My initial thoughts of The Repopulation have been a while coming. I’ve been playing a lot lately and even jumping in and out of the alpha clients of late but being a sandbox there is a lot to get acquainted with and I wanted to get a fuller picture of the game first. Now I still haven’t experienced everything yet. The nation management and open world housing is not something I know much about and isn’t really implemented fully. I haven’t been involved much with the player conflict yet either.
What I have done is just check out the foundations of play. The combat types and methods of progression. The elements of the economy like gathering and crafting and well, just what the experience is going to be like.
So far I’m rather impressed although I’m not sure if that’s just the experience of a person stumbling through the desert and finding water, or someone that is actually enjoying what they find on its own merits. It’s a strange feeling.
You see, I’ve been lost in the wasteland of mmo’s for a while now. A never ending horizon of sameness that just isn’t really the style of thing I want. There has been a few oasis’s along the way but they were neither as large or as plentiful as they first looked. And some of their water was just plain poisonous. Repopulation is kind of like the next Oasis along the way, One I’ve been looking and waiting to see. It’s large, and has a great potential for growth and to sustain me but at the moment whether it will dry up or thrive is a bit of an unknown. And whether I can deal with the mutated wildlife too.
Ok enough with the analogies, let’s move on.
The gameplay just isn’t where I would want it to be at the moment. It is very stiff feeling and the skills themselves are rather bland. It’s just not a tactile experience and whether you are hitting something with an axe or shooting with a rifle it’s all just a numbers game.
My main combat style has been the assault rifle and so far it has only amounted to: tabbing onto a target and clicking till dead. I can chuck a few other skills in there to help this out but it’s usually a two button affair. Rinse, repeat. Rather boring.
There is an action combat style option too, with having a mouse locked screen and reticule which requires you to manually hit the target (decent allowance around target) that gives certain damage bonuses for using it. Works well enough but still suffers from the same problem… Everything lacks that feeling of effect. It’s all just very floaty feeling from the skill animations used, the enemy getting hit, and yourself as well. The animations need a lot of polish here.
You can go crouch and prone for more accuracy and such when shooting, which also has other benefits as well as burdens like being knocked down easier.. Armor types also have an impact on combat too depending on what your using and what is being used against you which is interesting to see. There is a lot of depth there in the combat system but it is something that is usually forgotten or not very useful in combat. I’m going to crouch on my rifle regardless to get better hits… And run at someone like an idiot with an axe. I’m also going to wear whatever armor works with my style of play, usually heavy and then just deal with the consequences.
The ai is rather bad as are the pathing systems and I’ve noticed numerous times of watching the mob go up a tree, or a cliff, or a rocky outcrop and then back down to get to you. The movements aren’t fluid either, like some kind of flip book animation at times. Their abilities are minimal as well, a couple attacks that are routinely used.
And of course it’s the basic fields of mob types just standing around in their own set of areas… Just waiting, which weirdly bothers me the most of all. Travelling the world I know with certainty what will be in each area and how many, and often exactly where in that spot. There’s no variability and it makes the world feel incredibly static. Even most of the major resource spots are like this, always in their own area with regular respawns.
There is a huge skill system that deals with all this and while a lot of it works rather well, providing a lot of depth and incentive during play other parts are just more frustrating.
Just about everything you can do will enable you to gain skill within it. There are a range of combat ones specified for each weapon, some defensive ones that deal with the armor types, a few for defending against weapon types and then some random stuff like acrobatics and diplomacy as well buff ones like Dancing and storytelling.
It’s all very interesting looking and I’m always happy to see those numbers go up but I have absolutely no idea what it means when they do. It’s all just some random number too me. The frustrating part is how long and pointless some of the skills are to actually progress. Acrobatics needs you constantly rolling around during combat and the buff skills just endless spamming in town.
There is nothing substantial to them that I can see beyond some probably stat percentage increase you’ll never really notice. Gaining new skills isn’t even handled by this, which would make sense and instead are more gained by doing missions and just general levelling. And you get a couple to choose from in those instances anyway.
Ok so let’s talk about the quests, or missions now. They are gained from your mail tab and you’ll get a couple sent to you now and then that you can choose to accept or not. The quests sent are supposed to depend on your own skills but mostly it seems to be random kill and fed ex quests. Rather simple ones with an uninteresting story.
The issue with these is that they are mostly broken. They never really show the correct area your supposed to go and finding the right npc involves walking around the entire time and clicking on everyone because they don’t seem to show at all. I’ve almost completed a full map of the town now with NPC locations just to get around this stupidity when I need to hand something in. How the quests are counted is also bugged occasionally too, not accounting for everything and of course you have a few of those collect ten bear ass quests where half the bears don’t have asses or maybe that you needed a specific type of bear ass for some reason.
