Crowfall: Hardcore PvP for Casual Carebears? .

TIME :2022-07-03

I’m going to be upfront: my best PvP days are behind me. Gone are the times I can stay up all night defending a castle, or camping an enemy’s base in retaliation for their midnight assaults. My player killer (PK) buddies that I took over towns with are now tackling diapers and wrestling with overtime. I’ve been a raider, but my MMO life has always been about open world PvP, not because of the random ganking, but because of the long-term rivalries, ambushes, and feeling like you own a part of the world due to strength and coordination, not the game making you share it every other round.

But I don’t have time for that now. I’m kind of a carebear. I need something I can jump into and have fun with without grinding endlessly. I still have fun when PvP breaks out, but then I look at my progress being hindered and feel guilty. I walk away from the fight to get back to grinding but that makes me feel guilty for giving up my PvP roots. It’s been a confusing time for me, but something caught my eye: Crowfall.

Now granted, this is all speculation at the moment since Crowfall isn’t even in beta yet. However, aside from things that appeal to retired hardcore PvPers, Crowfall seems to have some interesting gameplay designs that, on paper, make it stand out as a game good for carebears that are adverse to PvP but also want some deeper, more meaningful gameplay than simple grinding.


Meaningful World Interaction


Voxels are a big deal. This isn’t like Landmark where we’re building things and looking at how cool they are. There is a world at war. Now, if you’re not into PvP, but want to take part in a bigger story, there is something you can do to help: fight voxels. It sounds funny, but if you can hold back your laugh for a moment, I can explain.

In hardcore PvP games, you always need people to do the grunt work: collect materials, craft arrows, keep track of which guilds keep ambushing your guys, etc. While most people think hardcore PKs just want to go out and kill everyone, the truth of the matter is that hardcore PKs want to enjoy the full game but simply specialize in killing.

The hardest of the hardcore, however, are into player management. Guild leaders run servers, but usually aren’t that great at actual combat. They manage guild banks, supplies, alliances, and people. That’s where the non-combatants come into play. People like me.

The stuff that is the most fun for me in PvP games is usually doing the hard work that lets tons of player on my team stomp the other guy into a puddle. I’m the recon guy sitting on a hill for hours, or the gatherer fishing for days to literally feed the army. Those things are needed in any hardcore game, but in Crowfall, you don’t just need crafters. You need people willing to change the terrain so your killers can get into the castle and do what they do best.

We don’t have a lot of information on this yet, but we’ve heard about the need for digging crews, tunnelers, people who sneak around back and take out a wall. Darkfall had a little of this with destructable castles, and as much as my PK friends hated it, there was a certain thrill I got by making a mad dash to a little used wall and trying to destroy it before anyone came and killed me. I was a terrible fighter in DF, but I took out walls and structures that allowed my guild and/or allies to flood into a well protected fort and sack it. Sometimes, I destroyed mines or farms with rare products, cutting off enemy supplies so we could outlast the other guy.

Guildies joked about how much I seemed to love “PvE” and, in a sense, they were right. Killing a raid boss for purple pixels is kind of fun, but seeing a mine explode and knowing that you essential robbed the other side of many weapons and suits of armor… it’s a great feeling. No, you aren’t learning a raid dance, but you’re using similar strategies: how do I get to my attack point the fastest? What’s the most efficient way to deal damage? How much time do I have to do this?

The big difference is that you may be working with PKs who are essentially your body guards, trying to keep you alive while you do the PvE thing for them. Seeing a bloodthirsty guildy take out a guy so you can get in the last few hits is not only awesome, but the kind of team work you rarely experience in instanced raiding games these days.

Now, for Crowfall, let’s take into account that you can damage the terrain, and the game’s physics means the terrain can deal damage to… anyone. What if we can dig a tunnel from our base to the enemy’s. Do we want to risk our base and people like that? Do have time to do that? What about digging under one of their nearby mountains. Can we do it safety and stealthily, or would it be better to take out a wall during a frontal assault? Is it better to topple their walls to damage their soldiers, or weaken the floor, make a pit, and during an assault, make the final blow to send them all to hell you’ve been secretly constructing while they sleep? It’s PvE, but it’s a dirty, sneaking, delicious PvE I’m not experiencing in any other game right now.


