Upgrade Systems: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

hanselthecaretaker

My flask is half full
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
587
116
48
So out of all contemporary conventions in game design, perhaps the one that has such a wide spread of appeal or not would be various types of upgrading. Some games do it rather flawlessly and intuitively, like Red Dead: Redemption 2. You “level” by simply doing various things more often.

Others force one to ask what the hell were they thinking, like The Witcher 3. Why is Geralt, an elder “master” Witcher, forced to start at basically ground zero every game? Leveling up the same stats over and over, and starting with the same scrub weapons makes zero sense, and causes a huge narrative:gameplay disconnect for the player. They basically have to forget about playing any prior game; actually this is how I personally try to rationalize it, like Geralt having recurring amnesia or giving up “the life” after every game, hand-waving away the questionable design choice.

Furthermore there are games that use some combination of the two to good effect, like Kingdom Come: Deliverance. You level there simply by doing as well, but with added perks to choose from. The gameplay leveling also makes perfect narrative sense as Henry is literally a scrub at the start, and you the player have to physically learn everything. For instance you can’t start potion brewing or using a map until you learn how to read.

Then there are also a plethora of action/adventure type games that use more typical skill tree or flow chart styles of upgrades, with some varying levels of cleverness or not. Far too often though it seems they are there just to pad game “depth” along with length. Things like “unlocking” extra bullets, taking less damage, incremental increases in “speeds” of doing things, etc. It’s turned me away from more games than not, because it too often feels cheap, lazy and unnecessary.

But that’s just my opinion, and possibly a bit jaded by playing a lot of the same types of games for so long. Interested in hearing different opinions on upgrade systems. What games do you think handle them most effectively and why?
 

stroopwafel

Elite Member
Apr 29, 2020
209
62
33
Sekiro and Nioh 2 probably. Both have you incrementally learn new skills and abilities that really add to the gameplay. Skill trees need to add something and i think both games really do that. With most open world games I feel they just stripped away certain abilities and skills that are most of the time very unimaginative by default and then have the player 'earn' them back through the grind. Sekiro and Nioh are standouts to me of games that have really put thought and effort in the kind of abilities you can unlock. Nioh's customization in particular is on a whole 'nother level. Nioh 2 fortunately really cleaned up the cluttered skill tree structure of the first game.
 
  • Like
Reactions: hanselthecaretaker

Catfood220

Regular Member
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
61
14
13
Playing the Tomb Raider reboot again, the game annoyed me in the fact that I have to unlock the part of Lara's brain that gives her the idea that smacking people in the face with a climbing axe might be a good way to deal with enemies. I mean, she is supposed to be a super smart archeologist and it doesn't occur to her to hit people with her axe as a first thought?
 

laggyteabag

Scrolling through forums, instead of playing games
Legacy
Apr 4, 2020
99
33
23
UK
Because apparently upgrade trees are now industry-standard, a lot of games just phone it in, and they just turn out to be super boring. Ooh, 25% extra health? Wow. 7.5% extra range? Incredible. 5% faster movement speed? Watch out, Sonic.

One of my favourite upgrade systems is in Heroes of the Storm, in which every couple of levels, you can select a new talent for your character. Talents improve your abilities with additional functionality, which often reward skillful play, and adds additional synergies between your abilities - unlike in League of Legends, where upgrading your abilities simply improves their base stats, like damage, and the items in the shop are shared between the game's entire pool of champions, which makes them pretty boring after you have chosen the same upgrade across 12 different champions.

I just feel like a lot of games add in upgrade trees, because lots of other games have upgrade trees, and that is apparently a normal thing now, even for non-RPG games. But very often, barely any effort is put in to make these fun and interesting upgrade paths, and are just there to tick a box for marketing.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Gethsemani

Phoenixmgs

The Muse of Fate
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
5,194
89
53
w/ M'Kraan Crystal
Gender
Male
You can't really do away with upgrade systems because you can't throw everything at the player at the beginning. I guess I'll just leave a list of thoughts.

