Content of the article: "One feature that future total war games absolutely need is customizable difficulty"
If you don´t want to read everything, what is your opinion on the matter?
My examples are from warhammer 2 mostly, because it is what I have been playing recently, but I think to a certain extent this could apply to other titles.
There are a lot of things I would like to see in future total war games. I don´t want to generalize too much because I don´t think it might be feasible for every single title.
For instance, I really like both 3k and WH2. I think that the strategic depth of 3K is superior. This doesn´t mean it can´t still be improved, but it is nevertheless superior. The Warhammer campaign, on the other hand, is a bit dumbed down. I prefer 3K, but I´m not so sure the main audience for warhammer wants more complexity in the campaign.
Customizable difficulty however should be achievable. This could still include the basic options that they do here, (easy-legendary), both in campaign and battle, but with the added option of increased difficulty.
I recently play eltharion on both legendary/normal and hard/normal on Mortal Empires. I like to play on normal battle difficulty with battle realism on because I love my infantry/cavalry, an while it is not impossible to use it on harder difficulties, it´s not very fun. Since the AI is not more intelligent if you crank the difficulty, normal battle difficulty suits me fine.
Now the start for eltharion is a tough nut to crack, but even in legendary it is possible to keep and secure both starting locations. The problem, however, is never the start. It is what comes after.
Between hard and legendary campaign, there are lot of differences, and in my opinion too many.
On one hand, the economy is tougher for the player, but better for the AI. Unit upkeep is up, especially because of supply lines (bullshit addition in my opinion), and getting trade agreements and economy buildings up is important. However on legendary no one likes you, all the elves in Ulthuan spawn with hates high elves trait (wary?), and because you have a -10 minus on legendary, you need to invest in public order. Luckily for the high elves, the public order building also gives you some money, but this is not exactly common. You can farm rebelions for a while which can be useful in some circunstances, but if you do this you don´t really go anywhere.
At the same time, while the player has a hard time setting up new armies, the AI at higher difficulties has better economy/reduced upkeep, in any event they can afford more stacks, and not only that, they have more recruitment slots. This slows the pace of the game considerably, but in the wrong way. You are stuck with few armies, grinding your way to victory one army at a time. This promotes the idea of making a doomstack with some nice auto resolve chances. Again, high elves are not the worst in this department, but still, the best part of Warhammer 2 is the battles. On legendary you fight wayy to much. If you loose an army early/mid game, ocasionally late game depending on the circunstances, you are set back. It´s the way it should be. But for the AI loosing in army is just one more day at the office. Until you delete them from existence, they will keep spamming armies, an issue that is exarcebated by the ridiculous player targeting on higher difficulties. Even taking the main army production settlement, for instance black crag for grimgor, will do little to stop the ai. Depending on the stage of the game, they might be stuck with slightly lower tier troops, but considering their ridiculous growth bonuses, that probably won´t last very long.
Then there is corruption. The player gets decimated by corruption, but the ai barely gets tickled. As a vampire, the player should be able to make use of that corruption in order to punish invading armies, and the drawback is that lack of corruption punishes the player with public order and replenishment issues. This is pretty bad for vampire counts, but they have public order bonus due to corruption. Morathi doesn´t. She only has public order penalty due to lack of corruption. I think cult of pleasure spreading chaos is honestly really cool. It is just really poorly implemented. It should work similarly to how vampiric corruption works for the vampire counts.
So, essentially, customizable difficulty would allow you to tweak your experience. I think the public order malus of -4 is pretty low on hard difficulty. Factions like lizardmen and empire get public order from settlement buildings, and in those cases you can pretty much ignore public order buildings. You get witch hunters and some technology requirements, but it´s not something you are necessarily in a hurry to build. By increasing the public order penalty, you need to juggle between money making, public order and defensive buildings.
AI getting increased money isn´t a problem for me. They could get 10 doomstacks. I think that could be cool sometimes. But in combination with increased recruitment slots, by the time you step into the province next to the one you are in, they have 10 more doomstacks. Suddenly, a tough battle with AI looses its meaning. They can shit 10 more stacks your way, no problem.
I know it sounds a bit like complaining, and I recommend most people play the way they find it most fun. For me it is hard/normal. If you enjoy legendary/very hard, that is also cool. But sometimes I have that itch to crank up the difficulty. And while I know that I could probably do it (there are a couple of campaigns I might struggle a bit with :D), I know I would probably turn the campaign into a grind more often than not.
Finally, I would argue that adding some special difficulty options XCOM/XCOM 2 style, (second wave, don´t remember what it was called in XCOM 2) could also be interesting. If you are not familiar with the game it might be harder for you to understand, but these would translate to warhammer to something along the lines of start with a witch hunter hero; Missile units don´t completely replenish ammunition after a battle, they take a set ammount of turns, possibly influenced by replenishment rate; Deaths are permanent, even for legendary characters; recruitment durations are increased for all troops.
These options could range from making the game a little bit easier to making it completely hardcore. Speaking of which, why is ironman available only on legendary? I have the self control to not load a game, but it is still more exciting if it isn´t there. And it would also be useful to have the option to "save and exit" instead of clicking end turn for the autosave and leaving while the ai is processing their turn.
I also think that these options could potentially be more interesting than the available battle difficulty options. Giving the ai bonuses in battle just isn´t really good because in many ways you can circumvent them, and it does not affect every unit type equally. Infantry and cavalry get the short end of the stick, while monsters and archers are largely unaffected. So instead of a staunch line of spears with some elite archers a dragon and that stunningly beautiful cavalry you can just run archers. Battles are not necesarily harder. The difference is I paid 260 $$$ to use 10 % of the available units. I don´t want to turn everything into a war wagon (I have a confession to make, I actually like the war wagons although they could certainly be improved).
If you made it this far, thank you for reading. What is your opinion on the matter?
- Effort post: Suggestions for Total war: THREE KINGDOMS
- Some questions from someone new to the game
- Updated wishlist for WH3
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