Meaningful Crafting


Not everyone wants to be a fighter. When I played Star Wars Galaxies, the most fun I had was with tinkering with space ship parts and finding rare materials. Naturally, hearing that Raph Koster was working on the economy and crafting system got me very excited.

For those of you who have only experienced crafting where you fill in a list and press “craft,” I’m sorry. You’ve seen the lowest form of crafting, and you deserve better. Yes, sometimes you can get a random variation or “critical craft,” but those are rare and kind of boring.

Let me try to explain it simply. Let’s say you want to make a sword. You need a metal blade and a wooden hilt, so you need metal and wood. In WoW, you’d probably just be told to get, say, iron and cedar. In CrowfalI, get whatever you can and see what happens. Maybe using iron gives you critical hit and cedar adds to your health, while copper increases your speed and mahogany increases your strength. In normal games, higher quality materials mean better stats, but so far, higher quality materials just increase the available types of stats/abilities.

Keep in mind that this is a really simple explanation. Crowfall uses alloys, as you can see from the above picture, so the situation is much more complicated, but the end result is that all materials are useful all the time.

For those who’ve never played a non-raiding game though, you may be thinking, “Well, why bother with crafting at all? Raiding will get me better gear.” Well, first, there’s no raiding in Crowfall unless it’s your enemy. There are still powerful enemies, but the main thing it seems we’ll be getting are Thralls. Think enchantments, though some can be NPCs too. Which brings me to my next point.


Meaningless Items


Now, this one might sound strange, but hear me out. For those who haven’t read the crafting articles, let me say this: Crowfall has item decay. Even on our backer’s rewards. We get to keep skins so we can make things look like our original rewards, but everything dies. You can’t avoid it like you can PvP (which is just barely). It’s the nature of the game, but that’s a good thing, especially when you can also drop items on death!

Remember, you’re not raiding weeks and weeks to get an item. Crafters are making those, and they’re going to make multiples for an actual market, which means being a crafter is a viable game goal. New MMO players may be confused by this, but being a crafter used to be a choice. You could devote most, if not 100% of your gaming to crafting if you wanted to because the best stuff was made by crafters.

Again, for the World of Warcraft players, don’t think so much about the epic drops you usually aim for. Think about the crafting components for some of the old crafted gear. You’re getting primal nethers or frozen orbs and making cool stuff. There’s still some effort (how much is yet to be seen), there’s still prestige, but losing the item won’t (theoretically) cost you months of grinding. If we’re lucky, this will be like Darkfall and there won’t be bound objects for the most part. After all, we drop items on death, so killing an older character means we should be able to get some neat, slightly more powerful items.

Even when you win a campaign, getting artifacts and relics have limitations. We don’t know if these also have a limit on how long they’ll last, but even if you’re in a very powerful guild and a powerful kingdom that has tons of these, you can only benefit from so many. You get options, not raw power. It means there’s something for you to fight for, but new players and people who, you know, go outside, can also catch up and have a chance to be powerful.

Alternative Gameplay Options

pack pig

You thought meaningful crafting was the end of it, didn’t you? Not by a long shot. If it wasn’t obvious from the voxel destruction, Crowfall is aiming to give players other ways of enjoying their time logged in. Even though it’s a PvP game, there are other systems at play. You’ve got crafting, you’ve got (literally) player vs. environment thanks to voxels, and because of certain Kickstarter goals, you’ve got taming, mounts, and caravans.

Right now, taming is mostly for getting mounts. However, mounts do attack when they’re not being ridden and are attacked, and we’ve already seen that one class will get pets, so combat pets are in the game. Whether or not this is like WoW‘s hunter class remains to be seen, but finding pets was always fun for me. Pets, though, are considered objects, so that means, unlike a WoW hunter’s pet, you could potentially sell your pet if you found something rare and/or unique.