- In games that are sequels, you can give the option to the player to get X amount of points to spend if they want like how Mass Effect 3 gave you a good chuck of points to spend at the start. I don't see why say the Batman games couldn't do the same thing.
- Do away with your typical level loot systems. It's so dumb to have a character that can't use a sword or a gun because the character level isn't high enough. It also defeats the purpose of getting some amazing piece of gear unless you're max level because it will be useless in a bit. You should put number increases (damage/defense) onto the character themselves as they level. The character levels strength so they swing a hammer harder or they just generally get better at using a weapon so they're better with it (DPS increases). You can then only focus on switching a gear when you get legit better gear vs only equipping something new because the number is higher. There's a reason why one of the most used mods for Divinity 2 is a mod that auto-levels your gear.
- Has a system where you get better at something the more you do it ever really worked out? It just seems like something that's always easily exploited.
- Games should focus on giving the player quality skills/abilities vs slight increases to speed or health and focus on giving things that alter gameplay or dictate a playstyle. I recall Farcry 3 having a pretty shitty skills tree with only a few things being good and the rest just being minor upgrades or things you should have from the beginning like reloading when sprinting and sliding. Deus Ex HR is also an example on how not to do things because the game never locks you out of abilities like the original did so you end up with just having it all.
 

Dreiko

Elite Member
Legacy
May 1, 2020
367
68
33
CT
Country
usa
Gender
male, pronouns: your majesty/my lord/daddy
My big thing is that I want skill trees to have lore to them. I want story events to manifest in new skills/trees unlocking and in general for there to be impact. Similarly, I want the game to acknowledge your skills and react to them. Skyrim did this well with those random Powers you'd unlock for doing random things. It didn't even need to be overly useful but rather just something that makes you feel like the gameplay and story are connected.
 

Gordon_4

The Big Engine
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
357
117
48
Australia
Playing the Tomb Raider reboot again, the game annoyed me in the fact that I have to unlock the part of Lara's brain that gives her the idea that smacking people in the face with a climbing axe might be a good way to deal with enemies. I mean, she is supposed to be a super smart archeologist and it doesn't occur to her to hit people with her axe as a first thought?
Any monkey can swing a club, the upgrades you purchase in a game like Tomb Raider are basically the mechanics of learning how to do it properly.
 

Johnny Novgorod

Bebop Man
Legacy
Apr 10, 2020
237
63
33
Country
Argentina
Not necessarily good, bad or ugly but I thought Far Cry 5 came up with an interesting upgrade system, Ubisoft usually being allergic to new ideas. Basically XP is divided between "reputation", which you get from completing missions/side activities and tracks differently across each of the 3 regions of the world (which you can complete in any order), and skill points, which you get from hitting certain benchmarks like weapon kills and such rather than getting XP for anything and applying it anywhere. The way skill points are allotted you're coaxed into mixing up the gameplay and trying out new things.

Dying Light has several different kinds of XP, each netted from different things. Kills give you combat XP, anything from sliding/jumping/climbing/parkouring gives you ability XP and missions give you survivor XP; each with its own skill tree and useful perks. Max all 3 and you unlock a fourth skill tree which feeds off the XP you'd normally be getting for the others if you weren't maxed out, and upgrades stats that aren't *that* useful but at least gives you something to work towards once you're in fuckabouts mode.

God of War (2018) has one of the most unappetizing skill trees on the other hand. For me combat was as versatile as it was ever gonna get at the beginning, and every new skill was just adding more complex ways of achieving the same things I already could. Upgrading Atreus was the most useful thing I did, and it wasn't exactly imperative either. I had much more use for buying and upgrading armor/trinkets/whatever too.
 

wings012

Regular Member
May 5, 2020
42
6
13
Country
Malaysia
I like whatever gives me a tangible upgrade that I can have a good gameplay feel for.

I'm overall not a fan of increasing numbers. Anything that just has me pushing stats up makes me roll my eyes. You're pushing stats up to meet the higher stats of newer enemies, to meet the stat requirements of newer gear.... like ehhh mehhh whatever.

I always preferred it if stats/skills were either more compact or just nonexistent. I was fairly nonplussed when Skyrim straight up tossed their stat system out the window in favour for just Health/Magicka/Stamina. I prefer skill systems like Deus Ex where it's a simpler Untrained, Trained, Advanced, Master than something that goes from 0 to 20 or whatever. I quite liked the rather static stat systems of FO1/2 where your SPECIAL stats were mostly fixed, with the odd in game opportunity to increase a stat here and there. Can't say I like the skill system of those games though, allocating skill points from a percentage scale going from 0 to 300. I kinda prefer FO4 in that respect, at least conceptually speaking where skills were done away in favour for perks. But the perk balance and concepts were kinda meh and I don't get their weapon type segregation.

