Etherlords: Shifting Down to Normal

Well, if I’m going to play a game where I’m stuck, it might as well be one where I can get myself unstuck fairly easily. Turning the difficulty down a notch in Etherlords has given me the ability to smack down the enemy heroes without undue difficulty — at one point I was surprised to take down a level 5 enemy with a level 2 hero who hadn’t even yet had a chance to purchase better spells. I still haven’t completed map 5 yet, due to occasional crashes (thank goodness for autosave!), but I’ve destroyed all of the enemy castles and don’t have to worry about being attacked at all, and thus can take my time upgrading a single hero to take on the actual mission objectives (destroying some “war altars” guarded by powerful elementals).

What we have here is the effects of very strong positive feedback — that is, the winners tend to keep on winning and the losers tend to keep on losing. Each side has only one or two heroes of significant strength. If you can attack the enemy’s strongest heroes and win, there’s nothing they can do to stop you; if you can’t, there’s nothing you can do to stop them. The weird thing is, this is a strategy game with multiple sides, and that’s usually a recipe for strong negative feedback, with anyone who seems like they’re pulling ahead suddenly finding their allies turning against them. But the alliances in the single-player campaign here are set in stone. (Or so it seems so far, anyway — there’s a whole Diplomacy interface that might come into play at some point, but currently I’m thinking it’s solely for online multiplayer play.)

So, the fact that the designers aren’t playing to their design’s strengths here hammers home the point (for which I’ve already noted other supporting evidence in previous posts) that the pseudo-multiplayer aspect of the game wasn’t the focus of their attention. And at this point, I’m willing to conclude that it therefore shouldn’t be the focus of my attention either. If I keep the difficulty set where it was before, I’ll spend the majorty of my play time on a fraction of the map, replaying the first few turns over and over in the hope of surviving to the midgame. If I turn it down, my assailants turn into a mere inconvenience to be faced as I roam about seeking treasures, fighting stationary monsters, levelling up, and generally treating the game more like a traditional RPG than a strategy game. The latter approach holds more appeal to me. Let the map be my enemy.

1 Comment so far

  1. malkav11 on 21 Sep 2008

    Sounds like a plan to me.

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