Early gameplay loop perspective from a beginner to the genre

The early gameplay loop, in particular the food/health system, has been very frustrating for me as a new player. I almost quit playing out of frustration.

As someone new to this genre of combat, I was not doing well. I would be near death after every single mob fight. So I was needing to eat food after every mob. But the mats for making food, even in the beginner’s area, are not plentiful enough to accommodate this need. When making my way through the Keep, I had to create another realm, go to it, and farm crabs and herbs, then come back to my main realm to progress more.

Eventually I finally made it to the boss. I had some food and about 50 copper. I beat my head against this boss until I was out of food and out of money to pay for durability repairs. Then I had to make another realm and farm the Shallows again for food mats and some coin. This cannot be the intended or desired gameplay loop. But there was no other way for me to get more food mats and coin after clearing up to the first boss.

It seems particularly punishing to make food mats (the herbs specifically) relatively rare compared to how often a beginner could need them and also place a cooldown on food usage in combat. If there’s a cooldown, why do the mats need to be scarce? If the mats are scarce, why does there need to be a cooldown? Either one should do. Both is frustrating. Combine this with durability loss on death, and it’s just too punishing for beginners. I was literally out of food and out of money with no way to repair durability or buy food other than visiting a new realm. That’s a bad gameplay loop.

As someone new to this kind of combat, I acknowledge that I probably suck at it. If I could play better I wouldn’t need so much food. But not everyone is going to be good at the game, certainly not as a new player to the genre. But there’s really not much to teach you the proper way to play either. There was no feedback from the game of specifically what I was doing wrong, so I was having trouble adjusting my combat style to make progress. Maybe a trainer or something where I could spar and learn timing for parrying, dodging, learn the timing for my particular weapon

There were times I was hitting the food button but I wasn’t eating. Generally it was immediately after I’d taken a big hit, which is when you’d think to spam food, but if you do it too soon after a hit, you’re not allowed to eat for some reason. You have to be standing still, away from the opponent. This seems unnecessarily obtuse. If my instinct is to heal up, the game should be responsive let me heal up. Or at least queue up the heal so that when I complete my roll/fall it will heal me at that time. Or at least acknowledge that I pressed the food button but can’t eat. I was questioning if my controller button was broken, I so often hit the food button without food being consumed.

Eventually I did beat the boss. It took about 20 tries, and felt like a lucky run more than increased skill. After getting to Sacrament and then venturing back out into the fray, I found that the new mobs were literally impossible to beat. I could literally not beat one mob. Again, I had to go to a new realm and this time farm XP so I could get more ability points. It turns out my choices for leveling had not been good. I had to guess what stats would be useful. I assumed strength and dex would be good for melee combat and dodging. Turns out that all these do is allow you to use weapons that require that level number. So I basically wasted my first two level’s worth ability points. And I don’t see a way to respec. Really would like to see respec implemented soon.

It turns out that Stamina is the key. I had not improved Stamina, and I was running out of it almost instantly in every fight. So I couldn’t attack, I couldn’t dodge, and I would just get pummeled to death by the individual mobs. Once I leveled up, I added points to Stamina and combat was MUCH easier. I could actually get multiple hits in then dodge out of the way before they could swing back. But by not picking Stamina earlier, I really hamstrung myself for the first part of the game. I don’t know how you could encourage this in game, but getting players to increase Stamina early would be a big help to new players.

Conclusion: new players to this genre need more instruction and feedback so they know how to improve their play. And the early zone needs better ways to get more food and coin, so learning a boss fight isn’t crippling to the character’s chances of eventually beating the boss.