply not representative of the game.  It cannot prepare the player because there is nothing like it after you are done; you are left to a completely undefined and unwritten progression path.  I personally liked the new player experience and would like to see that type of guided experience permeate through the game in the future; this will go a long way to making a consistent experience.  When I roll up to a keep in a guild or faction campaign it should explode ? marks with things for me to do.

  4. Inventory and bank management; need filters and quick sort options.  Specifically "sacrifice all sacrifice items" at fires.    

  5. Character respec locked behind gold or behind paying up for VIP.  This will create feel bad moments since it is hard to know the optimal way to spec your character for the way you want to play.


Top 5 bugs on LIVE (that we may have missed and wish would be fixed). Please be specific and constructive.

  1. Animations cancel when you open your inventory screen, but are still completing which is confusing.  Specifically when mounting up I tend to open inventory and always get confused if I am still mounting up or not since the animation cancels.
  2. Website: I cannot save my forum posts no matter what I try (different browsers, etc).

If you could ask the Team member one question, what would you like to know?  Be nice, seriously don't be a jerk. 

  • Is it intentional for the game to obfuscate how things work or how progression is made; leaving players in the complete dark on how to contribute towards progression?

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Three strikes and you're out! Crowfall Classes

I've been playing Crowfall since it's July 6th launch and have worked a few characters up to level 30.  I've done some quests, some PvP (Gods Reach), and a little harvesting (but no crafting).  And I've struck out on finding what I want to play!  So wanted share my thoughts on what I've tried and get some input on what next to try.

See the source image















Half-Elf Cutthroat of Shadow



I had not given assassins a big whirl in previous betas, but spent a good amount of time getting killed by them so wanted to give it a spin.  I took this character through the full new player experience quest chain (which took me from 25 to 30 after I used the level 25 boost as part of my VIP).  I did not play the character in any group play.


What I liked

  • Stealth is invisibility
  • Big hits and crits
  • Deleting fresh level 25 characters trying to level/farm


What I didn't like

  • Becoming the invisible monster I've always decried in games
  • Struggled to execute positional attacks



Human Paladin



The character I played most in previous betas was a support Templar.  I made the change from a Cleric because I was struggling with single target healing and liked the promises of Templar being a good group support option that is mostly based on area of effect benefits.


What I liked

  • I did the new player quest up to level 16 without training a single talent, spending a single stat point, and only using gear that I got along the way - felt like super tank.  Then I skipped to 25 and leveled to 30 in Sky Point with a group.
  • Able to sustain myself in group fights; Righteous Reflections is sweet
  • Felt like I was helping groups and I believe my AoE effects helped players whether they were in my group or not (not 100% sure though)


What I didn't like

  • Being the focused target in group fights; even with sustain I was almost always the first person down.
  • I did not find a rotation of skills I was comfortable with and struggled to know what abilities to use when
  • Taking Resurrection as a minor disc but almost never being able to use it due to it's long cooldown
  • Did not understand why the class has pips or how pips fit into the playstyle



High-Elf Fanatic



The character I played most in previous betas was a support Templar.  I made the change from a Cleric because I was struggling with single target healing and liked the promises of Templar being a good group support option that is mostly based on area of effect benefits.


What I liked

  • Having ranged attacks
  • Disappearing with Q in group fights and popping out with more BOOM
  • Melting camps of NPCs when farming


What I didn't like

  • Keeling over if any other player so much as looks at me
  • Disappearing with Q in 1v1 only to be immediately found and killed anyways
  • Time to kill feels slow and it seems every class can just leap to you so range offers very little advantage outside of large group standoff fights
  • Not sure if it is my settings or a bug, but I couldn't see most of my attacks so wasn't always clear if I was missing/out of range/etc.  It would be ideal if I saw something like a fireball traveling across the landscape.

Monday, October 12, 2020

I bought a house... in New World

Note: I've procrastinated getting this out so some of the information may be out of date to any recent activity from New World development.   These thoughts are my thoughts from the preview period in September 2020.

