My take on difficulty levels in APRGs

Here are some of my opinions on difficulty levels in APRGs, including some suggestions to improve certain aspects about the topic. Many of my ideas may be hard to implement in running games, so just see them as food for thought, rather than specific demands.

The idea to write this came because of some comments in the latest patch notes, asking about having to play through the same campaign several times.

Higher difficulty levels may seem like a good idea, to prolong the game without having to create more content, but it comes at a cost.
For me, its the feel that the things I do in the world actually mean something. If you save the same princess, or rebuild the same village over and over again, I dont feel that what Ive done is meaningful in any way, besides the rewards I receive.
On higher difficulties, I see myself ignoring quests where I think the reward isnt worth it, whereas on the first difficulty I completed every quest, even if the rewards were small.

Here are two ways to prevent this problem, without having to remove the difficulty system altogether.

1. Higher difficulty increase the difficulty of the enemies, but do not reset the world. You still keep all your waypoints and the quests dont reset. Some quests may be repeated, just as some shrines, which should be marked on your shrine log. You can go wherever you want, if you are able to defeat the enemies. In a way, the game becomes more open-worldish on higher difficulties, instead of having to repeat the campaign.
To increase replayability, you can simply add daily quests and challenges to get players to visit different areas of the game. But as some drops are exclusive to some areas anyway, you will still have to rerun many areas.

2. On higher difficulties, the world changes in a meaningful manner. Some quests are different, other enemies spawn, not necessarily new ones, but at least from different areas. Some areas of the world get a new color touch or are now aetherial crystal infected. Like a bad dream recurring, just worse than the last time, in the end, its called Grim Dawn, not Happy Dawn.

Repeating the same campaign over and over is a thing of the past in my eyes and fits more into the category of roguelike/arcade games than in grind and customization oriented ARPGs like Grim Dawn. You still repeat the campaign on different characters anyway, but without the world reset you only have one world to save for each character. As a little side note, it also makes the reputation system more believable.

Your Opinion:
Just use the poll to tell us your opinion:

  1. Suggestion 1.
  2. Suggestion 2.
  3. Leave it as it is
  4. Another suggestion I will post in the comments

Welcome to the forum. :slight_smile:

Crate already have a solution in place. This from the 7th December live dev stream on Twitch TV.

“So the reason I’m opening up this guy today, notice he’s on normal difficulty, nothing substantial, he’s level 2, got a mastery to select, there’s Oathkeeper, got 3 skill points, I’ve already spent his attribute points, but oh look. In my inventory are two new items we’re going to be introducing with the Forgotten Gods expansion. What are these items you might ask? They are Merits, similar to the Crucible, you now get to use these items in the main campaign. What they do is allow you to unlock higher difficulties on your new characters. So I’ve got a Champion’s Merit that unlocks Elite and I’ve got the Saviour’s Merit that unlocks Ultimate. And that means you immediately get access to new difficulties, you immediately get all of the attribute and skill point rewards that any quest on lower difficulties would have given you which means you don’t have to go back to Normal, you don’t have to go back to Elite, if you want to start on Ultimate you will immediately get those points. You will immediately get all of the inventory bags which you would have unlocked and you immediately get all of the riftgates on the lower difficulties. Boom! 4 more attribute points, 7 skill points. Just like that. Now if I go to the main menu and click this little thing here, oh look I’m level 2 going into Ultimate difficulty!”

These merit tokens will be available at a vendor in the new Forgotten Gods expansion hub so you just need one character to get there in Elite to be able to buy the Elite tokens and then into Ultimate to buy the Ultimate ones. They can be put into the transfer stash so new characters can access them if you want to be brave (foolish) enough to try Elite or Ultimate at a really low level. However, you will suffer from whatever penalties those difficulties give you.

"anathema2741 : how is the level scaling on ultimate at level 2?

