Saturday, September 16, 2023

A Progressive Attitude

I thought I might give a little progress report on where things stand for me in Dawnlands right now. I'm still playing every day, give or take. I first posted about the game on 10 August, when I'd just installed it. Just over five weeks later, Steam tells me I've played for exactly 82 hours, which averages out to a little over two hours a day; pretty close to how I've been playing.

There's no padding in those numbers, either. I've been scrupulous in not leaving the game running when I'm afk and I've hardly even tabbed out to look stuff up while logged in. If it says I was playing, I really was playing.

For all that time and effort, I've haven't even managed to complete 10% of the content. To be precise, my "Proportion Explored" stat currently stands at 8.43%. 

I don't know exactly what's included in that count but I'm guessing 100% would mean at least removing all the "fog of war" from the whole map and exposing all the marked Points of Interest. It could mean much more than that, like maybe unlocking every recipe, completing every achievment or even ticking every box the game would like you to tick. There are many.

Whatever it means, since only six of the proposed ten biomes are currently available and assuming an even distribution (It's not remotely even but let's pretend it is for now.) it's possible I've really only explored 8.43% of 60% of the content, which would be even less in absolute terms - barely over 5% of the whole thing - but more like 14% of what's actually possible at the moment.

Even if I have explored 8.43% of the entire map and/or consumed 8.43% of the total content, it's still not one hell of a lot to show for eighty fricken' hours! It's not even two per cent a week!

Someone might want to check my math there, by the way. I got Bard to do it but I'm not sure it entirely understood what I was asking. I know I didn't...

However much or little I've done, there's clearly a lot more left to go. According to the Sealing Progress charts, I'm almost done with Grasslands (93.5%). Plains (87.1%) and Forest (82.5%) are closing in fast but I've barely scratched the surfaces of Black Forest (15.2%), Swamp (13.4%) or Snow Mountain (3%).

Here, once again, I'm somewhat confused. Swamp and Black Forest are listed as separate biomes but they seem to be intermixed on the map and in the world. They either share the same Boss (Lynd) or one of them doesn't have a boss at all. They do each have their own progress ladder, though, so they definitely count as two, separate biomes.

In terms of the storyline, my next target is indeed Lynd, my first task being to find him (Her, Them, It. I mean, the thing looks like a tapeworm bursting out of an elk - the last thing I need to be thinking about is what pronoun to use. Except that's exactly what I am thinking about...) 

Black Forest by night. More like indigo, I'd say.

It really doesn't help that none of the "official" sources agrees on what to call the biome where Lynd lives. The game calls it Black Forest but the wiki uses both "Dark Forest" and, most confusingly of all, "Black Swamp". As it happens, I know where Lynd is because I stumbled across the Seal while I was looking for iron ore.

I also know what he looks and sounds like because I clicked on the Seal to see what items I'd need to collect to summon him and it turns out you don't need any! He spawned on top of me and started yelling threats so I ran the hell away.

After that little escapade I watched a few videos of supposed quick or safe ways to kill Lynd. None of them look very quick or safe to me so I'm not in any hurry to try. 

It's not like I need to move the needle yet a while, anyway. It's true that much (Although by no means all.) of the crafting in the game is tied to the Sealing process. You do need the new tier of pickaxe that becomes available after the death of each boss to mine the new ore you find in the next biome and you do need that ore to craft the next tier of armor. Despite all that, the game offers considerable flexibility in how you choose to progress.

A lot of recipes are tied not to the death of bosses but to your level. You get a drip-feed of new options as you level up. There is a hard cap on levels tied to each boss but I've never found myself short of things to do even when I hit that cap. In fact, it takes me all my time keeping up with what is available and even then I'm generally falling behind rather than surging ahead.

Swamp by day. Surprisingly pretty, isn't it?

As for handling the general difficulty that comes with a new biome, there's a big overlap that makes it perfectly reasonable to carry on in the armor you already have, provided you also take the trouble to upgrade it as far as it will go. Just this morning I finished my full, upgraded set of Refined Dark Iron Armor (Well, almost. Still need to do a couple more upgrades on the belt.) but I'm not wearing it yet.

The reason for that is item decay, one of the few things about Dawnlands I'm not completely sold on, although I think it's far less of a problem than some of the hysterical rants I've seen would like you to believe. All armor is repairable and although making repairs causes durability to decline, I've never yet had a repairable item reach the point where it couldn't be refurbished and put back into service as good as new before I'd replaced it with something better anyway. 