See the source image 

My recent disappointment with Crowfall and some burn out in Magic the Gathering Arena lead me on a search for an MMO fix.  Fortunately the Crowfall beta testers were more than happy to lament low player population numbers because of the New World preview event that had just started.  I knew of New World but I really didn't.  I had heard the buzz around their announcement to delay the game from it's original launch to refocus the game, but other than that I knew nothing else.  So I walked into the preview event with little expectation and I left the event with my pre-order placed and some excitement for a new MMO.

The immediate feeling I had wash over from me with New World was that its a beautiful game.  I have the benefit of a recent (and long overdue) gaming PC upgrade and the graphics were absolutely astounding.  At one point I was stalking (literally) through the woods in hunt of elk.  I aimed down the barrel of my musket into the underbrush backlit by a golden sunrise.  The smoke puffed up as the shot went off wounding the elk.  It reeled back on it's hind legs and trumpeted into the morning.  Out of nowhere a second elk head pops up.  A thunder of hooves and I was knocked to the ground.  I popped up and raced to get my musket trained back on the wounded elk but in the thick under brush and terrain of the wooded area I lost the beast.  I was hooked at that very moment.

While the game is gorgeous there is a sense of copy and paste throughout the world.  The first time you roll into that abandoned farmstead is amazing.  The fiftieth trip to a copy and paste version of it somewhere else on the map; not so amazing.  The different zones do have their own feel to them as far as terrain and fauna but buildings felt exactly the same regardless of area in the world.

The core game-play loops within the game follow closer to survival games than they do traditional MMOs which is an artifact of the game New World was proposed to be originally before it was decided to revamp the game.  

For PvE the core loop is get quest, run to quest area, complete quest.  There is not much variety in the quests; either they are kill X rats or open X crates.  This works, but will get old once the game exists for longer than a week so the game needs to make progress before launch on variety of content.  There is also gate events where players can group up to fight bad guys at the gate events in the map.  These were a mixed bag; thematically they were on point and visually stunning (the entire surrounding area goes into a crimson red fog, lighting shifts, and then there is the blazing portal at the center).  Outside of the stunning visuals though they were easily completed and during preview it was quickly discovered that a zerg of lower level players can easily take down even the hardest of these in the game. 

For PvP there is a few options, but I really only participated in the faction flagged open world content; basically set your flag and do quests which earns you more rewards due to the increased risk.  As the game is level-based the experience was a mixed bag.  Fights at equal levels were fun (excepting some specific weapons that are broken *cough* hatchet *cough*), but some times the fights were lopsided due to level disparity.  I will talk more about the level system of the game later in the post.  There is other PvP modes such as castle sieges which look amazing (at least visually) in videos but mixed feedback on how competitive and enjoyable they are.  Personally I am more interested in the open world PvP and faction system.

For the economy players there is crafting and gathering and regional markets (i.e. there is not a global market).  Crafting feels good and the visuals of the crafting stations really dials the feeling in that you are in working in a workshop/kitchen/forge/etc.  The towns were also packed which really made the market and crafting area feel alive.  That may seem immaterial to the success of the crafting system of the game, but it certainly doesn't hurt. 

Gathering in the game is straight forward.  Find stuff, click on it, and collect.  Repeat.  The adventurer in me felt rewarded by finding rarer gathering nodes in various nooks and crannies, but as the game kept sending me back to those areas and the same nooks and same crannies had the same nodes each time it reduced the sense of accomplishment finding them.  Experienced crafters will have these areas mentally mapped and hit them on repeat without trouble.  There was also some common gathering items needed for quests that were just not easily found or accessible so there was a sense that if you found them you were in to make some serious cash.  Unfortunately, again, they are static spawns so as preview continued on they were highlighted in guides for users to easily go and find.  I think a huge improvement to the game would be the randomize much of the gathering node spawns for the higher tier supplies to encourage exploration and variety.  With that said dedicated gatherers have a complete game loop and will be rewarded for their work.  I would like to see some form of mount or cart system in the game so you can take larger loads back to town; mix that with some PvP risk and there is some fun dynamics to e had.