Well, let’s take a look. Now I will warn you that anyone who’s going to play like this? It’s going to be hard. I would describe this as almost playing on players 8 in Diablo 2 back in the old days, but you’ll notice these enemies are actually scaled to my level. We’ve gone ahead and through Elite and Ultimate difficulties and updated these guys so they scale from one all the way up to max level. And yes, they hurt. They give a lot more XP, but they hurt. You’re going to get all the attribute and skill points like I said and you’re going to need them because this stuff is way harder than what you’re used to. I will point out, if you look at my resistances, they are in fact altered by the difficulty scaling."

Plus you won’t need to go back into Elite/Normal to get devotion shrines.

"Thewordbearer : will we need to go to lower difficulties to get devo shrines?

And that is the other thing that comes with these tokens. In Forgotten Gods we are not only enabling every single shrine that is in the world on every difficulty in the game, we’re going to be adding new shrines to the world in places you haven’t before had shrines. And that means, if you go straight to Ultimate difficulty you will be able to get all 55 devotion points in one single playthrough. On top of that, with the upcoming patch we will be buffing the bonuses from Warrants, from Mandates and Writs so you can get your reputations up faster on your alts than ever before."

I am happy to hear that you already implemented a way around repeating the campaign, which sounds very promising.

I have always been more of a theory crafter than a power player. Having only one character through ultimate, but several characters through normal and plenty more theoretical builds calculated. Builds I would actually like to test in the endgame areas of the game.
But repeating the campaign can get quite exhausting, so most of the time I am only playing them through normal and dont have the stamina to get them to ultimate. This change will definitely get me playing many of those characters again.

Thanks for the quick answer, I am eagerly looking forward to the release.

I can’t wait for these items.
Will completely forget aboot them nerfing the shit out of my aether sigil/devastation warlock ( because everyone knows warlocks were so over powered)

Even though the thread is kind of irrelevant now, that Crate already announced their way around this. I am still quite curious why people prefer this difficulty system and would like to hear some opinions or thoughts why they think the system is preferable.

Though maybe, those people who voted “leave it be” just mean the way how Crate already adressed it.

No, they meant don’t do anything about it, it’s fine as it is. Some of us like running 3 difficulties believe it or not. :smiley:

Still, glad Crate seem to have a solution for those who don’t. Now we can all enjoy the game the way we want to.

Honestly, I like it too, but some builds are too shitty to just run thrice the same stuff with. If your build has something that you like, e.g., cool as fuck skill effects, I will play that character as much as possible and most likely explore everything I can. Otherwise, nah, fuck this shit.

I do believe you, because I see no reason why you should lie to me on this, but I cant think of any good reasons for liking it, thats why I am asking. :stuck_out_tongue:

To rephrase my question, how about this scenario: which system would you prefer, playing 4 different acts 3 times, or playing 12 different acts once, assuming the same amount of time and difficulty scaling.
For this scenario, please ignore the fact that this would require much more time on the developers end. :stuck_out_tongue:

I think that depends on how the game is designed. If the game starts with just the 12 acts that’s fine by me. If it doesn’t, as GD and TQIT don’t, that’s fine too. I’ve been playing TQIT for over 10 years now so running 3 difficulties doesn’t really bother me and GD is faster in that respect anyway. I haven’t really played that many ARPGs; I started in the genre with Two Worlds which is just the one difficulty. Then tried several others, but never got very far with them so can’t comment on any difficulty problems with them. Then got into TQIT and that’s where I’ve been ever since. So for me it’s normal to do this, though I’m glad Crate have given us the option to skip the expansion if we want to.

I have no preference I guess. If Crate ever do another ARPG with only one difficulty with lots of acts I’ll play it and enjoy it just as much I hope.

Why not both and play 12 acts 3 times :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for your elaborate answer.
Maybe its just my short span of attention, which makes it harder for me to repeat the campaign more than once on each character.
Even though I also played both Titan Quest and Diablo 2 for many hours, I never really grew accustomed to repeating the story and only tolerated it to enter lategame. I prefer dedicated farming/challenge locations I can choose from and trying different builds to manage them.

Well, again that is where we are different. I don’t farm and whatever endgame may be doesn’t interest me. Completing the game with a build I enjoyed playing is my aim. Things like Greater Rifts, Crucible and Shattered Realm - you can keep them. I find them boring, same with farming. Running the same areas over and over hoping to get something to drop. Not my thing. If it drops while I’m playing the game it’s a bonus, but farming - forget it.