Deus Ex augs or HR/MD's praxis points are a decent way to have more tangible upgrades. Granted some of the augs are pretty poo. ME2/3 powers are also quite decent. 4 ranks of power, with the final one being a choice of two.

I actually liked how Mass Effect 2/3 did away with gear. I always found the whole RPG style of gear a la Borderlands, Diablo or otherwise to be rather superfluous. You're switching numbers for better numbers a lot of the time and they don't always provide a tangible difference in how you play the game. I prefer a solid ecosystem of static weapon choices like a non-RPG FPS would handle their weapons over having level 1 handguns to level 99 handguns or whatever the hell. Also the former is much more likely to be balanced correctly at all levels of play, while the later can turn into complete wank.

I actually enjoyed Borderlands 2 gun selections up till TVHM. I played Gunzerker and always kept two Tediore SMGs on me which could do really impressive burst damage if you fired one shot and immediately 'reloaded' by chucking the guns into stuff. Some of the uniques were fun to play with. Some of the E-Tech weapons were fun too, and I was fond of the E-Tech shotguns. But either way I would actually still find myself using a variety of weapons. UVHM was complete wank though where enemy health was bloated to such stupid extents that it wasn't worth using anything but the Unkempt Harold and slag.

In a nutshell, less fucking numbers. Less superfluous upgrades that don't tangibly change gameplay or increase gameplay options. Each level up, each upgrade - should matter rather than increase your stat values to keep pace with newer enemies higher stat values.
 

Dalisclock

Elite Member
Legacy
Apr 18, 2020
650
163
48
Country
United States
Gender
Male
Playing the Tomb Raider reboot again, the game annoyed me in the fact that I have to unlock the part of Lara's brain that gives her the idea that smacking people in the face with a climbing axe might be a good way to deal with enemies. I mean, she is supposed to be a super smart archeologist and it doesn't occur to her to hit people with her axe as a first thought?
It's kinda sad there's an entire trope devoted tot his.

 
  • Like
Reactions: hanselthecaretaker

Catfood220

Regular Member
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
61
14
13
Any monkey can swing a club, the upgrades you purchase in a game like Tomb Raider are basically the mechanics of learning how to do it properly.
Yeah, but this monkey doesn't even try to swing her club. For someone in a survival situation, you'd think she'd at least try to use everything she has at her disposal to defend herself. I mean, surely even a desperate flail with a sharp pointed weapon is enough to temporarily disable an opponent. When you try to melee an enemy before you unlock this skill, she just shoulder barges them. But then she sits at a campfire and suddenly, boom, she is proficient in climbing axe lobotomies. Its not a case of learning to do it properly, its a case of learning to do it at all.
 

Specter Von Baren

Annoying Green Gadfly
Legacy
May 4, 2020
610
133
48
I don't know, send help!
Country
USA
Gender
Cuttlefish
I think stat increases can be as meaningful as other kinds of upgrades if they are done correctly. I've been playing a lot of Monster Train and you'd be surprised how big a deal the right stat boost for a unit can be. Getting a simple attack upgrade for a multiattack unit can be just as big as giving an additional attack to a unit that gains more strength every time it attacks.
 

happyninja42

Elite Member
Legacy
May 7, 2020
729
212
48
Dying Light has several different kinds of XP, each netted from different things. Kills give you combat XP, anything from sliding/jumping/climbing/parkouring gives you ability XP and missions give you survivor XP; each with its own skill tree and useful perks. Max all 3 and you unlock a fourth skill tree which feeds off the XP you'd normally be getting for the others if you weren't maxed out, and upgrades stats that aren't *that* useful but at least gives you something to work towards once you're in fuckabouts mode.
I've played a shitload of Dying Light, and consider it one of my personal favorite games of all time. I really do like their progression system, in that it's split between the actions you take. I will say that I felt, after a few replays, that a lot of the "upgrades" felt more like game workarounds for intentional brakes they put on the player. Like, the upgrade that speeds up how quickly you loot a body or harvest a plant. Those feel more like "well I mean YOU made the looting system this slow, so now I have to spend perk points to undo it?" And I get the concept behind it, that it's to reflect your improving skills at survival behavior, but the things they often tie this limitation/release mechanic to, seem relatively mundane. I mean you are playing a special agent James Bond style government dude in DL, you mean to tell me he's not good at searching a body quickly for anything of value?