The market aspect of the game is a straight forward auction house in each major city.  There is no global market so there is opportunity for regional price differences to crop up and for the wall street better there is a chance to find those inefficiencies in the market to cut a profit.  I didn't quite get the fast travel system in the game; it uses a currency that I wasn't clear on how you obtain.  You can teleport between cities using that currency but my experience is it ran out super quick (I think I was able to afford a single fast travel the entirety of the preview event).  If fast travel does stay restrictive it will aid in the market player ability to drive markets; if fast travel becomes too easy with large quantities of goods then the opportunities will close too quickly or only be open to the major players making big moves in the market.  

During the preview event it was hard to get a read on crafted vs dropped loot items in the market.  The market was flooded with the dropped loot while crafted items seemed limited.  This may just be due to preview being limited in time so investment in crafting was not happening as it would in the live game.  I think it will be key for dropped loot to be limited in this game and for player crafting to be the main source of quality gear in the game otherwise the gathering loop will become less beneficial and that problem can cascade through the game.  There was no item loss that I could find in the game so once items are in the game, aside from them getting recycled, they are in the game forever.  That makes it really hard outside of consumable items for crafters to feel like they can make a mark.

Even with the downsides of the core loops noted; I found every aspect of the game engaging.  I liked the combat.  I liked the PvP.  I thoroughly enjoyed hunting the various critters of the land and carving them up into crafting materials (meat, feathers, etc).  I chopped down trees just to watch them fall (again the visuals in this game are awesome).  I played the market a little bit; flipping numerous items for quick profits.  I crafted a lot of food and other consumables; arrows was a steady stream of income to feed my addiction to needing ammo for my musket.

The bottom line is there is a solid core in the game and that has me excited on where this game can go.  There is still a lot to be done as far as content goes to drive more rewards from those core loops, but all signs are pointing in the right direction.  

One thing I noted a couple times was that the game was level based.  This feels off for the game as it currently stands.  It may make more sense as content is added to the PvE side, but for PvP its a classic breaking point of higher level = better.  I think the game would be better suited if instead of leveling it had a tier system similar to it's crafting system that operates in tiers.  Each tier above is stronger than the one below but it's simplified into a few tiers vs a bunch of levels (I think level 60 was max during preview?).  While it wouldn't eliminate imbalance in PvP it would allow the developers to more closely balance between players since there is a smaller division between players.  It could also solve the problem with lower level players zerging down end game PvE content as that end game content could lock out lower tier players in the form of damage reduction (i.e. if you are tier 3 you can't do much damage at all to tier 5 enemies in PvE).  And yep my suggestions for tiers can be implemented with levels but then you just boil down to a few key levels where restrictions change and at that point why not just simplify.

To wrap this long post up (seriously it took me a month to meander these words through my keyboard) I ended up needing a goal in preview and I set that on buying a house.  Every house in the major towns can be bought.  Any number of players can buy an instance of the same house so you are not getting your own dedicated slice of land, but the instance of the house you buy is yours and you can place furniture, store items, and I assume do other things (I literally only made it to purchase not to actually using it before preview wrapped).  There is also a chance however you decorate your house will become the default visual everyone sees from the street.  This is managed through a simple voting interface.  You can visit other instances of the same house and vote up the one you want to see publicly; the house with the most votes is displayed.  This is a neat loop into itself and I definitely forsee some house fashion wars going on for players that dig that sort of thing (and again the game is visually stunning so players can really show off here). I'll leave the post on that thought a picture of my fine home purchase.

Friday, August 28, 2020

By Schism Rent Asunder: Crowfall Beta is HERE!

I had to look up when the last (and apparently only time) I had posted about Crowfall was and it was January 2016!  I knew that it was a new years post mentioning I was looking forward to seeing progress on the game but I'll be honest that I didn't think it had been over FOUR YEARS AGO!  Where does time go?  Ironically I had also mentioned I was going to blog more in 2016 and that turned into a whopping two total posts in 2016 and only a handful since (kids, real life, something, something).

With that recapped it is time to drop some thoughts about Crowfall now that the beta has arrived.  I am an original kickstarter backer so I've had access to all of Crowfall's testing phases.  In the last year I've jumped in and out to check on the game, but did not spend any serious time with it. 

