It’s been a while…
DH5 is now 4 years old since its conception and boy, has it been one heck of a journey.
So, at the request of Sussel (the current Community Manager), I initially set out to write what features of the game I found to be enjoyable and what could’ve been improved upon.
But after some contemplation, I thought, hey, let’s be ambitious and cover all of the major game modes that have been introduced into DH5 since the game’s beginning (or at least as far as I could dig up in archives).
For the sake of readability, this article will be one of two parts. The first covering Storyline Campaign, Stronghold, Events; and the second detailing Guild Wars, Trial of Elements, Arena and Citadel. As mentioned, it’ll be a nostalgia post, where I review all the things with a mix of what I liked and didn’t like about each mode. This will be based on how these progressed over the 4 years.
Disclaimer: I do need to state that I wasn’t around since the very beginning as I created my character since Aug 2015 when the game was first released in Mar 2015. I’ll also avoid sounding like a grumpy grandpa, complete with “Back in my days, things were sooo much better”….honestly, no one really wants to hear that for the nth time. 😛
*Edit: Many thanks to Eclogite for pointing out that skills weren’t T7-able during the SHv1 period, but instead T6-able. 🙂
As a necessary staple for every RPG, DH5
features featured a slew of solo-missions which I personally enjoyed a lot. These were some of the things which I looked forward to in each upcoming update (at least when they were being released).
One compelling aspect was that each series of missions were part of a unique theme (eg. Xinkashi, Kenashi, Forsaken Sands, Adamant etc). And these themes gave a certain design style to the weapons, armors, minions and even stronghold rooms.
Unfortunately, the missions stop abruptly at Mission 94, where the main character sacrificed him/herself to be encased in stone to substitute the place of the the cursed prince.
It did give a nice closure to the bounty hunter series, with the backstory to the main character and all. But I did feel that it was a sudden stop to the series nonetheless. Somehow this does make you wonder how the series will progress from here on: whether they will bring back the missions in future updates or continue it in the next installment (…or is there even a next installment lined up?)
One untapped potential I felt was that the campaigns could have tied in with the other key events of the series. This would give a reason why game modes like Guild Wars or Arena were introduced. For example, explicit tie-in missions, such as the main character causing a war to break out amongst different bounty hunter factions during the Corvus-Doppleganger saga, would’ve helped in giving depth to why Guilds engaged in war with one another.
Solo missions could also give a rationale to subtle combat changes, like the power scaling amendments or the revision of the Dodge mechanic. It could also explain the birth of Legendary skills, like why can we call upon Divine hammers that fall from the heavens. Or even be cheeky and tease the reason behind certain game issues, eg. the annoying slight delay when swapping between same weapon types (ie. glaive to glaive).
TL;DR: Campaign missions were fun! But sadly, they don’t seem to be continuing. Also, much could’ve been done by using missions to give depth to the game.
Oh man, this one will be a tough topic to address.
I’ll start with a controversial statement and say that I thoroughly enjoyed both versions.
Each had their own merits and flaws which I daresay both make each version good and problematic at the same time.
The first Stronghold system (Mar 2015 – Sept 2016) focused on diversity with its 10 minion + Keeper setup. It definitely gave more freedom to play around with different minion combinations but with a minion limit to prevent players from putting in too many overpowered champions or minions in their lineup.
This variation also added another layer of uncertainty since their Keeper could be equipped with gear that it was opposite to the stronghold room’s element. That made the raiders more cautious to prevent being ambushed by a keeper with element advantage.
However, the ever-growing power creep from gears and skills made it possible to ‘cheese‘ through certain rooms, with newly
T7 T6-able skills (eg. Fire Cone, Ray of Darkness etc.) which players could spam from a distance and not get hurt at all.
While there was the possibility of adjusting damage and stat modifiers to counter this power creep, I did appreciate that the challenge of revising the entire Stronghold mechanic was undertaken instead of sticking to the old ways (much to the unhappiness of many).
That said, the second edition of Stronghold (Sept 2016 – ) placed emphasis on structured development, adding a workshop to upgrade your stronghold and minion bonuses but cutting the number of minions from 10 to 5 as well as removing the keeper.