But overall I do enjoy the "learn as you do" style of leveling up it uses, as it provides the player with immediate feedback and reward for doing something. Like running through the night, doing lots of parkour, but no fighting, because you are just trying to evade, and you make it back to base, and you get a huge boost of agility/survival XP, perhaps even leveling, it definitely feels like directly being rewarded for what you just went through. I also love how they double the xp rewards you can earn at night, which is the more dangerous time of the game, enticing the player with a higher risk/reward. I wish they had put in more perks that didn't boil down to just "this one game mechanic is faster, or lasts longer (weapon durability), but yeah, once you max out, and start working on Legendary levels, you begin to feel incredibly powerful.

More directly OT: I would say I probably prefer the "work as you do" style, as it makes the gameplay more organic. If you do a lot of social related things, your ability to be better at social goes up, tailoring that playthrough to that particular style.

Bethesda has examples of both good and bad in my opinion. Good : Elder Scrolls. It's a bit janky I'll admit, but it's still the "learn as you do" style, which I prefer. Want to get better at hitting people with a sword? Go out and hit people with a sword. The perks you gain for each level, can theoretically be spent in any tree sure, but given those trees have skill level requirements to advance, it does prevent you from leveling up with an easy skill, to boost something else all the way to max.

Bad: Fallout. Now I love the Bethesda Fallout games, sans 76, which I've never played and don't care to. But I love FO 3 & 4. I didn't however like the way they implemented their leveling system though. How you could just boost whatever, regardless of what you actually did to level up. Spend an entire level worth of xp farming on killing raiders, and you can spend that perk on SCIENCE!! and learn how to hack computers better.....bwuh? It's a fairly small issue, as a lot of games do this, but it's an example that comes to mind.

I like it when games give you little auto-perks, like Alpha Protocol, which would give you little perks based on playstyle. I didn't even know the game did it, but after I had done enough stealth takedowns, the game was like "hey, we noticed you like sneaking in your Alpha Protocol, so we've boosted your sneakiness to make you even more sneaky, enjoy" and reduced my detection radius by like 15% or something. That plays back into the "learn as you do" but I like that it was just something that happened automatically, and didn't require a perk investment or whatever.
 

sXeth

Regular Member
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
75
11
13
Making creative/new mechanics is hard, so just hit the reset button or upcycle the numbers on stuff in some vague way (or "How to make Destiny's grind in 2 easy steps")



Generally though, the main obnoxiousness (besides being flooded with dull numeric inflation of health/damage) is the noted example. IF you want to make a character driven action-adventure game with sequels or around an established character who should be competent to awesome skilled already, then just resist the urge to staple those style of mechanics on would be the best bet.


Even taking Geralt, you can limit him other ways. Just make the resources for his magic rare, reasonably difficult to carry, etc.


Outward (an RPG, actually just had DLC come out) does this surprisingly well. There's rituals and invocations related with a lot of the magic. Which both takes some involvement to actually stack and combo up the powerful abilities, and usually some amount of resources. Thereby your power is limited by your planning and preparation rather then artificially reduced to be upgraded upon (there is technically an upgrade system, buts that primarily your scrub dude paying trainers to learn new talents, and you start with and only get 3 breakthrough points to get higher tier talents (out of 12 or so possible professions)
 

Dirty Hipsters

This is how we praise the sun!
Legacy
Apr 18, 2020
181
88
33
Country
'Merica
Gender
3 children in a trench coat
Sekiro and Nioh 2 probably. Both have you incrementally learn new skills and abilities that really add to the gameplay. Skill trees need to add something and i think both games really do that. With most open world games I feel they just stripped away certain abilities and skills that are most of the time very unimaginative by default and then have the player 'earn' them back through the grind. Sekiro and Nioh are standouts to me of games that have really put thought and effort in the kind of abilities you can unlock. Nioh's customization in particular is on a whole 'nother level. Nioh 2 fortunately really cleaned up the cluttered skill tree structure of the first game.
I wouldn't say that the upgrade tree in Sekiro is good. Actually, it's kind of terrible. Most of the moves on it are pointless because you can only equip one of them at a time. There's some cool stuff on there, but the majority of those moves are only situationally useful. There's less than a handful of moves that are actually useful to have equipped all the time, so those are basically all anyone uses. The cost of some of the upgrades is also incredibly unbalanced The price of additional equipment uses is too high for example.
 

