I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this is hands down one of my favorite games of all time, the oppressively dreary and militaristic setting that Avalanche creates is absolutely bone chilling, but it still manages to draw me further in every single time. The design of the enemies is simply amazing, and startlingly realistic, and it seems that with each update the developers only manage to make the backdrop of the epic battle between man and machine that much more incredible.
That being said, this game has it’s fair share of problems; a LOT of problems actually.
GZ is too easy to make easy, if that makes any sense. Regardless of what difficulty you play on, you still receive the same quantity and quality of loot from fallen enemies, the only thing you obtain from running around on anything higher than adventure is bragging rights, especially considering that the machine’s AI changes very little. I’d like to say that the game’s balancing was broken when they introduced the difficulty settings themselves, but it really started back in the rivals update.
The railgun is literally the best weapon in the game, once you’ve found one you’re not going to find anything else that’s more effective for dealing with anything larger than a runner. And it’s not exactly difficult to find either, there’s only like 6 possible experimentals you can pull off rivals, and you can just keep jumping servers and farming other people’s until you get it.
The combat AI is far too stagnant, even the machines that seemingly are built with mobility in mind completely stop in their tracks before attempting to shoot at you; it’s not like it matters though, your character is fast enough to avoid bullets just by sprinting apparently. All the higher difficulties do is multiply how much damage you take in the event of getting shot, which feels like a cheap way to make the game harder imo. Nothing about that incentivizes me to try and employ different strategies in fights, because running and gunning works just fine.
Difficulty should scale off of the player’s level, which would assumedly translate to their experience with the game; as the player progresses through the game, the machines would start to adapt new tactics to combat them. Always targeting the components on tanks? Maybe they’ll start to purposefully block their weak points with those giant armored legs of theirs. Relying on your speed to stay out of runner’s effective range? They might start chasing after you with shotguns and firing on the move. Taking more stealthy approaches to combat? Hunters love to sneak up on unsuspecting players, and they don’t obnoxiously announce their presence until they’re right on top of you. Alongside these evolutions in the enemies strategy would be the increasingly frequent appearance of more advanced machine types with stronger weaponry.
I’m not going to try and sugarcoat it, GZ’s story is not engaging to me in the slightest; I have like 150 hours logged in the game and I don’t think I’ve ever spent any of that time trying to actively complete one of the quests. It doesn’t really seem to matter though, I’ve actually played through the majority of the game’s missions without even being aware of it due to how they’re literally unrecognizable from the base gameplay. The primary quest line is a literal paper trail that leads the character from one exposition dump to another, culminating in a ‘ending’ that’s recognizable as the luke-warm climax because it has the game’s only cutscene to date.
I understand what they were going for with the whole ‘piecing together what happened’ thing, but that sort of plotline doesn’t really work in a survival-horror-action game; it’s pretty evident that the robots either killed everyone on the island or caused them to evacuate, the only question is why, and the game doesn’t even answer that in more detail than ‘idk, but they belong to our military.’
The DLC’s are decent, I’m not sure why one of Alpine Unrest’s big selling points was supposed to be that it had human NPC’s, your only interactions with them will be listening to their orders over a radio, or walking up to their perpetually stationary bodies and asking them what part of the island they want you to go and kill more robots in. The only reason I even bought that damn expansion was so I could have a slightly better chance of encountering the new ‘apocalypse’ variant machines and getting the new LMGs.
FNIX Rising seems to have more to offer, it brings a lot of new additions to the map like little outposts and shit for the machines, but considering that I found the DLC’s entire item pool in 20 minutes by exploiting a HUGE loophole in the game’s looting mechanic that I legit stumbled upon entirely by accident, I didn’t really have any motivation to even play the game after that.
I think that the developers need to either try and backpedal to pre-existing content and rework it, or focus on implementing features that actually change up the gameplay, not just slap in another tank variant with more health and stronger weapons.
Since I ended the previous segment with a reference towards mechanic changing features, let’s talk about what is in my opinion, a really poor implementation of that; the skill tree itself is little more than changes to values in the game’s code or gameplay features that really should just be accessible by everyone. I don’t think I would have such a big issue with the system if there wasn’t a level cap, but considering how 75% of the actual skills are just stat buffs in one way or another, I understand why it’s there; difficulty would fall right through the ground because player’s would become literal demi-gods.
There’s not enough skills that provide players with new strategies to employ in combat beyond encouraging them to hoard more grenades or become tick pod junkies. I’m actually convinced that the tech tree was designed by Swedish satan himself as a sick practical joke to bait players into wasting their points; imagine my disappointment when I finally got the hacker spec on my first character and found out that if I wanted to take over anything larger than a toaster that there was a 70% chance that it would just alert it to my presence instead. Speaking of wastes of points, there’s multiple skills that literally just increase the amount of experience points you get for doing various things, so you can hit the level cap with even more momentum.
I think the perfect fix to this would be to remove the level cap, but place a cap on how many skills player’s can have active at one time; that way they can’t just devour every stat boost in the combat tree and then still have room for support and survival. Maybe there could even be skills that allow players to use two specs instead of one? With the recent expansion of the crafting system, I think there’s a lot of potential for it to tie into the skill tree.