So with all the changes since the game first launched in Early Access back in March, I thought it would be interesting to revisit (or in many ways visit for the first time) the new player experience as of 0.36.
Many active forum participants have dozens of Citadel Levels and primarily focus on higher level content. Most if not all of their followers are maxed (to the limit of what they can be without further crystals); most are attempting to do 50+ skirmishes and dungeons daily; many have huge piles of gems and keys, just waiting for the best value to come along; and most are waiting for the next Epic or more hopefully Legendary Evolve to enhance their gear set options.
But what is it like to be Level 1 again? How has the game changed for the new player. Is it better? Is it worse? I think we generally know some of the not-so-favorable changes (cough spells cough) but I was curious to know what the experience is like in full; so that’s what I did. Time to start again!
I started a brand new account, drew a class randomly from a hat (Berserker!) and set off to Etheria with my Cloth Shirt and Leather Belt to do battle. I am currently Level 15 and here are my thoughts to date.
Oh so Slow!
The game is much much slower now to start. With the mana increases to spells and the lower mana gain (a 3 gem-match gives 30 mana), it often takes 3 turns or more to even cast your first spell. This is not so bad at first but it doesn’t get much better after about 15 levels. My match lengths are almost exactly the same because gear growth is challenging (I’m currently equipped with all uncommons and 3 rares with 1 thankfully being a weapon), mana accrual remains slow (I’m up to 33 mana for a 3-gem match, huzzah!) and every bit of extra damage you squeeze out of your weapon or spells is soaked up by increasing difficulties of the enemy. I have currently made it through Chapter 3 with relative ease but my fights are certainly getting a bit harder (losing more health comparably by match end).
Two Starting Spells is Dumb. Dumb, Dumb, Dumb. Really Dumb
Most forum commenters here know this, but this change in 0.35 really made no sense. Now that I’ve had a chance to play the game as a starter again, this setup just pisses me off. Level 50+ people with Citadel Levels and a full spell library primarily focus on creating mass blobs of mono-color mana, effectively recreating their game space to their advantage. As a new player, you are at the mercy of the gems on the board. With your two starting spells, you often find yourself matching 3 other colors that you get virtually no benefit from (other than Ultimate mana gain) and feels very frustrating when you make 6 or 7 matches in a single turn (“so many moves!”) but they are all off-color (“so little benefit!”). Furthermore, when you do unlock those spell slots, they just stare at you, like dead empty eyes telling you how inadequate you are. I am now Level 15 and I’ve picked up a few extra spells, mainly thanks to the Dungeon Event that had spells as Loot Table Rewards. Interestingly I picked up a Channel Darkness and a Cloudkill so it looks like my next class to play will be Assassin!
So many Keys, so much Vault!
With the increase in match times, I have more than enough keys to handle my basic chest needs (principally wooden and iron). The introduction of Events is both rewarding once you can handle the Tier 1 fights (I was able to beat them regularly at Level 10) and takes up time; most importantly no keys required. The addition of the extra chest slot means that you have a better chance of being able to store and open those much needed ruby and diamond chests. I am not “grinding” (playing for hours a day) but instead treating this more like a daily play account so that helps as well. I highly recommend joining an active guild at the earliest opportunity to get a few gold keys for those much needed first minions.
Shop Til You Drop!
The shard Daily Deal options denominated in gems are a real benefit and quite useful. When I first played I didn’t spend gems on shards ever; there was no little need. You were able to beat content easily with Level 1 spells and mostly Level 1 gear. Now, however, you can feel the pressure to get some additional levels on your gear (armor and resistance) and weapon and spells (for that extra damage). The Minor and Lesser Shard packages at x50 for gems is very affordable and a great use of gems for the new player. It doesn’t feel overpriced based on your gems earned and actually becomes something you look forward to seeing in the shop. As I mentioned in my shop post and confirmed by my experience here, too many uncommon/rare Scrolls/Runes are in the shop offerings (you get more than enough based on pace of play from the new Events)
PVP is the Worst
There is something deeply dissatisfying about matching a ton of gems in your first couple of turns, still not getting enough mana to cast a spell, and watching your life be chipped away in chunks until you are dead. It’s like a form of slow cruel torture. Would it be much better if I had 4 unique color spells to at least benefit all this gem matching? Maybe not much, but it would at least be something. As it stands right now, I don’t see how the average new player plays PVP and doesn’t want to just quit then and there. It’s bad. It needs some fixin’.
Summary (TL;DR version)
- All in all I don’t mind the slow change of pace to start. Really having to think about every single move is not something you have to do as much after the first turn once you unlock Citadel and acquire more gear/spells/etc. BUT! …
- Please put back 4 starting spells, period. It’s not gamebreaking, but it may just be game saving, not only for the player, but for the game itself
- The new Event system is good. Lots of rewards for the early player (especially those much needed spells when they rotate in). The addition of these time intensive events don’t require any keys and are really helpful to get a new player going.
- The Shop provides a lot of benefit to the new player; don’t be afraid to spend gems early on the Shard packs, or a minion. Be careful though; lots of overpriced stuff you don’t need. Also, don’t waste your gold on Scrolls/Runes; get them from the Events.
- PVP sucks terribly; do enough to get the Tier rewards and then be ok with giving the middle finger to the dailies for Honor unless you just have a lot of time to burn.
(EDIT) Forgot to mention, given the emphasis on weapons since the 0.36 patch, the lack of available weapon shards is just painful. Also, since you don’t get the weapon crafter follower until Chapter 9, you are really at the mercy of RNG to progress your weapon.
Sure you could pay the US$5 for the Starter Pack but will it be the color you want? and it will still be stuck at level 5 until you get more shards.
If you are a newer player, let me know what you think!