wings012

Regular Member
May 5, 2020
42
6
13
Country
Malaysia
Bethesda has examples of both good and bad in my opinion. Good : Elder Scrolls. It's a bit janky I'll admit, but it's still the "learn as you do" style, which I prefer. Want to get better at hitting people with a sword? Go out and hit people with a sword. The perks you gain for each level, can theoretically be spent in any tree sure, but given those trees have skill level requirements to advance, it does prevent you from leveling up with an easy skill, to boost something else all the way to max.

Bad: Fallout. Now I love the Bethesda Fallout games, sans 76, which I've never played and don't care to. But I love FO 3 & 4. I didn't however like the way they implemented their leveling system though. How you could just boost whatever, regardless of what you actually did to level up. Spend an entire level worth of xp farming on killing raiders, and you can spend that perk on SCIENCE!! and learn how to hack computers better.....bwuh? It's a fairly small issue, as a lot of games do this, but it's an example that comes to mind.
While I'm fine either way, I do find some issues with learn as you do sometimes. Granted my only experience with it is Elder Scrolls and Kingdom Come Deliverance.

Developing some skills just don't reward good play. Such as the Armour skills - which involve getting hit. Generally getting hit is a bad thing and you don't really want to get hit, but hey if you want awesome perks like your armour not weighing a thing... go let a mudcrab wail on you all day or something. I also feels like it can encourage weird grind behaviour. We all know about the iron dagger spam, or finding some weird place to sneak autowalk into.

While I think it worked quite well in Kingdom Come Deliverance, there were situations where there were locks that were beyond my skill to even attempt. But my only option was to... go find more stuff to lockpick? But locked chests don't exactly grow on trees, so I basically had to shelve my plans for getting through those locks for the foreseeable future which I found quite frustrating. While the game does have skill books and skill trainers, they only go so far and have a finite amount of skill experience you can get out of them.

While skill allocation might not make the most sense, it can encourage the player to change their play style. Like maybe my character's currently bad at melee, but trying to get good at melee by doing just gets my face pushed in. Instead I can just allocate some skill points into melee and now it's more bearable so I'm gonna do it more. Or in the above case, it allows me to use my effort in leveling up to bypass certain problems.

I'm very unlikely in Skyrim to try out new combat disciplines since it means going back to having the performance of an absolute scrub. I basically went two handed and archery and after a certain point in the game - had no incentive to try out magic or one handed. Why conjure anything when I can just smash things with my warhammer? Why cast fireballs when my arrows will do? I'd need to grind basically. In Kingdom Come, leveling up my archery was abject misery. It was already inherently hard enough due to the lack of crosshair and the game's weird draw timing and bow shake mechanics, but I was also unable to effectively 'do it enough' since my attempts at shooting my enemies just resulted in me missing a lot, maybe getting one shot on target before they were on top of me and if I wanted to live - I better get my melee weapon and shield out.

Whereas in Fallout I can be all like, y'know what - I'm bored of small guns. If I use up my skill points from the next few level ups, I can expand my repertoire to include energy weapons. Also a game like Fallout only has so many hackable terminals, so how do you even balance "learn as you do"?

I personally don't really lean either way. Kingdom Come felt very natural to me and I thought it handed learn as you do quite well apart from a few skills.
 

happyninja42

Elite Member
Legacy
May 7, 2020
729
212
48
While I'm fine either way, I do find some issues with learn as you do sometimes. Granted my only experience with it is Elder Scrolls and Kingdom Come Deliverance.

Developing some skills just don't reward good play. Such as the Armour skills - which involve getting hit. Generally getting hit is a bad thing and you don't really want to get hit, but hey if you want awesome perks like your armour not weighing a thing... go let a mudcrab wail on you all day or something. I also feels like it can encourage weird grind behaviour. We all know about the iron dagger spam, or finding some weird place to sneak autowalk into.