Then there’s mounts. There’s mounts that you ride, and mounts that hold items. The former is what you might expect, except that they can be stolen. On the one hand, I think many PvE folks may dislike the idea of their horse being stolen. There was a decent amount of that in Darkfall. However, what was funny was it was something I saw a lot of PvE players wanting to try. Many of them never had that option. It wasn’t so much, “I want to steal a mount” as it was, “This guy was going to gank me, and his horse was sitting right there, so I jumped on it and ran off with all my loot before he could find me.”

And that brings us to pack mules. Mounts that hold items. We’ve had these since… well, I remember first encountering them in Horizons (now call “Istaria”) back in 2003. The idea is that it’s like a mount, but it increases your storage space. This allows you to bring more crafting materials with you, either from the gathering fields or from point A to point B since you won’t necessarily have everything you want/need if you’re crafting a new fort in the middle of nowhere. Again, these mounts can also be sold, but it means you can go out looking specifically for people’s mounts to steal/kill for whatever the crafter, or caravan, was trying to keep, kind of like in ArcheAge. It is PvP since they are player controlled, but the taming market, plotting of caravan-courses, and offers to help at least scout the safety of routes are all safe-ish past times you can enjoy that most PvE games won’t offer you but have attracted some PvE folks in the past.


 Limited Time Events with Limited Long Term Effects


Let me try to simplify the usual concept of the problem in hardcore PvP games. The game opens. Several guilds make an alliance to fight several other guilds. Every few months, a certain guild “rules” the server. They control the best places to hunt, to gather, and generally to live in general. Other players will almost never see these areas until they are in a powerful guild and the undisputed rulers of the server get bored enough so that they are too weak to fight or until they just leave. If that doesn’t happen, well, it’s everyone else that leaves instead. The power gap begins at day 1 and you will never be able to recover if you come in later than people who have been there longer than you and who never quit playing.

Enter “campaigns.” In Crowfall, the server/world you fight in will only last for so long, after which, a certain amount of your loot goes into a “permanent” bank. You don’t lose any stats, and you can jump into another campaign. It’s kind of like a long term Battleground, like Guild Wars 2‘s WvWvW or WoW‘s Alterac Valley BG when it was first released (except you don’t need to be logged in to get rewards in Crowfall). There will be a winner, they will get rewards, but then things will be reset and every gets another chance to win.

BGs, for me, really started to kill world PvP, but the better ones (like WvWvW or the old AV) allowed me to share a condensed version of what I loved about PvP with my carebear friends. I had an ex-girlfriend who really disliked most PvP and would literally get angry during arenas, but she loved battlegrounds. She didn’t do a lot of fighting, but she focused on the objectives. Seeing our team win or lose based on taking a resource node or killing a certain NPC was exciting for her, and she’d chatter on endlessly about how that match was won because of her. These matches will, naturally, be more drawn out, but I can see her enjoying these for the same reason: there are things to do in the world that lead to success, and win or lose, you get to go back and try again.

Campaigns are currently predicted to last a month or more, but we’ll see what happens after launch. From my experience in hardcore PvP games, this is usually the length of time for one side to gain control of the world, and ends a bit before they get bored and move on to another game. Having a win condition not only makes things interesting for the winner, but means that losers can get back into the game next round and have a chance at winning (and getting revenge).


Limited Grind


This is a big one for me. I don’t mind gathering items, but these days, lobby based games have been best for me because of their low entrance level. I can jump in, there’s few levels/items to grind, and we’re nearly on a similar playing field aside from game skill (which I’m fine with). It’s why MOBAs can scratch a bit of that BG itch, but not really the world PvP one. We need a larger scale, and part of that involves a more permanent, customizable character.

At the start, Crowfall lets you make your character. No, you don’t just choose your class and look, you are making a character, choosing strengths and weaknesses that may never change. You really can make a “bad” character, but also a great one.

Now, that’s a little scary. You might make something bad and have to restart, but there’s good news: your character isn’t just made during character creation. Some of your skills come from discipline runestones, found while playing the game. Let’s say you get a werewolf runestone, but decide being a bow wielding werewolf’s lame. Before applying the runestone to your character, you can simply make a new character and pass the runestone to them. Or maybe you’re new and your friends are already werewolves. They can get that werewolf runestone for you and when you play the game, they can give it to you when you’re ready to join them.

