Drinking from the Cup Known as The Hunger Dome
The Hunger Dome is what Artcraft (ACE) calls their first phase of Crowfall gameplay testing. It’s a scaled down bare bones version of what the game will eventually be. Please remember that. In the era of “pay to test” game development expectations are hard to define. Considering the infantile stage of the game I won’t be getting too deep into details of mechanics or even classes because so much of that will change from now until launch. I will try to give an overall impression of what I see as the foundation for what ACE is building. Is it strong, or already starting to crack?!?! (queue dramatic music)
It’s a little known fact that I’ve drank from the cup known as The Hunger Dome a few times because I don’t like to brag about it unless I’m at the local rave club (game store) looking to impress the ladies (fellow gamer nerds I hope to become friends with). How can I describe it? Stable, fast paced, twitch based and already fun. From the pitch my impression was that CF would utilize things that worked in the past, improve upon them and combine them with a few core innovative concepts to build the game around. Given its extremely early my opinion is…(feel the suspense)…that’s exactly what they are accomplishing.
It feels very familiar. I literally logged in the first time, glanced around the UI and started to play. Could the learning curve get steeper? Yes, and I hope it does. Nothing ‘EVE” like, but something to make me feel a bit less comfortable. That isn’t to say its “simple”. Crowfall will require a close monitoring of position, range and most importantly aim. Unfortunately, I haven’t been deep into an FPS since the original Ghost Recon, needless to say I spent more time dying than winning. I’m not worried about it feeling a bit simple at this point because its natural, there is a ton of content that will be added over the next several months, much of it will create the depth increase I’m looking for.
The pace is fast, not FPS fast, but faster than most older MMORPGs. The animations and movements already look nice and can only get better. I’ve always liked watching the action as much as participating in it (hence I play a lot of ranged) and CF is also doing well on that front. It’s not yet “flowy” (which I define as your moves and movement and the movement of enemies feeling natural and smooth) but the foundation has been laid.
The transition from concept art to a visual game is one of the closest I’ve seen. It almost looks cell shaded in the best possible way. Ever since Jet Set Radio blew my mind I’ve LOVED cell shading! Crowfall doesn’t even come close to Borderlands at this point but that doesn’t mean they can’t (and this gamer hopes they push further into that direction). If not, again, this look great already. Some players might feel it’s too cartoony but I’ve always liked this style and ACE does it well. Most importantly, the visual style fits the pace of the game very well making everything feel more unified.
I’d like to get into deeper material but considering how raw it is, it wouldn’t be fair. Most of it is likely to evolve anyway but I will say I like what I’ve seen. The fact that I found myself having fun in what I thought, going in, would be more of a tech crunch and bug hunt was a nice bonus. Typical early stuff happens, lag, crashes, etc. but nothing exceptional, in fact I’d say the Hunger Dome has been extremely stable. If you haven’t noticed, I don’t have many bad things to say because the Hunger Dome has exceeded my expectations.
“What about ACE, you were pretty critical of them in your last column.”
I love taking questions from one of my adoring fans (aka myself). A year ago I was extremely cautious if not entirely skeptical of what ACE was offering. Obviously not enough to pass up the Kickstarter but after 13+ years of MMO neglect and abuse I never trust anything until I play it. Well, I saw it, played it, got owned in it, and it impressed me and so has ACE.
I don’t have any sort of “in” with ACE and I could be way off on my assessment but from what I’ve seen they are incredibly organized, they’ve kept backers updated and Pann (the community manager) does a great job of interacting with and informing the community. Other than the Vessel system I haven’t had many major concerns, the ones I did have I (or some other forum fighter) mentioned and received feedback on, which is always appreciated. Oh, and lack of Jedi, I really hoped for Jedi but I guess I will just have to pretend, like I do in every single non Star Wars game I play...
Moving on, if you want to see Crowfall in action head to YouTube and look it up. Crowfall doesn’t have an NDA and ACE is actively asking people to stream it! If that doesn’t say “we believe in this game and aren’t afraid to show it” then…well, no, it does, it says exactly that. I’d stream it myself but then people would have to hear me, asking them to read me is probably taxing enough. I’m not trying to promote the game as some might infer, I’m asking you to see if my words match your eyes. Feel free to come back and let me know in the comments below if I’m full of it (that part was a shameless plug-but only for my poor lonely comments section). Sometimes I even hop off my prestigious throne and come down to the comments section myself, but it’s secretly because I’m lonely.