I can only apologize for having a fairly messy system of note-taking while playing games. I was hoping to find more specific/private places to discuss elements that I may just not be understanding the intention behind. Not really knowing a good place for that, I guess I’ll follow suit with those posting first impressions as threads.
I finally got some time to boot up Phantom Brigade, and quite quickly ran into a lot of opportunities to expand on player understanding, or lack thereof. I played the tutorial, the first mission, and the post-mission into going into the second mission/encounter. (Which is to say that these are very much first impressions, and potential hangups, and not an in-depth analysis. Apologies for misunderstandings, disagreements, etc.)
List of Things I do not know:
Where to get new mechs/upgrades/pilots
How to tell if anything is valuable, or worthless.
All I really seem to have to go on is that salvage gives me things, in some abstract form? Since that’s for beating a mission, it should be good, right? This seems like a really basic issue that the tutorial/introduction NEEDS to introduce. Not wanting to drown the player in all the customization, systems, etc. seems fine. This should be the front of the line. You can wait a few levels to get into like… research/upgrades, customization, etc. but I’m leaving the tutorial needing to answer questions I don’t yet understand the answers to.
How much health enemies have.
How much damage my attacks will do.
If % effective is a hit thing, or damage falloff.
Which shots will hit enemies depending on my adjusting aim to hit maximum % effectiveness.
When/if enemies will attack.
How much damage enemies will do.
How much health/armor/etc. my mechs have.
If an enemy will survive an attack or not.
When my plan for a unit will change because an enemy died.
→ A way to adjust when shots are fired.
→ Shots fired earlier because another unit died often hit cover, as positioning is wrong. (Should stick to plan, regardless of a target dying, to keep plan good.)
Collectively I don’t know, how, if, or when I’ll lose a mech, or mech functionality of weapons, movement, or abilities. This can be a good way to introduce dramatic tension if used correctly. If I can know when my plan has moments of pass/fail, I can play up my excitement as a player. Telling the player when a shot will happen will let them plan for it, and even if they don’t know how much damage they’ll take, they’ll know which shots they need to survive. (Additionally allows the player to have MUCH more precise and fun movement in and out of cover, using shields, etc. Even if it’s JUST when an enemy will shoot, not what or where, etc.) Without this sort of knowledge, the prediction engine mechanic just feels like controls. Kinda sloppy ones, which limit precise control. This could make it feel better, and more fun for very cheap.
The consequences of unit damage/death in missions.
Loss conditions for a campaign.
Win conditions for a campaign.
This results in not knowing the right move. I’m told certain activities make me vulnerable to attack, or prevent movement. I am not given any information about how that is or isn’t relevant. Why wouldn’t I salvage? As near as I can tell, I can’t use salvage for anything, nor can I tell what the benefit/loss in having more fights is. More fights is more salvage, right?
It seems like not moving doesn’t matter. It can result in combat. Which, if I could move, is where I’d go to? Hey, like… I see there’s a moral bar, is this a goal? Is there any game effect? I do not have the information I need to do much. The tutorial needs at least Dark Souls levels of vague ambitions as like… a minimum.
The mech editing is a nightmare UI/Menu issue. It’s overlapping and unclear, with no good navigation/clear controls for navigating the menus.
The mission planning is a nightmare UI/Menu issue. It’s overlapping and unclear, with no good navigation/clear controls for navigating the menus.
Does right/left clicking go back? On some screens, yes. Where is the launch button, and how do I get back to it? I like the color changing UI buttons, and the animations thereof. The menu being a maze, in which I will hit the wrong button multiple times, makes this for a questionable first place to encounter them. If the menu stack started with two of those buttons Start/Menu and Exit, probably settings, the player could get used to what interactive buttons/elements and options look like.
- Armor shape alternatives/transmogs. (Ideally unlocked via achievement, or DLC purchase, or whatever, and just available on all armor looted.)
- Quantum drive (Allows a unit to have multiple plans for movement, and one only locks as a fixed position when it shoots, or is shot at, allowing for many paths of strategy/scouting until combat starts.)
- Rename Mechs?
- More pilot stats. (Kills, damage dealt, damage taken, exhaustion as a bar, ejections, etc.)
- Tutorial remake: Intro level shows off more mechs, you’re overpowered, but learn what you need to about gameplay. Then you get to salvage, get introduced to replacing a mech that dies a scripted death, for the ‘when a mech dies in combat, it does in real life’ message.
After this, have your scripted lose it all to impossible odds introduction to what’s going on. Then, welcome to the rag-tag version of what we had, your goal is to get back to what you had, then overcome what you couldn’t before.
Or, whatever the basic progression is. By splitting the tutorial into two prelude missions, you can tutorialize all the important systems, and get much more time on setting/characters.
Is Phantom Brigade us? Is it the bad guys? Does it refer to something we just don’t know yet?
You have some voiceover of a good or baddie on the existing shot-from the trees, emerge from the trees cinematic, and have either a baddie or a goodie say “…a Phantom Brigade.” as you zoom out and logo, you can explain so much about the basics.