While I think it worked quite well in Kingdom Come Deliverance, there were situations where there were locks that were beyond my skill to even attempt. But my only option was to... go find more stuff to lockpick? But locked chests don't exactly grow on trees, so I basically had to shelve my plans for getting through those locks for the foreseeable future which I found quite frustrating. While the game does have skill books and skill trainers, they only go so far and have a finite amount of skill experience you can get out of them.

While skill allocation might not make the most sense, it can encourage the player to change their play style. Like maybe my character's currently bad at melee, but trying to get good at melee by doing just gets my face pushed in. Instead I can just allocate some skill points into melee and now it's more bearable so I'm gonna do it more. Or in the above case, it allows me to use my effort in leveling up to bypass certain problems.

I'm very unlikely in Skyrim to try out new combat disciplines since it means going back to having the performance of an absolute scrub. I basically went two handed and archery and after a certain point in the game - had no incentive to try out magic or one handed. Why conjure anything when I can just smash things with my warhammer? Why cast fireballs when my arrows will do? I'd need to grind basically. In Kingdom Come, leveling up my archery was abject misery. It was already inherently hard enough due to the lack of crosshair and the game's weird draw timing and bow shake mechanics, but I was also unable to effectively 'do it enough' since my attempts at shooting my enemies just resulted in me missing a lot, maybe getting one shot on target before they were on top of me and if I wanted to live - I better get my melee weapon and shield out.

Whereas in Fallout I can be all like, y'know what - I'm bored of small guns. If I use up my skill points from the next few level ups, I can expand my repertoire to include energy weapons. Also a game like Fallout only has so many hackable terminals, so how do you even balance "learn as you do"?

I personally don't really lean either way. Kingdom Come felt very natural to me and I thought it handed learn as you do quite well apart from a few skills.
Oh I'm not implying at all that my 2 examples are perfect, as I stated, they are still kinda janky, even when I think they are good. Yes, the Skyrim system is easily exploited depending on the skill in question, and yes it does encourage specialization due to having to start over skill wise with new things. But, I mean systems that encourage you picking a route and sticking with it are pretty common in gaming, like you know, being made to pick a class which locks you into a hard set of options for the rest of that playthrough. :p At least with Skyrim, you can decide you don't want to play as Conan the Nord Battlesmasher anymore, and instead pick up some magic instead if you find that more fun. It's good for early game as it allows for much easier experimentation and alteration of gameplay. It's basically more forgiving of mistakes in career choice, as there is absolutely nothing stopping you from changing gears if you wish, other than time spent leveling up. Which early skills boost really fast anyway, so it's not that tricky to catch up, especially with combat skills.

And yes, the Fallout system is more open to a degree, but I find it less immersive when I can just grind a single action (killing raiders) for my xp, and put it into other things that I didn't actually do at all. Sure it's a perfectly fine system in one respect, but I personally don't enjoy it as much. I think because there isn't any instant feedback like with the learn as you go model. It's all exactly the same gameplay, and then DING, you level, go to a load screen, toss a point into something, and are instantly better at it. Then you go right back to doing the same thing again. The Skyrim system, you at least get that little bit of feedback when you get the skill-up drumroll, so you can see you are making progress, right then. I just find it personally more enjoyable to have it that way, than Fallout. I still think Fallout is fine, as far as systems go, I just don't find it as engaging as other systems that are more dynamic with their advancement.
 

hanselthecaretaker

My flask is half full
Legacy
Apr 5, 2020
587
116
48
I wouldn't say that the upgrade tree in Sekiro is good. Actually, it's kind of terrible. Most of the moves on it are pointless because you can only equip one of them at a time. There's some cool stuff on there, but the majority of those moves are only situationally useful. There's less than a handful of moves that are actually useful to have equipped all the time, so those are basically all anyone uses. The cost of some of the upgrades is also incredibly unbalanced The price of additional equipment uses is too high for example.

Yeah this is what’s kinda off-putting about most upgrade systems. I can put up with them but don’t prefer systems that have you locked out of 90% or whatever for some arbitrary “balance” reasons. Maybe if the game is designed well enough where certain abilities are needed to progress (Zelda is a prime example) but typically they’re not and are mostly filler options to pad game length.

The SoulsBorne stuff is a decent compromise in that it’s based off a universal system of weapons materials, where practically anything can be viable.
 

