Warhammer: Vermintide

Temp HP completely defeats the purpose of the game

warhammer 1 - Temp HP completely defeats the purpose of the game
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I recently returned to the game after not playing since launch, and after a few days of acclimatising myself I've noticed a massive problem. The level 20 temp hp talent row is what I'm talking about. Vermintide, like Left 4 Dead before it, is ultimately a game of resource management. You progress through the level, and over time you make mistakes or get hit, and it costs you healing resources to patch yourself back up. The challenge comes from the abundance or lack thereof of the healing resources needed to fix mistakes.

 

This is a wonderful core game mechanic, as it leads to a tense experience. When damage mounts up and you don't have the resources available, the tension rises. The time between hordes becomes both a welcome relief and an amplifier for the tension. Heads on a swivel, searching for healing supplies and trying desperately to avoid missing an ambient rat or special that could strike you down while you're vulnerable. On harder difficulties, the resources get scarcer while the cost of mistakes increases, leading to a smaller margin for error and demanding higher coordination from teams. When things go wrong the team needs to be able to handle that. It's an amazing system and I'm shocked more games haven't sprung up in this genre. Seeing my friend group improve and become able to handle the challenges of the higher difficulties in Vermintide 1 was a real treat.

 

And now we move on to Vermintide 2, and this core element of resource management and attrition has been gutted. At launch, there was a similar issue with ranged weapon ammo. The management of ammo to deal with dangerous threats from a safe distance was rendered irrelevant by ammo regeneration abilities that allowed a single shot fired into a group to return large amounts of ammo. Range was the name of the game, and I remember the arguments from V1 veterans and newcomers.

I stopped playing the game before the ammo issue was fixed, and was delighted to see that it had been addressed when I returned. However, the same exact issue but with health has replaced it. Temp HP.

Temp HP was originally a bleeding out state. You didn't ever want to have temp hp, because it was only present when you'd been downed and were walking wounded. Desperate for some healing supplies to get you back into the fight. If you didn't find healing quickly, your health slowly drained, making the margin for error smaller and smaller. Ratcheting up that tension.

 

Now look at the state we're in. An oncoming group of rats isn't a threat to be eliminated, it's free health. Special or elites attacking during the downtime between hordes aren't reminders not to drop your guard. They're free health, carrying your temp hp to the next horde so it doesn't deteriorate.

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The time between high intensity waves is no longer both a welcome reprieve and a tension increasing search for both enemies and supplies. It's now that boring downtime.

You no longer get worn down little by little with every mistake. Because the rat that slipped through your defences didn't hurt you. It just took some of your temp hp away.

The tension is gone. The tradeoff of taking tomes instead of carrying healing supplies with you is practically nonexistent. Finding new healing supplies isn't a run saving boon, it's just a chance to top off. The feeling of triumph as you limp across the finish line is rare. The sweet relief of staggering to the next set of healing items. The difficult choice of who to heal when there isn't enough to go around.

 

What happened? The challenging gauntlet of pressing on to the next set of supplies has been replaced with a hack and slash. Desperately avoiding damage has been replaced with hit trading. Messing up and having a foe slip through the groups defenses has no consequence far too often.

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Needless to say, this has made the game easier. Champion is considered braindead easy by experienced players. The second hardest difficulty. The difficulty the game should be balanced around. Thats fucking insane. Legend is considered easy, not braindead easy, you have to think and coordinate. But its considered easy by a lot of experienced players. Legend+, modes like Onslaught, aren't considered an absurd best of the best challenge, they're treated like a relatively normal difficulty mode.

The difficulty levels below Champion are considered something you progress through. Not something you pick due to skill level, or wanting a certain experience. They're considered a stepping stone.

 

Now I'm not going to pretend the game can't be hard with the abundant temp health. I'm not going to pretend that I find the game easy. I'm not yet an experienced player. I have trouble in pub matches on Champion and Legend. I can't solo Legend and don't always win when I solo Champion. I know there's going to be a new difficulty level with Winds of Magic, and I know that there are modded difficulty levels for those who find the base game too easy.

However, there is a major problem with this. It's not all about the difficulty. The problem is the core gameplay. It's not about the hordes being too easy, and throwing higher damage, higher health, more numerous hordes isn't going to fix the issue. The issue is that the core gameplay of being slowly worn down is compromised.

 

You don't get slowly worn down, because your health goes back up again with every kill, or every stagger, or every crit, or every cleave. Each mistake doesn't bring you one step closer to defeat. The risk of failure isn't steadily increasing the longer it's been since you last found healing supplies.

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Harder difficulties can't fix this. With the game balanced around these temp hp talents, you're often in fine condition right up until you wipe. Defeats don't feel fair. You weren't slowly beaten down, you were suddenly killed as one too many specials spawned at once, or a patrol came out of nowhere.

 

I know this isn't going to be a terribly popular suggestion, especially among the newcomers. Not because the new players are bad, not because the old ways are better. You new players are probably far far better at the game than I am. I implore you though, to think about this. If you've not experienced the game without this abundant temp health, you don't know what you're missing. A phenomenal gaming experience is still there. The resource management systems are all still in place, just waiting to shine.

I sincerely hope that Fatshark knows this, and with Winds of Magic we can see those systems shine again. And if they do, I hope the people who haven't experienced that will give it a chance. Yes, it'd be a nerf. You'd feel weaker, enemies would feel more dangerous and mistakes would feel punishing. But damn the feeling of limping over the finish line is worth it. The smug satisfaction of a coordinated team making their way through. Not having trouble, but knowing that the reason for that ease is skill and finely honed teamwork.

I love that feeling, and I think you'd love it too.

 

EDIT: Minor formatting changes. I don't think theres much I can do to make this less of a wall without removing large parts of it.

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