Now, that isn’t to say that’s all there is to your character. There is still active and passive skill increases, but characters have an overall cap on how much they can grow. No one can become a jack of all trades god- you’re limited by your class, the discipline(s) you choose, and skill caps. Passive skill increases are time based, so even if you’re not always playing (like me), your character is getting more powerful, and you can queue up what grows for those time you’ll be on vacation for awhile. It does take 1-3 months to max out a skill, but that’s with offline skill ups. I’m very comfortable with that as a casual player.

 Tons of Instancing


Again, possibly an odd point, but hear me out. You have the “core” world which is like the lobby on steroids. You can have your own home, story, even kingdom. The guild you’re with matters because they’ll probably control your main lobby/kingdom. What you have there stays there.

When you’re ready to go out, you join a campaign and are locked into it (and only that one) until it ends. And it does end. What this means is that you can join up with a friend and play with them without having to reroll. Yes, if you find out they’re in a different campaign, you may have to wait a few months, but compared to losing a character you played for 6 months to make a new one, or spending money to move it to a server and hope your new pal doesn’t give up the game and leave you with the bill… I’ll take the campaigns.

This also means you get a taste for the community. If you like people in your campaign, you can add them to your friends list and play with them later. If you don’t like someone, you might never see them again after your campaign.

Since there aren’t any servers, you also get to choose your difficulty level in a sense. Don’t want really hardcore PvP? Join a faction campaign. Maybe after a month, you feel like a killing machine and want something more difficult. Go for a free for all (FFA) server. You won’t have to reroll or pay either. Campaigns are just flexible options that let you choose how hardcore you want your PvP to be, with more dangerous campaigns leading to greater rewards.

But maybe you don’t want to PvP at all. That’s fine. As I mentioned above, big PvP guilds need grunts that’ll last. Crafters and gatherers can often work as that glue. If you make the right connections and devote yourself to just crafting, you could potentially find yourself in a situation where you’re being fed rare materials in order to produce goods for your guild. That’s the situation I found myself in at the start of Darkfall. I didn’t really want to fight, so I just gathered, and after a few weeks, I was being given massive amounts of materials and built a barracks for the guild in a matter of hours just because I had devoted myself to crafting. And that wasn’t the first or last time it happened, in Darkfall or any MMO that supported crafting as a core playstyle.


Hardcore Casual

Voxel charge

The game can naturally change. A 3 month old character may turn out to simply have way too much health for 1 old month character to pose any kind of threat even on paper. The active combat could have such wide attack hit boxes that aiming doesn’t matter. Item durability could be tossed as it was in ArcheAge‘s beta and SWG‘s NGE changes. We don’t know.

However, on paper, this is certainly a game to watch. As you may have noticed, at least one other game was mentioned each time I brought up a feature. Crowfall stands out because, like WoW before it, it’s simply pushing those features together and polishing them to make something new.

While it’s being billed as a PvP game, the way Crowfall is being handled is appealing to my PvE nature. Not the raid side of me, but the side of me that likes to log in and do some simple tasks that can add up to something great. However, instead of grinding reputation with an NPC faction to get Blue Jacket of .0001% Strength Increase, it might be chipping away at the base of a mountain my guild will push onto their enemies while I’m at work. The screenshots alone will be worth it, and hey, if we win the campaign, we might get a cool statue that I can point to months later when my brother picks up the game, and I can say, “Hey, I helped get that by dropping a mountain on some guys.”

Hardcore PvPers may move on after a campaign or two, but people who stick around and want to do that sort of thing are always needed. Us “PvE” types are super useful to killers when we’re on the same side. We may be sheep, but we’re our guild’s sheep, and the guild’s wolves want nothing more than to lure other wolves out into a trap. By giving players an environment that’s destructible and can be controlled by players, PvE folks can make a meaningful impact on the world without having to repeatedly kill someone to show them who’s boss. We just might need to break their support beams to cause the roof to cave in, and I’m pretty happy with that idea.