Dirty Hipsters

This is how we praise the sun!
Legacy
Apr 18, 2020
181
88
33
Country
'Merica
Gender
3 children in a trench coat
Yeah this is what’s kinda off-putting about most upgrade systems. I can put up with them but don’t prefer systems that have you locked out of 90% or whatever for some arbitrary “balance” reasons. Maybe if the game is designed well enough where certain abilities are needed to progress (Zelda is a prime example) but typically they’re not and are mostly filler options to pad game length.

The SoulsBorne stuff is a decent compromise in that it’s based off a universal system of weapons materials, where practically anything can be viable.
Yeah, as much as I liked Sekiro, I definitely prefer the souls games for the sheer variety. Once you finish Sekiro there's really nothing more to see in the game. No new builds to master. Yes the combat system and skill tree are deep, but not so deep that they can keep my interest through multiple play-throughs.

Souls on the other hand plays radically different with different builds, and pretty much everything is viable if you're willing to actually vary up your strategy and approach to enemies. My shirtless boxer from Dark Souls 2 says hello. Power-stance dual caestus is surprisingly good to the point where most bosses are actually a cakewalk because blunt damage is really REALLY good against armored dudes with swords. Hell, I even got through Shrine of Amana with that build, and that was before it was patched to be easier.
 

stroopwafel

Elite Member
Apr 29, 2020
209
62
33
Yeah, as much as I liked Sekiro, I definitely prefer the souls games for the sheer variety. Once you finish Sekiro there's really nothing more to see in the game. No new builds to master. Yes the combat system and skill tree are deep, but not so deep that they can keep my interest through multiple play-throughs.

Souls on the other hand plays radically different with different builds, and pretty much everything is viable if you're willing to actually vary up your strategy and approach to enemies. My shirtless boxer from Dark Souls 2 says hello. Power-stance dual caestus is surprisingly good to the point where most bosses are actually a cakewalk because blunt damage is really REALLY good against armored dudes with swords. Hell, I even got through Shrine of Amana with that build, and that was before it was patched to be easier.
Yeah, but that is kind of where different people appreciate different things in a game. I love Dark Souls and played through each game multiple times but I never found the appeal to replay the game in build variety. I tried every weapon and any kind of magic but it somehow never feels as fun as simple sword & shield. Just the kind of kinetic energy of the game feels best suited in this most basic set-up and any deviation only dilutes the optimal fun factor. The enemies and environments as well don't change so if this is really good then this is the reason why I want to replay the game. I don't care about the multiplayer aspect either. For me replay value lies solely in re-experiencing that amazing atmosphere and world design that only From Sofware can deliver. So Sekiro's laser focus on one specific playstyle actually made the game a lot better for me because you had the best of both worlds; the optimal fun factor and the amazing world design. I still like the RPG elements of Dark Souls but more like a difficulty slider to make the game easier or harder.

Strangely enough a game like Nioh with it's excessive loot grind do provide vastly different experiences per weapon and not one feels like the excessively play-tested 'default' weapon but that is because of much deeper mechanical complexities than Souls or Bloodborne(not Sekiro). It's why an RPG could never provide a 'build' like Sekiro because the game simply can't provide for such mechanical complexity per playstyle. There is always the default one where the game shines brightest. Team Ninja comes closest but they have literal decades of experience making dedicated character action games. From Demon's Souls upto Dark Souls 3 the Souls games were still running on the same template since 2009 so Sekiro definitely felt like a giant leap providing the kind of depth and mechanical complexity of a Team Ninja game but with From Software style world-building. I think that is also reason why any news about Elden Ring is taking so long because it is hard to backpedal from Sekiro's laser focused mechanical complexity to the more 'basic' set-up of stat based combat. Delivering that same depth as Sekiro but with more variety must be an impossible task. They probably want to improve on the Souls combat with the innovations they made in Sekiro while adjusting for different playstyles to not disappoint fans but this must be a monumental task.

I only care for skill trees if they improve the game in ways I care about. And Sekiro definitely did that. You had the shinobi prosthetic which was awesome in itself but being able to add skills like a forward slash made it even better. Simple improvements sure but easy to execute and improved the gameplay in ways that made it even more fun. Skills were imaginative and cool instead of the usual boring upgrades or superfluous fluff.