Hi all! I’ve spent over 40 hours play Phantom Brigade just this past week - it’s been a long time since I’ve so thoroughly binged a game like this, and I’ve never done so with an Early Access title, so I definitely feel you’ve got something special going here. Congratulation to everyone on the team, I can’t wait to see where this game goes over the next year.
That said, it is still Early Access, and so there are some issues that need to be smoothed out. I’ve been making a list as I’ve been playing, and here are areas I think could benefit from some clarification / tweaking / fixing. I’ll steer clear of wishlist stuff (more weapons! more mission variety! etc) because I know you’ve got that in the works already - this is just stuff that’s not quite working right already IMO.
I absolutely love melee in this game, however it seems a bit inconsistent so far:
-In the early game, when I melee attacked enemy mechs, I was knocking them over regularly - in fact, not only knocking them down, but knocking them backwards into buildings, and it was fantastic! For quite a while now though I haven’t been doing so, and I’m not sure why. I know it’s related to weight class, and so I spent time speccing a mech that was both fast and heavy weight, and have been targeting medium weight mechs, but I’m rarely knocking them down, much less backwards. Is this a bug?
-Suggestion: using a melee weapon should effectively add +1 weight class during collisions, in the same way that using a shield does
-And related to the above: it’d be really good to have a way of knowing where the boundaries lie for the different weight classes while customising your mechs. I know they move from medium to heavy somewhere around weight 84-ish, but that’s only through experimenting, there’s no way to actually show it outside of battle AFAIK.
-It’s difficult to judge the power of melee weapons at the moment as they have no top-level damage stat. I know the actual damage of a weapon is some calculation based on its base damage and its level, but don’t know how this works. For other weapons there’s the top level “damage in burst” / “DPS” value, but melee weapons don’t have this. So is a level 15 melee weapon with base power 130 more damaging than a level 10 one with base power 200? No idea! (And on that note the base power of melee weapons has been consistently going down throughout the campaign - started at 200, now at level 25ish I’m picking up mostly power 90.)
Subsystems have the potential to be a really engaging part of mech customisation, but at the moment they’re pretty poorly explained and not easy to use.
-It should be a lot clearer which subsystems are fused and which are customisable when you’re looking at body parts that you might equip. I think (bizarrely!) that the size of the translucent grey bar behind each subsystem indicates this, but that’s really not a good indicator.
-Suggestion: maybe it would be best to whether or not subsystems are customisable consistent by part rarity - e.g. common parts all have fully fused subsystems, uncommon are also fully fused but with better stats than common, and then rare parts all allow you to customise all subsystems? Rather than this body part lets you customise subsystem x, this other one lets you customise subsystem Y, etc.
-There should be an option to strip subsystems when unequipping / scrapping a body part.
-In battle, if I click one of the action icons - wait, run, etc - and there is a unit (friendly or enemy, actual position or predicted) underneath that icon, the click will select that unit - and this happens a lot given how hectic the battlefield gets. Oddly, I’ve only had this issue since the November 20th patch. It’s made me get used to using the number keys for actions instead, mind!
-Heatsync subsystems show power as a positive value, when they actually drain power - i.e. the show “power: 2” but they actually meant “power: -2”. Similarly, gyro systems show weigh as a positive value, when they actually reduce weight.
-Had a notification saying my sniper’s shield had been destroyed in a battle - which was news to me, given that he doesn’t use a shield!
-On the campaign map, if I right click to target an enemy convoy, my mobile base actually moves towards the ground the convoy is on, rather than the convoy itself (which is moving, obviously) - so you have to constantly readjust if you want to actually attack the convoy.
-This one’s a bit anecdotal, but I went through a period for about ten or so battles (level 20ish range) where the only weapons I were finding as loot were Assault Rifles and Medium Handguns. Every single enemy bot was dropping those and nothing else.
-Again anecdotal, but my “sniper” doesn’t seem to be able to hit the broadside of a barn with an actual sniper rifle. I get him to the right range (100% weapon efficiency), stop moving, he fires off a shot…and misses. Consistently. I’ve had to switch him to Marksman Rifles, which work fine, but I want a one-shot killer, dang it!
General suggestions / questions
-There should be a clear indicator of which weapons should be fired standing still, and which can be reliably fired on the go. I know this is related to spread value, but it doesn’t seem consistent - I’ve found some weapons with high spread / variable spread fine to fire on the go, but others with low spread / a single spread value where they’ve been ineffective unless I’m stood still (including a shotgun!). A clear UI indicator would help a lot here.
-Since the Nov 20th patch, there have been dots after the item level on the salvage screen (e.g. Assault Rifle Lvl 25 • • • • • • •) - what do these mean?
-It’d be great to have the option to auto repair mechs after battles. I know this will cost scrap later on though, so maybe a post-battle screen, giving you the cost and a repair all option?
-Controversial opinion time - I think there’s currently too much loot in this game (not least given that there’s no way to scrap it en masse) and most of it is useless. At first it’s fine, as you’ve got basic mechs and everything is an improvement, but quickly enough it becomes almost a chore sorting through it for the few bits you will actually want to use. I should be excited when I get loot, not dreading the fact that it’ll be busywork finding out it’s useless and then throwing it away! I think it would be a lot better if you got less loot, but each upgrade you did get was more meaningful. And if you want to keep regular item drops, maybe consider having single subsystems drop regularly still, but actual weapons / body parts could be a lot more rare. Especially when there’s an actual working economy in the game, so if you really need a slightly better , you’ll be able to buy it.
-On a related note - you should be able to scrap items from within the mech customisation screen, not just from the Inventory.
-Also you should be able to switch between mechs on the customisation screen using the F keys, rather than having to exit one mech and then go back into another. (I know you guys like Front Mission, so I’m thinking how in Front Mission 5 you could hit L2 / R2 to switch mechs in whichever submenu you were currently in - arm, body, weapon, backpack, etc.)
-Even more controversial - I think most weapon values should be standardised by weapon type, with only the damage, mass and maybe heat changing. What I mean by this is that, for example, all Assault Rifles should have the same min / max / ideal range, same spread, same duration, same number of bullets per volley, etc as each other. Because there’s so much variety within the weapon classes at the moment, it means that the distinction between the classes is greatly lessened. Obviously you can’t use a shotgun like a sniper rifle, but most of the automatic weapons feel pretty similar at the moment, with many acting outside of what I would consider should be their role - e.g. I’ve found an HMG that can be fired accurately on the move like an Assault Rifle. If you more firmly standardise values across each weapon type, I think it would lead to a) far more “grokkable” upgrades and b) far better established role archetypes for your mechs.
OK, this ended up being pretty long, so I’m going to cap it here and go play more of the game. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.