Hello! I’m new to this whole reddit thing, so forgive me if I do a goof.
I’ve been playing Empyrean since its release fairly religiously (Though that’s fallen off quite a bit in recent months), but while I’m a huge fan of the system even I can’t refuse to admit that the system has a lot of fundamental issues which need to be addressed.
I figured I could take the opportunity to share an exhaustive list of critiques and observations I have made from my experience with the game mode. Hopefully, you’ll find this insightful!
End of Round State:
Railjack is effectively one large endless mode, as illustrated through its seamless level transitions.
The problem here is that, unlike other endless modes, there’s no system in place for players to say “Okay, I’m done.” and leave confidently. A player's only option is to abort the mission and there is FUD regarding how that’ll affect their rewards.
This results in a play rhythm that–on mission completion–has the pilot immediately going back to their dojo and either A) leaving the players there, or B) having to explain that they’ll be going back in and waiting awkwardly for players to either acknowledge or leave.
If I’m the ship’s owner, I’m fine with loaning my ship to remaining players to do with as they please, especially since it’s expected to not impact me beyond that point, so there’s no reason there shouldn’t be a formal means for any player to drop out.
The current set of standard mission rewards is insufficient with regards to the current time demand these missions call for.
The game tries to supplement this with a slew of bonus rewards, but these rewards are always railjack resources, which may be largely useless to one subset of players and eventually fall off in usefulness for the remainder.
In the future, missions which reward these resources need to be segregated off into their own mission types.
Until then if I want relics I’m just gonna do Disruption.
The Gunner Role:
Gunners typically serve a versatile role that goes beyond the scope of their designation. They clear boarding parties, are the away team, and operate as their own boarding party, if need be. They might have also offered engineering support back when ship malfunctions were more prevalent.
One issue that catches my attention is their access to Battle Avionics. Through experience Battle Avionics have proven themselves to be entirely within the domain of the pilot, and gunners either recognize this and don’t use these powers, use them purely by accident, or spam them to deliberately troll (Though this is extremely rare).
This is why I feel that Battle Avionics access should be removed from the gunner seats and replaced with a dedicated, cooldown-based avionic that only they have access to (At rank 5 of the gunner skill, perhaps).
A potential approach to this might be to take the Battle Stations and Death Blossom avionics and move it to this new slot.
The Engineer Role:
The roles of engineers has diminished with the reduction of ship malfunctions, but how they operate at the highest levels is unchanged.
You may have noticed, in the previous entry, that I suggested replacing the gunner’s rank 5 with a proposed gunner avionic access, when that is where they gain access to the forward artillery. This is because the gunner does not typically use it, and instead it is operated by an engineer.
A max-rank engineer will often sit in the forward artillery and use Anastasis to repair any ship malfunctions, leaving only to forge Dome Charges and Flux Energy.
For this reason I not only suggest giving forward artillery access at rank 5 engineering (In addition to the ability to forge dome charges), but also expanding the forward artillery system to make this element of play a bit more involved.
One approach I’ve considered is adding a “Rear Artillery”; there’s a tail component slot for the Railjack that was scrapped before release, and it might be possible to reintroduce it as an expansion to the forward artillery.
How it would precisely interact with gameplay is beyond the scope of this critique, however.
Friendship Doors 2.0:
Many missions objectives demand coordinated actions between a railjack and away team, but this approach to asymmetrical play reveals its artifice very quickly.
I’m talking about shooting radiators. Not only is this approach very tedious for solo players, it doesn’t serve as a compelling or organic motivation for players to split up, and ends up becoming a glorified friendship door.
It feels like this mechanic is born out of a lack of confidence in the game’s foundational mechanics and their ability to encourage asymmetrical play, when in reality those foundational mechanics prove to work perfectly fine.
In, say, a sentient ship mission, once all the secondary objectives are addressed, the pilot is more than content to leave the players at the sentient ship and go off to do their own thing, such as farming resources or maybe (if there’s one around) poking their head in an infested derelict.