They do seem to be a good point for the beginner to start though as they reward a decent amount of money on completion. At least enough to get you started with the economy aspects or just a guide of the systems and spaces. It’s just annoying they are almost necessary for gaining new skills and abilities during early play.
The crafting system is absolutely huge with a wide range of stuff to focus on that all seems rather useful and interesting. At the moment I’ve kind of gone the mad scientist approach of mixing and making alchemical properties and genetically engineering minions. That’s just what I wanted to do and it’s great the amount of variety there and how it can complement your play style and personality. Seriously… So many skills and so much to craft.
Each craft also has a range of components it needs but it isn’t just of a singular focus. There is usually a range of components you can put in each spot that will have different results… Or the same result but just let you use what you have. The heat source additive is a good example. Sometimes I’ve been on a mission for global warming and cutting down a lot of trees so I can use this. Other times I’ve been bubbling away with my scientific tools and have a little animal fat left over.
Different component also have certain bonuses that when used gives certain benefits to the end result. Many of the metals are like this with their properties although you have to use it in the right recipe. The example given in the tutorial are the properties physical resistance and penetration; penetration being something for weapons and resistance for armor. There are a few other instances like this too such as cooking and getting different benefits or a range of combat stims depending on the ingrediants used.
Quality is a big deal through all of this too with better quality ingredients of course resulting in better quality results. A lot of it requires a certain dedication though to get such high quality materials and items as it all depends on your total skill as well as ability with that recipe. It means focusing on certain aspects to get the best result, although mixing around into everything is possible too… Just not optimal.
You can get a lot of these component types from the general vendor which is a nice touch, it helps the early skill gain and crafting but it is lower quality. Most of what you need that you can’t craft will come from the auction house, and it does seem to be an active aspect. There is the beginning of an interesting economy here, if not for the lack of item breakage to continue it.
One of the big issues I’ve noticed though is just how needlessly complicated some of the crafts are, requiring huge amounts of interconnected crafts to complete. A little interdependency is good but stuff like fittings take this to the extreme. One large craft map I saw on reddit for a firearm fitting shows this well. What this does is make a needed point of progressions out of reach of most crafters and also far too costly to buy for a while too. Not to mention that finding enough high quality components in the market right now can also be an issue
With that said it is an interesting system. I love actual, meaningful crafting in my mmo’s that have a purpose and place and this is one of the best systems of recent times. Now that is a bit of an indictment to modern mmo’s considering just how unfinished the whole system feels but whatever, glad that these new mmo’s are pushing more than just killing stuff.
Early access Issues
As an early access title and an ambitious indie game it is prone to a lot of bugs and failings at the moment. Some quite game breaking, some immersion breaking and others just annoying. There are bugs everyone with items and skills not working properly, assets not engaging and just things not polished or implemented correctly. Mob ai is rather basic and the animations in game the epitome of alpha. There are weird misplaced animation all the time, like my rifle bullets that decide to hit an enemy from the side occasionally as well as many others
Textures are generally rather washed out and have odd moments of being misplaced, flickering or just dulled. There are a few misplaced assets around that don’t exactly align how they are supposed to. FPS is rather bad within towns and drops quite heavily when you’re crossing the map lines… not to mention just random drops now and then too.
Server performance seems good but client, not so much with a bit of rubber banding and such. My map hasn’t been working for a week now. OH and crashes, lots of crashes with I would say about a 25% chance every time I die and try to respawn. And that loading screen for characters is just abysmal.
That all does seem like a pretty negative recount of what is a predictably rather unpolished early access experience yet weirdly I’m actually enjoying it quite a bit. I love the open nature of the experience and just doing what I want or whatever I kind of fall into. Sometimes that’s an hour of picking herbs, other times taking bits and pieces out of the local fauna. A mission here and there and a lot of aimless exploration and noting down points of interest.
I love how I can freely make my own gameplay style from a collection of things, mash it all together and yet still have the freedom to play around with the others. At the moment I’m a psychopath with a rifle and a genetically engineered army at my disposal who likes both killing stuff and picking flowers.
I love how everything is interconnected and there is an actual market for the stuff I find, the mad experiments I’ve done or just random tinkering that happens. I love how it is an actual player driven experience because of this with people fulfilling each other’s needs and creating items of worth. That people can and have gained a reputation as well for the crafting they are doing.
I love just going out there and exploring again and not having stupid signs everywhere telling me I’m to noob to enter. I love how the resources themselves that get me exploring are hidden around enticing me to find them and that I’m not facing needless restrictions to gather them like craft level or the implement I’m using.
I love that this is an actual sandbox game and whatever raw nature it has I’m prepared to overlook just to experience that at the moment.