Nice set bonuses, too.
Repairs are instantaneous and free. You do need a workbench or anvil that's been upgraded to the appropriate level, which means going home to repair, but armor decays quite slowly. Unless you play every hour god sends and never go back to base, if you find your armor falling apart in the field you most likely have only yourself to blame. 

Added to that, the higher the armor tier you access, the further you can upgrade. My new Dark Iron set, can be upgraded from a baseline 250HP to 1000HP. The Bronze I'm wearing starts at 200HP and goes to 800HP (From memory...) At those levels I rarely need to repair at all and it's difficult to imagine that I'll ever need to replace any of the pieces now I've upgraded them. Even so, natural caution makes me reluctant to move on from an existing set before I have to and the Bronze still seems to be doing a good job so why swap?

Tools and weapons are a different matter altogether. Although you can still upgrade them in the same way, they are unrepairable. I've taken to prioritizing weapons and tools as soon as I open each crafting tier before moving on to armor. Fully upgraded, weapons last a good while but picks and axes feel like they wear down more quickly. It's probably identical but of course you do tend to hit ore nodes and trees a lot more times in a session than you hit monsters - or I do, anyway.

Given the rate of decay and the inability to repair, I tend to make spare tools and weapons so I can carry on when they break. I also swap my higher ones out for my lower ones whenever the lower ones are up to the task in hand and I try to avoid using my good axes as a weapons, although it's often just too convenient to resist. I really like axes.

The forecast said snow...
 All in all, I don't find the system too onerous. I wouldn't even remove item decay, given the choice; I'd just make tools and weapons repairable in the same way armor is. I do think that having decay and repair nudges lazier players like me into making the effort to go all the way down the upgrade path rather than, as I'm pretty sure I would otherwise, stopping at the minimum viable option.

In gameplay terms, it means I spend a lot more time planning and thinking ahead instead of just rushing off into the wilderness unprepared. It also means that much of my gameplay consists of looking for nodes or other sources of materials, collecting them, bringing them back to base, refining them and finally using them to craft and upgrade my gear.

It's time-consuming but absorbing. I spent two full sessions last week, scouring the entirety of the Grasslands and a good portion of the Forest for Phantom Crystals, a resource that seems plentiful in the early days but which rapidly becomes scarce. They're needed for part of the upgrade process for higher tier armor and weapons as well as for the starting gear so they remain in demand but because most resource nodes in Dawnlands don't regenerate, what started out as a trivial activity eventually becomes somewhat challenging.

Leaving aside the opaque Exploration percentages, what I do know is that I have two bosses left to kill and at least two more armor sets to make. There's a cold weather set that I've already started on but which I think will require items from Lynd to upgrade in full and a Mithril set that certainly will. The same applies to the mithril tools and weapons. There's also one locked and as yet unknown crafting station that probably won't reveal itself until I seal Lynd away either.

Based on my current rate of progress, I'd guess that could take as much as another forty or fifty hours, always assuming I could even manage to beat Lynd at  all, let alone seal the fifth and currently final boss, Niedner. He looks very tough and without him, there's no Mithril armor.

Something for every occasion.
I'm in no hurry. I have a lot of work still to do to get my complete set of upgraded cold weather armor and I haven't even started building a castle. That's not any part of progression but since there are a whole set of recipes for castle-building, it would seem crazy not to build one. 

There are also recipes for building a mining railway complete with working mine-carts. I'm not entirely sure if there's any practical benefit to doing it but once again, if it's there...

To re-iterate something I've said before, I've read quite a few critical reviews that talk about Dawnlands as some kind of predatory gacha game. While it does now have some gacha mechanics for cosmetics, it didn't at the time these comments were made. People see want they want to see. 

The non-respawning of nodes and the need for pages to unlock crafting recipes have also been cited as evidence of unreasonable monetization. After more than eighty hours, I have seen absolutely no sign of any of that.

With the sole exception of Phantom Crystals, which as far as I can tell you can't buy for real money anyway, every other resource remains far more plentiful than I can imagine needing. There are nodes everywhere in the areas I've explored and there are vast tracts of land I haven't even visited yet.

As for recipes, I've been able to buy everything I wanted immediately and I still have more than a hundred pages saved. Unless you want to buy every recipe as soon as it appears, just for the sake of owning it, I can't see what the problem is.

Well, yes, I think I can. It's a lack of patience. I guess if you have to have everything right away you might find Dawnlands a little frustrating. Maybe then you would try to buy your way out of the problem although I'm not at all sure you'd be able to; most of the basics aren't really for sale in large quantities and even the small amounts available only change hands for in-game currency.

It seems to me that the only real requirement for steady progress is to play the game, which suits me fine. I'm doing that already and very happy to do it I am, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide