TLDR: The game has a solid foundation, and the passion is obvious, but still has a very long road to travel.
I’ll start off with the larger points and gradually get denser and more specific towards the end. This is mostly aimed at the developers, but welcome discussion from the community, so I’ll assume anyone reading this is fairly familiar with the game.
Characters as of this post: Level 50 Void Knight, Level 48 Necromancer, Level 12 primalist.
I like the overall themes and options presented by each class. My necromancer feels like a necromancer, summoning hordes of minions to do her bidding. Even when the skills are functionally deviant from the archetype they would normally belong to, like spells an minions for the sentinel, the aesthetic and theme prevents them feeling out of place.
Each class points you in the intended direction, while still giving you a little of everything to play with. Melee options for the acolyte, and ranged attacks and minion options for the sentinel.
Some of the build options can feel a little frustrating because their skills don’t have trees yet, but I’m excited to see the NYI Masteries and 4th class.
Skills and Skill Trees
There’s a decent mix here of fan favorites, standard options and stuff unique to LE. If an ARPG has a Whirlwind/cyclone ability, I will use it at some point. I will mostly be referring to Necromancer and Void Knight skill as those are the two I played the most.
As I said above, nothing really felt out of place. Slinging hammers and spinning to win made just as much sense within the constraints of the game as sending enemies through time and having an exploding orb of death follow me around. There’s a pretty good mix of options to toy around with for each class so that pretty much everyone should find something they enjoy using.
Skill trees add a welcome additional layer of depth to each individual skill, ranging from pure power increases to a complete transformation of the base skill. Overall I very much like this system, it tears out what most games put into traditional passive/class trees and distills it down into some very fined tuned knobs to turn and tinker with. Being able to modify my hammers into a chain reaction, Nova, or orbiting deaths saws felt very good. But not everything is sunshine and rainbows. Here are a couple things I have issues with.
Unspecced skills are extremely weak, to the point of unusability. You just really can’t use Abyssal Echoes unspecced when I have 10+ points into hammers or warpath. Getting a new skill felt weird, because I couldn’t really give it a fair try without completely abandoning whatever I had specced currently, and if I ended up not liking skill I would lose a lot of progress. The trans-formative aspect of the trees also makes a lot of skills feel very incomplete until key points on the tree are reached.
Some of the trees are also very bloated, and lack solid direction. Warpath and Skeletons are the best examples of this that I have came across so far. Warpath has 101 available points and Skeletons has 116! Of that we can only spend 20! (Which I couldn’t find mentioned anywhere in game) This pretty much only allows you focus on one very specific thing, forgoing almost any other utility the tree might offer. If I want the pull from warpath, I need a minimum of 7 points, which skips the 3 pull area points behind it. This blocks me from being able to meaningfully invest in the Void or 2-hand sections of that tree costing enough power to make the skill viable for damage. Skeletons is worse, as you are practically forced to path to the “don’t summon X” on opposite sides of the tree before you can even begin optimizing anything else. A lot of the nodes simply have or require too may points as well, going all the way up to 9(!) in some instances, that’s 45% of the available points.
The skill trees also have the unfortunate side effect of sucking a lot creativity out of the main passive tree. Since all of the fun and interesting stuff is in the skill trees, the passive trees are relegated to % increases with some nodes attempting to try and leverage more interesting interactions, but ultimately not feeling great.
The passive trees follow some of the same issues as the skill trees in regards to point spread, with a weird mix of nodes costing anywhere from 1 to 10 points. But the main problem with it here, is that since the majority of the functional changes exist in the skill trees, a lot of the passives feel lack luster. Being flat damage or defense increases, and often just completely irrelevant for your build. When I got a passive point it more often felt like I was choosing the least worst of my options instead of the best. I also often completely skipped a tier.
My personal suggestion here is just lean into the skill and passive tree separation. Remove a lot of the power nodes from the skill trees and make the choices there about utility and functionality. This would allow a better focus on the power presented in the passive tree to make more min/max customization choices.
- I know some changes are in the works for this so I’ll just post my thoughts on respeccing in general. I am a tinkerer and experimenter. The easier and more accessible it is for me to change on the fly the happier I am. I absolutely loved the ability to just change runes constantly in Diablo 3. I was not all a fan of how punishing Path’s system was, but this was heavily mitigated by the existence of Path of Building allowing me to spec everything out before committing in game. I know some people worry about replay-ability with such a system, which I disagree with. Instead of having to level a new character for a new spec in the same class, it just affords me the possibility to roll another class and have the freedom there. I often leveled 3+ characters during a given D3 season. But a compromise could be locking a class into the chosen mastery and allowing a lot of freedom from there.
