Such a powerful sentiment means that, now that the game has been out for a little over a week, a follow up is pretty much obligatory.
So, let’s have a look at what we’re dealing with here, starting off with what the game has done well.
This game is something new
First person shooter games are often referred to as Call of Duty or DOOM clones these days. If your friend is describing a turn based game to you, they might say “it’s just like Pokémon or SMT.”
Well, this game really doesn’t have any likeness or anything to compare itself to. It’s a pretty unique concept; a PvPvE stealthy treasure stealing journey is something that hasn’t been done before. It’s also a simple concept, to the point where it doesn’t seem obscure or niche. Overall, this serves to make the game more memorable, which is an important component if it’s to truly contend for hardware and recognition by the end of the year.
Gameplay is simple, loose and fun
There is one objective in mind; steal the treasure. At its core, the team who does this wins. The game doesn’t dictate how you go about doing it, only that you do so before the other team. You and your team may decide a run n gun approach, blazing through enemies with a devil may care attitude to get that vault room key may be best. You may also decide to be quiet and unseen, being diligent and meticulous to avoid detection as to make it to the treasure key in the safest way possible. Either way can be viable!
Combat with enemies, player and computer, is straightforward but packs just enough unique mechanics to stay fresh. Unique perks come into consideration; what is my opponent running that I may need to look out for? What do I have at my disposal that I can use to try and get an advantage? Combat with guards is easy enough, and they aren’t much of a threat. This leaves the enemy players as the major targets. Much like getting to the treasure, how you approach combat with foes is fluid and loose, unless they get the jump on you. If you’re hidden, going for an assassination could be a good idea. If you both spot each other though, get ready to throw down. Or you could flee! All four characters have varying degrees of tools to get out of a bad situation, namely when there are two enemy players versus you by yourself, or if your enemy has some kind of territorial advantage, like being on the high ground.
Gameplay is very player friendly, genuinely supports a number of personal tactics that make it feel like any type of player can succeed and have fun.
The Sheriff of Nottingham
This guy is just an amazing ‘boss’ type character that gives the game order and balance that it would otherwise severely lack. The Sheriff is a part of the “E” aspect of PvPvE, and is thus controlled by the computer. He indiscriminately sets out to murder “them thievin’ scum” and is a massive threat when he shows up. The niche about the Sheriff is that, if he gets close to any character, they’re dead. He will pick them up like they’re a weightless feather, throw them on the ground, and stomp on them with his heavy metal boots for a guaranteed instant kill. However, he is very slow and easy to avoid, so he doesn’t ruin games at all. As it happens, his underlings, the guards, are extremely weak. Without the Sheriff, players would be able to stomp on the guards without hesitation, and there would never really be much in the manner of vulnerability. The Sheriff is very slow, and his ability to detect stealthy players is relatively poor, but due to how powerful he is, he’s a threat that cannot be ignored.
The game’s balance is incredible
At the time of writing, we are currently expecting a fifth character to enter the fray, and soon. At the moment, though, we have four playable characters for players: John the Brawler, Marianne the Hunter, Tooke the Mystic and the man himself, Robin Hood the Ranger.
The balance between the four is unbelievably good, and is what really gives the game its wings. All four have very well defined strengths and possibly four even more well documented weaknesses. Robin is a master at sniping, but is done for if you get up close to him. John is a menace up close, but his big frame makes him easy pickings for ranged characters. Marianne is amazing at capitalizing off of good stealthy plays, but she’s basically left for dead if the player breaks stealth at the wrong time and gets discovered in the open. Meanwhile, Tooke serves a jack-of-all-trades, master of none type archetype while being an excellent healer as well.
Overall, this means that realistically, all four are just as ‘viable’ as each other, and their individual strengths could be just as helpful to the team. This really, rightfully, leaves it up to skill to see which teams comes out on top. Not basically losing from moment one just because you choose a character and your opponent got the right ‘counter pick’ is an issue that fighting games in the modern era can struggle with sometimes, but for the moment, that is absolutely not an issue here.
The game’s perk system gives players their own identity
Want to try and make your Robin a little bit less helpless in close quarters combat? Want to give your Marianne the tools to get out of a bad situation a bit more easily? Or maybe you’re the min/max type, who gives your Tooke the ability to be an even more efficient healer, or give John’s slugging power even more potency.
The perks available to each character use a simple, but very appreciable give/take system. Many of them grant powerful benefits, but have drawbacks that keep them in check. Different builds of each character thereby exist, and help to make it so that following the ‘meta’ isn’t compulsory in order to succeed.
For what it’s worth, leveling up to make your character stronger is something is suggested the game really needed to do in my analysis of the game last month. That has thus far been a major home run, and helps to distinguish experienced players from first timers, which is key to making people feel their investment of time in the game has been worth it.
For as many things the game has gotten right, there are still a couple of flaws worth addressing. Let’s take a look:
The game is heavily favored towards being a PC player
At the moment, PC players have aim assist that console players do not have. Thus, a PC player using Robin or Marianne has the tools to consistently nail head shots that console players can struggle with.
It is currently unclear if this was a development oversight, but it does need to be corrected. It cannot be helped if PC’s key/mouse setup is superior to console’s controller setup, but that difference is much less noticeable than PC getting an entire, majorly beneficial mechanic that console does not get. Either console must be granted aim assist or, preferably, aim assist must be taken away from PC.
The game is a little bit primitive and simplistic
At the moment, there are five playable maps, four characters, and one game mode. Each characters can level up ten times, and the player’s “player rank” goes from one to one hundred. A consistent player can max out all of their ranks in a week or two if they tried. After just about fifteen or so hours in the game, a friend of mine and I are in our late 40s for player rank and have nearly maxed two characters apiece.
Thankfully, Sumo Digital (development team) has already released a road map of what’s new to come, involving two new game modes, two new characters and a battle pass. They could correct this criticism here in the blink of an eye if they add more levels to the player and characters, and toss in a couple new maps as well. This particular criticism already looks insignificant as a result, but it does exist to a minor extent as things are right now.
Guards are a total joke
With the obvious exception of the Sheriff as noted earlier, the “E” aspect of the game is the State, the AI-controlled characters who try to stop both player teams from stealing the treasure.
Non-Sheriff members of the State are total jokes who anybody with a single digit IQ could defeat with no problem. They can be distracted and easily assassinated by throwing a rock. Even if you’re out in the open, they attack with next to no actual tactical maneuvering, and can thereby be dispatched very quickly. Only the crossbowmen pose any sort of real threat, and that’s only if you’re not playing Robin or Marianne, where you could just gun them down in the several minutes it seems to take for them to shoot at you.
This might not seem like much, but this helps to de-centivize stealthy maneuvering unless the Sheriff or an enemy player is nearby. What do you have to fear if neither of them are around? In fact, being needlessly stealthy while the other team is not gives them the upper hand on being the first ones to the treasure chest, so the players are actually encouraged to approach guards with a carefree, reckless attitude. Not like they’re going to kill you or anything.
Giving the guards smarter AI should be a priority. An individual guard shouldn’t be as smart as a player, but they should be able to pose at least some kind of threat. After all, why would the Sheriff hire hapless idiots to help him protect entire towns?
And that’s about all, really.
Currently, the game is worthy of an A- grade. It is a lot of fun and, because Sumo has released a road map indicating what they’re going to be adding soon, the fun times look to just keep rolling. In its current state, the game is realistically not quite a Game of the Year candidate, as indicated by its grade, but it could easily ascend to that status if the new additions end up being worthwhile.