I jumped into the beta with both feet and I've now spent just shy of 20 hours with the game.  There is a full game loop this test compared to previous tests, but I did not find anything that makes the game stand out and I am struggling to find anything that Crowfall does that makes me go "this is the thing that makes me want to play".  If I were to sum up my feedback on the beta so far it would be in the two letters O and K.

New Player Experience is OK

Unlike the past tests that I participated in there is a new player experience that is part of the beta (and from my understanding only 2/3rds of the full experience is in place so maybe some of the below issues I call out will be resolved by the last 1/3 when its added).  It is a straight forward quest system that guides the player from point A to B and explains basic concepts of the game.  

Unfortunately while it serves it's purpose it does nothing to actually bridge the player to what is purported to be the real game of Crowfall; the campaigns.  In fact I would say it does the opposite of bridging players.  The new player quest (and leveling to 30 in the God's Reach safe zone) builds the player up under the premise that you are building towards something and that there will be guided experiences (quests) along the way.

However; currently the only available campaign is "zero import" which means the player will have to strip naked, empty every single inventory slot, and dump everything into their bank in order to join the campaign and literally start over.  No where in the new player experience does it explain that and players can find themselves having geared up for a cosplay party at a nudist colony with strict entrance criteria.

Yes, I can hear forum warriors screaming "there is more than campaigns!".  There is "The Infected" that is a "safe" PvP zone available after level 15 which has no restrictions, but it's not clear what you actually do in "The Infected". Again just pointing back that the game does nothing to bridge you to the next step content. 

New Player Experience; OK at introducing you to the basic mechanics and GREAT at abandoning you without a whisper of what to do next. I'll admit I've not had that experience in an MMO in close to twenty years.

Leveling is OK

Leveling is simple in Crowfall.  Max level is 30 and can be reached within a matter of hours (I've gotten it down to about 2 hours now from 1to 30... it is that easy).  If you group up each group member gets 100% experience from every kill and as a group you can rifle through camps of monsters pretty quick (though respawn rate is glacial so I can forsee problems when population increases).

While leveling is easy what is not explained is that you will have to re-level when you get upgraded "vessels" which are upgraded characters that start over with better stats.  The basic take away (again not actually explained anywhere to you in the game) is that you will always be leveling in this game and characters are disposable so don't get attached.

Leveling; OK because its quick and GREAT that you get to do it over and over and over and over WHICH leads me to my next point.

Choices are final, yo!?

Crowfall is a game of choice and those choices are locked in when it comes to your character.  There is no undo button or respec.  Once a decision is made; whether in the passive skill system (more on this in a bit) or in assigning stat or skill points its final.  This is all fine and dandy except when you realize that wrong decisions can render your character unusable.  Forget to leave enough skill points to unlock minor/major discipline slots (basically leaving your character unplayable) and you will be starting over.  Have the audacity to increase more than a single stat point and therefore hamper your character?  You can't redo them so back to the new character screen and back to leveling!

This is honestly a mind boggling design.  As noted leveling is not hard and the PvE content by which you level is NOT an area Crowfall is focusing on so its a pretty damn boring experience.  Why on earth the game would want to force players back through that versus giving a method to undue/redo stat points is baffling.  It is complete "feel bad" as a new player.  I had to abandon my first two characters because of this.  I can see new players quitting over this without ever getting a taste of what the actual game is supposed to be.

This is the point I should also talk about the "passive" skill training system where you earn points every few seconds (whether logged in or not) that you can then spend on a skill tree to unlock various nodes and the effects are account-wide.  It is very much an EVE Online clone.  You can only gain points in two of the three tracks (you can switch which tracks are earning).  Once you spend points though its final; if you want to go a different direction you have to wait the required amount of time to pursue that alternate path.

Probably the most frustrating portion of the passive system is that some of the very first content you run into in the campaign is gated behind a week or more of passive training (and then only if you know exactly what to unlock and don't dilly dally points away elsewhere).  This goes back to the new player experience feedback and how it actively teaches you the wrong thing about the game.  Through the new player quests you are learning about harvesting yet when you get to the campaign you cannot harvest the nodes that you were trained to think you can harvest and no where does it explain why you can't harvest them or that you may need to go to the passive skill tree to unlock the ability to do so.  The lack of feedback in this game is astounding.

