Frostborn Wrath: Random Musings

I’m making slow progress through the levels of Gemcraft: Frostborn Wrath, but I’m racking up Achievements at a pretty good clip. I’ve even somehow gotten the “Kill a monster with shots blinking to the monster attacking your orb that would otherwise destroy your orb” Achievement that eluded me in Chasing Shadows, and done it without trying. That’s how I’ve gotten most of my Achievements so far: without trying. CS was like this in the beginning too, but I think FW is moreso. It has 636 Achievements to CS‘s 418, and where something like half of them in CS were “Field” Achievements, obtainable only on specific levels, FW doesn’t seem to have any Field achievements at all. So it has a great many things that you have the opportunity to stumble upon in any level.

Also, I’ve gotten far enough in to unlock some genuinely new stuff that wasn’t in the previous games. In addition to Towers and Traps, there are now Lanterns, area-of-effect towers which apply their socketed gem’s effects to everything within a radius. Then there are Pylons, which don’t have gem sockets at all. Pylons are basically shot batteries. You charge them up by having gems in towers fire at them, and then they produce very powerful shots of their own. In the process, you completely lose the special powers of the shots used to power up the pylon. I talked before about how all the gem types in Gemcraft fire in the same way and are distinguished only in their effects, but with these new buildings, FW gets the same sort of variety as a more typical tower defense.

In a way, it reminds me of Portal 2. Portal 2 introduced a bunch of new puzzle elements — laser bridges, excursion funnels, gels of various sorts — and apparently there was talk among the designers of basing the game entirely around these things and leaving the portal gun out. But in the end, they decided that the portal gun was essential to the series identity, and so instead of having the new mechanics supplant it, they made the new tech use it, rely on it. The portal gun became the means by which you interacted with everything else. Similarly, FW gives you new toys, but to maintain the brand, everything has to rely on gems in some way.

One thing that I thought for a while was an exception: Shrines. Shrines are mechanisms for dishing out lots of damage to lots of monsters at long intervals, and they’ve been around since the second game. The details beyond that have varied, but until FW, shrines were operated by sacrificing gems. The more expensive the sacrifice, the more powerful the result. In FW, there is no sacrifice. You just click on the shrine when it’s ready and it does its thing. This was the source of some panicked confusion when I first tried to drop a gem on a Shrine and nothing happened! Nonetheless, Shrines are still linked to gems: their power is determined by all the gems you have in play. This removes some of the tension. You’re no longer choosing whether to use a gem in a shrine or a tower if putting it in a tower is what empowers the shrine.

Similarly, “enraging” monsters no longer involves sacrificing gems. Instead, there’s a slot where you can place a gem to enrage all incoming waves, but you can just remove the gem from that slot whenever you want. I suppose the devs noticed that people didn’t like giving up gems and were reluctant to use powers that made them do it. Just one way of wasting gems remains: dropping them on the battlefield as bombs. This is something I usually only do as an emergency measure, bombing the creeps that managed to sneak past my last tower when I don’t have time to erect a more permanent defense. It’s sometimes necessary as a compensation for not quite being able to stretch your resources as far as you want, but at the same time, it consumes resources inefficiently, and that makes it tactically interesting.

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