Its not only the farming in itself, but more for example, the new ideas for builds after some item drops and to test it against the more challenging areas of the game. So for me, its more about exploring interesting content, instead of farming for specific endgame gear. Be it in the form of items, interesting areas or challenging mechanics I need to overcome.

But even though we play the game differently, I dont think the developer needs to decide which kind of audience it wants to satisfy and its definitely possible for both of us to have much fun with games like these.

There is a long history in video games of repeating the game to get more content. I can’t think of many examples right now :p. I think it gives players an experience of easier content to start off with and then when your character gets most of key powers in place by that time you are repeating. I also think it is a good innovation to allow to skip early (beginner) difficulty.

Some history for me would be Diablo 2 had this system. Sacred 1 and 2 also had. Titan Quest.

Before these games (WAAY before) the original Legend of Zelda in 1987 (first Nintendo game with a save game cartridge) you could replay LoZ but things were slightly moved around on the map such as locations of: Dungeon entrances, Design of dungeons, “Heart Cases”, magical items (sword, candle, flute) and so forth.

Icewind Dale 2 (maybe 1?) also had a mode to replay the game called “Heart of Fury” where the monsters were vastly more difficulty but you could gain to level 30 instead of max of level 16ish.

Regarding Titan Quest and Sacred 2 I remember playing the game a long time in Sacred 2 and getting to “Gold difficulty” and just feeling it was so awesome I had gotten that far and testing myself immediately against the kobold chieftain.

I also have many good memories of those old games, like Diablo 1&2, Titan Quest and Sacred 1.

Whether it is the grim atmosphere of Diablo 1 with its iconic sounds like the fear inducing goat man groaning and the epic hell knights death animiation, or Titan Quest with its mythological references.

But even though I also played through the repeating campaigns on single characters, playing the same maps and completing the same quests over and over was not what made these games good. At least, not in my eyes, for me it was a necessary chore so I could still enjoy playing my characters.
Playing through the same campaign again was just a simple way for the developers to prolong the game while only adding new and stronger items as additional content, which is much easier and means much less effort than creating new levels and quests.

I find there are better ways to prolong a game without resetting the world, which arent as work intensive as new acts.
Optional randomly generated levels with different themes for example. Like time challenges, emphasis on single target damage or dodging projectiles. This would also automatically make more builds viable to play on different levels, instead of the classic cookie cutting multi target builds you see the most.

Another way would be uberquests like in Diablo 2. There is a Diablo 2 mod named “Median” which took this approach and created high replayability by adding many uberquest-like levels with different mechanics where your character has to meet vastly different requirements to beat them. Like having a very tanky, long range oriented, multi elemental, or mobile character.
Those areas also featured different drop rates for different item types, so you could decide what you want to farm for.

Daily quests are also a good way to keep people coming back.

Still, I am not saying those old games were bad because of repeating the campaign, as I also enjoyed them, but I can acknowledge that it wasnt something which made me coming or what I prefered.
For me a game is not good or bad in its entirety, but rather the sum of all single mechanics evaluated independantly.

Daily quests wouldn’t be possible with no dedicated servers.

GD does have a couple of secret secret quests, one in the base game and one in AoM. FG will likely have one too.

You are right, daily quests arent possible without dedicated servers, but you dont need to host the entire game on the server, you only need to synchronize the available daily quest on game start. Just like Killing Floor 2 for example does with its weekly.

This would be a lot of work for a small team for no profit basically. Crate can use its resources much better by making new games for us to enjoy. Also better for the company not to rely on one game to keep them going. Medierra outlined his reasoning in this post a couple of years ago.

Like I said in my first post, those are just ideas thrown into the room, not specific demands for Grim Dawn. Still thanks for sharing that post.

Ideas/suggestions are always good, gives the devs something to think about for future games. :slight_smile:

We know a little bit about the next project.

Hopefully Medierra will be telling us more about it in 2019.