I honestly don't know why the passive skill system is in the game other than to time gate stuff and ensure that any new player in the future is utterly frustrated.  Maybe I am missing something, but I can't see how it contributes to the game in a meaningful way.

Also on the topic of choice one interesting area where choice is not locked in is your choice of faction in the current Dregs Campaign.  You can change your faction and in the current beta (as of this post) we are seeing a bit of faction hopping as a prominent guild has "unguilded" and opted just to play with "the newbs" in one faction.  Thus we have an exodus from other factions.  It's a curious decision.  If there is any decision I'd say warrants players being locked in it would be something such as what faction they select when joining a campaign since supposedly the game is all about campaigns and rewarding players for doing better in them.  Being able to flip flop factions (there is a time delay so it can't be overly abused) seems like an odd place to offer choice to the player when so many other fundamental things are locked in upon your first click.

Combat is OK

If there is one area that I struggled the most with it is the combat.  I'll be honest; I do not like it and it will be the reason I stop playing.  It is "twitch" based as in that you have to aim your attacks/skills (even heals) but the classes/skills are all built in the style of tab targeting combat where you are trying to chain skills together on your target.  

Without any form of lock on targeting there is a higher abundance (at least it feels like it) of skills with some form of area of effect (AoE).  However, it looks like there is a cap on targets so only a limited number of enemies can be hit by an AoE.  In some cases for cone AoE attacks they only hit one target which is really frustrating in crowded combat.

The "hit detection" is pretty generous so I didn't have much issue landing my clicks on target.  I know some players would like to see the hit detection tightened up, but personally I prefer the generous approach as the game (animations, skills, etc) do not lend themselves to a precise hitbox.

The aiming applies to melee as well and you do have to be right on top of your target to land melee hits.  This can be frustrating when combined with the fact that every character (player or NPC) in the game seems to have some form of super leap ability (don't even get me started on magical flying centaurs) which makes for a lot of Cotton Eye Joe "where did they come from/where did they go" moments. 

The best description of combat is the term "floaty" (which I nabbed from this video).  It is hard to describe in words, but as KiraTV noted in the linked video you will understand it when you play and I couldn't agree more. Attempting to use some words to describe it; there doesn't feel like there is any weight to combat.  Everyone is leaping about (just about every NPC you fight included) and characters seem to move as if just slightly skating above the actual ground.  You never feel like you are actually committed to combat and in group settings there is a lot of "I'm going in deep" over Discord voice chat as the bowling ball classes leap into combat (but knowing full well a second later they are jumping back out).  I'll touch base on crowd control in my comments on PvP.

And there is something I just cannot pin point with the combat to make it click with me.  I really struggle with getting skills to fire.  So many times I thought fired a skill or ability, but nothing happens.  No feedback; nothing.  Many skills are also just slight variations of something else so they feel very "samey" which contributes to the confusion.  

There is also some sort of resource system for each class, but of course like so many things in the game it's not explained and the error messages that flash on screen "not enough X" don't really help.  The main problem here is this type of system is best suited for tab target combat (using the term tab target as I lack better vernacular here) but is slapped into a twitchy wannabe FPS combat system in Crowfall.

Player vs Player is OK

If you read my section on combat then you know that I won't have much more to say about the PvP, but I will touch on a couple things.

To footstomp the note about the "floaty" feeling of combat: characters are flipping and zooming all over the place in combat and it is annoying and frustrating (I'd wager 50% of the skills in game are worthless aside from getting lucky with some button mashing to land them).  Centaurs take the cake on the ridiculous movement from having leaps and double leaps (I will admit I am not sure if these are class or racial unlocks) that are the equivalent of an in game Superman impersonation.  A good portion of my playtime was grouping up with a centaur champion pit fighter and in PvE I was lucky to be able to reach the mob in the time it took the centaur to have leaped and killed the target.  In PvP they were in and out of combat before I could even think bout contributing.

