As the title says - I’ve just played a fraction of what the game has to offer so far, and barely got to level 20-ish, but still, I wanted to share some feedback while its still fresh.
Let’s start with a positive - The primeval dragon fight feels great from a design perspective of an early-ish game boss - it captures the feeling of “this is not some random creature” from the get go, and the surrounding environment amplifies that feeling even further.
But most importantly - the fight is linear and enemy moves are visible, feel intuitive - all the abilities feel like something a dragon might have, so there is no immersion-breaking “why-what just happened?”, and the dangerous skills which it uses are telegraphed just enough for even a beginner to dodge, yet pack enough of a punch that you most likely can’t afford to just stand there and whack at it. Though that does depend on your build, I suppose.
But overall - coming from games like PoE, where the visual clutter takes up the entire screen and you sometimes can’t even possibly see what just one-shotted you or even which monster - the encounter felt particularly refreshing and interesting despite its simplicity, so good on job on that one!
Now onto the less rainbow-y stuff. The damage and the leech/regeneration balance. This is just the very early game, and still my character who literally put every skillpoint and itemization possible into defenses died three times. Don’t get me wrong - that in itself would not be a problem. The issue, however, is that those three deaths were all oneshots!
And this is just the early game, so I can only imagine what lategame feels like. Actually, I can do more than that because I’ve browsed the forum a bit and watched some videos. Do take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt obviously, because I’ve only got to level 20 so far.
Now, I could say Monsters with the “Taking damage grants bonus damage” modifier, or however it is called, are particularly problematic. I could say that the damage is overall too high. I could say that, but I won’t, because I don’t believe that to be the case.
What I will say instead, is that, from my limited playtime, the game looks on route towards the precise pitfall problem plaguing lategame Path of Exile - and that pitfall is the damage vs sustain dilemma.
The inbuilt means of regaining health, especially with all the modifiers you can get from gear, skills stacking are just too powerful for anything to kill a player character within a reasonable amount of time. Meaning 2-3 seconds at the very shortest.
What does this mean? It means the only way to create any real danger is to introduce mechanics that allow monsters to produce huge damage spikes with one-shot potential, hence bypassing sustain completely. You can’t leech back any life if you’re dead from 1 hit, after all.
This, in turn, forces all characters to spec into enough mitigation to try and survive at least 1 or 2 hits from anything, because as long as they do, and truly crazy RNG isn’t involved - they will instantly go back to full health within a 0.5s or less.
This applies even in extremely early game - I’ve found a spear with +5hp/hit, and I used warpath on monster packs - guess what? Who needs regen or potions when your hp is always back on full in under a second.
So, to sum it up so far - absurd means of sustain, from my experience seem to create an equally absurd degree of need for burst mechanics in order to threaten the characters that make use of that sustain.
This spikey damage creates a need for speccing almost entirely into defence at all times in order to avoid being oneshot, particularly in hardcore. Why is this an issue?
I imagine (almost) everyone here knows how PoE works, so I’m gonna use it to illustrate an example - when was the last time that any build without at least 2/3 of your passive skillpoints spent on defensive nodes or getting to them was truly viable?
The answer is, in path 1.X.X, and its now 3.9 in that game, and the problem has been ever-growing. So -
Extreme damage spikes that are a necessity due to sustain stacking create a need for huge investments in defenses in turn, making a lot of customization obsolete - you cannot afford to spec into what you really want to, because that will just end up in you being one shotted.
There is also the other side of the coin - things cannot hit you if they are dead - so maximizing your damage output to the true extremes can ensure that you almost never get hit - which is what caused the several-million-DPS meta in PoE in the first place - no need to worry about boss mechanics when they die in 5s and cannot use them.
Potions also suffer from the same problem in the long run - there is just no room for hp recovery consumables when the state of health is so close to binary in the first place - which what I wrote before leads to - i.e a situation where you’re either dead or at full hp at any given moment, with nothing in between and no room to react to damage before it kills you.
And it all starts with sustain being outrageously good!
And it currently, from what limited knowledge I have, seems to have the potential to be that good in Last Epoch too. So I just wanted to speak a word of warning - because this is, imho, a road towards quick powercreep and trivialized content, a road towards “kill things faster” and “rigid meta builds”. A road towards “80% of all nodes on the skilltrees are never specced into”.
There is, of course, always going to be optimal builds and… less optimal ones - but the gap shouldn’t be outrageously huge, unless someone put almost no thought into the latter.
So - I truly believe sustain has to be nerfed - limited, is the better word - for the health of the game. One idea I have is to make leech/hp gain happen over time and introduce reasonable diminishing returns for hp recovery from all sources. Not a hard cap, but a soft one.
For example, if you would have regenerated 15% of your hp and leeched another 50% over one second, that would put you at 65% total recovery/second, which would be heavily reduced due to being over the cap of, say, 20%. Getting more sustain would still increase how much you can regain per a unit of time, but the value would very steeply diminish, to the point where going over, say, 40%/second would be nigh-impossible.
This change would allow the game to turn away from one-shot mechanics (save for heavily telegraphed moves that should punish players for not moving out of their aoe or otherwise reactive play), in favour of a more sustained damage model - where health would fluctuate, rather than pretty much instantly go 100-0 or 10-100 due to burst/sustain.
This, in turn, would make it possible to make encounters last longer, be more meaningful and engaging. If everything dies within 1-2s, what point is there in monsters being different - in the end, they don’t get to fully utilize their arsenal of skills anyways, not in that timeframe.
It would allow for a game where monster damage is not balanced around everyone having all resistances maxed out at all times, and monster health is not balanced around them dying quickly (because if a creature doesn’t die quickly, and gets to live longer - it gets to deal much more damage, which is a no-no in an already damage-oversaturated game balance).
It is also more fun for the player when combat is not a binary - is my survivability greater or is the damage? It makes for fun multiplayer too, and I guess that’s going to be a part of the game too in the future, and it would be a shame if it ended up like it does in games like PoE - forgotten because its non-optimal in the endgame.
Forcing players to play with others is not the way to go, obviously, but neither is forcing them to play alone in a multiplayer (in the future) game. And said multiplayer needs a reason for teaming up. If everything, players included, dies too quickly, there is no reason to do that - as there is no holy trinity of healer-tank-dps, or anything to replace it then, nor is teamwork important. Instead, it quickly devolves into button-mashing damage fiesta.
And this is the future possibilty that I wanted to warn about. I sincerely hope someone on the dev team reads this and gives it some thought.
As I said before, I’ve yet to play much so what I’ve written could be wrong outright or horribly misinformed. If this particular issue has been, consciously, considered already, great!
I really do want the game to succeed because… it really is pretty good, feels quite refreshing and seems like it hasn’t many of the issues which most aRPG’s currently on the market do.
Which, is, again, precisely why I want it to avoid this pitfall of a vicious cycle of Sustain->Burst->Mitigation, which makes no room for true character customization in the end.
Could doing away with the vast majority of possible one-shots lead to a trivialization of content? Possibly, but imho, not inevitably so, depending on how it is balanced.
Once again, I’m really enjoying the game so far and wish it all the best!
Thanks, for reading, to whoever made it so far