- Drops are in kind of weird spot, approaching the PoE style of hucking a truckload of loot at the player and forcing them to sort it out. It’s hard to outright ignore everything as you may want whites for crafting bases and blues can roll mods than you want to shatter. That being said, I rarely found a piece of gear that was worth equipping outright, but I could often find an ok base and slap a couple health and damage shards into it and be good.
Overall I think I really like this system. Easy to understand, reasonably easy to make decent items, but has a gap from there to top tier. I love that I don’t have to be at a crafting station to do it, and that shards have their own inventory with a mass store. It is a little frustrating to target specific shards. When I was ready to start stacking void damage, I found that I only had 2. Then I was forced to start looking at basically everything on the ground for things to shatter, and even then I wasn’t getting a lot.
Speaking of shattering, buying and using shatter runes is very tedious. I would personally love to see a mass shatter option. But as is, it’s super annoying to have to check the vendor every time, and then manually place the item and shatter rune in the crafting window every time. I’m fine with it having a cost, but I think an infinite buy from the vendor would be reasonable along with some kind of right-click shatter functionality.
- It’s hard to talk too much about this, since I haven’t found that many but one thing I have noticed so far is is falling into the PoE style of almost everything having a downside. I think it’s a valid option when the positive effect is very strong, but putting downsides on already mediocre uniques makes them unusable. I’ve seen this same sort of direction with a lot of passives as well and I think it’s just as unnecessary there. Also I’m guessing that uniques don’t scale with level, which means a lot of cool unique effects on low level items will never see endgame play due to being purely out-stated. Maybe those can be rolled into the crafting system as unique shards or something.
Show current tiers at a glance option.
Preview how much of an increase you get from each craft.
Stash search/sort function.
- Pretty good options here, I think there a bit too many defensive stats, feeling like I’m spreading myself thin. Nothing really feels useless except maybe health on kill and the potion stuff I’ll talk about later. I do have a pretty big issue with…
- Leech as a stat is an extremely slippery slope. I thinks that it’s exceptionally difficult to balance and always ends up in a loop of just building as much damage and leech as possible so that the only thing that kill you is straight up one shots. PoE has struggled with it constantly and it’s still the best defensive option for 99% of builds. It would personally make me very happy to see leech just disappear and leverage regen, on hit, procs and potions as the main sustain options.
- I don’t really understand the design intent here with potions. It’s a weird mix of D2 and D3. I like that they are impactful and limited, but don’t like that you have to find them on the ground to replenish. This means that I typically don’t have them when I need them most, against bosses. I think a charge system would work really well here, and current potion find stats could easily be retrofitted to decrease recharge time if desired. I would also love to see a small, like 1 second CD on potions as it’s very easy right now to just panic slam the potion button and use them all immediately when it’s not really necessary.
- Fuck stun. Hard stop. Stun is probably my least favorite thing in PoE. Getting punished for already taking a big hit is absolute nonsense to me. Please remove this.
No farming stats? I’m a bit surprised at the complete lack of the inc rarity or gold stats.
- I’m sure it’s not possible to change anyones mind on this front. But I much prefer a no-trading (outside of current group) approach to ARPGs. I think the second you introduce a player to player economy in the game, it warps the drop-rates to a state where players are unlikely to ever actually find the things you want themselves so that they are forced to interact with the trade system. The experience of getting that unique, or last set piece as a drop myself is infinitely more satisfying than finally farming up X gold and buying it from the trade window.
I have good amount of class specific feedback, but I think I’ll save that for a another post. This is already pretty long, the last thing I want to mention is something a lot of people have mentioned as well. Mob Density. It’s just too low currently.
I hope all this feedback helps, I think this game has a ton of heart, and a lot of potential.
~2k hours played Diablo 3
1420 hours played Path of Exile
~600 hours played Marvel Heroes
20-40 hours each played Grim Dawn, Torchlight, Hero Siege tons of other loot based games like Borderlands and Destiny.
Professionally employed Video Game Systems Designer.
And last but not least, 27 hours into Last Epoch Beta. Just trying to paint a picture of what kind of player all of these thoughts opinions are coming from.