This had the benefit of building less minions for one’s stronghold and have permanent progression over time. Such enabled overall stronger and heavy-hitting minions and faster-paced battles too…
This was problematic at first as players were rebuilding their strongholds almost from scratch, leading to many facing weak strongholds. However, the difficulty scaled up quickly with some of the less-popular minions becoming increasingly overpowered (eg. Ranger, Ogurin, Spirius) when boosted by the added bonuses and special effects of certain trap rooms.
In a way, the loss of flexibility further ‘encouraged‘ players to go with certain desirable rooms and minion combinations. Thus, it placed a lot of attention on go-to minions which escalated further with Minion mastery… leading to frustration from not getting that all-powerful specific champion.
In the Current State
However, the current cycle seems to repeat itself as the strongholds are once again succumbing to the power creep. This time to fully mastered past items and newly released S-grade gears. Even with the release of the T7 Strongholds (which I will probably talk about in the future), it seems that more modifications need to sustain the challenge in raiding.
I do wonder if there will be an overhaul to the system… though that itself seems unlikely unless there is someway to reimburse all those Stronghold stones players spent to get their 70% max bonuses.
One thing that I do need to bring up is that the stronghold trophy system and guild tournaments (GT) have been (sadly) very resistant to change and exhibit the more brutal aspects of player-to-player competition.
While I can understand why the trophy system was designed to be as such, I do believe that the mechanics could be more forgiving when progressing up the different ranking tiers. Perhaps with a system that reflects activity, where more frequent raiding is essential to stay within a certain league (ie. the higher the league rank, the more raids need to be done).
Despite all the criticism, I do strongly believe that strongholds were a key component to DH5 since they provide a healthy dose of challenge which I daresay few of the other game modes come close to doing.
The (friendly?) competition also helped to sustain interest in the game and became a main conversation point where guild mates bonded over. I even found myself missing raiding a lot more when I took a break from the game due to *cough*theconstantcrashing*cough*.
TL;DR: Strongholds have changed significantly from the start, and now it has seen better days. Nonetheless, I do quite like the challenge and competition it provides and hope it gets better from here. 🙂
Last but not least (for the first part), it goes without saying that Events are one of the things that got me started in writing this blog.
The concept of bounty hunts was very much appealing to me, especially from destroying your target and wearing its gear/skin as a prize – something which traditional hunters do as a form of reward and portraying dominance.
In addition to the weekly leaderboard ‘bounties‘, events also tie in with real-life celebrations/ holidays (eg. Spring Festival, Easter, Halloween, Christmas etc.) while giving players the opportunity to earn better than average novelty gear. It was also a chance for the devs to create new map environments and design new monsters.
The one which I liked the most is last year’s Spring event where they introduced FangLiang as the final boss. The change of spatial environments, coupled with the progressive build up of battles, provided a Diablo-esque feel while giving a healthy dose of challenge against a high HP hard-hitting boss (without health potions of course 😉 ).
Additionally, I deeply appreciated the cultural references and the Easter eggs (not the literal ones in the upcoming easter event). My personal favourite being the YuLong minion since that was a deep-cut reference into the origins of the chicken-like dinosaur. That actually got me to delve into some serious research for a couple of days. 😛
Speaking of rewards, I did feel that there was a conscious attempt to improve upon the event reward system which spanned from the Wanted Challenge to the Legendary Hunt variations. However, the changes came in peaks and troughs: certain times dropping high-end gears constantly and others having players scramble to the top just to get a single unique evolution material.
Unfortunately, a major complaint is that the events were rather grind-y if a player wanted to get a high rank in the leaderboard, or lately even some participation reward tiers. This was especially so when the Rush ticket system was first implemented, this degenerated into a sort-of bidding system where who had the most rush tickets and gems wins the novelty item.
TL;DR: The concept of the event missions was alright but execution felt like an auction house. More importantly, the cultural references and easter eggs were most appealing to me.
That’s all I have lined up in Part 1.
And if you’ve gotten this far, yes, I left out co-op intentionally. 🙂