There is crowd control in the game so enemies can certainly be locked down, but that almost feels entirely designed to punish solo players so they can't escape a group or for stealth gankers to execute their targets victims.  In group combat scenarios with the twitch combat landing crowd control on key targets (at least CC that is not AoE based) is a tall order.  There is some skill in here somewhere (I've certainly been wrecked by getting locked down with CC in fights... well... mostly when trying to escape fights), but its beyond my grasp.

There is different areas for different types of PvP.  "The Infected" map for safe PvP where you cannot be looted on death.  Then the campaigns where there is full loot PvP (except oddly equipped gear), sieges, attack/defend points, and some smaller activities I haven't explored.  The biggest problem with this is the game does nothing to explain why you'd want to do any of it.  

I literally cannot figure out what "The Infected" is intended for.  It states "level 15+" so you'd assume you could jump in at 15 for some fun.  Yet the first PvE mob camps are 20+ so you can't go on a PvE excursion and the PvP is... ganking?  Maybe this is the practice area for us plebes? Maybe if I'm scared of full loot PvP and I'm not interested in campaign rewards then I'm supposed to play here?  CAN SOMEONE TELL ME PLEASE (preferably in the game)!?

I have some comments around the larger battles as well, but as I've not experienced them myself I am going off videos and other player feedback.  I will sum it up by saying I had sincerely hoped I'd never see another dodge/leap and AoE roaming zerg spam fest after Guild Wars 2 (dodge and AoE being my biggest complaints of GW2 combat). Unfortunately Crowfall missed my memo on that.  There is nothing really new here on the topic either; Crowfall has all of the same problems that this type of combat system brings and none of the lessons learned from those other games to discourage blobs of people piling up.  Is that hard to ask games to incentivize reasonable size combat scenarios instead of never-going-to-work "biggest fights of any MMO ever!".

Campaigns are OK?

Maybe?  I am not really sure.  Not much is explained about them in the game and after several hours playing guild-adjacent I can't say I've learned much.  At a minimum there are a few constants: 

  • I can't harvest anything (assuming passive skill system unlocks are needed, but again not explained in game).  
  • You will get ganked the moment you set foot into the first area (the maps feel small)
  • You will spend a lot of time roaming around and playing "capture the thing"

As I mentioned in my thoughts on the new player experience the current campaign is "zero import" so players are starting from scratch; just your character, levels, and disciplines.  In my experience (joining in a week+ after the campaign started) I immediately felt behind the curve and a character without any gear felt completely helpless.  With the small map sizes there is really no place for a solo player (well unless you consider the classic just-what-every-MMO-needs "stealth ganker" as "solo" play) to advance and gear up.  You will need friends (and you better go to the guild recruitment forums because there is no find-other-players-that-are-doing-stuff tools in the game unless you feel like getting hoodwinked and ganked by using the public chats to organize something).

I will have to revisit my thoughts if I stick it out long enough to see a campaign through.


Yes dear reader I can hear you slapping your desk and screaming "JOIN A GUILD".  That's a great suggestion; games are always better with friends.  This would be great if the game explained the importance of joining a guild and had a great feature set supporting active guild recruitment, player grouping, and other social connectivity features.

My follow up question to the "JOIN A GUILD" screamers is "then what?".  Joining a guild doesn't exactly unlock anything other than other's to play with.  Why does it have to be a guild?  There are factions in the game; why can't it better facilitate players working together without the construct of a guild.  

Some other things...

Just some other odds and ends (mostly negative; again struggling to find a light here with Crowfall)