I’ve played the railjack exhaustively, and in every mission I have only seen players cooperate in a way that is productive and efficient, and that includes running off to their own corner of the map to do their thing.
So, in the future, I’d probably avoid doing mechanics similar to the radiators, unless the focus of a given mission type is a lot narrower and pilots don’t have better things to do with their time.
This one is a bit longer and more convoluted, and revolves around one of the fundamental mechanics of railjack’s stat customization, so bear with me here.
To start, Let’s talk about mods.
There are a lot of mods which are “No brainers”, mods like Serration, or Split Chamber. 99% of guns will always have these mods. Modding is a system that seemingly encourages flexibility. Why, then, are there these inflexible elements here?
It’s because mods such as these represent a form of unambiguous progression. A maxed out serration is a maxed out serration for all of your relevant guns, without exception.
What matters is that not all slots are filled with these types of mods, and that occasionally there are variants of these mods that offer a unique twist (Such as amalgam mods).
I’m explaining this because Railjack’s integrated avionic system is basically the same way, but where mods work these avionics simply do not.
You only have one railjack, and with only one thing to mod with only one environment to interact with, there will invariably be a dominant strategy. The system’s mechanical ambiguity only means you create unintended fail states for particularly inattentive or unlucky players.
When I’m talking about unambiguous avionics for the Railjack, I’m talking about avionics like:
- Hull Weave
- Anode Cell
- Polar Coil
Having most of these mods is the difference between embarrassing defeat and trivial victory in Empyrean.
This is made even more silly by the fact that we already have unambiguous progression for railjacks in the form of Components. Really, these avionics should be folded into those components.
Health and armor might need to be its own component, or just become an integrated mechanic that you upgrade with resources.
Integrated avionics themselves can be made more compelling by how they interact with the components you choose.
Sentient Fortitude, which provides sentient damage reduction to shields, is a good example. Sentient Fortitude is more effective for railjacks that have a larger shield pool, thereby encouraging a component selection which emphasises that.
Another example might be Predator, though this argument only works if there is a status equivalent to counter it.
However, while removing these mandatory avionics might open up more options, other, preexisting avionics might assert themselves as mandatory in the power vacuum, and subsequently call for a reexamination of the integrated avionics system as a whole.
Tactical and Battle Avionics, by contrast, operate acceptably at this point in time.
This is a variety of smaller concerns that bear mentioning.
- The turret house balance system is askew. Having a house that is just unambiguously better than the others at the cost of heat accretion (Which by now is a trivial concern) renders the other houses pointless. One house should be crit focused, the other status focused, and the third balanced.
- The Command Intrinsic’s demand increases as time passes and the crew pool dwindles, and is going to be essential for long term solo play.
- There are a lot of minor cosmetic bugs (especially with the Caballero skin) that are Really Important and Must Be Addressed Immediately.
- The unique bonuses level 3 components offer (Such as archwings receiving a bonus speed when deployed) might need a pass; many of them are underwhelming and don’t see much use.
- It would be nice to use the slingshot on larger ships and buildings.
- Conversely, it would be nice to have tasks that only archwings are able to do.
- Using the emphasized resource acquisition indicator for all railjack resources is excessive. I only need to know about components, avionics, and forge resources (And even then, only until my forge caps out).
- Speaking of which, the refining option for the forge is entirely pointless (especially now that it auto-refines after you leave). Intrinsics which boost refinement amount feel like a silly attempt to justify the mechanic, and should be changed to something else.
- It is worth considering implementing a Dishonoured-style energy recovery for Flux Energy, where casting an ability will refund some of the energy spent if you don’t use another ability for a time. Otherwise, players are prone to being conservative with its use (Particularly as it relates to the tactical menu).
…And that’s it, I’m done! No more rambling, thank you for your time!
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