  • There is no UI customization and the UI isn't great; at a minimum you need to be able to rearrange items and scale the UI.  After World of Warcraft I had just assumed we'd never see another MMO that didn't feature customizable UIs... how sadly wrong I was.
  • The UI is also a mess in some key areas
    • Buffs/Debuffs are represented on the top right as a stacked list. You cannot click or hover over them (that I can find) to understand what they are and there is no reasonable way to reference them in combat and there will be so many stacked up that they are basically meaningless.
    • Every time you loot it opens up your main character UI screen, the loot window, and any window you had not closed.  Hopefully you don't misclick and invest a stat point on accident because as noted that stat point decision is FINAL on click (whether you intended it or not).
    • Speaking of looting; there is no loot all or auto loot options.  Truly hardcore; to the fastest clickers goes the loot.
    • And speaking of looting; sometimes loot is sprayed out like candy from pinata instead of being in a screen you click in.  Harvesting also works under the pinata model as well which requires you then to go run over the items you harvested to actually collect them.  I'd prefer if the game went one way or the other; candy I just run over and pick up automatically or always have to click to collect.
  • Crafting is... well.. I don't know. Another thing not very well explained in game (and even more confusing if you venture on to the Internet to find out more).  At this stage of the game you get enough loot from leveling that you don't have to think about crafting outside of some basics for bandages and food.  Crafting is supposedly a "big deal" in the game but your average player starting the game will not know that which is disappointing.  I honestly miss the days of Ultima Online where you really had to find the merchants and crafters to keep you going right out of the gate.
  • There is a food system in the game? Why?  I don't know.  Its feels like another "idea on the pile because another game did it".  Maybe its about crafting?  Buffs?  It sounds like it works like Guild Wars 2 where you need food to get specific buffs and thus becomes an annoying "thing you just need to do to be able to play".
  • There is the (now standard it seems in MMOs) drag an item out of your inventory to destroy it feature which seems like a really odd choice in a "full loot" game because players can literally just dump their inventory to avoid it getting snatched up.  Probably can't dump everything but in the group I am playing folks have set up macros to insta-dump pretty much everything if they know they are going down.  Generally if you are going to have a "full loot" system you avoid outlets for players to get rid of stuff.
  • Stealth; meh.  Anyone that knows me knows I hate it.  It's dumb and is really invisibility; not stealth. There is an entire major discipline (Mole Hunter) that is intended to root out stealthers so at least there is some acknowledgement that it has to be kept in check.  This is good because the gerbil race gets stealth as a racial feature (I fully support unique racial traits... just not this one).  It cracks me up that there is "gerbil gank squads" that can  have a healer, DPS, and tank that can all go poof in/out of nowhere.


Final Thoughts

My final view of Crowfall is that it feels like a collection of ideas from various games rather than its own unique experience.

  • The characters/classes/skills want to be a tab target MMO while the combat wants to be an FPS; the game needs to go one way or the other instead of trying to straddle both (I'd recommend going tab targeting and I feel bad saying that)
  • The passive skill system wants to be EVE Online but without any clear reason as to why or what its trying to accomplish for the game (other than becoming a hurdle for new players to join the game in the future).
  • The hub/spoke model to the maps wants to be anything but an actual massive online anything

I'll be honest that I am disappointed.   The combat is the part that sticks out to me the most; it does not feel good and that will be a huge item for me to get past to continue with this game.

The lack of feedback about anything in the game is astounding and a road block to enjoying the game.  Some of this will be fixed with the last part of the New Player Experience, but that's only scratching the surface of the problem.  Skills/abilities need a hair cut; we need fewer and more impactful skills that pair well with the twitch combat and then that smaller set of skills/abilities need to be really clear to the players on what they do/don't do when being used.

Crowfall is OK; not great but at least now a full game you can play.

A quick note on performance

I have a new gaming rig (details) and saw pretty solid framerates the entire time I played.  I did not get into any major sieges so did not see combat at scale.  In smaller skirmishes (at most 20 players) I didn't notice any performance issues.  I tend not to get into FPS or other performance metrics; I base my feedback on how the game feels when playing and nothing felt off to me.

With that said I am not sure what is at the root of my feelings around combat.  Again it felt really clunky and I repeatedly didn't see skills fire that I thought I was using.  There could be a component of optimization/performance that I am overlooking, but as I've seen this same feedback about combat almost universally from other beta testers I tend to lean that it's just a core issue with the combat system.

But what about that post title?

Curious where "By Schism Rent Asunder" comes from?  It is a book by David Weber in the Safehold series which gets my vote for some of the best book titles in Sci Fi!  As it was present in my mind (and to-read pile) I wanted to throw it in the title (because #reasons).